Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

Love & Connection…Basic Human Needs

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God created us all with basic needs. We need oxygen to breath. We need nutrition and water to sustain life. We need shelter and clothing. These are all needs, but we shouldn’t forget that one of our basic human needs is for love and connection. God created us to NEED love and to feel connected to other people, both in friendship and also in romantic/intimate love.

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Genesis 2:18

It wasn’t good for man (or woman for that matter) to be alone. Alone. So many people are feeling alone at this very moment…their hearts aching to feel loved and connected. It’s such a strong longing that it can consume a person. It can steal his joy and leave him wondering how he will persevere through another day without it. God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. We were made for connection.

We were made for romance too…

“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” Proverbs 5:18-19

Sounds a little racy for the Bible right? God created romance. He created sexual intimacy. He created us to desire that connection. This is a such a strong need that it often leads people to be tempted to sin because of the lack of fulfillment. A husband or wife who is cold to his or her spouse is tempting them to sin. Is that an excuse to sin? Of course not! There’s never an excuse to give in to sin, but there is responsibility there.

“The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

“So they are no longer two but one flesh.” Matthew 19:6

One flesh…in both spirit and body. They are one. God made us to need to be one with someone. He designed us to need to be one in a spiritual and emotional connection. A deep connection…one that is exclusive and evident in their lives. Couples who have this connection and oneness are so in sync with one another that they finish each other’s sentences and anticipate their beloved’s next move. They know each other’s interests, goals, dreams, likes and dislikes. They understand their spouse’s fears, struggles, joys and needs. As they grow and change, they change together and continue to learn about each other.

God also made us to need physical oneness. I mentioned it a few paragraphs ago. Sex. Intimacy. Connecting in a way that, again, is exclusive and vulnerable and a primal part of the human experience. Do you know how difficult it is for most people to live without sexual intimacy? Singles usually struggle immensely in this area, as do married people in lonely and cold marriages. Why struggle? Because humans were designed to need sexual intimacy and oneness, and we ache for it when we don’t have it.

So many marriages are made up of people who are still two separate beings. There are many reasons this happens. Some reasons are due to sin, ignorance of God’s plan, interference from outsiders and a general fading away of love. In these cases, there is every reason to hope for and work towards fixing the problem and connecting with your spouse.

Others have a much more difficult problem. There are many, many couples who married for all the wrong reasons. There are couples who married before they were believers only to find out that they shared none of the same values, passions and goals. There are marriages consisting of one believer and one non-believer.

These problems are not so easy, folks. I think sometimes The Church as whole looks on these issues as being minor or of little consequence. People are told just to “keep their vows” and not worry about the rest. Well, I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t keep vows or that marriages with issues should just be abandoned. I’m not advocating for divorce…not at all. I do think that Christians need to be very careful not to dismiss the heartache, pain and loneliness that people are feeling in their broken marriages. We need to have empathy and compassion. We need to understand that what we are advising is not easy at all…it’s literally denying one’s basic needs in service and obedience to God.

There are few things as destructive and hurtful as a marriage that has no love and connection. It’s devastating for the children. It’s a daily emotional and spiritual and even physical beating for the unhappy and unfulfilled husband and wife. Is there hope? In Christ there’s always hope, but that doesn’t mean the day to day life is any easier. It doesn’t mean the tears shed every night aren’t real. The pain is real. The loneliness is like your heart being trampled and abandoned day by day, and oftentimes no one even knows it’s going on behind closed doors. They suffer alone.

Connection. How can people feel connected if their core values are different? How can they feel loved if sexual intimacy is always withheld? How can marriage be successful if the two people in it are complete opposites and have no understanding of each other? Sometimes they fail. Sometimes there’s divorce. Sometimes bad marriages are so painful that people become physically sick. Sometimes sexual immorality enters in. Sometimes there’s depression and suicide….

…but sometimes there are miracles. Sometimes people find God and change. Sometimes wives read the Word and start to follow the leadership of their husbands. Sometimes husbands learn to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Sometimes love and connection is rekindled, or formed for the first time. Sometimes people changed profoundly by the hand of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit. It does happen.

I very strongly want to encourage my fellow believers to lift up in prayer people in lonely, broken, loveless marriages. We were designed to need love and connection. If we don’t have that connection, there is suffering and pain. It’s not a minor issue. It’s like living without air. Like drowning. It’s a BIG issue.

So stop downplaying it. Stop giving easy answers. Give scripture, yes, but acknowledge that it’s not an easy road. Most of the time one spouse is willing to try but the other isn’t. Many times one won’t even admit there’s a problem. No one is guaranteed a good outcome. There are couples who never had love for one another and maybe never will. Acknowledge that their pain is real before you tell them just to choose to love. Have some compassion.

If you’re reading this and you’re longing for love and connection, just know that you’re not alone and your feelings are valid. You were made to need love and connection. It is a deep and basic need. My prayer for you is that you will be able to withstand the temptation to sin, even in your pain. I pray you are able to find love and connection to the right person, your spouse if you are married, or in a future spouse if single. Praying for all of my lonely and hurting friends tonight that you would feel the comfort of a God who loves you, that you will not fall into despair and that you would remember that your life is important to God and to your loved ones.

Photo credit: Nick-K (Nikos Koutoulas) First dance! via photopin (license)

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Owning the Role of Womanhood

15178297_10205770251895140_4852936928104574322_nI love being a woman. I have no desire whatsoever to be a man. God made me a woman with certain roles, strengths and even weaknesses. Men and women are different…to say otherwise is to ignore scientific fact, studies of the very nature of our genders and even common sense. We are different physically, emotionally and spiritually (in the sense of how God desires us to walk out the callings He has on our lives).

The world has fervently tried to convince us that men and women are the same. This is not about equality. In God’s eyes we are equal. Men are not better or higher than women, nor the other way around. In Galatians 3:28 God says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” God says we are equal, so that’s not in question. We can all agree that women should hold an equal standing when it comes to rights. No problem there.

Equality does not mean we are interchangeable or indistinguishable. It does not mean we are equally suited for every activity. Again, science tells us that in some cases men are better suited for a task while in other situations a woman is better suited. Equal but different, and I’m so very grateful for that.

I’m so very willing to let my husband carry the heavy boxes. I’m so grateful that he mows the lawn. What’s more important is that he is the head of our home and that carries a responsibility that I have no desire at all to try and take away from him. He is responsible for the well-being of our family and keeping our home spiritually in order. He is our covering, answering to our Lord for our spiritual condition. That is a job I do not want. I’m grateful that I’m not called to that role….not that my role is easy either. haha

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Colossians 3:18

Submitting is voluntarily placing oneself under the authority of another. Submitting is not bondage or slavery or being a doormat or losing equality. Submitting is a beautiful act of selflessness and it’s something we are called to do all throughout life in many circumstances. We submit to the authority of police officers, teachers, employers and most importantly to God. Don’t be scared of submission in the home… there is great beauty in it and you will find that the best and most successful marriages were built on men loving their wives as Christ loved the Church, laying down their lives for their wives, and wives submitting to their husbands as unto the Lord. Beautiful.

I love being a woman. I love that God made me a nurturer, a mother, emotional, discerning, gentle and feminine. I love that I was able to give birth to a daughter. I love that I am the keeper of my home and that I have the ability to create an atmosphere of warmth and comfort and love in this place.

I love that God made my husband a man. I love that he is our covering and our protector. I love that he is logical to balance my emotion. I love that he works hard to provide and that he loves the Lord. God has a perfect plan, and while we are not perfect people, we are at peace in the center of His perfect will for us in regards to our roles as men and women.

Ultimately, God created man and woman in His image. I believer our attributes and different giftings are all a part of who God is. When a man and woman come together in the unity of marriage, we fit perfectly in every way, and we glorify God in this unity.

I am a woman and I love being a woman. I am equal with my husband and I’m in submission to my husband. I am valuable. I am free to give myself willingly to this man to whom I have pledged my life. I LOVE being a woman and I own it without shame, fear or regret.

Proverbs 31:10, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”

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When Christians Make Light of Divorce

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I’m often surprised by the comments and actions of men and women who proclaim themselves to be followers of Christ but then misrepresent Him and the Word in most, if not all, areas of their lives. It surprises me when “Christians” admit to being pro-choice or when they try to justify supporting sexual immorality (sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, etc.). It disturbs me to see “Christians” at bars getting wasted or to hear them brag about how they deceived the government into getting more welfare by misrepresenting their income. What breaks my heart even more is to hear “Christians” talk about divorce with a flippant attitude as if it’s some sort of joke. It’s no joke and it’s no laughing  matter.

God hates divorce. Divorce breaks the heart of the Father. You see, when He designed marriage, it was to be for a lifetime. It was to be a heavenly gift to His people that would train them up into maturity in ways only marriage can. We see that as the Lord compares earthly marriage to the spiritual marriage between Christ and the church (Eph 5). Divorce wasn’t God’s plan, though He does allow it in cases of adultery because of the hardness of hearts. It’s no joking matter.

“He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:8 ESV

“And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”” Malachi 2:13-16 ESV

This passage in Malachi really shows us the heart of the Father and how He regards divorce. Does it look like He finds it funny? Takes it lightly? Is totally fine with it? No. God takes marriage and divorce very seriously. He never wanted His children to experience the pain of divorce. He made them one flesh…if one flesh is torn in half, will that not cause pain and terrible scarring? Of course it does. It hurts the man and the woman. It breaks the heart of the children. Divorce is ugly and painful and violent and brokenness.

Understand that God does sometimes release people into divorce. For a man or woman who has experiences the horrific pain of having a spouse commit adultery, you do have the freedom Biblically to file for divorce. For people who are being abused, leaving for your own safety and the safety of your children is of course the right thing to do (though that might not include divorce). Yes, sometimes divorce is unavoidable, and we do not want our brothers and sisters walking around with their heads hanging low in shame because they could not save their marriage. There are some things that are out of our control. There is also grace and forgiveness. Still divorce is never something to be celebrated. So why do so many Christians approach it with such flippancy?

Here’s the thing…we live in a fallen world where people are exceedingly sinful and selfish. We all struggle with our sin nature. Sin is built upon notions of self-love, selfishness and self-pleasing. We build our dreams on the concept of entitlement. So we see record number of divorces happening all the time for reasons that do not match with God’s Word. Most of the time these are not people who are being abused or cheated on. They are simply unhappy. They have lost affection for their spouse. They argue and refuse give. They don’t feel their needs are being met. Christians who choose divorce without Biblical cause will often make light of it to make themselves feel better. We hear comments like:

I’m finally free to follow my own dreams.”

“Let’s throw a divorce party!”

“Yeah we both decided we would be happier as friends.”

“I deserve to be happy.”

“Me being happy will make my kids happy.”

“It all turned out for the best.”

“I just know God is cool with my divorce.”

This is the world talking. This is not the attitude of a person in sync with the heart of the Author of marriage. Marriage isn’t all about your happiness. It isn’t about what you deserve. Happiness doesn’t come from chasing dreams, but rather from chasing after God. No, the kids will not be happy if they are pulled away from a good and loving parent just because you will feel better. No, God is not happy with your divorce. He’s NEVER happy with divorce. He allows it for adultery, and He frees believers from marriage if their unbelieving spouse walks away, but He never rejoices in divorce. He’s never “ok” with it. It breaks His heart.

Christians need to stop making light of divorce. We need to stop making jokes about it. We need to be fighting for marriage and speaking the truth in love. We need to be encouraging people to try harder and praying for them. We need to disciple husbands and wives. When we have friends who are divorcing, we need to offer them support and love and take it seriously. There is grace. There is forgiveness. We need to love and care for those who had no choice but to divorce, and we need to do it with the seriousness that it deserves. It’s not a joke.

Divorce is a sad part of living in this fallen world. God doesn’t find it funny, and neither should we.

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An Emotional Affair to Remember….or Forget

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“We didn’t do anything so it’s no big deal.”

“It was never physical.”

“It’s not cheating if it’s just a crush.”

“There’s nothing wrong with looking if there’s no touching.”

.…..lies…lies…more lies.

Christians and non-Christians alike will almost always universally agree that committing a physical act of adultery is wrong. Cheating on one’s spouse is not acceptable in most social circles, and yet there seems to be this false line of thinking that deems it okay to have an emotional “fling” with someone other than one’s spouse. As Christians we know this isn’t right. Jesus set the boundaries in place when He said this:

“But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28

No, it’s not okay to have a crush. It’s not okay to fantasize about someone other than your husband (or wife). It’s not okay to look. Jesus said those who follow Him will not look with lustful eyes. It may be in the heart but the consequences usually leave the heart and become much more “real”. We see it in the world. We sense it in the church. Oftentimes the internal, invisible evidences of an emotional affair allow it to go unnoticed for a long time, but not forever. A person can keep an emotional affair well-hidden from their brothers and sisters in the Lord, and even from their spouse for a long while. Then, in what seems like a sudden tragedy, the dam bursts open and sin floods into families, homes and the church.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:14-15

Sin begins in the heart folks. It begins in the deep, recesses of the heart where desire and longing simmer until they start to boil over. It becomes a stronghold for the enemy. It is adultery of the heart and it is sin. Make no mistake about it.

While statistics show men are usually more likely to commit physical adultery, women tend to be more prone to affairs of the heart. Call it what you will: a crush, attraction, a connection, a very close friendship taken too far, a fantasy….women who may feel less than fulfilled or satisfied at home may find their hearts straying, even if they are physically faithful to their husbands. It can start with a few flirting smiles, confiding in someone who seems more attentive and interested than the husband, or even just a strong attraction that leads you to fantasizing about being intimately acquainted with that person. It can start out so innocently and end up so tragically.

Guilty as Charged

It may sound like I’m being harsh. Well, there’s a reason. You see, I had an emotional affair once. Yes, I committed adultery of the heart, and it led me through a time of greater pain than I can even express. I can tell you that this sinful desire of the heart and strong emotions for a man that was not my husband brought me to a place of devastation as a Christian, a wife, a mother and in my calling in ministry. No, it never was physical. Yes, it was sin. Wicked, depraved, selfish, disgusting sin. As I look back, I see that the sin started in my heart but it seemed to build and build until I began to manifest it in other sinful actions. I began to become the “old” me…the person who had been freed from the chains of sin when I accepted Christ. While I loved my husband and my family, I found myself pushing them away. I saw myself changing into someone I barely knew. My desires overtook me and I fell back into the miry pit I had escaped by the grace of God so long ago.

No, it never was physical. It was adultery of the heart and it broke me and my husband. Praise be to God that He pulled me out again. He brought me to forgiveness. He empowered my husband to forgive me fully. I repented and was granted grace and mercy unspeakable! I am SO grateful! So thankful for this amazing grace. I praise my God with all that is in me that my family was not destroyed. God restored us to fullness and we are stronger now in Him than ever before. He has done amazing work here and has overcome in our hearts, our lives and our marriage. Hallelujah!

I want to make it clear, since this is a sensitive and personal issue, that my husband is a wonderful man whom I love dearly. I want to honor him, because he stuck by my side and forgave me for my offense against him. It killed me to see how much I had hurt him. I never wanted to hurt him, but sin hurts people. It hurts us and those around us. My husband is an amazing man and I just want to say here that I will never, ever stop thanking God for him and how he has forgiven and loved me!

A Warning

When I think of all I could have lost, it leaves me breathless. My husband could have chosen not to forgive me. My daughter could have experienced the pain of divorce that so many children go through. We could have destroyed our testimony forever and been unfit to minister. Oh, I shudder to think what might have happened because my heart allowed sin to enter in. God has been so good to us and so now I warn my sisters in the Lord not to allow emotional adultery into your heart. Flee from it with every fiber of strength! It is not innocent! It is not okay! It will destroy you like sin does!

I want to warn and admonish you, my sisters, to use caution and boundaries in your relationships outside of marriage. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Be cautious about building close friendships with men who are not your husband. You may think there’s nothing wrong with men and women being “best friends”, but the truth is that best friends share confidences and intimate details about their lives, and this can build feelings that you didn’t anticipate. Don’t confide in other men. Confide in your husband, your God and in Christian women you respect.
  2. Take sinful thoughts captive. When a thought enters your mind and heart that causes you to feel lustful or feelings of a romantic sort, immediately go to God for help. Cry out and ask God to help you capture and remove those thoughts and feelings. Read scripture. Sing worship. Talk to the Father. He will help you. If you need to, call a friend. Don’t allow those thoughts to simmer.
  3. Sometimes we need to break off unhealthy relationships. If you have a friend in your life that you find yourself attracted to, physically, emotionally or spiritually, it is sometimes necessary to stop seeing that person. You don’t have to be cruel about it. You don’t even have to tell them why. Your marriage and your walk with the Lord are more important. Be wise and be committed.
  4. Set up good boundaries. Make your own rules about what you should or shouldn’t do. For example, make a rule about not being alone in a private place with a man. Don’t confide your private feelings or emotions with a man other than your husband. Pray about it and make your own set of boundaries, and discuss them with your husband. It’d be wise for him to do the same.
  5. Don’t justify your sin. If you are having an emotional affair, a crush, or whatever you want to call it, don’t justify it. It’s sin. The Bible says it’s sin. Stop putting the words “innocent” and “crush” together. There’s no such thing for a married woman. You are cheating on your husband and it is sin in the eyes of the Lord. You need to repent and turn.
  6. Seek discipleship if this is an ongoing problem for you. If you are finding your heart straying often and you feel out of control, seek the counsel of a mature woman in the Lord who can disciple you in marriage and in what the Word says about matters of the heart. As you grow in the Lord, you will be more able to withstand and flee from these temptations.
  7. Work on your marriage. Let’s face it, if you’re having an emotional affair it’s likely that your marriage isn’t going well. Marriage is hard. It takes work and commitment. I’m married to the most wonderful, God-fearing man and yet we had problems. Thanks to God we were able to work through our issues and have grown tremendously in love and respect for one another. God has worked mightily in our marriage and we are happy. If you are struggling with an emotional longing for something else, what you really need to do is focus your heart on strengthening your marriage. Get help through your church if need be.
  8. If you are in a very bad marriage, where you are being mistreated and unloved, I understand complete why your heart would wander. My husband treats me wonderfully, but my parents had an awful marriage that ended in divorce. I’ve seen how hard marriage to an unloving and even abusive man can be. I want to encourage you that just because your husband is not treating you like he ought to or loving you the way you deserve doesn’t give you the right to have an emotional affair with someone else. I’m not saying this flippantly. I know it’s hard, but as long as you are married, having thoughts of intimacy or romantic love for another man is adultery of the heart, and God sees it as sin. It’s not ok. Seek help dear sister and be encouraged that God can work miracles.

I had an emotional affair. It was painful and horrific. It was sin that I have since repented of and been forgiven for. My incredible husband has shown me grace and love that is beyond what I could have hoped for and I am committed to never again betraying him or my Lord Jesus in this manner. I learned my lesson the hard way. I saw first hand the destruction that sins of the heart can bring. So now I have boundaries. Now I take my thoughts captive. Now I am willing not to have close relationships with people who may tempt me to stumble. What about you? How committed are you to your marriage? Your God? Your children?

Emotional adultery is sin. Repent. Flee.

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I Want More

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via photopin (license)

What can I say? I want more. I’m not content with average….mediocre…just ok. I want more than what I’ve had. I want more than what I’ve experienced. I want more than what I’m able to achieve myself. I want more than what society will think is necessary. I want more and I’m going for it. I want more of Jesus.

 

I want more Jesus. I want to have Him constantly on my mind and in my heart. I want to be speaking to Him, sometimes loudly and sometimes in gentle whispers, but always all throughout my day in unceasing prayer. I want Him to be the first one I think about in the morning and the last goodnight. I want Him to be so much a part of my day that I never feel apart from Him. I want more.

 

I want more of the Father’s heart in my life. I want to love more deeply. I want to serve more selflessly. I want to pour more of myself into those He puts before me. I want to be more willing to cast aside my own selfish desires and thoughts. I want to be more of a witness to His glory, His love and His mercy. I want more grace to flow from Him, through me and spilling out into the world around me. I want more.

 

I want more of the Holy Spirit in my life. I want to faithfully use the gifts of the Spirit more as God gives. I want more discernment, more wisdom, more direction, more conviction, more comfort and more understanding. I want more….as much as the Holy Spirit desires to give, I want. I want more.

 

I want more of the church. I want more reality in the church. I want more purpose in the church. I want more teaching, admonishing, encouraging, edification, truth and above all LOVE in the church. I want to give more to the church and I want to be more actively functioning in the church. I want to see the church more alive and on fire than ever before. I want more revival. More gospel. More baptism. More movement of the Spirit. I want more solid doctrine. I want more courage, boldness and love. Yes, I said LOVE again because I want more LOVE in the church. “Faith, hope and love; these three remain, but the greatest is LOVE.” 1 Cor. 13:13

 

Oh Lord, this world wants more of me. It wants all of me. It pulls at me. The enemy wants to bury me in more of myself, self-love, selfishness, self-pity. No. I want more of Jesus. The answer to everything is more of Jesus. I’m not settling for less. I want more…as much as You will give me. I’m ready for more.

 

Thank You Lord that You give freely and abundantly of Yourself when we are ready to ask for more!

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When There’s Something to Complain About

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We are natural complainers, aren’t we? I mean, there are definitely those people who never seem to have a bad thing to say. They seem always content and at peace in any given circumstance. Nothing bothers them and they walk in serene peace and joy at all times. I’m not one of those people. I wish I was! I definitely know how to complain when I have something going on that’s worth complaining about.

When it comes to marriage, we all know that we tend to get comfortable with one another. We let down our guards. We are more open and real. That’s a beautiful thing. However, sometimes when we are comfortable we also allow ourselves to share whatever it is that’s on our minds at any given time…which can be ugly if what’s on our minds is a load of complaints and grumblings.

It happens so easily and we may not even notice it. Say, for example, Jenny and Jeremy are going through a tough time. Jenny is suffering from health issues and all the doctor bills are causing their budget to break under the pressure. Jenny is struggling with the stress and pain of her situation and she often gets frustrated with how Jeremy handles the various situations that come up, how he responds when she’s in pain and how he doesn’t seem to share her concerns. Her mind is filled with complaints, and why not? She’s going through some horrible trials. It’s natural for her to feel this way, but should she allow every complaint to flow from her lips to her husband’s ears? I think not.

You see, Jeremy and Jenny might handle the stress differently, but my guess is that Jeremy is doing the best he can. He is trying to bear the load. He is trying to help his wife. He feels badly about her health problems. He would do anything to come up with a solution. He may not do everything the way she wants him to, but he is trying. If all he hears from his wife’s mouth is complaint and criticism, it will really wear him down. it will crush him. He will become deflated and defeated. It will weigh heavily on the marriage.

Perhaps Jeremy really isn’t doing things well. Maybe he’s messing it all up and maybe he doesn’t care for his wife as he should. Should Jenny therefore have freedom to pour out her complaints all over her husband in hopes of it changing him? I think not.

Nagging and complaining is never a good way to make positive changes. The Bible warns of the ugly nature of a nagging and contentious wife repeatedly. It’s just not pretty ladies and it makes your husband want to hide under a big rock, or perhaps live on the rooftop instead of in the home with you. If Jenny is wise, she will not complain and nag at her husband to try and change him. She can make her concerns known respectfully and then leave it with God. Prayer is powerful. Nagging is destructive.

Perhaps you think I’m being harsh with Jenny. After all, she’s not well. Shouldn’t we cut her some slack and allow her some complaining? Look, I’m not saying there’s never a time to share concerns, pains, struggles, etc. I’m not saying you shouldn’t share with your husbands. A good man will want to know how his wife is feeling. Remember, we also have friends to help us carry our burden. We have family we can share with. I’m not saying to keep your pain in and let it boil inside.

What I am suggesting is that we not allow our mouths to be the source of constant complaining, grumbling and venting, even if that’s what’s in our heads all of the time. As much as Jenny needs to vent from time to time, Jeremy needs to be encouraged. He needs to hear that his wife appreciates what he’s trying to do for her. The home needs joy to flow through it’s halls. Your children need to hear good words and laughter.

I feel for all of my sisters who are struggling with pain and trials. I am too. I write this, not as a woman who gets it right all the time, but as a sister in the Lord who fails a lot. I fail. I complain. I have times when my mouth is filled with pessimism and criticism and ugliness. I see the pain and frustration it brings my family, and I don’t want to do that to them anymore. I want my mouth to bring words of encouragement and edification, even if every joint hurts and every task is challenging. Lord, help me to complain less and be more grateful!

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

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Be Grateful for Those Babies!

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As a woman who suffers from secondary infertility (meaning I was able to have one child but have not been able to conceive since), I know that there are certain things that I see or hear that accentuate my pain and trigger negative emotions. It’s difficult. You see beautiful babies being born all around you. You have friends that are expecting. You see sweet little ones on television and in the supermarkets. You get to bring meals to new mommies and see the utter joy of being a mother. Then you return home and are faced with the pain of barrenness…the empty aching pain that only those who have experienced it can fully understand.

Before I was able to give birth to my miracle daughter, I had a much harder time being around pregnant women, attending baby showers or seeing pictures of brand new babies. It’s been almost 6 years since I had my girl, and my failure to conceive definitely brings me to pain quite often. I strive to be content and accept the Lord’s plan in it all. I know He is good and His gifts are perfect in His perfect timing. I am so blessed to have my daughter and never fail to give thanks for her. Still, I long for another child. It’s human emotion.

As I look around, I see women who are able to conceive and bring forth precious blessing after blessing. I like to joke that my circle of friends and church tends to be fertile ground. Baby after baby. It’s awesome. It’s beautiful. And it hurts. It’s a constant painful reminder. I want to be perfectly clear that I rejoice with everyone of these women at every birth. I’m so happy for them; I truly am. At the same time, I fight back the tears.

There is something I want to say to these lovely women. There’s an encouragement I have for them that can only come from a woman with infertility. My sisters, be grateful for those babies. Celebrate those babies. Don’t take it for granted. I know you are grateful for these blessings and I know you thank God for them, but take it from a woman like me, having children is not a right but a privilege that the Lord God blesses you with. For those of you who conceive easily, be grateful. Thank God for that. You are soooooo blessed! Women like me only dream of being able to have babies. I want to encourage you to feel that blessing deeper and to thank the Lord God every time you hold that sweet baby to your chest, What an amazing honor you have to be able to experience motherhood in this way. God bless you!

My sisters, I also want to encourage you to do three things for those ladies in your life who struggle with infertility…

  1. Pray for them. Pray for hurting hearts and the pain they are experiencing. Pray for open wombs and fertility. Pray for their marriages, which are sometimes strained in the hurt of infertility. Pray for these women to feel whole and valuable and important. Pray for them to know peace.
  2. Be sensitive. Be aware of the situation and try to be an encouragement. Avoid saying things that may bring more pain, if you can. Maybe pray about how best to minister to your friend in regards to the infertility. Guard your words and allow the Lord to lead.
  3. Don’t act like motherhood is a right that every woman has. That’s just not the case. Some women will never be able to conceive. Some will have miracle blessings. Either way, acting like conception, pregnancy and motherhood are just regular parts of life, instead of the absolute miraculous blessing they are, is something we pick up on. It hurts. Remember to be grateful for those babies.

Life is full of pain and struggles. Infertility is awful. It can make a woman feel alone, worthless, incomplete, broken and excluded. Last night I had a dream I was pregnant with a baby boy. I was at the doctor’s office having an ultrasound. The pain that I have to deal with this morning is heavy, but I do know that God is good. I know He loves me and I know He has a perfect plan. In tears I pray for my sisters who experience infertility. Praying for peace that passes understanding and is capable of ministering to the brokenhearted.

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Too Much Self-Love Going On

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Self-love is a modern-day cover up. It’s a scam. It’s a cheap imitation for the love that is supposed to be filling our hearts. You see, self-love isn’t all it’s hyped up to be. Sure, you’ll hear the talk show hosts and the psychologists and the self-help gurus go on and on about it, claiming that self-love is all one needs to have peace in this life. They will tell you that loving yourself is the first priority…

“You need to take care of yourself….”

 

“All that matters is that you like yourself….”

 

“At the end of the day, you only answer to yourself….”
“Do what’s best for you…”

 

“You deserve to be happy…”

 

“You can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself….”

I’ve heard it all my life, and I’m sure you have too. In fact, maybe you’ve said these catchphrases to others at times. Maybe you believe them sincerely. I mean no disrespect or offense when I say that you’ve been greatly misled. Here are some of the reasons why self-love is not our friend, but actually oftentimes our enemy…

  1. Self-love is self-focus and leads to self-centeredness and selfishness. Now that’s a tongue-twister! Self-love is basically a means of shifting all of the focus to yourself. Your focus is on loving yourself so you think about yourself excessively. Since when is your life all about you? I tell you what, the people I’ve known in my life who are the most well-rounded, joyful and peaceful people are those who think very little about themselves. They are too busy being a blessing to others to spend hours and hours, day after day meditating on themselves. In shifting their focus to serving others and seeking the Lord, they find peace and contentment. Self-love makes people believe that it’s all about them. That’s not healthy and not pretty. It can definitely lead to a selfish kind of heart.
  2. Self-love ruins relationships and marriages. That’s right. People who say that you have to love yourself before you can love others are wrong. The ONLY way to truly love others is to lay down your life. The ONLY way to love your husband in the way that God commanded is to be willing to put his needs ahead of your own. The ONLY way to be a good mother is to love those children more than you love yourself. When people focus on self-love, they will eventually come to the conclusion that they are not being treated good enough in their marriage or that they are not being appreciated enough by their kids. We see people committing adultery. We see mothers abandoning their children and running off with a lover. We see men and women filing for divorce like it’s the same as trading in an old car. These are the acts of selfish, self-centered, and self-loving people. They love themselves more than the people they should be giving their lives for, and the result is pain and suffering. In friendship, it gets real old when one friend is constantly talking about herself and never has time to listen, doesn’t it? Self-love destroys relationships and families.
  3. Self-love focus is anti-Biblical.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” 1 Timothy 3:1-5

 

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Matthew 16:24-25

 

Over and over throughout scripture we are told to love God, love others and serve. We are never told to love ourselves….not once! The truth of the matter is there is no need. It is assumed that we love ourselves because loving ourselves is part of our nature. When God commands us to love others as ourselves, He is assuming (and God’s never wrong) that we do love ourselves. So, you and I already love ourselves plenty. Why do I sometimes hate the person that I am, you may ask? Well, sometimes we hate the sin in ourselves, especially when we have received the Holy Spirit and are filled with conviction.

Sometimes we hate the circumstances of our lives…things that have been done to us or the situation we find ourselves in regarding health, finances, etc. We hate our lives but we don’t hate ourselves. Sometime we really honestly do feel hatred toward ourselves, but the truth is, if we didn’t care about ourselves we wouldn’t feel such strong feelings. We would be indifferent. See, hatred isn’t the opposite of love. Indifference is the opposite of love. The truth is that we love ourselves, and therefore when we hated the circumstances we are in or the person we have become, we feel it strongly.

Friends, there is enough self-love going on. It is leading to divorce. It is leading to worldly pleasures. It leads to people living lives of self-contemplation and missing out on the joy of taking up God’s great commission. We have so much work to do, sisters. We have a world full of lost souls who need Jesus. We have people to minister to. We need to stop looking in the mirror all the time and start looking around us. I guarantee you, when you start looking at others instead of yourself, you’ll be a happier person. In fact, when you let go of your need for self-love, and you focus on God-love and loving your neighbors, you are going to end up liking the person that you are in a true way. That’s the key.

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The Way She Looks at Us

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My daughter is five years old and she has this obvious draw to words of affection and affirmation. She is quick to remind us how much she loves us and delights in being showered with affectionate words. She also will often prompt us to give each other words of affirmation, smiling broadly as my husband and I tell each other that we love one another. I see this look in her eyes and it is like a window into her precious heart. It’s the way she looks at us when my husband and I communicate love and honor that shows us how important it is to her that we love each other.

Being affectionate with your spouse isn’t just about you or how you feel. There is so much that we communicate to our kiddos without even realizing it as we hold hands, cuddle on the couch, or embrace when he comes through the door after work. Words and acts of love blesses our children in several ways, whilst also building up the relationship and keeping affection alive. Here are a few of the ways our “public display of affection” and words of affirmation bless our children:

  • Children love to see their parents in love with one another. They are blessed knowing that Mommy and Daddy love one another and are happy together. Happy children are usually raised in happy homes, where love, honor and respect flow freely and openly.
  • There is security in a happy marriage for the children. Seeing their parents in love gives children a sense of safety and stability. In a world where half of their friends will come from families of divorce, children need this reassurance. Words and acts of affection reassure them that their family is safe from the pain of separation and divorce.
  • Children are always watching and learning. Displaying a happy marriage, with hugs and kisses and hand-holding and words of affirmation, will set a wonderful example of marriage for the kids. By the grace of God, may they go on to be happily married in a God-centered home one day too.
  • The affectionate and loving couple are much less likely to be that couple that says unkind words to one another, especially in front of the kids. Children are often quietly observing as couples share harsh words in angry tones during times of conflict. This is confusing and upsetting to little ones, who love both Mommy and Daddy. Those angry words hurt children, even when they aren’t directed at them. Let the loving and kind words flow while biting back those harmful words and looks.

When my husband I speak words of love and cuddle up together on the couch, my daughter looks at us with such joy, peace and contentment. She is secure in our love for one another. She delights in our happiness and her little cup runneth over. Being affectionate with your spouse shouldn’t only be for the kids, but blessing them is certainly a good reason to keep words of affirmation and acts of affection a part of everyday life.

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I Resolve Not to Put God in a Box

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Resolutions. Plans. Goals. Commitments. New Year tends to bring us all to a place of reflection and re-calculation. We evaluate what we’ve disliked in the year(s) past and we vow to make positive changes. We resolve to conquer what we deem as personal failures and we make plans to correct those failures and/or add something new to our lifestyle. The problem with so many resolutions is that they are anything but resolute. They are hardly the solid, unbreakable self-contract that the word “resolve” describes. Most are over within a few months, weeks or days. That’s why so many people make a joke of it.

I don’t like failure. I’ve never been good at accepting my own mediocrity or weakness. If I don’t do something well right from the start, I usually want to quit pretty quickly. Therefore, with a great sense of commitment, I resolve to make only one resolution this year and it’ll be easy to keep because it really has little to do with me. Here it is…

I resolve not to put God in a box. I resolve not to project limits on His power and ability that simply don’t exist. I resolve not to expect Him to do things the way I perceive that He should, and to be open to leading of the Holy Spirit. I want to be more in touch with what He’s doing, even if it has nothing to do with my own plans. After all, His ways are far above my ways.

We believe God’s Word, don’t we? If we believe His Word, then we serve a God who created the heights and vastness of the universe with a spoken word. We believe He created everything we see and even us. We believe in His power to flood the world, deliver Israel from the hands of Egypt by parting the Red Sea, keep His servants from burning a fire, heal the sick and give sight to the blind, and die and rise again to glory. If we believe His Word, we believe that He sent His Holy Spirit, giving His children His power in spiritual gifts, opened prison doors and did many other signs and wonders. We believe it, don’t we?

If this is the God we believe in, what gives us the right to put Him in a box? Why do we claim to believe He has the power to deliver us from our troubles, use us to the reach the lost, empower us to minister to His people, give children to the barren and heal broken families? How can we believe in our minds and yet our hearts seem to grow more skeptical by the year? Want my theory?

We’ve felt let down. We’ve experienced loss. We’ve prayed for miracles and at times have not seen God work in the way we expected. There is pain and suffering, and we pray without feeling that assurance that He will really work in the situation. We put Him in a box and we go about our lives not expecting Him to burst out.

I confess that this has been me many times. I have prayed for healing and grown to doubt that God will ever answer that prayer. I have prayed for others without expecting it to do any good. I have asked God for wisdom but then not waited for wisdom to come. I have decided that anything outside of the box must not be God’s work and so I go on living as if I serve a God with no power…or that He has power but won’t use it on my behalf. I have allowed my wicked heart to deceive me so many times, trusting it’s disillusions more than I trust the promises of God. I’m ashamed of this weakness, and I’m not entirely free of it.

I don’t know what to expect for 2015. I don’t know what’s coming. I know God’s Word is true and that His ways are perfect. I know that my bad decisions have brought me pain and that God will work good through them. I understand that pain is part of this life, but I don’t know whether or not God will continue to allow such testing in our lives, or if a time of rest and comfort is coming. What I do know is that God is all-powerful, all-mighty, unparalleled and unfailing in His love and grace towards us. He cannot be contained in a box. He will do what He wills to do, and I know that I need to stop second-guessing Him, doubting Him and giving up on Him in my heart. I need to place this coming year in His capable hands and hang on for the ride, where ever it may take us.

I resolve not to put God in a box. I resolve to be open to whatever He wants to do and to trust that what He’s doing (or not doing) is right and good and perfect. I need to expect Him to work and move, because that’s what He does. If I want to be a part of it, I need to have my eyes open to the bigness and greatness of God. I lost sight of this. I failed. My New Year Resolution is to rip that box to shreds and be ready for what God’s going to do this year. I know big things are coming.

May your year be full of the unexpected and surprising bigness of God. May He fill us all with wonder as He works mightily in glory. May He bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you and give you grace! God bless 2015!

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