A Valentine For the Lonely

No one will ever love you like Jesus does.

You were made to be cherished, and you are.  From the moment your parent’s cells fused together to become you, it was love at first sight.  God cradled you, hushed in the warmth of your mother’s womb, and crafted you with infinite care.  For months, it was His eyes only that softened at the very sight of you, weaving your DNA into a symmetrical double helix formation and imprinting bold and beautiful dreams into your newly beating heart.

And then the time came for you to be delivered, and whether you were welcomed or unwanted by your parents, all of heaven hushed as God kissed breath into your infant lungs.  Your tiny fists clenched as you wailed dissatisfaction, and you’ve never escaped that lingering taste of discontent.  You want more than this wild, beautiful, messy, dark, sin-splashed planet has to offer, because you were born for another world.

The gaping hole in your heart was made to turn you heavenward, and all the loneliness was meant to remind you that Christ was abandoned by His Father for a dark afternoon so that you need never be forsaken.  Tell me this: has anyone in your whole life completely, totally, and thoroughly known every crevice of you, and then unflinchingly died for you?  How about someone you’ve betrayed, ignored, and disrespected…what about then?  Jesus did.

Now I know, you want arms to hold you close, and someone to whisper sweet nothings in your ear, and there is nothing wrong with wanting any of thatWhen loneliness pushes hard and wounds grow scar tissue, feeling unlovable is easy.  The honest truth is that when we are stripped to our very core, we are unlovable, prickly, nasty, self centered people with a few nice streaks tossed in to pretty things up a little.  The good news of the Gospel is not that God loves the lovely, but that God loves sinners.

You and I may be unlovable, but we are not unloved.

If you trust only in the saving work of Jesus on the cross, then you are His forever.  No prettying up needed.  God loves you at your worst, and He is prepared to help you grow into the breathtaking image of His only Son.

There is good news for anyone feeling just a little bit lonely this Valentine’s Day.  Tender-loving is not some painful memory from the past, or some not-yet-realized dream for the future.  It’s your birth right as God’s beloved child.  The Almighty, brushing close to fill the hollow places, can be your love affair.  Jesus shouted it from a blood soaked hill, whispers it from every tissue-thin page of every Bible across the world, and sings it unblushingly loud from the stars in deepest space to the very molecules that comprise your every cell.  The earth still quivers with the power of that love.

You want an epic romance?

Brace yourself, because your Hero is perfect, strong, loving, understanding, and romantic.  And not only will He love you forever, He died to keep you for all time and eternity.  You are His cherished friend, His delight, His treasure.  You are His bride.  When He looks at you, it’s through the eyes of love, unstained by sin.

Don’t miss the message in all of this mess: Jesus will never, ever, not even for a second stop loving you.  He sees every last sinful, shredded piece of you, and He wants you anyway.

You’re not His last choice – you’re His first.

Real intimacy is about so much more than stripping clothes; it’s about stripping the pretense away and letting yourself touch and be touched in the deep places of your heart.  It’s about baring your soul and your skin and bearing his faults with gentleness.

Seven years married, and I’m still a baby to this true love stuff.

I can tell you that it’s worth it.  Loving him and being loved by him is hard work, but it’s worth it.  Sometimes it looks like fun and flirting, and sometimes it looks a whole lot like raw flesh touching a splintered cross and two sinners kneeling below.  Real love is his hand holding tight while you clench through the contractions, and yours holding him when life kicks him in the gut.  It’s laughing till you cry, and keeping promises because marriage isn’t just about you and him.

Marriage is a picture of the love that Christ has for the church.

This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget that Someone thought you were worth dying for.  Hold out for a man that loves you like Jesus does.

This first appeared on iBelieve.com on February 7, 2017

 

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Valentine’s Day For Real People

Love is in the air.

From candy hearts to florist shops to umpty jillion aisles at WalMart filled with all things pink and red and sticky and…aren’t you just a little bit over it all?  Do we have to go so over-the-top about it?  It’s just a day, for crying out loud – what about the rest of the year?

It kind of just makes me exhausted.  I mean, really?  I have to theme crafts and school projects and heart shaped, candy-enhanced cookie bars?  (Now, if this is your kind of thing, then by all means DO IT and send some over to my kids, will ya?)  But for those of us who aren’t wired weird, crazy with the amazing Pinterest gene, YOU ARE OFF THE HOOK.  For reals.  No one is going to write on your gravestone: SHE DIDN’T OVERDO VALENTINE’S DAY 2017.  (I’m just saying.)

But I’ll tell you what we could all use for Valentine’s Day.

How about a little more Jesus love pouring into and out of these hearts of ours…Anyone?  No, love isn’t all we need, but it’s a darn good start.  How long has it been since we’ve just stopped and soaked it in how perfectly loved we really are?  God loves you, and what’s more, He really likes you.  When we fill up on His love, it changes something deep inside.

It’s a dangerous grace that saves us, that scoops us up and cares about every crevice of our hearts.  Intimacy like that can make a girl swoon – or maybe it makes you want to run right for the hills.  Being loved like that is raw and vulnerable, and horribly scary to those of us who need it.  What I forget – maybe you do, too? – is that God isn’t scared to love us.

I spent way too long afraid to lean into the love of Jesus.  It seemed too saccharine, too fragile a thing to hold a messy heart like mine.

Why should God bother with loving me when He has good people to love?  But here’s the thing:  He’s not overly fond of “perfectly perfect” people.  He likes the you and the me that’s really you and me – the ones we might be a bit afraid to let out in the daylight.  He knows a thing or two about suffering and rejection, and have you read what He endured to buy you back from deepest darkness?  When doubts come, and they will, rebuff them as the lies that they are.  YOU ARE BELOVED, FOREVER.

God is hardly daunted by your mess and mine.  He was there when the shattering happened, when the wounds that rope ugly and old were young and bloody.  He was there in the darkest moments of your lowest lows and all the haunting moments that plague you.  If all that hasn’t scared Him away (it hasn’t), then nothing will.  You are perfectly loved by God Himself and nothing can ever change that. 

But this love doesn’t stop there.  It invites, challenges, compels us to love in the same way.  To care about the crevices in other’s hearts, to move out of our comfort zones and personal dysfunction.  It demands that we don’t stand idly by while others are suffocating under the weight of condemnation, shame, and sin.  When you realize the ridiculous lengths that Jesus went to so He could save you, it makes you want to be ridiculous in the way you love others.

We were made to be lovers – lovers of God and lovers of others – because we were made in God’s image, and all of Him is love.  Love poured out, dripping over, saturating all it touches.

Oh, that we could do a little saturating in our circles – something extra but beautiful, just because Jesus is beautiful.

Maybe it’s doing unrecognized work with diligence, even when weariness crushes your bones.  (More on that coming up in my soon-to-be-released ebook: Tired.)  Maybe it’s a smile as you bend low to lift another up.  Maybe it’s a cup of coffee with a sweet friend, or maybe it’s combing the never ending tangles out with a gentle hand.  Love can manifest in a million different ways, but this Valentine’s Day – and always – let’s do just one thing well.

Let’s love others.  Let’s be a million little glimpses of Jesus to our family and friends and the grumpy lady at the grocery store and whoever, whenever.

And you don’t even have to go all Pinterest about it (unless you really want to.) 🙂

Grace and peace and maybe just a few Conversation Hearts (the light pink ones),

– Kelly

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Loving The Man – When Life Is Busy

Loving The Man - www.searchingformyeden.com

We stood at the front of the church, and all I could think about was, finally.

Finally I would be married to my best friend and the most amazing man I’d ever met.  Before the wedding, well meaning people kept telling me, it’s a lot of work, and you don’t know what you’re getting into and it’s not all roses.  Like most infatuated brides, I could barely hide my mental eye rolling over their comments.  It might be true for them, but it just didn’t apply to us.  We were ready to teach the whole world how to love each other well through the decades.

Oh yes, I was a naïve little thing.

Seven years and three lively kids later (plus a miscarriage and a career change for each of us), we are still pretty darn crazy about each other.  But the newness has rubbed off, and the ring has lost it’s brand new shine.  We are deep in the middle of play doh and play dates, teaching the alphabet and manners, potty training and sibling wars.  Superman is a natural with kids, and me?  Well, it’s what I do now, all day, every day.  I live and breathe diapers and dinosaurs and T-Ball and tutus.  For better or worse, my life is pretty much wrapped up in the sticky hands of the Oompah Loompahs.

It’s easy to make our lives all about the kids and lose sight of the him+me that started us out.

Anybody else in that boat?  I am so challenged to do better about this.  In all the good parent stuff, I’ve forgotten how to be a good wife.  He is so much fun, and I miss out on the joy of laughing with him when I insist on my agenda.  Sometimes I lose sight of the fact that my plans aren’t the only valid ones.  I used to be spontaneous, but the diaper bag filled with sippy cups and graham crackers and hand wipes and spare outfits all but crushes that fun-loving girl.

I want her back.

Surely, there can be a balance between investing in the kids and investing in our marriage.  So, I’m committing right here (and you can too, if you want!) to spending the next 7 days being an intentional wife.  I’m going to prioritize him when I plan the meals (I see Philly Cheesesteak Subs in our near future!), when I do the laundry (keeping up on his socks and tee shirts shouldn’t be THAT impossible, right?), and when I fill the calendar (because if we’re exhausted and cranky from overscheduling, I have nothing but overstimulated kids and a whining wife to share at the end of the day.)  If you want to join me, let me know!  I’ll send you a daily challenge for 7 Days of Loving The Man.

He is worth the effort to love well.

Really, he is.  Loving him is not about my convenience, it’s about a promise I made for easy and for…not.  They weren’t just words we spoke at the front of that church, they were about the choices we promised to make, day in and day out.  In the dirty socks and morning breath and frizzy hair and period days.  In the mundane, alarm clock and sick kids days, as well as the newlywed dancing on sunshine days.

I think it’s easy to lose sight of what drew us to our spouse in the first place.  He is one incredible man, and I need to pause more often on that fact.  I don’t ever want to take him for granted, but it’s easy, isn’t it?  Self focus is the poison of marital happiness, and yet, it’s easy to start sipping on it.

Can’t he see that I want a back rub?

Can’t he see that I’m tired?

Why doesn’t he bring flowers anymore?

He never just gazes into my eyes and tells me how beautiful I am anymore.

Satan is out to get our marriages, ladies.

He is sniffing out your weaknesses, and he will exploit them.  He doesn’t want you grateful for your husband.  He doesn’t want you content with your spouse.  He doesn’t want you to love.  He wants you to stop communicating, stop being thankful, stop being kind in the little things.  He wants you to disconnect your Christianity from your marriage.  Nothing will send him into fits faster than looking out not only for your own interests, but the interests of your husband, too.  He wants you polite to strangers and snapping your spouse’s head off all the time.  He wants your home full of eye rolls, cold shoulders, and selfishness.  He wants you to drink deeply of hurts and bitterness and unhealthy coping.

Loving your spouse is only possible when you are filled up on the love of Jesus.

Those needs we have?  The buck doesn’t stop with your husband.  Only Jesus can fill the needs of our hearts, and we can trust Him with them.  Instead of whining to myself about Superman’s failure to read my mind and know I want a back rub, I can pray for God to give me a gentle heart and a servant’s spirit.  And then, when I remember to communicate my desire for a back rub, my tone won’t be demanding and filled with entitlement.  How often do I set us up for misunderstanding just by failing to have a right heart with God before approaching my man?  I can ask Jesus to fill me with His love, so that I am not asking Superman for the impossible.  Only God can love us enough to fill our hearts.  Our husbands are wonderful, but their love will never be enough all on its own.

Prayer is our secret weapon, our ace-in-the-hole when frustration and tiredness threaten to rock the boat of marital bliss.  Pray, pray, pray for that man, and pray for his wife to be the kind of help meet that he needs.  And yes, go ahead and pray for God to make him the man you need, too.   Pray that you will love each other unselfishly.  Get specific, girl!  Ask Him to give you kind words instead of mean ones, ask Him to help you smile at your man instead of launching straight into your agenda. Whatever you do, make sure you pray!

All that being said, the burden to have a good marriage is not yours or mine to carry.

I just want to put that out there, that if you’re following hard after Jesus and loving your man authentically (not perfectly, but consistently trying) – then you’re doing all that you can and should.  If you still don’t have the marriage you want to have, then get back on your knees.  Pray hard.  Seek Godly counsel.  Don’t give up.  And don’t take it as a personal failure if your marriage still needs a lot of growth.  God isn’t done with either of you yet!!!

Grace, peace, and INTENTIONALLY loving him for a lifetime,

Kelly

**Important note: I am only speaking about non abusive relationships.  If your husband is physically or emotionally abusive, please get immediate help from the authorities and your church.  Do not stay in a dangerous situation.**

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How To Overcome Fear And Know True Flourishing

diving board

Have you ever gone to bed with the light on?

It’s what happens when you’re a 21-year-old me, having stayed up till 2 a.m. to finish a suspense novel.  And when it so happens that the main character (a single young woman) wakes up to find some psychopath leering over her bed even though the deadbolt was fastened and the windows were locked. Shiver.

Fear can drive us to the brink of the ridiculous.  (As above.)

But sometimes, fear isn’t silly in the light of day.  It’s toxic.  And it’s a toxin we don’t even know we’re ingesting.

It can keep us from sending that letter, having that conversation, making that new friend, letting go of the familiar.  It’s scary to leave the kiddie end and head for deep water.  You know, the 9 foot end where the diving board is.  That end.  Oh, yes, we’re going there.  To the not safe, the less-than-sure bet, the downright scary.

Is there a way to flip fear on it’s ugly head?  If we pick up our towels and head for the deep end, will we thrash and drown?  Sometimes, it takes just one person being brave even when they’re scared.

Could we do that?  Who knows what kind of chain reaction we might trigger?

I’m over at iBelieve.com today exploring the deep end (and why we’re meant to go there.)  Join me?

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Building a Safe House – With Free Printable

Building A Safe House: Habits to Protect - www.searchingformyeden.com

She laughed as she spilled the story, animated and bright-eyed.

It was funny.  Her husband’s epic fail gathered a good sized crowd of listeners, and we laughed together as she regaled us with extra silly tidbits of his other shortcomings.  Years later, I still don’t have a high opinion of the man – and I never met him.  He held a respected position in the community, was promoted at work, and yet…his wife held up his most humiliating moment as public entertainment.

If you’re sobering down right about now, so am I.  It scares me to think that I could so easily and unknowingly wound the most precious relationships in my life.  ‘Cause here’s the thing: this lady wasn’t trying to be malicious.  She was a good-hearted, well-meaning woman.  She just acted in violation of rule #1 in the safe home handbook.

Home should be a safe place.

  1. Don’t spill what’s private to the world.  (This seems to have been lost in a culture of revealing clothing and Facebook fights.)  Some things are just best kept under wraps when in the public eye.  Amen?  Let’s keep it classy.
  2. Don’t underexpose.  Protection sometimes means exposing to the light. Removing secrecy is to sin what antiseptic and oxygen are to a wound.  If you need outside help, get it.  (Case in point, the Duggar tragedy.)  This is not a violation of rule #1…you are not spilling it to everyone.  But staying silent in the face of sin is neither healthy nor safe.
  3. Tell it like it is, and do it lovingly.  Speaking the truth in love is God’s way to create a safe place for your family.  A healthy place.  There is room to grow and enough oxygen for everyone when this protection is in place.  Where else do our family members have room to be themselves without fear of rejection or smoke screens?  Truth and kindness make the best house mothers.
  4. Treat your family better than your friends.  (This is not a pass to treat your friends worse; it is a challenge to elevate the level of courtesy in your home.) 🙂 Give family members more consideration, more compliments and kindness, more loving words and your best-self-moments.  Be present.
  5. The best protection you can give your family is to cover them in prayer.  When you pray, you invoke the power of God over your family.  That’s a big deal.  A HUGE deal.  Because He can go where you can’t, knows what you don’t, and protects better than you can dream.

Do you want to guess which one gives me fits challenges me the most?  It’s #4.  I can manage politeness (barely) to the world on a horrible day, but my family gets what I really think.  It is a constant challenge to me to treat them with consistent, unfailing courtesy, regardless of circumstances.  When the trail of mud leads across the carpet, and I have a writing deadline, and the baby is down for a nap, the reasonable request for a cup of milk can be what unravels me.  Work in progress?  You bet I am!  (I also gratefully accept prayers and casseroles.)

Is your home secure?  Is it a place where grace thrives and healthy boundaries exist?  A balance between airing dirty laundry to the world and allowing toxicity to grow unchecked might be tricky, but it is possible.  The world doesn’t need to know that your kid did something stupid unwise or your husband acted like a jerk tested the limits of your Christian forbearance.  That’s what your Bible study girls or your BFF is for.  Better yet, that’s what Face time (with your Creator, not your device) is for.  Spill it to Him, spill it to the ones who will lift you up in prayer, but please…don’t splash it on social media or your coffee klatsch.  The world just doesn’t need to know, and more importantly…your family doesn’t need the world to know.

Home should be a place of safety, where confidences are held close to the heart, grace is dispensed gospel-style, and toxic secrets are brought into the light.  It is where we grow, together, in Christlikeness.  It is not a halfway house for sin to grow undisturbed.  You are the guardian of precious souls, and it is as vital to expose serious sin as it is to safeguard our family’s trust.  Doing the former is one of the many aspects of fulfilling the latter.  It’s easy to become hoodwinked into thinking that no good will come of bringing in outside help, but it is foolish to put a band aid on a wound oozing pus.  That’s what you’re doing if you cover over sin.

Home is a buffer.  It’s an island of safety in a nasty, hurtful world.  It’s a place where we can retreat from the worries and ugliness and find refreshment and people who both know us and actually like us.  So much damage can be done by unkind or untruthful words, and our family is exposed to who-knows-what when they’re out and about.  We can’t put a muzzle on the rest of the world (tempting as it sounds.)  🙂  But we can speak words of kindness and honesty in our homes and relationships.  We can become go-to people when someone wants a straight and loving answer.  We can live out Proverbs 31:26 and have the “law of kindness” arrest mean words that want to slice and gut others.

Home is where family goes to be treated better than anywhere else.  My kiddos are tiny still, (I’ll keep them that way, thanks!) but I am looking at a not-so-distant future when home will be only one of many options for my family to spend their time.  I want it to be a fun, refreshing, delightful place that they want to come back to.  Much of that depends on how they are treated in the here and now.

Intentional, regular prayer on behalf of our family is the best safeguard we can implement.  If you do nothing else, do this.  Pray for their hearts, their minds, their bodies.  I won’t belabor the point, but there is nothing you can do that will have more eternal impact than your prayers.  If you need help with what to pray, I created a free printable (usually on the Subscriber Freebies Page, but here today!) Prayers For A Christ Centered Home.  Just click on the link and print as many copies as you need! 🙂

In summary, it needs to be a huge priority in the life of every Christian woman to create a loving home environment.  Single or married, children or not, the home is a gathering place.  As such, creating a safe and nurturing home is both life-giving and essential.

It’s up to us to set the tone.

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