One day, friends. One day. One day until I marry my best friend. One day until I get to live life with the love of my life for the rest of forever. ONE day until… More
A few weeks ago, my aunt was gracious enough to let Eric and I join her and some of my family at her beach house a few minutes outside of Destin. As we were all lounging on the beach one sunny afternoon, my baby cousin grabbed my hand and asked if I could walk with her down the beach so she could grow her massive sea shell collection. Let me tell you, I don’t think I have ever seen a child so excited about shells that were chipped and broken. Any time a new, badly beaten shell washed upon the shore, my cousin squealed, carefully picked it up, made me look at it and washed all the sand off with her tiny little hands. She, then, put it in her little bucket and kept on walking down the beach– ready to find another piece of shell to add to her collection. As I watched her excitement, God spoke so delicately to my heart.
If you don’t know the origin of sea shells, get ready for a biology lesson! All sea shells normally provide a home for little sea critters who have soft bodies and would otherwise get hurt by the crashing waves of the ocean. However, once these little sea critters either die or get too big for their shells, the poor shells get casted off into the deep abyss, where they eventually will wash upon shores and be discovered by very excited tiny hands. But, by the time they get to shore, they have gone through a very very rough time. Imagine having no anchor and literally being scraped and scratched up again and again until you finally reach shore where you can breathe and take a much needed break. Okay. I totally understand that shells are inanimate objects and cannot actually feel any emotion, but sometimes I like to believe they can.
The life of a shell isn’t exactly the greatest thing in the world. You’re getting pulled through the deep, dark places and you arrive chipped and broken during your journey– only to find yourself in the hands of a little girl who is so excited to see you. Instead of finding the broken, dirty pieces a bad thing, she delights in the mere existence of what you are. And, as I watched the excitement leap out of the squeals and laughter of this 5 year old, God whispered to my heart, and said That’s how I see you.
See, the thing is life sucks. Period. That’s all the advice I have for today– life absolutely sucks sometimes, and you get these nasty scrapes and bruises from the really mean things people say or do to you. And those wounds on your heart make it seem almost impossible to let love in again. It’s almost as if the chipped heart you have begun to embrace is all you are able to give, and it feels like that is just not enough for anybody out there. Because, those scars lead to anxiety attacks. It leads to fear and insecurity and jealousy and tears and those are simply traits that many people do not find attractive. It leads to messy relationships that end very badly, which, then, leads to another broken piece that readily awaits the next person you encounter. And the cycle goes on.
The devil tells you that no one will be able to love you. He wants to make you believe that those bruises on your heart is going to result in a failed relationship every. single. time. See, he delights in your pain. He delights when you have those miserable panic attacks that make you feel like you could just die on the floor and no one would even care. He enjoys the times that you feel so desperately alone and broken. Because, your pain is how he thrives.
Hey, friend. Can I tell you something? Turn your head towards God, and I promise you will hear the exact opposite. Because He joyfully picks you up and sees so much beauty in your brokenness. He finds your scars and chipped self so beautiful in so many ways. He carefully dusts you off and washes you in His mercies, and then welcomes you in an embrace that can feel no rival.
See, the thing about God is that His love is not dependent on how whole you are. It is not an equation that somehow calculates how many panic attacks and freak outs you’ve had in a week, which then, shows how deserving you are of God’s love. If you didn’t know, God’s love is unfractured. It doesn’t break easily. It isn’t conditional. It isn’t afraid. It isn’t insecure. It’s all consuming, and always present. It seeks to be known and embraces all. God does not care how badly you are beaten up. He declares freedom for your heart, and exclaims that you are His child. He pulls you from the clutches of the enemy and promises you much greater things. Because, the hurts that you are feeling now are not worthy of being ignored and pushed deep down where you can’t feel them anymore. Those scars are worthy of so much more. You are worthy of so much more.
Embrace those nasty scars. That’s the only way you are going to feel whole again. But don’t simply embrace the scars, embrace the love that God showers and pours into your life. He wants to do this with you. Beloved, He cares about you. More than anyone in the entire world could have the capability to do. Embrace the scars in order to learn to love yourself again. I promise, that’s the first step. Let God lead you away from the lies of the enemy and into His arms. That’s the best place to be.
These days, most of my time is consumed with white dresses, vintage doors and lots and lots of flowers. We still have a little less than a year to go until we tie the knot, and I am already SO. STRESSED. And don’t even get me started about how many fights me and Eric have gotten into since we’ve gotten engaged. Most of these fights normally end with someone yelling, “LET’S JUST ELOPE!” And then we agree that planning a wedding really sucks and then we go back to trying to find the perfect color for the cloth that will hang on our arbor. Raise your hands if you’ve gone through this whole engagement season and have wanted to cry like every day. I am WITH you, sister. But amidst this whole whirlwind of emotion, let me just tell you that God still finds ways to sit on my soul and whisper to my heart. He is right in the middle of everything and beckons me to drop the wedding planner and to do lists and sit at his feet. What’s important? He asks. What is actually important about this season? And this normally leaves me weeping in my bedroom (or in my living room in the middle of writing addresses on envelopes for engagement party invitations.) It makes me want to crawl straight into God’s lap and let Him wipe away my tears as I search for the answers deep in my heart.
You, God. My soul sings for You. That’s what’s really important. The only thing my heart cares for is that it is tended by the very hands that molded me into the Type A person that I am. My soul sings for a God who is so personal and intricate that He speaks to me in my brattiest and most selfish moments. Because those are the moments that He tenderly lifts my head up and asks me the questions that make me rethink everything. What is important?
Let’s be really real for a second. Marriage is hard. I’m not even married yet, and I already know it’s going to be one of the toughest things that I will ever do. Don’t get me wrong, I love Eric with every single part of me, but this engagement has been so difficult. God has delivered to us so much goodness that comes from the steadfast love that we shower each other with daily, but the devil likes to get in the middle of all that, which makes it real messy. He likes to bring out insecurities and doubts that do not come from Jesus’ heart, and wow those are really hard moments. Those are moments that I am honestly not even sure I want to go through with this whole marriage thing. Seriously. In about a year, I’m going to be stuck with Eric for the rest of my life. Am I ready for that?? And then comes every single doubt that the devil can conjure up in his evil little mind and then I start to believe it and then I’m in this mess of doubt and confusion and I don’t even know what the heck to do. Then, boom. It’s like love and grace had a baby and hatched it on my heart and all those doubts and fears and insecurities fly out the window because God asks me one very simple question. What’s important?
Well You, God. Obviously. You’re what’s important.
Yes, I know your heart. It sings for my love, but look up. What’s important?
Then, boom. I see it. The answer to the question I have been subconsciously asking ever since Eric and I have started dating. His really bad habit of biting his nails is not important. His really annoying tendency to be over protective and over bearing is not important. The fact that he asks me if I’m okay like 100,000 times a day is not important. This whole wedding isn’t even important. The important thing is his love. It’s the fact that at the end of the day, he’s going to be with me. Through every season, through the struggles, through the fun, through the painful lies that my flesh wants to believe, and through the freeing truths my heart proclaims, he’s going to be there. And that’s what’s important.
I have found the one my soul longs for. He sees me, like really sees me. I have found my good thing, and I am never letting go of what’s important.
I’m praying for each one of you girls (and guys) out there who don’t even know what to do with their relationship anymore. It’s hard and it sucks and it’s a whole lot of work that sometimes doesn’t even seem worth it. Trust me. It is. I’m praying for a love and a grace that encompasses all pain and doubts and fear. That those lies are plucked from your heart, and in its place, you would find God’s truth. He yearns for your heart. He yearns for your relationship. His covenant with us is what is carried out through marriage. What a gift! What a God! I’m praying for peace and comfort in the hard times and constant joy in the times that you want to lay in your bed and ignore everyone. Relationships are not easy and are a whole lot of work, but they are so worth it.
You are loved beyond belief by a God who cares and adores you. He sees you right now, reading these words as I am pouring them out of my heart. All he wants is for you to open up your heart and let Him in. To accept Him into your life. He wants to be your first love. He longs for your attention. Look straight into His eyes, and I promise your life will change forever.
When I think about happiness, I think about Eric’s goofy smile when he’s up to something. I think about him snoring obnoxiously on the couch while I am trying to finish up my homework. I think about his constant love even when I am the most unloveable person in the world. I’m talking about him pouring out his love even when I am moody and grumpy and hungry. (Guys, if you can love a girl when she’s hangry, you know she’s the one.) This kind of happiness and love gives me such a clear picture of God’s love for His children. It’s an ahava love, friends, and boy does it feel good.
Let’s back up and take a look at what ahava love is. The happy times are great and fill my heart with so much love and thankfulness, but that is not the only thing our relationship is made up of. Our relationship is also made of many, many, many fights. Sometimes they’re fights about someone not answering the phone right away, but other times, they are fights about very real and harsh things. Just the other week, Eric and I had one of the biggest fights that I think we have ever had (I’m talking slamming doors, screaming, tears rolling down cheeks, and cars revving off into the distance). These times are hard. They make me want to curl up in a ball and forget about his goofy smile. They make me want to turn around and run as fast as I can away and never turn back because it hurts. SO. MUCH. These are the times I want to build a brick wall around my heart to protect myself. What is ahava love, then? It’s the moment when I am sitting on my couch crying my eyes out after he slams the front door as he walks out, then hearing the door open back up five minutes later. It’s him pulling my broken self into his embrace and whispering that he would never dream of leaving. I’m not going anywhere, he says, I’m right here and I’m never leaving you. This, my friends. This is ahava love. It’s a type of love that isn’t only present in the good times when it’s easy to love. Instead, it is forever constant when the last thing you want to do is love. It is mightier than the grave, and it never gives up. It encompasses even when you want to run and run and run, because obviously you’re incapable of love, right? Wrong.
Ahava love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. It pursues. It doesn’t envy; it doesn’t boast. It redeems; it gives grace. And where in the world did Eric learn to love with so much abandonment and fearlessness? From our Father, of course. These characteristics that I just described in how well this man loves me is a complete representation of how well my God loves me. We love because He first loved us. God shows up everyday and loves with complete abandonment. He loves even when we are fully incapable of loving with the same intensity. His love always knocks on the front door, seeking to be known– seeking to be felt. His love covers all pain and insecurity and fear. His love covers our relationship, and that’s how Eric knows how to love– from our Father who guides his every move. He knows how to lead us in this kind of love because he follows our God’s lead.
Love with abandonment. Love without the fear of receiving in return. Love like our Father loves us, and I promise you will be able to relish in all the beauty it holds. Stop running; answer the door and feel His presence. He wants you. Not the perfect you. Not the you that smiles and laughs and pretends everything is okay. Nope. He wants the you that is falling a part. The you that wants to run at any sign of danger. He wants to embrace you in your brokenness just to promise that He is not going anywhere. To promise you of his constant grace.
Planning is my thing. I have a whole future ahead of me, and I have everything picked out perfectly. I’ve planned out what my children are going to look like and how they are going to dress. I know what my house is going to look like, what parties I’m going to host, what my wedding is going to look like, what ring I’m going to wear on my finger, and the list goes on and on and on and on…
For my whole life, I’ve planned my whole life. I knew what I wanted to do, and I was so incredibly fearful of change. I hated anything that was going to alter my plans, because for the longest time, I thought I knew what was best for me. I hated starting a new job or starting a new semester where I had to get used to different people and professors. I wanted everything to work out the way I wanted them to, and I resisted every single pull on my heart to do anything that was different.
See, the thing is, I was so focused on the future, and the someday, that I forgot about today. I was so immersed in what my life will look like once I get married, start my dream job and have a family that I forgot about the beauties of today. I forgot to look around and truly see the people I’m walking through life with. I kept telling God that after I got married or after I graduate college or once I get a full time job, all distractions will settle and that’s when I would pursue Him with my whole heart. I was waiting for someday. I was waiting for a future that He holds in His hands. And all He wanted me to do was say okay to today. He wanted and continuously wants me to say yes to Him today and everyday.
The truth is, God knows what is going to happen to me in the future. He knows exactly what my children are going to look like. He knows how beautiful my house is going to be and how much I’m going to love my husband. But, best of all, he knows what my struggles are going to be. He knows what my darkest points of my life are going to look like. He knows what my heart is going to look like and He promises to hold my hand through it all. The thing about God is that He is the greatest story teller of all time, and He has our stories wrapped up in His hands. No matter how messy our stories will get or how many times we will mess up, He will be there. For it says that, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. (Acts 1:7)” There is no way for us to understand what will become of us in the future. It is not our authority to know what our future holds. So, why try?
For us, the future is set by a glorious God who knows us through and through. Everything is going to turn out okay, and our God will guide us through it all. So, if the future is set, the only thing that remains is today.
Today is the day, friends. It’s the day to set out and love people. To resemble a Jesus kind of love that no one has ever seen before. It’s the day to relish in the promises of God’s glory. The promises of rest for a weary soul that is tired and beaten, because God renews. He renews tomorrow and He renews the next day, but best of all, He renews today. He promises us His peace and His strength and His mercy. And that’s not a promise of the future, it’s a promise of today. He’s already given it to us. The only thing left to do is to put it on. Put on His peace and His mercy today. I promise you, He’s worth saying yes to.
For the longest time, I thought perfection was the key to happiness. I thought in order to be happy, I had to mask those fleshly feelings of jealousy and anger and insecurity and hurt. And in that, I hid. I hid and ran from a lonely soul that longed to be felt. A soul that longed to just break down in front of a merciful God and simply feel. Instead, I pretended to be okay. I smiled and laughed and said yes to every expectation of me because I wanted to be perfect, and I was willing to hide any sense of reality in order to reach that perfection.
It was only in those loneliest, darkest parts of my soul that God whispered, “Come to Me, my child. Rest with Me in my lap. You are enough and perfection is not your identity.”
There is so much peace in knowing that God does not expect perfection. His only desire is for us to enter into His presence with full and absolute abandonment. An abandonment of fear and insecurity and doubt. He wants honesty. Absolute and brutal honesty that leads to us laying on our faces at His feet screaming out I CAN’T DO IT. Those are the moments that God reaches out, wipes our tears away and promises that we can do it through the strength He provides. That’s when the healing begins. That’s when God peels back the layers that we worked so hard to build up. The perfect daughter. The valedictorian. The perfect student. The perfect friend. All of that is torn off of our hearts, and in its place is a naked soul ready to be encompassed by the love that our Healer so graciously provides. This love covers all, and let me tell you, it brings so much freedom.
This idea of hiding our hearts from an all-knowing God is not a new one. Let’s take it back to the beginning of mankind. After Adam and Eve ate the apple, they realized that they were naked and tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. When God called for them, they hid. Evidently, God knew where they were, but He wanted them to come and reveal themselves to Him. To come to Him without having to hide behind fig leaves. He wanted them to come in their full nakedness. How many times does God have to call for us to answer without hiding behind fig leaves? He wants a naked soul— free from perfection and insecurity. He wants us to trust in His strength and His guidance. He wants us to just come in complete and utter brokenness. A brokenness that cannot be repaired by worldly bandages. It’s a brokenness that is only healed by a merciful hand that calls us to His side.
God whispers, “Come home. I’m ready for you. I’ve always been ready for you.” Put down the fig leaves and stop hiding. Bare your souls and get ready for a love that covers all. He calls you His beloved and wants to embrace you in your brokenness. Just come.