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Take courage

Fear is a choice.

This is something I’ve learned recently. In this crazy spring. (2020 we will not forget you.)

Fear is everywhere in America. Fear of a virus. Fear of being alone. Fear of not having enough food. Fear of losing a job. Fear of being judged. Fear of being shot. Fear of those people. Fear of that group. Fear of those who should protect us. Fear of people who look different from us. Fear of riots. Fear of economic depression. Fear of a growing divide in our country. Fear of rejection for who we are. Fear of government control. And the list goes on and on…

Fear is everywhere right now.

But, ya know what? We don’t have to give in to it. We don’t.

Fear is a choice. And we don’t have to choose it.

You see, fear is Satan’s trademark. It is his operating system. He wants it to be like the WiFi in your house: everywhere…you can’t see it, but any moment you can hook right up to it.

For most of my life, fear was like oxygen. I just breathed it in and out constantly. It was always with me, even when I wasn’t aware of it. Sometimes I would forget and feel happy, but wait a minute or two and that fog of fear would be around me again.

Reading my Bible and singing praise songs have the best affect on making that fog leave. However, two things that have really made a difference lately have been a book I read and a comment my pastor said.

The book is Fear is a Liar by Daniel B Lancaster. In his book, Lancaster refers to the verse “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) He says that believers in Jesus can claim this verse , knowing that God is Love. We can either choose to walk in the path of love or the path of fear. Love is right there to keep us safe and free, but we so often ignore it and choose to walk in fear. From that moment on, I chose to walk on the path of love.

The comment that impacted me was when my pastor pointed out the other day that Jesus often said, “Take courage!” (Matthew 14:27, Mark 6:50, and so many more times.) My pastor, Steve Gaines, emphasized that we have to take courage. He said, “Take it! Pick it up! It’s right there for you to take!” It’s a choice.

Both of these instances made me realize I don’t have to sit there, overwhelmed in fear! I’m not a victim. I am a victor! I can choose the path of love! I can choose to “take courage” and trust the Lord! After all, He is faithful. He is sovereign. I have nothing to fear. My Father rules the universe!

Fear is a choice. Choose courage. Choose faith. Choose love.

This is the Day Challenge

I was flipping through my coloring Bible today and I came across the page where I had colored in a drawing of Psalms 118:24.

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm118:24

We used to have to sing this song every week at the little Christian school I went to for grades 1-5. We got so tired of singing it over and over, and it seemed to mean nothing.

But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that this verse is not just a comforting truth (that God designed this day); it’s also a challenge.

It’s a challenge to us to see every day—with its good and bad parts—as a blessing appointed by God. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like a blessing—some days seem full of curses–but many bad times are blessings in disguise. God promises us that he works out all things for our good (see Romans 8:28); therefore, all our days are blessed days, whether or not we can see the blessing in it yet.

Would you join me in this?

The This is the Day Challenge!

I challenge you to post this verse somewhere you can see it each day and to either write down or post a picture of something you found to be a blessing that day! Something you found that was rejoicable! (Is that a word?)

Let’s see if we can make a difference in this broken world. Or at least in our attitudes.

Go out and have a blessed day!

5 Life-Changing Truths I Learned From My Mother

“Write an essay about the person in history that has most greatly influenced your life.” The teacher stated the prompt as she wrote it on the board. It was tenth grade, and I was quickly searching my brain’s data base for the subject of my essay. Although I wanted to sound intellectual and impress the teacher, I could not deny the fact that the person who had impacted my life the most was not a president or a Civil Rights activist. It was my mother.

Nothing has changed since then. My mom is still the person that has most greatly impacted me. You see, I was blessed to get the best. I know everyone says that, but mine really is the best. Although she raised four children and worked off and on during my childhood, she still found time to help anyone who needed it and to be very involved in our church. When her mother became elderly, my mom jumped right in and took care of her–despite their strained relationship. My mother gives until she has no more to give. She is one of the most selfless, humble, and compassionate people I know. She’s now retired, but she continues to volunteer at the church, go on mission projects overseas, teach ESL to immigrant women, and take care of grandchildren. She gets paid for none of it. And to top it off, she’s wise–really wise. I once told a therapist something that my mom had told me all the time growing up, and the therapist said in a matter-of-fact way, “I didn’t know your mom was a therapist!” My mother’s wisdom got me through so many trials in my life, and if she didn’t have the right words to say she pointed me to the Book that did.

So, now that Mother’s Day is approaching yet again, I wanted to share with you the blog post I started last May but couldn’t finish. These are five of the many things I learned from my wise and loving mother. I hope they bless you as much as they have me.

1. People Matter More Than Things

Throughout my childhood whenever things would break, my mom would recite, “Well, people matter more than things!” And that was that. Even if it was something of hers, or the new lamp in the living room. No matter what. People are more important. Relationships are more important. Things will come and go, relationships are what last. She is like a saint, but, no, she wasn’t just born this unattached to material things. She got this philosophy from Jesus. It’s how he lived and loved. And he is the love of her life (no offense, Dad, she still loves you!), and she imitates Jesus. He taught that “Heaven and Earth will pass away…” and that knowing God and loving others is all that lasts for eternity. And if we believe something, we live it. Even if it’s hard. Even if means we choose time with an elderly relative over going shopping or that we don’t scream at our kid when they break something. Relationships before stuff. Before comfort. Before me, me, me. I’m so thankful to have learned this truth, and it has been a huge blessing in all of my relationships.

2. It’s Not All About Me

My poor mother was a full-time mom, teacher, and shoulder to cry on for most of my childhood. My adolescence was plagued with social anxiety, so Mom became my resident counselor almost nightly. I often followed her around lamenting my lack of social status at the well-to-do Christian school that my parents scrimped and saved for us to go to. (Yes, we were those “poor” kids at the private school that had five rotating outfits and never went to Disney World over spring break.) I cried to her over and over again that “I have no friends!” And she patiently listened and asked, “Have you been a friend?” To which I would roll my eyes and whine, “Mahhh-ahm!” You see, my mom taught me to put others before myself. She told me to think about them instead of about me. She often said, “When you walk into a room, instead of wondering what they think of you, find someone who needs a friend and ask them about themselves.” Mom believes that if you focus on the other person–listening to them, encouraging them, asking them about their life–you will forget about you and your insecurities. And it worked. Focusing on others brought a confidence and freedom, and I gained a lot of new friends! (Nowadays, you might say it worked too well…I never meet a stranger and I love to talk! Ask my poor husband!)

3. God Comes First

My mama loves the Lord Jesus, and it shows. I often saw her with her Bible open in front of her, and it affected all parts of her life. She lives her faith. For real. And she taught us that God is number one. He is the Creator of the world, the Lover of our souls, the Prince of Peace, the King of kings, the Counselor, Confidant, and Friend. We went to church every week, and to Christian school, but it wasn’t just “religion” to my family. My parents took time to read us God’s Word (and maybe also a Chronicles of Narnia book) as a family almost every night. We actually talked about God’s Word and how it affects our lives. Even when each of us hit our rebellious teen years, we had been taught enough about the awesomeness of God and His Word that we did not stray far from the fold.

4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

One of my favorite parts of the Bible is 2 Corinthians. It seems like Paul, the author, writes over and over about how we humans mess up. We are weak. Or forgetful. Or selfish. Or disorganized. Or rude. Or we ignore that person we knew in middle school when we see them at Walmart, because they were once that “nerd” that everyone made fun of. (Ugh, yes, I did that once. Not proud.) Paul writes, “We are like treasures in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:7). And in chapter 12, verse 9, God says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This is one of the big life lessons Mom taught, and still lives out: Don’t worry about your failures or your imperfections. God is bigger than that. It doesn’t matter to him. That stuff is “small stuff.” Now, we can learn from our failures and do better next time. But my mother taught us not to dwell on them. What seems like “big stuff” to the rest of the world, really isn’t that important. Material success or fame or the approval of other people don’t matter. “Don’t worry about that, Lauren,” she still tells me. “God will handle it.” All problems are “small stuff” to our God, who cares about each detail but never worries. He’s got it all under control.

5. This Too Shall Pass

Finally, the phrase I have heard numerous times–especially when I had a newborn at home–is “This too shall pass.” I don’t know who originally coined that phrase, but my mom has stolen from them pretty often. But I’m glad. Because it’s true. And this truth has helped me get through some really tough times. Break-ups. Labor. Divorce. My first baby’s bout of colic. Migraines. Working two jobs as a single mom of three. Depression…Mom has always been there to remind me lovingly that this trial is temporary. And one day we’ll be in Heaven, and all of these hard times will be blurry memories. Keep perspective. It’s gonna get better. And then life will be hard again. And then it will get better. Rinse and repeat. But we know where our future is and the Creator of the universe has us in his hands. We don’t have to worry. The story ends well for those who follow Jesus.

As I finish this tribute to my heroine, I want to say that if you don’t have a Mama like mine: I’m sorry. If you met mine, she would give you a big hug and make you feel like one of the family. However, Jesus, the source of her joy, is there for you. He is a “father to the fatherless” and a comforter to the lonely. He will listen to your problems, and his Word (the Bible) will speak back to you words of hope. If you have any questions or would like to know this Prince of peace, please fell free to contact me at lnewsom77@protonmail.com. The Bible says, “He puts the lonely in families…” (Psalms 68:6).

God bless you and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

love,
Lauren
Me and Mom

Is Your House Safe?

As I sit in my new office—er, living room—reading about the effects of covid-19, I see something happening. Americans have had a big wake up call. Our comfy lifestyles have been uprooted. The busy-equals-important mindset is being tested. Americans are having to face themselves. We are having to be still, stay home, and breathe.

This sudden pause in “life as we know it” is hard, but it may actually be good for us. Suddenly, we are having to cut out what isn’t important. Instead of running to the store to pick up something on a whim, we’re having to stop and think about if we really need it or not. Instead of staying on the run, barely spending time at home, we are having to stay home with the people who really are the most important to us anyway. Up until now we have been so comfortable–we think we shouldn’t have to do anything unless it’s easy and shouldn’t have to wait for anything for more than a few minutes.

Life has changed. It may go back to “normal” soon, but it may not. Economists are predicting this temporary halt to life will bring a huge financial crisis. Life in the Western Hemisphere may not return to it’s easy state for a long time.

This catastrophe has forced us to look at our lives. What are we missing? Which parts of our former lives do we miss the most? Are we distraught without all of our social functions and our indulgent pleasures?

What our our lives built on?

This reminds me of a story about two houses on an island. One house was built on a cliff of rock. The house was traditional and plain, but the foundation was strong and secure. The second house had been built on the beach. The view was amazing, and the house drew lots of attention. The owner had tons of parties and everyone envied his lifestyle.

Well, a huge storm came to the island–bigger than any storm anyone on the island had ever witnessed. The wind and the rain beat on those houses with such force that the walls shook. The house on the cliff stood strong in the storm. However, the beautiful house on the beach was overcome by the rising tide, and eventually it crumbled into the sea.

This story comes from a story Jesus told in the Bible. In the book of Matthew, chapter 7 he said,

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

The covid-19 crisis is causing us to realize what our lives are built on. Our lives are being shaken up like a storm. We are finally having to look at ourselves. What is most important to us? What is it about my life that I’ve had the hardest time giving up? What have I been the most anxious about during this time?

Our values are revealed by what we fear. It is normal to have some fear and anxiety, but if you are overwhelmingly afraid about not having money or about losing your fancy possessions or not getting to buy the next new smartphone, something is off.

Is the house of your life safe? Where have you built your foundation? Have you built your house on the rock? Or have you built your house on the sand? It’s easier to numb our problems with drinking, a new relationship, Netflix, etc., but the problems are still there. The crash is inevitable.

In chapter 71 of the book of Psalms it says, “for you {God} are my rock and my fortress…O Lord, you alone are my hope.” (verses 3 and 5) He is the only one who is true and dependable and loves us with an unending love. God is our Rock.

God’s got you. Pick up your shattered hopes and discard your fears. Start today and rebuild on the only real foundation. He will hold you up. He will get us through this storm.

If you have further questions about knowing God and finding your Rock, feel free to email me at lnewsom77@protonmail.com

love, Lauren

Once Upon a…Now?

Have you ever felt like there is more? Like this world is lacking something? Like that beautiful sunset has something amazing behind it or that love really was meant to last forever?

I think we are supposed to feel this way. We’re supposed to feel like something is off. Like this world is not really our home. Because it’s not. If you are a follower of Jesus, then this is not your home. Not really.

You may have seen glimpses of it in fairy tales or movies like The Matrix. These stories get us thinking. We step back and think, “Is life really what it seems?” I love the Disney series “Once Upon a Time.” The first season opens with the heroine (who thinks she’s a regular person) getting dragged to a town called Storybrook by a boy who claims he’s her son. As the season unfolds, she and other characters start to “wake up” and realize that they are really characters from fairy tales (Snow White, Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.) who have been trapped in this town in Maine because a witch cast an evil curse. Everyone in the town is a character in a story, but they have been living this boring little life in this small town for years, thinking they are just “regular people.” The characters speak about “magic” and its effects, and good and bad struggle openly in each episode.

“Once Upon a Time” and other stories like this always leave me with a wistfulness similar to nostalgia. Almost like these stories are talking about me.

Actually, don’t think I’m crazy, but…I believe they are. Fairy tales and other world adventures are more than mere reflections of reality. They are pointing to the real story.

Recently I stumbled across a verse in Philippians that made me catch my breath. In chapter one, verse 27 it says, “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven…”

Citizens of Heaven. That’s it.

We are also characters from an amazing story, stuck temporarily in a place that is not our home. We are “citizens of heaven” living here in this decaying, evil world. This is not the end of the story. We are more important and more eternal than we realize. We are stuff of story books. We are princes and queens and heroes. We just live in a place where our identities get confused and our powers are not apparent.

So, how do I live now that I realize my citizenship is really there? I’m just passing through this place. These heartaches and temptations and disappointments and migraines are not the real story. There is more. There is an adventure grander than any I could imagine. It is coming after this life is over. It will make all the pain and loneliness here worth it. It will complete all the hopes and dreams that started in my little girl brain years ago.

So,…dream…gaze at the sunset…love with your whole heart. It will all be resolved. It will all be healed. And the ending is happier than you could ever imagine.

Love, Lauren

Of Husbands and Kings

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you’d be willing to put up with anything if you could have it?

I have. And apparently some people in the Bible have too. It didn’t go well for either of us.

I recently read a story in the book of 1 Samuel that the original Jews of Israel (“God’s chosen people”) were tired of just following God and some old prophet. They wanted a king for their people. Apparently all the other countries around them had kings. It was the trendy thing to have, I guess.

Well God said no. Then the people asked again. And then begged. Then pleaded. Finally, after many warnings about the problems and the bondage a king would cause them, God gave in. He gave them a king—they asked for this supposedly tall and super handsome guy named Saul—and…guess what? God was right. It was misery. The king took stuff from them, made their children work for him for little pay, and just generally made them feel not-free.

I can’t roll my eyes at these ancient people’s stupidity in this story. I’m just like them. I have so often forfeited God’s best for me so that I could get what I wanted. It has never worked out well. Probably the worst impatient mistakes I’ve made have had to do with men and relationships.

As I read about the people begging for a king the other day, I realized that had been me. Years ago I asked God for a husband. He didn’t deliver in my desired timing, so I begged and manipulated until I got what I thought I wanted. Within a couple months I realized I had gotten what I thought I wanted, but it was not what I had hoped for. It turned out my husband was an alcoholic and drug addict who had a love of going out with the guys and chatting up women who were not his wife.

I ended up in misery and captivity like the people of Israel. I spent several years trying to make it work, but the drugs and lies tore down any chance for fixing the marriage.

We tend to think we know what’s best for us. Sometimes we’d “sell our souls” to get it. But God knows best. His will is the best plan. Every time.

Psalm 84:10-12 tells how God’s plan for us is better than anything else. Verse 10 says being in God’s presence is better than anywhere else. In verse 12 it says God never holds back good things from those who truly follow him.

Psalm 84:10-12

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!…For the Lord is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right…What joy for those who trust in You!”

God knows what I need, and every time I stray from his way I regret it. (For examples read my earliest blog posts that tell about my marriage mistakes.) I will leave you with a song that my dear Irish friend used to sing with her flute and her lovely accent:

Jesus, all for Jesus;

All I am and have and ever hope to be;

Jesus, all for Jesus;

All I am and have and ever hope to be.

For it’s only in your will that I am free;

For it’s only in your will that I am free…”

(Author unknown)

3 Things We Christians Tend to Get Wrong

I received a call from a relative today who was hurt by another family member over an issue that had erupted into a larger problem because of gossip. On top of that, a cousin, who lives an alternative lifestyle, is coming in town for the holidays and fears being judged by our very churchy family.

The hurt and the gossip and the judging made me really sad. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, shouldn’t our family be one of the most loving families around?

This got me thinking and hunting in my Bible. Jesus came to shake up the planet. His time on this earth in human skin was not full of Sunday school and trips to Disneyland. It was a challenge! He brought a whole new controversial way of thinking and loving and living.

Why do we modern Christians not live more like that?

Something is wrong.

This thinking compelled me to write down some things we, the “holy huddle”, are really getting wrong. (Please note that I am guilty of many of these things myself.)

1. Being Judges. When Jesus was asked, “What is the most important commandment?” He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…and Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31). And in John 13:35, Jesus tells us that our love for others should be our trademark as Christians.

We Christ-followers should be the people most known for loving others. When people mention Christians, it should be followed by comments like “They are the nicest people I’ve ever met!” Or “They are the best people to do business with!”

But instead we are often known for judgmental comments on social media or for going to church on Sunday but acting like everyone else on Friday night. In my opinion the two areas Christians do the worst in are in political discussions and interacting with people who live alternative lifestyles.

In political discussions things can get heated quickly, and Christ followers should be the peacemakers. However, we are often the ones angrily expressing our views in all caps. We forget that God is not Democrat or Republican. He is not on the side of any political party or candidate. He is Lord over all governments and leaders and He is ultimately in control. If we realize that and trust that God holds the future, we will not be so fear-driven and unloving as we express our opinions. We also need to remember that God tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), so these differences should be another chance to show kindness and patience.

As far as interacting with people of alternative lifestyles, this should be where we Christians represent Christ the most. However, the LGBTQ community is probably one of the groups that feels the most unloved by Christians. Jesus spent time with the people who didn’t fit into society. The religious leaders accused Him of being a “sinner” and a “drunkard” (Luke 7:34) because Jesus spent time with the “outcasts” of the religious world. We Christians should not be any different. We should be a safe place for people who feel rejected and confused. We should show love to all people, even those who live in a way we wouldn’t always agree with. The church should be a location of love and acceptance. Who knows? Our kindness and friendship could be the way someone finds a relationship with Christ!

2. Being too Comfy. We Christians are way too comfortable in the U.S. Our lives are very different from the lives of Christians in many other countries, as well as from the lives of Christians in the first Century. Those Christians were persecuted, yet they continued in their faith. They wouldn’t give up, and many of them died because they truly lived for what they believed. Many Christians today don’t even want anyone to know they’re a Christian.

Another problem we Western Christians have is that our lives are too easy. We are spoiled. Even the ones of us that struggle with money the most are still doing better than those in developing countries. When I was a single mom years ago, we temporarily lived on food stamps, and I struggled desperately to pay bills. However, I was still better off than many families in other countries. My kids and I never went without food, heat, water, or clothes. We Christians in America have become too comfortable. We have most of what we really need, and we don’t often have to ask God for miracles. Consequently, we’re pretty content to live lives of convenience and materialism. We buy ourselves the latest technology and don’t bat an eyelid at spending $5 on a cup of coffee. If we want something we can order it online at the touch of a button. If we’re hot we turn on the air conditioning. Hungry? Call Uber Eats and have it delivered. Our lives are centered on our comfort. Ease and convenience have become our goals. Yet God rarely works through convenience. He often shakes us up and asks us to step out of our comfort zones. If we are committed to convenience we are not available to do whatever God asks us to do at a moment’s notice. Also, if we are too comfortable we will be lulled to complacency and our faith will grow weak.

3. Being Hypocritical. Not only did Jesus say that we are to be known by our love, but Christians are to be different from the rest of the world. He said we should be salt and light to the world (Matthew 5), meaning our loving contrast from the world should point people to God.

Unfortunately, we Christians are not that different from the rest of the culture. We often live the same way as everyone else: watch the same tv shows, wear the same clothes, and use the same words. Now I’m not advocating hiding away, wearing long robes or throwing out our iPhones. But there should be a difference. This world is not our home. We should not be too comfortable here on earth. The Bible says we Christians are like strangers to this world and we shouldn’t participate in the sin around us (1 Peter 2:11). We should still be loving friends and neighbors, but we should stand out as different. Not perfect, but different.

I should point out here that every human being is a hypocrite. We all, at some point in our lives, say we believe one thing but live the contrary. Every human goes against their own personal goals at some point (for instance: How long do New Year’s resolutions last?). One problem Christians face is that, since we are still sinners that need Jesus and His forgiveness daily, we mess up a lot. Those mistakes can result in us being called “hypocrites.” I would encourage any brothers or sisters in Christ, if you are tagged a hypocrite, don’t become defensive. Acknowledge your need for Jesus, search your heart, ask for forgiveness if necessary, and show love to your accuser. Let this be a chance to show how imperfect Christians are and how Christ uses broken vessels like us (2 Corinthians 4:7).

In conclusion, we followers of Jesus have much to learn. We are constantly growing and failing, getting back up and repeating it all again. The hope is that we let God change us and we grow to be more like Him over time. One of my favorite passages is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, where it says God can actually use me more when I’m weak and willing to let Him work in me. When we let Him live in us and use us, we connect ourselves to a channel of love more powerful than anything else in this world. Fellow believers, let Him change you. Let Him use you. Let’s let Him fill our hearts with His love so that we will get out of our comfort zones and live lives that are full of salt and light!

Thanks for reading.

Your imperfect sister in Christ, Lauren

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:9-10

Do you really know how to love?

If someone asked you to make a list of the people who you really, truly love, how many names would you come up with?

Ok, now answer this question: How many of those people would you still love if they betrayed you? Or hurt someone you loved? Or caused you to lose your job? How many of them would you still love if they publicly rejected you? If they tried to turn everyone against you? If they became absolutely unlovable?

Most people would take a few names off the list. Some might even throw the whole list away. Not many people would continue to show love to someone who hurt them like that. It wouldn’t seem logical to consider those people worthy of our time.

Most people have a maximum amount of abuse they will take before considering the other person unlovable. The average human would feel it’s more than reasonable to turn their back on someone once they’ve reached this point. I admit I sometimes feel completely justified in treating these people less kindly, or at least giving them the cold shoulder. Most of us definitely wouldn’t go out of our way to be nice to them. Nobody would look down on us for defriending them on Facebook or even for telling everyone how much they hurt us.

Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about how God views things so differently. When my husband really hurts my feelings, I want to ignore him all day. (Not that chill type of ignoring; more like the really obvious, slamming doors kind of ignoring!) During our worst fights I’ve even struggled with wanting to take the kids and leave.

But God has been teaching me something lately about love. I’m not really living his love until I’m loving the unlovable.* It’s easy to love people who are nice to you and cute little babies (except when they wake you up at 4 am). Jesus loved beyond our earthly, shallow love. He loved us at our worst, and his love was action, not just words.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus Christ didn’t tell us to get our crap together and maybe after we were living like “good Christians” He’d consider sacrificing for us. He gave His life for us without strings attached. He knew all the bad things you and I would do in our lives (cuz He’s God, He knows everything!) and He still made that choice. That’s love.

In his book, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt, Jentezen Franklin writes, “You have to love like you’ve never been hurt. You have to refuse to be bitter. You have to refuse to get angry. You have to refuse to get even. When you love in this way, God will raise you up and use even the worst that has been done to you for His glory.”

This is real love. Love that chooses to be kind, forgive, serve, stay married, show up, etc. Even when that person doesn’t deserve it. Especially if that person doesn’t deserve it.

So I’ve realized that before now I wasn’t really loving my husband. I was only showing love when I thought he deserved it. God wants to transform our marriage and use it to bring joy to us and others. In order for that to happen I’ve got to love like Jesus. He’s the one who taught me how to really love.

*(Note: I’m not saying you should endure abuse. There are times you have to love people from a safe space and pray they get help they need. If you are in a relationship where you are afraid of what someone will do next—physically or mentally—get out, get to a safe place, and find some safe people! I’ve been there before, and God does not want you staying in danger like that.)

The Opposite of Facebook

In 2007 I discovered this amazing website on the internet where you could reconnect with old friends and post pictures of your life. It was a brand new concept. Right in front of me were pictures of my childhood best friend’s daughter and posts from my friend in Japan. And, oh, how great it felt to get likes on my pictures! This became a whole new obsession.

I have reconnected with so many old friends through Facebook, and sometimes it really makes me feel like I have community around me. Likes, congratulations, and birthday wishes are just some of the confidence boosters it gives. Scientists have even said that positive social media interactions can set off “feel good” chemicals in the brain. It’s like a screen high!

Facebook is also a great place to be in a community without having to even put on a bra. Just open up a screen and there’s friends and family at your fingertips. And now lots of other social media sites have sprung up to connect us to the world from our sofas at home.

The problem, however, is that Facebook has become the bragging ground that we build our self esteem upon. The place to show off all the pretty and none of the ugly. I get it. I’m not usually gonna tell my darkest secrets or my biggest failures on Facebook. It’s the place where I put the good selfies and the pics of the times my kids did something right. Facebook and other social media sites see me at my best.

“The problem, however, is that Facebook has become the bragging ground that we build our self esteem upon.”

And that’s the problem. Everyone’s doing it. Everyone’s putting on their best face for everyone else. It’s like the girl who wears the fake eyelashes and the push up bra, and then you see her in sweats and no makeup at Walmart and you don’t recognize her. (Not judging. Can totally relate.)

We are all bragging to each other like a daily photo resume. We’re promoting ourselves: just the good, no bad. We are trying to look as pretty as that girl from high school or as happy as the cousin we always envied. But it’s not healthy. It’s not real. It’s not really us.

It’s the opposite of how the Bible teaches us to live. Jeremiah 9:23-24 says:

“Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.”

Jesus is the only thing I can brag on. He’s the only part of me that should make me feel confident. His name should lift me up more than all the likes on the best selfie I’ve ever taken.

God’s view of life is so opposite of ours. We tend to value appearances. He values the heart. We value success. He values compassion. We feel good when everyone likes us. God wants us to look to Him for approval because His likes are all that matter.

Social media is great, but we need to constantly ask ourselves, “Am I living for His likes or the likes of the world?”

Thanks for reading. Oh, and don’t forget to like my post! 😉

Little Tastes of Heaven

I took my sweet little kindergartener to see Aladdin tonight. It was great, and she squealed with excitement throughout half the movie.

As we watched Aladdin and Jasmine soar through the sky on a magic carpet, I recalled watching the animated Aladdin movie with my little sister in the 90’s.

Back then, as a teenager, I was so full of hope and excitement about how my life would turn out, whom I would marry, where I would live. I had watched the romantic scenes, thinking that once I found the “right” man, life would be a constant romantic high. I was sure my future husband would always see me as beautiful and we would love each other eternally.

Now I know different.

Romance comes with a high at first, but, like a high from a drug, the thrill is short. These little highs of romance remind me of eating dessert. Think about a time when you really really wanted chocolate cake–maybe you were on a diet or trying to eat healthy, but you seriously craved chocolate. When you tasted the first few bites it was amazing, but with each bite you could taste it less and less. At the end of the binge you’re left with nothing but regret, which tastes worse than anything.

That’s how romance is. It draws you in, promising a thrill that probably beats the high of winning the lottery. But that exciting feeling doesn’t last. You might feel little sparks of it at times, but–just like the piece of chocolate cake–it doesn’t last long.

So many things in life are fleeting like that.

Every time I go on vacation I spend months planning for it and dreaming of smelling the sea breeze, but when we get there it seems to go too quickly and it’s not as exciting as last time. It seems like it’s over in a flash, and I don’t realize how much fun I had until I’m back home!

It’s like that with my kids. I have little moments now and then where I feel this echo of eternity. I’m lying on the sofa with a toddler asleep beside me, or I’m riding along in the car laughing hysterically with my teenage daughter, who has decided she actually likes me today.

I think, “I wish this moment could last forever!” And I feel like it should for some reason, but it doesn’t. The toddler wakes up and throws a fit, or the teenager retreats back into her glares when I remind her of her chores.

These moments, like romance, are fleeting.

I do still have romantic moments. Sometimes my husband caresses my hand in church or we dance and gaze into each other’s eyes at a wedding. But most of real life is not like a magic carpet ride. It’s every day, plain, difficult, boring, and maybe even pleasant sometimes.

When I taught high school I used to tell my students, “Everyone seems to think that life is like your favorite TV show, with some bad commercials thrown in once in awhile. The fun parts are the show and the hard times are the commercial breaks. But actually, the hard times of life are the show part–the longer segments–and the fun (and romantic) parts of life are the three minute commercial breaks.” It sounds depressing maybe, but it’s true.

The carpet rides are the exceptions.

I say all this because I’ve accepted that this world is not my home. As Christians we are not supposed to get too comfortable here. We are only passing through.

Therefore, I can accept that this world is not going to satisfy me. I will not find lasting happiness, fun, romance, or perfect hair. Nothing lasts on this earth, and nothing here completely fulfills our souls.

The only complete happiness will come in heaven. And until we are there we will feel incomplete. We will long for a longer kiss or another taste or more time with our kids.

C.S. Lewis wrote that we long for heaven, because that’s what we were made for. The reason it feels like those beautiful moments should last forever is that they should. And they will. Eventually. God gave us these desires and has even allowed us to live in this world of temporary pleasures so that we will long for home and for Him.

These teasers are getting us ready for the best place we’ve ever lived and teaching us to crave Him and His help to make it in this world.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 27:4 which says:

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

The Lord is beautiful and being in His presence is like all the Christmases and birthdays we’ve ever had. No chocolate cake or romantic stroll compares.*

So next time you watch a romantic movie and sigh and think, “Why isn’t my life like that?” Remember that you were made for more. You will have that happy ending one day, but right now all we get is little tastes of Heaven.

*(Note: This is if you’ve got a relationship with Jesus. If you have questions about that, feel free to email me at thesearch4happilyeverafter@gmail.com.)