double the love

babiesinheartThis is the girls’ first Valentine’s Day and I am over the moon about celebrating with them. Everything is so much more exciting with babies … double that excitement with twins! We had this mini photoshoot and while I’m very proud of the pictures I took, the garland I made, and how everything came together, I also see looooots of room for improvement.
And, the way my hobbies are set up – I’m going to get a lot of practice!

… and, don’t judge the paci’s. (smile.)

moving on…

During our struggles with infertility, what made me the saddest was the idea that I would never be able to experience all of the things I’d envisioned doing with my kids and family, that I wouldn’t be able share the things that I love with them and vice versa…. that I wouldn’t be able to experience the joy that children bring to your home. So, now that these sweethearts have graced my life, I want to celebrate them and play and share and experience and teach and learn and grow with them as much as possible.

One of the things I want to teach them most is how to love like Christ loves us. I mean, He’s going to teach them…. but I just wanna play TA, and be the example. Kinda like a class pet. I want to be one of the ones called on to show and lead and to help.vday1

A friend’s Insta post caused me to really think about how our culture loves and responds to certain behaviors….. very “He did this so i’m not cooking… or doing that” and “I’m not going home because she’s nagging.”  So, I got to thinking about how our behaviors are so rooted in fear and pride that we can’t love like Jesus. Jesus could love the Pharisees and Judas (of all people) because his behavior was based on their crowd approval or their day to day choices. Jesus treated people the way he did because of His love for God and seeking his approval only. Christ teaches us to serve as unto God…. not until we get what we want, not when we feel like it, it, and not quitting if someone does something we don’t like or when our feelings get hurt. Jesus knew that people are just people. We aren’t perfect. We make stupid mistakes, we make emotional decisions, we get tired, we yell, we get frustrated and we SIN. We do some very opposite of awesome things and say some very opposite of loving things because we are fallible. But, not unlovable. Not unworthy of a second or millionth chance. In desperate need grace and mercy.

This kind of love is completely countercultural and down right difficult at times. It requires humility and a heart for God. It requires constant prayer and sacrifice of ego. This kind of love is invaluable. It can’t be measured. And, it teaches others to love in a way that lasts.

*** What it isn’t is an invitation to be a doormat… it takes a mighty strength to love another this way, a strength that won’t allow you to be treated any kind of way, and a strength that will let you communicate that in the best way. lol. get me?
(I’m learning, too!! Boundaries aren’t always easy to establish!)
Jesus didn’t play. You don’t have to either. lol***vday2

Even if relationships end or change, even if you have to walk away from a toxic situation….. loving like this will never be a waste. It leaves the door open for a reconciliation of friendship and relationship (even if it’s on a different level). Loving like this will heal and strengthen. It’s accepting when you fail and encouraging when you’re vulnerable. It’s a love that doesn’t humiliate or tear down. A love that softens hard conversations and is open and inviting. It’s courageous.

This is love.
The kind of love I’m learning and becoming excellent at. A love I am constantly praying for. The kind that is the standard for my behavior, it shows me where I’m failing miserably at. Because I’m a person. It’s the love that forgives me and gives me grace. That gives me twelve hundred more tries. The one that comforts me in my brokenness and celebrates in my success.
This love is Jesus.

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saturday morning ramblings

The truths of God’s sovereignty have been a major and consistent topic in my life over the past few years but have really come together in the past couple of months. The rubber has been meeting the road and the act of trusting God faithfully has stretched so well. These situations have brought me to places that even in their greatest difficulty have shown me how much I’ve grown, how much better I am, and what the end result of both my character and difficult places could be.

God’s sovereignty is so much deeper than him reigning & holding the world in his hands and more than a difficult word to spell. (I literally can’t ever get it right… the fact that ‘reign’ is in the word helps but it never really looks quite right, yea?)

It took quite a few series of unfortunate events, linking truths, and many a conversation for me to move from theory to real life. You’d think after all we’ve been though that I would get it, that I would understand that God is sovereign (got it!) and that I can control nothing, but I wasn’t quite there yet.

I am a very passionate rebellious perfectionist…. How that is, I don’t know but I’ve found that that is who I am. I’m at home with my nose piercing, big natural hair, tattoo and conservative clothing. I am always thinking of how people will feel or what they’re thinking; even after I’ve not so nicely spoken my mind or unintentionally done something stupid or selfish….. when I am stern and harsh with my students or whomever because my expectations are high and my desire for them to be “good” and “right” overshadow my communicating to them that I am proud of them and love them.

My actions were not trusting God’s sovereignty (2x in a row!). I thought that if I talked enough about being considerate that the importance of taking others into consideration would be realized. That if enough examples were given on why this result was happening, would be enough to begin a change in behavior. Because, that is who I am. The problem with this is that the goal is all the way wrong, while the motive is in the right place.

My goal of being right and good was so that I would be seen as good and others would be taken care of. But, that is all so very wrong. My motives should be to honor God alone. Yes, I’ve always wanted to honor God, but I realize that I didn’t understand what that meant.

At the end of the day, no matter how much I push for any given result, it’s God choice on whether the result I want will even occur and if it does, the details will come only in his timing. 

That fact freed me. Freed me to love like Jesus, give grace upon grace upon grace in the hardest and most frustrating situations, and to trust God like I haven’t before. It’s not easy, but it’s so beautiful to see how God works situations out for good.

This act of submitting to God’s sovereignty is a beautiful example of how I believe he pulls us towards him. I believe that those around you feel more comfortable to just be and when mess ups do happen, they feel comfortable in coming to you or addressing issues because they know that you will respond with love, grace, and acceptance. Even when angry, knowing that God will work things out and our only job is to immolate him provides such a soft place to land. And, isn’t that what God does for us? We know He loves us, is patient with us, will forgive us, and will always accept us. No matter what we do. So, even  though there are times we go to Him completely ashamed and wallowing in our unworthiness, the comfort that comes with the love we will be met with draws us to Him and causes us to want to honor him more and more.

One of my issues with always being so forgiving and gracious is that people take advantage of that. While you still have to address issues, that gracious response is ignored. And, that is frustrating to me. It’s rude and unfair. It’s arrogant and shortsighted. But, what’s funny is that not only do we have that same response to the Lord, but that ungrateful response continuously shows us his character. He is honored no matter how we are treated! Aren’t we grateful for his love for us even when we mess up over and over and over again? Aren’t we moved to love others how he loves us? All of that is because of how he sovereignly designed relationships.

The process of becoming is a long one. It’s hard and painful and drags us through some pretty ugly things. It’s ugly for everyone on both sides. It’s uncomfortable and scary. But, what makes this process so beautiful is that it all works together and it is honoring to God. Those are the only motives that will keep us from falling into a hardened, dark place. Doing “good” so that others are taken care of and considered is nice but won’t last because our efforts may not ever be appreciated and we may never be treated well for our “good works”.  At some point we will tire of working in our own strengths.

But, working as unto the Lord, serving, responding, forgiving, loving, sacrificing, submitting, and just being as unto the Lord will never return void. Even when we’re hurt in the process.

Freedom in Christ is about much more than not being bound by the law. It’s more than being able to sin and receive grace rather than condemnation. And, I’m sure it’s more than the confidence that comes with submitting to God without worry or fear of the future or responses of others……

The sovereignty of God frees us to loves and serve others out of an unending reserve provided to us by the relentless grace of God.  A reserve of love, peace, faithfulness, self-control, kindness, forgiveness, and goodness that we could never authentically provide and definitely don’t deserve ourselves. God’s sovereignty puts us on the same playing field so that we can always serve out of understanding and compassion.

His sovereignty changes us all at the perfect time so that our pasts, failures, rebellions, successes, and feats will be honoring to Him in some way.

There’s freedom in leaving all of that change up to God.
There’s peace in trusting the sovereignty of God.
There’s grace when we mess it all up, thanks be to God.

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the big picture

I am a lover of She Reads Truth. I love community. I love building relationships and people – even though I’m an introvert deep down to the depths of my soul. I do one on one, or very small groups much better than I do large parties or social events. And, at SRT, you have all of that centered around growing (flourishing) in the Word. Love it. ruth4

They have these book studies where they select a book/event of the Bible and just pour over it piece by piece for a couple of weeks. The last study was on Nehemiah. The current study is on Ruth. I love, love, luuuuuuuve the book of Ruth. I even bought the study pack. Initially because I’m a hopeful/less romantic and I love love love how the Ruth + Boaz story just brings me to my knees. But, after reading today’s verse selection (literally the first 5 verses of the book) – my love for this book, for God, for tragedy goes far beyond what I ever thought could be.

So, a few things…

Maybe it’s the middle child in me, but I’ve always been well aware of the fact that life does not revolve around me. I think naturally don’t take (some) things as personally or worry myself about (some) decisions that are made or circumstances of life because I’ve come to truly understand that my life, nor the lives of others, is not about me. Weave in the fact that as Christians, we know that our life is not our own, that we are here to serve and it just solidifies my early childhood lessons of my birth order, lol.
Reading today’s verses in addition to knowing the stories of Ruth, Job, David, the Shunammite woman, Paul, & other “heavy hitters” in the Bible, you recognize one common truth – they are not selfish people. They aren’t (always) making decisions centered around themselves. They are choosing a life that isn’t a fairytale, that isn’t often characterized by glitz, comfort, and ease. YES, there are times things worked very well for them, but it wasn’t because these gifts were their goals. They were benefits of obedience.

So, there’s that….. then there’s this:ruth3

 This family tree. Tragedy ultimately leads to the birth of one of the greatest, most influential men of the Bible, one who would pave the way for our Savior.

That is HUGE to me. Completely blew me away. I knew Jesse was David’s dad but not that he was the son of Obed who was the son of Ruth & Boaz. No clue. That simple fun fact caused me to thank God for poor Mahlon’s death! It’s sad he died but thank God he did, right?!

I can only imagine how broken Naomi was. How sad Ruth was. Although, deaths rock us to our cores, God had a plan for all of their lives. These husband’s deaths were necessary for the salvation of nations. It’s because of their part in Ruth & Naomi’s story that we are saved!

It’s difficult to desire to be spared from heartache. Even in knowing that in generations to come, the heartaches of now and your choice to trust God with all of the junk and joy that you would experience could give way to so much glory, it’s still difficult to volunteer to be driven to weariness, emptiness, and deep sadness. But, how can you say no?

The choosing of a King, the slaying of a giant, a relationship gone wrong with Saul, marriages and love affairs,  sin, redemption, Psalms written, and ultimately the birth of Jesus all came about because one family had to move due to a famine.
They had to pick up and leave everything they knew…. famine meant limited to no resources so they probably had no money. Idk about their animals or property – the book never tells about those things and because the Bible generally detailed and mentions everything that is taken when people move about – I think it’s okay to assume that it this family had nothing. They move, husband dies. Tragedy, difficultly, soul hurts. The sons marry – JOY!!!! Expanded family – new dreams and hopes for the future. But, ten years later, the sons die. This woman has lost everything she has and holds dear. Her home, her husband, her children. She is understandably broken. But, thank God her story, that story, doesn’t end there.
For the past few years Father’s Day has been a really difficult day for me because I have carried a lot of guilt about not being able to give my husband children. From my perspective, he’s missing out on such an amazing experience because of my endo (not my eggs, lol)… because our plans weren’t working out. I felt inadequate. I felt as if I wasn’t enough. And, so many other lies that centered my thoughts around myself versus the truths of God…………………… and, my swelling belly reminds me daily of God’s goodness, his mercies, and the perfect timing of his plans for our lives. Because of Him (and his plans!!) there is no more guilt & shame.

So, this morning, when I read these first five verses, I marvel over the family tree, I revisit/reread all that I know about King David, about the loyalty and humility of Ruth, and my heart just melts. It breaks at how God truly does love us even in the hardest of times. He has a plan for our lives that is bigger than we could imagine and that is meant to impact and benefit the lives of others, that is meant to bring generations worth of glory to Him. Our stories don’t end at deaths, heart breaks, or horrible losses. Our faith isn’t supposed to be shaken and our hearts hardened because things don’t go our way or because our dreams aren’t coming coming true. Or because it feels like things aren’t going to get better.

I wonder if Naomi realized that. I have to wonder if she looked back on her losses and realized that all things truly do work together for our good. That she was kept through it all. That her wisdom and faith in God was beneficial to her and her family.

God has already written our stories. They are stories of triumph. Of salvation. Of victory. Peace. Pain. Love. Tragedy. Failure. Contentment that all result in something more meaningful and tangible than we could ever imagine, ask, or think.

… here’s to our stories pointing to the glory of God.

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