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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Adopt a Month Campaign

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Adopt a month is a great opportunity to get involved in reaching the hurting and broken with the message “You are Loved.”  Individuals, groups, churches can all adopt a month in 2016 and provide the gifts for outreach for that chosen month.  For more details email us at illuminatingloveministries@gmail.com.

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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A Little Longer

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God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His word to my heart is never ending. I am getting married in just a few short weeks and with all the excitement, the endless list of to do’s, preparation and more it has been hard to keep up with so many things…as you might see my blog being one of them, but more important my time with the Lord. He is my light, the One who lifes me, strengthens me, speaks directly to my heart and often moves me to tears of joy. So, I find condemnation easily besets me when I don’t give Him my time either in worship or reading the bible, journaling, and the list of what I am not accomplishing with excellence, or just accomplishing goes on. There is a song Jenn Johnson of Bethel Music wrote back in 2004 that I came across when hunting through my worship sheet music to just sit and play something, it is called A Little Longer. I loved this song when I first heard it years ago, and I was reminded of why I love it still. As I sat frustrated with myself over all the unaccomplished things, half done things, or things I deem done without excellence, especially not giving God the undivided attention His is so worthy of…I pulled this song out and played. As I sat and my fingers embraced those keys, something of much more importance embraced my heart. The words of my heart, somewhat matching the words of the song were, “what can I do for you God, I know I am not doing enough…” and my mental, but heartfelt list of self condemnation went on. Until God, in His infinite wisdom and love, drew my attention to the actual lyrics of the song instead of the lyrics I was reciting…

What can I do for you
What can I bring to you
What kind of song would you like me to sing
I’ll dance a dance for you
I’ll pour out my love to you
What can I do for you beautiful king…
Then I hear you sing to me
You don’t have to do a thing
Just simply be with me and let those things go
It can wait another minute
Wait this moment is too sweet
Please stay here with me
And love on me a little longer
Cause I’m in love with you

Need I say more? Goodbye list of undone and to do’s…I have a date with the King of my heart.

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?

Worry Stones

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Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

We live in an age where there is plenty to worry about. Just watch the news for a half hour and you’ll be tested. Yet, the Word of God says in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun. I’m pretty sure things seemed quite dire to the Israelites when they were hanging out at the edge of the Red Sea or even to David when he was hanging in the caves and wasn’t on a spelunking mission. We are not the first ones to feel like the world may be coming to an end and we won’t be the last. We are not the first ones to feel the weight of worry which is why God tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast our cares upon Him because He not only cares for us, but He can handle it.

First, let’s look at that word cast. Thesaurus.com also describes cast as fling, toss aside, hurl, heave, launch, eject, thrust and the list goes on. Just replace the word cast with one of its synonyms to give the scripture a new perspective.

Heave all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you.
Fling all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you, etc.

This gives us an amazing picture of the heart of God and the weight it bears. Jesus can handle anything we cast at Him, as my dad once said, “There is nothing that can knock God off His throne.” That includes anything that brings you angst. Just give it to Him.

I remember years ago when I saw two teenage girls come out of a new age shop on a busy city street. They carried in their hands “worry stones.” The idea is that you were supposed to put all your worries onto those stones. My heart broke and I went to them to share a story about a man who came to carry all their worries over 2000 years ago. The love of Jesus Christ that came to bear the weight of their worry and fear. A love that doesn’t have a heart of stone. Worry is just like that stone. The only useful purpose it has is to be a weight.  With worry you end up with a burden you weren’t meant to carry.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. –Corrie Ten Boom

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? –Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27)

So…let it go, it is weighing you down.
Let it go, He carried it for you already.
Let it go, you are in His hands.
Let it go with a ferocity and remember that He cares for you.