No Greater Love

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’ve always been impartial to Valentine’s Day.  It doesn’t excite me.  It doesn’t bother me.  I don’t really care about the gifting and you won’t find me buying $30 worth of gifts for my kiddos either.  Do I mind that others do it? Not at all.  As I said, I’m really indifferent.  I have no specific feelings about the holiday.

Of course, on Valentine’s Day, you can’t help but think of “love.”  I caught myself looking at old pictures this morning as I went down memory lane thinking about the guy I love.  I really love the guy I get to spend my life with, but that isn’t who I think of when I think of the most perfect love.

Many times, we love with conditions.  Of course, there was something that appealed to ME when I first came to notice the hubs.  He was pleasing on the eyes.  Then I came to love how calm and collected he was.  It worked well with my passionate, sometimes over-the-top personality.  I love how he aims to take care of me and our children.  I love how he never hesitates to help with one of our kids.

Do you hear a common factor in my descriptions? The common factor is me.  I didn’t just see him one day and decide “that’s the guy I’m going to love.”

Christian is completely different.  Christian love is a gift from God.  God’s love always takes the initiative.  He decided that I was worthy of love, regardless, or in spite of how I am.  When He was on the cross thousands of years ago, He displayed his love for me, before I was even formed.  How can I truly experience love? By knowing the kind of love that passes my understanding.  It’s not logical.  It doesn’t make sense.  So even when there are days that it’s not easy to love the hubs or there are days he’s acted in a way that doesn’t deserve love as a response, I can love him anyway.  Because perfect love isn’t contingent upon anything.  Perfect love is a gift.  When I struggle at giving it, I can look to the only, perfect example of love.  The gift of a love that I don’t deserve.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

The Struggle With Contentment

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Philippians 4:11-12

This is the mindset I strive for, yet struggle with constantly.  I also think it’s completely safe to say I’m not alone.  The Survey of Consumer Finances by the U.S. Federal Government said the average American credit card debt is $5,700.00.  The average American household carries $137, 063 in debt.  The U.S. Census Bureau also report the median household income is $59,039, which suggests that many of us are living beyond our means.

I feel the struggle constantly.  I feel content when I’m sitting in my house, surrounded by my family, knowing that we have food in our fridge, clothes on our bodies, and a roof over our heads.  Then I log online, or go to the store, and suddenly realize all of these items that I am lacking in life.  Contentment is something I’ve really been trying to focus on lately, so I wanted to share a few thoughts I am using right not to try to help myself with being content.

  1. I would be remiss if my first suggestions wasn’t to pray for God to give you a heart of contentment.  I am often requesting this myself and praying that He would help me to focus on my blessings more than what I am lacking.
  2. “Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.”  I am drooling over white Birkenstock sandals, and have been for probably a good half a year.  I already own a few pairs of Birks, so even if I could afford them, should I add another pair when I already have some in good condition?
  3. On the other hand, if I CAN’T at the moment (i.e. have to use a credit card to purchase) I probably shouldn’t.  A credit card is not actual money we have, it is a debt we would bring upon ourselves.
  4. If I didn’t know I needed that item before I logged online or went to the store, there is a great chance that I don’t really need the item.
  5. Lastly, I try to give myself some time if I feel like I am wanting something. If I really feel like I need a new flannel shirt, I give myself a month or so to sit on it.  Often times, if it was just a want on a whim, I won’t be thinking about it a month later.

After all this, I want to say, I don’t think it’s bad to treat yourself sometimes.  I just don’t think it’s worth going into debt and making other areas in life hard.  We live in a time where we are constantly receiving suggestions on what would make us happier, our outfits perfect, give us perfect skin, etc.  It is important, though, that we learn to discern the cost of these items.

Happiness is Not The Goal

It’s 2019! A time for new beginnings! A time for getting fit!  A time for being more intentional in time spent! A time for carving out more “me-time!”

None of these things are bad.  As a type-A, goal-oriented person, I love having lists to check off.  I love having goals to aim for.  I work better when I have an end point I’m working towards.  Having just finished another holiday season, I have focused on the word “happy” a lot.  My kids are “happy” with their new toys.  I’m happy with the break and being able to sleep in most every day.  We were happy when we are being entertained.  Yes, the holidays are a happy time for a lot of people.  Let’s not let happy be our goal, though.

As happy as my kids were with their new toys, I’ve (within the week or so following Christmas) heard from them about toys that would make them even happIER.  I would be happier if I was able to sleep in EVERY day.  We would all be happier if someone was entertaining us all the time.  One thing I have come to realize is that when being “happy” is our goal, there is always something that could make us “happier.”

Maybe 2019 will live up to every expectation that you have for yourself throughout the month of January.  Maybe you will welcome a child, lose that weight you’ve been itching to say good-bye to, get married, get engaged, move closer to family, etc.  Maybe you will lose a family member, experience infertility, lose a job, move away from family, etc.  Let’s not discount the growth that can occur during the hard times as well.

I hope in 2019, you are able to live life.  Live it in the good, the bad, the plenty, and the want.  All situations can be used for good.  All situations can bring about growth.  I would even argue that my biggest growth occurred when experiencing some of my darkest times.  The one thing in life that is constant is change.  Life will keep changing as long as you are here.  Don’t lose hope in the hard times.  Don’t let “happy” be your goal in life.  Yes, we will experience moments that give us happiness, but don’t let that be your goal in each day.

Be content in knowing that every single day is a new beginning (not just the beginning of the New Year), that some days will be hard, some days will hurt, but it is not in vain.  All things can be used for good.  All things can bring about growth.  Contentment comes not when we depend on our circumstances or things to make us happy.

Grace Wins

The top of our Christmas tree is almost centered perfectly with a “Grace Wins” sign that I bought a couple years ago. Right now, I am laying on my couch, staring at lights on the tree. My light up star tree topper is aglow, illuminating the sign.

I can’t help but think about how grace won thousands of years ago, when a young woman found out she would carry the Christ Child. Grace won when Joseph agreed to stay with her regardless of the new predicament they found themselves in. (I bet they didn’t plan on having to explain a situation like that). Grace won as they traveled the long journey (on a donkey, while pregnant!). Grace won when she gave birth in a stable.

I love the Christmas story. I love talking about the birth of Jesus. I love thinking about a woman like Mary who said “not my will but thine”. A woman who gave birth in a place many of us prefer not to visit. There were animals all around. (Can you smell it?). There was dirt on the ground. (Can you feel it?). Then there was the cry of a babe. The beginning of God’s plan of restoration was at hand.

I know the holidays are tough for some. (To be honest, I’ve had my years of struggle with them). For some, the holidays are the best time of the year. The one day that all family puts aside their busyness to spend moments together. Regardless of your activities, regardless of where you find yourself this year, I hope you come to know the story of how Grace Won. He came not because He needed us, but because we needed Him. He brought Himself low (like born with animals low), so we can one day be brought high with Him.

Merry Christmas!

If not, I don’t want it.

I’m not a patient person. I have never been patient. I would say that I probably never will be, but I know God transforms whatever He will so maybe some day I won’t be quite so impatient.

For being an impatient person, I have found myself waiting for important things a lot in the past 3-4 years. I remember anxiously awaiting the call that KB was going to be born. For a good month, my heart sunk to my feet every time my phone rang. Then we went through the same situation while waiting for KB’s little sister.

Now, we are waiting to welcome a child into our home again- waiting for the ring of the phone again. Every.Single.Time. I think “Oh this is going to happen fast. I’m not going to wait at all.” (I’m nothing if not persistent 😜). But alas, here we are, waiting.

I was telling Tyler last night that I’ve been praying “If it’s not your will, I don’t want it.” (Meaning, If today is not your day for us, help me not to want it to be today). Let me say, I want it YESTERDAY. I am praying for my heart to be changed while waiting. We can’t control our situations or the time span in which things occur, but we can control how we wait or how we live.

Tyler is fine waiting until after Christmas to welcome a child into our home. It’s a crazy busy Christmas season. #amiright? I know logically it would be best for our lives if it were after Christmas, I just don’t want to wait for “after Christmas” to get here.

It’s important that we wait well. God doesn’t care so much about changing our circumstances as he care about changing our hearts. Do I believe all things work to the good of those that love Him? Yes. Do I believe God has my ultimate good and His ultimate glory in mind? Yes. Those are the truths I must rest on.

Don’t be disheartened if you still find areas of life that you still struggle with. God will meet you right where you are. Thankfully, if you’re looking to Him, He won’t leave you where you are.

Christmas Reading Plan

Christmas Reading Plan (As I said in an earlier post, this is not an extensive Christmas reading plan.  I wanted something that every person would be able to do no matter the busyness of their season.)

If you have cross references in your Bible I HIGHLY encourage you to use those for further reference as well.

December 6th- Luke 1:26-27

December 7th- Luke 1:28-29

December 8th- Luke 1:30-31

December 9th- Luke 1:32-33

December 10th- Luke 1:34-35

December 11th- Luke 1:36-37

December 12th- Luke 1:38 (Read verses 39-45 to read about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth)

December 13th- The Magnificat Luke 1:46-50

December 14th- The Magnificat Luke 1:51-55

December 15th- Luke 2:1-2

December 16th- Luke 2:3-4

December 17th- Luke 2:5-7

December 18th- Luke 2:9-10

December 19th- Luke 2:11

December 20th- Luke 2:12

December 21st- Luke 2:13

December 22nd- Luke 2:14-15

December 23rd- Luke 2:16-17

December 24th- Luke 2:18-19

December 25th- Luke 2:20

I just want to add one last verse from Isaiah.  A lot of times, we make the mistake of discounting the Old Testament as “old news.”  I really want to emphasis to you guys that the Bible is one book that tells one story throughout the ENTIRE book.  

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order i and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

Waiting Well

This is one last thought I wanted to share before sending out the Christmas reading plan tomorrow! Be encouraged as you “wait well.”

Since we know that we are living in the “already, but not yet” it is important that we wait well.  We know there will come a day that God will come and make all things new. There will be no more pain, sorrow, crying, death, or mourning.  We will experience communion with God, in the PRESENCE of God.

This doesn’t mean that there is not a correct way to live in the meantime.  Quite the contrary, SINCE we know there will be a day that God will come and make all things new.  We should live with a sense of urgency. Every single person we come in contact with is going to spend eternity somewhere.  Psalm 90:12 tells us “…to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  We need to learn to number our days, because we know this life is short in comparison to eternity.  

In order to make the best use of the days we have here, we need to get a heart of wisdom.  Where does our wisdom come from? I’m glad you asked. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

God gives wisdom generously to any of those who ask wisdom of Him.  This wisdom is not like our earthly wisdom. This is a wisdom that passes our understanding.  This well of wisdom never runs dry. It may be uncomfortable sometimes. It may not be what we want in the moment, but God always has our good and His glory in mind.  That is wisdom that will last forever.