Saturday, March 22, 2014

Redefining Love

I count 7 items in my home that are mine. Seven pieces of furniture or appliances, etc... that I brought in from my prior life. Everything else I have been given.

All of it.

And my house isn’t some bachelor, college hodge-podge house. The items people gave me were legit: a washer and dryer, an incredible couch and these uber great leather chairs, my dining table, antique side tables, and much more...

Walking through my house each day, I am reminded about how much I have been given. That all I have, was and is a gift from people who know how to love on others.

I've always known I was loved, my parents made sure of it. But somewhere in my late teens to early thirties, my definition of love got really messed up...and much of it was my own doing.

Five years ago, I prayed, no I begged God, to give me another chance at love. That what I had experienced wouldn't be what I thought love was or wouldn't be the love I gave and understood and lived out.

I wanted my story of love to have a chance to be told differently.

I knew the pendulum had swung so far to one side, I begged God for Him to right it, to swing it back and rebalance it.

I wouldn't have ever thought it would take 5 years to do that...or I should say, I wished it would only take 5 days, but it didn't.

It's taken 5 years for me to somewhat, with mild confidence ;) say the pendulum is somewhat righted.

How did God do it?

He immediately brought in this incredibly tall, dark and handsome to settle the score...he told me I was beautiful and I was enough...that I was the greatest woman he'd ever met and the incredible rejection I had felt was now over. This tall, dark and handsome mended and reassembled my broken heart and we lived happily ever after...

Um, no.

No God didn't...

and I'm not bitter about it at all. Not. at. all.

Nope, God took a different approach. Go figure.

Coming out of divorce and feeling completely rejected and unloved, my definition of love was very much wrapped up in romantic love, spouse/friendship type love, which plays a huge part on a story of love, but it’s not the whole story...and God knew I needed the entire story of love retold in order for this one section to be righted once again.

God was intent on telling me the whole story.

God’s way to right this pendulum has been to use friends, parents, mentors, 216 ten year olds, a son, my job, traveling alone, heartache, disappointment, and even loneliness to teach me once again what love is.

He gave me what I needed, not what I wanted: nights alone, aching, crying, begging Him to take the loneliness away, to have nights so quiet, that then and only then, could I hear His answer...HIS answer to what love is.

His answer wasn't my tall, dark and handsome.

His answer was Himself. The One and Only who could speak into my heart and begin to mend it, over time, through His faithfulness and goodness, showing me mercy amongst pain, pain I needed to feel and see and understand.

I needed to learn and experience that He is love, and if I was going to get a grip once more in life and have a chance to live love out, then I had to see and know the Source, to feel His love, appreciate Hs love, to trust His love, and to be filled with His love.

Through time, I’ve witnessed love in ways God wanted me to see it, and get it, and do it.

He's brought incredible friends into our life that Cade and I can witness love amongst them, and theirs towards us. I can see marriages that are real and fun, and as I watch them,  it makes me less jaded, less cynical, and dare I say, even hopeful...

After Valentine's Day, a friend of mine was sharing how each year she tries not to build up the day in her mind, to remind herself  her husband and family share their love throughout the year and that's what matters (and it's VERY true - the love contained in that family is dreamy!) but she's always so disappointed in herself at how disappointed she is when the day comes to a close.

I told her I thought it was because for 364 days of the year, she lives the REAL deal. Her family does God's love all each other, in marriage, in parenting, in friendship...but for this one day, she buys the lie of the world, of culture, and that's all it is - a lie, so it leaves her disappointed.

The love the world touts and talks about and depicts is an illusion. The world hijacked love by creating an  empty and fake version; it created something that doesn't and can't exist. And I believe the emptiness she feels on Valentine's day is the disappointment most of us feel quite often because that's the love we've signed up for and live.

It's cheap, last minute and unintentional.

I love chocolate, but I don't eat it for the same reason, most women over a certain age don't. So, if buying a card that someone else wrote, a $10 box of chocolates I don't want and will throw away, and possibly some overpriced flowers from HEB on the way home is how the world says we show love to the most important people in our life, then that's a cheap, last minute, and unintentional way to live out love.

But, to go out and love on your hurting or grieving neighbor, to take a single mother's child shopping so he can give her something at Christmas time, to sit with your friend during chemo, to help carry the burden of a new widow, to snuggle up with your kiddos and laugh and read until midnight, to pray over them and for them as they are sad or nervous, to mow a single mom's yard every 2 weeks, and to take time and write a letter to a young man whose dad isn't there to usher in manhood with him, now that's love.

That's abundant, living and breathing love. That's the kind of love that turns boys into godly men and girls into godly women.

That's the kind of love that brings Jesus in and transforms...that love moves mountains, and that's the love God uses to redefine LOVE and usher in His HOPE.

God knew I needed five years for Him to tell me I was enough because I was His.
I needed to feel alone, deeply alone and heartbroken, in order for me to realize, I wasn't ever really alone because Jesus is always with me...really with me. Jesus would always show up, and each time He showed up, I discovered that I mattered. That He, the Maker of heaven and earth, valued and loved little ole me, and He believed I mattered.
Through five years, He's given me time, time to reformulate my definition of beautiful, to become less jaded or engrossed with what the world says is beauty.
Five years ago, when I begged God to give me another chance at love, if He’d have told me it would take five long years, I think I would have thrown in the towel. I wouldn’t have wanted to walk it out. I would have quit before I even started.

But now, looking back over these years...all I see is God’s hand working and holding and moving and carrying and loving...

He took something so incredibly broken and poisoned and gave it time to heal, to mend, to breathe, to rest, to catch up, to ask, to question, to grow, and to be moved.

So, wherever you are today, whatever your heart and mind believe or feel or are wounded by, because God is real and God is love...His HOPE sits right next to you in all of that.

He will lift you up.

He will walk you out.

And if you trust in Him, His time, His plan, and His love, then a life you never knew could exist FINDS YOU, and it's a gift undeserved and's God’s Grace.

May you seek it, may you bask in it, and may we all have no other desire but to share it.

In Him,

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Redefining Hope

I used to think hope was a four letter word. I vividly remember weeping, yelling at God to stop giving me hope because it was always dashed, it was only a mirage, and I had come to hate it.

For a long time, I believed hope was a curse...not a gift.

But the reality was, I didn't really know what hope was.

I had hijacked hope and turned it into something it wasn't meant to be.

For most of my life my hope for happiness, for marriage, for parenting, for working out all the details of my life rested on me. I constantly carried the burden of planning and designing and figuring and worrying about so much. And since I was so busy doing that, I not only missed out on living life, but I was settling on a mediocre life created out of the mind of a child, as well as basically setting the whole thing on fire; I was taking the role of director when I wasn't made to do that, nor equipped to do that, and in the end, I was lighting a match to my life and my hope didn't stand a chance.

See, my hope was in me. in people. circumstances. feeling secure and safe. wanting everything to work out just so.

And since my hope was in all of that, it was in brokenness. My hope was just a mirage.

It was doomed to be dashed.

I look at my life back then as a building engulfed in flames.

I had built the structure with my visions and dreams and misguided ideals...and my "hopes" were in all of that and now those hopes were the burning timbers.

My mom dying, and then me being engrossed in devastation and divorce, come March 2009, I sat in the embers of what's left after the firemen leave from putting out a 4 alarm fire.

I sat alone, in a heap of rubble. And as much as I hated where I was, I was also relieved to have had the fire put out. Something inside of me knew I had been chasing something that didn't exist. I was chasing an illusion that I kept calling hope, but it wasn't real. It wasn't there.

And I just sat in the smoke of my hope and life burned.

I can't help but wonder, if all those times I begged God to stop giving me hope...all that my hope was in had to first be burned before I could ever let go of it.

If I ever to was to have a chance at knowing what real HOPE was, I honestly believe my version had to play out, and I had to watch it burn.

I believe that because I've now experienced how God has answered that prayer of mine...that cry of my heart, the deep cry of wanting to live in hope.

Over these last 5 years, God has taught me that HOPE isn't a "four letter" word. In fact, I kind of think it's been His mission in my life to show me that I had hijacked hope, and He wanted it back.

He was taking it back; and He was going to redefine hope for me.

When I came to a pivotal moment in my life, when all I'd put my hope in had fallen, the greatest life lesson God has shown me is that if I put my hope in anything besides Him, it isn't hope.

Hope only exists when it is in Him.

Genuine Hope takes Jesus.

As I sat amongst the rubble, there was no joy, relationship, love, or peace. I hadn't experienced, I mean truly experienced, any of those in years. And I believe the reason is because all of those glorious gifts are contingent on HOPE, so putting our hope in Him and only Him is crucial to grasping all those treasures we long for, we're desperate for.

What's remarkable is that in the same moment of having all my hope dashed, was really the first moment in my life to clearly see genuine HOPE.

Through God's grace, at the bottom of my pit is where I knew my only way out and up was with God.

I saw HOPE, because amongst my destruction, all I saw was Him there with me.

I knew that I had nothing left.  I had spent 31 years putting hope in myself and I was on the floor weeping a life destitute, a life broken, a life burned.

Each day, I remember that picture. I remember what and where my brokenness gets me.

My life changed, my faith changed, and eventually, my definition of hope changed when all I had left to get me up off the floor was Jesus.

Before then, I had never grasped the simple fact that my task of being human was to live life.

What I did was orchestrate life...not live it. I needed to learn how to LIVE it.

Living takes trust; it takes an element of walking in an unknown. I'm not someone who can handle not knowing what's around the corner.  I'm too fearful to live amongst unknown. TRUSTING amongst unknown was a foreign concept. It was insanity to me.

Some of that fear was reasonable...I had circumstances in my life that fear was fed, but much of it, I chose or I didn't know what to do with because faith and trust and grace weren't  something I lived out.

But, through God's infinite grace, He walked me through the fire, pursued me in the rubble, and His constant goodness and mercy and faithfulness have continued to massage the fear and worry out and convince me to trust see that my hope is now in HIM.

It's a daily work, but He's faithful and unchanging, so He's quick to remind me that trusting Him, placing all my hope in Him is an integral part of freedom, of peace, of truly living.

And when one sets aside all that is within them to fix or mold or create and rests it all in the mighty hands of God, life starts taking a turn, it shifts into a realm that becomes a bit magical...remarkable...wondrous...and dare I say, hopeful.

One of my favorite verses for over 10 years now is in Romans 5. It always gave me hope that something would come from the mess I kept walking in...but I didn't really get it until I'd walked 10 years in it.

I think most of us strive to be people of character. We wish we'd have courage and be brave. We wish we'd truly love and be loved. We wish we'd be patient, merciful, and full of joy; to be known as a perseverer, an endurer, a believer, a hoper.

But, those treasured characteristics don't come easily, they aren't cheap, and they are only earned through the crap none of us want to experience; they come through blood, sweat, tears, heartache, grief, loneliness, sacrifice, and in walking through all of that, trusting in the hope that only God can give.

God's great mercy allows those to be found as we walk on a journey, a journey with Him through all that life brings.

"And not only this, but we also have joy in our troubles, knowing that troubles bring perseverance, perseverance brings character, and character brings hope; and hope does not disappoint us because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy SPirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5

In Him,