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The One Month Review

You might have thought I got a new book, med, or workout program to tell you about, but nope. I’m here to give my one-month review of marriage. Because GUYS, I’ve been married one month today. :0

Let me just start out by saying that marriage is literally the best. I love being a wife (and yes, we use husband and wife obnoxiously and don’t care.) But I also believe in full honesty and openness so I want to give you the good parts and the hard parts. I also like to end on a high note, so you get to read the hard stuff first.

I would say that over the last month, the more I grow to love marriage, the more I grow to hate divorce. I get to see firsthand the confusion and heartbreak that it brings to so many people. Our sin brings destruction and I despise it. And I’m oh so thankful for a God who restores, heals, and binds up his brokenhearted people. SO many times I have cried out, “Lord! I don’t have the grace for this! I don’t have the strength to do this task!” And yet every time he has been faithful to supply it. My reliance on the Lord has increased significantly because I absolutely cannot live out of my own strength.

On a practical level, the hardest thing for me so far has been the kids’ schedules. It is hard for me to keep track of when they are here and when they are at their Mom’s house. It’s very hard to let them leave and I actually didn’t expect that. Everyone told me, “Oh that will be so nice! You and Shawn will have time together by yourselves!” Don’t get me wrong- we are very intentional when the kids are away to pour into each other and our friends but we don’t look forward to them leaving. Every time they leave my heart breaks a little and I immediately want them back. It is much harder than I anticipated. So we pray. We pray for the protection of their hearts, souls, and minds. That what they learn here will be brought into their minds wherever they are.

Yet the good parts of marriage far outweigh the struggles. It is a true blessing to live life with your favorite person. We are better together than we could ever be apart. Somehow we glorify the Lord in a more complete way as ONE than we did separately.

It is a special joy to be at home every day when Shawn gets off work. That’s my favorite part of the day. When he walks in the door and says, “Hello, wife!” (Did I mention we love those words?) Shawn is a special kind of person who helps with everything. From cooking to dishes to laundry to cleaning the pellet stove- you name it and he will jump in. I love that he disregards all stereotypes and thoughtfully helps wherever needed.

It is a blessing to have children to take care of. For someone who currently can’t have children, this is a very precious thing. I know this sounds weird, but every time I fold the kid’s laundry, I cry. It is not a chore that has to be done, but a sign that I have someone to CARE for, little ones to love and show Christ to. It is a privilege to braid hair, pick out clothes, teach cooking and baking skills, have nerf wars, read Proverbs, pray together, and the list goes on and on.

Dear people, please don’t ever see your children as burdens. Dear readers, don’t see your husband as a problem. As the world looks at family in this way, I want to look at them in the way God sees it. HUGE BLESSINGS.

So there you have it. Married life is awesome and I love it. There are definitely hard parts but those things cause me to rely on Christ more and I’m thankful for that. Overall I would have to recommend it- 11 out of 10. 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2021 in marriage

 

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A Covenant-Keeping God

Two nights ago, I was over at Shawn’s house and we were doing family worship with the kids. We all sat in a circle on the living room floor (haha- all the furniture is out to get ready for my furniture to come in) and Shawn read from Genesis 21. He finished and as always, you could see questions bursting out of little eyes. After answering several questions (more and more I’m reminded that the Bible isn’t rated PG), the question came:

“What’s a covenant?”

Ah. Yes. Let’s talk about that. As I watched my future husband explain the meaning of covenant to his two children, so many thoughts and emotions flew through me.

He explained how our God is a covenant-keeping God. One that makes promises and ALWAYS keeps them. A promise-keeping God. Ever faithful, always true to what he says. True to what he had promised Abraham and true to what he promises us.

In that same chapter, Abraham also made a covenant with Abimelech. We talked about how that was an agreement between two people.

He told the kids that in 12 days, he and I were going to covenant together in marriage. That at the wedding, we were going to make promises to each before God and before our witnesses.

And one of the kids asked with a laugh, “Why? Why would you make a promise to each other?”

Suddenly, my heart felt broken. I realized they didn’t understand the permanence of vows. The permanence of the wedding covenant. I sat there so thankful that we got to explain that to them.

I also realized with a weight how much these little eyes would be watching my marriage. They would hear those promises made before God and would now understand that this was a serious thing to do. They would be watching. Talk about being humbled. Talk about realizing your dependence on the Lord.

I’m grateful that in now TEN days, when I stand before the Lord and covenant together with Shawn to be husband and wife, I can stand there remembering the promises God has made toward me. Knowing that I am not dependent on my strength but on his. Praise the Lord! Aware that I am in Christ and Christ is in me and because the Holy Spirit dwells in me, I have the ability to do what he has called me to do.

I’m grateful for a covenant-keeping God.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2021 in marriage

 

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Year-End Recap

2020. What a year. The amount the Lord has accomplished this year is overwhelming so in this post I just want to pull out some highlights.

In case you don’t know, at the beginning of every year I pray for the Lord to teach me something. It’s usually some area of my spiritual life that I’ve found very lacking. So on New Year’s Day, I spend time in prayer and then focus on that area throughout the year. Every year, God has been faithful to answer that prayer. And I guess I didn’t post it this year (so you’ll have to take my word for it), but this year I prayed for the Lord to teach me gentleness.

I’m not a gentle person by nature. At. All. I know it’s a fruit of the Spirit but I think it gets overlooked some. I’m more of a you’ll-be-fine, get-over-it, brush-it-off, drink-some-water kind of person. [Ouch] The more I realized this and the more I saw gentleness in others, I knew I needed to work on that in my own heart. So that was my prayer on January 1, 2020. I started studying it in Scripture, wrote down definitions, and watched closely people that I knew were gentle.

WHAT A YEAR TO PRAY THAT. There were SO many opportunities where gentleness was required this year! And sometimes I would think, “Lord, that’s it. I’m at the end of my gentleness here. I don’t have any more.” But always he would remind me of how gentle and patient he is towards me and my heart would soften towards those around me.

A pandemic requires gentleness. Dealing with the wildly differing opinions of others, the pain of suffering, the strokes of loneliness- I needed a tender heart. For effective ministry to occur to those around me, I could not have a harsh heart towards their opinions or feelings.

Dating requires a gentleness I did not expect. You actually cannot just plow your way into someone else’s heart, especially not a heart that has been deeply hurt before. I had to come in a gentle and understanding way. (And since Shawn is such a gentle person, it only magnified to me how un-gentle I was!)

Dating someone with children requires an extra dose of gentleness. I knew I needed to be mindful of their emotions and thoughts. I also knew the importance of fully and unconditionally embracing and loving those kids, knowing that I could get hurt in the process.

The more I practiced gentleness towards those closest to me, the more I realized this is how I should have been living all along. How harsh of a person I really am. And that gentleness grew and spread out. I’ve been hurt a lot this year (not by Shawn or the kids, lest you think that) and yet responded in ways I didn’t think possible. Instead of withdrawing (my natural response) from those hurting me, I moved closer. I was constantly reminded of Christ who came to US, to ME, and so I moved towards the offenders, not away. I was reminded that if not for Christ, I would never have come to faith and since he makes the first move in reconciliation, we as his followers do the same. We are called to be peacemakers.

In case you are sitting there thinking I did that every time, let me shatter that belief to the ground. Ohhhhh no. There definitely were times where I responded in anger. Times where my heart raged within me. If I struggled with anything this year, it was anger and selfishness. Or rather, the anger and selfishness I have in my heart were CLEARLY revealed. And it wasn’t pretty.

But I am thankful for the gentleness that God gave me where I certainly didn’t have it before. Like I said, THIS was the year. Little did I know how gentle I would need to be this year but of course God knew.

And so this Christmas I celebrate the One who comes to us to create peace. The Author of reconciliation. Oh come, let us adore Him.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2020 in encouragment

 

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It’s Complicated…But Not Really

The most common question I got while dating and even now while engaged is, “Soooo…is it hard?” Usually this question came after I explained that Shawn is divorced and has two children. Sometimes it was said as a statement instead of a question. I’m never quite sure how to respond to that but today I’m going to answer the question: “Is it hard?”

Yes. And No. Does that help?

About half of my friends are dating or engaged right now. Sometimes I see the inner turmoil and stress in their relationships and I say to Shawn, “I think we must be doing the whole dating thing wrong. It’s too easy.” He would laugh and we would shrug and move on with life. I kept my LIST of questions going and Shawn grew to know that it wasn’t a thing to be scared of. The LIST were simply things that I didn’t want to discuss over the phone but I also didn’t want to forget about, so I put them in my phone to talk about later. He grew so used to the LIST that often we would be on a walk and he would casually say, “So, got anything on your LIST we need to talk about?”

I didn’t have to worry about what Shawn thought of something because if I was unsure, I asked him. (I know that is a novel idea.) Same on his end. If I didn’t like something, he knew it. I know so many girls that toss and turn, worried about what their boyfriend thinks about something, but they haven’t bothered to even ask him. Whyyyyyy? I don’t understand.

Now. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that we are perfect. [ha. HA! ha.] No joke, dating someone with kids is different and it’s a learning process. It’s more like dating three people and learning the emotions of all three. At times, it was/is overwhelming. And at times, I felt like an invader into this family. The amount of communication I’ve had to do has gone way up. I knew that when I felt weird or awkward, the solution wasn’t to pull away from the situation, but to communicate that to Shawn. Not in a way to make him feel responsible or blame him, but to work through a solution together. We both know that small things ignored build up to big things so we tell each other the small and the big things.

The hardest part about dating was and is outside people. People who make assumptions about our situation and jump to judgement. I’m not used to having my character called into question and so this was totally new for me. I’ve had to learn to respond slowly and in a gentle and understanding way towards others. To respect what others believe about divorce, even if it’s not what I believe. Even if they haven’t taken the time to ask about our situation.

And I would say that’s where Christ comes in. I’ve learned much about how Christ works this year! Every time another person has offended me and I’ve been tempted to just give up, I’m reminded that Christ moves TOWARDS US in forgiveness. He makes the first move, not us. Each time I want to make a snarky or angry comeback to someone who is being hasty in judgement, I remember how patient Christ is TOWARDS ME. This has been a year of moving towards other people in gentleness, love, forgiveness, and patience and although sometimes it’s hard, each step has been a reminder of just how much grace I’ve been shown.

So to answer the initial question…it may be hard, but it’s GOOD. It is not a burden or weight, but a joy and delight. It is a joy to build a relationship with someone in order to pursue Christ together. It may be hard, but it’s definitely worth it.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2020 in marriage

 

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The Impulse Buy

A few weeks back I was on Amazon, the place where miracles happen and temptation occurs. I honestly don’t remember what I was looking for that day. Whatever it was, it must have been small because it didn’t get me to the magical free shipping amount. If you know me, you know I despise paying for shipping. My favorite coupon in the world is free shipping. So I did what any rational person would do and headed to my wish list to find a book to add to get my FREE SHIPPING.

But I didn’t make it there. Amazon popped up a suggested buy and it caught my eye. It was a bright pink book but that’s not why I looked. I looked because the title of the book was You’re Not Enough (And That’s Okay.)

I didn’t recognize the author. I only knew one of the reviewers on the back but without even looking into it, that book was in my cart and headed towards my house.

You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal?” Clearly you don’t understand. I don’t impulse buy. I’m a research buyer. I want to read all the reviews and look for the best deals and get all the input before I buy something. And I NEVER buy new books that I’ve never heard of, unless they come highly recommended by someone.

But Amazon caught me this time. It was the phrase. I use that phrase a lot with people. “You’re not enough.” See, it’s only when we get to the point that we realize we aren’t enough, that we can’t do it, that we are inadequate- it’s then that we are able to realize that Christ IS enough. That phrase is true! We are NOT good enough. Christ is! We don’t have the strength. Christ works in our weakness, not strength!

I went into the book highly skeptical. Picture squinty eyes and furrowed brow, ready to be disappointed. I. Am. Shocked. Not only can I recommend this book, I would be willing to give it away as a gift to every girl I know! In it, Stuckey goes through 5 Myths that our culture drills into our hearts and minds daily and she tears them down with biblical truth:

  1. You Are Enough
  2. You Determine Your Truth
  3. You’re Perfect the Way You Are
  4. You’re Entitled to Your Dreams
  5. You Can’t Love Others Until You Love Yourself

Although I would have been able to tell you all of these are untrue before, I didn’t realize the extent to which our sinful culture has entrenched them in society. The book was clear, biblical, and eye-opening.

But it was not discouraging. Don’t take it the wrong way. The whole point is that YOU are not enough and that’s good news! Once you embrace that fact, you are able to rely on the only One who is enough. Self-reliance is always going to lead you astray and will never satisfy you, but reliance on Christ is where you find life.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2020 in books

 

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The Second Date

Now you may be wondering why I’m telling you about the second date and not the first. No worries, I’m going to tell you about both. After Shawn said he was still interested, we agreed to meet up. For our first date we went for a walk on a local bike path. I should probably define the word “date” right now. For us, a date was pretty much any time that we spent together and A LOT of that was walking. I love to walk and he knew that and we found it was a great time to talk. Walking and talking go hand in hand. (Also in the middle of a pandemic, options are limited. 🙂 )

Our first date was pretty much just catching up. After all, we hadn’t really seen each other in person in a while. I do remember telling him outright that I didn’t know how to date and he laughed. And we agreed to meet again later that week at the park in town.

But I was being honest. I didn’t know how to date. And I had many people tell me I was doing it wrong. Apparently you aren’t supposed to be bluntly honest with the other person? But I was and let me tell you, it made life SO. MUCH. EASIER.

I told Shawn that I was making a LIST of questions for our second date and not to be scared if I literally pulled it out. I just had things to ask that I didn’t want to forget about and my memory is bad. He said to bring it on. When I tell people that I brought a list of questions to our second date, they usually picture me interrogating that poor guy, but it didn’t feel that way. It was more like a conversation back and forth. I always say the most valuable dating advice I ever got was this: “Get the big questions out of the way first.” And that’s exactly what I did. I unashamedly asked the big questions right off the bat.

I want to be specific so you need to know a little about Shawn. He is a faithful follower of Christ and has been divorced. He has two precious children and he and his ex-wife co-parent them. So when I say I had questions, I had QUESTIONS.

If you look back to my last post, you will remember that before I ever messaged Shawn, I first messaged his pastor? There was one question I needed answered. I trusted his pastor because we have both been through the same biblical counseling classes and he knew Shawn’s situation better than I did. I asked him if he believed Shawn had a biblical basis for remarriage. I know there are different beliefs on divorce and remarriage and this post is not long enough to go into those. Suffice it to say that we believe Shawn has a biblical basis for remarriage.

So on our second date I pulled out my LIST of questions. They were questions like:

“Play the movie for me.” (AKA- tell me your life story)
“What do you do when you are angry?”
“Who are your closest friends and mentors?”
“Tell me about your marriage and divorce?”
“How is your relationship with your ex?”
“What are your political stances? What do you believe about obeying the government?”
“What are your fears?”
“Do you consider yourself a good driver?” (I don’t like driving lol)
“What are your intentions for this relationship?”

It was on my LIST but before I got to it Shawn said, “I think we should talk about boundaries in dating.” I LOVED that. I loved that I wasn’t the one that had to bring that up but that he took the lead. It meant a lot to me because it showed respect for me and for our witness as believers. Our boundaries are different than other couples’ and THAT’S OKAY. Among other things, one thing we agreed on was that we didn’t want to be alone in each other’s homes. We wanted to maintain integrity and avoid all appearance of evil. And despite what people think, that is not an impossible boundary to keep while dating.

We also discussed the kids at length. I shared that I wanted to be very mindful and understanding of their emotions. I told Shawn I was fiercely opposed to any sort of forced affection from them and that they needed to be allowed to come to me by themselves. He wholeheartedly agreed and appreciated my attitude towards them.

Shawn asked if he could pray with me at the end of our date and I told him I would love that. He took my hands and prayed. When he finished I looked up and knew right then that I was looking at the person I wanted to marry.

I walked away and my best friend asked how the date went. I calmly replied, “Well, I’m going to marry that man.”

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2020 in marriage

 

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When the Lord Directs

You may be wondering how I got here. How did it get to this point? How is a girl who 9 months ago was turning down any and all dating requests now ENGAGED? Sometimes I sit and wonder the same thing to be honest. Let me explain…

I always wanted to be married growing up. Always. If I had it my way, I would have been married right out of high school and would have had a house full of kids by the time I was 30. But the Lord had other plans. And at times I really struggled with that. I’ve always struggled with contentment and I wanted to be content in Christ but I also wanted to be married!

Fast forward to 2018. My health was finally doing a little better. I was on meds for the seizures and starting to do better. It was in that year that I suddenly realized my desire for marriage had left. That is the simplest way to put it. I don’t know whether it was hormone stuff from the medication, emotional issues, or simply a blessing from the Lord for that season but I had absolutely no desire to be married. I felt a peace I had never felt before. I was able to whole-heartedly rejoice with my friends who were getting into relationships because I felt no envy or jealousy! For the first time in my life, I truly felt content with singleness, even as I thought way into the future if that was what the Lord had for me.

I kept those thoughts mostly to myself. The church has a pretty high standard for girls. Most people think you are crazy if you aren’t actively looking for a husband. There were a few trusted friends, mentors, and family members that I told. Wouldn’t you know that from 2018-2020 I got asked out by more men than I ever have before? Every single time I would pray about it and every single time my answer was the same. I gently but confidently explained where the Lord had put my heart at the time and every single man understood. I’m still friends with all of them and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

On August 28, 2018 (do you know how much digging I had to do to find that date???), a man I didn’t know very well asked if I would like to go out with him. We had many mutual friends and we were both bloggers which was our connection. I prayed about it and declined but said I was always willing to have another friend. And we remained friends.

For almost two years, we enjoyed a robust friendship. A lot of our interests overlapped and he was easy to talk to. We both enjoyed talking about the Lord, what we were reading, praying for each other, movies we like, etc. While we had a lot in common, we had a lot of differences and liked to discuss both. Small stuff and big stuff. It was easy because I had made it clear that I was NOT interested and so that was out of the way.

In January of 2020, I started taking biblical counseling classes- a dream come true for me! One of the books on the reading list was Marriage Matters by Winston Smith. I thoroughly enjoyed that book. At the same time, it revealed heart issues that I wasn’t even aware of. I clearly remember one day reading the book and suddenly I started shaking all over and sobbing. I thought, “What in the world is wrong with me?? Why am I crying?!” I realized that the topic I was reading had been an issue of fear for me. I had such a strong fear about it that my body was reacting before my brain could even process the truth!

And suddenly it hit me. I’m afraid. I don’t want to get married because I’m afraid. This was new. I literally had no clue that was lying beneath the surface of my heart. (You ninny!) But with the realization came a strength. Not a quick fix to the fear but a knowledge that I’m a child of the One who calls out fear. The fear was still there but I knew it now and I could deal with it.

Suddenly, I wanted to be married. In the reading of one chapter of one book, my heart had changed.

I felt very different. No one could tell. I didn’t tell anyone for weeks because I was still praying, still processing. But I did do one thing. I started praying for God to bring a godly husband if that was his will.

A lot of people have asked me if I regret those two years where I said no to every date. I do not. Looking back, the Lord needed to work in my heart. He had weeds to pull and flowers to plant and I’m grateful for that. I’m also thankful for the contentment that I now know is possible in the Lord. Even after I felt like I could be married, I still felt content. It wasn’t like before where I had a subtle discontentment about singleness. I knew the Lord was enough either way.

As I was praying for a husband, one name continually popped into my head. You guessed it. Guy from 2018, Shawn. I kept pushing it out. Nope. We are good friends but I don’t want to marry him. No thanks, Lord. Too many differences between us.

One day in June of 2020 I got tired of the nagging name so I decided to make a mental list of qualities I would like to see in a husband. I know a lot of girls have these lists hanging around- I’m not one of them. So I sat in my prayer wardrobe making this list and like scales falling away I saw that Shawn hit all of them! What??? No! That’s not how this was supposed to work! Pretty sure the Lord heard my gasp that day.

I went to work feeling weird from this talk with Jesus. I decided I needed to do something about it. In case you don’t know, I’m a straightforward kind of person. You should know that before you read further. I messaged Shawn’s pastor. I had some questions about Shawn that were serious enough that I needed an outside opinion on. I knew and trusted his pastor and I knew his answer would be truthful and biblical. It was. And it was encouraging.

Next I messaged a mutual friend of ours and asked her opinion. She was also positive (okay, she’s been trying to set us up for years) and wanted to know WHY THE HECK I WAS ASKING.

And lastly, shaking all over and about to throw up, I sent a message to Shawn.

At this point, I don’t know what you are thinking. Am I a lunatic? Insane? Incredibly bold? Possibly all of those things but on June 19, 2020, I sent a text that was not like any text I had ever sent before. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hey can I ask you an insanely crazy question?

Shawn: YES

(I laughed despite myself because I knew he wasn’t expecting the question I was about to throw his way. He was used to my random questions, but not this one.)

Me: Okay, take it slowly. I had to think and pray about this a lot. Remember when we first met and you asked me out and I flatly declined? I had very specific reasons for that but what I didn’t know was that the Lord needed to work in my heart. There were a lot of weeds in there that I wasn’t even aware of and he has been good and faithful to remove them. It has hurt like crazy but I’m confident it has all been for my good. All that to say that if you are still interested, I would like to get to know you better. (Gosh that was hard and humbling and vulnerable and I didn’t like it at all!)

Yeah, I sent that last line too. I’ve always been completely open and honest with Shawn.

Shawn: Really??

I LAUGHED.

Shawn: That just made my day! Yes! Of course! I’ve been holding out and praying for you for two years.

What??? No. People don’t really do that, do they?? I was relieved and excited and at the same time I felt immediately calm. It was the weirdest thing. I actually had people question my excitement but I think they are confusing excitement with anxiety. And I didn’t feel anxious. I knew this person already. When we started dating, it felt like a seamless transition to me. People around me thought it was sudden and fast but it didn’t feel that way to us. We both felt sure and confident in pursuing Christ as we moved closer together. Suddenly I saw God’s hand everywhere in the past couple years.

I saw him as he had been working in Shawn’s heart and in my own to remove our sins and replace them with righteousness. I saw him preparing and preserving us for each other even though I was blind to it all. I saw that it had been the Lord that had driven our close friendship and I sat back in amazement.

How could I not have seen this sooner?? My best friend tried to tell me that my eyes lit up slightly while texting him and I told her, “Uh no. We are good friends. I just like talking to him. STOP making it something it’s not!” Do you think I’ve had to eat those words? Yeah.

And yet I’m truly just thankful. I’m thankful for those years of friendship. What a blessing! I would never, ever go back and have done it a different way. The Lord knew what he was doing and when he was doing it.

And so on October 20, 2020, my life changed for the better as I got to start calling someone my fiancé. Shawn asked if I would be his wife and I believe my exact response was, “Yes! Finally.”

The Lord has done great things for me. Holy is his Name.

(Someday I’ll be back on here to explain our dating story because that’s also a story. But I think this post has been long enough. Also, does this excuse my lack of posting over the last few months?? I hope so. 🙂 )

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2020 in contentment, marriage

 

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Agape

I volunteer weekly at my local pregnancy center. It is one of the greatest joys and privileges I have to be able to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of expecting and new mamas around me. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me, “Are you ever surprised by who comes in there? Like, are most of them beautiful girls or do you look at some and think, ‘How do you even have a boyfriend?'”

I was kind of taken aback by the question. She didn’t intend to be mean; she meant it honestly, even if it was thoughtless. I pondered for a minute in confusion before answering.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been surprised by who comes in. Maybe saddened and grieved by their stories but not surprised. When I go there, I have pre-determined to love whoever walks through that door and so every single girl that comes in is beautiful to me before I even know them. I already love them.”

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation since then and I still believe what I said is true. I did a study awhile back in 1, 2, and 3 John and the most valuable thing I got out of it was a definition of agape love:

Agape: an intelligent, purposeful attitude of esteem and devotion, a selfless, purposeful, outgoing attitude that desires to do good to the one loved.

Pretty convicting, huh? Even more so if you look up how many times THAT is the word that is translated to love in our Bibles. Agape love is one that denies myself and seeks the best for another person. It’s not based on emotions but it’s an act of the will, an intentional choice to love someone else sacrificially. Boy, that’s hard!

And yet isn’t that how Christ loves us? He doesn’t love us based on our beauty, our lovableness, good works, or desirableness. We are none of those things. It’s purely a pre-determination to SET his love on us. He CHOOSES to love us. And we are called to do the same, whether we feel like it or not.

What was more convicting for me was that I realized I do this easily at the pregnancy center but I drift off in other areas of my life. Have I made that pre-determination to agape every. single. person. I know? That’s harder and yet that’s what I am commanded to do.

1 John 3:16-18
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

(Really, you should just read all of 1 John 🙂 )

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2020 in encouragment

 

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Read. This. Book.

I love to read. A lot. My Dad used to read to us all the time when we were little and I’m pretty sure he still has The Three Billy Goats Gruff memorized. When we got older my Mom would read aloud to us things like Chronicles of Narnia and King Arthur. And I would fly through books on my own. So when I make this next statement, I don’t say it lightly:

The following book may be the best one I have ever read.
(Bible excluded.)

The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield

I knew it would be good. I read Rosaria’s first book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, earlier this year and loved that one as well. But I didn’t know I was going to find a book that so captured what biblical hospitality is and explained it. I didn’t expect to be so convicted. And I didn’t know there was a book that held the longings of how I want to live my life.

Growing up, my family had an open door policy. I wasn’t even aware of it. There were times when we officially “hosted” but most of our gatherings were laid back and people-focused. We didn’t have a big table but who cares? That’s what the living room floor, the porch, and the yard are for! I specifically remember being a teen and we found this really odd looking key and spent all day trying to figure out what it went to. Finally my Dad got off work and we asked him, “Oh, I think that’s the key to the door!” No joke, people. We lived in town but our door was never locked except at night. We would go to church and have friends say, “Hey I forgot to tell you! I stopped at your house the other day to change my clothes for work. You guys weren’t home but I knew you wouldn’t mind.” And we didn’t. I thought everyone lived that way.

Until I moved to Ohio. My family didn’t grow up with such a thing as protected “family time.” I didn’t quite understand the concept. I didn’t understand why you couldn’t have people over to your house on Sundays after church because that is reserved for family time. What a weird thing. Can’t you have family time with other people? That’s my thinking. I didn’t understand the stress people feel when having people over. They tell me there isn’t enough room. Look at all this room! I knew that a welcoming heart makes the room, not the space around you.

And yet this book stretched even my idea of hospitality. It is Rosaria’s whole life. She views it as a mission field which was almost new to me. Anyone and everyone is welcome in her home at any time. She plans and goes out of her way to invite strangers (the very definition of hospitality.) She and her husband fostered and adopted teens, befriended neighbors that no one else would, had almost daily gatherings at their house, invited college students to live with their family while at school, and did so with the gospel of Christ in mind.

I’ve been told before that I have a crazy view of hospitality but after reading this book, I don’t think my view is CRAZY ENOUGH! What a beautiful picture of the gospel to seek out the lost people in this world and bring them into your family. And you know what, it’s going to be inconvenient, you’re going to get hurt, and it will take time and energy.

But it’s also such a blessing. Psalm 68:6 says that God sets the lonely in families. What a privilege to be a part of that promise. To be a family to someone else.

Read the book, people.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2020 in hospitality

 

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The Fear of Man

You know when you are at Bible study early (some of you don’t know anything about this) and everyone is just hanging around, fellowshipping? There’s usually food, lots of stories to tell, and loads of laughter. Finally someone will call the group to order to start the study. Plates of snacks and cups of drinks are gathered along with Bibles and notebooks. You all sit down and the room-echoing, inevitable question comes: “Does someone want to open us in prayer?” Silence. The atmosphere that just a minute ago was teeming with life is now dead.

Dear Church, why don’t we love to pray?

Some person, (probably one of the same 2 or 3 that usually do) will eventually volunteer to pray and study begins. Maybe you have a study guide you are following or maybe you all simply read through part of God’s Word and have gathered to discuss it. “What did you all think of this week’s reading?” Silence. Deafening Silence.

Beloved Church, why don’t we LOVE and LONG to talk about our Savior?

Why is Christ not our favorite topic? Why are our conversations around God’s Word not as passionate and robust as those we have about food, news, sports, music, taxes, politics, books, etc? Why does it feel like we have to drag people kicking and screaming to have a full conversation?

I think a lot of it has to do with fear. Specifically, fear of man. We are so concerned about how our prayers sound to those listening that we forget about the God we are praying to. We forget that we really should be mindful of what he thinks and remember that he not only hears us but sees our heart attitudes and motives. Our friends don’t even compare.

We don’t answer questions in Bible study because what if our answer is wrong? What will people think if they find out we don’t know it all? So we sit with our mouths shut and agree with the other people talking instead. I can say with honesty that some of the best discussions I’ve had in studies are when people didn’t know the answer to something. It means we all had to look at the text deeper and think harder. And some of the most genuine prayers have come from broken hearts that stumble through their words.

Fear of man has paralyzed people. Not just in Bible study but that’s the area I’m focusing on today. Proverbs 29:25 says:

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

Do you see how this kind of fear is a snare? It’s a trust issue. Have you made people bigger than God in your mind? Do their opinions matter more than his? Are you all caught up in pleasing people or are you trusting in the only One who can keep you safe?

The bigger our view of God is, the smaller man looks.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2020 in Bible

 

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