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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Love doesn’t exploit.

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Characteristics of Love Series

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It ALWAYS protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7  (emphasis my own)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and with more people enslaved now than ever in history we can safely say that we have a monstrous problem on our hands.  Human beings are buying and selling each other; men, women and little children.  While I say the word “human beings” I recognize what drives this industry…evil, pure evil.

Women and children are forced to sell their bodies (actually someone is selling it for them), forced to have abortions, and are becoming drug addicts just to try to mentally, emotionally and spiritually escape their daily horror.  There have been times when I have looked at what seems like an unconquerable situation, where heartache reigns and evil triumphs.  Then, I remember what love is and who love is and my heart is renewed within me.  Isaiah 61 promises that Christ came to set the captives free and God isn’t a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19) and it also says that He has given us what we need to overcome.

We can have faith, we can have hope, but the greatest of these is love (1 Corin. 13:13) and love is the greatest thing we can give.  Remembering, that real love doesn’t exploit and it is the action of love that will bring an end to this atrocity.  Love will not buy sex, love will not sell another human being, love will rescue, love will heal, love will reach out and love will not exploit because it always protects.

Next time you see a picture in the news of a woman arrested for prostitution, don’t skip by the article, don’t skip by the picture.  Look at her, have compassion and pray for her (act in love).  Next time you hear about a prostitution ring (trafficking ring) being busted, don’t ignore it…thank God (the One who is love).

I also urge you to get involved, even if it’s only for January…do something because someone needs you…heck the world needs you.  Be the love someone needs because they matter.  Make a decision to protect…make a decision to love.

Characteristic of Love #6…love protects (it doesn’t exploit) 

Want to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do?

Contact Us

Sharedhope.org

Polarisproject.org

Exoduscry.com

Books about trafficking:

Renting Lacy by Linda Smith

Refuse to Do Nothing by Shayne Moore, Kimberly McOwen Yim

The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores

Movies:
Nefarious, Merchant of Souls
Not My Life
Not For Sale
Born into Brothels
Half the Sky

The Weight of Grace

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Dictionary.com defines grace in many ways, one of them being the manifestation of favor, especially by a superior.  It also defines it as elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action.

Lets face it, sin is ugly, it’s consequences are ugly and not exactly what we would call lovely, in reality it disgraces.  Even though that is the goal of evil, to disgrace the human heart, Jesus came and bore the weight of disgrace to bring grace.

In reaching out to women who are (or have been) sexually exploited I see one common theme…disgrace.  That is probably the one word to best describe what evil has done to them.  Yet, my heart rejoices, not because of what they have been through, but what Jesus has done and what He will do in their lives.  My heart jumps at the thought of the passion Jesus has for these women and how He longs to reveal to them that He has removed their disgrace.

Jesus bore the weight of our sin, He bore the weight of our disgrace and rendered it powerless.  In other words, what Christ did on the cross reversed the curse. Jesus returned our grace, He returned favor, and possibly most important to the heart of a woman…He returned beauty.

Not sure about you, but I quite humbly, in the presence of God, feel quite lovely.  Knowing that Jesus died bearing my disgrace so that I could live here on earth (not just in heaven) in grace.  You see, what Jesus did was not just for the hereafter, but for the here and now.  If you are living today feeling disgraced, ashamed, discouraged, unlovely or unloved – please know that there is One who sees you, sees your pain, sees the disgrace of your past, but sees you not as you see yourself.  He sees forgiven, He sees holy, He sees lovely…He sees grace because He carried the weight of it like no one else ever could.

So from now on when you look in the mirror, ask God to see yourself as He sees you…ask to see the grace.  I guarantee your heart will forever be changed.

 

*Image from Flickr

A little R&R…

Characteristic of Love Series: It gives…and is meant to be received.

“For God so loved the world…He gave His only begotten Son…” John 3:16

My dad has this saying that always touches my heart, “The cross didn’t gain God’s love for us…it came from His love for us.”  God already loved us when He gave His all.

So often we want to deserve God’s love, which really means we want to earn it, but can we?  I say no, true love is not earned.  True love gives without expecting anything in return.  God gave His all at the cross knowing not everyone would love Him back and He did it anyway.  Jesus didn’t die just for those who would say yes…that is true love.  True love gives.

We may not be able to earn it, but we can receive it and then respond from there.  Receiving leads to response…love and giving in return (to God and to others).  This is God’s order otherwise we may just become religious robots doing our “duty” as Christians and I am pretty sure Jesus didn’t die so we would be dutiful.

We were designed to receive and then respond, otherwise we can get all out of whack.  We begin a steady decline of trying to earn God’s love; a decline that leads us away from intimacy.  We need to let God love us and from that let our works line up…give from a place of having received a love as great as this (John 15:13).

Best summed up: receive and respond…a little R&R.

Characteristic of love #4: it gives and is meant to be received.

The Alls

Characteristics of Love Series

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8

Once, the Lord said to me that I needed to know that He loved me in the mess before He removed me from it.  That stuck with me, as most things He speaks to my heart do.  It occurred to me that He said this because we tend to have the habit in our thinking that He loves us deeply only in our “perfection.”

I have been thinking about the statement “love covers all,” and how profound that is to our human frailty and weakness.  God loves us so much that He provided for the “all” in our lives.  We need the love of God in our lives not just to cover “the alls” in our lives, but to help us love each other deeply to the cover “the alls” in other’s lives.

Recently, on an outreach to exploited women in my community I kept hearing words that spoke of their shame and I thought about how the love of Christ covers and obliterates shame.  It is love that covers, whereas shame makes us believe we need to cover ourselves…just look at Adam and Eve.  When we allow the love of Christ to touch and transform us we can then share that same love with others and be blessed to witness heaven in action.   Characteristic of love #2: it covers all

We needed a love in our lives to cover “the alls,”….enter Jesus who upstaged it ALL with His very life.  This is one girl who believes in the power of Jesus’ love and will gladly let Him cover my “alls”…will you?

A little issue called hate.

Hate is nothing new and really isn’t a little issue.  It is bred in unforgiveness, prejudice, jealousy, and leads to one thing in particular…lack of value for human life or maybe lack of value for human life leads to hate.  I believe this grieves the heart of God to the deepest of levels.  God is love and He created us in His image, so we were made to love and care for one another.  We can see the opposite of this at work in our world today, heck it has been at work since the beginning of time, after all Satan didn’t deceive Eve because he had her best interest in mind.

We have seen so much of hate in the news lately and I see this issue operating successfully each day in my line of work.  In the fight against exploitation and trafficking I see human beings have a complete lack of value for their fellow humans.  At the core of it is a complete lack of value for themselves, to allow their own bodies into these situations where they abuse the body of another either visually or physically.

The answer must be in the love of Christ.  He, who laid down His own life and body for the lives of many to come because of love.  Yet, can we love unconditionally when we don’t even realize our own value?  Maybe.  Maybe not.   Change in the world does, however, begin at home and in ourselves.  I pray that we realize our inherent value and worth…what the Creator of the world thinks of us and in turn we begin to realize what our fellow human beings are worth.  I pray we begin to realize that God loves us unconditionally, without expectation and in turn we begin to love others unconditionally.  What a slap in the face to the enemy of our souls if we live as we were meant to live, loving others.  There is too much hate in the world, too much hate that people experience every day.

So please, never underestimate a little act of unconditional love…you may be giving someone a great thing that they have never experienced before.  A little act of unconditional love is a greater blow to evil and hate than you may make think.  A little love always outshines hate.

Love_Shines_Bright_by_xBAZAximage credits:deviantart

for the sake of the dance

A time always comes into our lives when we are consumed with what needs to be done, work, errands, chores, school work, grading school work (in my case) and the list goes on…it always does because a to-do list never really goes away, right?

When this happens though, the most important things tend to be forgotten or pushed to the back burner.  Here is a thought provoking questions…what happens when you leave something on the back burner and focus on those things that “need” your attention now and always “need” your attention now?  Those things on the back burner, if kept there, will eventually burn and generally it is our relationships that get placed back there.  Especially our relationship with God, seeing as He isn’t in our face daily to ask us when dinner will be ready or is requiring something of us.  Sometimes we need a reminder that relationships are the most important things in life, not to-do lists.

I know this has been me lately, event planning, work, finishing up the homeschool year with my kids, dozens and dozens of daily emails to respond to and oh by the way God… “hi and thank you for today.”

Whenever God and I become “passing ships in the night” and I don’t stop to protect my time alone with him, (which goes far beyond just spending time reading the bible and devotions) exhaustion, frustration and lonelinessImage can set in.  I am talking about sitting down and having a “date” night with the Lover of your soul.  I am talking about not just having passing conversations, but taking time to dance with God in private worship.  If you are married, have children or friends for that matter, what develops more intimacy, passing conversations or sitting down and having dinner together?  Passing conversations are a part of life and needed, but I am talking about something deeper.

I have been focusing on all that needs to be done, including the “dance” steps of my relationship with God, like reading the bible and the list can go on.  Well, tonight in worship I felt the lover of my soul speak deep into my heart and say, “you are focusing too much on the steps and not just dancing with Me.”  Just dance for the sake of the dance, stop focusing on making sure that you are carrying out the right steps.  I am pretty sure that if you are looking towards the One who gave His all just to dance with you, He won’t mind if you step on His toes ;)  Not to mention, when we are looking towards God and allowing Him to lead we naturally follow in His step.

Just enjoy the dance.

(And if you want an idea for a great family time…turn up the radio and have a dance off!)

Unrestrained and often unrequited

Unrestrained Love.

To love someone unconditionally is something that changes your life.  I am not referring to a child or a family member.  To love unconditionally is to love without expecting anything in return and can be a challenge as a human being.  When we love we expect to be loved back.

While on an outreach yesterday, I had the privilege to experience unconditional love.  I was able to witness God’s furious, passionate love by reaching out to others.  Others who may have never experienced someone saying, ‘I love you’ or say that they are beautiful without expecting anything in return.  That is just like God though, He loves us no matter what, knowing full well that many will not love Him in return.  Jesus died on the cross for us knowing full well that many would not believe in His existence, let alone believe that He died because of a furious love.  It was an amazing opportunity to be a part of God’s unconditional, passionate love for people who do not even know Him.  To give them love and gifts without expecting anything in return was a perfect way to experience what it is like to love without limits, without restrictions, without hope of anything in return…true unconditional love.

Remember, Christ loves unconditionally…you and those who do not know Him.

We as human beings cannot love perfectly, but we can know and experience a perfect love, an unfailing and never ending love.  We can also, despite our imperfections, do a simple act of unconditional love (without expectations) for someone and watch the world change one heart at a time.  I know my heart is full, and I wasn’t even the recipient in this case.

**For those whom I may have offended by using God’s love and furious in the same sentence: according to dictionary.com furious also means unrestrained energy….

God is unrestrained love.

A Full Access Pass

I was sitting down with a nice cup of coffee and decided to read Esther again.  I was stopped halfway through chapter one…at the point where King Xerxes is fuming with Vashti and is asking his advisors about what to do.  It lists the names of his advisors and then a certain little phrase caught my eye… “special access.”  Those men had special access to the king.

Of course, God took off with that beautiful phrase in my time with Him.  Esther had special access to the king, because he loved her deeply.  We have special access to the King of Kings because of His deep, passionate, unwavering, never ending, solid as a rock love for us.  We actually have a full access pass to God because of the sacrifice Jesus made for us, but do we use that pass?

It was given so we’d take advantage of it and enter in constantly- remember God desires relationship.  Yet, our fear, not our sin, our fear of our sin keeps us outside the inner court fretting about what He will say to us.  Better yet, we stand outside His throne room and try desperately to straighten ourselves out, clean ourselves off, fix anything wrong with us before we go in…and we end up in the outer hallway all our lives instead of where we belong…in His presence.

I encourage you today to bask in His presence, He loves you and your issues don’t bother Him.  Nothing is too hard for Him and as we come to a greater understanding of His love for us…those things fade away, the healing comes, and we no longer walk in anything that is less than His great plan for us. His presence has the power to do that.

Time to use the full access pass, you’ll enjoy all the benefits.

A Love that Protects

January has been named Human Trafficking Awareness Month and January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day…a large step in the right direction for America.  Maybe it isn’t a coincidence that this comes before the month of “love”…February and Valentine’s Day.

Our culture has a problem with slavery today because it indulges in lust not true love.  The lust after one another has created a dark society of prostituted women and children, women and children forced into pornography, brutality, murder and the complete devaluing of human life and the feminine form.

We could look out to other nations and say, “well we aren’t as bad as they are.”  I’m not so sure about that.  While it is true that women are valued more highly in the US than say, in India or China, we still have a deep lust lurking in the hearts of many and it is only masked better here in the United States than elsewhere.  Did you know that prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, but that Las Vegas is one of the world capitals for traffickers to bring their victims?  Did you know that the prostitution of women and children isn’t just happening in places like Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York City, but it is happening in the small towns of America?  Did you know that at least 17- 18,000 women and children are trafficking annually in the United States?  That doesn’t include those brought into the US from other nations.  Did you know that the average age of entry into the sex trade in the US is the age of 12? THAT’S RIGHT 12!

Lust is a counterfeit of love.  Jesus is pure love and He came to set captives free.

It’s time our culture stops indulging in a counterfeit and goes right for the real thing.

We must stop failing to love one another and begin valuing life as a beautiful thing, not something to be used and tossed aside.  When we begin to love one another and not lust the demand for women and children to be used horrifically will cease.

As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:4- 8 (emphasis my own):

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does NOT DISHONOR others, it is NOT SELF SEEKING, it is not easily angered and it keeps not record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  IT ALWAYS PROTECTS, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

LOVE NEVER FAILS…

**All statistics can be found at sharedhope.org or polarisproject.org