Here’s What We Came Up With

I loved reading all of your responses about what Love Does looks like.  Here is what we all came up with.

Caring for others selflessly.
I think mothers all around can relate to this one. Because how many times have we risen in the middle of the night to kiss a forehead, find a paci, give a drink of water? How many times have we held a sick child all day? Changed dirty diapers? Spoon fed a squirmy infant?
But where else does this apply? I look at my sister, and how she’s put the needs of her home and family second to mine. She has shown up every day since November 10th, when my water broke, to care for my house and my kids and even me. I remember my grandmother, “Paw”, who cared for her husband when he was in the end stages of cancer. She just did it, without complaint and with praise on her lips.

Loving your enemies.
This one is hard, but God isn’t joking about it. In Matthew, He tells us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” And you enemies might not be who you think they are. Enemies are not always dastardly characters who obviously and overtly mean us harm. They can be the unhealthy family member that drives you crazy. They can be the co-worker that gets on your nerves. They can be the PTA mom that you secretly envy. They can be anyone that you don’t have the warm fuzzies for. If someone is seriously on your last nerve…time to start praying blessings over that person.

Doing for others, even if it costs you.
Sometimes we are busy and sometimes we are distracted and sometimes we don’t have time to make a meal for someone else. We’re up to our eyeballs with our own kids and families and we just don’t have the emotional resources, much less the financial resources to pitch in for another family. I would humbly suggest that really, we do and we can but we don’t want to. We have busy, crowded lives and sometimes no rolls off of the tongue before we really think it through and try to make it happen. Let’s stop saying no so much and just do it. Even if we have to scrape the bottom of the barrel. We have more margin in our lives than we think, but sometimes we’d rather do what we want more than what is needed.

Working towards the greater good, even if it means not getting what you want.
Sometimes, we have to do things we aren’t comfortable with, things we just don’t want to do for the good of our family or friends. I think about my husband and how last year he tutored a homebound student for extra money. He did this every day of the week and it put him getting home around 7:00 or 7:30. He did this for the good of our family, even though it meant he had no time for anything but work, tutoring and a short burst of kid time in the evening. This is part of loving selflessly. Like Jesus loves us.

Remembering your loved ones.
I have a new philosophy since my experiences in November. If you are feeling a particular positive thing or remembering something sweet or even something tragic…share that with the person you’re thinking of. Tell your friends and family that you love them. Send cards, texts, emails and Facebook messages. Say the truth to your friends and family. I remember when a friend of mine passed away and there were so many things I’d never said to her. We weren’t even on great terms when she passed away and this friend of mine was so dear to me. I would do anything to go back in time and be the first one to say I’m sorry, to say I love you and you’re valuable to me. Don’t let the humdrum, day to day rob you of opportunity to love on your people.

This is part of how we build love with God. This is part of how we love our family and friends well. This is something that changes the world.

Saying I’m sorry.
Believe it or not, those two words do not cost as much as you think. And they are an investment that gives back ten fold. Being willing to say I’m sorry, regardless of who was at fault or how you feel is a sure sign of loving well. A humble and sincere “I’m sorry” can change everything.

Not needing to be right.
My flesh so resists this one. But it’s true. Even if you are absolutely, positively sure that the other is wrong and you are right…let it go. Lay it down. In the grand scheme of things…does it matter?

Giving generously.
I feel so strongly about this because I’ve seen it bear so much fruit in my life. I think it’s important to God. He reminds us to care for the widow and the orphan. (James 1:27) He instructs us about giving to our church family and how to sow our resources into the kingdom. This is one of those things that God does- as we give, He gives. The more we give, the more He gives. And I believe He takes even our smallest offering and multiplies it. Remember the woman who gave her very last penny? As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

Doing, not just saying.
This seems so simple, but it isn’t really. Our current culture makes it hard to do and not just say. Think aobut it, ten years ago, if a person was in need, you got in your car and went to them. Now, it’s easy (and often a wonderful blessing) to just check on Facebook and leave your prayers and good thoughts there. Facebook is great for that. It’s also great for keeping in touch on a surface level. But friends still need to do. Don’t just say, “Let me know if you need anything.” Say, “I want to help. What specific thing can I do for you?” Or…just go crazy and DO something. Show up.

Sharing the love of Jesus, without condemnation.
I think some Christians have a harder time with this than others. So quickly, we go to judgement over sins we can’t relate to. So quickly, we speak harshly and without love to those we don’t agree with. This is not the love Jesus has called us to. Our job is to share how He’s changed us, how His love flows through us, how we’re better with Him than without Him. Slamming someone’s life is not how to do that. Let’s share the real Jesus and the Holy Spirit will do the convicting.

Speaking life, letting go of negativity.
I was talking with some friends the other day and one said, “It’s so much easier to vent and complain than it is to share the good things.” And she is right. I can go on and on about something that bothers me, but the good things don’t get nearly as much conversation. In the same vein, it’s easier for me to point out John’s weaknesses (ad nauseam) than to praise his good points (which actually far outweigh the bad). Why do we do this? Why is negativity easier? I went on a negativity fast this time last year and was amazed by how many thoughts I had to take captive, how many words I had to choke back, how many negative emotions I had throughout each day.

Living a life of worship and gratitude.
Well, you knew gratitude would make it into this post. Living a life of worship and gratitude? How do we do it? By being thankful every day. By giving as though our resources are His and not ours. By giving our spouses the love and respect that God has asked us to give, no matter what the circumstances. By training up our children in the way they should go. By being good stewards of our things and of our people. By singing praises when we feel like crying. By getting out of bed and whispering thanks, even when we’re too tired to breathe. By joining in and being a part of the body of Christ…serving others, loving others, giving our lives away for the cause of Christ.

I am in love with this list.  I want to write and write and write on each point because there is so much there.   I hope you’ll share your thoughts on what we’ve come up with and tell me what things you’re doing to increase your love!

Important Things

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s really important in life and what I’m really living for.

Lots of things are important, lots of things are urgent…we must work, take care of the house, care for the children, get dinner cooked, finish the laundry, drive this one here and that one there.  We must walk the dog, pick up kids from preschool, clean the bathroom, do the homework, get to the doctor’s appointments, pick up the groceries.  At the end of the day, we fall into bed exhausted and I wonder sometimes aloud–

Did I do what was important today?  Did I do what I enjoy doing today?

Because doing what I want to do, what is enjoyable, is a whole other thing.  We want to watch a movie, check Facebook, play Draw Something or Words With Friends, we want to nap, eat Reese’s cups, visit with friends, linger over one more cup of coffee.  We want to paint our nails or color our hair or read a magazine.  We want to sit in the sun with eyes closed.  There are so many things we want to do that don’t necessarily fit in with the urgent.

The days fly by and all I’m doing is rushing around and trying to Get Through The Day.  

And I want more than that.  I want more than just getting through the day.

I say to John all the time, “It’s another marathon week.” because we have one jillion things planned, scheduled and that urgently needed to be attended to.

But what really matters most?

If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know that my inner me is under major reconstruction.  God is really weeding some crap out of my heart and making me better.

This has been a painful and glorious process.

Since Paw has gone on to the Lord, my heart and my prayers have been fixed on the heritage she’s passed down to us.  The heritage of faith and family.  On Easter Sunday, my heart almost broke with love for my family, not just my immediate family but aunts, uncles, cousins.  I saw unique beauty in each one, I saw Paw in us all.  Memories and moments and quirks and strengths and weaknesses of  60 odd people coming together in the most beautiful tapestry that Paw began with her own two hands years and years ago.  This is Important.  This is Vital.  This family is full of love and life and laughter.  This family is a good, good gift.  And what better way to honor our Paw than to keep it close.  Deep inside, I hear a cry, “Do not take this good gift for granted.”

Here is the children singing their hearts out to the Lord in honor of Paw on Easter.

All the kids in attendance!

We watched “the Passion of the Christ” on Sunday and I keep seeing Jesus, beaten and bloodied and just made of love and mercy.  I want to burn the images into my eyes and on my heart and I don’t want to forget how I feel right now.  Because seeing that…remembering Him in that way…it makes all the worries that I worry over, all the stressors that I stress over, all the strivings that I strive for…it makes those things seem almost ridiculous.  And while I’m not saying that I should just stop washing the dishes and doing the laundry and only ever read the Bible and I’m not saying that I should never laugh at “Raising Hope” again…I am saying that all the things that make me crazy (or crazier) throughout the day are just almost nothing.

I’m saying that I must examine my life and get rid of the things that hinder love.

And that’s a tall order and it carries enormous implications.

But when I think of Jesus on the cross…when I think of Paw and her faithful, love filled life…I know it’s the next step.  He died for my sins and my pain.  He died for love.  And He didn’t just take too many Ambien and go to sleep…He suffered and struggled and was separated from His Father and descended into hell.  He was beaten and bloodied and bruised.  And my face was in His heart as He did this.  So was yours.

So…all this rushing around…all this stressing and worrying and panicking…all of this must go.

“Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”   Ephesians 5:1-2

Real Love

The Sacrifice of Praise

I think we know in our heads and even in some places of our hearts that God knows best.

But that doesn’t stop us from trying to tell Him what to do.  I often get His plan “figured out” and then I try to make it happen.  Yes, you read right.   I try to make it happen.

This is, of course, fruitless.

I think of Abraham and Sarah and how they tried to make God’s promises come to pass.

It began with this- a Holy visitation and a word from the Lord.  “I will make you a father of many nations.  I will give you and Sarah a son.”

And the two of them wanted that son a lot…Sarah grew impatient and decided they would need a surrogate.  She supplied her servant Hagar to her husband in order to get this son.  But it wasn’t a good thing…and it wasn’t really what Sarah wanted because this is not what God had in mind.

Genesis 21:12 says, “For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.”
The New Living translation says, “…This happened just at the time God said it would.”

God’s timing.  He sets the times and none of our striving can change that.  It’ll happen at the time God said it would.

Last night, I made oven baked chicken with a ritz cracker crust.  It was really good but man, it was spicy.  I couldn’t figure out what was making it so spicy.  Paprika, salt, pepper, thyme, onion powder.  Why were we all on fire?

John suggested, “Maybe you mixed up the paprika and the cayenne?”  And sure enough I had.  We all agreed that it was better this way and it made me think about God.

Sometimes we think we’ve figured out His plan. Sometimes we think we know best but the truth is…

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans for a hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

And only He knows when and how and all of that.  And it’s like the chicken.  Sometimes the unexpected is the most flavorful.  Sometimes we can’t imagine what His best really is, we can only see our best.  And how can we even know what the best is?  God can see the end of the story and we can’t.

I’m in a season of surrender.  I’m in a season of placing all that I try to control and manage and worry about on the altar.  To make my life a sacrifice of praise.  It’s a choice I must go back to day in and day out.  Laying down my plans for my family, my plans for my future, my dreams (this one hurts) for all of us on the altar and giving all to Him.

I want my heart to beat with His.  I want my steps to be in sync with His.  I want to walk the paths He has for me.  It’s scary to lay it all down and surrender my own will.  It’s hard.  But I don’t want to miss His best for me.  Thirty nine years in this life has taught me one thing- I am nothing without Him.  And His best is what I want.  There is joy in the laying it down.  There’s something about emptying ourselves out and letting Him fill us back up.  There’s something powerful in surrender.

He never holds His best back from us.  He gives it with no strings attached and with open hands.  But we have to be willing to release control and take it.


Leap Day Part 2

When I think about Paw, what I remember is a grandmother who would jump in the water at Aunt Missy’s with us…a grandmother who would pull the wheelbarrow full of children…a grandmother whose shoes were off the minute it was warm outside. I remember her voice as she sang praise at church, tambourine jingling and feet flying as she danced. I remember my awe at her worship. She worshipped unashamed, abandoned, alive.

Even when she got Parkinson’s…and I remember the time of the diagnosis well. She went with me to most of my obstetrician appointments when I was pregnant with Julia. It didn’t matter to her that I got pregnant at nineteen, before I was married. What mattered to her was that she loved me. She was good company at those appointments. The Parkinson’s diagnosis came in that season and I hadn’t even known she was sick. We were at Hardee’s with my Aunt Felicia (Paw’s sister) and my Uncle L.T. (Felicia’s husband) on our way to one of my appointments when she told us the news. She said it as though in passing…like it was part of conversation. With a shrug and a smile.

As the years went by, she got sicker. She had two brains surgeries and she had a surgery to put an electrical thingie in her body to help the tremors. She fought through Parkinson’s for as long as she could. She gave being well her all.

And through it all…she didn’t change. She wasn’t bitter, she wasn’t angry. Just a shrug and a smile. It is what it is, this is my lot in life and in heaven I’ll be able to run and dig in the dirt again and swim and have bare feet all the time if I want to.

When I went to see her yesterday…she was my same Paw but she was also different. She is frail and she is small. She wants to speak up but she can’t form the words. I see HER in those eyes and I see recognition but it comes and goes. I remember all that she has been and I take in what she is now.

She is fearfully and wonderfully made.

And it is almost time for her to run again, to dig in the dirt again, to be busy and to dance like David danced on the streets of gold.

I close my eyes and picture her dancing like she danced in the aisles at New Covenant church. I keep going back to that image, because that sums up my Paw.

I love words…but I can’t find any to describe my heart right now.

She loves well. She has loved her five children well. She has loved her thirteen grandchildren well. She has loved her thirty three great grandchildren well. But what has shaped her, what has made her Paw, what has made her that Proverbs 31 lady of faith is this…she has loved Jesus well.

Paw’s faith is legendary.

Her Jesus will say when He welcomes her to His side, “Well done, good and faithful one. Well done. Now, let’s dance.” And the two of the, arm in arm will dance on the streets of gold.

Scratching the Surface of How To Love Well

God has given me five answers on how to love well and I want to share them with you.

1. Honor

The importance of honor was made real to me over the summer when we went to the Wave Leadership conference in Virginia Beach. I have since listened to Kevin Gerald’s podcasts on honor.  My heart was stirred and even torn a little as I thought about the ways I honor and dishonor.
You can click here to hear for yourself. Kevin Gerald

2. Forgiveness

I have learned a lot about forgiveness as I’ve moved through the stages of grief in the wake of my divorce. I’ve learned that forgiveness is more about the one who’s been wronged than the one who has hurt us. Forgiveness is key to letting go of bitterness and living life whole and full.

3. Selflessness

This one is big. We must put others ahead of ourselves. It’s the epitome of honor and love. When we serve the ones He loves, we are serving Him.

4. Thankfulness
Have I mentioned “1000 Gifts” by Ann Voskamp and the joy dare? I’ll mention it again…just in case. This book and this dare have changed my inner voice. They’ve changed my heart, my mind and my spirit. I have gained so much from reading this book and learning to live thankful…God has used these tools mightily.

5. Believing God
Oh, my friends and readers, this is The One. We have to believe Him when He says who He is, what He can do, how He loves us and what His plans are. He is believable…and it is key.

So, I’m mulling over these five things. There is so much there that I am almost overwhelmed. I think I could write 365 blog posts about each piece of the puzzle.