Love is Hard.

We have all heard the phrase, “Love is a choice.” Sometimes that choice may feel easy, but lets face it there are many times when that choice feels hard. It feels easy when our children are smiling and obeying, but when the laundry and dishes are piled high, you are flat out exhausted and your children are throwing a fit because you didn’t cut the crust of their sandwich…it can get hard. It may feel easy to love when your spouse is being sweet and thoughtful, but when they are short with you, or say something thoughtless…it can get hard.

It’s not so much choosing to love, but choosing to respond in love that can be hard at times. I struggle with it, we all struggle with it. Recently, I saw this great picture of a scripture verse out of Romans 5:8. The scripture reads, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV) The image paraphrases the verse and says, “I loved you at your darkest.” Wow. In my darkest moment God loved and still loves me. He also calls us to love like that, except it is much harder for us to do. That is why we need His help.
As I write this, Ed Sheeran’s song “Photograph,” is playing in my mind.

Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive…

Loving can heal
Loving can mend your soul.

It isn’t hard to love the “lovely,” but what about the homeless man you see downtown that hasn’t bathed in a while? What about the woman who spits in your face when you tell her she is worth more than the $50 her pimp is getting for her? What about the person close to you who breaks your heart? I think about what Christ endured; the ridicule, the physical and emotional pain, the sting of death. And what for? Love. The cross wasn’t easy. Therefore love isn’t always easy. Yet, it is the most vital. It encourages, uplifts, frees, heals, restores, makes new and is desperately needed.

Remove the word “is” and you get…love hard (and with all you’ve got).

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A Chocolate Holiday

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It’s hard to believe that the holidays are already upon us!  In all of our celebrating we must not forget those who are often used in slave labor to make the products we will be purchasing to give to our loved ones or place on our dinner tables.  It feels and often is nearly impossible to find items that are made completely without slave labor.  Yet, we can start in one simple area…chocolate.

According to the World Cocoa Foundation we consume 3 million tons of cocoa beans annually…68% of which is sourced from Africa, 17% from Asia/Oceania and 15% from Americas (Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia).  Simply put, that’s a lot of chocolate sourced on the backs of children, men and women who are paid nearly nothing (if anything) and live in horrible conditions, they are modern day slaves for our sweet tooth.

So during this upcoming holiday season, let’s take a step in the right direction of ending human trafficking and slavery and purchase our chocolate from companies who are sustainably sourcing their cocoa beans, using transparency in their supply chains, working to empower and create positive change in the communities they are sourcing from.  Here are some companies that are doing just that:

Lindt Chocolates 
http://www.lindt-spruengli.com/sustainability/sustainably-sourced/

Divine Chocolate Co.
http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/

The Endangered Species
http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18

You can also do a search on “Slave Free Chocolate,” for more options and don’t forget coffee too!

#untilallarefree #endmoderndayslavery

What ideas do you have to help fight slavery this holiday?  What are your favorite fair trade products?  Share with us!

 

When Love Comes In

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This is a bit of a different blog for me. I haven’t written in awhile because I have been busy getting married and adjusting, quite nicely, to being a wife and mother.

If you were to ask me 10 years ago “when do you think you’ll get married?” I would have given you the Christian answer “In God’s timing,” all the while only my heart and closest friends knew I wanted to be married and having more children before 25.

25 came.
25 went.

30 would come and go in the same fashion yet in the waiting, and lets be honest; in the moments of frustration, loneliness, and the times of fun being a single mother God did something in my heart…all the while doing amazing things in the man He would bring to the door of my heart.

For years I, as some would say, wrestled with God, many times asking, nay pleading with Him to take from me the desire to be married, especially if it wasn’t in His plan for me. It is difficult to have a desire for something and not have it fulfilled. The only thing about the desire that would leave me was hopelessness. God had more in me that He wanted than for me to just get married. Being married is so much more than being in love and having babies. Being married means learning to be selfless on a whole other level, as a single mom I learned a mother’s selfless love, but marriage would be a love quite different. It would be learning to love in a different way. But that wasn’t the point, I needed to learn my worth and how to be loved, because past pain caused me to shrink back and view myself less than.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, love is like a ray of light that finds it’s way through the smallest of cracks, illuminates darkness, and causes good things to grow in the un-likeliest of places. In all of my waiting God’s love came in, deep into my heart, healing, refreshing, preparing, strengthening, and instilling a sense of belonging to Him…as His daughter. When we allow the love of God to come and fill us, heal us, strengthen us and when we wait upon Him…it is always worth it. It causes good things to grow in us. He would stretch me to have faith in Him and His promises, the things He spoke to my heart- I would cling to when doubt and hopelessness would come at me like a storm to knock me down, because hope needed to grow freely in me as did love.

In all that time the point was not to learn some “lesson,” or fix something on the long list of things that people concoct to understand why someone may still be single. The point was to learn to know that I was valued by the Creator, that His love for me would in turn help me to love myself and to love others deeply which would turn into a ministry (Illuminating Love). In that ministry I would meet a man with a great passion for God and turns out a great passion for me (and my children), so the old adage that good things come to those who wait is true.

So the greatest thing that happened in waiting was I learned to love and love is needed everyday. When love comes in, selfishness leaves, wrongs are forgiven, chains are broken, lives are changed, hope is renewed…from love springs forth so much that our soul needs to grow, that our world around us needs in order to grow. In our relationship with Christ, in our marriages (or other relationships) and in our daily lives love is what makes the difference and the world could use that difference.

Let love come in.

So, April 2015 I became a Mrs…
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her! Luke 1:45

(I love these pictures of the two of us before our ceremony. Dedicating our hearts, lives and marriage to God.)

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Enough.

enough“I feel so inadequate for you Lord.”
“I AM enough.”

Well, let the waterworks flow from my big brown eyes…because it is true and I needed that reminder.  2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us that He is enough and that we should rejoice in the fact that He is enough to cover us.  The grace of our Father is enough to cover our inadequacies, weaknesses, and our sin.  I recently watched the movie, “Mom’s Night Out,” and my kids laughed at me because in my usual fashion, I cried.  If you have seen the movie and are a mom or even just a woman you probably you know where I cried.  That moment where the heroine of the story realizes that the real reason why she has been weary is because she believes she isn’t enough.  She wrestles with her imperfections and believes everyone else (including God) must be wrestling with them too.  Yet, that is just the thing, too often we are harder on ourselves than anyone else is and I firmly believe we are much harder on ourselves than God is.  His love and grace are enough to cover my inadequacies as a writer, as a missionary, as a worship leader, as a mother…as a woman.  I know I need to remind myself of that and I’m willing to bet you just might need a reminder too.  He is my enough, is He yours?

Justice is Inconvenient

Today was one of those busy days, lots of running around with errands and a grand finale of stopping at the grocery store for just a few items.  I found a parking spot quite quickly and made my way to the store entrance when I was approached by someone carrying a sign…I was about to be asked to boycott the store in an attempt to stand up for the rights of the employees.  Super inconvenient…I’m talking super-duper.  As I was walking back to my car to go 20 minutes out of my way to buy 2 items I heard this woman yelling at the young adults holding signs that she was already there to shop and wasn’t going out of her way.  This made me think and think hard about how we as a society cannot often be bothered to go out of our way to help someone (especially someone we do not know) or take a stand against injustice, which requires action, if it interferes with something we’d rather do.  Many times I have seen friends comment on Facebook how they get more likes for a post about a dinner they made than something about social justice issues.  I’ve had that happen to me as well, heck I have even scrolled past stuff I should probably take a second look at.  Is this a reflection of our society as a whole? Maybe.

People can’t be bothered to go to rallies, protest, etc. unless it directly affects them.  We must stop this.  We must begin to fight for others, stand up for what is right, reject apathy, and actually love one another.

We want a better world, but are we willing to do something about it?  We complain that we are being taken advantage of or that elected officials are not really representing the people, but their own selfish gain, but what do we do about it?  We see that there are millions of people enslaved in the world today, yet go about our lives giving no second thought to it.  Believe me, I certainly have my moments when I wrestle with doing something right simply because it is inconvenient, but if we don’t…then who will?  Fighting for what is right, for justice, for love is often inconvenient and often “out of our way,” but think about this…Jesus went out of His way to fight for us…I mean really out of His way.  He left heaven to come to earth, to lay His life down for the hearts of people who would be desperately thankful and those who would adamantly oppose Him.

If no one will go out of their own way to help another then the world becomes quite the lonely, desolate and depressing place…something God never intended.

Justice and love are always worth the fight. Always.

#fightforoneanother #justiceisinconvenient

Because One is Too Many.

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One of my favorite parables told by Jesus in Luke 15 is the shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep in search of one.  It reflects His heart and character that He believes that one person is worth it.  It reflects that each life is precious and valuable.   To me it speaks the message that when there are more people entrapped in slavery now than ever in history, and it can be daunting to think about helping as many as you can, to focus on one at a time is a far greater encouragement.  We can all become weary and burned out, but when we carry the attitude that even just one is worth it because one is too many it can change everything.  Some food for thought:

*God would likely have spared Sodom and Gomorrah for one (Genesis 18).

*The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine for the one (Luke 15).

*Jesus would have died for one.

Can you imagine how many more lives would have been lost during the Nazi resistance, if people didn’t find it important to smuggle “just one more” out of the Nazi clutches?  Never think that one treasured life isn’t worth it.

As I prepare for outreaches this summer I know that even if one life is saved then it is all worth it.   If only one girl receives lifesaving information, then it is all worth it.  Because one person enslaved is too many.  You too can do something for just one.

Ways that you can fight human trafficking in your area:

*Support local task forces, join a coalition or group that is fighting trafficking
*Support organizations that are fighting trafficking, rescuing and aiding victims
*Volunteer at awareness events, fundraisers, etc.
*Educate yourself and spread awareness

You can make a tax deductible donation to help fund For Such a Time Ministries summer outreaches here.

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The Journey of Forgiveness.

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Recently, as I sat in worship I was pondering the greatness of God’s love for me, what little we can actually comprehend, and I went back to about 14 years ago.  It was a painful time in my life, but the love of God was ever present and ever pursuing me.  The key to much of my freedom over the years hasn’t just been receiving the forgiveness of Christ, but forgiving those who wounded me deeply…even forgiving myself.

I think about the women I work with, beautiful, precious and brokenhearted.  For some, the greatest steps of healing they will walk through will be to forgive those who exploited, abused and wounded them deeply.  While those will be some of the hardest steps to make they will also be some of the most freeing.  I love the quote floating around about how keeping unforgiveness in your heart is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, because it is true.  Nothing binds so much as unforgiveness.  Maybe that is why the journey of forgiving seems daunting, painful and at times unattainable, because it is possibly one of the most freeing journeys to make.

Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’”  That seems to fit with Jesus’ final words on the cross, “It is finished.”

The cross doesn’t just represent freedom, but forgiveness.

Jesus made that journey over 2000 years ago.  It was the hardest journey anyone would ever have to make.  He took each step strengthened by the power of His Father and the Holy Spirit and His passionate love for us.  His journey of forgiveness paved the way so that we could make that same journey of forgiveness that leads to freedom.  Remember that love keeps no record of wrongs…that means forgiveness is an act of love.  Jesus went through the ultimate act of love…He forgave and still does today.    I don’t believe that forgiveness is so much about loving those who hurt you, but more about loving yourself enough to let go.

Let’s follow that lead and walk in the freedom He intends.  Take the journey that leads to a whole heart.  During this month of “love,” make a decision to love yourself a little better…you are worth it.