The only thing that counts

faithlove1I started a new journal (one of about 10 – don’t judge) this year for recording verses and thoughts that strike me in a new way. I have read through many of the books of the Bible several times, but, as I have said before, I truly believe that the Spirit reveals things to us from the word in a new way as we are needing them or as we grow and become ready to receive them. To that end, I have decided to journal these verses as they present themselves with the significance they have to me at that moment in time. Just the other morning while I studied I wrote down this verse. “…the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6) There is so much meaning layered in these few words. On the morning that I wrote them, I truly was thinking about serving and loving on the people whom God has brought into my life – mostly through Celebrate Recovery and our new church home. And I whole-heartedly believe that truly, as a Christian, our faith is expressed through the way we love those around us. This morning, though, as I re-read that verse, it presents a new, slightly different meaning. I think of this verse today in terms of my covenant with Brian. We just celebrated our first anniversary. I would be lying if I said that everyday of that first year was like a honeymoon, with rose pedals and violins,etc. We had our challenges. Not only the challenges presented by trying to blend our families (I use the word BLEND very loosely), but also just the ups and downs of really learning each other and living together AND growing in our walk with God at the same time. At times, we were overwhelmed and thought that maybe our expectations of this covenant we had made with each other and God were too much. We were very intent on the fact that our marriage was priority and that God was using our love and our union to make us more holy. But in the day to day “muck” of life – that all seems too lofty and leads to disappointment. I am certain that God brought Brian and me together for His purposes. I am certain that Brian is the man God intended for me, and I am so grateful for the love that we share. This verse this morning really spoke to me as far as Brian and my marriage is concerned. We can get bogged down in daily life, raising kids, paying bills, highs, lows, failures and disappointments. But when we take time to be still and to share with each other, “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” I am made more holy through this covenant. I am learning to love like Christ loved through this covenant. I sit here in the middle of a home that has, at times, felt broken and failed…and I am more certain than ever that I am where God called me to be. My faith in God is being expressed through this love.

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Two words

Life is hard. So many aspects of this existence are challenging. The day to day stuff of bills, stress at work, weeds, dishes, and laundry can all tend to weigh a person down. And then on top of all of the “little” stuff like that, there is the big stuff. Relationships, emotions, self-worth…the “Why am I here” sort of ideas that can overwhelm. It is a challenge to maintain sanity at times, much less a positive attitude and outlook.

As I sit here in the quiet if the morning, I have to be real honest with myself and face some of the messy, ugliness of life. And yet as I face it, I almost feel guilty. I feel bad for not being “stronger” of mind. I feel selfish for focusing on me and how I just don’t like some of the trials and the manner in which they inconvenience me. But if I’m going to be honest here (and really, what’s the point if I’m not) I’m really struggling with some of the “big” stuff. Some of the stuff for which I have no idea how to “solve.” But as I ponder and wrestle with them, even as I type, I already know the answer. God must be in it. God must be the source of my strength. I hear his gentle whisper…uttering the same words to me He has said often. “Let go. Let me take this from you.”

Do I really believe that He is in control? Or is that just something that sounds good when I have no solution? Am I truly convicted of the fact that there is NOTHING that my God can’t handle, fix, change, or resolve? Is it just a convenient tag line that I speak when I say “Where God guides, God provides,”?

If I really get honest, I DO trust and believe that God is in control. I do. And as I feel that comfort envelope me as I sit here this morning, I am relieved and peaceful. I don’t have to carry the burden. I don’t have to do all the heavy lifting. God’s got this. He will get me through the darkness and guide my way. I have to let him. I have to accept the reality that I may not ever know the why’s of certain situations…but that God is in the how and when. My role in all of it is to trust and obey. Trust that God is guiding, and obey when He directs me. Let him speak, and listen.

Two words….Trust and Obey. Wow. It’s really that simple…Trust and Obey.

Discipline creates desire

“When you don’t feel like it, do it anyway. Discipline creates desire, not the other way around.”

I recently came across this quote and thought it was perfect for my goals for the summer. I started my very first week of summer break with the goal of working out a minimum of 4 times a week. Now, throughout the school year my alarm tears me out of sleep at 4:30 every morning. And here I was setting a goal to get up at 5:00am (sleeping in for a half hour) at least 4 times a week in order to get in shape and change my lifestyle. Which leads me to why this quote seemed so appropriate for me this summer. There have been many mornings that I do not feel like it. Many mornings. But I kept telling myself that the more disciplined I could become toward my goal, the more desire I would have to keep at it. It has truly been a phrase that I believe has made a difference…but not just toward my physical goals. Another goal that I have set for myself (and I think most Christ-followers do) is to be more immersed in God’s word – in order to be closer to Him each day. I love to read and study and learn…and I cannot even name the closeness that being in the word has brought me. But I’m not going to lie – sometimes it is hard. At times the frustration that I feel trying to “understand” outweighs the feeling of closeness that I get. One of my Bible study groups right now is studying the book of Isaiah. Let me just say that I didn’t even know that I didn’t know so much. It has been such a challenge. But the same principle that I have applied to my physical way of life has been so beneficial to me growing my spiritual side. There are times when I don’t feel like sitting down and trying to understand or to apply the word to my life. That’s the truth (and I feel guilty for saying that)…but the more disiciplined I become in my time with God through his word, the more desire I have to do it more. God has planted that desire in my heart to learn and study and spend time with him. It has been an amazing transformation for my spiritual life. The times that I don’t feel like it are few and far between in both my workouts and my study time. I see and feel the physical benefits of my early morning workouts, and I see and feel my relationship with God and the conviction in my heart growing as a result of my time alone with His divine teachings. My desire to serve God and to share Him with others is stronger than ever before. So glad that I came across this quote and that it has made such an impact of my every day.

People Person

I have never been one to have a big circle of “friends.” Never had real close longtime friends. Sometimes that would bother me – make me wonder what was wrong with me? Or what was wrong the other people that they didn’t want to be my friend. But for the most part, I have been good with not being especially social and kind of being alone. Over the last few years I have done a lot of looking inward and thinking about who I truly am and why I am that way (sometimes being self-aware is no fun). What I have really learned about me is that I have been the one who has chosen to not have friends. I seemingly got along with a lot of people, but rarely let anyone “in” or close. It has been my choice to keep people at a distance. Until now. The relationship that I have with God is all about love. His love for me…and in turn me showing that love to others. You’ve kind of got to be a “people person” to show and share that love. It’s not that I don’t like people, or that now I am faking it. Now that I have truly felt the love of God and  have seen it working and alive in my daily walk, I want to share it with others. What has been really great about this growth process is that I have been blessed with some absolutely amazing people to get to know. God brought me my best friend, my ministry/accountability/study partner, and the love of my life – Brian! (I could gush and get all sappy here – but I will spare you…just know I love him to pieces). God has also challenged me to leave my comfort zone and to open up to other new people. I have met some increible women of faith who are genuine and authentic. They love God and during our times together are so real…they share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am awed that God loves me so much that he has sent me such Godly sisters from whom I can learn so much. I have also been given the blessing of serving many beautiful people who are broken and lost and in true need of Jesus. People who just want to be heard and loved. I love listening to their stories, and sharing mine. God has pushed me out of my “shell” and has given me so much strength. While I don’t feel worthy all all of His blessings and mercy, I am so grateful that He loves me extravagantly enough to not leave me the way I was – but rather to lead me to becoming the person I am becoming…a people person.

You tell me, I’ll go with you

I heard a woman on the radio the other day – I knew I would forget her name) talking about battling depression and the highs and lows that come with it. Since I suffer from depression myself I tuned in to listen more closely. What she said about the valleys made sense to me – that with God being the center of my being, the valleys are not as low, nor do they last as long. She also talked about how when no one else in her life can really “relate” or help her out of the valley – it is so comforting to know that Jesus is there – a constant – surrounding her with his love. I could totally relate to the ideas she expressed. But what she said next really made me think about my perspective on things. She said when she wakes up each morning, she asks the Lord where he is going today… Continue reading

He’s not finished

I heard a saying once – or maybe I read it on a magnet at Cracker Barrel – and I didn’t really commit it to memory intentionally, but I have never forgotten its words and the power of it message in my life. The saying was “Jesus accepts me for who I am, but loves me too much to leave me that way.” Lately this phrase has become really important to me as I seek to continue to grow in my love for the Lord and in my desire to bring people to Him. Through my lowest lows in recent weeks, I keep asking myself why in the world Jesus would want to use me for his work. I’m not the smartest, the most well-spoken, the strongest…I’m broken and often afraid of losing my way. I feel like sometimes I’m not worthy enough to call myself a child of God. And in spite of my broken state, God loves and accepts me for who I am! I don’t have to be anybody else but me. But it gets even better (do I sound like an infomercial…?) Jesus does accept me for who I am – but through his mercy and grace he loves me way too much to leave me like I am. Since I surrendered myself to his will, He has begun to change me. In small ways and in BIG ways. I am His work in progress. He is transforming me, renewing my mind, using me to further his Kingdom, placing amazing people in my path, and allowing me to grow in my faith and in Him. He showers me with mercy and grace in my daily walk. He listens and he speaks. He teaches me to believe when I doubt, to ask for his help when I’m hurt, and to rejoice in him when he has made me glad. He does not turn his back on me when I slip and fall, but rather opens up more to me to help me learn each day. I know that Jesus loves me, and I know that He is working in me to make me a better person every day. He accepts me and keeps changing me with his love. And He’s not finished with me yet.

Caution: Sidewalk Ends

There is a new subdivision being built near my home. I actually pass by it every time I go to Brian’s house. It’s got one of those fancy, schmancy community names like Harbortowne or something crazy that doesn’t have anything to do with the cornfield in which it sits. I’ve watched this subdivision begin and grow over the course of the past year. Recently a sidewalk was formed and poured leading from the entrance of the community. I thought it a bit peculiar at the time, because, as I said, the community is surrounded by fields, but I then I figured it would perhaps become like a walking path around the subdivision. Each day that I passed I saw more forms constructed and more concrete poured. One day I noticed that it looked as if the work had stopped. Continue reading