What does real love look like?

I’ve been sick this week and completely useless.

It’s no fun being sick around the holidays, so much to do and no energy to do it. Thank God for Amazon.

And my husband…

Every time I’m sick he takes such good care of me. He makes sure I have all the medicine I need and am totally comfortable. He must’ve gone to the store 50 different times because of my ever-changing mood for food and drink. And, he even drove halfway across town to get me my favorite soup.

Also, he allows me to rest and he picks up the slack around the house and takes care of our kid’s needs. I am truly blessed because of him.

My husband’s response to me being completely laid up and useless during one of the busiest weeks out of the year has got me to thinking.

What does real love look like?

Is it really just 3 little words with an emoji attached to it?

Or is there action behind this word that is shaded in various hues of pinks and reds?

In our day and age “I love you’s” are said daily without a second thought and are slathered all over social media. While sometimes this can be the only thing that can be done or said in a moment, I can’t help but think it can feel a bit vacant. When it’s thrown around so impulsively it begins to feel void of any commitment and true substance.

Maybe loving isn’t always as easy as we like to think it is. Perhaps, at times it takes a little more work than we would like to think.

What if during this season of giving, we take a step back some 2,000 years ago and follow the man from Nazareth and consider what real love looks like.

For God so loved that He gave…

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

This is more than likely the most well-known verse in the entire bible and I believe it holds an equation as simple as 1 + 1=2.

God loved = He gave.

Real love gives.

God gave His Son to die for us which led to life for all mankind. He knew we had a need and out of love He gave.

This gift that He gave was given solely out of Agape. This is the word used to describe the love that is from God and specifically IS God.

Agape love is shown by what it does. It is not an emotionally based love, it is not based on anything the recipient has done. Agape is faithfulness and commitment.

Agape is God’s love for us because it is who He is.

Real Love has a name

Because God IS love, (1 John 4:8) He is the ultimate model of who we are to follow when we need to see how to do love.

God gave Love…He gave Jesus.

We love, we give. There just simply can not be one without the other.

Real Love Gives

We have forgotten in our day and age that there is a responsibility that comes with loving someone. It is a weighty duty.

And a great privilege.

Love doesn’t mean we are fulfilled or even necessarily happy at the moment.

A lot of the time love isn’t even about us or our needs.

Most of the time, it is others focused.

Truly loving another comes with sacrifice on our part. It may even mean going against what we feel in the moment to give another love.

…”My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:38-39

I think we like to believe love shouldn’t cost us anything.

But sometimes love doesn’t look the way we think it should, sometimes it’s downright uncomfortable.

Sacrificial, even.

Love gives

an apology.

truth.

time.

a hug.

a meal.

a sacrifice.

Friend, don’t be fooled by the shallow counterfeits out there. There are many. We can fall for the shiny and the easy, thinking it’s the road to real love because it gives us butterflies. All the while forgetting that true Love is stained with blood and wears a crown of thorns.

The ultimate gift we could ever receive was given just over 2,000 years ago. It was the utmost act of love and sacrifice at once.

It was certainly not what everyone expected… or even wanted.

But it was exactly what was needed.

This is real love.

Love came and entered our little ball of dirt and turned everything upside down for the people of that time, and if we allow Him to, He will continue to do so today.

Because real love never stops giving.

May we be reminded this Christmas, and all the year-long, that real love gives.


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Learning How to Talk to God

Things I Never Thought I’d Be Thankful For

Learning how to talk to God

how to talk God

Listening has never been my strong suit.

On the contrary, talking is second nature to me, as evidenced by a letter my mom wrote to my grandmother when I was about 4.

She wrote, “Susan is the loudest little girl, she runs all around the house just talking and yelling.” “I think she just loves the sound of her own voice!”

Ouch, mom. * Eyes rolling with head lowered in embarrassment.

Sadly, not much has changed. Anyone that knows me, knows that I like to talk. A lot.

It’s just how I process. As you can imagine, it’s a bit of a difficult place to be when listening is a far better, less selfish skill to have.

Thankfully, in the Bible, I find myself in good company, although, it’s not the ones with outstanding character qualities and endless amounts of faith that I relate to.

Usually, it’s the misfits.

How to Talk to God

The listener and the talker

If you’ve heard anything about Mary and Martha from Bethany, I’m going to bet it’s been praise for Mary and a steady shaking of the index finger at Martha for being consumed with busyness.

When we stumble upon Mary and Martha in the book of Luke, we see Mary seated and listening and Martha serving.

“…She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all the preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Tell her to help me…” Luke 10:38-42

“The Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part..” Luke 10:41-42 NASB

Oh, that Martha… Complaining, fretting…

I’ve always had a soft spot for this poor girl who was busy serving and looking for help. Instead of validation, she was reprimanded and then used as an example for the next 2,000 years of how not to do life.

I’m thinking this wasn’t her ultimate goal.

Yes, Martha was serving, she was fretting. But do you know what else she was doing while Mary was sitting?

She was talking…To Jesus.

The message I have always heard about these two sisters was this, be like Mary, don’t be like Martha. End.Of.Story.

Because I have a penchant for the underdog or possibly because I feel like maybe she got a bad wrap, I started paying a little more attention to Martha than Mary.

And wouldn’t you know it? My perspective changed a bit. I felt like I was standing on the other side of the room getting an entirely different view of Martha as a person.

What has resonated the most with me is that she came to Jesus with this assumed grievance without fear or hesitation. She clearly was used to talking with Him and felt comfortable doing it. You’ll also notice, Jesus listened and was genuinely concerned with how anxious she was.

I became aware of how Martha was speaking to Jesus rather than how wrong she was. I began checking all of the other places in scripture where Martha was mentioned and sure enough, you guessed it.

She was talking.

“..a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.. Luke 10:38

Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. John 11:21

Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” John 11:24

Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” John 11:39

Carrying our burdens to Him

Over in the 11th chapter of John, we find the siblings again. Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, had died and was buried. They were grieving and upon hearing Jesus was coming, Martha went to meet Him and Mary stayed back. (literally translated “was sitting.”)

I don’t know why Mary stayed back but I love that Martha went. Even in their grief, we see their personalities.

Mary sat quietly.

Martha grieved and processed in the only way she knew how,

She talked… she went.

She meets her Lord on the road, eyes, red with pain from weeping hot tears, brow furrowed at the seriousness of her words as she looks up into His eyes and speaks.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you.” John 11:21, 22 NASB

Jesus states that He is the resurrection and the life and asks her if she believes this.

“She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” John 11:27 NASB  

This statement of faith is beautiful. Martha proclaims God’s victory while choking back tears at the very present loss of her brother. It’s incredible to me that she was brutally honest with Him, both in her confession of faith and in her expectation of Him. She carried her burden of grief and disappointment and in the same breath confessed Jesus as the Messiah.

None of us are “less than”

Some of us naturally talk more than others and I’ve finally decided that maybe it’s not a bad thing after all.

Of course, I’m certainly not advocating to go around saying whatever you want, there is discretion. But, what if sometimes we can be a voice for those who can’t find theirs?

I have felt “less than” because I am innately a talker. I wonder if Martha ever felt this way.

I’m thankful for her, this woman who walked alongside Jesus thousands of years ago and welcomed Him into her home. I am thankful for her words to our savior and the example she set for how easily we can speak to Him.

I have a new perspective on the whole Mary/Martha paradigm.

Mostly because of this;

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus.” John 11:5

Just to clarify, what it doesn’t say:

“Jesus loved Mary and Lazarus and, oh boy, He sure would’ve loved Martha if she would’ve just shut her mouth every once in a while and sat at His feet.”

Nope. It says He loved Martha.

He loved them all. Equally.

Warts and all.

Talker. Listener. Sick

There is value in our talking.

We as Christians have raised Mary to this place of superiority because she was a listener. Jesus praised Mary but didn’t tell Martha not to talk to Him about her concerns.

By putting the sole focus on Mary’s listening, maybe we’ve missed the beauty of Martha’s brazen confidence to speak to her Lord.

I believe we can learn just as much from how Martha spoke to Jesus as we can from Mary’s actions.

Talk to Jesus

Martha brought her concerns and carried her burdens to the One that could correct her thinking, and in exchange, Jesus engaged in conversation with her. He listened to her, even when she may not have been in the right.

It’s not our job to pretty up what we bring to Him. We’re just supposed to bring it.

He can do the prettying up thing all by Himself.

Even though I’m a talker, I’ve been afraid in the past to speak openly to Him. Like He didn’t already know about the bitterness, sadness, fear or jealousy I had in my heart.

We don’t need to be afraid to speak to Him, He already knows what we’re going to say anyway.

Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord you know it all. Psalm 139:4  NASB

Whatever crazy thing you’re thinking or feeling, just say it. He’s not going to shy away from your ugly, your mistakes, your missteps, and assumptions.

He listens and if needed, kindly speaks back, even if it’s with correction.

He did that for Martha and I believe it changed her.

I believe it will change us too.

This post is also shared over at the Salt & Light link-up and at Tune in Thursdays, Come on over and read some other fantastic posts!

Things I Never Thought I’d Be Thankful For

I never thought I'd be

Thankfulness can sneak into the most unlikely of places.

The end of this year finds me rapidly heading out of my 30’s and smacking straight into 40. (No, an exact date need not be mentioned here.)

 As I look back over these years, I’m thankful for many things, which include obvious blessings, like my family and amazing friends. And of course, my Jesus.

Although, this Thanksgiving I am thankful for a few things that surprise even me.

Things I Never Thought I’d Be Thankful For:

Slow starts and small beginnings

I’m not going to be shy about telling you that I’m new around here. You, my dear readers, are on this journey with me as I learn, and by God’s grace grow. I’ve been overwhelmed lately with my to-do’s, whether it be for my blog, homeschooling, or any number of other things in my life.

If it were up to me I’d have it all be full-grown and magnificent immediately. You know, snap my fingers and voila, D.O.N.E!

However, that’s not God’s plan. Instead, I feel as though it’s all progressing so S.L.O.W.L.Y.

While feeling frustrated and overwhelmed today, I realized that God’s grace is all over the slow starts and small beginnings of life. His lovely grace is apparent in giving us sweet, tiny, extra lovable babies at birth. Not full-grown 15-year-olds, with stinky, size 10 feet, facial hair and a deepening voice that more often than not talks back. (Oh, I’m sorry, too specific to just be an example?)

The recognition that I wouldn’t know what to do with an instantaneous full-grown-dream occurred to me. With tears in my eyes, I stopped and thanked Him for where I am. right. now.

Without those slow starts and small beginnings, there would be no hard lessons learned and magnificent little triumphs.

I’m thankful that He allows us to dip our feet in the water slowly. He is gracious to allow some changes gradually, even when I wish things would progress much faster. He knows this anxious girl can only handle a few things at once.

I may want something badly, but He knows just what I can handle now.

His timing is perfect and I’m thankful for that.

Thank you, Jesus, for slow starts and small beginnings.
For Anxiety

This is something I can genuinely say I never thought I’d be thankful for.

But.

I am.

I was once an extremely fearful girl. Filled with panic, fear, depression, and pain.

I sometimes read words I used to write back then, meeting up with that fearful girl every once in a while to remember where I’ve come from. There is a place for sitting with her, listening to her and remembering the journey.

I do this, so as I sit with others I can listen to them and relate to their journey.

When I was in the midst of that painful place I never imagined the beauty that could come from it. While in the storm we find it nearly impossible to see far enough in front of us to know it can be a gift.

I used to beg God daily for my anxiety to go away and I longed to forget the rocky road I had walked. I saw no value in the cuts and bruises I had sustained along the way.

I’ve since learned that forgetting would render me ineffective.

I can choose to hide them and go inward or I can take those scars, show them to the world and offer encouragement to other hurting souls.

You don’t even have to be finished with your path to be used by Him, which is the most beautiful part.

There IS beauty IN our pain and redemption in our ashes when we allow Jesus to use them.

It’s not just a trite saying.

Every time I sit and remember the fearful girl, I walk away a little more thankful for me. Because after all, I’m still her.

I’m thankful for my story.. for anxiety.

Because;

There’s hope in my scars.

Healing in the tears.

Wisdom from the pain.

Encouragement to be shared by an imperfect woman living an unfinished story, written by the ultimate story-teller.

Jesus, thank you for showing me your love even in my anxiousness. Thank you for showing me that perfect love casts out fear.

For my imperfections and weaknesses

There are many things I don’t love about myself. I’m learning every day to appreciate my imperfections because they are a part of who I am.

I laugh loudly. (And may have been known to snort while doing it.)

I talk loudly and give my opinion far too easily.

I love ice cream and chocolate Way. Too. Much.

I tend to talk far more than I listen.

I’m a procrastinator.

I give up too easily.

I jump to conclusions.

I’m fearful and highly sensitive.

My imperfections and weaknesses abound…

And I am thankful for each one simply because;

 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.

For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

 

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving that you never thought you would be? What things do you feel you could never be thankful for? And, what do you long to be thankful for but just can’t be right now? Bring them all to Him and lay them at His feet, dear friend.. 

 

 

 

The Loudest Voice They Hear

In a world full of ugly how will we teach our children to be decent human beings?

It’s the question at the heart of several conversations I’ve been a part of in recent months. With Hollywood’s current events and our tumultuous politics, this has been a recurring topic on social media and in personal conversation.

I’ve heard comments such as these:

“How will my boys be men that respect women when we have a president like this?”

“When those in power behave this way how are we to teach our kids it’s wrong?”

“How do I explain the ugly things that happen in this world to my kids?”

People in the spotlight are responsible for the most hideous behaviors and appear to be above the law. More shootings and ugliness spill out daily into our homes from simply turning on the television. At the swipe of a finger the news bombards not only us, but our children as well.

We worry how their hearts and minds will be affected by the people in places of prominence and the events in our world.

It can leave us feeling helpless.

So, how do we raise men and women that respect others while the world pushes in?

Going on a walk with my family, I happened to lag behind a bit messing with the dog. I looked up and pulled out my phone just in time to catch this picture. As I glanced down at my phone, the thought crossed my mind.

This is how..

My hubby and my oldest were walking, genuinely engaged in conversation about serious issues. Our greatest goal has been to be the ones they come to first in a struggle.

I am honored when they let us in.

We are far from perfect parents but we make it our mission to have our boys consider us a safe place. My husband and I decided to have an open door policy in our home, to be honest with our boys.

 We choose to talk about life. Real. Not fun. Ugly. Exciting. Glorious. Confusing. Life. Un-filtered and un-censored. Sometimes the conversations aren’t fun, and they aren’t always pretty and sometimes we have to initiate because they’re embarrassed.

There are days my kids see and hear things I’d rather they not. I can’t control what comes out of the mouth of the president, the celebrity on tv, or for that matter, the person next to us. And I certainly don’t always agree with their views.

Talk to them

When I watched my husband walking with our oldest, who is, quite literally growing into a man before my eyes, I was filled with a sense of awe. An understanding of the great privilege a parent holds, fell upon me all over again.

I believe the greatest mistake we can make in parenting is to put the power to impact our children into the hands of others. Whether this be a politician, school,  church, society, or anybody else.

When we throw our hands up in defeat, we claim helplessness over our own children.. when we should be claiming promises over them.

Ours are the words they hear daily. It’s our voices that have the ability to shape what they understand to be true of the world and themselves.

With a million voices vying for their attention, I want my husbands and mine to be the loudest. We are the ones that love them. No matter how well-intentioned he may be, the president doesn’t love my children. Whether they be a republican or democrat, conservative or liberal, they don’t love our children.

They do not know my children individually and they do not know what is best for them.

Therefore, I will not give them that much credit.

I refuse to give away the power that I possess to influence my children because of what celebrities, politicians, or anyone else chooses to do or say. In a world full of agendas and lies, I pray that our home will be filled with love and grace so that they won’t feel the need to look elsewhere for their worth.. or anyone else’s.

Wherever I may fear the greatest threat comes from, supposing it’s the White House or the house down the street, I want my kids to know that their greatest ally on Earth is right here, walking next to them.

 

When questions arise and the ugliest part of humanity shows it’s face, because we know it will. I pray they’ll remember the love they’ve been given and the truth they’ve been shown. This is what I hope will lead and guide them as they grow into men.

Though imperfect as we are, we love them fiercely. My hope is, if I am honest with them for my need of grace, they will be honest with their need and that will extend far beyond our home. I pray that because they have been given grace, they will be grace givers, always.

 

That they will see and know the ultimate Grace Giver.

We certainly can not keep them from all the ugly in this world. But it is my privilege to take their hand and walk with them through it.