Valentine’s Day is a little annoying, I admit.
Granted, I love an excuse to buy chocolate of any kind, even in the shape of a rose.
Perhaps Valentine’s Day frustrates people because it attempts to make love a tangible, plastic, shallow thing that can be picked up off the shelf and tossed into a gift bag. Chocolate covered or not, people give a sideways glance to the “love” that is advertised this time of year.
Commercialism capitalizing on love is not beautiful. But, love itself is breathtaking – and it deserves a day to honor it and celebrate it. In fact, it deserves more than a day. It deserves everyday.
Love, by definition, is patient and kind. It is not self-seeking. Imagine that.
It is the mother who cries herself to sleep, praying earnestly for wisdom and help. It is the spouse who cares for the love of his life as she struggles with illness. It is the forgiving heart that never gives up, speaking the truth in love, and holding onto hope with everything. Love never gives up. It has no end.
Love rejoices. It celebrates. It belly-laughs into the wee hours of the night, thankful for every minute of time it has with you.
Love is not packaged in boxes and ribbons. It is passionately poured out from hearts that cannot contain it.
It is not rude or abusive. That is not love.
It is not resentful. Rather, it soothes a bitter heart with gentleness. And protects the innocent with strength and wisd
If I were to place love on a shelf to sell, there would not be a shelf in all the world that could contain it.
There would not be enough money in all the world to purchase it.
Love, although too high a price for us to attain, is lavished upon us freely. Like the sun that faithfully strengthens us and the rain that constantly nourishes us, we are surrounded by His love -unknowingly surrounded. God is love.
He loves intensely and purposefully. Every. Single. Day.
His love cannot fit on a shelf. Nor can it fit in a heart. That is why it pours out like rushing waters from one person to another. We can not contain it. It is too great.
The love God has for you is so much sweeter than what is wrapped on the shelves this Valentine’s Day. With all my heart, I hope that your heart will be overwhelmed by the love God has for you.
Celebrate Love every day. Even on Valentine’s Day.
They were just little, green squares of paper, but they felt like sacred treasure. The words were misspelled, some letters looked more like abstract art, but they moved my heart to tears.
We were cleaning up Christmas decorations and preparing for the next series. Trees were stored, wrapping paper trashed, and the little manger for the stage was tucked away for next year. But, when I picked up a large stack of little, green squares, I just couldn’t bring myself to drop them into the trash can.
The last lesson on the Sunday before Christmas break was about the wise men. They brought Jesus such strange gifts, the kids thought. We smelled the frankincense and myrrh. We passed around little nuggets of gold. We talked about why those gifts were so meaningful and why the wise men brought the very best things they had to Jesus.
And then, we talked about our best. What could we possibly give Jesus that would be good enough? How could we show Him how thankful we are that He sent His Son to us? How could we possibly offer anything that could show Him how thankful we are for His love?
As the worship band began to play, kids gathered around the altar and picked up little green pieces of paper. They knelt and wrote their prayer to Jesus. They stayed at the altar longer than I expected. It was quieter than I expected.
Finally, the wooden manger on the stage was filled with green pieces of paper. They were beautiful, sweet, gifts presented to Jesus by His precious kids.
With everything put away for Christmas, the only thing left to throw away are those little, green pieces of paper. As I walked to the trash can, I couldn’t help feeling like I was holding something very precious to the Lord. And to me.
I imagined how God must treasure our prayers. I wondered if these little prayers were a fragrance in heaven like Revelation describes the prayers of the saints.
Thankfulness and love is a beautiful gift. What I was holding in my hands, God treasures in His heart. I am in awe of that. And so, very, very thankful.
Dear Beautiful Brides,
I know you are busy and overwhelmed as you prepare for the rest of your life. I’m a big fan of marriage. I’ve enjoyed this journey of marriage immensely. If you have time between dress fittings and honeymoon planning, I’d like to share a few secrets that might help you along the road to happily ever after…
1. Trust God entirely.
You are bubbling over with dreams coming true. This is the beginning of so many great things to come. You are building a family, a legacy, a foundation for generations. You can not see the road ahead and neither can I. But God can. Put your absolute trust in Him. Obey His word when it doesn’t make sense. Follow Him even when it makes you uncomfortable. We can be deceived and disillusioned, but God can’t. Trust Him entirely by doing what He says to do. You won’t regret it.
2. Marriage is like a fairytale
Marriage can seem like a fairytale. You found the one your soul loves. And he loves you back. That’s amazing. It’s euphoria. It’s a time to dream. It’s mysterious, new, and exciting. It should be. It’s a fabulous stage of love!
3. Marriage is not a fairytale
But as real as all those things are, there will be a day when you wake up and realize that popular fairytale stories end right at the altar. Storytellers sum up entire marriages with the phrase “and they lived happily ever after”! And guess what? Those six little words represent a lot of tears, fears, forgiveness, hope, love, crazy, horrifying, sometimes gut-wrenching surprises over years and years of marriage.
It really is “happily ever after,” but it is not “happily every second”.
We know that. But you need to really, really know that.
And don’t forget rule number one on the days when rule number 3 is blazing through your mind. When you look at your spouse with disgust and wonder if you will ever love him again, remember number one. And push through. Pray through. Love through. And on the other side of the battle, you will have more treasure than you can stand. You will love one another more deeply than you thought possible. You will be more “one” than even the fairytales can describe. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Love God & trust God. And hang on for the happily ever after!
4. Your husband can not make you happy.
He can not make you complete. He can not fill an emptiness within you. Only God can. Your happiness can not be based upon the actions of anyone, including your spouse. Happiness comes from within. And we are empty, dry wells without Jesus. He is the only thing that never changes. He is always with you and never leaves you. He is the only one that can give you purpose and heal your brokenness. Your husband is not God. Don’t ask him to do things only God can.
When we realize that, we are free to love our husbands better, love ourselves better, and love everyone else better.
5. Kids are going change everything for the better – and for the worse.
There is truly no greater gift than children. Love bursts from our hearts before we even hear a single cry spill from their lungs. It’s ridiculous how awesome being a parent is!
Parenthood affects marriages. Your heart will overflow with wonder over and over as you see you spouse love your child, giggle with your child, and snuggle with your child.
But your heart will also feel some less warm and fussy emotions when you add another human to your home. You will feel jealous, sad, angry, lonely…. for reasons that make sense and reasons that don’t make sense.
Let us again remember rule number one. When it doesn’t make sense, honor your spouse.
When you don’t have time, take time for your spouse. Be purposeful. Guard it. Neglect whatever you have to so that you won’t neglect your spouse.
You will be exhausted. Be exhausted together.
You will be frustrated. Be frustrated together.
You will be tempted to focus ALL your attention on your child. Do not neglect your spouse.
Be together. Stay together. Make giant efforts to love one another.
Do more for your spouse during your marriage than you did dating them.
If your wrote letters, don’t stop. If you never wrote a letter, write one. Recreate dates, recall memories, and have inside jokes.
Your kids will thank you for it. And so will your kids’ spouses.
6. Marriage is not a guessing game. Communicate. And listen.
Dating is weird. It’s awkward. It’s often a guessing game. What do they think? How did they interpret what I just said? Will they be offended if I do that?
Marriage is not a guessing game. It’s about honest, sincere communication.
Be willing to talk and listen until both of you understand each other – Or, at least until both of you have honestly communicated thoughts and feelings. Don’t stop talking right before the truth comes out.
Women, let’s face it, we don’t really know what’s bothering us until we talk about it. And although our very patient husbands do not immensely enjoy the journey we have to travel to get to what’s really bothering us, we have to get to it. We have to be truthful. Don’t wish your husband would understand if you aren’t willing to tell him the truth.
And be willing to listen. We can be wrong. We can make mistakes. And often, both of us are wrong.
Get back to focusing on the good in each other
7. Keep dreaming together
Dreams change. You will change. Your spouse will change. But God doesn’t change.
He has dreamed up an amazing life for you and your spouse. Follow him. Trust Him. Obey Him. And He will lead you into abundant life.
What we have dreamed for ourselves and our families can not even compare to what He has planned for us.
So, dream together. Be amazed at how indescribably good God is. Be thankful for your spouse.
And live happily ever after.
I can feel the itch. The urge to purge my house is becoming irresistible. Every closet needs it, every cabinet, and every room – and for fear that I might tear up, let’s just not even mention the garage!
It’s amazing how quickly I can accumulate things that, in just a few months, I will throw out. What I thought I needed to purchase, I didn’t. What I thought I needed to keep, I shouldn’t have kept. But, the question that echoes in my mind this time every year and keeps me buried beneath mounds of stuff is: “What if I need it later?” And so, clothing that hasn’t hung on a body in years remains stored away in closets along with the other “just in case” items that crowd my home.
There is wisdom in being prepared. So, with that anthem as my song, I continue to wade through unnecessary, burdensome piles of stuff – but, very important, (maybe) one-day useful, stuff.
That logic spills over into my life in many areas. I’m up to my ears in tasks that need to be completed. I’m running from one appointment to the next, guilty that I’ve missed important moments with my kids and saddened that I haven’t had time to experience life with my husband. But, there’s this list to get done. You know the ever-important list filled with unending tasks that make an obstacle course out of life.
Is this what life is about? A list of tasks? Is life about a never-ending, chasing my tail kind of existence? Is it about the next appointment, the next activity, the next job?
Perhaps we are running in circles that were never meant to be run by us. We are not rats, after all. Why should we sign up for the rat race?
We were created for a purpose. That purpose involves the Creator. He longs for us to know and love Him. That longing in mirrored in our hearts. Only He can fill that longing.
If our schedules have crowded out our primary purpose of living, no wonder we collapse on our beds at night with hearts that still cry out, “It wasn’t done! I wasn’t successful! I need more!”
We do need more. But, not more tasks on our to-do list, not more clients or fame, not more money or wealth. We need more time with our Creator. We need that close, real relationship with Him if we are going to calm that cry of our hearts. Like the lungs need air, we need Him.
Fleeting thoughts of Him or lofty, creative statements about Him will not satisfy us. We need time alone with Him. We need moments of sincere, soul-searching prayer. We need to feed hungrily on His Word so that we can hear Him speak to us.
But, how can we do that with this never-ending, demanding list of tasks that swallow up the day before it begins? I have no seconds to give, much less minutes and hours in prayer. What am I to do?
It’s time to Spring Clean Our Schedules!
It’s true. If something is stealing our relationship with Christ, it is becoming an idol. It is becoming more important than God. We are trying to fill a spiritual need with physical success and activities.
Let’s evaluate what we can give up. I know, we don’t see anything we can give up.
Our kids are amazing at sports. But, if they become the best athletes in the world at the cost of a relationship with Christ, have they really become successful in life? (“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Matthew 16:26)
We have bills and needs that overwhelm us. We cannot give up any time at work or our needs will not be met. But, if our physical needs are met and not our spiritual needs, have we really lived? God promises to provide for us both spiritually and physically if we will seek Him first. (Matthew 6:33)
I am not suggesting that we quit everything. We may not need to quit anything. I’m suggesting that we evaluate what we can give up in order to gain so much more.
We all know that spending time with the Lord brings peace, joy, and confidence. Time with Him makes us better at all the tasks on our long to-do list. When we spend time with Him, He will give us wisdom and help us choose the right things to put on the list – and help us see what we should take off. I, personally, have a tendency to put too much on my list, so He often leads me to take things off.
God has a MUCH better plan than we could dream up for ourselves. But, we need to ask Him about it. We need to ask Him what He wants us to give up. And then – the true test – will we do it?
Struggle with this idea. Wrestle with it. And then ask God to help you clean your schedule so that you will have time with Him.
When you do, the world won’t see you as another rat in the rat race of life. They will notice that you have spent time with God. And that is worth giving up the little things.
….they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.