The Treasure We’re Giving Away (without even knowing it)

Do you know what TV show fascinates me? It isn’t the Real Housewives or one of those Survivor spin-offs. It’s The Antiques Roadshow.

I know, I know. There’s no drama on this little hour of British television. But I’m amazed at these treasures passed down from generations past, with owners who aren’t even aware of their value. It makes me wonder if there are treasures sitting around in my own home (or attic), waiting to be discovered.

A couple of weeks ago my parents visited and since they always bring gifts, I went through my kids’ endless pile of toys. I remarked that we needed to make another trip to the local charity store. Except the store I was speaking of isn’t really all that charitable.

“That guy’s made a fortune because people just give their stuff away,” my Dad said, referring to the owner.

He talked about how employees of this store found antiques worth large sums of money. The owners didn’t know what they had, and now someone else is making a profit.

The discussion made me ask myself- what am I giving away that I should be guarding? Are there things that I should be treasuring instead of throwing away?

Except my mind didn’t go to the material stuff. It went to the matters of the heart.

I give away my time scrolling through Facebook, looking at pictures of other people’s memories when I could be making my own.

I give away my hope, looking to others to affirm me when there’s only One who can give me the validation I need.

I give away money, looking to fashion trends to give me a fleeting thrill.

When we take an honest look at our lives, we often find we give our hearts away for fulfillment that quickly fades. We can run around in endless circles chasing the next validation or high and then wonder why we constantly feel depleted.

If we dig into God’s word, it doesn’t tell us to give our hearts away. It tells us to guard them.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23 NIV

God knows our ADD nature. He knows we need reminders to keep our steps aligned and our eyes fixed on the Author of our hope.

So why do we need to guard our heart? Shouldn’t we keep it open and listen to it like the popular 80’s song suggests?

Yes and no. Guarding our heart doesn’t mean living in fear, cutting ourselves off from relationships, adventures and the abundant life God wants for us.

Guarding our heart means aligning it with God’s Word, letting our decisions flow from the wisdom he freely gives us.

Guarding our heart means letting his love affirm us, not the fleeting things of this world.

Each of us has a treasure worth far more than anything discovered on an antique roadshow or a charity store. Let’s not give it away like yesterday’s garbage.

Let’s guard it, knowing its value. Let’s treat it like the gem it is.

 

3 Reasons Why God’s Promises Go Further Than Our Dreams

The comment popped into my inbox, and it was as though the reader saw directly into my heart. Tears formed and I knew God was speaking.

“Go to the conference with a song in your heart, holding lightly to your hopes and dreams and tightly to God’s promises. Sounds like the two work against each other, but His promises go further than our dreams.”

I knew this woman spoke the truth, but I didn’t hold my dream lightly. I grasped it for dear life, afraid if I let it go it would disappear. With mere months standing between me and my first writers’ conference, I worked feverishly on a book proposal. My publisher’s appointment was scheduled, and the plan was to walk away with a contract in the works.

In the months that followed, my dream became an idol. Although I didn’t see it at the time, it took the place of the God who gave it life. But since he is an ever-loving and patient giver, he put it back in its rightful place.

Whether this reader who commented on my blog realized it or not, she was speaking words I would need in the months to come. When I questioned God’s call and wondered whether I should continue writing, I came back to her insight. What did she mean? Did I trust God’s promises more than I trusted my plans?

The truth was, I didn’t.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at iBelieve about how I discovered that God’s promises do, indeed, go further than our dreams. You can read the rest of my post here.

 

Linking up here: #ChasingCommunity

You’re a Daughter, Not a Slave to Fear

I like to watch my kids when they don’t know I’m looking.

I eavesdrop on interactions between firstborn and little brother. I overhear whispers of imagination, hide-and-seek and Legos.

It’s not because I’m trying to catch them doing something wrong. On the contrary, I catch glimpses of their lives I might otherwise miss.

When they notice me, their response is always the same.

“What?”

And then comes the shoulder shrug. Like they’re waiting for a rebuke. As if I’m going to chide them for running or yelling.

I realize it’s partly my fault. Because many times, I do those things. And while I don’t apologize for it, I also want them to know I watch them because I relish in seeing them grow.

I’m a witness to these lives I helped create, and I love seeing them discover new things.

The other day as I was driving to the market, the new David Dunn song, “I Wanna Go Back,” came on the radio. It describes how as we grow older, we often lose our childlike faith and belief that we can do or be anything. Instead of being grateful we have neighbors next door to play with, we feel like we have to keep up with them.

So what does the artist want? To go back. He says he wants to go back to “Jesus loves me this I know…”

As I sat in the car listening and singing along, I thought, “Don’t we all?” I realized somewhere along the line, I forgot God watches me the love of a Father instead of an angry parent waiting to punish me.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at PurposefulFaith.com about how we can let go of fear and embrace who we are as daughters. You can read the rest of my post here.

 

Linking up here: #RechargeWednesday

A Promise for When God Seems Far Away

When I was five, my best friend locked the two of us in the trunk of his dad’s car. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why the heck would he do that, right?

Good question. I still wonder about it, myself. If memory serves me correctly, we were pretending as kids often do. Our story involved being kidnapped by an awful person who threw us into the trunk of his car.

Of course, we had to climb into a trunk for effect. My friend didn’t intend to for it to latch, but it did.

Oh, crap.

Wonder why I’m still claustrophobic? Yeah, that’s the reason.

My friend and I were not big kids but that trunk was cramped. It was dark. The air was musty.

But do you know what I still remember? The little streak of light that shined through the crack in the door. It was bright. It illuminated the small space and we could see outside.

We could see neighbors riding by on their bikes. We could see the driveway and the trees.

This little pencil beam of light gave hope we would be found. It made me believe I wouldn’t take my last breath cursing my friend who decided this was a good idea.

We weren’t sure if anyone could hear us, but we called out for help. When someone didn’t come the first time, we continued yelling.

The past few months, I’ve felt like that little girl all over again.

I see the little streak of light and I’m calling. And even when the answer doesn’t come I keep lifting my voice.

Last Sunday I was putting on make-up, getting ready for church and I told my husband how I felt: overwhelmed. Like I’m wading through quicksand and I can’t seem to get a good foundation underneath me. Everyday tasks like getting the kids to the bus stop are more difficult than usual, not to mention the big projects that seem larger than life.

But the most frustrating part of it all is spiritual. When I come to God, my prayers feel sluggish. Like I’m fumbling through the dark, trying to find my way.

When I’m going through these times I love to read the Psalms because David didn’t hold anything back. He put it all out there, crying out to God with his soul deep needs.

One of my all-time favorites is Psalm 40. It starts with David doing something we followers of Christ loathe. Waiting. Waiting patiently for the Lord.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

Psalm 40:1

We aren’t patient people, are we? We want God to sweep us out of the pit right now and give us the answer to the prayer, desire or need.

But God is refining us. We are being pressed from every side but we don’t despair.

The crushed vessel still shines because of what’s inside of it: Christ.

It shines because the Spirit inside keeps calling out. Abba, Father.

That little streak of light I see? It’s the things I know about God. The aspects of his character I hold onto. His faithfulness, his perfect, unchanging love, and the many times he’s delivered me in the past.

We are not orphans, friends. God hasn’t abandoned you or forgotten you. You are his daughter, and he stands in the fire with you.

There is nothing you are walking through that he hasn’t already delivered you from.

My friend and I? Someone heard us. After a few minutes his dad came out looking and saved us from the imaginary kidnapper.

Just like David, our persistent cries brought an answer. They brought relief and comfort.

No matter how distant God seems today, keep crying out. No matter how grim your situation seems, keep coming to him.

If you can’t see the pencil streak of light, grab a hold of another believer’s hand and simply say his name. The answer will come.

I can guarantee it.

Like Whispers Between Bunk Beds

thats-amore-graphic

It’s an hour past their bedtime and I hear giggling from outside the door. These two boys of mine are sharing a bedroom for the third night as we await the arrival of baby sister, and they are loving it.

I marvel at how they can be yelling at each other one moment and hugging necks the next. And as much as little brother drives firstborn crazy, he is always there to pick him up when he falls.

They disagree on many things. Their personalities are as different as night and day.

One likes chocolate ice cream; the other is a fan of vanilla. One follows the rules and instructions, and the other likes to make up his own.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at Malleable Heart as part of Jessica Galan’s That’s Amore series. You can read the rest of my post here.

One Truth to Hold Onto When You Crave Recognition

when-you-crave-recognition

Can I make a little confession? I’m a gold star craver. I love affirmation for a job well done, and when I became a parent this need multiplied. I constantly worry that I’m messing up my kids or they’re going to need therapy when they grow up.

You can relate, right?

So this week we celebrated Valentine’s Day and after an incident at home I had no time to do anything. I’ll admit, most years we don’t do much for Valentine’s anyway. To me it serves as just another reason to give the kids sugar.

Trust me, my kids don’t need more sugar.

But it had been a rough week and I was feeling a little guilty about not getting the kids anything.

Enter…my husband. He comes home from work with two little heart shaped boxes of chocolate and puts them on my dresser. Each one has a cute, fun message on the front. Each one perfect for our boys’ unique personalities.

“You’ll always be their first Valentine,” he said.

I could have cried. He saw my need even though I didn’t express it.

The next morning when I came to kitchen table and gave each son his gift, my oldest jumped up and gave me a hug. And hugs from this eight-year-old are getting fewer and farther between.

“I love you,” he said.

I looked at my hubs, knowing this moment was because of him. But he didn’t need credit or recognition from the boys. Seeing their reaction was enough.

That’s what Christ’s love is like, isn’t it? We’re his ambassadors here on earth, but often we’re so worried about getting the pat on the back or gold star that we forget who deserves the glory.

when-you-crave-recognition

I’m not saying we should stop encouraging each other. Scripture says to build each other up in Christ Jesus.

But let’s not forget our gifts come from him. And at the end of the day if his love shines through us and points others to their Creator, we’ve done well.

He sees the heart we pour into our families. He sees each tear we cry for their sake.

He’s been where we are, completely human in every way.

And you know what? People didn’t recognize him either.

He wasn’t here to bring himself glory, but to do the will of the One who sent him. To give us glimpses of the Father here on earth.

Come to him today. Tell him your need. I can promise he already knows, but when we are honest we just might get that gold star we crave.

He can fill us up with the love he feels for us each day, whispering, “I know you, my child. And I am pleased with my creation.”

 

Linking up here: #ChasingCommunity

What I Want to Teach My Daughter About Her Right to Choose

what-i-want-to-teach-my-daughter

I teared up when the sonogram tech said the words.

“It’s a girl.”

What I’d dared to name in my prayers was now real. She had a name: Elise.

I looked over at my husband and saw tears in his eyes too. Our two boys sat on the floor, staring at the screen a couple of minutes longer until their attention turned to their video games.

For the rest of the day, I was on an emotional high. We went to Babies R’ Us and I immersed myself in all things girl- the bows, the pink, the dresses and frillies. I didn’t think I’d be so enamored with it all, but I was.

Our first girl was coming, and I couldn’t wait. But I also knew.

I knew there would be challenges we wouldn’t face with our boys. Hormones and drama and cycles and the need to be loved.

I also knew there would be the temptation to look for love in all the wrong places. And while the conversation about sex was one we would have with our boys too, it would be different. Because we are made differently.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about women’s rights lately. Social media is filled with articles about a woman’s right to her body, to not be pregnant, and to safe contraception.

Some of the conversation is needed and good. And some of it is disturbing on many levels.

Until this point I’ve stayed out of it. My goal with this blog will always be to love and encourage, and I honestly couldn’t think of anything encouraging to say on the topic.

But then I asked myself, what is at the heart of all this? A woman can claim she has the right to an abortion. She can say denial of access is a violation of that right. But where does the issue start?

Why do so many women need an abortion?

right-to-choose

I looked back on my life and the decisions I made. I spent years of my life looking for love.

I’d heard Bible stories and songs about how God loved me, but it wasn’t tangible to me. I’d never felt it or experienced it, so I assumed it wasn’t real.

I remember the first time a boy told me I was beautiful. I liked it. It meant something to me. I wanted to be seen and heard so desperately I was willing to do anything.

So now, when I type this and I think about the decisions I made, I want my daughter to know: You are worth so much more than your sexuality.

Yes, God can redeem even the most broken story. He can turn ashes into beauty and a mess into a miracle.

But it affects me even now. It affects the relationship I have with my husband. It affects the way I look at other men.

I hear all this talk about a woman’s right to choose but here’s what baffles me. Here’s what’s missing from the conversation.

A woman’s right to choose will always begin with her decision of whether or not to exploit her body. We can say it’s consensual and it’s good and natural, and all that may be true.

But when a woman uses her body to gain something she thinks she lacks- love, it is an exploitation.

Yes, sex is good. Of course it is. God created it.

When sex is misconstrued for love, we have a serious problem. And friends, women can’t separate sex from love. They can’t separate sex from their emotions. And if they can, I would argue that they’ve been hardened by the muck of life to get them to that point.

So yes, we have a right to choose. But I would argue that right begins long before the baby is in the womb. It begins with the decision to love ourselves. It begins with the knowledge of a Creator who values us more than we could ever imagine.

When I look at my daughter, I want her to know this:

  • You have the right to choose a man who will love you more than he will lust after your body.
  • You have the right to love yourself and to believe you are a priceless creation, loved by a Creator who gave himself for you.
  • You have the right to choose to say “no” to anything less than what God has for you. A God who created sex to be enjoyed within the boundaries of marriage. Not as a punishment, but because he knew this is where it would be enjoyed as it was made to be.

It may sound old fashioned. It may sound unreasonable. But as a woman who has experienced sex both inside and outside the confines of marriage, I can say I believe the God who created it got it right.

My daughter has the right to choose. And I pray she chooses to love herself.

 

Linking up here: #ChasingCommunity