To Love the Unlovable

roses

I recently watched a very complicated situation unfold. I wasn’t directly involved- more of a bystander. But a friend I love dearly was in the heart of it, so I got an up close view of the whole thing.

A close relative of my friend was injured and needed to be cared for during their recovery process. In the best of circumstances, her relative could still easily be defined as “unlikable.” So throw in a traumatic experience, unstable emotions and a resistant attitude, and you’ve got someone who makes it miserable to be around (to put it nicely).

Throughout the recovery process, nothing seemed to go smoothly. There were physical setbacks, unexpected financial blows, constant opposition and emotional outbursts.

And that was just the surface of the situation. There were layers upon layers of emotional scars that ran deep, adding to the messiness of it all. The person who had inflicted those scars now lay in a hospital bed, unable to do basic things for themselves.

My friend, who could have been justifiably angry from a lifetime of pain, chose to bear the scars with mercy, and love someone who didn’t deserve it. Once broken and fragile, my friend now embodied strength and restoration. She had found healing, peace and redemption over the years. That’s what happens when Jesus gets involved in our messes. Sitting in that hospital room, she poured out grace and love without restraint.

Now before I go on, let me just say, having boundaries is a very good thing. I don’t think the “right thing” or “loving thing” means to keep going back to an unhealthy or dangerous situation or relationship. Sometimes, staying away is the harder thing to do. Sometimes, it’s best to get out of a relationship completely because it’s physically or emotionally dangerous. Other times, love can only be offered through limited interaction like short conversations or through prayers for the person. But other times, love physically comes face to face with the unlovable.

That is the love I saw. Given freely and unconditionally. I watched as the emotionally wounded chose to love the wounder over and over.

She made the decision to love.

It wasn’t the feel good kind of love that’s filled with hugs and rainbows and bunnies.

It was the raw, messy, pain filled, undeserving kind of love.

It was Jesus kind of love.

And it shook me.

But if I can be totally honest, I don’t know if I would have loved as well as she did. If put in that situation, I hope I would love well. I desperately hope I would. However, there were numerous times I watched her be horribly mistreated and my heart thought, “She should just walk away. It’s not her responsibility. She’s the one who has been hurt. Her relative is just finally reaping what they sowed for years. They don’t deserve such a love. It isn’t fair.”

But during one of those thoughts, the Lord very clearly interrupted, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The example of love I saw that left me in awe was human to human. Can you believe that there is a love even fiercer, stronger and eternal? I too, have been given a completely undeserved love by a holy God. I make mistake after mistake, but He continues to love me.

Is that fair? Not at all.

Do I deserve it? Absolutely not.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

He is a perfect God loving a very, VERY imperfect person. Yet, He calls me His daughter, His beloved. He has not only cared for me when I was most unlikable, He died for me when I was most unlovable. He took the punishment of death that I deserved. Death. That is what I deserved.

How’s that for love.

Raw, messy, never-ending, undeserved love.

Freely given…

…despite mistakes.

…despite failures.

…despite resistance.

…despite messing up again…and again…and again.

…despite never ever being able to come close to deserving it.

It’s easy for me to accept something good that I don’t deserve, but the moment I see someone else given the same good thing, I quickly point out the injustice.

Oh, the love of Jesus!

Yeah, it’s not fair or just or deserved. And thank goodness. My life depends on it…and so does yours.

Pizza & Endless Grace

Hello wonderful, sweet friend!

Oh the stories I have this week. And about 98% of them include my daughter. Yes, I’m “that” mom. Just go with it.

My little girl has definitely been exercising her independence. Which is a nice way of saying she has started wearing her sassy-pants more often. Her likes & dislikes are becoming very clear. If I don’t pick up on her unhappy facial expressions as she tries a meal she’s not thrilled about, she will very clearly tell me what she doesn’t like, why she doesn’t like it & why I should never ask her to eat it again. All of this is communicated in her own little language, but she uses a lot hand gestures, so I know she means business. She will throw her head back in the most precious & dramatic way if she is asked to do something she really doesn’t want to. She will also turn her head & close her eyes. I’m not sure if she wants to disappear or wants me to disappear, but either way, I get her point.

Along with all her dislikes, we have also discovered more of the things she likes. I am constantly left in awe of what a beautiful person my daughter is. The things she does amazes me. She is so smart & I just can’t believe that my baby is now her own walking, talking, exploring, expressive little self. I love when she gets excited over something new or smiles & nods her head in approval for something she enjoys. I have also discovered that this child loves pizza. A lot. Every time a pizza commercial comes on or she sees a picture of a pizza, the entire room fills with her long, drawn out, “Mmmmmmmmmmmms!” The first time she did this, I could not stop laughing. But now it happens every time & I’m pretty sure if anyone were to visit our house during one of those moments, they would think that’s all we feed her. Oh how I adore that pizza-loving girl.

As I look at my daughter, even when she’s wearing her sassy-pants, I gain a deeper understanding of God’s heart for us. I will always & forever love her completely & without reservation & I will do anything for her. There is nothing she can say or do to change that. And like Matthew 7:11 says, if I am a sinful being who can still give good gifts to my children, how much more will God give to us?

Grace is defined as “the free & unmerited favor of God”.

It’s free. And we can’t earn it.

Wow.

When I sit & think about it & really just let that soak into my soul, it leaves me speechless. It leaves me breathless really.

I think we all have days that our imperfections & mistakes cause hesitation to fully embrace that truth- the truth that our circumstances & emotions do not dictate whether God gives us a little or a lot of grace.

To be completely honest, there are some days I feel more covered than other days. My heart knows that isn’t true, but still, I have those moments.

But that’s the beautiful thing I’m learning about grace. Grace doesn’t draw closer to us when we feel holier or more polished. And it doesn’t loosen its grip when we feel dirty or frazzled.

We are submerged just as deeply in His free & unmerited favor when we feel like we’re on the right track, as we are on days we feel completely knocked off course.

Confident & lifting our hands or broken & on our faces. I think grace doesn’t distinguish between the two. We are God’s children. And that alone qualifies us to receive this incomparable gift.

I am so thankful for God’s grace. Our perfect, holy God grants us favor despite our mistakes & imperfections. What a beautiful picture of His heart towards us.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8&9

At this very moment, His grace is washing over you. And it’s not going to stop.

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16

You are loved. You are precious. And I declare my God as faithful.

Fall Afresh

Hello my friend,

I’m so excited to share this with you. I’ve been experiencing God’s spirit in a new & fresh way! There hasn’t been one thing in particular that has kindled the fire in my heart. It’s been a bunch of little details & decisions I’ve made that have added up & created some spectacular results! The way I feel & see the world is so different when I’m intentional about my relationship with God instead of putting it on cruise-control & letting it just coast along. I’m so encouraged & wanted to share that encouragement with you.

This is a list & prayer I made this week. It started as a simple list of acknowledging & thanking God for who He is & what He has done for me. But it quickly grew into a passionate battle cry & fiery prayer.

Be encouraged, sweet friend! Our God is constantly calling us to His heart. Even when we wander. Even when we ignore Him. Even when we get so caught up in the to-dos of our life that we forget to put Him above it all. So this week, I encourage you sit down & think through a few things. Reprioritize your day. Make sure that He is in the forefront of your mind as you run errands. Play worship music in the background. If you can, dive into your Bible a few times throughout the day instead of stopping at your morning devotion. Pray out loud with your friend, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. Dig deeper. Lean into Him.

I pray that you too will experience our God’s spirit in a fresh & new way this week! I can’t wait to hear all about it!

 

Oh Savior, your grace for me is scandalous.
It gave me eternal life that I don’t deserve. (John 3:16&17)

Lord, your mercy is indescribable.
It took the punishment that I did deserve. (Psalm 103:8-12)

Father, you have adopted me as your daughter.
My place in your family has been bought with your very blood. (John 1:12)

El Roi, you see into the deepest parts of my soul.
You are acquainted with my every thought & action. (Hebrews 4:13)

Teacher, your patience for me doesn’t end.
It allows me to persevere despite mistakes & failures. (2 Peter 3:9)

God, your Spirit breathes life into my bones.
It nudges me to keep going when I want to give up. (Hebrews 33:4)

El Shaddai, you provide for my every need.
I lack no good thing when I follow you. (Philippians 4:19)

Immanuel, you are always with me.
Your presence gives me courage & strength. (Joshua 1:9)

El Rachum, your compassion envelops my pain.
It shows me that you are near to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18)

Mighty God, your faithfulness transcends our emotions, situations & circumstances.
You work everything for the good of those who love you. (Romans 8:28)

Jesus, your peace isn’t confined to my understanding.
It penetrates deeper than the pain & is more present than my heartache. (Philippians 4:7)

 

Father God,

You embody all these beautiful things. Yet you, a perfect God, intimately involve yourself in my imperfect life. You walk alongside me in every pain, hardship & trial I face. Even if the only reason you would lay your hand on me is to comfort me, it would be inconceivable that Almighty God would touch the flesh of fallen humanity. But you are love. And you go further than what I could ever ask for or understand. You wrap your arms around me to protect me, to redeem me & to change me from the inside out.

It is by your mercy that I take my next breath. It is for glory that I live today. Build me up & set my heart on fire for you! Infuse your Word so deeply inside of me that it becomes a part of my very being. May it sink into the marrow of my bones & settle into the core of my heart & mind. You have set a calling upon my life, so there is no power on earth or in hell than can stop me from stepping into my destiny!

You are faithful & what you start, you finish. My identity is found in you, so use my heart to reflect yours.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Insecurity & True Identity

I remember one time during my sophomore year in college, I was required to give a 15-minute presentation in a women’s ministry course that would account for 33% of my grade. This class had become one of my favorite classes. Something inside of me was coming alive. There was a stirring in my heart that I had never known. It was changing my life.

As much as I loved this class, I had dreaded this presentation the entire semester. The morning arrived & it was my turn to give my presentation. And right before the class started…I left. I couldn’t do it. On top of being completely afraid of public speaking, I was so insecure about presenting to these other girls who looked & acted so put together & I realized anything I would say would be criticized, judged & picked a part. I would make a fool of myself.

Well, that’s what I had told myself anyways.

Because I let insecurity paralyze me to the point that I actually skipped class, I failed the entire course. And unfortunately, this is just one of the many scenarios I could share with you where my insecurity has crept in & destroyed something that could have been wonderful.

I think we all have experienced insecurity in some shape or form. Whether we are insecure about our jobs, our marriages, our friendships or simply ourselves. We know what it’s like to feel inadequate. We know how it has prevented us from doing certain things that we long to do. Or how it keeps us from building friendships with certain people because we feel like we won’t fit in or measure up to their expectations.

Insecurities hinder us & make us feel like we’re not equipped for the task at hand. It distracts us & steals our attention to focus on what we aren’t, instead of the fullness of who we are through Christ.

But oh, dear friend, your true identity is not the image you see in the mirror & it isn’t gaged by your ability & competence to do something on your own. Oh no. It is far greater & more powerful than any of those things.

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 12:9-11

When we stop focusing on who we think we are & get a good look at Who we belong to, we begin to see our true selves very differently.

It is through our weakness & inability that God demonstrates His perfect strength! Our weaknesses & insecurities are exactly what the Lord is asking for us to hand over to Him & if we do that, He will use those very insecurities & weakness to exemplify His strength & perfection!

I am a mess & in no way, am I perfect. But I can point others to the One who is! May God’s strength be seen in me. Not because of anything I am on my own, but because of who I am only through Him!

And so it was with me, brothers & sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message & my preaching were not with wise & persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5

I declare my God as faithful!

Unmerited Favor

Dear sweet friend,


Guess what?!?


God’s love and grace for you is deeper than the ocean!!

 
Sometimes we can read over a sentence like that and say to ourselves, “Yes, I know that…” but let that statement sink in for a second.


God’s perfect love FOR YOU and His abundant grace FOR YOU is deeper than your mind can even fathom! It’s freely given and given abundantly. Isn’t that incredible? 


God’s grace, no matter how you feel at this moment, is enough! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and hope that God’s grace, if stretched and pulled really thin, will cover this huge thing in our lives. We may not verbalize it like that out loud, but if we’ll be honest with ourselves, I think we might agree that sometimes that’s how we feel deep down. But a more accurate description would be like dropping our grain-of-sand-circumstance into the the never-ending-ocean-of-God’s-grace and hoping that the grace-water will cover it! Does that make sense?


His grace is enough. Not almost enough. Not sometimes enough. Not barely enough. Not enough only if you deserve it. Not enough for that woman but not for you. His grace is enough.


You are covered, my friend! You and your life are completely submerged in His grace.


2 Corinthians 12:9
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.



Be encouraged precious one! You are loved passionately and eternally by Almighty God!!


I declare my God as faithful!

Who I Am

I don’t know about you, but periodically I catch myself letting out a deep, heavy sigh. Even if nothing in particular is happening at that moment, it doesn’t matter. Here comes the sigh. It’s like I’m releasing feelings of being overwhelmed from fighting a battle that I’m unaware of. Or maybe all the stresses of life combine into this huge pile, so I’m not thinking of just one thing that’s on my mind, because 1,000 things are. What do I do on days like this? Well, there’s the classic to-do list. Until I get distracted or realize I just don’t feel like making or doing anything on a list. I can allow myself to be a professional procrastinator if the occasion calls for it. I thought marrying a man who was super organized & motivated would change that about me. Or at least make me look better. But instead, I’m the one that is being asked to pick up my underwear off the floor or keep my paperwork semi-organized. Wow. That transition into superwoman wife didn’t happen as well as I had hoped.
 
Marrying a man that truly finds joy in being organized, having a dusted house & wiped-clean electronics doesn’t make it very easy to pretend to be organized either. I know we’re married, but I still have stories about my college dorm room I haven’t shared with him. Stories that would haunt & disturb him to his squeaky clean core. Marrying a man who thinks being 10 minutes early is being on time has also stretched my “fashionably late by 20 minutes” habits. During my sophomore year, my sister became a freshman at the same University I was at & we thought it would be fun to take some classes together. From the first day of our sisterly-shared classes, I’m sure my sister regretted it. I always knew it took me an hour to fully get ready in the morning. But for a little reason I like to call “loving my sleep more than life itself”, I made us late for every class. It got to the point where she would say, “I love you, Heather, but I’m going to be on time today. You’re on your own. See you at class.” At first, I could convince her that I was just a couple minutes away from being ready to leave & she would wait for me. But then my baby sister wised up & figured out that 2 minutes meant 15 minutes in my language. And I usually had a stressful, hurried walk to class…alone. I take full responsibility for that. But if I could just add one thing, I was always dressed nicely & fully accessorized. Sometimes I even remembered to bring my textbooks.
 
Up until about a year ago, I become completely emotionally depleted while trying to earn my father’s love & make him proud of who I was. But nothing was enough & love shouldn’t have to be worked for or earned. Every time I was told what I was doing wrong, I immediately claimed how imperfect I was & tried harder to change into something different just so I could feel approval to some degree. Comments in my childhood, regardless of whether or not they were maliciously said to me, deeply scarred me. I went from thinking I could conquer the world, to wondering if I was good at anything. I went from thinking I was the prettiest girl in the room, to not eating for days at a time so that I could be somewhat attractive. I almost always had breakouts on my face, so layers of makeup went on to help complete the mask that I liked to wear to cover up the ugliness I felt.
 
Looking back at all of the defining moments that hurt in my life, I see God’s hand. Times I was laying in bed, knowing my decisions were not only hurting me, but hurting the people I claimed to love, I still felt God’s grasp on my heart. He wouldn’t let go. I would cry & ask God why He still wanted me. There was nothing likable, much less lovable about me. At least that’s how I felt. I wasn’t interesting enough or beautiful enough to keep the attention of the people that I desperately longed for. I wasn’t the prettiest, the most talented or creative. I was just…me. And I was a MESS. I always viewed my messy life as a reason that I couldn’t be used by God for something bigger than what I was. I was empty. I didn’t have anything in me that could stack up against the amazing people around me. I had no 5-year plan. I didn’t know what my plans were for the upcoming weekend, much less what I wanted to do after college or the rest of my life.
 
So long story short, I’m a mess. There’s no cute little box with a perfect little ribbon tied around this girl’s life. But despite my messiness, God has ALWAYS been faithful. And I think because of my messiness, God is faithful. God never asked us to get ourselves together before we accept Him into our lives. What I’ve learned is that it’s impossible to get to a point where I feel ready enough, clean enough, organized enough, pure enough, holy enough to approach a perfect, unconditionally loving God. I can’t do anything to earn His love. But that’s the beauty of Who He is. He loves me no matter what.
Let that soak in.
 
God loves you. Nothing you’ve done or will ever do will change the fact that Jesus died for you. He died for you. He welcomes your messiness.
 
Listen to what 2 Corinthians 12:9 says:
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.
So there we are. I’m a mess & God loves me. I am empty without Him. Anything good inside of me is from God. He is personal, loves unconditionally & pours out grace on me every single day. From the second my feet the floor in the morning, God has given me the strength & grace that I need to live that day; not just get through the day, but fully, abundantly & passionately live. Because I am empty without Him & because I am weak, Christ’s power can be made perfect in that weakness! Praise God! I declare Him faithful!