My Valentine From God

I was a Valentine’s Day hater. Growing up, I never had a sweetheart/boyfriend/date and I developed quite the callused skin towards this holiday that celebrated what I lacked. Valentine’s Day wasn’t devoid of joy – my mom always made a red dinner, which meant we got to have Cherry 7-Up – but I sorely missed those lovey dovey feelings associated with February 14th.

I quickly overlooked the eternal source of everlasting love in favor of pining after an earthly relationship. If only someone would ask me out or bring me flowers or write me a sweet note. My if only’s distracted me from someone who was wanting and willing to profess his undying love and adoration.

Tim and I are celebrating our first married Valentine’s Day this year. It’s full of love, but I still ache to remember the years past. I’m still learning to find value in Christ not in other people. I’m still learning to feel like a beautiful, handcrafted woman. I’m still learning to accept God’s unswerving love.

In an effort to remind myself of the primitive road my love life has been and the hope I have in Christ for the future of my love life with Tim, I wrote a valentine. It’s from God to me. It’s from God to you.

Like me, you may have passed the life stage found in this love note, but may the sentiment be an encouragement to you, right where you are. Maybe this will prompt prayers for others on the journey. Maybe this will elicit prayers for yourself. Either way, let God’s love deeply penetrate your heart and may His love fill your cup tomorrow.

The valentine is published on Kindred Grace. Read it here.

Conversation in Community

Since I’m admitting that I bought and devoured The Art of Civilized Conversation (which is a great read), you’ll know that making small talk isn’t one of my gifts.  Writing is my preferred mode of communication and until it’s socially acceptable to craft dialogue on index cards at a party, I would rather listen than speak.

When people get together, any number of things can be the center of conversation.  I would be the sort to refer to the weather.  One’s kids are sometimes a go-to topic while some venture into the realm of politics and foreign affairs.

FineLine

Often, I find myself talking about other people if there’s nothing else to be said.  “I saw on Facebook that George and Georgina went out to dinner last night.” or “Have you heard from Kelsey lately?”  I ask questions, sometimes idly, sometimes pryingly, to keep conversations going.  But, there’s a very fine line between facts and gossip – and most of the time, whether I intend to or not, I cross it.

I’m cautious not to malign my husband or family members, but I don’t always take the same precautions with other people.  My questions and topic choices don’t always encourage people to speak kindly of others, either.

In a gathering, especially of believers, our topics of conversation speak louder than we know.  If our lives are supposed to reflect God’s light, then Christ-followers in community should be positively glow-in-the-dark!

Psalm 111.1

Christian Community

Community exists to bring praise to God, more specifically, so that the good works of God will be proclaimed and remembered.  That verse in Psalms (above) was particularly poignant to me because it speaks specifically about Christian community.

Praise should be spilling forth amidst the upright and the congregation.  I’d like to roll my eyes and say, “well, obviously Christians would be praising God when they get together and when they’re at church,” but I know from my own example that we don’t always infuse conversations with praiseworthy topics.

Community is the perfect venue for proclaiming God’s work in our lives. Psalm 111 goes on to say, “the works of the Lord are great.  He has made His wonderful works to be remembered” (v.2,4). When we are in a group, we have a choice to gratify our lust for unnecessary details in other people’s lives, or to glorify God by remembering and praising Him.

Psalm 111.2,4

A consistent trait in the people I admire is an ability to infuse God into every conversation. It’s not annoying or obtrusive; it’s genuine, flowing from an honest heart and an authentic relationship with God.

I leave encounters with these people feeling encouraged – excited about what God is doing in their life and motivated in my own journey.  Should that not be the goal of every conversation?

My prayer: Lord, let my words be seasoned with love, joy, gratitude, and honesty.  May my contributions to conversations be what is praiseworthy and pointing towards You.  Help me to remember the wonderful works You have done in my life and share them with others.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.  {Hebrews 10:23-25}

Community Series

 

 

Free Hot Chocolate

On Monday mornings, Tim and I mix up 5 gallons of hot chocolate and wheel it over to Coeur d’Alene High School.  We stand  off to the side just down from the, main entrance, ready to hand out a steamy cup of cocoa to any interested passerby.

Our badges signify we are volunteers from a church, but other than that small identifier we go incognito.  We pass out hot chocolate to make connections, to start building relationships with students in our community.

It has been fun to watch students open up a bit more each week – they recognize us and are willing to give more than one word answers to questions.

The first couple weeks were prime people watching.  Most people didn’t know how to respond to the strangers lurking in the entryway or the wares they were offering.

Some students avoided eye contact completely.  Others eyed us openly with interest but kept walking.  Some students kept glancing our way with a mixture of desire and suspicion.  Even when we offered hot chocolate to people, emphasizing it was free, they would shuffle away or pretend they didn’t hear us.

After observing these reactions to free hot chocolate, it dawned on me that these are the same responses Jesus gets to His free gift of salvation.  What seems like a no-brainer decision to Him is often met with reluctance, disbelief, and suspicion.

Though Christ resides in me, I often respond to God’s gifts like an unbeliever.  I avoid God when He offers forgiveness.  I am suspicious of His grace.  I shuffle away from His unconditional love, wondering why He would offer that to me.

My actions and attitudes don’t always reflect what I truly believe about my God – that He loves me, that He desires to be in a relationship with me, that He won’t leave me.

I pray that God replaces my suspicion with trust, my fears with hope.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

{Hebrews 4:14-16, emphasis mine}

How do you approach God and His abundant good gifts?

The Beauty and Bounty of Passion

I lay in bed yesterday reflecting on what a hard working husband I have. He is dedicated to his job and puts himself into all that he does. God has called him to serve youth, and he does so with a gentle, caring, and wholly-invested heart.

He is passionate about students and Christ, and that passion helps him tackle the difficult aspects of ministry.

While I was snug in my bed, he was working alongside other students and volunteers to clean up after our church’s harvest party. He may have shed his Friar Tuck costume, but he was still laboring for Christ.

Our passions motivate us to do things that are tiresome, unsavory, and stressful. They inspire us to be selfless in our actions and attitudes.

This is best displayed in Jesus’ life.  He was (and is, still) so passionately in love with us that He made the ultimate self-sacrifice.  He died to save His children.  In turn, our passion for Christ moves us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him.  (Matthew 16:24).

As witnessed by Tim’s passions resulting in service and sacrifice, the same pattern occurs on a smaller scale in our daily life.  Let me rephrase that.  It should happen in our day to day life.

But, if you’re like me, God ordained passions don’t always translate into selfless behavior.  It wasn’t until I lay there last night, reflecting on what a hard working man I married, that I realized where the disconnect occurs.

I’ve been missing the action step.  Those passions need to be expressed in motion and service.  Selflessness is a practice – the more you do it, the more natural it will become.

I can see the evidence of this missing step in my relationship with Tim.  I realize this may be stating the obvious, but I’m passionate about my husband.  I’m not just talking about being passionately in love with Tim ,but being passionate about supporting his calling to youth and family ministry.  I may not have the same calling, but I’m passionate about being an encouragement and a help to my husband as he pursues his passion for the Church.

In theory, my passion for Tim should spur me on to selfless service and support. To be honest, I haven’t been doing a great job in that department lately. I find myself consistently rebelling against opportunities to serve and put Tim first.

I am missing the action aspect working in conjunction with my passion to produce selfless fruit.  It took my husband’s example to illuminate this disconnect.

I have been relying on feelings to produce selfless love and support for Tim, but feelings can be fickle. I must put my passion to work.  Practicing love, patience, grace, encouragement, and forgiveness should work up a sweat.

A harvest doesn’t happen without tilling the soil, planting the seed, watering the plants, and reaping what was sewn.

Being selfless isn’t an automatic result of having a passion, but with diligence and hard work, passions produce God-honoring beauty and bounty.

Dear Ash {31 Days of Letters}

Dear Ash,

I think we could be poster children for the old adage, “opposites attract.”  If our physical appearances weren’t enough – my six feet with blonde hair and blue eyes verses your five-ish feet with green/brown/hazel eyes and curly, brown hair – our personality types are pretty drastically different.  My reserved self has always been in awe of your ability to engage a crowd.  You could make a tree laugh with one of your stories and I’m better off writing about my escapades.

In defiance of these differences, our friendship works.  Our history spans a quarter-century and we have the pictures, crushes, letters, embarrassing moments (some on tape… eg: falling off swing in southern belle costume), laughter and tears to prove it.  Like many friendships, ours was not devoid of bad boundaries, hurt feelings, and lulls in communication.

I am ever so glad that God redeemed the locust years, per se, and renewed our friendship.  With God as the center, our relationship has a whole new dimension that not only pushes me closer to our Abba, but also gives me a deep appreciation for having a friend who is so different than me.

Though I could make a lengthy list of all the things I love about you and what our friendship means to me, I wanted to point out two differences between us that have taught me so much about being a Godly woman: 1. your fearless vulnerability and 2. your intimacy with God.

As Anne Jackson would say, you have the “gift of seconds.”  Your honesty and openness is refreshing and challenging.  God gives you the boldness to share first so those of us who are silenced by shame, fear, or pride have an easier time going second.  I have mentally and verbally fessed up to struggles and sins that I would not have normally had the courage to think or speak.  But, because you were willing to be transparent, I was able to follow suit.

I’ve always been a bit envious of the way you talk about God.  You hear His voice in the inner most parts of your being and are able to articulate what He is revealing.  You see Him as the lover that He is.  Your intimacy with God has pushed me to reevaluate how I approach my own relationship with Him.  I have to remind myself that God woes and pursues me, but that idea seems to come naturally to you.  You’ve prompted me to open my heart to God as the Lover of My Soul.

So, I thank you for your vulnerability with me and your intimacy with Christ.  They have thrust me deeper into God’s arms.

This was in a post that you must read.

 …she told me why it was beautiful to HER and in that way, SHE became more beautiful to me. Because she let me see her and hear her story with all its unique markings and pain and hope and love.

It made me think of you and how you reveal beauty and how much I love seeing your beauty being revealed.  Being involved in your story, hearing about its unique markings, pain, hope, and love has made you even more important to me.

I love you!

Em

You can find all my letters here.

For more information about the 31 Day Challenge, visit The Nester.