Category Archives: Family & Relationships

Actions Matter

In my world, when the phone rings at 3 AM, sorrow is guaranteed to be on the other side of the call.  So when my phone startled me awake one October morning, I was hesitant to answer.  But, I am glad I did.  I could barely understand the words coming out of my friend, Sharon’s, mouth.  Her sobs were heavy and I could sense the depth of her sorrow through the phone.  Sharon tried her best to tell me her husband had betrayed her…he had been unfaithful.  I told her I was on my way to her house but she insisted on coming to mine.  She needed to be away.

Through her sobs, Sharon shared with me that for a long time she felt her husband didn’t TRULY love her.  But, she didn’t want to believe it because he was always loving.  After a few hours of reminiscing, Sharon realized that her husband’s actions spoke louder than his words.  While he always had kind words for her, his actions spoke something different.

After Sharon left, my mind fell on my own hypocrisy (my words didn’t align with my actions) and of those around me.  I could see how easy it would be to put more weight on people’s words than their actions.  I once had a manager that was so kind to me in words but he would undermine me and ridicule me in front of others and he never truly supported me.  But, I was convinced he was a friend.  It was hard for me to reconcile that his words didn’t match his actions.  After all, scripture tells us that “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34) and that “death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).

But those words are meaningless if they don’t match up with action.  Love, true love, are seen in our actions. Here is what God says on the matter:

  • Action speaks louder than words:
    • My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.  (1 John 3:18-19). 
    • But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves (James 1:22).
  • Actions matter:
    • Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone (James 2:17)
    • Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16)

So who we are and what we are TRULY about is more in our action and the fruits (love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control) our actions yield.  Both Sharon and I know that living in God’s truth and abiding in His word is where we are safe.  In fact, Sharon began dating again and was re-married a few years later.  She harbors no ill will to her ex-husband.  For a while, she was ashamed that she allowed herself to be deceived but eventually allowed that moment in her life to be a blessing and a lesson.

4 Indicators That You May Have Abandoned God

Greetings Love Ann Joy family and HAPPY 2017!! I am excited to be alive and well and look forward to you and I both experiencing many victories this year.  How was your 2016?  Well, mine was a bit challenging.

Sprinkled among my many blessings last year were times of persecution, misunderstanding, set-ups and set-backs.  I spent weeks at a time feeling defeated and knocked down.  It was an unfamiliar place and space and I WANTED OUT!!  So I began to devise a plan to exit my current circumstances and start anew.  I was convinced that God wouldn’t want me in a place where I am lied on, lied to, undermined and ridiculed.  This couldn’t be His will.

Well after doing a heart, mind and Spirit check, I came to realize that while my situation was uncomfortable, it was right where God wanted me as He “refined” me for my next season in life.  I realized that I was trying to define what’s right and just but had not prayed or sought biblical guidance on the matter.  But I know I am not the only one.  Here are four (4) indicators that you, too, may have abandoned God:

  1. Heart Check: If the direction you take or choices you make fail to give God the glory then you may have abandoned God. In the haste of today and the worries about tomorrow, we tend to forget that we are here for God’s glory and all that we do should be for Him.  Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31). So when making decisions on what to do or which direction to go, always check your heart for selfish ambitions.  Not our will but God’s!
  1. Heart Check: If the end results or objective does not yield good fruit then you may have abandoned God.  Now more than ever we should check then double check to ensure that the objective and/or end goal of all that we do yields good fruit.  God’s word warns us to “walk in the Spirit so that we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish (Galatians 5: 16-18)”.  The good fruit …the fruit of the Spirit we seek to yield includes love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).    Work of the flesh includes repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; jealousy; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; hatred; an impotence to love or be loved; dissension; divided homes and divided lives; selfish ambitions; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. Have you done a heart check?  Are your actions or choices the work of the flesh or fruit of the Spirit?
  1. Mind Check: If you are leaning on your own understanding and not that of God, then you may have abandoned God. Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.  Run to God! Run from evil! Proverbs 3:5-8
  1. Spirit Check: If it seems right to you but God’s word says otherwise, then you may have abandoned God. Proverbs 14:12 reads, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”  Satan is notorious for deception (mixing truth with lies) so it’s important that we go to God in prayer and refer to His word for His truth on a matter.

God. Family. Country.

I was asked to create a design that incorporated what is most important to me. So what three things do I consider most important to me in life?  That’s easy.  God.  Family. Country.  But If you know me, you could have guessed my response.  And while there are a lot of people, places and things that I could consider “important” only those three speaks to and nurture the depth of me.  God, family and country is my personal mantra.  It is my mission statement and it defines my purpose in life.

Without a doubt, “the Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want.”  I’ve had my fair share of “wrong turns” and bad decisions.  If you only knew how many times God has had to intervene and intercede on my behalf.  So, you would be wasting your time and energy to attempt to convince me that:  1) God isn’t real or 2) that He doesn’t care for me.  Needless to say, you won’t find me turning to anything but God for direction and protection.  I am blessed to spend my life doing and being for His glory.

So what about this family thing?  It seems like it is common now to hate your family.  I mean literally hate.  I have spoken to people who openly denigrate their mom, dad, brothers and sisters.  I don’t know that behavior.  And, can’t understand it.  We didn’t bash our family on the phone with our new bestie or post personal affairs on social media.  Nope.  That just wasn’t done.  Growing up, the only people I would share my outrage or anger is with brothers/sisters and sometimes cousins, aunts and uncles.  Don’t get me wrong.  I had disagreements with my family but never have I taken it to the streets to discuss with people I have known for approximately 5 minutes.  But, it appears that is the norm. So many people are opting out of family.  They are just not interested in doing the hard work of relationship building.  They would rather their colleagues, neighbors, passing strangers and friends replace their mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles.

So, here’s the deal.  God in His infinite wisdom provided me with relatives.  Those relatives are my family.  Yeah, we don’t always agree but who does?  Family, to me, is sacred.  Let’s see what God says about family?

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (I Timothy 5:8).

If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, that he who loves God love his brother also (I John 4:20-21)

Country is just an extension of family.  Country isn’t a thing.  I understand it is a land but, in the true sense of the word, it’s a people.  It is you and I.  And, since I love my neighbors and my brothers.  I Love my country.   So, there you have it, GFC:  God, Family, Country.

What are three things you consider to be the most important in your life?

 

Share Your Testimony (SYT): A Father’s Love


….in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).

This testimony is from a reader, like you, who wants to spread the good news of God’s love for us.  God’s love is so deep that some reject it because they are unable to understand it.  But, the author of this testimony has not only accepted God’s love for her but she is willing to share her first hand experience with us all.

My life before I came to Christ.

Friday  morning  March 16, 2012. I was living with my boyfriend at the time, and on probation for possession of methamphetamine. I failed to appear for an appointment, and was in violation. Tired of being on the run, I decided I would return home, pay an attorney, see my children, and get in and out of jail as soon as possible. Well my earthly father, and my Heavenly Father had other plans. When I returned home, my father had me arrested. As I was led off to jail, I spit in my fathers face. The next day, when I sobered up, I realized it was my fathers birthday. How ashamed I was. Still 30 days in jail, and my intentions was to get out, and get high.
How I came to a cognitive knowledge of who Jesus is and what He did for me.
I was hungry. I thought for food. This woman in jail was so nice to me. She fed me, every time I saw her she would smile the biggest smile and say ” how are you today Ms. Christie”. A few days later she went home. I missed her, and thought, I hope she is doing well. I noticed an open book in the book return box. It had her name in it.  I was so disappointed when I closed the cover, and realized it was a Christian book, How  To Grow Your Faith. It meant so much to me, the way she treated me I read it anyway. In fact I read it three times in one afternoon. The book talked about the parable of the mustard seed. My cell mate said ” yes Jennifer if you have faith the grain of a mustard seed, you can move mountains”. I was in church part of my childhood. I didn’t realize people still lived ” knowing” and ” trusting” in Him. I had all forgotten this. My cell mate reminded me. I started talking to God, and reading my bible.
Circumstances surrounding my conversion.
A few days later, one of the girls in jail with me, was sitting at a table crying. I walked over and asked her ” what’s wrong? She replied ” my little girl is having surgery in two days, and she wanted to go home”. I felt so bad for her my heart was breaking. I went upstairs to my room, and prayed. I said
“Lord if you’re real I’m not worthy to ask anything of myself, but that woman is desperate to be with her baby, please let her go home. In Jesus name I pray amen”.
Now this book I had read said you have to admit, believe, and confess with your mouth. I had to go tell her. I thought, if this doesn’t happen these people are going to think I’m crazy. It didn’t matter what they thought of me, my only concern was for the family. I went back down stairs, and said Tammi, ” I just prayed and you’re going home to your daughter”. She said ” thank you they are checking on a furlough”. I then asked “what’s a furlough”? She explained. I told her ” Tammi, I didn’t know about furlough’s, I just asked that you get to go home with your daughter. She again thanked me, and went to her room. Two days later we all finished breakfast, and I hear her name called for court. I asked her cell mate, “did Tammi have court today”? She replied ” no”. I was so excited! She came back after a couple of hours. She started up the stairs, her face was red and soaked from crying. She cried out ” Jennifer you where right I’m going home to be with my baby”!
My spiritual growth from the time I accepted Christ to today.
I “knew” the Lord was real, and realized at that moment, the sacrifice He paid for me, and for all who believe. I know each day is a blessing, I finally found the food, I was so hungry for. The “real bread of life”. I have a peace about me, that people notice, and a sense that as long as He is in control everything will be alright. From an earthly father’s love to put his first born daughter in jail. To a heavenly Father’s love, to bring her out.

Who’s There for Me?

Who’s there for me? I found myself asking that question for about two (2) decades of my life. Refusing to throw myself a pity party, time after time, I would pick up my “cross” and bear what seemed like a burden of doing good. If a nephew was graduating, an aunt was hosting a cookout or a friend was celebrating an accomplishment, no matter the distance, I made it my priority to be there to support my family/friends and to fellowship. If there was a scheduling conflict, I would still try to represent my love in deed…perhaps a bouquet of flowers or some other gift of love.

Growing up, I seemed to have known way too many people who felt no need to reciprocate my love and kindness….to do unto others as they would like done unto themselves. I have had many true friends who spoke plainly to me in telling me to let go of the toxic people in my life. I refused. I didn’t think that was the Christian thing to do. So, I continued to allocate myself, my time, my money and my love on people who didn’t appreciate its priceless value.

There were people in my life that would get upset at how I prioritize family and friends. On numerous occasions I have been pulled aside by concerned friends for an “Intervention Session” in which they would implore me to, once again, let go of specific toxic people in my life. But, again, I refuse to heed the advice.

I can recall receiving warnings as early as 19. My college roommate and I decided we would spend spring break at my home. She was excited because she lived in another state. By the time we returned to our dorm a week later, my college roommate sat me down to discuss some concerns she had about some of my friends AND family. “Oh my, the audacity of this girl,” is all I can think as she spoke. The things she said hurt me and I was upset with her for saying them. But, two decades later, I was receiving the same message about the same people from different people.

It took me a long time to come to the realization that it was okay to stop loving so hard. Honestly, I allowed myself to be completely broken by the toxic people in my life before I got the message. As a result of this journey I learned 4 things: 1) it’s okay to stop or reduce interaction with toxic family and friends; 2) learn how to love from a distance; 3) don’t ever let your light dim; and 4) don’t grow weary in doing right.

It’s okay to stop or reduce interaction with toxic friends and family

How would I define “toxic people”? Well, the toxic people in my life had one or more of the following characteristics:

  • They make you feel uncomfortable being yourself;
  • They tend to take (joy, love, time, happiness, peace, money, sacrifice) but don’t give;
  • They bring out the worst in you as opposed to the best;
  • They are constantly negative; and,
  • They love in words but not in deeds.

I am a naturally joyful person but around some of the toxic people in my life that was being “phony.” Huh? I didn’t understand the logic. So grimacing is “keeping it real.” They couldn’t see how I could genuinely care about a stranger enough to say “hello” or smile. They were a constant stumbling block…encouraging me to be divisive, angry, hurtful and selfish to name just a few. It is difficult having a conversation with them because of their snarky nature. On occasion, I would get a Facebook “like” or a text message but nothing of substance that says….”I see you and I love you.”

I now know it is okay to stop or reduce interaction with such people. God’s word says:

“I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts (Psalm 119:63)”

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)”

“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray (Proverbs 12:26).”
“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’ (I Corinthians 15:33).”

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20).”

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared (Proverbs 22:24-25).”

Learn How to Love From a Distance

Phone calls, greeting cards and/or “just because I love you” packages are becoming a new norm for me. I have given it all to God and now wait for His direction on what I should do. Until such time as He finds it okay for me to mix and mingle with the toxic people in my life, I will keep my distance. What’s most important to me is that I am able to let them know I still love them in the things I do for them. I just have to limit my deeds to those that do not involve interaction.

Don’t Ever Let Your Light Dim

I think this is what caused me to eventually change how I interacted with the toxic people in my life. I began to become angry…ensnared. I would leave their presence and immediately feel regret for my actions and deeds. If I can’t be me when in the presence of others (family or friends), then I shouldn’t be around them. I have learned to surround myself around people who encourage me to shine my light brightly….and I LOVE IT!! I asked God to bring people in my life that encourage and strengthen me in my walk with Him and He is continuously answering my prayers. Every year I meet someone(s) new that loves God just as much as I do and are not uncomfortable with me saying and acting so.

Don’t Grow Weary in Doing What is Right

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).” Yep, it’s in the Bible…and “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).”

I pray that the lessons I have learned throughout the years may bless others going through the same. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving and doing good. God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:38) and to pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28). We also need to be mindful of those we keep regular company.

Survey Says: My Wife is My Best Friend?

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life (Proverbs 31: 10-12).

 I was more than excited to receive the results of the recent survey conducted by Google Consumer Survey on behalf of Love Ann Joy. The results in the table below are very promising and encouraging.

My Wife is My Best Friend Survey (Percentage of all Respondents)

 

Yes No Total
All Men Respondents 40.7% 6.7% 47.4%
Men age 18 – 24 20.0% 3.3% 23.3%
Men age 25 – 34 39.3% 7.5% 46.8%
Men age 35 – 44 42.9% 14.3% 57.2%
Men age 45 – 54 50.0% 0.0% 50.0%
Men age 55 – 64 48.9% 6.7%

55.6%

Men 65+ 44.7% 7.9% 55.6%

Methodology: Conducted by Google Consumer Survey May 10-12, 2014 and based on 253 online responses. Sample: National Adult Internet Population

What do all those numbers mean?

In one sentence, it means that out of the 253 adult men that responded to the survey, 120 were married…which represented 47.4% of the respondents. But the good news is that 86% of the adult married men indicated that their wife was their best friend.

That is not good news, it is great news!

You want to hear more great news? When the survey results were broken out by age group, most of the married men in every age group considered their wife their best friend…even the younger men. Specifically, 86% of the married men age 18-24 and 88% of the men age 55-64 considered their wife their best friend. Furthermore more than half of the men age 55 and older indicated that they were married.

Now the Concern!

While I was impressed that 100% of the men age 45-54 considered their wives to be their best friend, I was also concerned. The table above seems to indicate that men may experience challenges in their marriage beginning in their mid thirty’s. While more than 57% of the men surveyed in the 35 – 44 age group were married, they had the highest rate (14.3%) of respondents who indicated that their wife is NOT their best friend. Of even more concern is the smaller percentage of men age 45 – 54 who indicated they were married. This seems to be consistent with the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data from the America’s Families and Living Arrangement Survey which shows that the divorce rate doubles for men age 35-44 and triples for men age 45-54.

These results had me pondering the question if between the ages of 35 – 54 marriages (both men and women) need a strong support system and if mid-life crisis is to blame for these trends. Dr. Calarusso, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of San Diego indicated that he most often sees men struggling with midlife questions in their 40s and early 50s (Webmd).

According to an article by Lori Sandoval titled, Midlife crisis is real, loneliest point of men and women in their early forties: Study, “midlife crisis is real, taking the happiness level of both men and women at its lowest from the ages of 40 to 42, after which things begin to pick up again.” Perhaps if married men and women are aware of what is possibly ahead, they could be prepared to weather the storm.

Why was the Survey Conducted?

It is oh so common to turn on the television or read in the newspaper tragic divorce rates and statistics. And, I understand that sometimes divorce…while painful, is the only option. In fact, scripture addresses divorce when adultery has been committed.

This survey was conducted for encouragement to all married couples, especially those that feel within their spirit that more could be done…more could be said to strengthen their marriage and the bond between them and their spouse. I was hoping that the results would tell us more about each other. I believe knowing what is ahead may prepare married couples to weather the “stormy times.”

Alan J. Hawkins, Ph.D & Tamara A. Fackrell, J.D. state in their guidebook, Should I Keep Trying to Work it Out: A Guidebook for Individuals and Couples at the Crossroads of Divorce (And Before) that:

“The most common reasons people give for their divorce are lack of commitment, too much arguing, infidelity, marrying too young, unrealistic expectations, lack of equality in the relationship, lack of preparation for marriage, and abuse. Some of these problems can be fixed and divorce prevented. Commitment is having a long-term view of the marriage that helps us not get overwhelmed by the problems and challenges day to day. When there is high commitment in a relationship, we feel safer and are willing to give more for the relationship to succeed. Commitment is clearly a factor in why some couples stay together and others divorce.

I am willing to wager that most of the men who responded to our survey have never told their wife that she is their best friend.  From experience I know that most men aren’t big talkers so to know that the married men who took our survey considered their wives their best friends is encouraging. I often say that I am broken and only made whole through Jesus Christ. So, I no longer look for perfection in others when I know that only through Christ we are perfected.

It is my belief that the more we know about each other and what to expect in marriage, the stronger our commitment.

 He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22).

 

 

References:

 

 

Role Call: A Mother’s Love

As the day to celebrate and honor mom approaches, I couldn’t help but think about motherhood and how it has changed my life. I must admit, as a child and young adult I didn’t really appreciate the magnitude of my mom’s role in my life. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I fully understood the reason for the many “no’s” and “not now’s” I got growing up.

While I have always loved my mom and at an early age I learned to honor her (Ephesians 6:1-3), my depth of love and appreciation for her didn’t manifest until I had children of my own and she was there and is still there any time we need her. Raising daughters of my own has taught me a few things: 1) selflessness, 2) discipline is necessary, 3) lead by example and 4) pass on the wisdom learned from your mistakes to your children.

Selfless Nurturer
Over the years, I have learned that I need to re-define love. The foundation of true love is selflessness. This has proven to be difficult for me to apply to those who hurt me. Blessing and praying for those who hurt me (Luke 6:27-28) is far from how I originally defined love. However, raising daughters showed me how selfless love looks. It introduced me to how to truly love.

Related Post: The Ultimate Payback:  Lesson in Selflessness

As many mother’s know, motherhood is a thankless job. But, interestingly enough….we don’t require thanks. It gives me great joy and pleasure to watch my daughters grow into young ladies. Through the tantrums, rebellion and “I hate you’s”, I still love my daughters. I don’t believe there is anything they could do to stop my love for them. Much like how our Heavenly Father loves us….unconditionally.

I love the role of nurturing my daughters. Feeding them emotionally and spiritually is a required part of being mom. They receive so many messages from their environment (friends, teachers, and others) I’m sure it is difficult for them to determine which way is right…which way is right for them. So establishing Christian principles…introducing my girls to the Lord was not an option for our house. With every rejection, heartbreak and disappointment I want my girls to know: 1) they are loved, 2) they can do all things through Christ which strengthens them (Philippians 4:13) and 3) while challenges are an inevitable part of living, weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning light (Psalm 30:5). I encourage them to pursue the dreams that God has placed in their heart (Psalm 37:4-6) and to be prepared for the obstacles that may be placed in their way to hinder them. And most importantly, test all things (I Thessalonians 5:21). God’s Word is the only authority and to be mindful of things that don’t align with His word. Looking at how my mother is still nurturing me, my brothers, my sisters and her grandkids, I look forward to my nurturing role being lifelong.

Disciplinary
As my daughters navigate their way through adulthood, there are many times along the journey that they may lose their way. As teens, it is my job to discipline them. While it is the hardest thing to do, it is also necessary. Just looking back on my teenage years, gives me an understanding of what teenagers and their parents endure. I believe it was during my teenage years that I most felt the disciplinary hand of my mom. I guess it is a rite of passage for teenagers. According to Psychology Today, the teenage years are

“considered the transitional stage from childhood to adulthood. However, the physical and psychological changes that occur in adolescence can start earlier, during the preteen or “tween” years (ages 9-12). Adolescence can be a time of both disorientation and discovery. The transitional period can bring up issues of independence and self-identity. Sometimes adolescents may be experimenting with drugs and alcohol or sexuality. During this time, peer groups and external appearance tend to increase in importance.”

The teenage years can be the most difficult times in families as moms and dads try to stay firm in instilling respect for others, especially their elders as well as for established rules and laws.

Teacher
Not only did I have to help my girls with their Algebra and Trigonometry, I also try to lead by example. If I want my girls to have principles and stand by them then I must do the same. The same goes for rules. If I want them to follow established rules I need to do the same. Believe me they are watching and taking notes. I remember driving above the speed limit and my oldest daughter was in the front seat reading the speed limit every time we passed the sign. As I said….they are watching.

“Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.” Proverbs 22:6

Adviser
Anytime I can insert a “lessons learned” session with my girls I do so. Along the way I have made enough mistakes to create a “mini-series” and I don’t want it to be all for naught. I pray that my girls don’t make the same mistakes I made so as they get older and experience challenges, trials and tribulations I try to insert the wisdom I learned through “hard knocks.”

This thing called motherhood has been the most challenging but joyful part of my life. With the many roles mom play in their children’s life it is only appropriate that they are celebrated….honored.

So on this mother’s day, don’t hesitate to let your mom know how much she means to you….her job may be joyous but it is not easy.

“Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate (Proverbs 31:31)

References:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/adolescence

This Thing Called Love

For a long time, I’ve had this love thing all mixed up. It is not until recently that I was brought to the realization that I’m wired all wrong and my way of thinking about love is flawed. And, from that flawed way of thinking I have left a trail of missed opportunities to love. I’m not sure where I veered off course but I’m guessing it was at a very young age. As I think back on my life, I begin to see where my understanding of love didn’t align with God’s definition and I thank the Holy Spirit for imparting this wisdom upon me.

Like many, my humble beginning consisted of two parents who loved me and anxiously waited for my arrival. Once I entered this world, my parents gave of themselves to nurture me. They served (bathe, clothed, fed, and sang) me. So, I guess I had to be a happy baby. To this day, I can remember moments of my life when my dad was alive…at age 3 and 4. Our memory is a fascinating thing. I can’t remember what I did last year on the 4th of July but somehow I can still remember moments when I was 3 and 4 years of age.

Things rapidly changed when my dad died which was about 5 weeks before my 5th birthday. Things weren’t the same. People weren’t the same. We moved from our home to an apartment and everyone was so sad.

Within six (6) months of my dad’s death, something devastating happened to me of which I am not quite ready to discuss openly but I believe it was the precursor to my distorted understanding of love. The first year after my dad’s death was a bit much for this five year old. The things I endured…the things that happened to me…happened in silence. My mom’s heart was heavy from the death of my dad and, at 5, I knew she couldn’t take much more so very little was said.

So as you can imagine, entering elementary school was a little rocky….at a time when social and emotional development begins. From elementary school through college, everything around me indicated that love was about me. Love was about how I wanted someone to make me feel and if they failed at doing so then they didn’t love me. Relationships were about perfection. If you lacked perfection in your relationship with me then I had no choice but to conclude that you didn’t truly love me. This thing called love was all about me!

Well, I had it all wrong. God has taught me through scripture that love is not about me…it is about how I serve others.

This is what God Says About This Thing Called Love:

Serving One Another

  • Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves (Galatians 6:2 NIV).
  • You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love (Galatians 5:13 NIV).
  • Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”(Mark 10: 42-45 NIV)
  • Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 4: 10 NIV)

Esteeming Others Above Yourself

  • Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10 NIV).
  • Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (Romans 14:19 NIV).

 Forgiveness

  • Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the nameof the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3: 13-17 NIV)
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).

Humility

  • Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed (I Peter 3: 8-14 NIV).
  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2: 3-11 NIV).

Coming to the truth has brought me such joy in my relationship with my children, husband, family, friends and colleagues. Instead of me asking “What have you done for me lately?”, I ask what have I done for them lately? I often look for ways I can edify (uplift) others instead of the other way around. I trust God will supply all my needs that includes the love and joy I need to thrive here on earth.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us (I John 4:7-16 NIV).

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (I Corinthians 13: 4-8).

Recommended Reading:

A Love Worth Giving: Living in the Overflow of God’s Love by Max Lucado

Love is…..6 Lessons on What Love Look Like by Jenna Lucado Bishop

Bold as Love: What Can Happen When We See People the Way God Does by Bob Roberts Jr.

The Ultimate Payback: A lesson in Selflessness

Becoming self-less?  It’s a lot harder than it sounds.  I’ve been learning my lesson the hard way over the past two years and I have plenty of bumps and bruises to prove it.  I’ve been so closed to ending a 20 year friendship over selfishness it has taken me awhile to openly admit it.  The bible charges me to be “…sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (I Peter 3: 9-10).” 

While I truly desire to be a woman after God’s own heart, I found it hard not to be in my feelings…..not to be selfish.

It all started about 2 years ago from out of nowhere, I guess that is how God works…when you least expect it.  And, I truly feel blessed that these emotions and flaws were brought to my attention because “for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines (Hebrew 12:6).”  But don’t we all think we are perfect….yeah…NO!!

Well, as usual, I called my friend Karen to just chat about our next girl’s night out when she quickly hurried me off the phone.  She said she had a meeting to attend in an hour and she needed to prepare.  Well, less than 30 minutes later she called me to rant about the recent behavior of her daughter.  Karen went on for an hour.  Yep….I was at work and Yep…I wondered about the meeting she told me she had to attend!  But, I couldn’t end the call when she needed someone to help her process her emotions.

A few months later, on my birthday, while I received numerous text messages and phone calls from friends and family to wish me a happy birthday, I didn’t hear from my best friend until later in the afternoon at which time she called to let me know that “she heard” I did not receive the promotion in which I requested.”  She later sent me a cold two word text message to say “happy birthday.”

This didn’t get better…it got worse.  She no longer wanted to have girl’s night out, she seemed irritated or hurried when our conversations were about anything other than her family, her career or her vacations.  For the life of me I couldn’t understand what had gotten into Karen.

For the better part of a year I made excuses for Karen’s behavior…her daughter is becoming a young adult, her husband is away a lot on travel, she just joined senior management team, etc.  The excuses went on and on.  It wasn’t until I FINALLY finished my graduate studies that the emotions came sweltering up and I couldn’t contain myself.

Both Karen and I started a family and a career after undergraduate school.  We found it challenging to find the time to return to school for graduate studies.  However, in 2010 I found the perfect opportunity to go back to school and was more than excited to be finishing in 2012.

The closer we got to my graduation I expected Karen to be just as excited as me….that was not the case.  She barely wanted to attend the ceremony and I found myself hosting my own graduation party.  Anytime she found me planning for the party she wanted to know “wasn’t there better things I could do with my money.”

But here’s the kicker, Karen finishes her graduate studies this year and she wants to know where and when I will be hosting her graduation party.  She has already informed me that she has a couple of co-workers, neighbors and family that she wants to attend her ceremony so I may not be able to attend.

You’re probably wondering if I had discussed this matter with Karen and I had….on multiple occasions.  Her response was that I’m “selfish.”   I was so taken aback by the audacity of that response I was at a loss for words.  I must admit that I have emotional needs as well and for the past 20 years, Karen has been my primary source of emotional connectivity.  I thank God for my husband, children, brothers and sisters but we all need that best friend.  Don’t we?

So, over the past 6 months, I’ve been wrapping my mind around letting go of a 20 year friendship.  The thought crushed me but what was I to do.  I thank God for wisdom from the Holy Spirit.  Shortly after thinking of ending our friendship, I received a word in my heart that my existence here is to bless others and if there is any unmet needs in my life that I should take it to the Lord to fulfill.  Perhaps, I was relying too much on Karen as an emotional crutch and for emotional guidance and not enough on God.  I am supposed to seek Him in all things but I had not.  I was being selfish (and yes Karen is too!).  But, I do not have to answer for Karen.  I have to answer for myself.

The Word says:

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.   They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (I Peter 3: 9-12).”

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5: 16)”

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives (I Peter 3: 1-2).”

I know in my own strength, it will be nearly impossible for me to just, as I see it, be used by Karen.  I stay in prayer over this issue.  I believe God has a blessing for me once I overcome this selfishness inside of me and learn how to be more Christ-like.  The reward is greater if I endure and overcome!

Stay tuned…I’m sure there will be many nights of heart ache and pain as I learn how to be selfless.