Strongholds


If you know me at all, you know that I love Elisabeth Elliot. If you don’t know me at all, you’ll learn very quickly that I love Elisabeth Elliot. I have read literally everything that she has ever written. (I suppose I could have missed one, but I’m almost certain I have not.) I spent a year of my life scouring the internet for anything written by her-even the obscure out-of-print-not-so-well-known ones. Let’s just say, I kept Amazon and some random book sellers in business that year. This woman’s life, her story, her God given wisdom, changed me. On so many occasions in so many ways.

Currently, in 2017 I should say, one of my goals or focuses is discipline. Living in Mexico has left me lazier and less intentional than before. About many things. And at the start of this year, I felt a call back to a life of discipline. In my time, in my relationship with Christ, in my health, and in all of my other relationships as well.

All of it.

So, I carried back across the border with me after Christmas vacation one of my all time favorite Elisabeth books: Discipline: The Glad Surrender.
I’ve been working my way back through it slowly. Letting it sink in a second time.

Let me couple that with this: 2017 has also been a lot about lies, or rather, getting rid of them. Digging down to the root of lies that have lingered in my life (sadly there are many more than I ever even realized) and allowing God to uproot them and replace them with truth.

It’s been a long, difficult, pretty painful process.

The lies are loud.

The lies have lived for so long. Too long.

And in most cases, the lies have become my truths.

They have become my reality. They feel so vividly real.

So much so, that in moments when I come to and speak truth to myself, I somehow feel as though I am lying.

So. Twisted. Tangled. Messy.

One day, while reading through this book, I stumbled upon this quote by Charles Stanley.




I was frozen there. 

I started to think about that in regards to the lies I was beginning to identify and struggle with. I realized that I was struggling with them too late. That I should have struggled with them, resisted them a long time ago. When they were still tiny, manageable thoughts. Thoughts that I could let in or keep out. I realized that several of them were now more than just lies, they were strongholds in my life and heart. They had skewed my reality, my thinking patterns, my attitudes and actions, and worst of all, my perspective and understanding of God and His character. I should have seen them back then for what they were. Tiny seeds waiting to take root and grow into deadly strongholds.

I started choosing lies and walking them through this chart of sorts. I found with lie after lie why it had become so incredibly difficult to break free and to differentiate them from truth. Because they were no longer just thoughts. They had been once. Thoughts that I had considered for a while and before I knew it they had begun infiltrating and poisoning my attitude. And then I began to act on those attitudes and eventually my actions and attitudes became habits.

Which led me to here.

Bound up. Trapped inside those little lies that had morphed into big, huge, crushing strongholds. Walls built up all around my heart that I could have prevented from constructing themselves. Now, I needed to break through. To find a way out. Trust me when I say, prevention is a lot less complicated than breaking through.

In retrospect, I so wish I would have caught these lies and choked them before they had any air or room to grow. And that’s what I want for you.

Perhaps this week you find yourself like me, suffocating and tangled up in lots of lie weeds. Perhaps you can’t see the difference between lies and truths any longer and it seems like you’ll live in the lies forever.

Or, maybe you’re somewhere in between. Perhaps some thoughts have been lingering too long on the edge of considerations. Maybe considerations are beginning to leak poison into your attitudes. Just maybe without a drastic attitude adjustment very soon, awful habits are about to establish themselves in your life.

I’m not sure where you find yourself on this spectrum this week, but I’m certain you fall somewhere on there. Here’s how I know. Because Satan is the father of lies. Since the very start he has been working to thwart every single truth about God with his deadly deceit. Lies about who God is. Lies about the things He says. Lies about who Satan is. Lies about who you are.

Lies.

Lies.

Lies.

Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you are an exception. That he’s not bothered by you. That he will leave you alone.

Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that God doesn’t see that sneaky snake lurking and waiting to tangle you up in the mess of who he is.

I can say from personal experience, none of us are immune. I gave my life to Jesus when I was 4-years-old and I’ve never looked back. It’s been a crazy, beautiful ride. But, I regret to inform you that I let my guard down. I forgot that I too am susceptible to Satan’s trickery. Maybe even more so because I didn’t have my guard up. Because I subconsciously believed that my salvation might act as a weed killer and keep that slithering serpent away.

I could not have been more wrong.

Let’s work this week to prevent. To put our guards back up before we’re surrounded by walls that we didn’t intend to build. That trap us and blind us and distort our view of God. Wherever we find ourselves on this spectrum (and I guarantee you it's somewhere) let’s fight back this week with truth. Let’s speak truth over our own lives and truth over each other’s lives. Let’s keep cultivating. 

Gardens.

Thriving and blooming because deep below the soil are roots that grew from seeds of truth. Gardens that give life and air and beauty to everyone around us because there is no room for lies that choke and put poison into the air. Gardens that all can see because they are not isolated and cut off to the rest of the world and all that God is doing by walls and weeds.

Strongholds have got to go.

We were not created to be slaves. To be trapped or to be walled in.

We were created to be free.

To bloom.

To breathe.

Free in the truth of who Christ is and who we are because of Him.



God Sees Me.


As most of you know I have two sons, my firstborn is almost 4 years old and my youngest is 18 months. The two of them are night and day when it comes to their personality. Ryder, my oldest, was the best baby you could ever ask for. We didn’t even deal with the terrible twos or anything like that with him. The only trouble we had out of Ryder was his sleeping habits (and we are STILL dealing with his sleeping habits). Gabe, on the other hand, came out screaming. Quite literally. I remember that first night at the hospital with him. I just had him and I was so tired and hurting but I couldn’t get him to stop crying. I got up out of the bed and began pacing the floor with him praying (more like begging) God to make this child stop crying. Sometime between the late night hours and wee morning he finally fell asleep, but he has been screaming ever since. I love both of my children so much and I’ve learned to really appreciate their different personalities. Ryder is more of a thinker. He is constantly thinking. And he asks a thousand questions about everything {he gets this from his momma}. Ryder doesn’t like loud noises. Gabe, on the other hand, can’t sit still. He has to always be moving. He wants to be throwing, running, or climbing {and scaring us to death}. He is fearless. And he throws the loudest, worst fits I have ever seen. Over the SILLIEST things. Gabe pushes me further than Ryder does, but he also loves with all of his might.

I give you some details of my children to explain the dynamics in my house right now. No longer am I able to clean my house, sit down or even talk without my youngest screaming, or pulling me to get up. I am not exaggerating. This goes on from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. It’s exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally. I get frustrated much quicker than I ever have because I have this little one who is constantly unhappy. Now you’re probably wondering why I am complaining about all of this. I’m simply explaining to you what led to my incident the other day. You see, I was at the edge of my breaking point. In fact, I would dare to say I had been feeling a breaking point for quite some time but I kept it to myself. Of course, I would make comments to my husband about running away or how I couldn’t do this and how I was just going to find a full time job and put my children in child care (I know it’s awful that I even thought this, but I’m being so real right now). My husband would lovingly remind me that I wouldn’t make it 5 minutes without them. Basically, I wouldn’t be able to take it. And as much as I didn’t want to admit it, he was right. I would be lost without those two. In fact, every single time I have anyone watch them, no matter how long it is, I immediately turn to my husband after dropping them off and tell him how much I already miss them.

On this particular day Gabe was extra feisty. I mean, every single thing made him mad and he wanted my full attention or me to be up every 5 seconds to get him something out of the kitchen. I’d already felt my breaking point coming and I knew I was about to just go crazy. Luckily, my husband was home because what happened next is a little embarrassing. Gabe began to start screaming and wanting me to get him something while I’m in the middle of helping our 3-year-old. As I’m trying to help both children they both began to scream and cry. At this point, I’m feeling a thousand emotions, but mainly I’m just feeling defeated. I throw my hands up in the air, look at my husband and I simply say, “I can’t do this,” and I proceed to go upstairs as fast as I can. As I’m going upstairs I hear my youngest start crying harder and my oldest yelling, “mommy.” Not really knowing what I was going to do upstairs, I throw myself on the bed and I just start crying. Like ugly crying. Snotty crying. Okay, you get the picture. But here’s the thing. I couldn’t go anywhere; I couldn’t just leave my children or my husband. I couldn’t go hide and pretend they didn’t exist. As much as I was feeling sorry for myself, my heart was also hurting because I knew they were downstairs crying for me. So, I just cried and told God that I couldn’t do this anymore. And ten minutes later, after I had let it all out I went back downstairs and rejoined them.

You’re probably wondering what was so profound about this. The truth is, nothing was profound

about it at all. But something was wrong about it. You see, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, stressed, mad, hurt, tired, and to my breaking point for a while. Some may not believe it’s normal to have a breaking point, but if we are honest we all have our breaking points. The problem isn’t with having a breaking point, the problem is letting yourself reach that breaking point without asking for help. I knew I was there. I knew at any moment I could lose it. I felt it. But, instead of asking for help, taking time to really pray and be honest with God, I just pretended like I was okay and kept going the way I was. The issue with this is I wasn’t okay, and because I wasn’t okay, all it took for me to reach my breaking point was my two little ones crying for me. Luckily, it was a small breaking point and not a deal breaker one. I understand how people leave their spouses, their children and the life they have. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it. It’s because they reach a breaking point; they reach a point of no going back. We don’t reach these points overnight. They build, slowly over time until we feel completely lost, so we leave everything behind to go find ourselves. In the process, we leave everyone we love behind and everything we’ve ever known behind because we think what’s ahead must be better. The truth is, our problems will follow us wherever we go because our problems aren’t the people we are around. The problems lie within us. Something much deeper.

I wasn’t mad at my children or my husband, overwhelmed yes, but not mad. I was overwhelmed because of my own expectations of myself. I was trying to have it all together when really I didn’t have it all together. I needed a strength beyond myself, a quiet place within my soul, a safe haven; a place that only God could give me. Yet, I was refusing to admit it, refusing to go to the One who already saw me where I was. 


I’m convinced God made us to need Him. Without Him we can do nothing. And here I was trying to do life itself without Him. And I was failing, miserably. Being a mommy is hard, but being a mommy without God’s help is even harder. I just needed someone to hear me, to see me, to validate my feelings. And God brought me to Hagar.

Hagar was a maidservant of Abraham, but Abraham’s wife Sarah couldn’t have any children so she asked Abraham to take Hagar and have a child with her. So he did. And she became pregnant with his son. After this, Sarah began to mistreat Hagar, so Hagar fled from her. An angel of the Lord found her and asked her where she was coming from and where she was going. Her response goes a little something like mine would, “I’m running away.” Now, Hagar did only what her mistress had made her do. She was going to bore Abraham a child, a son at that. And yet, she was mistreated for it. So in my mind, she had every reason to run. If anything Sarah should get in trouble. But what does the angel tell her to do? To go back and submit. But he also said, “I will bless you and your descendants…” It was Hagar’s response that spoke to my heart, “You are the God who sees me, for I have now seen the One who sees me.”

God IS the One who sees me. Me. 
Crying me. 
Happy me. 
Mad at me. 
Overwhelmed me. 
Me, right where I am. 

When others don’t understand or approve, God still sees me and hears me. When I’m at my best or my worst, He sees me. And He fights for me. He is on our side, friend. We don’t have to have it all together {He already knows we don’t}. God isn’t asking for our perfection, He is asking for us. All of us. 

So tired mommy, He sees you. He hears you. He sees the messiness of your life right now. He sees the doubts, fears, and insecurities. He sees the silent tears you try to hide. He hears your complaints that you feel guilty about. He knows your struggles. And He loves you. ALL of you…. Right where you are. Go to the One who sees you. Find rest in Him and strength for another day. We’re all in this together, you’re not alone. So my friend, don’t reach that breaking point... you know, the bad one. Come to Him as you are. Give Him your all, even if your all is simply, “I can’t do this.”






Doubting Rachel


“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me." Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Matthew 14:22-33

I was doubting,

in the moment, when God wanted me to wait expectantly for the morning.

I was doubting,

in the present, while living on the cusp of a promise.

I was doubting,

in and through desire, desire for what God wanted...but in my way.

I was doubting.


I was doubting the Words He spoke over my life, as I slipped into the sea. I was doubting the Truth that poured from His gaze, as I took my eyes off of Him.

I was doubting, not just what He was calling me to do in the moment, but everything He had ever spoken to me. When I doubted what He spoke, I was doubting His character. When I doubt His character today, I doubt who He was in the past, who He is in the present, and who He will continue to be in the future. Our God is eternal. Therefore, as I was doubting, I was doubting all He has ever given to me, done for me, and worked through me.



The beautiful thing. The most wonderful thing. The thing that astonished me profoundly.
God "immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him." God's response to our cry for help, even as we are doubting Him, is immediate.

Peter, the rock, literally lost his footing. He believed the lies the wind was whispering. He believed in the strength of the storm. He looked down and and saw the powerful waves being tossed and blown by the wind. He didn't lose his footing because of the storm. The storm was present before he walked on water and the storm was present after he was pulled back up onto sure footing. He didn't lose his footing because of the storm, although THAT is what caught his gaze as he took his eyes off of Jesus. "He saw the wind." It wasn't the wind that made him lose his footing. Let's not blame the serpent. The wind didn't make Peter do anything. The wind is at the will of God.

He was afraid.

I was afraid.

I was afraid the promises were too good to be true. I was afraid to believe and be wrong. I was afraid I had listened to God incorrectly. "Did He really tell me 'Come', or did I just make that up? The wind was blowing pretty loudly." I was afraid for myself. I was looking out for myself. I lost my footing because I stepped away from my Rock. I doubted because I let fear seep in. I stopped looking Love in the eyes and I let fear sink deep and sank deep into it.

Up to this point, Peter and Jesus are still out, far away from the boat. In verse 29 it says that Peter came to Jesus. It doesn't specify how long he walked. But he did walk. Therefore, he was not directly next to that boat. But the verse following the moment when Jesus asks Peter, "Why did you doubt?", describes Peter and Jesus getting back into the boat.

How do you think they got back to the boat? I think they walked. I think they walked back together to that boat.

I have doubted my God.

Through my fear and doubt, He has glorified Himself. He has made it clear to me that He is to be trusted. He called me. He let me doubt him. He let me cry out in fear. He immediately grabbed me. He left no more room for doubt. No more room for fear. I don't know when I'll have an opportunity to walk out on the water again, but I know I will do more than respond to the call. Whether it's tomorrow or on Friday, my God wants me to walk in faith; faith that leaves no room for doubt.

If you find yourself doubting our great God, He can handle it. He longs to reveal Himself to you even more undeniably during times of doubt and uncertainty. Just remember where to take your doubt, who to reach for when doubt threatens to overtake you. Take them to God. He will walk with you back to the boat of faith and certainty. As the well known song says,

You called me out upon the water
the great unknown, where feet may fail.
And there I find you in the mystery
in oceans deep, my faith will stand.
So I will call upon your name
and keep my eyes above the waves
when oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace
for I am Yours, and You are mine.

Keep your eyes on the calmer of the storm. He is greater, stronger, and absolutely secure. Take your doubt and worries to Him, and He will speak peace to the storm.





Not So Different After All


Happy Tuesday! Hope Monday was good to you…or at least all right. Mine was better than expected and given last week’s insanity, that was fine by me. Though it was of course far from perfect.
Perfect Monday anyone…? NO, really. It does happen…and if it happened for you, PLEASE share in the comments below! I think we would all benefit from the reminder that “perfect” days do happen. Even on Mondays!
That being said let me be super real with you. Is that okay?
I’ve been struggling lately with my attitude. My attitude about work, my attitude about my students, my attitude about Mexico…. (I currently live in Mexico in case you missed that.)
I’ve been negative and I’ve complained SO much more than I would ever like to admit. I dislike grading, I dislike extra time spent after school, I dislike taking work home and feeling as if it’s just never done. Ever. Honestly, teaching is not quite my niche (and that’s a nice way to put it.) It has been nothing short of challenging and humbling and often times exhausting and draining on a whole new level since I arrived in Mexico nearly two years ago.
Which brings us to last Tuesday.
I was so frustrated. Done. Fed up. I was ready to walk into that classroom and put them in their places. To make sure they knew that I was not there to be nice because nice had gotten us nowhere. They had taken advantage of my niceness and used it as an excuse to do whatever they wanted and to disregard pretty much everything in our classroom. They were being rude and rolling their eyes and consistently doing pretty much nothing and endlessly complaining about the little that they did do…I had run the speech over and over in my head that morning. I was grading their projects and getting angrier by the minute.
And then, I felt it.
Or heard it?
I’m not certain which came first.
The little nudge on my shoulder. The gentle whisper close to my ear.
Grace.
Love
Jesus.
And almost instantly, I was humbled. Broken even.
So much of what I was thinking and saying about them, the things that were frustrating me the most, were exactly things I had been doing. My attitude had honestly not been much better than theirs and I had been carelessly complaining to my friends and to God and I’m pretty sure rolling my eyes at the sky. Who was I to be frustrated with these kids?
#ouch
Had God been any less kind to me? Had God come storming into my prayer time and laid down the law, given me a cold, harsh speech about how I needed to fix my attitude or else!? Had He pulled away from me or changed His demeanor with me? Was His grace and love any less available to me? Had His opinion of me changed because I kept complaining or rolling my eyes? Had He written me off because I had been lazy with my prayer and devotional time?
I didn’t have an answer.
Just tears welling up in my eyes.
Of course the answer was no.
He hadn’t. He hadn’t changed one bit. His love for me was exactly the same, perhaps even deeper than ever before. His grace was as available as ever, probably even more so as He could see my desperate need. He still thought the world of me and when I prayed (even complaining and rolling my eyes) He smiled, glad to meet me there. He had not been cold or harsh and the truth was that He was as warm and as near as always. The kindest.
So who on earth did I think I was?
I needed from Him exactly what these students needed from me.
His unconditional love.
His limitless grace.
His endless patience.
His genuine kindness.
His careful discipline.
His kind and gentle correction.
His ever available presence.
His  understanding.
His consistency.
His security and His guidance.
How long had it been since I had prayed for these students? As a group? As individuals? When was the last time I had asked God to use me in that classroom, to represent Him to them each day? Had I ever looked at them as individuals created by God for His plans and His purposes and prayed that He would work and move in each life? How long had I been taking for granted this opportunity, this privilege, this responsibility He had placed in my hands?
You follow?
So. Broken and humbled, and a little ashamed, I began to pray. First for my own heart. That God would change my perspective and my outlook and attitude. That I would remember what it was He had called me here to do. To help students in Mexico encounter Him, know Him, and learn His Word. That I would see them through His eyes and love them with His heart.

And then I prayed for them. That God would invade their hearts. That they would long to know Him more and to learn more of who He is. That He would change their attitudes and outlooks also and that He would help them to connect with me so that together we could better connect with Him.
And believe me, the change of attitude and perspective and approach was not as instant. I was still dreading walking into that class, and they were just as rough as ever. But, now I had a plan. There were steps to take, things to tell myself in the hardest moments. Individual chats with students who could sense that I was “off” that day. The chance to explain grace and to be real and authentic with them. To show them that yes, I am the Bible teacher, but also, I am human. I am a child of God, and I need all of them same things from Him always.
I think this is a lesson that we won’t ever stop learning.
That we are not any better off than the person we dislike the most. The person who brings the worst out of us and frustrates us beyond words.
We’re actually the same.
Just dust.
Broken.
Selfish.
Sinful.
In need of someone who will love us anyways. In spite of all of the awful things that we are.
It’s hard to hear. Harder to accept. Even harder to change and break the cycle and learn to love those people. For me, those students. But, I can guarantee that someone in their prayer time is struggling to love me that way. That I am frustrating beyond words to someone (at least) on this planet.
But Jesus. He doesn’t struggle to love any of us. It’s easy for Him. A joy for Him. His complete delight.

So, instead of ranting and raving to Him today about all of the things that frustrate us, all of the people that frustrate us, let’s use our time to ask for heart change. Let’s tell Him how desperate we are for His grace and His love and that when we receive it, He would help us to extend it to others.
I had that class again yesterday. After a week apart.
They were different children. I’m not kidding.
They were quieter. They rolled their eyes less.
They asked if we could start class with prayer.
I was different. I was calmer. I was gentler. I heard them and I saw them. Each of them. I was looking to see how God was going to work. How He would respond to my prayers.
He was so evidently and obviously present in that classroom.
And all of a sudden, the people I showed up to teach about Jesus, are somehow teaching me about Him. And I was not annoyed or angry about that, I was humbled. I was thankful.
For them.
For Him.
For grace exemplified in the way that He loves.
For this year that He has called us together to learn from each other and to understand more of who He is in the process.




Living for Applause


I think it is a common desire to be noticed. Everyone wants to be recognized for what they are doing especially when it comes to their work. Regardless of where you are working, for a big company or for your family, you want your work to be noticed, appreciated, and commended. It's normal! However, it is something we often get hung up on.

I can be honest and say too many times I have gotten my feeling hurt by the thanks that wasn't given, my hard work that didn't get the recognition, the time spent that didn't get acknowledged. Can you relate? Somehow I think we let others' response elevate or diminish our effort. And it's frustrating! It's something we may call a friend and vent about. 

"They didn't even notice!" 
"He took all the credit for what I did!" 
"I guess I am not really that great because no one ever says anything." 
"I worked so hard, and for what?"

It is a mind game that we too often buy into. What we do, who we are, must not be that important because it isn't verbally appreciated or acknowledged. You see, as long as we wait for someone else to validate what we do and who we are we will live in insecurity and in a mindset that we are working to please others. The apostle Paul fought this battle, and he came to the correct conclusion:


One conclusion I have come to through my own battle is if I am focused on all that I have done already I will get burned out, lose passion, lose focus, and become ineffective. But rather than focusing on all that I have done (without the recognition I feel it deserves), I must focus on all that still needs to be done. For you that may mean rather than killing yourself to prove to anyone how great of a mother you are, focus on the mothering that is left to be done. Instead of thinking of all that you do that your boss doesn't see, think about more ways to serve your boss and your company. If you can do this you will stay more encouraged, more inspired, and more passionate about accomplishing what God has put in your hands.

You see we shouldn't be living and working for anyone's pat on the back. We should be doing what we believe is the right thing to do. We should be working for what we believe in. People will always disappoint us. We will always feel under-appreciated at times, but as long as we are working for the purpose of pleasing God, we won't be disappointed with ourselves. I can recover from someone being let down, but if I let myself down that is a true tragedy. 

I encourage you to live and work and fight for what you believe in. Live on purpose. Live with a purpose. Not for the purpose of pleasing and impressing others, but to please and impress God. The Bible tells us that God sees what we do in secret and rewards us openly (Matthew 6:4). You see, God's approval is the only one we need. And when He applauds everyone hears it.

Here's a quote that I have always loved and think it is a great thought to live with.


Have you ever struggled with this? We would love to hear about it. 
Share your story in the comments below.



Hey there galentine


I used to call it V Day. It was funny to me because it sounded so much like D Day, and to me the two were rather closely associated. I only did that because I was trying to make light of how much the day hurt every single year. No one ever secretly sent me chocolate or flowers or put a love line in the school paper to me. I was forever the friend, never chosen, never adored, and as far as I was concerned, why on earth did we need a day specifically to remind me of that?

I know. You think it’s cheesy and so incredibly commercialized. You are way too mature and hipster to participate in a corporate holiday.

Okay, I’ll give you that the whole thing has gone in a rather cheesy direction, but let me encourage you today. You are so loved. Did you know that? I’m sure by many, but I’m certain by God. And you are not only loved, you are cared for and attended to so kindly and so personally. He pursues you and blesses you. He provides for you. He hears you and He responds to you. He died for you. He rescued you.

Is that, if nothing or no one else, not worth celebrating? This year, set aside anger and bitterness in regards to what this day may have meant or represented before. Change. Your mind, your heart, your perspective. Embrace love. The purest expression of it in the history of forever and the fact that you’re on the receiving end of it.

Happy Valentine’s Day dear friend. Do your best to process that thought and not roll your eyes at me ;)

He is near. Don’t believe for one millisecond that He is not.

Loneliness is a liar. It will isolate you and try to drown you. It will convince you that this is it for you. That you have lost love and companionship forever. That no one else is coming. That you are on your own and you cannot, should not, need anyone else ever. It will whisper that it’s better that way. You are better on your own anyways. Moment after moment it will drop those seeds into your mind and your heart, and before you know it, bitterness over all that you have lost and how cold and lonely the world has become will have taken root and suffocated all the rest.

Don’t let it. He is near. You are not alone. This is not the end for you. Love and companionship are not lost forever, they are just taking on new forms in new seasons and they will show up in unlikely places and people. Do not believe the lies that loneliness tells you. It is not better to stay alone. It is not better to push everyone away. You do need people. Open your heart to them. Learn to love again. To love differently and to find joy in new love and new seasons. Bite bitterness in the butt. Don’t let even the tiniest root plant itself in you.

Breathe deeply and move forward. Keep your eyes and your heart open to the love that God is trying to offer you today in the form of Himself and in the midst of new seasons and souls. 

You are magnificent. Truly. I know the waiting is hard. That it feels endless. I know you are so tempted to stop hoping, dreaming, longing. Perhaps you already have. I know you feel trapped in your thoughts, surrounded by dead dreams and empty hopes as the days and months and years whiz by. I know you think there’s something wrong with you. That there must be to have ended up here. I know you struggle to believe, really believe that God is still good and kind in all things.

Sweet friend, He is. All good and all kind.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with Him and how good and kind He is. His refusals are always His mercies. There is time. Perfect time. His time. He is waiting because He loves you so dearly, so deeply and He longs for you to know that and to cling to it.

Dream again. Desire and long and hope. Let them take roots within the deepest places of your heart and soul and let them bloom there because You know He watches over them and tends to them with great, tender care.

Happy Valentines Day beloved sister. May it be filled with the sweetness of renewed hope and trust in the One who always has been and always will be, and is right now, the only love you need.

I get it. Valentines is probably a big deal for you. It is fun and special and exciting. You may have some pretty high expectations of grand gestures and sweet expressions. You may be looking forward to making memories and the special attention. You are so worth it, girl. You are worth the time and the attention and the special planning. Just remember whether things live up to your expectations or not, you are loved regardless.

Maybe you are under the "taken" category, but aren't looking forward to the Valentines festivities. Maybe things have been shakey with your man for a while. You wonder if it will just be going through the motions, or maybe awkward tension with few words exchanged. If this is you this Valentines, let me encourage you to intentionally give love and intentionally receive love. 

Sure you may feel like you are just going through the motions, writing cards and buying gifts out of obligation, but do it anyway. Love even though it is hard, and love fiercely. The more you practice showing love the more real it will become. And receive love! Don't let hurts and your record of rights and wrongs push away the love that is poured on you. Just receive it and know you are worthy of that love. 

Hey lovely, Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Valentine’s Day, to you, the one who feels like you never are chosen. To the one who feels undesirable, unloved, and alone. To the one who feels rejected, set aside, and forgotten. To the one who has those lies whispered into your ear until they take root in your heart and you believe them to be a part of your identity. You need to know something. This is NOT who you are. YOU are desired. YOU are loved. YOU are not alone. You, yes YOU, are being relentlessly pursued by the Almighty God who created this magnificent universe we live in. The Creator of the balmy blue Caribbean, the majestic Swiss Alps, and the tranquil Black Forest, intentionally created YOU. Your deepest sense of identity can be rooted in the truth that the Savior of the world is passionately pursuing your heart and seeing your value. You may not have a date today, but you most assuredly are not unwanted and alone.

I know that the last thing you want is for someone to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. I’m certain it only stings to think of it. The posts, the flowers, the chocolates... the lack of them. I know you only want to stay still for fear that if you move in any direction you’ll be confronted with the sharp, shattered, scattered pieces of your heart. I know you are paralyzed by the aching and the thought that your heart will never be whole again. How you will even begin to pick up the pieces, let alone put them back together is a thought you simply cannot face. How will you ever love again, trust again, smile again, live again?

I get it. Really, I do. I’ve been there. More than once. My heart broken by many different people, words, circumstances, tragedies, my own choices….

It does get better. You will breathe again. You will live again and love again and trust again and smile again. Don’t worry about finding all of the pieces and don’t try to put them back together on your own. Hand whatever you have left in your hands to Him. The creator and the caretaker of your heart. He is a puzzle master. There is no amount of broken that he cannot fix, no shattered beyond repair. He will most certainly put every aching piece back in place and perhaps even rearrange them in an even better way. At any rate, you will be whole again, because He is the God, your God, of restoration and healing. He is the ultimate source of life and joy, of peace and comfort.

Broken hearted one, rest in Him today. In His love for you. Let go of fear, let go of fixing. Just be still and leave the rest to your dear, skillful Creator. The expert in all things regarding your heart.

That's right, I am talking to you an amazing lady! You are glamorous! You are fabulous! You are significant! Sure you feel like you have lived life and it is all down hill from here, but you are far from done. You have so much love to give, so much wisdom to share, so much life to live. So many look to you for guidance. They come to you for comfort. They come to you for love. If you haven't been told lately let me tell you know, you are so loved. 

Never doubt your importance. While we all believe that at some point life will get easier, it never does. You may be in unchartered territory, out of your comfort zone, at the moment, but even in these dim, dark waters, trust the One who has never failed. His love for you will never fail. Be strengthened by His great, strong, unending love this Valentines Day. Remember His goodness and treasure His grace. 

I know right now you might feel chained to hope. Like you just want the hope to end, so the waiting can end, because if hope would just let go so could the waiting. And so could the pain. But hope is something we can't escape. It's in us. It surrounds us. And hope is wrapped in the love of Jesus.

So embrace hope. Embrace the waiting. And embrace the pain. Remember, somehow, in all of the hope and waiting and pain, the purpose of Christ is in it all. His purpose doesn't make it easier. There will still be loneliness. There will still be moments where you doubt yourself, your worth, even God. The nights will not be easier. The long, hard, work-filled days will not be easier. But His purpose makes it worth it.

This Valentines you are wrapped in purpose. You are surrounded in love. You are chained to hope. You are wrapped in the arms of Christ.