Tag Archives: Love

traditions: gift giving

untitledI have many fond memories of Christmas, in case you haven’t noticed, and this is one of them. When I was a child and didn’t yet earn a paycheck, my parents would take us kids shopping and we’d split up. The guys would go one way and the girls the other and then we’d swap – girls with Dad and boys with Mom. We all got to pick out the special (at the time) gifts we each individually would give each of our immediate family members; and I’ll admit that I enjoyed receiving gifts. Still do, even though the joy of giving outweighs receiving.

That holiday tradition went on until all of us were over the age of five and the gifts were starting to get more expensive (not that baby clothing, toys and Christmas dresses for little girls aren’t expensive). Times were changing. In 1996, we decided to start drawing names with a few other relatives instead and when the farm had a good year, Dad sometimes saw to it that he and Mom got gifts for all four of us kids.

Now that I’m an adult and it’s been nearly 20 years since that change, my holiday shopping consists of gift-exchanging with a few friends, brewing up some holiday goodies to give away – I can’t eat them all!, name drawing, Secret Santa gift exchanges and white elephant holiday parties (the latter can be quite a hoot).

But what does this have to do with Jesus?

Everything

Jesus was the ultimate gift that God could have given us.

He gave Himself

Wrapped in human flesh

Confined to our limitedness

Our finiteness

Death was the only way he could save us.

He could not die as God, but he could as man.

So he gave up his infiniteness and became a baby; a baby who grew in the womb, was fed, clothed, held and cared for…just like you and me.

That baby grew into a man; a man who experienced the same things you and I face each day – temptation, trials, decisions, death, sadness, laughter, scraped knees – and more.  And yet, he was perfect. His life wasn’t ruled by emotion, but based on His Father – on joy, on peace – on a state of being rather than that which is fleeting.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…John 3.16

He gave

Everything

John 3.16 tells us that God loved us – loved you and me – so much that he gave us Jesus. Through Jesus, we can have so much – the gifts are endless. Just look around you!

These are just a few of the gifts God lavishes upon his children and I’m sure, that much like the Christmas mornings of my childhood, He can’t wait for you to open and respond to His gifts:

  • The gift of Love

God loved us so much that he gave of himself to fix what we broke in our relationship with him. The Fall had left a hole so deep and wide that there didn’t seem to be any hope for saving – then Jesus came. The prophecy of the coming Messiah brought hope and anticipation with it until one night, in a sleepy, little town called Bethlehem, Christ came. That love led him to growing up, to his ministry, to the cross and to the resurrection. That love lives today – in you and in me. That Love gives us the ability to love others the way he did and still does…talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. Romans 8.9

  • The gift of Grace

Through Jesus we have access to a wonderful gift called grace – getting what we don’t deserve. Jesus paid the cost of our sin so we could have it.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5.1-2

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow of the many! Romans 5.15 

…in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2.7

Amazing grace
how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
but now I’m found
was blind but now I see!

  • The gift of Resurrection

This is one gift worth getting excited about. Just as Jesus was resurrected in his new human form, we too will be resurrected in similar fashion when he returns to take us all home. Without the resurrection of Christ, we have nothing.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 1 Corinthians 15.17

I eagerly wait in anticipation for that day and what a glorious day that will be!

The sing of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15.56-57

Praise be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1.3

  • The gift of Inheritance

Because of his sacrifice, we too can be heirs in the Kingdom of God. 

…and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil of fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you… 1 Peter 1.4

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8.16-17

 The gift of the Gospel

There are no words for this gift, on my part at least, so I’d like to let Timothy Keller do the talking:

The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.

…the gospel, however, is that Jesus takes the law of God so seriously that He paid the penalty of disobedience, so we can be saved by sheer grace.

The gospel changes our status… How has your status been changed by the gospel?

Where we once were slaves, we are now free.

Where we once were lost, we are now found.

We have become children of God.

The list goes on…

  • The gift of His Word

The Word, the Bible, never runs out. It’s a book that lives, literally. You can’t go through life reading the same chapter over and over again and expect to get the same results. Passages I read when I was a child impact my life differently now that I’m an adult, even passages I read last year impact me differently today – whether that be due to life circumstances (which always change), my ever-deepening relationship with Jesus or the fact that I’ve grown up and can now understand on a deeper level what the Bible teaches.

Every day, we can find new things in his Word that give us strength and sharpen us, build us up, and even rebuke us. God knew we needed it, so he gave it.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your heart. Colossians 3.16

There’s so much that we have been given through Jesus, the best gift ever! In Christ, we are free – free from the bondage of sin, free from tying ourselves to what does not define us (anything but Him), free to choose life – to choose Him.

How about you? Would you leave gifts unwrapped and laying under the tree? No. Would you leave this gift unwrapped and untouched? Will you choose to accept the gift God offers? What better time to be intentional about your walk with God than now?

The choice is yours:

Freedom

Redemption

Life

Love

© Anita J. Brands. 2013. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/

19. my home

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24.15bhome2

Whom do you serve?

Who has the leadership role in your life?

You?

Or God?

I struggled a bit this morning as I contemplated what (or how, rather) I would write about when it comes to thinking about the roof over my head.

You see, I’ve been blessed with a good-sized apartment in downtown Minneapolis, not to mention at a great price with some pretty decent amenities. My commute to work is just ten blocks, so I hike; it’s easier and free…not to mention, better for my health, overall. I also have an amazing view. For that, and so much more, I am thankful.

Those things pale in comparison to who I share my home with…or rather Who.

Jesus has taken his rightful role of leadership in my life (most days…I do fail occasionally) and through that, I am also blessed in opening my home to others.

I was blessed with the gift of hospitality.

I love hosting and planning and having people over…more Martha than Mary, I’ll admit, but Jesus and I are working on it. I also lack the space to hold bigger gatherings.

Someday

But, if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24.15

No matter who sets foot in my home, they know where I stand when it comes to my faith and who I follow. And in spite of the bad rap Christians get these days, my hope and prayer is that all who enter will feel the love and acceptance of Christ through me rather than feelings of judgment and condemnation.  I know not where their hearts are, but I do know that they are loved, just as I am loved.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 8.1

So I’ll ask again.

Whom do you serve?

Who leads your life?

Seek Him first, always.

home

4. the saving grace of the gospel

Tim Keller

I recently read through a book (review here) where I read this statement for the first time and my heart literally fell to its knees in humble surrender and I cried. Not full out sobbing though there were tears and an ache that ran so deep I couldn’t help but allow Jesus to embrace me in that moment.

Mercy

Not getting what I deserve.

Grace

Getting what I don’t deserve – Undeserved favor.

I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe and yet, through the blood of my Savior, Jesus Christ, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope…at the same time.

Just let that statement wash over you.

You are more loved and accepted, in spite of yourself, than you ever dared hope by a man who died to know you.

“The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.” – Timothy Keller

I am grateful for so many things, but this…

This trumps all.

If it weren’t for the saving grace of the gospel, I wouldn’t have hope; we wouldn’t have hope.

There would be no reason to.

The gospel is a message from God about him…

about our sin…

about his Son, Jesus Christ…

about his sacrifice…

about his love for us, his beloved children…

and a summons to faith and commitment…to him, and him alone.

It’s sad to say that some churches give a good presentation of God’s gospel message, teaching his commandments and how we should live them out from the pulpit, but never give their listeners the opportunity to make a commitment to following him or what following him really means; what it really looks like.

I grew up in such a church.

Between my birth and the age of 18, I had only been given an opportunity to respond to that call on my heart once…through the amazing love and kindness of my mother and God’s use of a bedtime story at the tender age of four. I’ll forever be grateful for that moment in my life. The real adventure of my life began that day.

Let me backtrack on that a moment:

Yes, I grew up in the church.

Yes, I heard about Jesus and learned how to obey his commands each week, through the sermons, through Sunday school, through catechism, through GEMs and through my education at the local private elementary school.

But…it’s not enough to simply know all of these things and try to live them out (works-based faith (i.e. legalism).

It is not enough.

“The gospel is news of what God has done to reach us. It is not advice about what we must do to reach God.” Timothy Keller

Jesus didn’t give his life for me just so I could live my life believing (head knowledge) that he is the Son of God and that he died on the cross for my sins. Even the devil knows and believes this.

The gospel isn’t about how good I am or how well I live out those commands. Attempting that on my own isn’t enough. I can’t earn God’s favor. He already gave it…freely.

Grace

The entire Bible is God’s story, our history, and sums up the gospel in this:

  • God created us to be with him; to take joy in him (Genesis 1-2).
  • Our sin separates us from God (Genesis 3).
  • Sins cannot be removed by good deeds – we cannot earn our way to heaven (Genesis 4- Malachi 4).
  • Paying the price for our sin, Jesus – God confined to human flesh – died and rose again, bridging the gap in our relationship – enter mercy and grace (Matthew-Luke).
  • Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life (John).
  • Life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever (Acts-Revelation).

“The gospel is neither religion nor irreligion – it is something else altogether. Religion makes law and moral obedience a means of salvation, while irreligion makes the individual a law to him or herself. The gospel, however, is that jesus takes the law of God so seriously that He paid the penalty of disobedience, so we can be saved by sheer grace.” – Timothy Keller

Mercy

Not getting what I deserve.

Grace

Getting what I don’t deserve – undeserved favor.

Everything written in his Word directly applies to our lives today and the gospel needs to make its way to my heart for it to have an impact and for its transformational power to work in not just my life, but on those whom my life touches.

The gospel has the power to heal, redeem and restore… making all things new. The gospel allows me to live by the standard of grace rather than works:

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story [not just the good…the dark/bad too.] In admitting [my dark side] I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.” – Brennan Manning

I needed to make a commitment to following Jesus; to allowing him entrance into my life and my heart so he could begin his redeeming work in restoring me.

Not just once in my life, but every single day.  romans 1.16

I need to be intentional when it comes to my relationship with Jesus (more on that later). I need to make the choice to follow him with each passing moment and choose to give him first priority with each decision I make and all that I do. It’s intentionally choosing to surrender my life to Jesus and allowing him to work within me…throwing out the rubble of lies I’ve believed and renewing my mind with his truth.

It’s about defining myself as loved by God. This is my true self…all other titles, names, and faux identities will pass and fade, as will anything this material world offers – daughter, sister, lover, co-worker…my job title isn’t my identity. I am a daughter of the one true God. I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine (Song 6.4). That is my identity. That is who I am.

And living this way is radical.

It goes against the grain of our culture and our world.

It isn’t easy. Nothing in this walk with Jesus has been or is. I will say that life is easier with him than it ever could be apart from him.

I don’t want to be like this broken, beautiful world I live in. I want to and long to be like my precious Jesus.

This isn’t just for me. It’s for all:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3.16 NIV

God so loved the world

Jesus stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3.20). He doesn’t barge in. He patiently and lovingly waits for you to invite him in.

We need to be active in seeking God…”and those who enter a relationship with God inevitably look back and recognize that God’s grace had sought them out, breaking them open to new realities.” (Tim Keller, The Reason for God)

I am aware of so much more now than I would be if I had not chosen to follow Jesus. I am no longer blind. I see…more and more with each passing day.

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I’ve done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” – Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

I’m thankful for the saving grace of the gospel that, because of it, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope.

We all get to choose between life and death. Today, and every day that follows, I’m choosing life.

What will you choose?

“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and set s everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.” Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God

If you’re seeking guidance or wanting a relationship with Jesus, please reach out to and get plugged in to your church in your area or a friend/co-worker who you know is a Christian. Or, leave me a message here.

thankful

1. my crazy, beautiful, mysterious life

c98fcd40d084c03bc49124224b2bfee4I’m not perfect.

The life I live isn’t perfect.

It’s crazy.

It’s a disaster waiting to happen (figuratively speaking, of course).

It’s messy.

It definitely isn’t easy navigating through the storms that come and go, but I’m learning to dance in the rain.

It’s beautiful and mysterious…and it’s mine.

I’ve truly been blessed. Beyond measure.

Loved more than I dared hope…by a God who became a man, confined to flesh, and died to save me…

…from sin

…from death

….from myself.

I am loved and accepted more than I ever dared hope.

I was reading through 1 Peter this morning and stumbled on this:

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
     but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.” 1 Peter 1.23-25

This life won’t last. It fades and withers like the grass and the flowers. It is but a mist, a vapor, that f5ba746f1168271a65bf50fc6840cffcevaporates in due time. My days are numbered and I intend to live each and every single one of them with more love and life than the number of years I’m given. That number doesn’t matter. What matters is what I did with the time God gave me. Did I love well? Did I serve with compassion and mercy? Did I live with grace and humility; with the heart of a servant? Did I go? Did I carry his gospel with me and share it with everyone I met? Did my life portray that? Did I do anything that mattered? Yes.

Life is a one time offer, and I intend to use it wisely.

I’ve fallen.

I’ve gotten back up.

I’ve made mistakes, but have no regrets.

I’ve lived.

I’ve been hurt, but I’m alive.

I’m not perfect.

I’ve been forgiven much and I’m thankful.

Through those trials, I’ve learned to appreciate life at every moment. I’m continuously learning…

I am thankful for this life I’ve been given and while I’m still figuring out what to do with it, I intend to live it.  

dancing with Jesus

Dance.

I’ve always loved watching people beautifully and gracefully move from one end of the dance floor or ice rink to the other. I’ve even come to enjoy watching Dancing with the Stars this year, particularly Amber Riley, who plays Mercedes Jones on the hit TV series Glee. You see, she’s not what Hollywood defines as perfect. She’s not skinny. She’s not morbidly obese either. She’s real. She’s genuine.

And she’s not afraid to show it.

I love that!

I wish more celebrities were like that. The list may be short, but they impact their world more than they know, including Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen DeGeneres, Denzel Washington, Emma Stone, Jennifer Hudson, Tyler Perry, Zooey Deschanel…just to name a few.

Anyway, before I go too far with that tangent…

Have you ever watched professional dancers or skating partners? There’s an intimate dynamic that occurs between them. The crowds ooh and ah over each turn and spin, cameras flash, but the two at the center of it all don’t see it. They are focused 100% on their partner, attuned to the slightest signal, responding instantly, beautifully and effortlessly.

There is a part of me that hopes to actually experience dance one day outside of the walls and privacy of my apartment. I remember wanting to learn the art of it when I was a child but my parents couldn’t afford it…then again, I never mentioned it. I didn’t want to be a “burden.” Looking back, my choice in not voicing that dream also had to do more with fear than anything else.

You see, I lack a certain amount of physical grace. Then again, perhaps an accident-prone young woman would be gifted in that area. I might just have to find out.

Dance:

  • Noun: an artistic form of nonverbal communication
  • Noun: taking a series of rhythmical steps (and movements) in time to music
  • Verb: move in a graceful and rhythmical way

Life is a dance. We get to choose the type: divine or worldly. In choosing the latter, it can be easy to perform for the applause of those around us. Girls dress a certain way to get the attention of boys. We talk a certain way because our friends do. Parents send their children to certain school because it’s what the neighbor or community does. We sometimes even watch certain TV shows or listen to a specific style of music just to fit in.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. In high school, I dressed a certain way and listened to Limp Bizkit and Metallica (even though I secretly hated it) just so I could fit in or get a little attention. I wanted them to genuinely like me. I was sick of being the outsider, always looking in.

Thing is – any attention and most of the conversations or invitations I received were not genuine. I came to that realization when I began to learn what having a real relationship with Jesus meant…in college.

There are times I find myself riding that same carousel. Around and around I go on a seemingly endless cycle that leaves me empty and never heading anywhere.

But it doesn’t take long for me to realize that I really crave the former: a lifetime spent dancing with Jesus.

I’m wired to.

Remember the description of dancers/skaters in the midst of their act; the intimacy of it?

What if we knew God that intimately? What if we were so focused on Him, so in tune with Him, that like Jesus we could say, “I do only what my Father wills.”? What keeps us from that? What keeps us in angst; keeps us striving and experiencing burnout?

I use to focus solely on me. I sometimes still do.

And I’ve learned, and continue to learn, this important truth: human beings can only serve one thing at a time and we should not have any other idol before God (Exodus 20.3). If I’m going to proclaim I want to worship God with my life, I can’t and shouldn’t esteem the opinions of my friends (or what people in general think) more highly than God’s opinion of me.

Affirmation is a huge thing for me. Encouragement means the world to me. Those things leave me feeling full, flying “high as a kite” (so-to-speak), and feeling better equipped to take on anything that may come my way on a daily basis. They are not sinful things in their own accord, but when I begin to make them my ultimate goal in life, it becomes an idol, or a sin, and therefore, a serious problem. That feeling equipped thing is an illusion…I can’t do anything apart from Jesus (John 15.1-8 , also see Philippians 4.13).

I can either dance for His applause or I can dance for man’s applause, but I can’t do both at the same time.

This is something I’ve been wrestling with for the last couple of years (thank you Beth Moore and two of my dearest friends) and probably will continue to for some time. I know that He’s giving me more than I can handle in this morning, but there is beauty in the fact that I don’t have to face that junk alone. He’s there with me, swinging me through that next dance move.

Romans 12.1-2 has been extremely helpful to me during this time (among others) in my life:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When we offer our lives to God as living sacrifices, He considers that worship. Dancing with Him is worship. Letting Him into your life is worship. Trusting Him with your life is worship. Life itself should be an act of worship.

I’d like to share a poem penned by Amena Brown that inspired this entry and God has also used it to further the progress Jesus is currently making in the dimly lit corners of my heart and in my life:

Dance with Him ~ Amena Brown

Dance with Him
He puts His hand on the small of my back
Two fingers pressed into the center of my palm
He pulls me close
Steps with His left, my right
I focus on His eyes and try to ignore my feet as they clumsily count one – two – three

I recall that first moment quite beautifully. The only difference is that then, I can envision placing my feet on His, as a daughter would on her father’s, as He took me around the dance floor. Oh, how easy it was to simply trust and believe then.

I can also relate to those clumsy feet. They still are, most days anyway.

Have you ever watched someone learn to dance? Watch this video – see that little girl in the middle? I can relate to her…in more ways than one. 

I’m often like that with God. I’m so focused on what I think needs to be done or on what I already know to do, whether that be reading my Bible, leading a Bible study, fulfilling other responsibilities to those around me and my church; it’s easy to take my eyes off Him. It’s easy to turn what should be an act of intimate surrender into role behavior which ultimately leads to burn-out and ineffectiveness. That happened yesterday…

Nothing went as planned and that just goes to show Who is in charge and it’s definitely not me.

When I surrender to Him, forsaking my ideas and agenda, clearing my mind of everything but Him, everything flows.

I’m trying to trust Him
He knows this dance better than me
I’m still a novice and it’s obvious
I have yet to lean in and let Him control the turns

God knows I’m trying. He definitely knows this dance better than me, little “Miss Know-It-All” that I am. This patience thing is tough.

He takes His time and even when I miss a step
It’s fine
He knows I’m learning

His patience blows me away. I can’t even fathom the depth of it all…

He wants me to put my hand in His
Close my eyes and trust Him
With my life
My heart
With worry
And “I’m so scared”
With hurt
Worth and unworthy
Loving and unlovable
And my heart has been hurt before
I have been burned before
Loved
And endured loss before
I am in no mood for a dance
No mood to be romanced
I have become a grace cynic
And love’s worst critic

This world is a beautiful, broken mess and the echoes of Eden affect every part of it . Life isn’t easy. Life hurts. And that fact makes trusting hard.

Do I trust Him with my life?
With my heart?
With my worries?
With my fears?
With my worth?
With my identity?
With my life’s purpose?
With the pen of this beautiful, broken story; the story He’s given me?

I can honestly say that most of the time, no…I don’t. There’s a huge part of me that wants to, but, in my human condition and the world I’m in make it difficult to simply make that move.

I will continue to strive to trust Him, and, by His grace, I can…One day I will…when His strength has been made complete in me (2 Corinthians 12.9).

He sends me invitations every day
And even though I have yet to RSVP
He doesn’t remind me
He keeps pursuing
Taking steps in spite of me

I always dreamt of being pursued this way. What a wondrous thing it is to realize that I am! If only I would accept this truth each and every day.

He is a songwriter
Composing the notes that hold together eternity
And He wants to teach my limbs to sing
He’s been waiting to watch me let go of woe
And worry…until my soul
Sings in that beautiful voice He gave me
That I have someone come to think
It not so beautiful

He wants me to let go. Will I? When? And I’m guilty of buying into Satan’s lie that the voice God gave me isn’t beautiful. It is!

To dance with Him
I must give in
And give up
Plus
The trust it takes to really love
And I want to love Him unbridled
Believe in Him with a faith that is unshakeable
Like tree roots centuries deep
Until I learn to follow His time
Take deep breaths
Rest my head on His chest
And my cares at His feet
But I never fear –
As long as I depend on me

“As long as I depend on me…” Funny how that works, isn’t it? It’s funny how, when we depend on ourselves, we think we’ve got it all figured out and something happens, forcing us to realize that we don’t. It happens all the time. I really should fear when I find myself making plans without Him. Yesterday is a prime example and still sticks out like a sore thumb. I had planned on coming into work early and was looking forward to an awesome new upgrade to my computer (Windows 7!) prior to the start of my shift. That didn’t happen, nor did the rest of my day go according to plan:

  • Creative juices were flowing and I wanted to finish this post – didn’t happen.
  • Project work needed to be completed – didn’t happen.

I was frustrated, found myself thinking rather negative thoughts (which is not usually the norm for me) and annoyed with the world for raining on my parade.

But…

God spun those plans on their heads and in turn brought a fullness into the midst of that chaos with opportunities to serve my boss, my co-workers and my neighbor when I finally arrived home, not to mention those on the other end of the line on the calls I take on a daily basis.

Countless opportunities.

The frustration ebbed and my general annoyance vanished almost immediately.

God is in control.

When I live in constant surrender to Him, forsaking my ideas and agenda, clearing my mind of everything but Him, everything flows.

Take His hand
Take a chance
Fingertips in the palm of the One who holds galaxies
In His hand
Hand on His shoulder
Heart in His hand
We dance
To a down beat
That keeps time with His heartbeat
Sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me go
When He’s only letting me turn
And sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me fall
When He’s only letting me learn
Sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me go
When He’s only letting me turn
And sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me fall
When He’s only letting me learn
His is the song that never ends
His love
Sinners become friends
He wants to dance with you
Until the only Song you hear
Is Him

To be filled, we must first bet emptied – of ourselves, our sin, our wants, our desires. I believe that anytime we cling to anything – even good things – other than God, they become a hinderance to the working of the Holy Spirit. That job we fear losing, the ministry we can’t let fail, that relationship we’re afraid of letting go, whatever it is…when we begin to strive only for that thing(s) – hold tight to it – we begin to operate in our own will. To be overshadowed, we need to stay surrendered completely, focused on our Savior and not the dance itself. Our actions will otherwise lose power because we’ve left Him behind.

I’m nearing there. I’ve taken His hand. I’m learning to surrender. I’m learning to trust Him with my heart. I’m learning to let Him lead…bending, twirling, twisting, turning, falling…until the only Song I hear is Him.

Shared Post: How to Influence Others for Good by Jeremy Statton

Dear Readers,

I stumbled on this article this morning and rather that attempt to write something similar, I figured I would just share it. Jeremy Statton points to message he heard given by Andy Stanley (see below) on how we treat others directly impacts their lives for good or bad. I’ve been working through some of this in my walk with God and my treatment of others…especially how I think they should be treating me back.

We have a tendency to expect from others what we expect of ourselves. I know I do and this is a hurdle I’m currently working through. I’m slowly learning that I can’t expect others, especially those closest to me, to treat me the same way I treat them. I need to first, love them the way God calls me to and in doing so, forgive them. I also cannot do that by my own power. I need to allow God to love them through me. I need to allow Him to meet me in my weakness.

My hope and prayer for you is that He’ll do the same for you. Enjoy the following (found here):

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How to Influence Others for Good – August 13, 2013
Posted by Jeremy Statton with Living Better Stories

Who are the people who have influenced your life the most? For good? Or for bad?

Your life is filled with relationships. Most do not affect you. They are acquaintances. Only people you know.

But there is a smaller group of people that have impacted you. They have shaped you. They have played a role in your becoming the person you are. Whether positive or negative, knowing them has left a permanent imprint on you.

Why do some affect you so much?

In one of my favorite messages, Andy Stanley tells us why. It isn’t about what those people believed. It isn’t about knowledge. The people who have had the greatest impact on your life can be divided into one of two categories:

Those that have hurt you. And those that have loved you.

The People that Have Hurt You

There are those who have caused you harm. They damaged you. Your life is worse for knowing them. And the impact is lasting.

You have been scarred by them. And that hurt can be difficult to get over. Sometimes the hurt and the pain runs so deep it can take years to move on. Sometimes you can’t.

Sometimes the hurt is intentional. Sometimes it isn’t.

Sometimes the hurt comes from someone you expect it from. Sometimes it comes from the ones you love. The ones you thought loved you.

The People that Have Helped You

There are also people who have influenced you for good.

A parent that loved you unconditionally.
A spouse that always quick to forgive.
A teacher that saw something good in you and encouraged you to fly higher.
A boss who recognized your hard work and showed appreciation.

All of these saw something good in you. They encouraged you. They supported you. They reached down and helped you. They gave of themselves in such a way, it made you want to do something better. It made you want to do more.

These are the types of people who make you want to live a better story.

And they did it because they loved you. They gave sacrificially. They gave without expecting in return. They worked for your good. They were patient and kind. Sometimes they even loved you at the expense of themselves.

And you will never forget them.

How to Influence Others for Good

One of Stanley’s main points is that you can, and do, have influence on others. Through your relationships, you are impacting the people you know.

It is easy to get caught up on ideas. It is fun to fill our heads with knowledge of how things should be. But what we believe about the world or about God, isn’t the key component to influence others for good.

How you affect others, whether for good or bad, has less to do with what you believe and more to do with how you treat them.  Your words and actions can influence others in two different ways. You can either hurt them. Or you can love them.

If you choose to help, Stanley suggests a question to ask yourself in any given situation or relationship.

“What does love require of me?”

when Love sees you

Much of the happiness you experience in life depends on how you think God sees you. It’s true.

…For the Lord does not see what man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16.7

Sadly, most of us have the wrong idea of God’s opinion of us. We view Him as if He was a bully…the angry kid with the magnifying glass standing over an ant hill and we’re the ants. Poor Bob got hit again… We base these thoughts and assumptions on what we’ve been taught, our bad experiences in life and many other things. Satan doesn’t help matters much either as he enjoys twisting the truth of who God really is. We may think that God is disappointed in us or that we’ll never measure up. We may even believe that He is angry with us because try as we might, we can’t stop sinning. We tend to think that we deserve our lot in life as punishment for choices we’ve made. We deserve to suffer. We make excuses just so we can stay in that pit because we think we deserve it. If we continue to choose to see Him as the type of God who punishes us based upon our actions and sins, we lead a miserable existence.

“…some of us have so much defeat in our past that we feel we lost the race before we knew it started.”  – Beth Moore

As a woman, I’ve often struggled with basing my self-worth on how others saw me and my accomplishments. I’ve felt shame when it comes to my past. I’m guilty of finding my value based on how I look on any particular day. I’ve also set unrealistic standards for myself. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If we embrace the truth of who He really is, we can be set free from that life of bondage.

Where can we go for this truth? Directly to the Source: God Himself.

God tells us how He sees each of us through the personal message He’s written over time to His followers: the Bible (His Word). He also continues to tell us how He sees you and me through the lives of His followers today. What you can learn by digging into His Word, witnessing others live out His testimony and through your own personal relationship with Him is nothing short of amazing. Walk with me through a couple of the examples God gives:

Picture Moses after he had settled down comfortably in Midian with his beautiful wife, children and new family. He might have seen himself happily retiring there, but God had bigger plans for him. In spite of his past and his weaknesses (being a murderer and not very good at speaking), God used him beyond his biggest dreams and placed him as a leader before Israel.

Picture King David when he was just a shepherd boy. Many would not have seen him as more than just an ordinary youth, but God calls him a man after His own heart. In spite of the sin that infiltrated David’s life, God still saved him through the blood of His Son, Jesus…a man who was born of David’s own family line. Talk about redemption!

Or how about the rich young ruler who came to Jesus years later? He was brash and proud and demanded to know what he needed to do to enter God’s kingdom. Before Jesus answered him, we read, “Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him” (Mark 10.21 NLT).

There aren’t even words for my own experience.

He’s been wooing me since I was four years old and I never want it to end. Granted, there have been periods of doubt, self-centeredness, and times where I’ve swapped seats with Him so I could try to control things again. Picture a young girl, standing alone on the outskirts of the ball field watching the other kids kick that red rubber ball around. Nobody would pick her, probably more due to the fact that she was clumsy and overweight. But, since then and especially throughout the last ten years of my life (since my faith officially became my own and I started to learn how to live it), He’s been teaching me what He thinks of me and, often times, has to remind me, over and over again, until I get it; until my heart accepts it as truth.

One such moment came through song (as they often do). Many songs have been written regarding the love of God and how He views us. Two come to my mind and I’d like to share this one with you first:

When Love Sees You – Mac Powell
-Music Inspired by “The Story”-

 

Blessed are you as you weep on your knees
With perfume and tears washing over My feet
And blessed are you, beggar, hopeless and blind
Calling for mercy when I’m passing by

Blessed are you, shaking your head
At two tiny fish and some bread
And blessed are you as your tremble and wait
For the first stone thrown at your sinful disgrace

Tell Me your story
Show Me your wounds
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love looks at you
Hand Me the pieces
Broken and bruised
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love sees you

Blessed are you, walking on waves
To find yourself sinking when you look away
Blessed are you, leper, standing alone
The fear on their faces is all that you’ve known

Blessed are you, lonely widow who gave
Your last shiny coin to Yahweh
Blessed are you with your silver and lies
Kissing the One who is saving your life

Tell Me your story
Show Me your wounds
And I’ll show you what Love sees when Love looks at you
Hand me the pieces
Broken and bruised
And I’ll show you what Loves sees when Love sees you

I see what I made in your mother’s womb
I see the day I fell in love with you
I see your tomorrows, nothing left to chance
I see My Father’s fingerprints
I see your story, I see My name
Written on every beautiful page
You see the struggle, you see the shame
I see the reason I came.

I came for your story
I came for your wounds
To show you what Love sees when I see you

If the words from that bridge don’t cause you to tear up just a bit, I don’t know what will. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard that song: I was driving down the freeway, headed home one weekend. I had just downloaded the entire album with music inspired by “The Story” and was enjoying each of those songs (music speaks to me on a level most things can’t…it’s a tie breaker between that and nature when God clearly and tenderly touches my heart) when this one came on. I turned the volume up, just a tidge more so I could really hear the words and by the time the bridge was over, I had to pull over because I couldn’t see.

I sat at that rest stop for the better part of 30 minutes basking in the words of God and feeling His love pour over me in a way I hadn’t experienced before. I was renewed in that moment. Refreshed. Cleansed. Restored. Redeemed. And I fell in love with Him all over again.

You see, friends, the fact is: God looks at you with love.

Remember the man from Mark 10.21 I mentioned earlier? That is also the way God looks at you. With love.

Let that wash over you for a moment.

He sees you for what you can become, not just what you are.

For instance – Jesus gave Simon the fisherman a new name: Peter. Peter means The Rock. Now…if there was anything Simon was not, at that point in his life anyway, it was a rock. He was legendary for his hot-headedness, impulsiveness, and willingness to speak his mind on pretty much everything. However, Jesus saw what he could and would become. Peter went on to become a rock as he made it his life’s mission to spread the gospel and build off the Foundation for the church.

God sees you as His beloved child. If you believe that He is God and that He sent His Son (literally came Himself) to save His children, you are not a stranger to God. You may at times feel alone, but you aren’t. You belong to Him; a protecting and loving Father. And since you’ve been adopted into the family of God, you have the same rights as His Son, Jesus.

See 2 Corinthians 6.17-18, 1 John 3.1, and Romans 8.17 for further reference (and truth).

God sees you as forgiven. Many of us stagger around under a heavy load of guilt and live afraid that we’ve disappointed God somehow. But, if you know Jesus as Savior, God sees you as forgiven. He does not hold your past against you. The blood of Jesus washes that sin from our lives and when God, the Father, looks at us, He sees us as white as snow. The Bible makes that abundantly clear. You don’t have to strive to be holy enough (although there is nothing wrong with pursuing holiness…it’s when that act starts to define you and your actions that it becomes a problem) because Jesus was perfectly holy when He willingly went to the cross on your behalf. You simply have to accept the free gift He offers.

See Psalm 86.5 and Acts 10.43 for further reference (among many more).

God sees you as saved. There may be days when you doubt your salvation. God only knows I’ve had mine, where Satan briefly robs me of the truth I strive to believe with every fiber of my being. God repeatedly reminds us of our true condition all throughout the New Testament. You don’t have to wonder. You don’t have to struggle, believing the lie that only you can save yourself. You need to simply trust in the truth on how salvation works. We cannot be saved by our works. for it is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2.8). To know that God considers you saved is incredibly reassuring. You can live in joy because Jesus paid the penalty for your sins so you can spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Scriptural references: Matthew 10.22, Acts 2.21, 1 Thessalonians 5.9

God sees you as having hope. Life can seem pretty bleak at times, but when you feel life closing in on you, remember that God sees you as a person of hope. Jesus is with you through it all. Hope is not based on what we can muster up. Hope is based on the One we have hope in. When your hope feels weak, remember that your God is strong. And when we keep our focus on Him, we will have that hope.

Scriptural references: Jeremiah 29.11, Lamentations 3.25, Hebrews 10.23

God sees you as loved. In looking at the way Jesus viewed Peter, we can look at our lives and see something completely different from what God sees.

Where we see a lump of clay, God sees a beautiful vase.
Where we see a blank canvas, God sees a finished work of art.
Where we see coal, God sees a refined diamond.
Where we see problems, God sees solutions.
Where we see failures, God sees potential.
Where we see an end, God sees a new beginning.
You can see yourself in His eyes. You simply need to get really close.

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. James 4.8 NLT

Love is not only something God does; love is something God is. God would have to stop being in order to stop loving. Again, our temptation is to humanize God, because we are limited to understanding love as a verb. With God, love is first a noun. It’s what and who He is. – Beth Moore

I’ve discovered that when I see myself as God sees me, my entire perspective on life changes. It’s not tainted by pride or vanity or self-righteousness. It’s the truth, supported by the Bible. It’s hard to believe sometimes; the level to which God truly loves me. Deeply. Unconditionally. Completely.

Thought for the day: Embrace grace. Your past does not define or determine your future.

If you’d like to hear the song mentioned earlier, please check here.

for a most beloved sister on her wedding day

Let’s face it. Writing any speech is hard. But, writing one for your sister’s big day? Definitely.

I’d been working on the thing for weeks. I’d start it, write a line (okay, maybe two), and end up wadding up the yellow legal paper because I didn’t like the way it flowed and toss it towards the non-existent trash can in my living room. Ever the perfectionist, not only was I making a mess in my apartment (which, secretly, drives me nuts), I was hitting road block after road block. This speech had to be the best thing since sliced bread. Flawless. Epic, really.

The idealist in me demanded romance and perfection, with enough humor to captivate the audience (her guests) and keep the new husband and wife from falling asleep at the head table. I didn’t want something generic, something cut, pasted and dried from someone else’s idea. I wanted it to be genuine. Real. Us – my sister and me. Adding Jordan would be a bonus. If only I could get it right.

When writer’s block started to affect my ability to think straight, I put the entire project aside for two weeks, attempting to write the week of the wedding. Actually, it was the day I planned to leave town and make the 3.5 hour trip back home that I picked up that legal pad, tuned into YouTube for some much needed inspiration and started writing again. After weeping like a sad sap over a few sappy speeches online, it struck me…like a dream from long ago. I questioned whether Ashley would even remember the moment…when she won the battle between Ariel and Belle, two Disney princesses that profoundly shaped our childhood. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

Writing any speech is hard. Writing one for your sister’s wedding…very.

This was a day we had both talked and dreamt about since we were kids. We used to pour over sketches and ideas for Barbie’s big day (went through several of those…I swear, the poor gal got married every five minutes) and watch with starry-eyed wonder as Ariel pledged her love to Eric/Belle to the Beast on Saturday afternoons.

Writing any speech is hard. Writing one for your sister’s wedding…very.

Yes, I know I’m repeating myself, but can I drive that fact home? Writing something that will last only five minutes, but encompasses your relationship to both bride and the group, passions, dreams, and childhoods is super hard.

Trying to get through said speech without shedding a tear, never mind turning into a blubbering idiot is impossible. For me, at least. For someone who had shut the waterworks off for years, I’ve turned into a sap. I cry over anything that the touches my heart and soul – sappy movies, sappy books – I am definitely not immune to sappy speeches.

So, since I’ve been there and done that, I figured I’d offer a little advice for those seeking inspiration on the topic at hand and to share the speech I gave on my little sister’s special day.

  1. Take time to jot down a few notes or write out an entire speech beforehand. I don’t care if you’re the type to fly by the seat of your pants or oober-organized like me. The day of is crazy-busy and having something prepared/on hand is always a plus.
  2. At the very minimum, include a favorite memory, funny story, something sweet or words of advice and end it with a toast. It’s usually best to steer clear of inside jokes that no one will get.
  3. Keep the focus on the bride and the groom.
  4. Speak from your heart. Your sister wants to hear from you…not words from someone else’s experience.

If you were there, you probably remember my inability to make it through the first paragraph and my sister standing to give me a hug before I was even finished. Thank goodness for Kleenex, family and hugs.

For the Gorgeous Bride, My Beloved Little Sister, on Her Wedding Day 

 

For those of you who don’t know, Ashley is my beloved and most favorite little sister. And, Snoopy, thank you for asking me to be your maid of honor. This morning you said I’ve blessed you, but you have no idea how much of a blessing you’ve been to me.

What can I say about Ashley that most of you don’t already know? She’s not just my sister; she’s one of my best friends. She’s the kind of person who sees humor in many situations and her unexpected wit will have you laughing in no time. She’s one of the few who has always been there to listen to me rant and rave about everything and nothing. She’s beautiful inside and out. I am so blessed and grateful to be her sister.

Seems like yesterday that we were redecorating Barbie’s playhouse, planning her absolute last wedding, sharing secrets and laughing over nothing in particular. Oh wait, that was yesterday.

I remember debating over who made the better mermaid and, until Disney’s Beauty and the Beast came out, I thought I had won that one. Upon seeing Belle wander the streets of her “little town, full of little people” with her nose stuck in her book, you stubbornly stood in the middle of the living room with your little hands on your hips and that look on your face and said, “There. There’s you.”

Personally, I still think I’d make a better Aril than you, red hair and all, but I digress.

Thinking back to singing “Part of Your World” with you when we were kids, I see now that you’ve found a man whose world you’re now a part of and vice versa.

After Jordan proposed and I had reminded her about those extravagant plans we had made with Barbie and Ken when we were kids, she said that she had changed her mind and wanted a simple, intimate and elegant wedding. She told me she wanted it to be more about the love that she and Jordan share, not about the most expensive dress she could find or the elaborate decorations covering the altar and aisle. By the way, I know you’ve heard it a thousand times today, but Ashley, you truly look stunning and Jordan is a very lucky man.

Jordan…You’ve become an integral part of our family’s system in the last year. It was easy to consider you a part of our group before you even started dating my sister. I’ve watched you grow in your faith and in your love for my sister. You are becoming an amazing man of God. I’m so proud of you and it’s an honor to officially call you brother.

Like all things in life, you get out of a marriage what you put into it. You’ve built your relationship on the most solid of foundations that is Christ and this is the beginning of your own happily ever after. This is also when the real work begins. All the little every day things add up to a lifetime of happiness through both the good and the bad. Congratulations, Ashley and Jordan! Join me in toasting them – I wish you happiness, more love than you’ll know what to do with, and may God bless you in giving you a marriage more beautiful than your wedding.

I love you.

The Prayer of One Gently Reminded Soul

I’ll be honest. Life is a struggle.

And a beautiful one at that.

I’ve been reading through Joshua Harris’ book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and have been moved by a few scriptural points he’s made on the whole topic of purity. It is something we all struggle with. He uses a dream he once had to paint quite the picture of the sacrifice Jesus paid and what it does to our own lives…a story he’s called “The Room” and for your own reading, it can be found here.

Being optimistic by nature, I tend to see the humor and positive things in everyday situations, trials, etc….but when it comes to dealing with my own “junk” and the lack of purity in my own life, I tend to be my own worst critic. Doing so puts me in the worst funk until I let God break through the murkiness of my own making and watch the light of His grace illuminate everything. I slowly begin to realize that it’s all been covered and am reminded again that I don’t have to keep punishing myself for my past, that the guilt is of Satan’s making and I do have the choice to trust that everything is covered.

By His blood.

By His life.

By His sacrifice.

By His unconditional love for a wretch like me.

How humbling.

In the study guide that comes with the book, the author wrote out a prayer that I would like to share with you:

Father..
I went to The Room again today.
There’s part of me that doesn’t like to visit.
There are so many moments, so many careless words,
so many selfish actions I want to forget.
But it’s no longer a place of horror.
I went to be reminded of all that You’ve done for me.
I don’t ever want to forget the crushing weight of bearing my own sin, of having my name on each of those cards.
I don’t ever want to forget what it’s like to be lost
so that I’ll never cease to be grateful for being found.

Forgive me, Jesus, but sometimes I grow
so familiar with Your grace that I take it for granted.

Standing before those files with my every sin recorded, I see what a wretch I am, and Your grace is once again amazing.
I learned something today, too.
I realized that Your grace not only covers my sin but it also makes possible my obedience.
I pulled out a few card files of things I’ve done right: “Encouragement I’ve Given,” “Times I Served Others,” and “Temptations Resisted.”
I saw Your name written on those, too.
I think I half expected to see my own name.
What a fool I am! It suddenly hit me that everything
good I’ve been able to do has been by Your grace.
I couldn’t serve, I couldn’t love, I couldn’t be patient
without Your grace upholding me
and Your Spirit guiding me.

I stood there and cried again. They were happy tears.
I stood there aware that I had nothing to brag
about except Your work in my life.
Your servant Paul said, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
I see what he meant now.
Everything I have, You’ve given me.
You made possible the forgiveness of my sins.
You give me the power to obey.
I have nothing to boast in — no achievement, no righteousness,
no merit — except for Your finished work.
Thank you!

**Bolded emphasis mine.

How many times do we each take His grace for granted? How many times must our stubborn hearts refuse to believe this truth? How many? I’m humbled and reminded again today of all He’s done for me.

I’m covered.

I’m made pure.

I’m free.

And so are you.

Article: 5 Things Single People Wish Married People Knew

I was browsing through my email this morning when I stumbled across this article published in Relevant magazine. Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. Yes…there are times when I will feel like a third or fifth wheel, but that is my own doing. (Granted, some actions/situations do not help, but don’t think about it. Just be.) No one else can make me feel inferior…I choose what I feel. That’s the beauty of it.

So, please, married friends, siblings and distant relatives, make note of this – not just for me, but for all of your single friends and make the choice to bless rather than exclude.

The article, if you’d like to read more, can be found here.

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“As I weathered Valentine’s Day this month (again) as a single woman, I’ve been thinking about some of the things I’d like to say to my married friends about what it’s like to be unmarried at 36 and living alone in a married person’s world.

First of all, I’m very happy when I see my friends enter into and build healthy, happy marriages. This is a beautiful thing, something to which, many of us as single individuals aspire to.

And I understand that it can be difficult to know what to say or how to treat those of us who have not yet gone to the chapel. So as I reflect on my station in life, especially as it relates to the empty fourth finger on my left hand and the desire I have for marriage, there’s a few things I’d like my married friends out there to know. Not to guilt you or chastise you, but to help you, like you help me, see life from a different point of view.

It’s up to me to decide if I’m going to feel like a third or fifth wheel, or enjoy the company.

1. Single people make good friends, too.

I can remember times when I first moved to a new town and I heard friends (all married) talk about the fun things that they had done together as couples. I remember wishing that for once, they would invite me to come along! It’s up to me to decide if I’m going to feel like a third or fifth wheel, or enjoy the company. Invite me along, even if I’m the only one without a date.

2. Please don’t assume you know how I feel.

As an unmarried person, I may or may not be struggling with my singleness at the moment, so if you want to know, ask me. Don’t assume that because we spoke once and I was really struggling in my singleness that I’m forever pining away for a husband. And don’t assume that because we once spoke about how I’m pretty content in my single status that I’m always going to be content. Instead of assuming, ask me.

3. Singleness looks different in your twenties than it does in your thirties.

Because you may have spent a period of time—long or short—being single does not mean that you understand what it is to see your peers and even your nieces and nephews get married before you. The experience of singleness does not remain the same over time.

4. Dispense your formula for finding a mate with care.

“It” may have worked for you and 10 of your friends, but from what I know about love, and especially finding and marrying—and staying married—isn’t formulaic. Chances are, I’ve “tried” your formula and it hasn’t “worked.” This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear your advice, I just hope that you’ll listen to me before you offer it.

5. There are days when singleness feels unbearable, and days when it feels empowering.

If you catch me on one of the bad days, offer to help me do yard work, buy me chocolate, take me out for dinner, or watch a chick-flick with me. Remind me that companionship doesn’t always come in the form of a romance.

Your friend may be single, but they don’t have to be alone.

There are other days when singleness feels empowering. On those days, I feel pretty good about managing a home, a car, a job, my bank account and social situations flying solo. Please don’t talk to me about how my independence is intimidating to a man. That’s so 1950s.

It may seem that I’ve painted a pretty bleak picture for how you can approach your single friend when it relates to their single status in life. But the reality is that he or she may be single, but they don’t have to be alone. And for their sake, and for what they have to offer to you and the rest of the world, I hope they won’t be.

You can help them to know that they are a valued member of a community, and not just because they “have all that free time on their hands.” Cut them a little slack, and do them and yourself a favor by treating them like what they are: normal.”

 Written by Ashley Alley cc. February 22, 2013. Relevant Magazine.