Loved

I was raised in a Christian home. My upbringing included Sunday School on Sunday mornings, Youth Group on Wednesday nights, and Small Group on Fridays. From an early age, God quickly became the most important person in my life.

I can remember the first time I raised my hands in worship during Sunday School. I would spend hours in prayer at church camp in the summer. My journals are filled with prayers and questions – looking to God for the answers.

Growing into adulthood, the godly women in my life encouraged me to spend intentional time alone with God, where you read your bible and pray. And I have done my best to make this a priority for the last 10 years. They’ve never been the perfect “hour every morning with a cup of coffee”, and they’ve never been perfectly consistent, but spending time in the Word and in prayer has continued to grow in importance the older I get.

I have had many seasons in life where I’ve felt alive in Christ. I’ve felt his love wash over me and my times with him have been fruitful and life giving. But this year, my times in solitude with the Lord started to get frustrating.  I was leaving each time upset and irritated. I couldn’t feel God. I couldn’t hear him. The logical solution was that I was doing something wrong. So, I would try getting up before work to start my day off right. I kept falling asleep, so I’d plan out exactly what I would read. When that didn’t work, I’d try spontaneity – just opening up anywhere in the bible and reading. I gave devotional reading a shot. I tried focusing on prayer alone. I gave reading a book by a Christian author. Nothing worked.

It wasn’t until just recently that I was able to finally voice the lie that had been planted in my heart. Luke and I were driving home from a dear friends funeral, and I don’t remember exactly how it came up or how the conversation wound its way there, but I remember telling Luke with tears in my eyes… I don’t think God loves me.

Just voicing this to Luke and identifying it caused blinders to off my eyes. I can see it now. I was trying to earn his love. I realized on that car ride home that I had been trying to earn his presence by getting up early each morning. I was trying to be good enough for him to speak to me by doing all the right things. I was trying to come up with ways to manipulate him into speaking to me.

But as I remembered the overarching story of the Bible, the truth became so clear: I cannot, under any circumstances, earn his love. 

Romans 5:6-11 says,

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

God chased after us, even while we rejected him. God extended his love to us, even when we failed, yet again. God sealed the deal, even while we sat covered in our sin – paralyzed by our inability to measure up.

Psalm 23:6 says,
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

He pursues us.

I hope you can begin to walk in this freedom today, too. I encourage you to spend time with the Lord, knowing, believing, and declaring that he loves you.  Let this truth wash over you:

You are loved. You are his.

It’s all how you look at it…

When I was fresh out of my parents house about 12 years ago, I had big dreams of having a beautiful house, a nice car, and fancy furnishings. I figured since my parents had all those things, it was only natural that I’d have them too. Immediately.

What I didn’t realize at that time was how much work, and even character building, went into attaining them.

Ten years ago, I remember getting into a rut of being dissatisfied with everything. At that time, I didn’t have my dream career, and my very real worry was if my car was going to get me to work and back, or if it would leave me stranded yet again. I was drowning in debt, and doing everything possible to not sink deeper. Looking at some of our peers during that time was simply discouraging – they seemed to be light-years ahead of us with their beautiful homes and fancy vehicles.

But what I learned is that we have the choice to embrace what we have and make the most of the journey.

In Exodus 20:17, we’re commanded not to desire what our friends have. This commandment says,

“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

What caught me off guard was the part where it says, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor. I was doing fine at not desiring my girlfriend’s husband, or her servants or livestock (because she didn’t have any). But that last bit…?

Why? Why would God command us not to desire what our friends have? The answer is pretty interesting the more you think about it. If you don’t have something you want, what does that lead to? Disappointment. Ungratefulness. Unhappiness. Resentment. Bitterness. Anger. Contempt.

The fruit of coveting your neighbors things goes downhill fast. None of it is good, for you or anyone else.

But what if we were thankful?

One of my most memorable rentals was in this small community of town houses in Fort Collins, Colorado. Off the second bedroom, we had this teeny, tiny balcony with just enough room for two little chairs. The view was not desirable, as it looked out onto a busy street. You couldn’t even see the mountains. It was kind of noisy and busy. Other people in this community hardly used theirs because of these reasons. You could pass it off as useless.

But as I chose thankfulness, I saw something different…

It was walled-in on three sides, making it a safe, private place. Although it looked out over a busy street, it didn’t look into anyone’s back yard or windows. We got the beautiful morning sun in the summer, and it was cool in the afternoons and evenings. It had a roof so I could sit out and enjoy the rain. I even added a cute little flower box to the railing so I can grow some of my favorite flowers. And the best part of it all, Luke built me a custom fit L-shaped balcony couch, to which I added comfy cushions and pillows.

It became a safe haven for me during the time that we lived there. I spent hours out there reading and journaling. I loved every bit of it, and to this day it remains one of my most favorite outdoor spaces.

I say all this to encourage you to look at your life, and make the most of what you have – get creative and turn it into something you love. Don’t be in a hurry to have it all. Learn to live with less. These hard fought lessons will carry through the rest of your life.

Begin to see things through eyes of thankfulness. Your dream career won’t be the key to your happiness. And although a new car will solve some problems, it will still break down. But right now, use this time to appreciate the little things that make life so rich.

This is how you can have it all, without having it all.

 

Goodbye Thirst

A couple weeks ago, Luke took me to McDonalds for some French fries and a Coke. We then went over to Napa Auto Parts to grab a new starter for my car, which had quit working the previous day. It was a relaxing Saturday afternoon, and we were kind of in celebratory mode a little bit. We were just getting out of a two-month-long busy stint, and we were feeling free kind of free.

While Luke was in Napa, I looked down at my cup of Coke and read the lid. It said Goodbye Thirst. My immediate thought was, …huh…that’s cute…, as a small smile lit my face.

But not a moment later, I felt the Holy Spirit begin to whisper to me. He reminded me of the story in John 4 where Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman. He said to her, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

I felt the Holy Spirit ask me what I had been thirsting for in these past two months. The answers came quickly.

Belonging.

Acceptance.

Community.

Fulfillment.

But what the Holy Spirit reminded me of in that moment outside of Napa Auto Parts, was that I can go to other “wells” and drink from them, but my thirst will only be satisfied for a moment. I’ll just keep wandering, looking for other sources. Or digging too deep in an effort that is futile. But Jesus said that if we ask, he would give us water so that we will never thirst again. We will never feel lonely, rejected, isolated, or discontent. No, we would never be thirsty again.

I was given a beautiful gift that day in the way of a deeper revelation of how deeply Jesus cares for us. What he offers is the full package. The real deal.  Where the world tries to pawn off cheap substitutes.

I wasn’t looking for Jesus when Luke bought me that Coke. But He speaks to us in many ways, doesn’t he?

What is your burden today? What lays heavy on your heart? Go to Jesus, and let him show you how to say, “Goodbye, thirst.”

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