What Have You Gained?

When we lose something, it hurts. Transition is hard. And, change is never easy. But, when we look again or look back, we can see what we’ve gained.

I suffered great loss with my divorce. Looking back now, I can see what I’ve gained after it. A closer relationship with Jesus and mounds of wisdom from the pain. I got to move back to my hometown and live close to family. My girls also get to attend church school. Neither of these would have been possible if we’d stayed married. I not only get to attend the church of my childhood, but also serve as a women’s ministry leader there. I also gained this blog as a source of healing, sharing, and connecting. Such an honor and privilege. All precious gains from a devastating loss.

Fast forward five years. This spring I lost a relationship that I thought was “the one”. He was recommended by friends, we knew many of the same people, similar church backgrounds, said he was looking for someone just like me. It ended, when that changed. Another heart wrenching, confusing loss.

Since then, what have I gained? Home renovations, a new job, a new puppy, a new sense of me and what I need in a relationship, a renewed set of standards, a whole new appreciation for a loving, honest, caring, consistent, family-focused, attentive man. Yet another opportunity to be with this type of man. A sense of pride for trying and a sense of humility for sharing. All gains from another bewildering loss.

Last night, my daughters started a conversation with me about how much they both wish I had a boyfriend/husband. They want this for me, even after all we’ve been through. They have both been open and accepting of each one of my relationships. By God’s grace, never rude or unwelcoming. Rather, hopeful.

My oldest daughter told me she just wants me to be honest with her. I confided in her that I don’t open up to her as much as she’d probably like because I want to protect her. I explained that I don’t want to get her hopes up or down anymore. Still, she insisted, just as I would with her in the same situation. So, last night we had a good honest talk. She agrees wholeheartedly with what I’m looking for and why it hasn’t worked out yet. She understands so much more than I give her credit for. She asked me to be honest with her, just like I’d want her to be with me in her dating years….I consider that conversation a huge gain and a blessing after multiple losses.

Dating in front of kids is HARD, but, I’m learning it can also be a tremendous learning tool. They know I have standards, the same standards I’d want for them. When the time is right, I’ll find the courage to choose love. But, I’ll need them met first. In the meantime, I will focus on my gains, opportunities, and adventures.

With GOD there is always a gain in the loss. It might be finding strength you didn’t know you had, it might be new friends, it might be more money, it might be more time, it might be more help, but it will always be more of Him. He wants to fill every void in our lives. With Him, we can trust that each loss still has His goodness written all over it.

The next time you lose something or someone, ask yourself “But, what have I gained?” Oh, how He loves…

 

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Work in Progress

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I KNOW I’m a work in progress. I have to be, or else I’d be in a world of trouble. Romans 8:28 says “in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him”. I need to claim that promise and move forward with it daily. Some days I’m flying high and feeling good, some days I’m just the opposite. Some days I’m super sensitive and some days I’m just irritated. I believe it’s a human condition that the devil loves to prey on. He wants us down and out. He wants us to lash out and freak out. He wants us to throw caution to the wind and thow a fit. Then, after he gets his way, he likes to sit back and smirk while we cry, try to compose ourselves, and make amends to whomever happened to be in the line of fire.

How can we compose ourselves when our buttons are pushed? Proverbs 29:11 (NIRV) says “A foolish person lets his anger run wild. But a wise person keeps himself under control.” Will freaking out and lashing out make you feel better? Yes, in the moment, as would many other things. But, ultimately, it will have brought you down to the button pusher’s level and given them exactly what they wanted. They want you to get crazy, act crazy, and fight……so they can smirk.

Nowhere does it say we shouldn’t stand up for ourselves or that we have to agree. On the contrary, 2 Timothy 1:7 (CEV) says “God’s Spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self control.” The Spirit’s power is true power. The power to stand up for yourself and/or others in a loving way. This is exactly why we can’t mistake kindness for weakness. It takes alot more strength to respond with kindness in some situations than it does to retaliate in hate and hostility. By all means, stand up, speak up. But, don’t lose control. That’s exactly what the devil wants because it will not resolve the situation, the conflict will continue, and peace is not made by either parties.

What about when we lose it anyway? GRACE. We talk a lot about forgiving others and extending grace to others, but let’s not forgive to extend it to ourselves. This is HUGE for me. I’m more apt to dish out grace to everyone BUT me. It’s important that we view and love ourselves for who we are in Christ. His beloved kids. Our kids temper tantrums absolutely makes them difficult to deal with at the time, but it never alters our love for them. We can get so down on ourselves for how we deal or dealt with a situation, that the one we need to forgive and love on most is ourselves.

Let’s all remember who we are to Him, how much He loves us, and show ourselves mercy too.

Dating?!?!

beauty from ashes

I’ve never been a good dater. And, I’ve never been interested in “playing the field”. My “dating” past before marriage consisted of about 4 long term boyfriends. I must be more of a relationship person than a dater because dating does not come naturally to me whatsoever.

Nonetheless, it’s been three years since my divorce and  I do have the desire to remarry one day, so dating has to happen, right? Once again, God tells me to trust that He is working and that He will teach me along the way.

One thing I’ve learned through my dating experiences is that I’d rather hear crickets than be with the wrong guy after what I’ve been through. Maybe one day I’ll expound on this story, but in short, I’ll just add that I never knew the extent of what human beings are capable of until I went through my divorce and started dating again. It has literally pried my eyes open. Which was shocking, scary, and painful, but God knew I needed to know.

Dating is tough personally for multiple reasons. I’m a mom and I work full time, therefore I have limited free time. I want to be an example to my girls. I want to protect my girls. I want to honor God. I want to grow together in a healthy way. I don’t want to get hurt…..who does?  I don’t want to hurt others. I also don’t want to settle for anything less than real love. The counterfeit comes off pretty perfect at times. And, I have been fooled before, hook, line and sinker.

Because of all this, I pray for discernment and God’s will every single day. I ask Him to expose and remove the deceptions and distractions. I ask Him to cover me in His grace and wisdom and help me to enjoy the process, which is so difficult for me. I ask Him to help me!

Another thing I’ve learned is that the perfect man for us will not be perfect, and I can’t expect him to be because I’m not. He’ll have flaws, struggles, and baggage just like I do. But, we will be able to share these struggles with each other because……he’ll be a communicator.

We’ll connect. He’ll be a listener. He’ll make me laugh and smile. He’ll be strong enough to handle my sadness and fear when it flares up because…..he’ll be my friend.

He’ll love me in spite of my insecurities and my past. He’ll hold me just because he wants to. He’ll encourage my passions and love my love for Jesus. He won’t push me, he’ll relax me. He won’t rush me, but walk alongside me. He’ll know that love is sacrificial. He’ll pursue me. He’ll understand me and appreciate my personal weirdness.

He’ll pray for me. He’ll be proud of me and my story. He’ll love the Lord and want to follow Him all the days of his life. He’ll love us so gently and consistently that trust and peace will follow.

This may sound like a lot of pressure to put on a man, but I yearn to do the same things for him. To love him well and to love him anyway.

Blending two people and two families isn’t easy and I don’t expect it to be. But, I also believe that with the right partner, it can be beneficial and beautiful. And that’s what God specializes in: Beauty from ashes.

Get Real!

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I’m inspired by a recent conversation with a friend about how we so desperately want to just get real. We crave getting real with each other and with God. There is such a stigma about admitting what we struggle with….

I was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist church. This was a blessing. But, I was missing a major ingredient to the Christian journey until my early 30s. I went through the motions and was taught to obey a certain set of rules that my brain was told to understand, but my heart was clueless as to why??

I’m thankful for the foundation that was set for me as a child and I don’t blame anyone for my misunderstanding. But, I am eternally grateful that God answered my cries for more as an adult. I had religion and wasn’t overly sold. Something was missing and my heart was aching for more. Turns out, I was missing the relationship part. Relationship is where it gets personal and real. Relationship changes everything.

I visited other churches in hopes that I could find what I was missing. I was willing to change churches just to find it. Thankfully, through a Twelve Steps for Spiritual Healing class offered at our church, I found exactly what I was looking for. Women who struggled like me. A small group of women willing to get real about their issues. We had issues with the church, issues at home, issues at work, issues with ourselves, issues with God. Issues that needed somewhere to go. It was through this group of women, that God started His healing and I opened up to a whole new experience with Him. I believe He led me to this group. I also believe this is why I have a strong passion for women’s ministry now.

As an adult with daughters of my own to raise, I still don’t understand some of the rules we were raised with. There are some I don’t follow anymore. I understand the importance of obedience. I understand the value in seeking the truth. I understand the gift of the Sabbath. But, I had never fully grasped the grace and unfailing love that Jesus has for me. It’s still hard to comprehend. I can only attempt to dish it out as quickly as He pours it in. There is POWER in the Holy Spirit. There is WISDOM in His word. And, there is unfailing LOVE in His sacrifice.

Going to church strictly out of routine can turn into as much of a crutch as not going at all. I didn’t go for years. It felt like more rules to me….I was missing the love factor. The acceptance factor. The grace factor. The “why” factor. Feeling God’s presence in my life and getting to know Him personally has changed everything. Now, I crave going to church because I get to surround myself with people who struggle (like me) and are seeking (like me) and long to worship (like me). That is such a blessing!

Last week I was sitting in my youngest daughter’s Sabbath School class and they were reciting their weekly memory verse. It was John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commandments”. In high school, my head would have translated that verse as “oh no, another verse about following more rules that I don’t understand in order to be loved”. Now, I see how His commands are there BECAUSE He loves me and wants what’s best for me. I want my daughter to desire to obey Him because she is certain of His love for her, not because it’s the only way He will love her. Huge difference!

Thank you, Jesus, for wanting us to get real with You! What a relief and joy it is….

To Seek His Face?

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What does it mean to “Seek His face”? I woke up this morning with the strong inclination to do just that. “Seek Me. Seek My face.”

I play hide and seek with my girls and they squeal with excitement as they search and find me. It’s fun! The looks on their faces are priceless. Their eyes are wide as saucers when they find me and their laughs are contagious. I think a game of hide and seek is in our very near future. I feel the same way when I hear from God and even more when He blesses me with the courage and strength to obey. It’s in these moments that I imagine He may squeal with delight too. They tend to feel so few and far between…..

Look to The Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Psalms 105:5

Remember the cultural phenomenon “what would Jesus do”? This saying was about seeking Him. Seek His will. Seek His words. Seek His wisdom. Seek His character in any given situation. To seek means to search for, to discover, to look for, to ask for…To seek can be grueling. To seek can be hard work. We may not necessarily like what we find because it’s not the “easy” thing to do. We may be so scared of what could be found, that we stop seeking altogether. But, to seek His face is the prize. His face is the pot at the end of our rainbow and well worth searching for. Matter of fact, His face IS the rainbow after the storm.

Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

I don’t think this verse means we will always get exactly what we ask for. I believe it means that if we are seeking Him, we will find Him. Being the perfect parent He is, He won’t give us everything we ask for. In His ultimate mercy and wisdom, He gives us what’s best for us. No matter the circumstance, He is always best for us. He is the prize. Ask, seek, search, grow….

One of God’s favorite “hiding places” (if you’re seeking Him) is in the Bible. It’s His love letter to us. It’s His instruction booklet and owner’s manual. His word is there for our own good, not to punish us. His word is there because He loves us, not to condemn us. His word is there to instruct and direct us, not to force us. It’s there to convict us, not to shame us. Seek and you shall find.

Double Trouble

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Here on earth you WILL have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (NLT)

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. We WILL have troubles. If there is one thing we all have in common, it is that we have troubles. Pick a wallet, pick an office, pick a family, pick a marriage, pick a medical chart, and if there isn’t current trouble, there has been or will be. There’s a saying that goes “if we all threw our troubles in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.” As distressing as that might sound, it encourages me that we are in this thing together and that we aren’t struggling alone. Sometimes just thinking we are struggling alone is worse than the trouble itself. We are not alone. We have a Helper, Healer, Deliverer, Comforter, Provider who LOVES us and is fully capable of getting us through them one by one. And we have each other.

To ask for a life without troubles is to ask for heaven on earth. We aren’t in heaven yet, but what we CAN ask for is help with our troubles as they come. He WILL help, strengthen, and comfort us during our trials and sorrows. He WILL supply wisdom, power, and mercy when called upon. He WILL hear our cries and cover us with grace. He WILL open our eyes and hearts to see others as He does with compassion and forgiveness if we ask Him to. There’s no doubt that we will have troubles. The doubt lies on our side. How to deal with these troubles? Who to blame for them?

We have troubles because we are imperfect people who live in a fallen world with other imperfect people. We have hope because Jesus has overcome this world with His sacrifice. We have peace because He loves us in spite of our weaknesses. We have strength because He fights for us. We have an eternity of trouble free living to look forward to…..the ultimate paradise!