**I apologize for the poor video quality. Ahhhh Iphones.**
Back in the day I used to know this girl named- well lets just say Stephanie. Stephanie lived in my neighborhood. There was a group of us that would always hang out and Stephanie wasn’t one of them. She was different. She wore really short shorts and cropped tops usually showing most of her bra. Her long blond hair was always hanging down the middle of her back and her face was hidden somewhere beneath all of the makeup. I remember my friends and I would talk about her a lot. Things usually like- “I can’t believe she is wearing that. Who does she think she is? I can’t believe she smokes…. that’s so wrong. She’s really bad and we shouldn’t be associated with her. So glad we’re not like her.” Words like these were exchanged for a whole year between me and my friends. But one day we stopped seeing her around. We didn’t think much of it until we met another girl who used to be friends with her who told us what happened to her. Stephanie had moved away because she was a foster kid. Apparently she would stay with a family until they got sick of her and then she would be shipped off to live with someone else. Most of her life she felt unwanted. When I heard this I remember feeling sick to my stomach. Here I was judging her without knowing anything about her. Without knowing her at all.
“Judging others is a blindfold. Judging others is a blindfold that blinds us to our own grime and blinds us to the GRACE which others are as eligible and entitled to as we are.” – Voskamp
Everyone has traveled their own road. Everyone has a story to tell, pain they have had to suffer, and life experiences that has shaped them one way or another.
Matthew 7:1-5- ” Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your (sister’s) eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your (sister) Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your (sister’s) eye.”
Phew! Girls! Where is your heart? Is there someone that you may be presuming assumptions upon because of the way they look, because of their attitude towards you, because of the choices they have made and all of the outward things your eyes may see?? Ask yourself do you know their story? Do you know them at all? Or are you just sizing them up to be the very thing you want them to be in order to make yourself feel better about yourself? Have you looked at your own heart lately?
“Do you hold other people to a standard of perfection instead of letting them all be held in the arms of grace?”- Voskamp
Oh sweet grace. We can rejoice because we are covered by GRACE!! We can rejoice because they too are covered by GRACE!! I am dancing and singing with my arms outstretched because of who I am in Christ! The more I believe in His love for me the more I am able to love everyone else regardless of who they are or who they seem to be. We are called to love and we are ALL entitled to grace.
And then there are those of you who find yourself on the other side of it. You feel alone and isolated because you have been accused of being a certain way. Or other girls have their opinion about you because they are only looking at your outward appearance and not taking the time to really get to know your heart. Maybe you’re the one who has had to travel a dirty road leading you to a pain so deep that the only thing you know to do is to inflict pain onto others. Maybe you’re hurting others because you yourself are hurting.
There is hope for you dear friend. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”- 1 Samuel 16:7
The Lord sees your whole story and sees the very depths of your heart. He is lifting up your head, staring into your eyes and carrying through the weight of each day. You are not what everyone else says of you… you belong to Jesus and He says that you are His child! You are His friend. – John 15:15 You are justified and redeemed. Rom. 3:24 You are a fellow heir with Christ. Rom 8:17 You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 9:19 You are joined to the Lord and are one spirit with Him. 1 Cor. 6:17 You are a new creation 2 Cor. 5:17 The list goes on and on. Who cares what others say about you… who does Jesus say you are? The one who knows everything about you actually calls you one with Himself! Hold on to this truth and be careful to not find yourself judging those who judge you.
In whichever situation you find yourself in, go to Jesus. May he open our hearts to our own sin and dig out the filth that has been piling up needing to be plucked out. I pray that pride will fall and shame will be thrown to the ground. I pray our eyes be taken off of ourselves all together and placed on the cross. I pray we live each day with kindness on our lips uplifting one another, encouraging one another and loving each other because we have been given kindness and love when we do not deserve it ourselves. May we not find ourselves assuming the worst in someone but may we find ourselves always seeking to understand. “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord: keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil….” Psalm 141:3-4
I wish I could go back to that little neighborhood where all my time was wrapped around my friends like my feathered bangs wrapped around my head, and Stephanie sitting on her front porch with a cigarette between her fingers. I would do things a little differently. My hope is that I would walk up to her and say hi. I would tell her my name. I would sit down next to her and maybe ask her questions about herself. I would try to get to know her. I may even risk being associated with her. After all- Jesus was associated with sinners. The tax collectors, the drunks, the prostitutes……hmmmmm….. even me.
I was no better than Stephanie. I am no better than you. We are all just children in need of Jesus.
“When this life ends we will all see each other for what we really are. There will be surprises. One of those surprises will surely be how ill-willed our judgements were. Another will be how much suffering we caused others through wrongly judging them. Yet another will be how often we were guilty of the very thing we judged another for”. – Anonymous
Hey There Lonely Girl,
On some park bench in the middle of the day, there you sit. You see everything and everyone around you, and you wonder, do they see you back. These vacant benches and quiet spaces have become like an old comfy shirt to your weary and broken soul.
For to be seen, is to be known.
Sitting in secluded corners sipping coffee, you look like you’re waiting for a friend to arrive, but you know that’s not the case. You seem confident in the loneliness, almost as though you prefer the solace. No one can see, however, that silently your heart is screaming for someone, anyone to notice you. To come into your pain. To make you…not so lonely.
Fear of your destiny to forever be abandoned, excluded, denied, rejected, and forgotten sweep over your already tired soul and you just cant imagine how this life could ever bring you joy again. You will forever be alone.
Darkness has a way of captivating our spirit. Consuming us thick and tricking us into believing that dawn will never come, only night. Only the emptiness.
But hear me when I say this, Lonely Girl- light HAS come. He has come. He has seen those spaces and places you keep hidden from the world. The things that trap you in your loneliness. He knows the thoughts and regrets that plague you in the night when you feel the most alone. He knows it all.
And the moments when your heart’s mouth cries out to be known, to be loved, to be seen, He is right there, looking right at you….and loving you.
The world will always lie to you. It will tell you that you were a mistake, too screwed up to ever be fixed; destined for solitude. But He who is named TRUTH says otherwise.
He has said that you are more precious than rubies. He has said that you are so worth loving, that life itself is not too great a sacrifice for you. He has said he would never leave you or abandon you. To Him your name is not Lonely. To Him, your name is
Holy, Righteous, & Redeemed
He is for you. I am for you. And a chord of three strands cannot be broken.
So hold hands with me as we hold onto to Him and together we will see just how abundant this life can be.
“For Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.”
I consider myself to be a pretty well rounded mother of three. I do the laundry, cook the food, clean the messes, bandage the boo-boos, read stories and kiss little cheeks. I’m a multi-tasker to the max and I take pride in getting many things done at once.
I also consider myself an excellent phone consumer. I can scroll through Instagram, check my email, search the weather, pick through Pinterest and text my friends and family all at once.
What’s truly impressive, however, is my ability to be a mother and a phone consumer at the same time. Although impressive, this “talent” you could say has led me down a path of habit, addiction and absence.
My i-phone has become another member of the family. I catch myself constantly saying “hold on a minute, wait one sec, let me just finish this sentence, I’ll be right there, etc.” as I hold my phone in my hands typing away as my child pulls on my pant leg and as my husband waits for my full attention to say something. I hear the bing of an incoming text and I’m answering its call as if it has trained me to come like a dog by its master. Somehow everything seems urgent on the phone. My friend asked an important question, this person needs something from me, I need to get back in touch with this person right away…. Or else what? What will happen if I just wait to answer? What would happen if instead I gave my attention to those who are right in front of me? -The ones looking at my face waiting for me to make eye contact with them. The ones who are wanting to know if they are more important than the machine in my hand.
According to Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Family and Childhood Relationships in the Digital Age- she says that I am not alone. “ Kids suffer as a result. After interviewing hundreds of kids and adults, I have found that what kids feel the most is sad, isolated and alone. They feel like it’s impossible to get their parents’ attention. Walking into a room to talk to a parent and being told brusquely “in a minute, hold on,” makes the kids feel deflated and bad about themselves.”
This breaks my heart. And it’s not just kids who are reaping the consequences. It’s relationships period! The husband and wife who sit next to each other and instead of looking at one another in conversation they are looking at the screen. The friend who is sharing something important while the one across the table is reminded to look at a picture or an email instead of being fully present. We cant even watch a movie all together without the majority of us looking up facts about the movie, where else did we see that actor, and when was this movie made all leading us back to our phone.
It has become a crutch to lean on when we find ourselves in awkward situations, when we find ourselves alone while waiting for someone to show up, when we are wanting the world to think that we have it all together when really we don’t. My husband just said the other day….. “Do we ever do anything anymore to just do them? Or are we living our lives to make for a good picture on our social media?”
In the film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” there is a scene where a photographer has traveled across the world to take a picture of a snow leopard that rarely makes an appearance. As he sits there gazing upon the animal as it emerges from the caves… he doesn’t take the picture. His friend asks if he plans to capture this moment and his response is so profound. He answers by saying there are moments so good he wants to remain in them fully present rather than interrupting it with a push of a button.
Our lives are filled with precious moments and we can certainly miss them.
In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 it says “ …. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Sounds like all the times we’re on our phone. Right? And yet its talking about verse 5- “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Phew. The majority of my day is spent with my mind on the phone rather than on loving God with my whole heart.
Before you even read this post, I’m sure you were already aware of the digital problem we face. You know this, but have you done anything about it? Of course it isn’t realistic to throw away your phone or stop emailing and answering texts all together! I mean the phone allows me to see my husband when he’s gone. The phone allows me to connect with people. But we definitely can learn to manage better. This is about boundaries. This is about what our minds and hearts are constantly stayed on as we go about our day. We can learn to check our phones when we want, not when it wants. Set your boundaries, walk outside and be fully present where you are.
Do’s and Don’ts I have learned in the last month.
- - Don’t form ” I hate so and so clubs.” Even in your mind… look at everyone with an open heart.
- - Do freak out if you see a mouse run across your kitchen floor like I just saw. It’s ok to feel invaded by their little presence and you are allowed to have feelings of animosity towards them. This mouse is not welcome here and we will be sure that his little friends get the message.
- - Do stay present in the midst of conflict. Sometimes marriage, friendships and other relationships just get hard. Don’t run away from them…. fight to resolve it and your relationship will deepen.
- - Don’t wear white while cooking spaghetti. You more than likely will receive a beautiful orangish stain somewhere on your shirt that will leave you feeling frustrated and sad.
- - Do color outside of the lines. Sometimes we get so caught up in being perfect that we forget to allow ourselves to let go and let our creativity just flow. I am reminded of this as I look at my daughter’s version of strawberry shortcake. Lets just say her blue face and multicolored hair screams originality.
- - Don’t always hold your feelings in. If you’re upset, tell a friend. If you’re sad, cry with someone. If you’re mad, be real about it. If you’re needing someone to rejoice with you, go find that someone and dance until you can’t feel your legs.
- - Do paint your toes hot pink. Sometimes a little color goes a long way. And it’s spring for pete’s sake.
- - Don’t hold grudges. If your friend hurt you… tell her, forgive and move on. (enter here the saying you have heard a million times- Life’s too Short!!!!)
- - Do floss. I’ve always been really bad about this. But suddenly I have a fear of losing all of my teeth when I’m older. Seriously, How horrible would that be?? Flossing it is… no matter how much I hate it.
- - Don’t let the loss of your favorite sports team ruin your day.
- - But… DO yell at the TV if they just aren’t playing like they should when they get paid millions of dollars to win.
- - Don’t pet a lady bug… it ends up peeing on you. You think I’m kidding… just try it.
- - Do run in the rain. It’s freeing, and invigorating, and childlike.
- - Don’t watch Parenthood… you WILL cry!!
- - Do watch Parenthood… you WILL cry!!
- - Don’t go to Target expecting to walk out with just the one thing you went in for…. you always walk out with more.
- - Do pray for someone right when they ask you to… out loud with them….because lets be honest, we say we will pray for them and a lot of times just forget.
- - Don’t look at your phone more than looking into the face of someone else.
- - Do look into the eyes of the person who is talking to you.
- - Don’t look around the room to see who else is around while someone is talking to you. It makes them feel unimportant and unloved. Pay attention and show them that you care. That’s what you would want isn’t it?
- - Do take spontaneous road trips with your favorite music and your favorite coffee. Sometimes just a drive with fresh air and some good tunes is good for the soul.
- - Don’t compare yourself to everyone else on instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. You are lovely and you are worth more than what a picture says.
- - Do call your grandparents. If they are around they want to hear from you and they think about you probably more than you think about them.
- - Don’t judge someone just because they do things differently than you. Always seek to understand.
- - Do think about others more than yourself. Better yet find things to get involved in that keep you from thinking about yourself at all.
- - Don’t always wear makeup. Sometimes it’s nice to just be natural..
- - Do force yourself to pray when you are feeling anxious. You may not feel peace immediately… but it does come.
Do know that this life will hand you ups and it will hand you downs, but we are no longer defined by our successes or failures.
“And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure-your life-What would do for you?”
“There is a time to be born. And there’s a time to die. There is a time to plant. And a time to pluck up what is planted. A time to break down and a time to build up, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to get and a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to cast away, a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” Ecc. 3
It’s very rare that I find an urge to write. It was on my way home from a funeral it happened, in the rain, in the car. The drive couldn’t seem to go fast enough for me to find myself here… writing my thoughts. You ever notice how the thoughts come quickly when despair is knocking at your door or when joy is filling up every corner of your room? I often find myself reflecting most when I whiteness a change in one’s life… a wedding, a funeral, the birth of new life…
In this case a death.
I thought about her as I sat there looking over the sea of black. I took my seat in the last row, my heart heavy and my thoughts wondering. I thought about how she woke up this morning and the ache that must have hit her in her chest as she had to force herself out of bed. I thought about how she looked in the mirror and asked herself what she should wear to the funeral. Her daughters funeral. Something dark to represent the mourning she feels? Or something bright to bring about the celebration of knowing her sweet babe is in the arms of Jesus? She chose bright… which in some way tells me that she has a spark of hope that still rests within her weary soul. I sat there seeing just the very top of her head and began to feel the tears well up in my eyes. How do you say goodbye to a precious baby? How is she sitting there in front of all these people? Is she wishing this would just be over with? Is she glad we’re here or does she wish we would all just go away? Oh how her heart must be feeling so many emotions all at once.
I looked out the window of the church and thought about how fitting it was that the skies were grey and the rain was falling heavy. Almost resembling tears from Jesus’ eyes. I thought about Him up there and how His heart must be feeling so much the same as hers. How His heart is crying out in pain for her as he watches her below breaking and fighting to stay strong. And yet at the same time rejoicing to have this little child in the very hands that had created her- looking up and smiling into His eyes. So many feelings. So so many feelings.
And somehow… these feelings brought us all together today. Some people I recognized and some I had never seen before. But we all had this common thread. Her. She is our friend, our daughter, our wife, our mother…. We all knew her and we all were there to support her. This thought amazes me. God created us so that even just our presence in a room can be a support to someone else. Oh God you are good. I may not have the right words to say or be able to carry her every time she falls. I may not be able to be a strong foundation for her when she is weak in her knees… I can’t be the perfect support beam or nail to keep everything together when its all in pieces… but through my friendship I can support. He will be her foundation, He will be her nail, He will be her true support whenever she needs. “The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”- Psalm 145:14 I will be her friend.
I watch from the back as one by one each person hugs her on their way out. Everyone so different. Everyone with different stories to tell, different joys and heartaches they have felt themselves…
And then I see him. This man who I have strongly disliked for years. This man who hurt my other friend so deeply. This man who I couldn’t really look in the eyes before. But as I watched him hug her and the family.. something in me changed. I didn’t know if it was the tone of the day, or the smoothie I had for breakfast .. .but just then I felt God say… you must forgive. You must not let his past mistakes keep your thoughts towards evil. For I can turn evil into good. Even here. Even in these dreadful moments.
We are so different.. he and I.. but there was something the same. We were both being supporters. We were both being a friend to the same person. I’m not called to know his motives or even to know his heart. God knows.
And so, in that moment I watched him and I forgave him. I buried my anger and my accusations at that funeral. I buried my lack of faith that God could change someone at that funeral. And I buried every right I thought I had to hate him in that funeral.
God saw me in the chair in the back row and called me to die. 1 Peter 2:24- ” He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By HIs wounds you have been healed.” To die is gain. It hurts a lot to die to ourselves. It’s painful to let go of sins we hold onto sometimes. Especially when we feel entitled to hate, entitled to be angry, entitled to think of ourselves better than someone else. There’s even a comfort we find in our evil thoughts sometimes. How twisted am I? But when we surrender them over to death… we find that our hearts start to beat again in a new way. We begin to see that we are no better than anyone else. And it is only because God has had to forgive me over and over and over do I find that I can extend the same grace.
Her eyes were heavy and I cried as I held her. His eyes were indifferent and I forgave him. I turned my back to the sanctuary and walked away with so many feelings. I walked away with the ache of a child gone yet the hope that she will be reunited with her lovely mom again. I walked away with the ache of confession and yet the hope of redemption even in death.
A lot of times I find healing through joys and life.
But in this case it was death.
” In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.”- Ephesians 1
Oh God, come lavish your grace on me so that I may lavish your grace on others.
As an adult, there are a lot of different things I think/feel/like/do that my younger self never would have thought to happen. Things like eating sushi and living in Tennessee and enjoying zombie themed TV shows. But I don’t think any of those things surprised me as much as the fact that I am in an interracial marriage.
If you had told me ten years ago that my husband would be a studly Korean fellow, I would have laughed in your face. More accurately, I would have said something to the affect of, “I don’t date Asian guys.” But here I sit, almost five years married to the most amazing man…and he is Asian. Who would’ve thunk.
Society, culture, media, the church, and even at times the people in our own family will with good intention impart their worldview upon us. Not always are they right, or even biblically sound. It’s our job to run to Jesus and His words, seeking the truth for ourselves.
I wasn’t always in agreement with interracial dating and marriage. The area in which I grew up, my church, and a little in my own family, I was unintentionally displayed the idea that dating outside my race was not necessarily wrong, but not necessarily accepted either.
I spent years under the misguided notion that dating someone who was not “white” wouldn’t be ok, but I never knew why. I could have left it there, but I chose to question. I chose to ask the why and then go to the only place that I felt could give me truth. Here’s what I learned.
Throughout the old testament, various scriptures point to the fact that one tribe should not marry someone from another specific tribe. (Example: Deuteronomy 7:3-4) Critics stating that interracial dating and marriage is wrong will use this to argue that God is against it. And if we look at just that verse, they’d be right.
The beauty of the gospel girls is that each word, sentence and phrase hold a purpose and weight. It flows beautifully into the next, all working together to tell the love story of Christ. In this case, the verses surrounding the scripture will tell us that the opposition to marrying outside the tribe had nothing to do with skin color, but with religious practice. These tribes did not follow God, and to be matched with them would be devastating to the tribes who were following God. Because of this, God commanded they not marry, not out of preferring one group over the other, but out of love and concern for the hearts of his children.
In truth, there is only one place specifically written out in scripture where there’s a distinct guideline given on restrictions in dating and marriage. This is 2 Corinthians 6:14 which speaks on how a Christ-follower should not be with a non-Christ follower. Of course, that is a post in and of itself, and one for a later time.
James 2:1-10 reminds us that God holds no partiality for one person or people group over the other and neither should we. His priority for who he loves most to least is not color coded. His love extends and exceeds to every tongue nation and tribe. Take into consideration many heroes of our Bible. Moses, Ruth, Rahab, Esther….all people praised for their obedience to Christ and love for Him. Each married to someone not of their race or tribe.
I thank God that He loves me for me and not because I’m white. I’m thankful that I understood that those I love and the world around me are people flawed like myself, capable of getting it wrong. And I’m thankful that in spite of all our shortcomings, Jesus pours out His grace and still gave us His word as a solid rock- a place to see His heart for what it truly is.
His heart is good. His heart is loving. His heart, it sees no color other than the crimson stain of His blood that has washed over us, covering every prejudice and criticism until we have been wiped clean and are pure once again. That should be the only color we worry about.
If someone were to ask of you what your definition of a father was, would you have an answer? Would your answer change if the perspective altered from an earthly father to a heavenly father?
I want to share a story with you.
Over the last several months I have had the privilege of mentoring a young woman from my church. Within the context of what we have been working on, the lead topic by far has been the rationale of what a father truly is. This young woman has grown up in the church, leads worship, and her grandfather is the head pastor. This young woman fits the typical church family. When we walk into a church we all (myself included) tend to judge without hesitation when it comes to perfection. There are those times we have all said “I wish I had a family like that” or “What makes that family so different, how they seem so perfect.” This young woman fit into that category. It was not until she reached out for help that I knew anything to be different. You see, little did anybody else know that the life she lived at home was far different from the life in which she was daily being judged for.
Through her heavy heart I learned that what was being portrayed on the outside, was far different than what she was feeling on the inside. As we sat leading an all-night worship and prayer set I closely watched as this young woman’s heart began to shatter into a million pieces. What I was oblivious to was that on the inside she was desperate for a fathers love. Little did I know, her entire life was consumed with negative comments, feedback, condescending lies and overall disgust by her father. She was never good enough, never smart enough, and never well off enough to live up to his PERFECT perception of what a daughter should be.
As I began to pray with her and for her; spirit led, I began to ask her some very tough questions. I realized that through every answer she gave me, she was responding through a lens. What lens might you ask? Allow me to elaborate. Despite having a loving God who accepts her as his own and calls her by name as his daughter, this young woman’s perception of God has been dramatically altered due to the hurt she has seen and experienced by her earthly father. As I began to ask her questions regarding God has her ABBA FATHER, she began to answer with a lens. Her entire life she has viewed God not as her heavenly father but as her earthly father. This lens she has placed over her eyes has caused her to see God as everything but good. Her judgments, reactions, feelings, emotions and thoughts towards God have all been viewed as if God was in the same category as her earthly father.
Fast forward now to a few weeks ago. This young woman through prayer and time spent in the word has had her world drastically changed by a living God. I asked something of her (and she has given me permission to share such knowledge with you wonderful ladies) and the results astounded me. I asked her three questions. Question one was “what are your defining characteristics of a good earthly father?” question two was “what are your defining characteristics of a bad earthly father?” and question three was “what are your defining characteristics of God as father?”
Her responses were as follows:
Good earthly father- A man who is secure in who he is; this would be due to the fact that he has a good self-esteem. This also includes a man who builds up his children, encourages them in their walk with God. A man who is supportive. A man who is not looking for his child to make himself look good, but rather simply looking out for his children’s well-being. A man that forgives easily and is quick to ask for forgiveness. A man that acknowledges his imperfections and prays to God for wisdom. Finally, a man who gives his children a home of peace.
Bad earthly father- A man who is so insecure in who he is and so hurting inside that he hurts his children. A man whose hurt spills out upon his children. A man who is selfish and just wants his children to make him good. A man that may tell his children that he loves them, but his actions don’t ever seem to back up his words. A man that doesn’t see when he is in the wrong, and if he does he would never admit it. A man who creates chaos, tension, and anxiety. A man that is not emotionally available, but rather is cold and stoic. Finally, a man that does not show emotions other than anger.
God as a father- A father that tells me I am worthy of the best. A father that is proud to have me as his child. A father who is always love. A father who is not looking for me to perform. A father who is not looking for me to be good enough, for he says I am enough. A father who gives peace. A father who is tender and compassionate. Finally, a father who is a lot of FUN.
After realizing the growth that she has gained in the last few months, I asked her one final question. I asked of her “where did you perception of God as a father arise from?” Her answer was so beautiful.
She simply stated God is a Luke 15 type of Father. In Luke 15:11-31 it talks about the parable of the lost son. She began to explain to me, Heather I am the lost son. I have sinned against my Father in heaven. I have been angry with him, I have hurt him, and I have run in every which direction solely to avoid him. She continued with saying, despite my disobedience he calls me his beloved, despite my ignorance he calls me his daughter. He runs to me with open arms waiting to treasure me for my worth.
This young woman explained to me that all too often we as children of a Godly father feel as if we need to prepare what we are going to say, practice how we are going to present the information, and essentially have everything perfect before we come to God for forgiveness. She states that we feel we are already in the wrong, therefor when we come for redemption, we must come in with perfection. When in fact God calls quite the opposite. He calls the broken of heart so that in him, he is perfection is made piece.
I share this story with you wonderful ladies for no other reason than to say often times we are so hurt by the people around us that we often times look at God through this imperfect lens.
I want to bring back my original question for you ladies. “If someone were to ask of you what your definition of a father was, would you have an answer? Would your answer change if the perspective altered from an earthly father to a heavenly father?”
I ladies am just like you, I am just like this young women. I have been deeply wounded by people in my life. These people have caused my perception of God to be altered. I too have looked through a lens of something other than God. I am here to tell you ladies that it does not matter what has been done to you, WE serve a PERFECT GOD. WE serve a PERFECT FATHER.
I have not a clue writing this who has hurt you in your past or present, or who will hurt you in the future. I am here to tell you however that you are a treasure in the kingdom of heaven. You are never too far gone for a PERFECT GOD to pick up the pieces that have wounded you. I encourage each one of you to look at how you view God, are your views altered because of the wounds that you still carry? Drop them at the foot of the cross and allow a perfect FATHER to hold you tight, and say “YOU ARE WORTHY, YOU ARE MY DAUGHTER, and I LOVE YOU UNCONDITIONALLY.”
Heather lives in a teeny town in North Dakota where she works with women who have been victims of domestic violence and rape. She loves softball, dogs, music and working with youth. Heather is a general, all around, amazing gal & a special friend to the girls of AGLM.
There is a lot of catching up to do and as much as it would be easier for me to do that catching up here in this post…God has put it on my heart to share something else on a much deeper, much more vulnerable level with you. So to get the quick update you can go to my blog www.thehandynanny.com.
The boy who was/is my dear friend…also now holds the title of my husband.
Goodness that word still sounds strange. We got married on October 20 under a beautiful old tree surrounded by close family and friends.
That’s not what I want to talk with you about here though.
Ok. This is way out of my comfort zone so to make it easier I have a cup of coffee sitting next to me, fall leaves outside the window beside me and I’m pretending you are sitting here in front of me…one on one…face to face for this conversation. I do much better in the “one on one” situations than the “throwing my personal life out to the world for anyone to read” situations. I’m going to share in complete honesty with you because you deserve it and because I have spent my life fighting for something, standing on something that seems to be lost, cheapened, and criticized. It has made my heart ache for years and has left me on my face, beaten down many times…I want to make sure you hear me loud and clear that you are NOT alone. You, who are making a choice, making a covenant, holding a precious gift, and standing boldly against the world.
YOU are not alone.
I was 13 when I made the commitment to save myself for marriage, and to be honest, it was the cool, Christian thing to do at the time. My parents had us read all the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” books and bought us each a ring at the age of 13…so we went with it. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to make the decision, but as a 13 year old I hadn’t really thought about the weight of all that. I hadn’t dabbled in anything, hadn’t been faced with anything, and didn’t know what I was getting myself into. All my friends were standing with me and I thought it would be a breeze. Flash forward only a few months… a large percentage of my friends had already seemed to forget about the symbolic ring on their finger. I was eventually left standing alone…a few stragglers still holding on stood here and there around me. I often thank God for making me strong willed and competitive because that is a huge part of why I never gave into the pressures and the “normalcy” around me, but there was also something else that always resonated in my heart…if God says it’s worth the wait, then I am going to wait. Please don’t hear this as prideful…again it was mostly due to my competitive strong spirit of wanting to go against the norm.
Flash forward to me meeting Matt. You know our story of striving to be friends first. Not putting labels and pressures on and allowing God to write the story the way He wanted to write it. When we did realize (before we fell in love) that God had marriage in the plans for us, we discussed what that would mean before that day. We both felt convicted about saving our first kiss for our wedding day. Now I’ll be honest here…Matt was not my first kiss ever. I have a chapter in my high school life where I was weak and dated a couple guys…not necessarily a proud time of my life, but I learned some hard lessons about standing against peer pressure and being willing to let them go, knowing we weren’t getting married.
Ok. Back to us.
So we committed to not kiss until our wedding day. We honestly didn’t think it was that big of deal. We just loved the idea of the pastor saying “you may now kiss your bride”, and Matt being able to take his bride and kiss her for the first time. What we did not expect was attack. Attack from all sides. We were criticized by Christians, of all people, and it began a really tough journey for the two of us. In the last 8 months I’ve learned that if we faced attack on convictions and standards at the age of 26 then young girls, teens, and college age girls (and guys) were going to be facing a lot more in this season of our society.
So again, I am here to tell you, You are not alone.
In the last year Matt and I have laid everything…and I mean EVERYTHING out on the table. Part of that is our personalities…we are both kind of “take it or leave it, 100% all in” people and we weren’t willing to play games or pretend to be anyone but ourselves with each other. This meant lots and lots of long, sometimes all night conversations. These conversations weren’t always fun either. It took a lot of wrestling, a lot of growth, and a lot of questioning where we were both at. It meant walking with each other in our darkest secrets, fears, hurts, and sins. It meant our closest friends walking with us as mediators at times. We were spiritually attacked in many ways and there were times that it felt like we wouldn’t be able to keep our heads above water.
(I’m sure by now you’re already thinking…”why in the world would I choose this path?”…just wait)
We fought together. We battled together. It was a year of being vulnerable and really really getting to know each other. Instead of making out on the couch for hours, we were spending hours talking about our dreams, fears and questions about faith. We were living life together. Instead of being concerned about what the other thought of us or if I looked good enough or attractive enough, we were falling in love with the fact that we both had a passion for life and a passion for raw authenticity.
Which leads me to our wedding.
By the time we got to our wedding we had been through almost everything possible. I still cannot believe what was somehow packed into a year. We had touched on every subject and torn each of those subjects apart so we both knew exactly where the other stood…even if it wasn’t exactly on the same side. I didn’t doubt his love for me because without the physical involved, without me always looking or acting my best, he was there. In times when attack was upon us…we stood together. There were times I was literally on my face weeping and he would hold me with all my mascara and snot running down my face. That’s love. We stood in the trenches together. There were days where love was a choice. There will be days when love is a choice.
Our wedding day held a lot of weight for us. It was truly a celebration. It was a start of a new chapter. A victory of sorts. A relief. The moment of feeling like your whole life of fighting for lost standards was finally being rewarded and sealed.
And girls…That first kiss was worth it. It will forever be my most treasured photo because it holds a journey of battling against society’s opinion.
Now for the real, raw, honesty.
When people ask me how married life is I kind of have to laugh because it really doesn’t feel that different other than I no longer have the stress of couch surfing. The only thing we added to our relationship was a title, and we were given God’s permission to break physical boundaries. I can’t tell you how many guys and girls Matt and I have talked to, Christian girls, who have said they would never date or marry a guy who hasn’t already had sex…who hasn’t had “practice”. This breaks my heart. And sadly…the sticker, rose, and other analogies don’t work anymore. You don’t need cheesy analogies or tacky stories to try to convince you to stand on something that no one else seems to be standing on.
So instead I’ll give you personal experience.
Sex isn’t what you think.
It isn’t what you see in movies. It’s not like the porn you secretly watch. It isn’t some light fluffy moment. It’s heavy. It’s spiritual. It’s weighted. It’s emotional. And it can be beautiful when done within the realms it was created for.
It also isn’t what marriage is centered around. If you are trying to fulfill a need to be loved with the physical…you will always come up empty…even in marriage. It’s important, don’t hear me wrong, but it’s just an aspect of the entire relationship. It’s just a component of a much bigger picture.
I had heard every horror story in the book leading up to my wedding. And I’m a very private, modest person so it was safe to say I had some fears. But I’ll tell you this…when you have truly wrestled with life together, when you’ve laid everything on the table, when you’ve had open communication, and when you truly love someone and they love you back…then when you get married and you get the gift of adding the physical into your relationship…it can be a lot easier than people say it is.
We put zero expectations or pressures on ourselves or each other going into our honeymoon. We just decided that it would happen when it would happen. We didn’t want to force anything because of everybody else’s stories or experiences. It would have taken us a really long time to “get it right” had one or both of us had sex before marriage. There would have been so much more pressure and expectation…so much more baggage and questioning. I would have felt so much more self conscious and terrified. We had the beauty of experiencing it together for the first time. A gift that should be unique to a husband and wife. I didn’t want to marry someone who was a pro due to past experience…Sex is an added gift to marriage. It isn’t the foundation. It’s an aspect of marriage. It’s something you get to figure out together. You have your whole lives ahead of you. You get to laugh together in awkward moments and know that you are fully accepted through it all. It’s something that I’m still working through; working through the emotions and weight that it holds. The great thing about that is I’m allowed to, I can take the time to, I can have my husband walk with me through those emotions, and there is zero shame, zero guilt, zero regret in it. To be fully known, to be fully exposed, every flaw laid out in the open in front of your spouse and be met with the most loving, gentle gaze…was more of a spiritual, emotional experience than it was physical. I wrote in my journal that week that for the first time I felt I could grasp and understand the description of laying fully exposed at Christ’s feet, every flaw exposed, and being met with gentleness, grace and wrapped up in loving arms.
It was worth every second of waiting. Not because it’s some out-of-this-world experience, but because it is the one thing you get to share with just your spouse. It’s a spiritual, physical, emotional union that cannot even be explained.
I know you each have to make your own choice. I also know we live in a world where that is not the popular choice, sadly, even within our Christian society. I know that it is not talked about in a healthy way and you either hear that it is a shameful act and not to be mentioned or done…or you hear it thrown around like it’s nothing. It’s cheap.
You are not cheap. You are worth the wait. You have a gift you can offer your future spouse that no one else can. And it is not a shameful thing. It’s a beautiful gift God created for a husband and wife. It is perfect within the boundaries of marriage.
In Song of Songs 2:6-7 it says:
“His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. “
Did you see that? Do not awaken love until it so desires.
Don’t open the door. Don’t tempt it. Don’t let lust be mistaken for love.
So for those of you who are standing on a covenant with God or those of you deciding from this point on even if you’ve made mistakes, you are choosing to make a new covenant…those of you taking a stand…you are not alone. Hear this as encouragement. Hear this as someone cheering you on as you run through this journey. Be courageous and face the battle head on. Because it is a precious gift.
Kelsey lives in Nashville with her new husband Matt, and are currently traveling and serving together on The Story Tour. Check out The Story Tour to attend a show here.