My Almost-Free Trip To Maine

[Warning: This blog post is heavy on the picture end.  :-)]

Three weeks ago, my husband and I were able to take a five-day trip to York County, Maine.  The only expenses we had to actually pay for were our meals, gas for the rental car, economy parking at the airport, and the jet-ski we rented for an hour the one day.  Our flights, our rental vehicle, our two nights at the Nonantum Resort, and then two nights at The Cliff House were completely free!

I have always wanted to take a summer vacation to Maine at a place with direct views of the ocean.  Our trip to Maine was a fulfillment of that dream!

Our first two nights in Maine, we stayed at the Nonantum Resort. Our room had a walk-out patio with direct views to the harbor.  There were colorful ships anchored in the harbor, and there was a little lighthouse that we could see from our patio.

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We enjoyed walking down to Kennebunkport, eating seafood, and taking a jet-ski out for an hour ride.  We also enjoyed a beautiful sunset our first night at the Nonantum Resort.

Our first full day in Maine, we drove to see the Cape Nubble Lighthouse.  It was windy but beautiful!

Our second full day, we rented a jet-ski.  Here is what I wrote to some friends, regarding our jet-ski adventure: “So, I confess that I was scared, but I know it’s healthy to do things sometimes that scare you and that cause you to hang onto your husband and trust his skills. Yesterday, we did something on my bucket list: we went jet skiing. It was truly fun! I held on tight, and I watched his muscles flex as he steered us skillfully over the waves. A marriage of 16 years can still require growth and bring excitement. All good things…!”

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Without kids, we slept in, ate late, took naps, relaxed, and just went with the flow of the day.

Our last two nights in Maine, we spent at The Cliff House.  It was absolutely exquisite!  There were no end to the pleasantries, fine details, and gorgeous views!  When you drive up to the front entrance, you can see straight through the lobby to a stunning view of the ocean.  There are two infinity pools and two large hot tubs.  We enjoyed having one hot tub to ourselves the first night.

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At the Cliff House, there are outdoor couches and even a large fire-pit for s’mores.  We enjoyed roasting our own s’mores the second evening there.  Both evenings, we enjoyed sunsets that bathed the sky and water in soft hues of pastel pinks, lavender, blue, and peach.  (I saw the wine glasses left by guests and thought they made a lovely picture with the sunset in the background.)

Our final morning in Maine, we awoke early in order to watch a sunrise from our balcony.  It was stunning!

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As we took our time packing for our departure, we noticed that right outside our balcony/window, preparations were being made for a wedding.  We had heard talk the previous night about a wedding taking place that day, but we had no idea that they would pick the location right outside our balcony!

I knew that God had something to tell me on this vacation, and I wasn’t mistaken.

I knew that even the places where we stayed had significance.  We started at the harbor with gorgeous views and then moved to a place with a high, cliff view and the immense ocean spread out below.  God began to softly speak to my heart and tell me that the ocean was to represent the ocean of His love for me.  I saw it bathed in many hues of pinks and reds — all colors that represent love.  I knew the views I was seeing had a message for me because God was also speaking to my heart gently at the same time.

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When we first arrived at the Cliff House, I felt like an intruder, like I didn’t belong, and even like it was wrong for me to enjoy such a place because it might be materialistic to enjoy such a lovely place.  God immediately began to address those lies.  He not only told me that the place was a gift for me to enjoy because He loves me so much but also I am to receive His love.  He then revealed to me that I so often live the same way when it comes to the spiritual realm.  I so often feel like the best is for super-Christians and that it’s pride to even want a ministry.  He revealed to me that I hold back from receiving from Him because I keep acting like a servant instead of a daughter.  I keep acting like I have to earn and work to keep my position instead of receiving it as a beloved daughter.

God also showed me that the wedding outside our balcony was to represent that just as a marriage is two becoming one, God is inviting my husband and I to go deeper with Him and to become more “one” with Him.  I feel so humbled as I comprehend more of the depths of His love for me!

(Small wedding:)

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Maine was truly incredible, but the lessons I learned there are the memories that remain the longest and are the most precious!

(Last pictures are from our last morning in Maine:)

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The Only Thing That Will Remain…

He Loves Me

(FreeImages.com/NatArnett)

 

This morning as I was contemplating love and its eternal nature, some truths struck me.

According to First Corinthians 13, the only gifts and work of the Spirit that will remain into eternity is love.  Why?

In Heaven, there is no need for tongues. We will all be completely in communion with Holy Spirit.  Everyone will understand all things so there will be no communication issues.

In Heaven, there will be no need for prophecy because all will understand and know all things.  All prophesies will be fulfilled at that time.  The written and spoken Word of God will be completely lived in and through us in our perfect, sanctified states.

There will be no need for Bible teaching because we will have full understanding.

There will be no need for mission work because it will be all accomplished.

There will be no need for healing for all will be whole.

There will be no need to cast out demons because there will be no evil in Heaven.

The only thing that will remain is love.  Why?

Because love is the only thing that we need for all of eternity, and Love is Jesus.  God is Love!  We will be forever surrounded by perfect, complete Love Himself.

See this passage:

1 Corinthians 13

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

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 perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Pondering love made me also realize that the only fruit that will remain is that which is sown into the fertile bed of love.  I do mean this spiritually.  Love will prepare fertile soil to receive fruit.

The only fruit that will remain is that which is sown in love.

This means that if our ministries, our giftings, and our works are not done in love, the fruit will not remain.  It will wither.

Holy Spirit is referred to in the Scriptures as “water.”  The fruit must be sown with love into fertile soil.  Fertile soil means lushLush speaks of life and moisture.  The soil has been prepared by Holy Spirit, is sown in love with the seeds of truth, and is watered by Holy Spirit to bring forth fruit.  The fruit is righteousness.

We don’t get true righteousness from our own self-efforts or self-reliance.  True righteousness comes from the work and love of God within our lives and Holy Spirit’s “watering” of the seed.  God’s Word is the seed.

I love the analogies we see in creation that reflect the Creator!

How convicting this is to recognize that the only fruits that will remain are those sown with love!

See these verses that compare Holy Spirit to water:

John 7:37-39 

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Isaiah 44:3

‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring And My blessing on your descendants;

John 4:14

but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

1 Corinthians 12:13

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

A Little Valentine’s Day Fun

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Last night, my husband and I celebrated Valentine’s Day (early).

After a GF (gluten free) tasty meal at Chipotles, we drove to the theater to watch The Greatest American Showman.

I don’t know if it was because the movie has been playing for awhile and it was a Monday night, but for whatever reason, we had the entire theater to ourselves.

Towards the end as we were enjoying the spectacular music, my husband leaned towards me and asked if I wanted to dance.  Since there was no one to observe our clumsiness or craziness, I thought, “Why not?!”  With a lot of laughing, tripping over feet occasionally, and lots of pretending to be amazing singers and dancers, we laughed and danced across the aisles together.

This is what I wrote about our time when recalling it:

“When your husband takes you to celebrate Valentine’s Day early, you eat supper at Chipotles, and go to watch a really great movie in an empty theater. Because no one is there to see you, you get up and dance in the aisles of the theater to the music, laugh as you trip on your husband’s feet, get swung into his arms, and you think that you are one really blessed gal. You are right! Then, you decide to end your date with sharing a large dish of Friendly’s ice cream and get to pray for your waitress. You realize that it was definitely one of your favorite dates ever!!!

Life gets busy. The needs everywhere are great. Don’t lose sight of the blessings right in front. Invest in the things that really matter — like marriage and your children. They are your first ministry.”

And in response to a friend:

It was amazing! You have to be willing to be a little cray-cray though and to laugh at yourself, trip on your own two feet, but when it means you land in the arms of the one that has held you through the beautiful and the ugly, then it really is “perfect.”

My husband and I have had our share of disagreements (arguments — let’s be honest).  We have had our feelings hurt.  We have had to apologize to each other at times.

We also though have learned to choose humility, forgiveness, selflessness, and compassion.  We have learned to listen more, learned to serve more, learned to apologize more, learned to stand up for what we believe, and learned to love.

Love is more than physical attraction.  Love is more than roses, chocolates, and going on dates.  Love is about commitment.  It’s about loving your spouse even when things get hard and when your vows actually become more than words: “…in sickness and in health, to death do us part…”

My husband and I keep very busy with caring for five kids and their needs.  We are involved with helping many people.  Some days, it’s all we can do to hold it together.

We joke that we have to schedule a time so we can talk to each other.

That’s why we do make the effort to make time for each other, to not be afraid to be romantic when the opportunity arises, and to look into each other’s eyes in order to connect with each other’s soul.

Because it makes the ordinary a lot more fun, we also aren’t afraid to sometimes risk silliness in order to be able to laugh together.

There truly is no one better made just for me…

This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to have a little fun, a little romance, and a little soul-connection.  Your marriage won’t mind one bit.

The First Marriage

Beach Romance

(FreeImages.com/GavinSpencer)

This morning, for some odd reason, my mind was drawn to thinking about the first couple and first marriage, Adam & Eve.  I couldn’t help but think how different their marriage was from this generation:

Adam & Eve taught each other the mysteries of marriage.  There was no fear of failure or comparison.

Eve couldn’t call her besties and complain about Adam when he was annoying.

Adam wasn’t tempted by any other woman because Eve was the only woman.

Eve couldn’t call her mom and ask her for advice.  She had to talk with Adam, or if it was about Adam, she might be more apt to talk with God.

Adam didn’t have a TV to sit and watch football.

Eve didn’t have in-laws to complain to or blame for Adam’s annoying behaviors.

Adam didn’t have buddies that he could go hang out with for several hours while Eve took care of the kids.

Adam & Eve didn’t have to worry about STD’s because they had only ever been with each other.

Adam & Eve didn’t have to worry that their spouse might decide to change genders in the future.

Eve was the prettiest woman on earth.  Adam was the strongest and handsomest man on earth.

If Eve wanted to flirt, she would only have her husband with whom to flirt.

If Eve gained a few pounds after babies, Adam would just assume that’s what all women did.  If Eve sagged and dimpled a little more over the years, there wouldn’t be air-brushed magazine models with which to compare.

If Adam grew a gut and went bald, again it would be assumed that’s what all men do when they get older.

Things were a lot simpler in many ways.

On the other hand, Eve had to experience pregnancy and labor for the first time without any supporting stories, advice from other women, or an attending physician.  She had Adam to stay by her side, to comfort, and to assist her.

Adam & Eve would have to spend a lot of time together — working just to survive, raising kids together, and for human companionship.

I imagine, just like in most marriages, there were times they would take a walk just to cool off, or Adam would spend his anger on hoeing more weeds in the garden.

Knowing that there were no other options — that they couldn’t find someone else or even just leave — would have forced them to improve what they had.

Adam needed Eve to survive.  Eve needed Adam to survive.  They needed each other.

The need for human companionship, protection, and procreation would have drawn them to each other.  After all, it’s more preferable to curl up next to another warm body and feel that warm arm wrapped protectively around you than it is to face the cold nights and hungry beasts alone.

Adam & Eve faced a lot together: they experienced the horror of their eldest son murdering their second-born son.  After the murder, their eldest son never returned but roamed the earth.  They lost two sons that day.  The grief, questions, and even guilt they must have faced would have been overwhelming.  I imagine that they learned to comfort each other during those tragic times.

Adam & Eve had experienced everything together: The Garden of Eden, the Fall, the departure from the Garden of Eden, God’s promises, the wonder of walking with God in the Garden, marriage, babies, raising children, dealing with adult children, and growing old together.  They watched many generations raise MANY children.

I imagine that Adam & Eve learned a lot about faith, hard work, sacrifice, and love.

I would love to have their marriage advice, but I imagine it would look a lot like the descriptions above:

  1. Make each other a priority over any other relationship.
  2. Don’t complain to or blame your in-laws.
  3. Don’t complain to your buddies about your spouse.
  4. Don’t compare your spouse to anyone else.
  5. Don’t look for a “way out.”
  6. Work together.
  7. Have babies together.
  8. Hold your wife to comfort, to protect, and to keep her warm.
  9. Flirt with your husband, as if he was the only man on earth.
  10. Flirt with your wife as if she is the most beautiful woman on earth.
  11. Grieve together and comfort each other.
  12. Give each other some space when angry.
  13. Share as many special events together as possible.
  14. Recognize that you need each other.
  15. Walk with God together.
  16. Be vulnerable with each other.
  17. Learn the intimacies of marriage together.
  18. Work to improve what you have.
  19. When angry, take it out on weeds — not your wife– or on cleaning the house — not your husband.
  20. Grow old together, and cherish the memories that wrinkles road-map.  (Wrinkles are the road-map of our memories.)

 

 

Hard To Love…

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(FreeImages.com/BobSmith)

I was grumbling in my bathroom today that some people are so difficult to love.  I immediately heard the Lord speak back to my heart: “Love isn’t about you.”

Talk about a readjusted perspective!

It can be very difficult to love some people.  Love though isn’t about the person doing the loving (us).  Love is about the person we are loving.  

If “love” is about us, it’s not love.  It’s selfishness.

Ouch!

Agape love is the purest and most authentic form of love because it doesn’t expect anything in return.  It’s not given based on the recipient’s worthiness or likability.  It can’t be limited or withheld based on an infraction.

Love just pours itself out without any thought of itself.  Love is never about self.  Love is about the other person.

The following passage in Scripture reaffirms that love is the strongest character quality and emotion of all:

1 Corinthians 13

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

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 perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I was thinking that fear is a very strong emotion, but notice how love is more powerful than fear.  Love is truly the “trump card.”

1 John 4:18

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Ingredients for Kids Part Two…

Baking Day 4

(FreeImages.com/LynnCummings)

I was contemplating baking again and ingredients…

It struck me that most recipes call for both sugar and salt.  They may seem to discount each other, but in reality, they add a different dimension to the taste of the finished product.  They are both needed.

They remind me of the importance of adding in both truth and grace to our parenting, along with justice and mercy.  Both are needed for the finished product.

It’s also interesting that most recipes call for more sugar than salt.  That is a good reminder that our kids need a lot of kindness and grace, along with our doses of truth.

Children turn out well when a lot of love is poured into them.  Want a sweet finished product?  Add in some generous heaps of sweetness.

Fear Versus Love

Handwriting - Love

(FreeImages.com/BobSmith)

Struggling with fear?

How do you live fearlessly in a world that has hidden dangers, agendas, and impending hurts?

What’s wrong with protecting oneself? 

How do you love fearlessly in a dangerous and abusive world?

How do you trust when it may mean being hurt again?

Trust is essential to any good relationship, but doesn’t it make sense to hold back and keep your “best cards” hidden?

Sound familiar?

Want to know what the answer to fear is?

It’s living loved.

That simple.

How do we live loved though if we don’t believe we are loved fully?

How do we offer what we don’t have or haven’t received (accepted/believed)?

There are some very clear differences between love and fear:

Fear walls against, locks out, controls, tries to predict, measures, withholds, imprisons, incapacitates…

Love empowers, gives freedom, enables, expands, gives generously, is limitless, hopes, receives, believes…

Fear is the scarcity mentality.  It is a prisoner to the past and a prisoner to the unknown and what-ifs.  It fears and expects the worst, instead of believing the best.

Fear holds any new relationship prisoner and answerable to the wounds of the past. The present and future are never released from the wounds of the past.

Fear says that my future is only preserved by hoarding my present.

Fear refuses to be vulnerable and transparent.

Love though is the abundance mentality.  It overflows.  It releases the present and future from the wounds of the past.

Each new relationship is received with the openness that comes from freedom from the past and a hope for the future. 

Love focuses on others rather than protecting self.

Love is able to be vulnerable because to be loved is to be secure.  When there is true security, there is no fear of vulnerability.

Love is an expanding force.  It expands our borders, expands our abilities, expands our hopes, expands our giving and our receiving…

The relevance to understanding the difference between love and fear as it applies to my life and to your life is this:

I.  Fear is rooted completely in self.  It is completely self-centered and as a result imprisoning.  It holds you, your circumstances, your dreams, your life purpose, and your loved ones prisoner to what hurt or scared you in the past and what might hurt or scare you again in the future.

You will never grow, expand, or be “all in” for God so long as you are a prisoner of your past.

II. Love is bigger than self and expands me beyond myself, my fears, my borders, my experiences, my past.

In order to live fearlessly, you must learn to live fully loved.

As I was contemplating this, I immediately thought of the verse:

1 John 4:18

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

A Religious Spirit

shame

(FreeImages.com/KatherineEvans)

The Religious Spirit…

But first my story…

I grew up in a loving, Christian home.  I read my Bible, attended Sunday School and church services whenever the doors were open, prayed, studied the Bible…  I attended a Bible college, got involved in mission work, did everything I could to honor and pursue the Lord.  My heart was to please the Lord.  All good, right?

As the years passed, I began to realize that my life consisted a lot in doing.  The Christian life had become a struggle — a struggle to do and trying to be by doing.

“…trying to be by doing.”

I felt more like an onlooker rather than a participant in the realities of the love and power in the “Kingdom” of God.

“…felt more like an onlooker rather than a participant…”

I remember crying out to God for Him to increase my love — to return me to my “first love.”

I knew all of the right things (for the most part), did all of the right things (for the most part), but inwardly, I knew that something was lacking.

God began to reveal to me that I was trying to relate to Him intellectually and through self-righteousness.

Relating to God on an intellectual basis is very easy to do!  It’s especially easy if we are more analytical in our approach, more fear-based, only allow what we can understand into our lives, prefer security, prefer predictability, avoid vulnerability, etc…

I am going to step out on a limb here and say that a religious spirit summarizes this pursuit of God by doing.

The religious spirit is a struggle to be enough by doing enough.

It is looking to self and relying on my own actions to measure my worthiness and His approval of me.  It is all self-focused.

Intellectualism ties into the religious spirit because it is trying to convince myself, God, and others that I am worthy, spiritual, and have a relationship with God, based on what I know about Him.

I am very thankful for all that I did and still do in my life to seek God and to learn more about Him, but what I was lacking before was knowing Him intimately instead of as an onlooker. 

Note: I was a Christian at this point.  I was pursuing God and loved Him to the best of what I knew as love.  The point is, my love wasn’t very great because I didn’t understand and hadn’t received the fullness of His love for me.

I wasn’t experiencing the full reality of God because I didn’t fully understand His love for me. 

I still don’t.  It will take me a life-time and an eternity to comprehend the vastness of His love for me because it is infinite — without limits.

What happens though when we have a religious spirit is we truly don’t comprehend that His love is not based on us/me.  It’s not given in measures, based on how I perform or don’t perform.

His love for me has nothing to do with how I perform, how I pray, how I worship, how much I know about Him, how much I serve Him.

His love has everything to do with Him!

We define love by our own experiences or the lack thereof.  We think that God’s love is like what we have experienced and how we operate: given to those who like us or treat us well or that we like for some reason.  This is why we so easily “fall in and out of love.”  It’s really not love out all.  It’s self-gratification.

Within us all is this longing to be loved like what God offers: unconditional, infinite, lavish.

We want someone to love us — I mean really love us.  We want someone to know everything about us: all the good, bad, and ugly — and to love us anyway.

We are tired of trying to be enough by doing enough.  We are tired of trying to earn love.  What an agonizing struggle!  What a sure way to suffer defeat, discouragement, shame, and guilt!

Does that mean there are no actions to our love?

Absolutely not!  Authentic love will flow out into actions.  It always is seeking to serve, to minister, to heal, to help, to release, to free…

The difference though is the root/heart motivation.

Is what we do motivated by trying to “please God” by doing?  What we really mean by this is: “We don’t believe God is pleased with the way we are — that we are enough or loved the way we are — so we are trying to earn His love.”

This doesn’t mean change won’t occur. In fact, real change — real life transformation — occurs when we begin to live from the flow of His love for us and allow it to change the entire reason for the way we live. 

Living for God no longer becomes about earning or doing enough to be enough.  It becomes about surrendering to Him with full trust because we know He is good because of the reality of His love for us.

People can preach, teach, and tell you a lot about God’s love.   You can preach, teach, and define God’s love, but until you have experienced the depths of His love personally, you will always be an onlooker to the realities of the wonder of God and His love for you!!!

As I blogged awhile ago now, Job learned the reality of God in the middle of His sufferings.  He was a righteous and faithful man before his sufferings and honored by God, but as he states later in the chapter, it was through his sufferings he experienced the reality of God.  His understanding of God was no longer intellectual and from an onlooker’s perspective.  He now had a “front-line,” reality of it!

Job 42:5

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.

What is your reality today?

What is your motivation for living and for what you are pursuing?

Do you really comprehend that God loves you completely just. the. way. you. are?

Do you understand that He wants you for your sake?

Do you understand that His love isn’t constraining or confining?  It sets your soul and spirit free to truly soar!

Do you understand that God isn’t interested in what you know about Him?  He is interested in you knowing Him.

God doesn’t want you to be a spectator to the realities of His love for you.  He wants you to be “reveling” in its bounty, wonder, and overflowing abundance!

Seeing Through A Different Set Of Eyes…

Child

(FreeImages.com/ArturoGarro)

It’s VBS (Vacation Bible School) at our church this week.  Whether serving food, helping with crafts or games, or helping to keep an eye on kids, I am constantly surrounded by children.

One child stood out because she has constantly been a discipline issue.  She is nasty to the other children, disruptive, and carries a boatload of attitude

Yesterday, I had to separate her from another girl because they were involved in an argument that was quickly turning ugly.  I began to talk to each girl individually while other staff mingled nearby.

With the first girl, it became obvious that she was fearful for her sister.  By the end of our talk, she was calm and comforted.

As I walked over to talk with the other girl, I silently “flare-prayed” to God, asking Him for wisdom.

The girl was intimidating. She was defiant, nasty, and angry!

As I began to talk with her, I knew immediately she had a lot of anger bottled up inside. I began to ask her why she was angry and hurting.  At first, she denied it, but with gentleness, I told her that it was obvious that she had been hurt because she is a little girl full of a lot of anger.

The Lord then directed me to ask her if she knew that God loved her and if anyone had told her that.  Her answer was “No.”

I took her to the Bible and began to have her read a few verses that spoke of God’s love for her, such as John 3:16-17.  We talked about what the verses meant, and as she read, her anger began to dissipate more and more.

John 3:16-17

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

It wasn’t long before we were talking about Heaven and why God wants her to be there and how special she is to Him!

I asked her if I could pray for her, and she said “Yes.”  I then asked her how she wanted me to pray for her.  She said, “For God to watch over me.”  Right then, I prayed for this precious girl, and my heart broke for her.

At the end of VBS, my hands were full of crafts to distribute to the children, when this girl ran over and gave me a huge hug.

It amazed me how simply telling a child that they are loved, turned an angry, defiant child into a child who was affectionately giving hugs!

My heart broke when I realized how many hurting children there are who are never told they are loved, who have no idea the worth/value they have, and who have never seen or experienced kindness in their life!

I was so convicted that it is easy to judge a book by its cover when in reality maybe we need to see with a different set of eyes… maybe we need to look inside the pages and listen to the stories that are needing to be told…

Running On Empty?

glass

(FreeImages.com/MargaritRalev)

I started this year with a theme/verse that God had given to me: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)  The theme was freedom from self.

Let me tell you, when you know you are called to a place of dying more to self so that you might live more in Christ, the battle is not going to be easy!  This entire year so far has been full of many wonderful God-moments, but it has also held some huge attacks against my identity.

I have written numerous blog posts about identity because this topic is so incredibly important and is very dear to my heart.

You might be asking, “What does identity have to do with feeling like I am not just running on empty but I am dried up, cracked, and brittle?”

Talk about busy!!!  We are down to 5-6 weeks left in the school year.  The end is in sight, but there is so much to accomplish at the end.  Summer sounds like a “breather,” but for those of you who have some or all of your kids in school, it’s a different kind of busy.

In the 21st century, “busy” is such a common description that if you ask someone how they are doing, 95-percent of the time, they will answer, “Busy!”

I understand that we can’t ignore busyness all together and live.   I have five kids.  I home-school two of them, two are in private school, and I have a 3-year-old who desperately needs to be potty-trained.  I have a side business.  I try to stay connected with people.  I am a soccer-mom, basketball-mom, and swim-mom, during the typical seasons.  I run to allergy shot appointments every 3 weeks, orthodontist appointments for three people regularly,  and at least 22 other medical appointments in a year that are just for regular maintenance (optometrist, dentist, gynecologist, dermatologist, and ophthalmologist).  I run to fix retainers and glasses that seem to constantly be getting bent or stretched.

So, if busyness comes with the territory of living, how can I avoid the never-ending feelings of emptiness that result so often?

Is the issue the busyness, or is it something else?  Is busyness the root cause of my emptiness or merely a symptom of the root cause?

To start to answer these questions, let me share a little of my recent experiences with you.

I knew I needed a spiritual “re-alignment” recently.  When I started to feel those old feelings of insecurity rearing their ugly heads, I knew I was it was time to come in for a “tune-up.” 

Feeling hyper-sensitivity, feeling really “low,” feeling jealous, feeling insecure, feeling a desperate need for validation and affirmation?  Those are dead-giveaways that there is a core problem that can’t be fixed with more pats on the heads, a platform, a position, a vacation, a new outfit, a horizon, a new vocation, or a new decoration.  In fact, those very things will continue to feed the feelings of emptiness and discontent.  They will satisfy fleetingly, but there is a never-ending need for more…

The other day, I took the kids to a nature center/park.  My 5-year-old daughter was immediately drawn to the shiny appearance of Pyrite (Fool’s Gold) that they had for sale.  I decided to purchase the large rock because I knew it would make a great object lesson and also would be a good reminder to me.

Pyrite has the appearance of something of value, but the reality is that it doesn’t hold the core qualities that distinguish it from the similar appearance of real gold.  See the following article on differences: https://www.thermofisher.com/blog/mining/pyrite-the-real-story-behind-fools-gold/ and http://www.minerals.net/mineral/gold.aspx.

It is interesting that Pyrite is brittle and can’t bend like real gold.  The mineral structure of Pyrite is mostly sulfuric.  The appearances of gold and Pyrite is similar, and they can be found in similar rock-beds, but the structure is different and thus is their use.

Pyrite reminded me of how we often search for the value of something, based on its appearance.  Does it look like success?  Does it look like prosperity?  Does it look like affirmation?  Does it look like security?  Does it look like beauty?  Does it look like fame?  Does it look like comfort?

What if the value of something isn’t in its appearance but in its core?  What if it’s the structure of the thing itself that determines whether it will hold up or whether it will crumble under pressure?

During part of my “re-alignment” time, God was showing me that I had been following after fulfillment based on the appearance of things: their appeal.  What He reminded me is that the most important things — the real blessings are not out there.  Rather, they are always right in front of us. 

God doesn’t dangle His blessings on a string and then keep pulling them back further the closer we get to them.  Rather, His blessings are often the gems hidden in the foundation of our every day lives.  God places His most priceless treasures in the framework of our daily lives — within the gritty, dull, hard surfaces of our lives.  It’s mixed in the hard grind of our daily and in the muddy, messy of authentic ministry.

Why do we rush after the appeal of appearances? 

What drives the empty to pursue the empty?

A friend recently gave me the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst.  I want to share a few powerful quotes from her book:

Indeed, the world entices your flesh but never embraces your soul.

We run at breakneck pace to try and achieve what God simply wants us to slow down enough to receive.

Imagine a little girl running with a cup in her hand, sloshing out all it contains.  She thinks what will refill her is just ahead.  Just a little farther.  She presses on with sheer determination and clenched teeth and an empty cup clutched tight.

She keeps running toward an agenda He never set and one that will never satisfy.  She sees Him and holds out her cup.  But she catches only a few drops as she runs by Him, because she didn’t stop long enough to be filled up.  Empty can’t be tempered with mere drops.

There’s no kind of empty quite like this empty: where your hands are full, but inside you’re nothing but an exhausted shell.

He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting, and dwelling — all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace.

Why do we run to agendas, people, things, and appearances?  What is the draw?

The answer is you look for fulfillment out there when you are empty inside.

Remember, the verse I mentioned at the beginning?  …the one about Him increasing and me decreasing?

You know what truth came to me as I was getting my “tune-up”?  It was that I had been trying to find my worth again in myself. 

You see, it’s not about the agendas, people, things, fortune, fame, and appearances out there.  What we are really seeking is to find something out there to satisfy me, to validate me, to fill me, to secure me, and to give me a sense of worth.

That’s why it is so dangerous to pursue those things from a place of emptiness.  You are not after those things necessarily because of the thing or people themselves.  You are after what you hope to get from those things or relationships.

Look at relationships.  Know what happens when we try to pull from people our sense of worth?  This is what happens: rejection, shame, pride, insecurity, judgement, selfishness, comparisons, jealousy, labels…

As Christians, the deception is even more subtle sometimes.  We look to ministries and service for our fulfillment.  It is so hard to see through to the truth of our motives because we can cover them in so many “right-sounding” words.

I believe this: I believe that God’s invitation isn’t to serve Him.  I believe the invitation is to be loved by Him and for Him to love through us.  The focus really isn’t on serving; it’s on being loved by God and letting His love flow through us to others in tangible ways.  Otherwise, we’ll attach “strings” to people so that we can attempt to pull from them what we lack and which only God can fill.  This kind of “love” isn’t really love but selfish manipulation of people to ultimately feed my sense of worth.

This profound truth recently “struck” me: Authentic love produces authentic righteousness.  If we try to live righteous lives to find worth, to attempt to prove our worth before God, we will only produce self-righteousness, which isn’t righteous at all.  When we are still trying to figure out our own worth, we will bury ourselves under layers of ministry, “righteous” labels, and appearances, but the core motivation is once again an attempt to persuade ourselves, others, and God (we think) that we are worthy of His love.

The truth is this:

“God’s love isn’t based on me.  It’s simply placed on me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

And this…  Authentic love that comes from a place of being filled by Him will always flow out.  It’s like a stream.  There’s a continual reservoir of being filled and pouring out but never running dry because the source of the water is from deeper and higher up.  By pouring from a place of abundance, there’s not a need to be concerned with running dry.

The place of abundance — the abundant life — is God Himself!!!

Living loved isn’t deciding to be loved…  it’s settling in my soul, “I was created by God because He loved me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

You don’t have to win God’s love.  It was poured out on a cross for you.  It ran down in rivers of blood from a crown of thorns and spikes driven into His hands and feet.  It gushed out from His side, where a spear was thrust to determine His death was real.  It revealed itself in a myriad of colors, shapes, sounds, and fragrances at Creation.  It reveals itself in an eternity that is planned just for you to experience the fullness of life, love, joy, and peace like you have never known before.  Even now, it shows itself in the daily grind where He offers His Presence to be the “Gem” that is found in the midst of the hard and muddy of life.