Love First, Love Often

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I met a couple last week who reminded me of something important. At our base level, strip away everything that makes us different and you get a need to be loved and accepted. Those who are different in more socially unacceptable ways wear this need on their sleeves. They haven’t found love and acceptance where most of us have so they’ve deviated in their desperation. How many of us have compromised our values, our personalities, and dreams to be liked? It doesn’t stop in high school either. I find myself in constant revision. So who am I to judge?

“I don’t want to say that because they will think I’m lame or stupid or a prude.”

“I don’t want to do that because I’ll look foolish.”

Christians can be a terrible bunch of judges. We hold up a measuring stick to ourselves and those around us. But the comforting thing about being a Christian is that Christ says, “God doesn’t look at the outside but at the heart.”

What are your intentions, your dreams, your ambitions? God could care less about what your hair looks like or who you’re crushing on as long as your heart and your passions are in the right place. God loves us for who we are, warts and all. We are imperfect beings. We fail and make mistakes but God loves us anyway no matter what. Why can’t we do that for other people?

One of my favorite quotes is from a pastor. “God loves you the way you are but too much to leave you that way.” Step number one in changing someone’s heart: love them for who they are. Be a decent person. You can’t pick a random person off the street and tell them what they are doing is wrong and expect them to just change because you said something. You need to love them first. Jesus did. Lepers, prostitutes, adulterers, and tax collectors where the common crowd around Jesus. He didn’t put a hand out and say, “You heathens, change your ways or else.”

He invited them to follow him. He shared meals with them. He healed them and the ones they loved. That is the hard part, the messy part, the part other people see and wonder if you’ve lost your mind. The most important part is showing love to those who need it most, to the people who may be difficult to love.

My husband told the couple I mentioned earlier, that I was very religious so when I met them they were almost afraid of me. They have come to associate religion and Christianity with judgment. When we got to talking and they realized I was just as normal and human as them the relief was tangible. It’s really sad when you have to footnote your beliefs and say you’re the odd kind of Christian who actually tries to follow Christ and love people first while withholding judgment. Do I agree with their lifestyle? No. To I care enough to want them to change? Better question do I care enough to love them where they are until they ask me why? Love people first then when they ask why you treat them differently than others treat them your testimony will have credibility instead of being a bludgeon. Food for thought.

The Lord’s Prayer Pants

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To those who grew up with it, the Lord’s Prayer is a beautiful, comfortable prayer, like a favorite pair of jeans. It is so familiar but do we realize all the promise this prayer holds? Do we realize the potential for the life we can life while wearing those comfortable pants? Not every part of our lives will be comfortable. There will be good days but also bad days. There will be break-ups, car wrecks, and job loss. There will be pain and tears.

Jeans are sturdy pants. They protect us from spills off a bike and trips on the sidewalk when we start moving too fast. The Lord’s Prayer is a promise we can keep coming back to when we are unsure, unsteady, and afraid.

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (Matt. 6:9-13 KJV).

This old, familiar, comfortable prayer shows us who is in control, what we are a part of, how we are taken care of and reminds us once again who is in control. I know that is one thing that really gets me. I keep forgetting who is in control or I keep trying to wrestle it away from God so I can control what I can’t. God even has forgiveness built into this prayer. He accepts us for who we are despite what we do. The next time you slip into your favorite pair of well worn jeans, think about the Lord’s Prayer in terms of the here and now. See how it changes your perspective on life.

First 4th of July

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The 4th of July has come and went and with it the joys and the stresses. How easy it is to get caught up in preparations and distractions and forget the meaning behind the holiday. Normally I take a moment to thank those in my family who have served but I forgot. I got busy. I got buried in the freedoms paid for by those who served. My apologies.

Thank you to the men and women who serve this beautiful, flawed country and the families who support them. As badly as I believe we are flawed as a nation, this is the only home I’ve known and I am proud to be an American. I may not stand behind those who lead this country but I stand 100% behind those who protect it.

I am grateful that my daughter, who turns one year old this month, can grow up in a country where she doesn’t have to worry about being sold or traded like property. Where she can play with others of different cultures and learn alongside her peers. She doesn’t have to worry about what she wears (those goodness knows I will). And she is free to chose what she has faith in. America may be flawed but it is still the land of the free where she can make her own choices and be who she wants to be. May this be the first of many to come where she learns what freedom means and what it costs.

Dreaming

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Dreaming is fun. I like pretending that owning certain things and doing certain things are possible. To plan the whole thing out, like what would I do if I won a million dollars? First thing would be to pay off the student loans, then the house, and the car, save a bunch and invest some. Of course we would blow some of it too. Who wouldn’t, just to celebrate?

My dad and I like to go window shopping. We look at all the expensive kitchen appliances we have no money to buy and no room to put. We love doing the parade of homes together, just looking at these crazy nice houses with more space than we’d know what to do with. Sometimes we find ideas that we can modify for our own little sanctuaries.

Sometimes when you are mapping the dream in your head you start to think, hey, this might actually be possible. Given the right dedication and planning this could actually happen. That is when the real fun starts. When you see that you aren’t stuck where you are and you can actually move up in the world even small things seem like a victory. Goals give us purpose and purpose can make us happy if we let it.

God says He knows the plans He has for us (Jer. 29:11). He wants to bless us and give us what we want. But He doesn’t do it right away because sometimes (or most of the time) we need to adjust what we want. I’m much better at knowing what I don’t want rather than what I do want. This can be frustrating but it’s at least a start. I didn’t know what I wanted in a man until I met my husband. My mom was everything my dad wasn’t looking for in a wife and they will be going on 29 years this December. Sometimes what we think we want isn’t what will make us happy.

Dreaming can be fun. It opens up the mind to how things could be and sometimes it can change who you become. The only thing more fun than dreaming is watching the dream come true. God wants to help us make our dreams happen. So what if the dream needs adjustment. It will be worth it in the end.

Love Isn’t Average

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We all say things like we are willing to do anything for the ones we love but when we say them we mean grand gestures like taking a bullet or killing someone. It is the little everyday sacrifices that prove our love. Doing the things we don’t want to do, the mundane, the annoying, the anonymous.

A lot of us think of God in the same terms. We want to see big things from Him, we want to be part of big, flashy, glorious plans. But our love is proven when we step away from what we want and do what needs to be done. Drop food on a doorstep, hand out clothes, go to work. It’s not fun or glamorous. There is no fanfare. But love isn’t flashy. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

How many times have I heard or read those words? Right now, they hit me afresh. I am willing to do whatever I need to for my daughter because I love her. Even if it isn’t glamorous or life changing. Even if it means giving up a few hours a day to go to a dead-end job that I honestly used to enjoy but have a hard time going back to now.

Yes, I have a college degree, and yes, I am a hard worker, and yes, I deserve to be somewhere I am appreciated for my talents, somewhere I can actually be useful but until I can find that place I will make the best of what I have because I love my daughter and this is what she needs. I have never been very good with transition. I’ve probably mentioned that before. I either make the best of where I am and get comfortable or I start itching to move on. Now, I have to figure out how to do both. I need to make the best of where I am so I can do my best work, be my best self but I also need to find that place where I belong so I can quit being average.

It may sound hubristic but I was not made to be average. Maybe it isn’t, no one wants to be average. We all want to be more, do more and raise our children to achieve more than we did. We want them to be more than average. Sometimes the hardest lessons to teach are the simple ones we must live. Love isn’t average.

My daughter, never forget.

My sweet daughter,
I can’t believe you are almost a whole year old. You have grown so fast. You are meant for great things, to blaze away the night, to be the light in the darkness. You are meant to be Jesus with skin on, to show love and be love because you are loved. Jesus is a pretty cool guy. You will get to know him as you grow older. The world desperately needs you and who you will grow up to be. You will make the world a better place. You are perfect just the way you are. You are beautiful and strong. You are kind, you are smart, you are important. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. And more than anything else you are very, very loved. Always and forever. No matter what. Because that’s the deal. Love is forever or it isn’t love. Be a blessing because that is what you are. Always look for the best in people and you will bring it out. Be careful, because if you look for the worst in people you will find that also. Never forget that all people matter. Every single one. No matter what the world thinks about them. We are all created in God’s image. I love you.

When we were young we were full of hope and potential. As we grew the world ground it out of us.  We began to accept the status quo and put our dreams on hold. We forgot out purpose, our potential. We forgot that we were supposed to make the world a better place not just be a part of it. So, child of God, grow in grace and peace. Be a blessing. Be love because you are loved and make the world a better place one person at a time. It may seem like slow progress but there are no unimportant lives.

Patience

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My husband and I have started doing the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University together. Looking over our finances and all of the dumb decisions we’ve made hasn’t been pretty but oddly enough once we started digging in it wasn’t as bad as we had feared. The hard part isn’t surveying the damage, it’s having the discipline to stay the course to undo it.

It is like the old saying: anything worth having is worth working for. We have not been very good at waiting until we’ve earned what we wanted. We have cut corners and had to work our way out of the hole we’ve dug. I’m pretty sure we aren’t the only ones who aren’t afraid of hard work but have run short on patience. With a little more discipline and patience we wouldn’t have to work as hard as we do.

The Bible says in Luke 14:28-29: do not build a tower without first counting the cost lest you be unable to finish and all who see it will mock you saying he began building but is unable to finish. But there is still hope for us. You, my readers, know me as a creature of hope. I wouldn’t survive without it. The road to recovery is longer than I wish but it is worth the wait to leave a legacy for my daughter besides wishing she was better with money than her parents. We want to give her every opportunity to succeed and we will. She is worth it.

Life is All About Perspective

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Life is all about perspective. For whatever reason my daughter woke up screaming at 5:30 this morning and she didn’t want daddy, she wanted mama. I was annoyed because why couldn’t daddy put her back to bed so I could go back to sleep? But as I sat cuddling, rocking, and singing to her (the effect almost immediately calming) I wondered why I was so annoyed. Why should I be anything but thrilled at the opportunity to cuddle and love on my precious baby girl? Who cares what time it is? She’s growing up quickly and all too soon she won’t want to cuddle with mama anymore so I may as well enjoy it now.  I can sleep when I’m dead, right?

How many things do we take for granted or gloss over because they are inconvenient? How many opportunities do we miss because it isn’t on our time schedule? Something tells me when I’m on my death-bed I won’t be wishing I’d slept more when I was younger. I’ll be wishing to hold my child/children and hug them some more. You can never have too many hugs from the ones you love. I don’t want to have regrets later about what I did or didn’t do so I try to keep my mind on the right perspective and enjoy life as much as possible.

Easter Promise

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I can be so slow. I get discouraged and I forget what God has done in my life. He has called me to be strong, to be stronger than I can be. But when I get to my end He begins. Seamlessly. He sends just what I need when I need it and not a moment before. And when I lose sight and faith He is always there waiting for me to come back. That’s what love does. It doesn’t matter how many times I fail. He always takes me back. Psalms 139 says, he has written all my days before they happen. Even the hard ones. Easter has come and gone and it’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness. To forget the true meaning and take for granted the great gift Easter is: Jesus’ death and resurrection with the hope and freedom they bring. That God almighty cares at all for us mere mortals and further still knows ours names, our hopes and dreams, and yes, our failings is mind boggling. That we have direct access to him for anything and everything is inconceivable. How blessed are we and how quickly we forget and get discouraged. And yet there he is with open arms waiting for us to turn back to him. Happy Easter.

New Parent Paranoia

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Being a parent brings a whole new meaning to paranoia. Someone was sawing aluminum siding this morning and through a couple sets of walls it sounded like the baby crying. Only it sounded more like a horrible scream. Poor Corinne has the sniffles so it seemed plausable. We both shot up to check on her then realize it wasn’t her at all. We were so relieved. It seems silly to get so bent out of shape over something so small but it was a freaky experience.

She is our first child so I feel like we have the right to be paranoid the first go around. Parenting is harder than it looks. It’s crazy being responsible for another human being. I don’t speak baby and Corinne doesn’t speak mommy so communication is complicated. She cries and I have to figure out if she is hungry, tired, hurt, or mad for no reason at all.

Its exciting too though, watching her grow and learn. The smallest things facinate her. The first thing Corinne does with her rubber ducks is look on the bottoms. Her forehead creases in concentration. She loves playing with my watch. She’s always stealing it off my wrist. She is in constant motion like her mommy. She looks like her daddy and acts like me. With each new life experience God shows me a whole new facet of love. I love that child like I have never loved anyone else. It helps me understand how God loves me.

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