Tag Archives: love

Tuning My Heart to God’s Grace

24 Jun

20150617_181941More often than not lately, I have felt completely overwhelmed. This whole taking care of a newborn and a toddler requires more than a little creativity and patience. I thank God that Annabelle is such an easy baby! Otherwise, I would surely be losing my mind. As it is, I feel more than a little frazzled and brain dead.

Why is it that when I feel overwhelmed and underequipped that I would rather stew in my unpleasantness and misery than run to God? Like Ann Voskamp says,

“For all my yearning for joy, longing for joy, begging for joy–is the bald truth that I prefer the empty dark? Prefer drama? Why do I lunge for control instead of joy? Is it somehow more perversely satisfying to flex control’s muscle? Ah–power–like Satan. Do I think Jesus-grace too impotent to give me the full life? … If I am rejecting the joy that is hidden somewhere deep in this moment–am I not ultimately rejecting God? Whenever I am blind to joy’s well, isn’t it because I don’t believe in God’s care?” (One Thousand Gifts, 130).

In these moments, I need something to pull me out of the depths of my depravity and remind me of truth. The Bible is one way, but I find that worship music makes my heart sing God’s glories far deeper and faster than reading. The two songs that I have been playing on repeat for the past couple of months are Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher and You Make Me Brave by Amanda Cook and Bethel Music. (Click on the links to listen to the songs.)

I wouldn’t say that I’m a lover of poetry necessarily, but there are certain songs that just word things in a way that GET ME. These songs are two of them.

Lord, I Need You

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

So teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay

You Make Me Brave

I stand before You now
The greatness of your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of you
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

…………………..

I praise God for songwriters, singers and musicians. I’m not any one of those things, but I’m so happy they exist!

Worth Repeating {10/27/14}

27 Oct

Now that I am finally emerging from the first-trimester exhaustion and can actually do something during Emma’s naps other than take a nap myself, I’m hoping to get back into blogging regularly! It’s been a while since I posted a Worth Repeating post, so to recap, this is a weekly series where I share quotes, sayings and verses that I enjoyed and found to be worth repeating.

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While up at elk camp, I re-read C.S. Lewis’ classic book The Screwtape Letters, and loved this description of how God wants his creatures (us) to embrace who He created us to be – and even, dare I say, like ourselves. Like David said in Psalm 139, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I think that sometimes Christians confuse the idea of hating our sin with hating ourselves. Yes, I am sinful. Yes, I have a long way to go in the process of sanctification. But God created me to be who I am, and I can only reach my true potential in life when I learn to embrace and accept all of Me, instead of wishing I were different. When I can embrace and rest in who God created me to be (sin aside), I can stop trying to prove myself. And when I stop trying to prove myself, humility and servant-heartedness become possible.

In case you’ve never heard of The Screwtape Letters, it’s a novel in which an uncle demon is writing letters to his nephew about how to win a man’s soul to their side (Satan’s).

“The Enemy [God] wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love—a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours” (71-72).

Trusting in God’s Love When Life is Hard

22 Jul

One of the books Emma got as a gift is “Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You” by Nancy Tillman. It has quickly become one of my all-time favorite books – because even though the author wrote it describing a parent’s love for their child, it’s such a wonderful description of God’s love for His children.

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My two favorite parts are:

“In the green of the grass…in the smell of the sea…in the clouds floating by…at the top of a tree…in the sound crickets make at the end of the day… ‘You are loved. You are loved. You are loved,’ they all say.”

“You are my angel, my darling, my star… and my love will find you, wherever you are.”

Ever since Emma was born and my life was turned completely upside down, I’ve been thinking about the practical, daily implications of God’s love. When God doesn’t take away my trials, I don’t feel like He loves me. I’d rather He prove His love for me through easier circumstances and less mess.

But that isn’t the way God works. So how can I trust that God’s love is real and steadfast, even when life seems to plead the contrary?

The foundation for my trust is that God has already proven His love – through Jesus’s death on the cross – and that God is sovereign and in control of every detail about my life. Those truths together enable me to trust that God is actively revealing His love for me each day. Every joy, grace and even the trials speak God’s refrain to me, “You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.” Faith enables me to see circumstances for what they truly are.

Analogies help me better understand intangible concepts. When a parent disciplines their child, they do so out of love because they have the big picture in mind. The discipline isn’t enjoyable for the child in the moment, but the parent has their greater good in mind – how the lesson they learn will serve them later in life. Their discipline flows out of love.

In the same way, “God disciplines us for our good” and “He disciplines who He loves.” In the moment, the trials and challenges of life “feel painful rather than pleasant, but later produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by them” (Hebrews 13). God has the big picture in mind. He’s concerned primarily about our holiness, not our temporal happiness – because He understands our greatest need is to be redeemed. So our trials aren’t meaningless. They are accomplishing the will of God in our lives.

But God knows how easily we get discouraged so He still provides little graces each day – things that help us see and remember, “I am loved.” His love is practical and tangible, if only we’re willing to wait and watch for it. So that’s how I can practically trust each day in God’s love for me, even when life is hard. Because I know that “through the steadfast love of the Most High [I] shall not be moved” (Psalm 21:7).

What does trusting in God’s love look like for you?

13 Week Appt – Heard the heartbeat!

28 Sep

I had my 13 week appointment this morning. It started with the usual – pee in a cup, stand on the scale, get your blood pressure taken. Today, I also got a flu shot.

Then I met with the midwife. The clinic I go to has about 6-8 midwives and you can either see them all, or request a specific one. I’ve had a different midwife for each appointment, which works just fine for me.

The one I met with today was very friendly and informative. She told me I could drink herbal tea as long as I watched my caffeine intake and that I can sleep on my back until 20 weeks since I’m at an average weight (sleeping on my side is more comfortable, but I get tired of my legs being bent all night).

And I got to hear our baby’s heartbeat! The midwife found it fairly quickly but then the baby moved and it took a while to find it again. She said the baby must be a pretty active little one because we kept hearing loud noises on the doppler. She finally did find it again and hearing that little heartbeat makes it so real that there’s a baby inside me.

All I can say about these experiences are that they are amazing. I never fully appreciated other women’s ultrasounds or stories but having it happen to me personally is a totally different story. I get all choked up and teary whenever I even think about it!

Because of that, I totally plan to put a frame like this in our baby’s nursery:

 

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That couldn’t be more true. I’m amazed at how much I already love this little one. How someone could deem this not a human life, is beyond me.

Anyway, everything is as it should be. I go back for my next appointment in 4 weeks. Praise the Lord for a healthy baby!

An Encouraging Word

10 Jun

There is unspeakable comfort – the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates – in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.

– J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pg. 42

Loving Who I Am

17 May

The past month has been on the rougher side emotionally for me. Last Thursday morning, I was reminded why.

Ingratitude. Rejecting God’s grace to me.

Man. It’s a hard fight to live in truth. The slide back down into lies is easy and short.

But once again, God has reminded me of the truth.

And so far, I’m still living in the glorious freedom of truth:

I. AM. LOVED. BY. GOD. IN. CHRIST.

That truth, and that truth alone, is life-changing.

My flesh wants to add qualifiers and exceptions and clauses and caveats.

There are none.

My flesh wants to make it more complicated, more needing of explanation, more detailed.

It isn’t.

It’s so simple, and yet so difficult, to live there.

But this truth… this is worth fighting for. Worth spending my life ruminating on. Worth clinging to at the expense of other noble thoughts.

“The true Love Dare. To move into His presence and listen to His love unending and know the grace uncontainable. This is the vault of the miracles. The only thing that can change us, the world, is this — all His love.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

Today, love who God created you to be  because He loves you.

Handpicked by Love

25 Apr

When work is maddening and I am angry at the world…

When I longingly look out on a gorgeous day from inside an office icebox…

When I rush yet again from one thing to the next, feeling frazzled and exhausted…

When I grumble that I have a job that I don’t feel passionate about…

This quote from Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Keep a Quiet Heart, helps me remember that God has lovingly handpicked the circumstances of my life:

“When there is a deep restlessness for which we find no explanation, it may be due to the greed of being – what our loving Father never meant us to be. Peace lies in the trusting acceptance of His design, His gifts, His appointment of place, position, capacity. It was thus that the Son of Man came to earth – embracing all that the Father will Him to be, usurping nothing – no work, not even a word – that the Father had not given Him.”

So often I cause the loss of my own peace by rejecting the life God has given me.

“This isn’t what I want” is the refrain that echos through my ungrateful heart.

A verse that I have been repeating to myself over and over is “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord.” It reminds me that joy does not come from getting my own way. It doesn’t come from my life looking exactly like I think it should. It doesn’t come from deciding my own destiny, forging my own will, or determining my own struggles.

Joy comes from accepting.

Accepting that I’m not in control. That not being in control is a good thing. That even though my current circumstances seem to plead the contrary, God only has good things planned for me. 

But I can’t accept these things if I don’t have faith. Faith is believing that God will do what He has promised. Which turns my mind to another verse:

“I call out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills His purpose for me.”

Even on these days when it feels like life sucks, and I don’t know why I’m doing what I’m doing, and I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, I cling to the truth that God is RIGHT NOW fulfilling His purpose for me. My life has meaning. I am here for a reason, even if I don’t know what it is. I only need to focus on delighting in the LORD and He will accomplish the rest.

“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”

By grace this love springs forth.

24 Feb

The other night in our church small group (what we call care group), our discussion leader asked us 2 questions:

What area in your life is encouraging right now?

What area is discouraging?

As I thought about that, so many encouraging areas came to mind:

I’m encouraged that I’m still running and my legs and lungs feel great.

I’m encouraged that I pray every day, and often more than once a day, because I want to.

I’m encouraged that I’ve finally found a daily routine that works well, and allows me to read the Bible, write my book and train for a marathon.

I’m encouraged that I feel more at home in Colorado than I ever have before – having great friends helps a lot.

But the area I’m most encouraged in?

My marriage. 

And that my friends, is something that makes me want to run around, yelling and screaming and skipping!!

In my last post about marriage, I talked about how Travis and I had taken up going our own ways on weekends. We asked each other, “What are your plans for this weekend?” and both did our own things. After that post, though, things changed. We still ran the same errands on the weekends. But we ran them together.

Yes, it meant things took longer. And that we spent time doing things that weren’t our first pick (grocery shopping for him, Home Depot browsing for me). But we were together. And we were having FUN!

We’ve also been going out on one impromptu date each weekend – which has given us time to talk, laugh and enjoy one another.

And those things have made something else happen.

When Travis comes home from work, instead of giving him a slight head nod and a “Hey beads” while I continue making dinner or changing out of my running clothes, I intentionally stop what I’m doing and go hug and kiss him hello. He’s happier because I’m talking his love language. I’m happier because I actually want to hug and kiss him (which sadly, hasn’t always been the case).

When I talk to him on the phone, I enjoy hearing his voice.

When he smiles and his eyes crinkle, I feel so in love with him.

We laugh over well-timed movie lines and inside jokes.

We watch the dogs frolic from our kitchen window, silently daring them to jump the fence (but stopping them before they do – most of the time).

Travis muses aloud about Roth IRAs and whether or not he should take the new job (he did BTW and today was his last day!). Instead of rolling my eyes, ignoring him, or lamenting that we’ve already talked about this, I listen and offer him my advice…again.

Travis asks me to come look at, or help him with something, and I don’t get frustrated.

Travis wants to buy a ridiculously expensive antelope hunting tag and I don’t demand the same amount of money to spend on myself.

I win a pool table competition and instead of running out to buy a new shirt with my $30, I offer to take Travis out to lunch.

The best part about all of this? 

I did none of it. It all happened organically, by the grace of God. I honestly look at all this and think, How did this happen? I surely did not cause this! This is not MY handiwork!

God did this. He inspired my obedience in one little thing: painting our front door. I hated that door. Oh, how I hated it. I painted it once, 3 coats of painstaking strokes. Only to have it peel off in my hands as I removed the painter’s tape. The door remained white for at least another a month. It took me that long to get over being angry.

Finally, at Travis’ request, I tackled it once again, this time armed with pink primer (closer to the red paint than white). I still remember standing in the hallway next to our kitchen, glaring at the door. I did. not. want. to paint the door again. I was done with it. But out of a desire to serve my husband by helping with a house project, I did it. And I swear, that was a turning point in the way I thought about our marriage.

Things have only gotten better from there. Yes, we still have disagreements and tension from time to time. But it is no longer the door-slamming, fruit-throwing, cuss-word-yelling that our marriage my responses once were (Travis has not resorted to my form of temper tantrums).

Which proves that I, unfortunately, do not have any marriage advice. Because I could not have written this story. God’s ideas are always infinitely better than mine, though often harder to understand. Why did it take me almost 5 years of marriage to get to this place? Why did God bless me with my husband, though I abused him for so long? I don’t know.

But I do know that the best advice for anything is: Get to know God. The real God of the Bible. Jesus, who died for your sins. He is amazing. And He is the only answer you ever need.

That is not just a trite saying. I don’t say that flippantly. I say it with the full force of my being and my heart behind it. I say it as I look back on 5 years of hating the wife I was and wanting to throw in the towel. I believe that God has the power to redeem and glorify any marriage, even ones that have been torn apart by infidelity, loss or deceit. Because this God – He ransomed us from our sins. He has granted us eternal life. Surely He can do ALL things!

Put Him to the test. Ask Him to do amazing things in your marriage. Stay alert to the ways He works in your life. He will stun you.

Though I am dry and barren

By grace this love springs forth

Love for You and Your kingdom

Joy in Your glory Lord 

Being Me.

18 Nov

Over the past week, I’ve had some frequent thoughts pop into my head:

“I’m not a fast enough runner.”

“My blog isn’t as cool as that person’s.”

“My sense of style is boring.”

“I’m not doing enough with my life.”

“I’m completely awkward in situations like this.”

“Nobody likes me.”

These thoughts aren’t new.

But the way I’m responding to them is.

Instead of agreeing with those thoughts and wishing I was a different way as a result, I’ve countered them.

“God created me specifically to be me.

I am the only person who can be me.

And I am holy and loved by God.”

Instead of worrying about how other people perceive me, or how much they like me, or how the world measures what I’m worth, I’m living in the daily truth that God has validated me. I am already loved. I am already approved. He loves and delights in me. And now in Christ, I am free to be the person God created me to be.

I am free to be a slow runner with an excellent attitude.

I am free to be awkward and bad at small talk in social situations.

I am free to be introspective and analytic, instead of a happy-go-lucky, always cheerful person.

I want to go through this life, not enduring or accepting the person God created me to be, but embracing it. Loving it. Appreciating it. Marveling at it. Delighting in it. Refining it. Purifying it.

I am finally beginning to believe the truth of Psalm 139:

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

I may not be everything I would have chosen, had I been given the choice. But I wasn’t given the choice. God decided who I would be, according to His good and perfect will. And His works are wonderful.

“This God – his way is perfect.” Psalm 18:30

In Christ, I am exactly who God wants me to be. I am chosen and beloved. I praise Him that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And I want to live in thankfulness of His gift of life.

How are you thanking God for who you are today?

You Can’t Object to Grace

26 Oct

I’ve realized something in the past couple of weeks.

In all of my focus on living out my faith practically, I had left God’s grace behind. I didn’t believe that God loved me, as I was. I felt like the only way God would approve of me is if I had it altogether and was doing everything right. Anything less meant I was a failure, a disappointment. God had high standards, expectations, responsibilities for me. And I fell short. So very, very short.

But there’s a reason why we have the saying, “For every look you take at yourself, take 10 looks at the cross.” Yes, on the cross, we see how utterly sinful we are (nothing new there) but we also see, and should focus much more on, God’s love for us. He, in love, sacrificed His Son to win us back, and now, delights in us completely independent of anything we do. No matter what, His love for us is unconditional. And by unconditional, I mean exactly that. There are no conditions.

Are you thinking of any objections? Any qualifiers? “Yeah, His love is unconditional, but we can’t just do anything. I mean…”

Those are the very objections that have been popping into my head, for a very long time. And I’m beginning to see that those objections aren’t true.

What is the risk we run in declaring that God’s love for believers is unconditional? Why are people so quick to qualify that statement or make disclaimers?

I think the Apostle Paul stumbled onto a similar situation in his ministry to the Roman church.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 5:15 – 6:4)

Paul made the bold statement that the law was valuable because it increased sin, which in turn increased God’s grace. Sin abounded but grace abounded more.

Paul anticipates the objection, “So are you saying we should sin more, so that grace abounds more?”

“By no means!”

That objection completely misses the point of grace. Why would you want to keep sinning in the face of God’s endless and boundless love and grace for us? The person making that objection has obviously not actually been impacting personally and transformed internally by grace – they’re merely observing this outpouring of grace. Because no one can drink deeply of God’s grace in Christ and use sinning as a way of going about getting more of it.

I think the same false objections are being applied here with God’s unconditional love for us. Is it audacious to say that God demands nothing of us, that His standards and expectations have been satisfied, and that we have complete and utter freedom in Christ? That we can do anything we want? Does that seem brazen or presumptuous? Are you squirming off your chair with objections that need to be heard?

Consider this: if our freedom flows out of a deep knowledge of God’s love for us, why do we need to be concerned that we would “take advantage of” that freedom in the wrong way? When we look at God’s grace abounding for us as sinners, why are we scared that we’ll dive off the deep end into sin?

Why can’t we say, with 100% certainty and absolutely no qualifications, that God’s love for us is unconditional?

Because we feel sure, somewhere deep down, that something is required of us. Something has got to be required of us. Right?

But the truth is, God doesn’t need our good intentions, our heartfelt desires or our well-developed plans. He doesn’t need our service, our tithing, our words of encouragement, our sacrifice. He doesn’t need our busy schedules, hours of Bible study and prayer, meals delivered to families in need, hospitality, or generosity.

All of those things are for us. They are His blessings to us.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).

Here are a few beloved quotes that illustrate this very well:

“This is how the ‘giving God’ gives—with a selfless, total concern for us and with an exclusive preoccupation as if he had nothing else to do but to give and give again.” (Alec Motyer on James 1:5)

“We actually slander and dishonor God by our very eagerness to serve Him without knowing Him.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)

And my favorite (it’s long, but you really should read it – John Piper states it far better than I do):

Can we give anything to Christ?

When the psalmist cried out, “What shall I render to the Lord for all of his benefits to me?” the reply was, “I will lift the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:12-13). Jesus gives us the gift of himself and we ask, “Now what can I render to Jesus for all the benefits of his fellowship?” Answer: Ask him for his help. That’s the gift he wants.

The reason Christ wants this is because he always wants to get the glory while we get the benefit. Glory comes to him when we depend on him rather than try to enrich him. If we come to him with gifts—as though he needed something—then we put him in the position of a needy person, and we’re the benefactors. He always wants to be the one who is infinitely self-sufficient. Therefore the only gifts that we can bring Jesus are gifts of praise, thanks, longing, and neediness.

A fountain is not glorified by us hauling buckets of dirty water up the mountain and pouring them in. A fountain—a spring in a mountain—is glorified, rather, by us lying down at the edge of the stream, putting our face in, drinking our fill, and getting up and saying, “Ah!” That’s called worship. Then we take a bucket, dip it in, walk down the hill to the people in the valley who don’t know that the spring exists, and we say, “Taste this! It’s right up there, and his name is Jesus!” The kind of gift that the fountain wants is drinkers, because then he looks truly overflowing, rich, and self-sufficient. And that’s exactly what he wants to look like.

But aren’t we giving to God when we give to the poor (Matthew 25:40)?

Yes, but what is the something? Jesus is clearly in heaven today, risen, triumphant, and supplying everything we take to the poor. That’s an absolutely clear teaching: “My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

So if you have anything to take to a prisoner, any clothes to put on the naked, any drink to give to the thirsty, any fellowship to give to the refugee, you’re getting that from Jesus. You can’t be enriching Jesus. So what are you giving Jesus? You’re giving him honor, tribute, and glory.

Remember also that in this text Jesus calls these beneficiaries “my brethren.” That means that if you give to the poor then you’re choosing to bless, at your own cost, the brothers of Jesus. You’re treating them with honor because they belong to Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t need the food or the clothing. What he delights in is receiving the honor that his name gets when we chose to say, “It’s his brothers that I’m going to love and sacrifice for.” So as long as we talk about giving to Jesus—in terms of Matthew 25:40—we should understand that what is happening there is that Christ is being honored, glorified, and valued, because these are Christ’s brothers that we are willing to serve.

God’s love for us in Christ is unconditional. We don’t have to (and can’t) do anything to deserve it, ever. We can’t even make progress toward deserving it, or pay God back in any way for it. So let us be life-long drinkers of the fountain of grace and not undermine it with objections.