Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what He has spoken to her!
Mother’s Day is right around the corner and I found myself very blessed this week by an amazing group of women. Over multiple occasions I was empowered, supported and loved from a variety of different women. The circumstances around each incident was radically different, but the one thing that all of those moments had in common was a desire from each of those women to love and support me. Interestingly enough they are all mothers and some of them grandmothers. Like Elizabeth speaking to Mary in the scripture above, these women spoke into my life love and a great deal of joy.
There is a natural instinct in women to love. We were created with the purpose of supporting and loving our families. What was beautiful and amazing to me this week was to see all of these different women step in and love on me, and only one was family. Three of these women I met for the first time this week. There was something so lovely in these experiences. It is truly beautiful when we as people step in to each others lives to strengthen one another. I got that in spades this week. I didn’t even realize how much I needed it until I was feeling all that support. There is this idea in our society that women can be catty or bitchy, and don’t give me wrong we can be, but that is not who we are at heart. We were made for something so much more. We were made to love. We were made to empower and strengthen. Society rises or falls on the backs of amazing mothers and daughters and sisters and girlfriends and wives and aunts and so on.
I came across a quote today that said “behind every successful woman is a tribe of women.” I don’t know who originally said it, but I believe it to be true. Let me tell you a little about some women in my tribe.
The most influential woman in my life has been my mother. That is not surprising because that is the case for most of us. For me, my mother is also my best friend. I’ve told her before and she doesn’t really believe me, but it’s true, she is the person who taught me what love is and showed me the heart of God. The way she did this was by living it out every single day. I don’t know another person who has sacrificed so much for the people in their life. She would give up anything for her family. Every step of my life I have had her supporting me. She is not perfect, she is riddled with flaws, but who isn’t. She is so sincere and generous and has a strength in her that she isn’t even aware of. Despite all of her anxieties and her fears, she was able to build in me an understanding of my worth and a sense of hope and decency. She’s always telling me how smart and capable and talented I am. She told me again this week! She knows how to empower others and I hope that when she reads this she will feel empowered as well.
She’s not the only amazing woman to come into my life, I had this grandmother who we all called our prayer warrior. She was down on her knees every single morning, and I mean physically down on her knees, and prayed for her family, her friends and the world. She was very faithful and very strong willed and she knew how to love and be loved by God. One of the things I found most inspiring in my grandmother was she was a woman who knew herself well. Again, a woman with many flaws, but she was confident in who she was. I see that confidence passed on to my sisters. Both of them had that same type of light like my grandmother, this inner strength and determination that I’ve always been amazed of, and admittedly a little envious of. She was another woman who knew how to build up her family and friends.
I have been lucky to have some astonishing family and friends come into my life, and sometimes they also go out, but while we were in each others lives they never failed to be there for me. My sister Kim always encouraged me to stand strong. My sister Sheril has only ever wanted to see me happy. My nieces, more like little sisters to me, each one bring life and trouble (sometimes good and sometimes bad) into my life. The numerous friends who laughed and cried and rabble roused with me, many years may have gone by, but their words and actions still linger, influencing me to this day. Over the last few year‘s God has been building a community around me and it continues to grow with beautifully authentic women. I have seen God‘s love in each and everyone of them and they remind of my value and my purpose.
Our lives are filled with amazing people who come in and build us up. Our lives are also filled with those people who need to be strengthened and built up. I look around at the people in my life and I see so many who need the kind of love and support I experienced this week and that I have been blessed to experience in my life. I pray that I can step into these lives and be who God designed me to be. Our lives intertwine and mingle and we leave an imprint and I just want to make sure that my imprint is eternal for everyone who crosses my path. I want to take the strength, the grace and the love of all those dazzling women and let the light shine out. This Mother’s Day, honor those amazing women in your life and pay it forward by empowering all those God brings onto your path.
I was listening to some music earlier in an attempt to cheer myself up. It worked. The right music, the right message can make all the difference. It is simply too easy to fall back into my bad place. My current financial and work search struggles keep threatening to overwhelm me. Yesterday and today I found myself moping and letting my anxieties get a foothold. That is a slippery slope and I knew it, but sometimes it is simply more energy than I have to pull myself out of that funk. After getting very frustrated, irritated, depressed and so on, I was in my bad place. I usually call my mom to talk those things out and feel better. Unfortunately, she had been dredging through the same issues. She tried to cheer me up, and I appreciated that, but the conversation left me in a darker mood than before. I decided to write about how I was feeling, but I was having trouble clearing my mind enough to string together my thoughts. I’m always telling others, writing in this posts and generally annoying people with the message that we need to “focus on Jesus,” it was about time I took my own advice. This is where the music comes in to the story. My name is Melody, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I love music. I can’t sing, play an instrument or write a sonata, but I sure do love to listen to those who can. I searched out a song and then let the music mix randomly. One fantastic message after another reminding me of what I have and what I really need in my life: “Lord I need you” by TobyMac, “Joy” by For King and Country, “Only Jesus” by Casting Crowns and more. All good messages, all ones that brought energy and light into my bad place. Oh, that beautiful Light. One of the last songs to play before I was finally ready to write this post ends with this message:
"I don't want another day to pass
Not another moment
I wanna live intentionally
In light of eternity
I wanna love like You love
I wanna love with my life"
--Hollyn "Love with Your Life"
I have let too many moments go by, too many opportunities to love and be loved, too many days passed while I was in my bad place. I wish I could promise myself that I would never go back there again. Truth is, I’m fallible and I’m human. Unfortunately, I’m also susceptible to depression. Thankfully, God is patient. With Him, I have faith that my visits to my bad place will happen less frequently. He wants me to “love with my life” and He will always be there to show me how. Dear Lord, help me to live each moment intentionally for You, “in the light of eternity.”
“I’m praying for you,” said a woman to me today. I didn’t even know her name, but she knew of me and knew some of my story. Apparently my mom has a big mouth. I’m not complaining I love my mom and I appreciate her having people pray for me. It got me to thinking about how connected we are. Actually this whole day has me thinking about that. I had coffee with a friend earlier today, then I went and hung out with my mom and finally ended up at a friends house. Besides me, the other thing all those moments have in common is the discussion of unity in the body of Christ.
What I find fascinating about all three conversations is that the people I was talking to are seeking the same thing I am. I started this ecumenical journey to answer questions I have about the modern church, to help me understand why there are denominations and to clarify how I fit into the body of the church, but above all else I am seeking unity and community. In my first conversation, I discovered that my friend is getting ready to launch a new aspect of her ministry that will bring together a community of people from a variety of denominations and backgrounds all seeking deeper relationship with Jesus and each other. Interestingly, that is exactly what my other friend is doing. My mom is building around her a group of people that all share one thing in common, and that is their love for Jesus, and she doesn’t care about anything else.
These three women are living life as we were meant to live. Jesus laid it out for us when He said that we are to love God, ourselves and others. And He did say to love with all our heart, mind and soul (Matthew 22). That is to act and think and speak in love and only love.
Sunday was a bad day. Six bombings, casualties over 500 and a death toll over 250. As I said, it was a bad day. It was also Easter, a day dedicated to celebrating life and love, the greatest act of love. In the wake of that tragedy in Sri Lanka a beautiful thing has happened, a call for unity. Around the globe, people of many faiths have been expressing one message clearly and that is that we need to stop fighting and just love. That was Jesus’s ministry and it is His message to us. What happened in Sri Lanka was not the first and unfortunately it will not be the last act of hate that will result in pain and bloodshed, but how we respond could change things. If all those voices crying out for unity and love and peace were actually heard, minds could be changed, hearts healed and lives saved. We could go from having so many black marks across this human existence and start seeing real truth and community as God intends.
Jesus was hung on a cross after being beaten and humiliated and cut and stabbed and pierced. Death was eminent and He was facing a darkness that none of us could ever know as all of our sins were about to be placed on Him. And what did He say, ”Father, forgive them.” Pure love. All He wanted and all He wants is for us to be in unity with Him and each other. We don’t always have to agree and we don’t always have to believe the same stuff and we don’t always have to understand one another, that’s not what He asked us to do. We were commanded to love Him, ourselves and each other. True unity, true community and true relationship and not only in the body of Christian believers but in the children of God. There was no stipulations about only loving people at your own church, or only those of your own faith or only the people in your own backyard. He made it clear in everything He said and everything He did, we are meant to love, and that extends to all. We are all God’s children and we are all seeking that kind of love, acceptance and community.
I’m praying for you. I don’t know who you are, I don’t know your story, and I don’t know what you believe, but I’m praying for you.
Your crucifixion with Christ has severed the tie to this life, and now your true life is hidden away in God in Christ.
“Examine me and know my heart, probe me and know my thoughts” (Psalm 139: 23) is not, as it appears, a request that God would know me but that God would show that known self to me.
Who are you? I know it’s a really big question and not one easily answered and not one I’m expecting you to answer right now. And yet, I want you to ponder that question. If I were to ask you to describe yourself, what are the first thoughts that come to mind? Most people tend to answer with things like jobs or accomplishments or relationships. We do that as well sometimes when we are describing other people. These are the things that come to mind because these are easy for us to associate with one another and it's also how we measure each other. But you being the daughter/son of John Doe is not who you are. It’s not your true self. You being the daughter of God, that is your true self.
God knows you. He created you. He built everything in you. The true self, the person you are at your core was created by God long before your parents or grandparents or great great, great, great grandparents ever met. You were God’s beloved before you were anything else. Just think about that for a moment. Before you were ever a twinkle in your mom’s eye, God loved you. He still loves you. The true you is a part of God thanks to Jesus. You were always loved by Him, what Jesus did was bring you to a place of true connection living with your Creator. His crucifixion wrapped you in the arms of the Almighty. What you do now when you are delving into this relationship with Jesus is actually learning about yourself. The more time you spend time with God the more He is going to be able to show you you, teach you all about who the true you is, who you are in Him. That’s the whole point in my writing. That’s the whole point in life...it is to get to know ourselves because God is within us and He is a part of us and He wants to meet us in every aspect of our lives. How will you respond to that today? How are you going to get to know yourself better?
“God carries your picture in His wallet.”
What’s in your wallet? There was a time when it was common practice to put a picture of a loved one or something you loved into your wallet. Often parents would have several pictures of their kids that they could show off. These wallet sized pictures came in the packets of school pictures or sporting pictures. That practice may still exist for a few, mostly it has evolved with the times and now it’s the wallpaper of our phones or our tablets that house our loved ones. What do you think God has for His phone wallpaper? Take a moment to really imagine God with a cellphone, what is so important to Him that He wants to see it every time He turns His phone on? What picture is in His wallet?
Would you be surprised if I said it’s you? You are in God’s wallet. You are His wallpaper. You are what He wants to see every time He turns on His phone. And if God is anything like me, one of the first things He does every single morning when He wakes up is grabs His phone and opens it, so every morning and every moment He is seeing and thinking about you. You are incredibly important to Him. The Bible says that you are His bride!! Imagine...the bride of God. Every moment of everyday He is trying to woo you. Jesus gave up everything for you. And what does He want in return? Just you. He wants you to love Him and to spend time with Him and connect with Him and to build a relationship with Him.
Earlier tonight I was praying with my mom, and the thing that came to me during that prayer was the unimaginable amount of love and dedication that Jesus had to have in order to endure what He did on the cross. To save you. Yes, He saved us all, but He would have done it just for you. That is how much He loves you. That is how much He loves me. We are blessed because we know this truth. And the next step in being blessed by this truth is to feel this truth. Embrace it wholeheartedly, embrace everything and every blessing and every beautiful wonderful thing He wants to shine into your life.
Tragedy and pain struck my family today, fear and helplessness nearly took a family member, one of my loved ones, from me. The message I would want her to hear, if she was sitting in front of me right now, the message I wish she had gotten to hear yesterday before the horrific events of last night, is: Jesus is our hope. Jesus is our joy. He wants to bring light into our lives and bless us beyond our understanding. And He wants to do all of this simply by walking with us in relationship. Will you respond? Will you respond to His invitation to love you and be loved by you? Learn from my nieces mistake, and embrace hope instead of hopelessness. You do that by embracing God. I beg of you, take just five minutes and talk to God right now.
“[Do] you believe that God likes you, is fond of you? What if I were to say that when you walk into a room, God gets excited to see you? As you draw closer to Him, His heart skips a beat. He is so eager to talk with you that He can hardly wait for you to speak with Him. And if you decide to snub Him and simply walk past, His face falls in disappointment.”
The quote from Rob Hensser above changed my life. It changed the entire perspective of my relationship with God. Up to that point I only saw my side of the relationship, my perceived obligation to show up to church, read the Bible and do some daily devotions. This quote helped me to understand how God sees me and that He is pursuing me. He loves me more than I can ever comprehend. For Him it has never been an obligation, but simply a desire to consistently and diligently be devoted to me because I am His beloved. You are His beloved! Say it to yourself right now, “I am His beloved. I am the beloved of God.” Shout it out loud if you need to. Scream it if you need to. Say it to yourself 40 times if you need to. Just let that message sink deep into your soul. God wants a relationship with you. What are you gonna do about that?
I recommend setting aside time for God. I was once told that I should give God 24 hours of focused solitude every month. Maybe you need to break this up day by day, maybe you just need to go off to a quiet place just you and God and peace for a few hours every week, or even better take a day or two to a quiet secluded retreat or nice hotel and connect with the Almighty. Your relationship with Him can only grow if you give Him time. Don’t walk by Him. Stop and talk to God.
🎶And turn your eyes upon Jesus
I started noticing a pattern. There are certain words that pop up in most of my messages. I don’t know why, well yes I do...it’s because that is the central message of the Bible. What is that message? Turn to Jesus. Our hope, our joy, our peace all come from Him. Focus on Jesus. Talk to God. The central message of the Bible, the essential purpose of our life is to have a relationship with the Almighty. Considering the fact that it is literally what we are meant to do in this life — it is why we were created — it’s amazing to me how difficult it actually is to live out.
I’m a living, walking, talking testament to that fact. I allow this world to influence me way too often, practically on a moment to moment basis. A 17th century monk named Brother Lawrence wrote about his experience communing with God. For 40 years he washed dishes and talked to God. His goal was to live in constant communication with God. It took time to create the habit of constantly having God at the forefront, making God his everything. Forty years!! He described it as, “a loving turning of his eyes toward God at all times.” That is just beautiful. Some people would say impractical. They need to focus on paying bills and going to work and driving the car, whatever it is that is going on in their lives. But God wants all of us, every moment. I am sitting here on my vacation doing some reading and watching TV...just relaxing, and God wants to be a part of this time. He wants to sit here while I watch TV and hang out with me. He wants to read the book with me. He wants to drive in the car and sing at the top of our lungs to the radio together. He wants to do data entry or talk to customers with me. He wants everything of me. For some selfish reason, I’m sure, I only actually give Him little parts of me, just the quiet moments, just the times I feel like I want to focus on God. How disrespectful can I possibly be? How utterly clueless am I to not see the truth right in front of me? He wants all of me because He loves all of me! One more time Melody: He wants all of me because He loves all of me. I section off pieces of me for my own goals or my own needs for control or to keep distractions around so I don’t have to give up everything. That is not me loving me. He gave up everything for me. Jesus took all of my pain, all of my shame, all of my sins and He bore them so I wouldn’t have to. Why can’t I give Him me? I keep writing these messages about turning to Jesus, focusing on God and finding joy in the Lord because I need that message. Every single day and every single moment I need that message repeated until it finally and truly sinks in and I make Him my all.
What do you do to keep Jesus in your heart? How can you bring Him in to all the aspects of your life? Do you talk to Him when you’re cooking? Do you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit when you’re playing games with your family? Do you laugh with God when you see a funny meme on Facebook? How can you make these moments happen? Invite Him into your everyday moments by turning your eyes upon Jesus.