Love does…

Several years ago, my women’s group did a study by Beth Moore called “Loving Well” and that’s when I learned about the 4 different types of people to love:

1. Joy– the people who are easy to love, who make our world joyful.
2. Testy– the people who test your ability to love, those who are hard to love.
3. Foes– people you want to hate even though you know God is calling you to love them.
4. Strangers– people who are not involved in your everyday life.

I remember at one point in the study we had to list our “foes” and I felt really grateful, as I looked around the room watching other women scratching names into their journals, that I had none. Not at all a humble brag on me, that’s a SUPA DUPA brag on Jesus. There was a time I could’ve filled pages of “foes”. Because of the mighty work of my loving Father God, my page remains blank.

I watched a sermon last night that touched on the Loving Well theme and served as a reminder that people matter and are the most important responsibility in our lives, after Jesus. There is never a point that we should be able to look into the face of another human and not call to mind that even this person was created by God and for God’s purposes. Any person we meet needs to be seen through the lens of Christ and we should always seek to see them with His eyes. People matter. To me. To you. To Him. As believers, we have a charge to go out and make disciples of ALL the nations; please note that the bible never said…

… of some nations, but not the ones that you don’t like
… of some people, but not the ones who love in a way that’s unbiblical
… of some people, but not the ones who have committed crimes/who are bad
… of some people, but not those that look different than you do
… of some people, but not those ones who struggle with addiction
… of some people, but not those who vote differently than us
… of some people, but not those who believe in ending pregnancy
… of some people, but not those who support/don’t support gun laws

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You guys get the picture, right? People don’t need to justify to us why they deserve love because we should be giving it to them by the bucketful before we even know why. Simply because they were created by the same Creator as us.

In last night’s sermon, the woman at the well (John 4: 7-45) was mentioned and served as a reminder that when we go out of our way to love people well, we can’t begin to understand how their life may become unlocked with a sense of freedom that can only come from the Holy Spirit. We don’t even have an inkling of an idea what God has in store for His people who are walking in the freedom of Jesus Christ because someone chose to love them well.

• Love does…
• Love gives…
• Love sacrifices…
• Love invests…
• Love serves…
• Love listens…
• Love meets needs…
• Love forgives…
• Love hopes…

Emphasis below is mine.

1 Corinthians 13 Amplified Bible (AMP) The Excellence of Love

13 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]. And if I have the gift of prophecy [and speak a new message from God to the people], and understand all mysteries, and [possess] all knowledge; and if I have all [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love [reaching out to others], I am nothingIf I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it does me no good at all.

Love (Stephanie) endures with patience and serenity, love (Stephanie) is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love (Stephanie) does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It (Stephanie) is not rude; it (Stephanie) is not self-seeking, it (Stephanie) is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it (Stephanie) does not take into account a wrong endured. It (Stephanie) does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love (Stephanie) bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].

Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]. But as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for the gift of special knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part [for our knowledge is fragmentary and incomplete]. 10 But when that which is complete and perfect comes, that which is incomplete and partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. 13 And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.

We can come up with lots of reasons why we shouldn’t be loving certain people. I promise you, they’re all wrong and not biblical. Friends, I hope that you’re able to look into faces today and see them with a fresh perspective and a fresh burst of love for them. I hope that you’ll be able to see someone in need and not just pray for them, but also meet needs for them. I hope that you’ll see someone sitting alone in church and you’ll go sit beside him/her, even if that person doesn’t look like you. I hope that you’ll see each set of eyes today as Jesus sees those eyes. His. Beautiful. Belonging. Deserving. Worth loving.

Love is a verb. An action. Something we have to choose to do. Let’s choose well, shall we?

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Restoring the temple…

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been using a hashtag in a couple places where I post on a regular basis; #RestoringTheTemple.

A few months ago, I had a long overdue surgery on my foot, with a plan to have the same surgery on both feet done this year. The recovery plan was fairly simple and my life would resume at a fairly normal pace pretty quickly. Within the first month, we realized it just wasn’t going to be that easy for me. We began to see small complications, followed by bigger and bigger ones. Here I am, 4 months later, far from being done – BUT I am walking, moving pretty well (as long as I don’t want to go hiking!), and am moving in the right direction with the healing process.

I wanted to share that because from that space came my desire to really dig into temple restoration mode; not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally, as well. For me that’s meant a good bit of time spent with just me and God and a lot of journaling, praying, crying, reading, studying, worshiping, meditating, etc… It’s been a beautifully weird few months, for sure.

It reminded me that when we arrive at a place of total surrender how perfectly God moves in that space. He will basically say something like, “it’s about time… let’s get started.” and He’ll just ignore the fact that we’ve maybe been holding Him at arms length, while loving and praising Him still, we weren’t fully ready to just let Him run the show again. Maybe it came from a place of hurt, anger, frustration, mourning, etc… He will allow us that space – for a time. His pursuit for us, though, just continues; bigger, bolder, faster…

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When I had my latest surrender moment – cuz if you’re like me, you probably have them more often that we’d care to share with the world – He really pressed into my heart that this temple needed some work in order to be used fully for what He was calling me to do. I knew that meant dealing with my foot, my heart, my spirit, and my body.

When we ask God where change needs to happen, it’s amazing that He’ll not only show us where, but He’ll also give us practical steps to get there – if we’re listening for His voice.

Keeping the #RestoringTheTemple mindset has been helpful in pushing me through changes in my diet, in my workouts, in my bible study/meditation, in my prayer life, in my relationships with other people, in my writing… in every area of my life, I can see this theme playing out.

So what do we do or how does #RestoringTheTemple mindset begin… ? It just does. For me, it was just a continual giving over to God full ownership of my thoughts, my body, my choices. It meant that every single thing turned into a Spirit conversation for me…

I encourage you to stay in prayer about the changes God wants to make in your life in order for the restoration to happen and continue happening. While we conquer some areas, others will bubble up to the surface. One of the most important things we can do is allow God to keep us in a space of constant state of renewal and growth.

I would love to be part of this journey with you and to walk it with you. I believe that as I share this out in various places, God is going to be sought after in big ways for some temple restoring gigs. That’s my prayer anyway…

On being transparent…

I might have a problem. At least some people would think it’s a problem…

I’m a little bit ridiculously transparent. You ask, I answer. You don’t ask, I still answer.

I remember when social media turned from ‘… is taking a break at work.” or “… is going to the movies.” into something more like, “I’m taking a break from my awesome job that pays me enough to go buy the latest Range Rover and the new iPhone.” or “You guys, my kids are so beautifuuullll. Look at how awesome they are when we go to the movies together and they are so well behaved and can sit through a whole movie at only 2 years old because they’re just perfect, you guys!!” And thus began a whole new game of the “Comparison Trap” and I was bound and determined NOT to play it.Imperfect

Unfortunately, it meant that my pendulum swung way in the other direction. I told myself I would never be one of those “perfect, plastic people” and everyone would get a front row seat to the madness that was my heart, mind, spirit, life.

Of course, that wasn’t entirely true either. There were and are still some things that I hold very close to my own heart or I’ll share it only with the inner circle or, sometimes, just one person.

I still overshare now and then, but am encouraged when I know that someone, even if just one person, was able to see some strength in that vulnerability that was on full display and it encouraged her own vulnerability.

I know “story” is kinda like a hot button word right now, but I truly do believe in sharing stories; in walking with my sisters, in building up my brothers, in the hope of redemption, and watching faith explode when miracles happen. There is a richness that comes from each of us when we’re willing to walk in our transparency and to tell our stories, even when it’s really hard to tell. We’re not all called to do that on a social media platform, but I pray that we’re at least willing to do it within our families or within the safe space of a small group or circle of friends.

masterpiece

There is something special when we’re able to see the work being done and the rawness afforded to us by other people in our lives. It gives us the opportunity to step into their heart space and embrace them with an understanding that we might not have had without the transparency from that person. We are able to foster deeper relationships and connections with people when we allow ourselves to be transparent. In Galatians 6, we’re told to bear one another’s burdens. We aren’t able to do that if everyone is putting on airs all the time. Paul tells us in Romans to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep. We are told to care for one another, y’all. How can we do that if we’re choosing to hold in the things that make us vulnerable or the things that will draw us closer to the people whom He’s provided to us?

Finally, our prayer needs get met. This is probably the one that most speaks to my own heart. When I know that I have a pack of people, or heck.. even just one other person.. praying with me about something specific, this girls love tank fills to overflowing. Having agreement in prayer is biblical and we’re not able to do that if we’re not able to have some transparency with other people. Anyone who has followed me on Facebook over the last several months has had a front row seat to the journey with my foot and the prayers over this darn left foot of mine have been magnificent! Also, when I get to partner with other people in prayer; whether it’s surface level issues or substantial heart issues, God is giving me a piece of that person’s soul to carry to the Cross and there is nothing but overwhelming honor and love in that specific act.

Wait, finally again… I forgot, where’s my head, y’all?! Glory to God. Amen? When we are able to be broken, process though, and come to the other side – we offer hope to those who’ve been able to journey with us. If my story is good for nothing but showing one other soul that he or she is not alone, then God has done exactly what He intended to do.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as Christ’s sufferings are ours in abundance [as they overflow to His followers], so also our comfort [our reassurance, our encouragement, our consolation] is abundant through Christ [it is truly more than enough to endure what we must]. But if we are troubled and distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted and encouraged, it is for your comfort, which works [in you] when you patiently endure the same sufferings which we b]”>[b]experience. And our c]”>[c]hope for you [our confident expectation of good for you] is firmly grounded [assured and unshaken], since we know that just as you share as partners in our sufferings, so also you share as partners in our comfort.

For we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about d]”>[d]our trouble in [the west coast province of] Asia [Minor], how we were utterly weighed down, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life [itself]. Indeed, we felt within ourselves that we had received the sentence of death [and were convinced that we would die, but this happened] so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. 10 He rescued us from so great a threat of death, and will continue to rescue us. On Him we have set our hope. And He will again rescue us [from danger and draw us near], 11 while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then thanks will be given by many persons on our behalf for the gracious gift [of deliverance] granted to us through the prayers of many [believers].

You are good enough…

For many of us who have been single for a lifetime, or what feels like a lifetime, this can be a question that creeps into our heart time and again. The thoughts of never being the chosen one, being third, fourth or last choice no matter what we do, having to face another day of rejection… those can be so overwhelming. When allowed to gain a foothold, I believe it can actually cause physical side effects (problems with weight, acne, little energy, etc…) along with the spiritual battle for your heart that ensues inside.

Our first reaction is typically to start building that wall or to put the wall back up because we should’ve known better than to let someone in, right? We get mad at ourselves for being foolish, for dreaming, for thinking this time we might actually be enough finally, for believing in the idea of love and how it might be for us after all.

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Stop. It.

Friends, those are all very real feelings. And they are HARD to deal with on what seems like an ongoing basis… ask me how I know.  But allowing those thoughts to rule in our hearts, define our worth, overtake our days; even worse overtake our nights means that we are not walking in and believing in the sovereignty of God Almighty.

Do we think, I mean with the deepest places in our hearts, that God wants to see us in pain? That He wants us to consistently question our own worth? That He wants us to live in a place of unmet desires and expectations day in and day out?

So how do we get out of that funk? That heart place the enemy is desperately trying to overtake with his lies and his deception?

First we lean into our Father God, into His word and promises for us. They are never not the right thing to do; read, pray, worship. Then we lean into our inner circle peeps.. the ones who hold our hearts and who passionately run to God on our behalf. And, finally, pour into other people; serve, pray, love.

I know I don’t know everything, I only come to these things from a place of experience.. I don’t know all the answers. I know what works for me and what God has revealed to me. I know that God is faithful and that He has no desire to see me or you sitting in a place where we’re consistently questioning our own worth, goodness, value, etc…

The Spirit of the Living God lives inside you. Believe me, you are enough. Walk in His strength and power today. Remind yourself that not only do you belong to the King of the world, but that the King of the world is residing inside of you.

Let me know how I can partner with you. If you’re in the pit, I wanna help you out.

God tells us:
Psalm 139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Making way

I’m pretty sure, in my world, every traffic situation can somehow be turned back to a relationship analogy. I don’t know why… maybe I’ve spent too much time in traffic…  maybe because of my hard work over the years to develop good, solid relationship skills; with a goal to reach mastery level by the time I make it to heaven, has been such a priority. Who knows.. I’m just here to share these weird traffic/relationship analogies that hit me in the head when I’m driving down the road.

Anytime I’m in the car with someone who might potentially be someone I want to do life with, I will pay particularly close attention to the way he drives because I feel like it will tell me so much that I need to know about how he will approach most things in life. No pressure, though, potential suitors. 😉

This week as I was driving, wait… first. I love driving. I feel like I’m a really good driver and it’s not something that frustrates me or puts me on edge. I like to be behind the wheel. Traffic doesn’t phase me; it just is. Also it allows more time for the car concert that is most certainly happening.

Okay, this week as I was driving, wait… you guys, TX driving is unlike driving anywhere else I’ve been. The level of pure self-centeredness on the road is on full display every.single.day #evenSunday. Talk about opportunities to pray over people.

Okay, really now… this week as I was driving, I was paying particular attention to when/how/why people allow or do not allow other drivers to merge or come into their lane.

When a person is merging onto the freeway or just simply needs to change lanes, I can’t understand why some people hold the line so tightly that no one is allowed to get in front of them. When we think about it, it’s just pure selfishness. The driver holding the line is valuing his time and need to be somewhere above any other driver on the road. Even if allowing a merging driver in is actually better for the overall traffic flow for all of us, that selfish driver is determined to hold his own space so tightly that no one can get ahead.

How often do we catch ourselves holding our own space/things/time so tightly that no one can get in? So that no one can get ahead of us?

The term that kept coming to my head way “Waymaker” and while I know that is often used in reference to God, I think there is some space for us, too, to be [little w] way makers for people. Am I a way maker? Can we all be way makers just creating space for one another?

Can this be how we approach something as simple as merging traffic? Faithful in little, faithful in much…

Digging a bit further, am I being a generous way maker or am I begrudgingly making way for this person? I’m brought back to 2 Corinthians 9:6-7: The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. God’s word is telling me that I will reap bountifully if I sow bountifully and if I do it with a cheerful heart, He loves that!

Even driving down the road we can do some sowing and reaping, friends. Think about that frazzled momma who is just having the worst morning and the simplest gesture of her not having to fight for her spot on the freeway because someone made way for her has the ability to change her whole morning. Or the guy on the way to the hospital to see his dad he’s not seen for 15 years and he just needs a calm spirit when he enters that room. Or even the completely arrogant business man who just didn’t prepare or manage his time will that morning and is running late, even him.

C’mon over, bro.. I’ll let you in here.

I’ll create space for you.

I’ll slow down so that we can both win.

I’ll be a way maker for you. I know you have things to do and places to be, and they might actually be more important than the places I need to be.

It’s safe here. I’m safe.

way maker

 

God didn’t give us a list of people we should or shouldn’t make way for while here in the world. We were created to be His example. THE Waymaker has created opportunities for us to be way makers for His people; and sometimes those opportunities are during rush hour traffic on the way to work. How precious to know that He trusts us to show His love in the smallest ways that, in the big scheme of things, takes so little time and effort on our part, but could potentially have a huge impact on another soul. 

The beauty is that when we learn how to make way in small ways, making way in bigger ways doesn’t seem like a big deal. It just becomes part of who we are and how we operate. My hope and prayer is that we all become way makers for Him and His people. All of them. Even those ones. And that one. And especially that one. Baby steps, y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking up with Toast

A few weeks ago, I felt a strong prompting from the Holy Spirit to give up my nightly toast habit. I was like, really, HS? You’re worried about my toast habit?

Months leading up to the breakup with toast, the Holy Spirit was laying other small things on my heart which needed to be broken away, other areas that I needed to pay attention to, and particular focus on some fruits of the spirit I was neglecting.

What I didn’t realize until after the toast breakup and even as recently as today was that God was checking to see if He could trust my obedience. Was I going to follow through on what He was asking me even with something as small as giving up toast, with practicing better self-control, breaking unhealthy ties, being more gentle with myself? Was I ready to be entrusted with more?

8112e8536733cfb540e63ca9a91b8ed8Luke 16 tells us the parable of The Unrighteous Steward or the Dishonest Manager. It’s really easy to think of this in terms of money or mammon only, but really we can say it’s about anything which God entrusts to us. Money, responsibilities in the home, spouses, children, jobs, people, ourselves, etc… We are told to steward well anything that God gives us.

10 One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

So how was I stewarding things He’d entrusted to me? Was I taking good care of the hearts He’d given to me? How was my money management? Where was I with my purpose?

Honestly, not always very well. In some areas I was knockin’ it out of the park, but in other areas I was totally missing the mark. We had a trust that needed to be rebuilt; in other words… I had to climb back onto the altar. I needed to be wrapped into His steadfast love for me – just me and Him for a while.

It’s okay to admit that we just need to crawl into that space with Him, all alone, sometimes. I know it isn’t easy when we’re already juggling way more than we have hours in the day to complete, but if we go back to the principle of tithing, and giving Him our very first, that includes our time. No excuses.

When He knows we can be trusted with the little things, with the hearts of others, the time in our day, the money He provides – we give Him the space to do more through us and with us. His true riches will come to us when we are stewarding well what’s already in our care.

With our good stewardship, He will begin to reveal His gifts for us. We will be trusting Him to provide for us the things that will further the Kingdom and He will trust us to follow through with those gifts. It’s a beautiful manifestation of obedience on our end.

Maybe it’s time to think about your “toast” and see what needs to be eliminated or removed in order to make way for the Holy Spirit to speak into your heart so that God can fulfill His kingdom purposes through you. Maybe you’re already there, and you’re living the stewardship out fully; I want to be like you one day. Until then, I will constantly be evaluating my “toast” and seeing what things need to be tossed aside so that I can move forward in a spirit of trust with the Maker of the entire world.

Being you is…

Whenever I’m getting to know someone new, I feel a need to kind of rattle off some of my weirdness so they can grasp how weird I am. Like, I feel like I need to provide that person with the information necessary to bolt if they aren’t ready to deal with all the things Stephanie.

I definitely have some quirks, some insecurities, some brassiness, some weirdness, some difficultiec6f020115f7bd055ce7d293734083accs, etc… we all do. So I have to sometimes ask myself why I think all of those things that make me, me are so much worse or different than the things that make you, you or her, her or him, him. We all have our quirks, insecurities, etc…

One thing I’m learning as I’m growing (b)older is that I’m not nearly as much of a mess as I think I am, that I am worth knowing and loving despite my messy bits, and that God has given me a set of circumstances and gifts that are unique to me in order to fulfill His purpose through me.

The things that make me who I am, as weird as they might be, enable me to reach a group of people who need the specific things I bring to the relationship. And the very same thing is true for each of us. I don’t doubt the bigness of a mighty God to draw certain people into doing life with one another based solely on the things one of those people may deem as insignificant, useless, weird, or messy. We are in this together and we have the most perfect God putting us in each other’s path.

So how do we own our super power and walk in it daily? I’m still learning.

Surrounding ourselves with people who encourage our true selves and desire to know the real us, that’s important and I would put it second behind our own desire to know and love ourselves and being our true selves with our self.

Also, being confident that God is a Master Creator.. leaning into Him to recognize, restore, and repair places that need to be tended while welcoming the bits that aren’t nearly as messy as we think they are. Which leads to embracing our faults… they are probably more endearing, and way less “faulty” than we think.

Finally, in most cases, what people think about us is none of our business. So what if people think we’re weird, or messy, or loud, or “too much” – like, really.. why do we care what THAT person thinks?? Now, I’m going to counter this one some with the willingness to be teachable where necessary. What Joe Schmo thinks about me isn’t necessarily important. However, if my husband (whenever I get one!), best friends, boss point out something to me that might need some work, I want to have a willing heart to accept their words and the desire to work on changes, if needed.

In all my unprofessional, but life lived experience, there is my wisdom about how to embrace the super power that is YOU! Mine is mostly embraced, but I am still working on the full embrace in certain situations, with certain people… I’m giving myself some grace there and I hope you give yourself some grace too. As long as we continue to do the work, we’ll eventually find our way to the embrace.

Now go on and be all weird and lovely and beautiful and messy in this world, you super hero!