Tag Archives: love

Day 25: Baking Bread (31 Days of Simple Truths)

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FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve tried giving up bread a few times. It’s not a problem if it’s for a limited amount of time, like during a Whole30 or some kind of cleanse. I miss it, but I can manage.

But I’ve tried it on a more prolonged scale, primarily seeing if a more Paleo-compatible diet works for me. And while there’s no question that my body feels better without white flour and basically all store-bought bread items, it turns out my soul needs bread. Specifically homemade bread.

Something about the process of mixing the ingredients, taking the time to knead the dough, waiting for it to rise, smelling the comforting scent that fills the house, and eating that first slice fresh from the oven—it’s sacred. It’s life-giving.

Yes, the main purpose of food is to feed our bodies, and the fuel you put in matters. But I think feeding our souls matters too.  Everything in balance and moderation, right?

So I think I will keep making bread and eating bread and sharing bread with others. It’s an act of love, a creative offering, and I’d rather not live without it.

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Foodie Fun, Love

Pausing for Gratitude

The final days of January are dwindling down—a month I went into with a lot of question marks and a strange cocktail of dread, anxiety and hope. But here I am on the other side, happy to report that I survived. We all survived. (I know most of you never doubted we would, but I did.)

In marked contrast to the swirl of emotions I carried into the month, I find myself with only one overpowering everything else now: overwhelming gratitude. Deep, deep wells of thanks.

IMG1565My daughter had surgery the very first week of the year. Of course, there are so many emotions that come with something like this, but there was one I didn’t allow myself to voice in all the weeks leading up to it. I was really afraid of being alone. We were expecting to be in the hospital 2-3 days, but my husband was only going to be able to be off work one day. And every time I thought about sitting there alone, I cried. But I didn’t want to say anything because I knew we couldn’t afford for him to take any more days off work, and I didn’t feel like I had anyone else I could ask to come be with me.

On New Year’s Day, my dad mentioned to me that he was planning to be at the hospital the day of the surgery, to be there for his grand baby and in case we needed anything. And I finally had the courage to ask, to say that I was more worried about being alone the day after her surgery and if he could only come one day, could he come then? He didn’t hesitate, just said, “I’ll be there.” I could have sobbed with relief.

Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect. Would he come for just a little bit? Would he only come one day? I didn’t know, but it was enough knowing he would come.

We ended up in the hospital a total of 3 days, and my dad was there for each one. He came in the morning, and he stayed until my husband came in the evening. One night, he stayed even longer because his granddaughter asked him to stay and watch a movie, and of course, his abuelo-heart couldn’t resist! He made sure I had coffee, and he made sure I ate. His mere presence was so indescribably calming to me. There were so many little things, little moments that might not have meant anything to anyone else, but they meant everything to me.

IMG1571He was the first one to coax a smile out of my baby girl post-surgery when he showed up with this balloon whose picture bore an uncanny resemblance to our dog.

When she wouldn’t eat, he’s the one who thought to buy some strawberries from the frozen yogurt place, and she devoured them—practically the only solid food she ate for 3 days. He helped me get her to move and get around so we could actually be released from the hospital.IMG1568

But more than anything else, he was the presence and nearness of God to me in a situation when I desperately needed my own heart to be seen. And because my Papa saw me, I knew God saw me. The intense comfort of this has lingered with me even to this moment when my eyes are blurring with tears yet again over the wonder and unconditional love of it all.

When we finally got home, I started to get overwhelmed with the thought of needing to not only take care of my recovering child, but also my son who would still be full of energy. And everyone would need to be fed. But when my mom showed up to bring my little man home, she came with bags of groceries—things to put together easy, healthy meals for a few days. She had already sent a container of soup with my dad one day, thinking ahead and making a double batch one night as she’d fixed dinner. And just like that, another burden was lifted off my shoulders.

My son can still be quite clingy to his mommy, and I was worried how the separation would affect him while we were in the hospital. But my mom and brother loved him on so much, so extravagantly, that he was more than fine—he was so secure and so seen. He came home bubbling over and amazingly prepared to be patient and gracious to his sister.

I am still in awe of the way my parents wrapped my little family in so much love. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise; they’ve always been pretty wonderful, and my own mama-bear heart would do anything for my own kids. But still it humbled me and touched me in a way I don’t even really have words for.

I am reminded all over again of the sustaining power of love. My parents didn’t have any power to change what we had to walk through, but they loved us through it. They saw the needs, and they did what they could do. And it did more than keep me surviving; it challenged and inspired my heart to new depths of loving people.

IMG1575If that wasn’t enough, women from my writing community—some of whom I’d never even met or interacted with much before—showered my daughter with art supplies so she could do what she loved while she went through her recovery. Daily, when she pulls these things out, she marvels that people who don’t even know her loved her enough to do this; she is also getting a glimpse of how far love can reach.

So here we are, on the other side of it all. And I am grateful that we were not alone, that love appeared in extravagant and unexpected ways. I thought I’d be trying to mostly block this month from my memory, but instead, I am tucking it away to treasure.

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Filed under Love, Motherhood, Presence

Five Minute Friday: Willing

Image Source: CreationSwap

Image Source: CreationSwap

I remember what He asked me, so clearly.  Me – the girl who loves to travel more than anything.  Me – the girl who adapts to any other culture so much more easily than she adapts to her own. Me – the girl who wanted to change the world.

“I know you will go if I ask you to go.  But will you stay if I ask you to stay?”

I love Him and He loves me, so I said yes.

And here I have stayed.  Here I have laid my heart on the altar, let Him dig deep, let Him shake everything that can be shaken.

The years go by, and the process continues.  But I am willing.

Willing to consider if things I have always believed might be wrong.

Willing to let my mind be re-formed.

Willing to let my heart be ignited with new passions.

Willing to redefine, rediscover, reshape.

As long as it takes.  As long as He holds me through it all.

I am willing.  Because I am His.

 

*This post is part of Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday link up.

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Filed under Faith, Hope, Waiting

A Fierce Love (Guest Post)

I’m so excited to host my first ever guest on this blog.  Jen Bradbury is a story sister, and her words here are full of truth and depth.  I posed the question, “What is the most important thing you want your kids to know about the love of God?”  Her response touches a particularly special place in my heart as a former youth ministry person myself.

Image Source: CreationSwap.com

Image Source: CreationSwap.com

Recently, a student told me this story:

A Sunday School teacher shows her class a picture of a squirrel and asks “What is this?” A child responds, “Well, it looks like a squirrel but I know the right answer is Jesus. The right answer is always Jesus.”  

 As a youth worker, I fear this story is all too true. We’ve conditioned our church kids to know the right answer is always Jesus; Even when they cannot actually see Jesus.

 In the same way, when we talk of God, we’ve conditioned them to know the right answer is always love.

 When I ask church kids, “What’s God like?” most will say, almost reflexively, “He’s loving.”   

 To some degree, this is good. I want the students with whom I work to know, without a doubt, that God is loving.

 However, my fear is that because this is our conditioned response, most kids don’t really understand what this means; Most kids don’t really know how God’s love differs from the love of others. And because they don’t, I worry that our constant association of God with love actually has actually reduced God into something he is not: A wimp or a doormat who we can trample over.

 For this reason, as a youth worker who’s not yet a parent, there are two things I most want my kids – the students with whom I have the privilege of working – to know about the love of God.

 The first is that the manifestation of God’s love is Jesus. I want my students to know without a doubt that they don’t have to guess what God’s love looks like; It looks like Jesus.

 I also want my kids to know that God’s love is fierce.

 Take, for example, the love of God we see in Jesus’ interaction with the adulterous woman in John 8.

 In this story, love compels Jesus to stand in the gap between this woman and her accusers; To recklessly pursue the unworthy; And to offer this woman unmerited grace. Beyond that, however, the fierceness of God’s love demands the best from this adulterous woman, that she “Go and sin no more.” In the process, it changes her, giving her a new identity.

 So it is with God’s love with us.

 Its fierceness pursues us into the depths of our pain and sorrow, into the places we’d rather it not go; Its fierceness demands our best, not out of fear of punishment but in response to a love so much greater than any we have ever known; It lavishes us with undeserved grace and in the process, it changes us.

 Ultimately, I don’t just want my students to know love is the right answer to questions about God’s character.

 Instead, I want them to have truly experienced God’s love. Beyond that, however, I want my students to have been changed by God’s love so that they, in turn, can radically love and change others.

 Wimpy love will never do that.

 But a fierce love manifested in Jesus will.

 

jen headshotJen Bradbury is a career youth worker with a diverse spiritual heritage that makes her uniquely qualified for youth work. Jen currently serves as the youth director at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, IL and writes for Youth Worker Journal and the Christian Century. She lives in Glen Ellyn, IL with her husband, Doug, and blogs at ymjen.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Strengthen What Remains

Image Source: Jennifer Upton

Image Source: Jennifer Upton

For the last week, I have found myself glancing at the calendar impatiently, as if somehow I can coax the last few days of this month to move a little faster.  February has not been kind to me.  I am ready to shout some version of “Good riddance!” and “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

It’s frustrating.  I had a lot of hopes for this month, plans, intentions.  But it seems like all my hopes were met with disappointment or hurt or failure or a dismal combination of all of the above.  Throw in a very unexpected, expensive vehicle repair and a very sick child, and I’m telling you, this is not the recipe for a good time.  So here I am – glaring at the remaining days and trying to stay low key, avoid anymore upsets.

Until it dawned on me.  This is not how God works.  Not one bit.  He never stares us down and sighs with exasperation, “Well, you screwed that up, so let’s just bide your time and get past this.”  He never looks at a person or circumstance only to toss them into the “lost cause” pile.  His mercies are new every morning.  No – wait.  Don’t glaze over that as a cliche or overused Bible verse.  Drink it in – Mercy. Fresh. Today. Now.

God never stops believing in redemption.  It is the story He has been writing since the beginning of time, and He will not stop until all things are reconciled to Him.  And all He is asking is for us to believe in this too: nothing is beyond the reach of His redemption. Nothing.

Why?

Because everything else fades away – things spoken to us and over us, things we think we know, seasons we are in, the limited picture we can see now.  It will all cease and be stilled and pass away.  And then these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these?

Love.

Which brings me full circle to my hopes for February.  I wanted to spend the month pondering and probing the depths of this love – His love and the glimpses of love He offers us through others on this earth.  So maybe it hasn’t gone according to plan, but there are three more days in this month, today included.  And today is as good as any to stare full on into the wonders of His love.

In all my interactions with people, most especially with my children, I find myself considering more and more – what is the most important truth I can leave on this heart today?

And it is this – His love does not fail.  It is relentless.  It is powerful enough to redeem anything and everything.  Where we feel there is nothing left – no hope, no goodness – His love is the breath that strengthens what remains and infuses us with new life.

You do not have to give up today.  His love most certainly will not let you go.

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Filed under Faith, Hope, Love, Presence

Pleading (Psalm 6)

Note: Something I have been mulling over is the familiarity that can come with being raised in church.  I’ve read through all of the Bible so many times, my eyes can glaze right over the words without them imprinting on my heart.  But I believe with all my heart these words are eternal and can speak to us again and again.  This is my attempt to interact with Scripture in a different way, a more personal way, a way that makes it real to me where I am right now.  It is not meant to reflect any in-depth study of the original Hebrew or anything like that.  As I read Psalm 6:1-4 today, this is how my heart found a parallel with David’s words.

God, are You angry with me?

You feel far and silent.

Is this punishment?

Please – I am struggling.

My soul, my heart, my mind are faint –

done in from all the effort of facing each day,

trying to keep moving.

I need help –

even my physical body

is wearing down from the fight.

Questions,

Uncertainty,

Confusion,

Disappointment –

I am in anguish.

Make it stop.

Please, please just make it stop.

Do something!

Not something small,

not temporary relief.

Get me out of this hole,

this dark place.

I am clinging to words I’ve heard

again and again,

that You love me

and Your love does not fail.

Show me.

Save me.

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Filed under Faith, Pain, Prayer, Waiting

Speaking About God

IMG612

Mommy, a few weeks ago at church, all the kids were saying that God sets us on fire to clean us out.  And I said He didn’t.  I was the only who said that.

Her sweet face looked up at me, those wide eyes seeking to understand.  I hear more than curiosity in her voice.  I hear the bewilderment of being the only one with a differing opinion, the sense of being too little to know how to speak up.  And just ever so slightly, the tinge of fear.  Could this be true?  Would God do this?

I look at this precious one, so like me that it absolutely terrifies me some days, and I begin to explain, slowly, pausing so she can ask more questions if she needs to.  I explain that, no, God is not going to light a match and literally set her on fire. (Lots of relief in her eyes here.)  And I explain that it is a picture to help us understand.  We talk about gold and how it has to be cleaned up and how they use heat to bring the impurities to the surface.  And I tell her how the Bible says God is a consuming fire – a picture for us to understand how He shapes our hearts. (I do realize there is more to that imagery, but she’s 4, so one thing at a time.)  When we come to Him, He helps us remove meanness and selfishness and other “icky things” from our hearts.

I see the understanding set in, and I am about to leave the conversation there when I feel that familiar nudge in my spirit.  What is the one thing above all you want your daughter to carry in her heart all the days of her life?

In a split second, I remember all the years of striving – trying to be pure enough, right enough, worthy enough, good enough.  Somehow the messages of needing to be better outnumbered or at least out-shouted all the messages of being perfectly loved just as I am.  It has only been very recently that my heart has been able to truly understand grace, and even then, it is an uncomfortable process at times to let the wonder and simplicity of it fully consume me.

So I look at my treasure and say, “Do you know the most important thing you can ever know about God?”  I see the longing spring into her eyes.

“He is love.  [Referring to a previous conversation we’d had] Do you remember how the devil wanted to be powerful?  He wanted to be God? [She nods.] The devil doesn’t understand that love is most powerful of all.  And even when you mess up, God loves you so much.  You can’t do anything to change that.”

The smile that breaks across her face is like the sunrise.  And she says, “Let’s sing about love.”  So we do.  And she runs off to play with her brother.

This exchange with my daughter (which her brother also sat there absorbing) has left me thinking a lot about the language we use to speak about God. How much have I said over the years that has actually made people afraid to know Him?  How much have I said that made people feel Christians must have a secret language, one that is bizarre and difficult to decode?

Not that everything Jesus said was always perfectly clear to every listener, but He most certainly was not out of reach to anyone except those ignorantly certain of their own rightness – something I absolutely do not want to be.

So I am seeking a new language, first so I can be a healthy part of the spiritual process for my children, and then so I communicate about Him to the world around me in a way that represents Him as He truly is, a way that brings them nearer to His heart, His “fire” and not farther.

 

 

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