Do you really know how to love?

Photo credit: Jakob Owens @jakobowens1

If someone asked you to make a list of the people who you really, truly love, how many names would you come up with?

Ok, now answer this question: How many of those people would you still love if they betrayed you? Or hurt someone else you loved? Or caused you to lose your job? How many of them would you still love if they publicly rejected you? If they tried to turn everyone against you? If they became absolutely unlovable?

Most people would take a few names off the list. Some might even throw the whole list away. Not many people would continue to show love to someone who hurt them like that. It wouldn’t seem logical to consider those people worthy of our time.

Most people have a maximum amount of abuse they will take before considering the other person unlovable. The average human would feel it’s more than reasonable to turn their back on someone once they’ve reached this point. I admit I sometimes feel completely justified in treating these people less kindly, or at least giving them the cold shoulder. Most of us definitely wouldn’t go out of our way to be nice to them. Nobody would look down on us for defriending them on Facebook or even for telling everyone how much they hurt us.

Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about how God views things so differently. When my husband really hurts my feelings, I want to ignore him all day. (Not that chill type of ignoring; more like the really obvious, slamming doors kind of ignoring!) During our worst fights I’ve even struggled with wanting to take the kids and leave.

But God has been teaching me something lately about love. I’m not really living his love until I’m loving the unlovable. It’s easy to love people who are nice to you and cute little babies (except when they wake you up at 4 am). Jesus loved beyond our earthly, shallow love. He loved us at our worst, and his love was action, not just words.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus Christ didn’t tell us to get our crap together and maybe after we were living like “good Christians” He’d consider sacrificing for us. He gave His life for us without strings attached. He knew all the bad things you and I would do in our lives (cuz He’s God, He knows everything!) and He still made that choice. That’s love.

Note: I’m not saying you should endure abuse. There are times you have to love people from a safe space and pray they get help they need. If you are in a relationship where you are afraid of what someone will do next—physically or mentally—get out, get to a safe place, and find some safe people! I’ve been there before, and God does not want you staying in danger like that.

In his book, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt, Jentezen Franklin writes, “You have to love like you’ve never been hurt. You have to refuse to be bitter. You have to refuse to get angry. You have to refuse to get even. When you love in this way, God will raise you up and use even the worst that has been done to you for His glory.”

This is real love. Love that chooses to be kind, forgive, serve, stay married, show up, etc. Even when that person doesn’t deserve it. Especially if that person doesn’t deserve it.

So I’ve realized that before now I wasn’t really loving my husband. I was only showing love when I thought he deserved it. God wants to transform our marriage and use it to bring joy to us and others. In order for that to happen I’ve got to love like Jesus. He’s the one who taught me how to really love.

The Opposite of Facebook

In 2007 I discovered this amazing website on the internet where you could reconnect with old friends and post pictures of your life. It was a brand new concept. Right in front of me were pictures of my childhood best friend’s daughter and posts from my friend in Japan. And, oh, how great it felt to get likes on my pictures! This became a whole new obsession.

I have reconnected with so many old friends through Facebook, and sometimes it really makes me feel like I have community around me. Likes, congratulations, and birthday wishes are just some of the confidence boosters it gives. Scientists have even said that positive social media interactions can set off “feel good” chemicals in the brain. It’s like a screen high!

Facebook is also a great place to be in a community without having to even put on a bra. Just open up a screen and there’s friends and family at your fingertips. And now lots of other social media sites have sprung up to connect us to the world from our sofas at home.

The problem, however, is that Facebook has become the bragging ground that we build our self esteem upon. The place to show off all the pretty and none of the ugly. I get it. I’m not usually gonna tell my darkest secrets or my biggest failures on Facebook. It’s the place where I put the good selfies and the pics of the times my kids did something right. Facebook and other social media sites see me at my best.

“The problem, however, is that Facebook has become the bragging ground that we build our self esteem upon.”

And that’s the problem. Everyone’s doing it. Everyone’s putting on their best face for everyone else. It’s like the girl who wears the fake eyelashes and the push up bra, and then you see her in sweats and no makeup at Walmart and you don’t recognize her. (Not judging. Can totally relate.)

We are all bragging to each other like a daily photo resume. We’re promoting ourselves: just the good, no bad. We are trying to look as pretty as that girl from high school or as happy as the cousin we always envied. But it’s not healthy. It’s not real. It’s not really us.

It’s the opposite of how the Bible teaches us to live. Jeremiah 9:23-24 says:

“Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.”

Jesus is the only thing I can brag on. He’s the only part of me that should make me feel confident. His name should lift me up more than all the likes on the best selfie I’ve ever taken.

God’s view of life is so opposite of ours. We tend to value appearances. He values the heart. We value success. He values compassion. We feel good when everyone likes us. God wants us to look to Him for approval because His likes are all that matter.

Social media is great, but we need to constantly ask ourselves, “Am I living for His likes or the likes of the world?”

Thanks for reading. Oh, and don’t forget to like my post! 😉

Little Tastes of Heaven

I took my sweet little kindergartener to see Aladdin tonight. It was great, and she squealed with excitement throughout half the movie.

As we watched Aladdin and Jasmine soar through the sky on a magic carpet, I recalled watching the animated Aladdin movie with my little sister in the 90’s.

Back then, as a teenager, I was so full of hope and excitement about how my life would turn out, whom I would marry, where I would live. I had watched the romantic scenes, thinking that once I found the “right” man, life would be a constant romantic high. I was sure my future husband would always see me as beautiful and we would love each other eternally.

Now I know different.

Romance comes with a high at first, but, like a high from a drug, the thrill is short. These little highs of romance remind me of eating dessert. Think about a time when you really really wanted chocolate cake–maybe you were on a diet or trying to eat healthy, but you seriously craved chocolate. When you tasted the first few bites it was amazing, but with each bite you could taste it less and less. At the end of the binge you’re left with nothing but regret, which tastes worse than anything.

That’s how romance is. It draws you in, promising a thrill that probably beats the high of winning the lottery. But that exciting feeling doesn’t last. You might feel little sparks of it at times, but–just like the piece of chocolate cake–it doesn’t last long.

So many things in life are fleeting like that.

Every time I go on vacation I spend months planning for it and dreaming of smelling the sea breeze, but when we get there it seems to go too quickly and it’s not as exciting as last time. It seems like it’s over in a flash, and I don’t realize how much fun I had until I’m back home!

It’s like that with my kids. I have little moments now and then where I feel this echo of eternity. I’m lying on the sofa with a toddler asleep beside me, or I’m riding along in the car laughing hysterically with my teenage daughter, who has decided she actually likes me today.

I think, “I wish this moment could last forever!” And I feel like it should for some reason, but it doesn’t. The toddler wakes up and throws a fit, or the teenager retreats back into her glares when I remind her of her chores.

These moments, like romance, are fleeting.

I do still have romantic moments. Sometimes my husband caresses my hand in church or we dance and gaze into each other’s eyes at a wedding. But most of real life is not like a magic carpet ride. It’s every day, plain, difficult, boring, and maybe even pleasant sometimes.

When I taught high school I used to tell my students, “Everyone seems to think that life is like your favorite TV show, with some bad commercials thrown in once in awhile. The fun parts are the show and the hard times are the commercial breaks. But actually, the hard times of life are the show part–the longer segments–and the fun (and romantic) parts of life are the three minute commercial breaks.” It sounds depressing maybe, but it’s true.

The carpet rides are the exceptions.

I say all this because I’ve accepted that this world is not my home. As Christians we are not supposed to get too comfortable here. We are only passing through.

Therefore, I can accept that this world is not going to satisfy me. I will not find lasting happiness, fun, romance, or perfect hair. Nothing lasts on this earth, and nothing here completely fulfills our souls.

The only complete happiness will come in heaven. And until we are there we will feel incomplete. We will long for a longer kiss or another taste or more time with our kids.

C.S. Lewis wrote that we long for heaven, because that’s what we were made for. The reason it feels like those beautiful moments should last forever is that they should. And they will. Eventually. God gave us these desires and has even allowed us to live in this world of temporary pleasures so that we will long for home and for Him.

These teasers are getting us ready for the best place we’ve ever lived and teaching us to crave Him and His help to make it in this world.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 27:4 which says:

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

The Lord is beautiful and being in His presence is like all the Christmases and birthdays we’ve ever had. No chocolate cake or romantic stroll compares.*

So next time you watch a romantic movie and sigh and think, “Why isn’t my life like that?” Remember that you were made for more. You will have that happy ending one day, but right now all we get is little tastes of Heaven.

*(Note: This is if you’ve got a relationship with Jesus. If you have questions about that, feel free to email me at thesearch4happilyeverafter@gmail.com.)

Are You Too Comfortable?

What? Too comfortable?

How could anyone be too comfortable? you might ask. And why would that be a bad thing?

It does sound like a contradiction, like “too rich” or “too happy.” But being too comfortable can actually be bad for us humans, especially us Christians.

How could it be bad? you ask. Well, let me explain…

I listened to a pastor today who was talking about something totally different than this topic. But, one thing he said stood out to me. He said,

“Hell is the absence of the presence of God.”

I had heard that before, but this time it got me thinking. I was sitting next to some teenagers who were looking bored and trying to sneak peaks at their phones without getting in trouble. I realized that most of us Americans are too comfortable with life to even think that the “absence of the presence of God” sounds that bad.

Pastor Gaines said, “What could be worse [than the absence of God’s presence]?” The problem is that most people nowadays don’t care. They could care less about God’s presence, unless God is in his gift-granting mode, handing out dreams-come-true.

The problem is that we do not find the presence of God to be desirable. We have forgotten how amazing and beautiful He is.

Why? Because we are too comfortable with this life on earth. Life is so easy and convenient now that we think we have no need for God. We have so much food that we throw tons away or we gorge ourselves and end up with health problems. We have so many conveniences, we barely have to do any work. We live in a culture of excess; almost every house in this country has at least one tv, a computer, and multiple cell phones. (I even saw a homeless woman on the side of the road last week checking her smartphone next to her “Hungry and Homeless” sign.)

Besides the excess, we live in a country that, although it’s not perfect, gives us more freedom than any other country on earth. We also live in a time of relative peace. (If you don’t think so, go research life in Afghanistan, North Korea, or Palestine; we have so many rights we take for granted.)

One of the biggest obstacles is that we have so many ways to escape our problems. We not only have alcohol, drugs, and anti-depression meds, we have tons of ways to zone out and not think about life. There’s cell phones, Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, magazines, video games, Snapchat…the list goes on and on.

Another distraction from God is our obsession with being busy. Life in Western culture moves so fast. We often keep ourselves as busy as possible so we don’t have to stop and think. Busyness makes us feel important and that we’re not alone.

The truth is that the presence of God tops all of these things.

Think of the most beautiful sunset you’ve seen. The prettiest flower. The most spectacular starry night. That’s what the presence of God is like.

In the book of Psalms it says:

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

Psalm‬ ‭84:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The writer knew that God’s presence is the most beautiful, amazing, loving place in the world.

True, if you’re not right with Him, the presence of God is a scary place. He does hate sin. He will judge us all one day. But if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you are clean and forgiven. You have nothing to fear.

The presence of God is Heaven. The absence of God is Hell. Knowing this, how should we live?

Now I ask you again: Are you too comfortable?

I Dare You to Taste it!

Ok, you ask, what on earth are you talking about in your search-for-happy-princess-feelings-blog? This title doesn’t seem to fit!

Oh, but it does. I want to challenge you.

Here’s the challenge. The Bible says,

Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Psalm 34:8

The Bible–one of the oldest documents of all time and the source of the Christian belief system–is challenging you! It’s challenging you to try God out. Its saying that God will bring you joy!

Try him out. Test him.

I know, that sounds weird. Or sacrilegious. Or both.

But it’s for real. God is good, and if you seek him and search for him and get into the Bible, he will show you more goodness than you can imagine!

No, your life won’t be perfect. And, no, it doesn’t mean you’ll have no more pain or sadness.

But if you get to know Jesus you will find a goodness and a peace that fills you to the brim.

Just try it. Taste His goodness. He won’t disappoint you.

👉🏼 Note: if you have any questions or want to know how to know Jesus like this or where to read in the Bible (or if you just need a Bible) email me at:

thesearch4happilyeverafter@gmail.com

💗 Lauren

Perfectly Imperfect

I’m tired…aren’t you

Tired of trying so hard.

Tired of trying to do it all. And trying to do it perfectly.

There is so much pressure on women today. Pressure to be the perfect mom, to have the perfect body, to eat organic, to perform well at work, to keep our husbands happy, to entertain our kids, to finally get the clothes out of the hamper, to clean the house, to drive kids to practice, to get to the gym more than once a week…

The list is endless! We can’t do it all.

Do you feel this too?

The pressure to do all these things and do them well enough to please everyone–and look good on Instagram!

Our culture puts so much pressure on us. We are exhausted and overwhelmed most of the time. I don’t think this is how God meant our lives to go.

I just want to be free. To breathe. To not have to perform. And to not have to be perfect.

Do you know what I mean?

I grew up with a perfectionist father. He was constantly pointing out what I did wrong. Even little details. I don’t think he meant it to hurt me; it was maybe just his way to help me become better. But the result was that I became anxious and fearful of making a mistake. I strived for perfection in every area of my life. It was exhausting.

Perfectionism is like that. Exhausting.

Do you know why?

Because it’s impossible.

Perfection is impossible this side of heaven.

So this crazy push for perfectionism–to be that perfect “does it all” woman–it’s just that: crazy.

And it will drive you insane. And it will fill you with anxiety. And it will steal your peace and joy.

Perfectionism is a form of pride. It seeks its own glory. But the Bible tells us we should do everything for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31).

Perfectionism gets me caught up in comparing myself with others and becoming too focused on how I look. In 1 Samuel 16:17 it says that God looks at the heart of a person, not the outside. And in Philippians 3 we learn to be content with what we have and who we are.

Perfectionism leads to shame when we feel like we don’t measure up. But God tells us we are forgiven and clean if we have trusted Jesus as our Savior.

Perfectionism looks at me and what I do or don’t do. God wants me to look at Him.

“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”‭‭Psalm‬ ‭34:5.‬ ‭

Look at Him, friend.

Stop looking at Instagram and Facebook and the Kardashians. Look at Jesus.

You can breathe. You are free. Rest. Relax.

You don’t have to do it all. And you especially don’t have to be perfect.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 12 it says that God is strong when we are weak. You have his strength to lean on. He made you. He loves you. You and I are not perfect. But we are growing and learning and living in His strength.

We are perfectly imperfect.

 

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Easter is for Women

Easter is one of the most sacred days of the Christian calendar. It commemorates the day that Jesus came back to life. The Romans, with the assistance of corrupt Jewish leaders at the time, had put him to death in one of the most gruesome ways possible: a Roman cross.

Two days pass. Many mourn. Some smile smugly. Roman soldiers guard the tomb.

Jesus’ followers are hiding. Even though He had told them he would be raised from death to life on the third day, they have forgotten. They are wallowing in fear and self-pity.

Except the women.

The women of the group came to the tomb that Easter morning to put the first century version of essential oils on His body. They are not wallowing in pity, they have come to honor their Lord.

The women find that the stone covering the entrance has been moved. They are told by an Angel that Jesus has risen and they excitedly head off to tell others. Jesus suddenly appears to them and tells them “Do not fear” and to “Go tell the others.” (Matthew 28)

In the book of John there’s an account of one of the women in Jesus’ group named Mary Magdalene. She had come to the tomb by herself and was upset, thinking the officials had done something to Jesus’ body. John writes:

“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb…

she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).”

‭‭John‬ ‭20:11, 14-16

Jesus comes back from the dead, and who does He first appear to? Women.

In the Middle Eastern culture back then women had less rights than they do even now. Men were considered infinitely more important in society, and the testimony of women was considered to be less than reliable. Therefore, if you wanted someone to tell people about something amazing you wouldn’t choose a woman to do it. You would choose a man.

So why did Jesus appear to women before anyone else?

In his book, Jesus, the Man Who Loved Women*, Bruce Marchiano writes about each of the women Jesus encountered and how Jesus treated them.

Jesus treated women with dignity and kindness. He saw them as valuable when no one else did.

Marchiano writes, “Jesus knows a woman’s fears and frustrations, hurt and fatigue.” Jesus understands women. And He cares.

Just look at how He treated women. Not only did He appear to them first, He comforted them (Luke 7:12-13), He healed them (Mark 5:25-28), He set them free (Luke 13: 10-13), He defended them (John 8:2-5), He honored them (Mark 12:41-44), He interacted with them (Luke 4:6-7), and He respected them (Luke 7:36-50).

Mostly, though, Jesus loves women.

In Song of Songs chapter 2, verse 4 it says, “His banner over me is love.” Jesus loves women. He values us as precious. He really sees us, because He made us.

So, this Easter, dear woman, remember that you are precious. That Jesus rose for you. That Easter is for you, especially.

*Marchiano, Bruce. Jesus, the Man Who Loves Women. 2008; Howard Books, New York.

Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Man-Who-Loved-Women/dp/141654397X/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?crid=2SL2PB2369FCA&keywords=jesus+the+man+who+loved+women&qid=1555908501&s=gateway&sprefix=jesus+the+man+who+loved&sr=8-1