It’s Love

God is love.
I think it’s important to know how the Word defines love because that’s also describing the very heart of our God.
 
I Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us,
Love…
Is patient.
Is Kind.
Doesn’t envy.
Doesn’t boast.
Isn’t proud.
Doesn’t dishonor others.
Not self-seeking.
Not easily angered.
Doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.
Doesn’t delight in evil.
Rejoices with the truth.
Always protects.
Always trusts.
Always hopes.
Always perseveres.
Love never fails.Love gave His perfect Son to die for a sinful world, to redeem & to restore it.God is love.

Simple words, complex statement.

A couple weeks ago I had the beautiful opportunity to watch my sister give birth to my first nephew. Then I was able to spend the first week & a half of his life with him. I’ve always thought the process of labor was a miraculous & wonderful thing, but when I actually saw our little man enter the world & take his first breath, it was life changing.

I’ve loved that boy from the moment I found out my sister was pregnant with him. And when I got to hold him for the first time, hear him use his voice for the first time & actually get to see his perfect face & body…WOW! My heart was so jam-packed full of love, it almost hurt.

My nephew didn’t say or do anything to make me love him. He hasn’t done anything to deserve all the love & affection that’s directed to him from everyone in our family. He just…belongs to us. And if I am a flawed, sinful human that can love like that, how much more does our perfect & holy God love His children? There is nothing we said or did to make God love us. There is nothing we can say or do to make Him love us more or less. That love is established, it’s unshakable & it’s eternal. We can’t lessen it or destroy it. Ever. His love for us is so passionate & pure that He made the ultimate sacrifice to save us from being separated from Him. It was our sin & our choices that threatened that connection. But our loving God gave His Son to be crucified so that our connection with Him could be restored & we could spend eternity in His presence. That is love.

There is nothing you can say or do to deserve His love…or lose it. Pretty good deal, right?

I declare my God as faithful!!

Faithful & Just

It may only take me a moment to mess something up, but I’ll tell you what…I can beat myself up about it for a LONG time. I have the endurance of a marathon runner when it comes to remembering certain mistakes I’ve made. Even when I’ve genuinely repented for what I’ve done & I know I’ve been forgiven, my flesh likes to remind me & keep me in a state of regret & embarrassment. It keeps me focused on the past. And as a result, my present is eaten away.

Sometimes looking into the past can bring healing & enlightenment. It can free us from bondage. But looking back for reasons other than those, it’s usually not for the best.

Jesus has been showing me something incredible. It’s not about my mistake. It’s about my heart & choice NOW. And when He says He has forgiven me, He has forgiven me. Period. That’s it. End of story. He doesn’t bring up my mistakes to make me feel guilty or remind me of how inadequate I am. He doesn’t use it to show me how unworthy I am of His love. That isn’t the heart of my Savior.

Psalm 103:11 & 12, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

God has never expected me to be perfect & He doesn’t demand me to handle every situation perfectly without any mess ups or mistakes. He cares about my heart. When my heart is in line with His, THAT is what matters. So why do I sometimes feel like my past mistakes have a hold me? It’s the enemy. He knows that the forgiveness that Jesus brings is FAR MORE POWERFUL than any mess up or mistake I could ever make & he wants to keep us ashamed, regretful & distracted from the blessings of today.

Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,”
  
If the enemy can keep us in that state of regret, we won’t live in the fulness & abundant life that God has provided for us. When we settle into that cycle of focusing on the mistake not the forgiveness, we’re really missing something. We’re missing the beautiful message of the price & sacrifice that Jesus made so that our sins could be forgiven. God sent His precious, perfect & innocent Son to die on the cross for our sins, yet we still dwell on the sins that have been forgiven? Do we believe that Jesus’ blood was enough? If so, do we live like it is?
 

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
 
What if we really grasped onto the truth that Jesus’ rejoices when we repent & doesn’t hold our mess-ups against us? How would our lives change?

Thank you, Jesus for the abundant life that You’ve made available to us! May we live in it, dwell on it & share it with others! You are faithful & good. I’ve made mistakes & will continue to. But with all my heart, I want to live a righteous, holy life & focus on the beauty of Your forgiveness, not my failures! In every circumstance, in every day, Your grace is sufficient for me.

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Be blessed my friend! I declare my God as faithful!

Beauty Restored

YOU. ARE. BEAUTIFUL.
 
When you hear that statement, does it resonate truth in your soul?
Or do you shrug it off because that’s just a “nice comment” that you feel isn’t really true?
Do you make comments to counter act that statement? “Well that’s nice of you to say, but you should see my sister…SHE’S beautiful.” “Thanks, but I really hate the way my hair looks.” “Oh, not really. I need to lose some weight.”
I have to wonder what it does to God’s heart when His intricately woven masterpiece says that about herself. I’m sure it doesn’t make His heart happy when His beloved creations are criticized & devalued. For me, it has been a long & difficult process in understanding that I am beautiful. And it’s not because of the image I’ve created, but because of Whose image I’m created in. I was never “too much” for Him to handle. I was never “lacking”. From the day He created me in my mother’s womb, He’s been telling me how beautiful I am. But only recently was I willing to listen & believe Him.
What if we started viewing our “imperfections” & “quirks” the way that Jesus does? What if we started to appreciate His handiwork instead of critique it? One of us might not like the color of our eyes. But have you ever stopped to think about the design of those eyes?Look closely at your pupils, iris, & all the little patterns, speckles & shades of colors that compose the outside of those eyeballs. They are beautiful, aren’t they? I think they’re spectacular. They aren’t just lovely on the outside, they are ingeniously designed on the inside. 
Isn’t that incredible? How can we be so critical of the colors or shapes of our eyes when we know just a fraction about the intricacy of how your Creator made them?
 
Unfortunately though, it’s quite easy to feel inadequate or lacking. And we criticize. We complain. We grumble about our chunky thighs, our fluffy tummies & our lack of defined calf muscles. Even in the “best” shape of my life, I wasn’t content or happy with what I saw. My definition of beauty was based on something that doesn’t exist. The standard to which I was holding myself was a lie. And thanks to the media & Hollywood, we are constantly bombarded by images of “perfect” women. But those women don’t even look like that! Thanks to photo editing & airbrushing, our culture’s standards of beauty can be digitally, but falsely reached. Again, it’s all a lie. Our emotions are being manipulated & used so that we will buy something. Mascara, lipstick, body lotion, hair color. Our sense of self-worth is put into question, so we will sign up for the product that will fix & perfect our “flaws”. Our sexuality is demoralized & perverted because we’re supposed to be promiscuous if we want to be sexy. And for those of us who are married…we DO want to be sexy for our husbands! We want to be beautiful to the world & valued by our friends & family. So what’s a girl to do? Buy that mascara? Sign up for that diet program that will fix us? Or read those magazine so we can learn about all the things that are wrong with us? NO! NO! NO! Don’t let the world dictate what you will do with your body or how you should feel about it.
Romans 12:1-2 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
I used to measure my value & beauty by how much food I could withhold from myself. Of course I couldn’t rationalize it then, but now I see it for the addiction, ugliness & bondage it was. My life felt out of control & I wanted to feel like I controlled something! Anything! If I could stay “disciplined” & eat very little, I was proving that I was beautiful & that I was worthy of love. I associated a completely empty, hurting stomach with skinniness…and skinniness with beauty. And if I could exercise every day for a couple hours, that was even better. I would have no energy & would start to black out during those workouts, but that was just part of the deal. “Beauty is pain”, right? Looking back now, I just want to run up to my younger-self, give her a huge hug & tell her how beautiful she was! She didn’t need to prove anything. She was enough. She was perfect just the was she was.
Even as a young child, I remember hearing hurtful comments from people & completely internalizing them. Those comments were said out of ignorance by people who had been hurt themselves, but my heart was injured nonetheless. On top of already feeling sub-par going into college, my obsession was almost encouraged by unhealthy relationships I had in my life. I was completely shattered one day when my friend & I were at the gym working out. She had recently discovered my obsession with food. I was working out with a large group of my guy friends, when she felt the need to walk over to me, lift her shirt to expose her defined, toned abs & say, “I’m getting so fat, Heather. Maybe I should just stop eating like you.” I felt embarrassed, angry & betrayed. It literally broke my heart. Looking back now, I have abundant compassion for her. I can see how she was just a hurt, insecure girl too. Her mom told her on a daily basis that she never did anything right, her hair wasn’t fixed nice enough, she didn’t accessorize her outfit correctly, her tan was fading so she needed to start tanning longer. The only thing she thought she could use in life, was her body too. Now, I see it. But I didn’t then. She & I weren’t that different after all. 
Thinking back, I don’t even know who I was. But Jesus did. I don’t bring up my past so that you feel sorry for me, or to blame others, or to even acknowledge the negative things. I bring it up as a testimony of where I came from & how I’ve been freed & restored. Those people aren’t my enemy. Satan is. Although the emotional bondage began at a young age & I’m still breaking free of some things, I thank Jesus with all my heart that I was only in physical bondage for a few years. I know some women stay imprisoned their entire lives. And although there are some things I always have to keep in check emotionally, I truly have been set free!
 
I Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.Let Him change how you view yourself, your body, & your beauty. One of the biggest factors in my healing, was through support & godly counsel from women in my church. Please find someone that will keep you accountable & give you godly wisdom & advice. Local churches usually offer this service for free. If they don’t, they can point you in the right direction.
Take every unholy thought captive, dear friend. Once we do that, there will be less room for the enemy’s lies & more room for holy affirmations, compliments & refreshment in our hearts & minds. Let Him show you that you are the CROWN OF HIS CREATION.
 
This is one of my favorites. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
I’ve walked through my desert of questioning my worth & beauty. But Jesus has made me into a beautiful, new creation. And I declare my God as faithful!

One Body

This will have been the 3rd time that we packed what we could fit in our car and moved cross-country. So I like to think of us as “seasoned professionals”. One might think that very little could fit into a PT Cruiser. But we have proved the opposite. When you marry a musician, packing his drum set is a high priority. So I’ve learned to adapt & get creative. I’ve filled all the drums with clothes. No space wasted, I get me clothes, he gets his drums. And I’ve learned that leg room is over-rated. I’ve discovered how to strategically place books, pillows and small accessories around myself (No, I wasn’t driving). Sure, it took 15 minutes for my husband to unbury me each time we stopped, but it worked.

And let me tell you, it’s incredible the things you see when you drive cross-country in 2 days. (I could see out my window if I looked over the winter jackets and pillows.) Torrential downpours and tornado warnings in one state & a few hours later in a different state, total sunshine & dry roads. Oh yes, there was that time of getting completely lost…in cornfields…at midnight. No exaggeration. By 9pm in Adel, Iowa, EVERYTHING is closed. It is a cute little town, but the sidewalks are rolled up at night. So if you need directions and your GPS isn’t working, you’ll be sad. However, the police dispatch there are extremely kind & can navigate any lost commuter out of even the thickest of cornfields…even in the middle of the night.

Oh, what memories. And I have to give so much credit to my husband. He is the best road trip buddy though. We load up on snacks & hit the road. One hour later, his wife is terribly thirsty. Possibly to the point of tears. So he’ll pull over to a place that has iced tea and head back to the highway. Yes, tea isn’t the best road trip drink, but that doesn’t matter. Then 2 hours later, that tea is trying to make a super quick escape, so of course, an urgent bathroom stop is desperately needed. What a patient man. And as many wonderful things that we were able to see along the way, there are definitely a few bathroom stops I’d like to forget about. I don’t care if you’re bathroom is dirty, I’ll just go to a different one. But please don’t advertise ‘clean restrooms’ when it’s a total and complete lie…and FYI, I think to be considered a “bathroom”, it must have a toilet. False advertising if you ask me. Unfortunately, some images can never, ever be erased.

As we drove through state, after state, after state, I kept thinking about how big God truly is. It was so special to see all the churches along the way. So many different houses of worship. A little tiny chapel nestled in a wheat field. A huge stone church smack dab in the middle of a downtown. Fellow brothers and sisters that love our Lord. We don’t know their names or stories, but they are definitely there. And God’s working in their hearts, their hurts, their lives and communities. So awesome, isn’t it? Be encouraged. We aren’t alone.

Romans 12:4-6 says, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well…”

The little church in the wheat field will touch the lives of people that you & I will never meet here on earth. The huge stone church in a busy downtown is refuge for hurting people whose faces we will never see. I am so encouraged and appreciative for the visual I got as we traveled. It has stirred an excitement and longing in my heart to faithfully pray for my brothers & sisters. I pray for daily renewal of their hearts & minds. May their words not be their own, but straight from the mouth of God. May the people around them be healed & transformed by Jesus through acts of kindness, love and truth.

1 Corinthians 15:58, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”

Nothing we do for the Lord is useless, whether it’s a small act of kindness or a huge act of love.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 13:11-12, “Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet each other with Christian love.”

I declare God faithful.

Do You See Me

I’m so excited to share this with you. My heart is experiencing something very intimate this week. 

I’ve been having a very special conversation with Jesus. It’s lasted a few days so far. I have a feeling it will last a while longer. I have needed it so badly. All I had to do was talk and start the conversation, then listen; and share truthfully what’s on my heart, but I haven’t. I don’t think I’ve been a very good listener lately. I’ve been talking way too much. Anyways, it’s been one of those conversations that a little girl has with her daddy. “Do you like my dress? Do I look beautiful? Am I important?” So let me tell you how this conversation started.

Last Sunday at church, while singing some worship songs with my beautiful church family, I also began to pray. “With so many wonderful people in this world who truly love You, do I stand out? Are the things I’m doing really making a difference to You? Do you see me?”

I knew what the answer was. I know that I’m so precious to Jesus that He died for me. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. But I guess I wasn’t really asking those questions. I think my heart just needed some affirmation from its Creator. But this is what my Savior does; He doesn’t just pour His comfort and love into me which would have been more than enough. Oh, no. He did something incredible.

As I opened my eyes from praying, I realized the light coming in from a nearby window was casting a shadow on the row in front of me. My shadow. It seemed strange because I had my husband to my close left & a friend to my right. But it was only casting my shadow. I could so clearly hear in my heart, “I see you.” I couldn’t help but to cry. I knew God was showing me this. He didn’t just tell me, He showed me. A minute or so went by and the light began pouring through all the colors of the stained glass window & a rainbow began to frame my shadow. He whispered to by heart, “And I delight in you.” My heart was overwhelmed. My Lord cares so much that I know how unique & beautiful I am to Him, that He specifically showed me.

I wrote out some things I was feeling because I wanted to hear God’s voice in them. That’s the great thing about being in a relationship with God. When I talk, He answers. When I listen, He’s talking to me as well. Here are some of the things I’ve been crying out to my God, and also the things He’s sharing with me. I pray you are encouraged and find hope & excitement in it. This is a conversation He’s having with you too.

“Do you see me in this crowd, Lord? Am I beautiful to You? Does my heart please You? The darkness sometimes feels so heavy. I want to see Your light pierce through this prison. The enemy is persistent. My strength is feeling depleted.”

And here is His reply:

“My daughter whom I died for,

Oh yes, I see you. I saw you before any other eyes were captured by your beauty. I created your inmost being; I knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). And even before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).

There is not a part of you that I don’t understand. There is not a piece of you that I do not love. There is not a hurt you have that I will not heal. I think about you; I’m with you every moment of every day. You are my masterpiece. I created you anew in Christ Jesus, so you can do the good things I planned for you long ago (Ephesians 2:10). I take delight in you with gladness. With my love, I will calm all your fears. I rejoice over you with joyful songs (Zephaniah 3:17).

I am so pleased with you when you do what you know is right (1 Peter 2:19). I don’t ask for perfection, I ask for willingness and obedience. Our relationship is an ongoing, always deepening one. It’s a journey. And I’m so pleased that you’re chasing Me.

When you laugh, My heart leaps. And when you cry, I want only to comfort you. I know there are times when your heart aches. I give you My true joy and peace. I am ever so close to you when you are brokenhearted and I will save you when you feel your spirit is crushed (Psalm 34:18). There is not a hole deep enough, or a darkness strong enough to keep Me from you. You are always in the palm of My hand. Nothing can change that. No one can take you from Me.

My light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome Me (John 1:5). You, dear daughter, are from Me and have overcome them, because I am in you and I am greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Don’t rely on your own limited strength. You are not meant to. It is I who arm you with strength and keep your way secure (2 Samuel 22:33). Look to Me for My strength; seek My face always (1 Chronicles 16:11). I have already overcome the enemy. The victory is already yours.”

Talk to your Savior about everything that’s going on in your heart. The pretty stuff, the ugly stuff, & everything in between. He’s listening & does not judge you when you’re having a bad day. He has incredible things He wants to tell you & show you! You never have to wonder if He’s listening. He is. I declare Him 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!