Monday, February 18, 2013

Constant Reminders

So much sickness.  So much pain.  People without jobs and seemingly without hope.  The prayer chain email  is delivered and we're asked to pray for a family who lost their home in a fire.  How can we go on and who will help us?  I don't know about you but I find myself feeling overwhelmed and I want to throw my hands up in despair.

The other day I was in such a place and felt as though a tsunami of responsibility were washing over me and I was going to be swept away.  Maybe you've felt that way too and want to give up or plop down and bawl your eyes out.  Little things and big things combine in the perfect storm of stress, fear, and anxiety and it seems like Goliath himself stands before you and you are helpless in the face of it all.

As I struggled to get my things out of the car and into the house, I looked up.  I just stopped and looked up. There in the sky, on February 15th, was a beautiful rainbow.  I'm not sure I've ever seen one in the heart of winter, but there it was and it spoke to me.  It reminded me of a few truths about God and I was immediately comforted....immediately.

In our Bible study this week, Beth Moore challenges us to "Ask God to make you aware of the constant reminders of His presence in your life so that you can have His assurance no matter your circumstances."  My reminder this week was a rainbow, symbol of God's covenant with Noah.  It reminded me of His faithfulness to another, and comforted me that He would be faithful to me as well.

What tsunami is washing over you this week?  I know you have one, or if you don't, one will probably be headed your way. Not to bring you down, but life is like that.  How are you reminding yourself of God's faithfulness in the midst of it?  Join me in being aware and in asking for reminders and I'm sure God will give us rainbows in the storms.

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Who Taught Me To Love?

Today's post is by Kristin Odom.

The question: Who taught me to love? The answer: My parents.

Throughout my childhood, my teenage years, and now my adulthood, I never once questioned if my parents loved me. They have never been shy about expressing their love to me, and I am so grateful for that. I watched how they loved each other and how they loved my brother and I, and have since tried to live what they taught me.

I remember realizing as a teenager that what I saw at home was very different from what many of my friends experienced at home. I learned very quickly that the loving parents I had were more the exception than the rule. They not only loved their children, but they loved each other dearly. They were the ones that always made me feel like the most popular, most beautiful girl when others might not have agreed. Yes, as a teenager, I sometimes felt like they were a bit smothering and sappy, but knew it was because they loved me. The older I got, the more I cherished what they had together. Now married, and soon to be turning 30, I find myself wanting to imitate what they have as parents and as mates.

My parents show love in very different ways, which balances out nicely. My father is the guy that still leaves my favorite candy on the kitchen counter when I go visit, and makes sure to take a day off to take me to my favorite fishing spot. I find it neat that he still wants to treat me, even if I am a grown woman with a family of my own. He takes time out of his day to make mine special and that never gets old. He now finds joy in treating my children with the same love he has shown me. We are constantly getting packages in the mail from him with an assortment of horses, which are Olivia’s current obsession. Nothing makes my heart smile more than to see my Dad make Olivia feel as loved as I have by him.

My mother is the one who gets excited when my daughter learns a new word or I find a new favorite cafĂ©. She is the first person I call when Olivia learns a new skill or I need to vent about a difficult parenting day. Now as a mother, there are just some things that only she can understand. I constantly want her opinion, advice, and listening ear, and that’s because she has shown me such great love. Like everyone says, I appreciate her more and more now that I am a mother. I know that showing love as a mother means a lot of different things. Sometimes those things aren’t the most enjoyable. Diapers, meals, laundry, cleaning, middle of the night wake up calls, groceries...and the list goes on. I feel like I should tell her thank you for doing my laundry and giving me cough medicine during childhood, because I’m sure I didn’t tell her then! It’s just one of those things that make motherhood so glamorous! That, my friends, is true love.

They fill my heart in different ways, but they are equally as special.

Thirty-four years and two grandchildren later, they are still the parents and grandparents I strive to be. (Yeah, I know, that’s super cheesy..but it’s the truth).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Living, Laughing, Loving

Today's post is by Cindy Wayland.

“Would you be willing to write for the GLCC Ladies’ Blog about someone who has ‘taught you to love?’”  I immediately said, “Sure,” and considered about whom I would write.  The first person to come to my mind was my dad.  He was a police officer, but in spite of his erratic hours, he always made time for my mom, my sisters and our family.  When I was a kid and would ask if I could go with him to the hardware store, he would almost always say, “Yes.”  We played catch with a softball in our backyard on many occasions.  And although I was nearly 40 years old at the time, I saw the ultimate example of his love for my mom when she was undergoing treatment for kidney cancer.  My family and I were visiting them in Florida, and I heard her in the bathroom getting sick.  Dad dropped what he was doing to go into the bathroom and be with her.  Keep in mind that this was a man who grew up in an era when it was usually the moms who took care of the kids when they were sick, so this was not a role that my dad was accustomed to.  And the first time I ever saw my dad cry was about a month later, when Mom passed away….  True love.
But then I thought a bit further…..and my thoughts went to my mom….She was the one who WAS home with my sisters and me every day.  She told us after we were grown that she chose to be a stay-at-home mom so that she could be there in case we ever needed her.  And although we probably wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, we did need her – beginning when we were infants:  she changed our diapers, wiped our noses, tended to our skinned knees, taught us how to get along with others, nursed us back to health when we were sick, and wore her clothes until they were practically threadbare so that my sisters and I could have new clothes every once in a while.
I continued to ponder the question:  “Who taught you to love?”  My parents, as husband and wife, certainly demonstrated love to me nearly every day!  They seldom said a cross word to one another, they enjoyed spending time together, and they were the first ones to teach me about Jesus and God’s love.   After Dad retired, one of the first trips they took was to drive across the United States, from Florida to California, and back to Florida.  When someone once asked them, “What do you talk about when you spend that much time alone together in the car?”, I remembered my mom answering, “Most of the time, we don’t talk at all.”  For her, it was just enough to be with my dad and to enjoy the ride and the scenery as they drove along.  One of my favorite photographs of them (which I don’t have, but is hanging in my parents’ house), is a picture of the two of them laughing together.  They simply lived, they loved, they laughed.
I could certainly think of others in my life who have taught me to love – my husband, my grandparents, even my in-laws and children.  But I think the first people who taught me to love were my mom and dad!   And for that, I will be forever grateful!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Choosing to Love

 Today's post is written by Megan Scott.

Ironically, I think I may have learned a lot about love from someone who hates me. You know, that one person in your life who you repeatedly will away and yet there they are – making situations, relationships and day to day life fairly miserable for you.

I know, I know… not a lovey-dovey Valentine’s story. It’s not a tale of romance, intrigue or star-crossed love; it’s more akin to those situations in which you would really just love to doodle black teeth and horns on someone’s picture before ripping it up and stomping on it, but then you catch a glimpse of your WWJD bracelet and go, “Oh, crap...”

Until a few years ago I prided myself on being generally amicable and getting along well with all of my friends and acquaintances – regardless of our differences. So when I found myself the object of a family member’s scorn, resentment and misguided anger I was at a loss for what to do. It felt as if this person were deliberately trying to rob me of my joy during what would be some of the most important events of my life – my wedding, my first pregnancy, the birth of my son, watching him grow and develop day by day… and to make matters worse, because this person was a part of my family I truly could not escape the situation; nor could my other family members. I remember questioning why God would allow this to happen to me… I didn’t feel as if I had done anything to deserve this person’s contempt and I found myself meeting anger with escalating anger.

I prayed that God would change this person. Apparently that wasn’t his plan. What he taught me instead was how to love when it is difficult.

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:46-47 NIV

So I began to pray that God would change my heart and help me to love and forgive. To be honest, it is a daily struggle. Some days I feel nothing but compassion, others some new situation inevitably arises and it’s like salt in the wound. The good news is that God continues to encourage me through His people. One week it was Pastor Bob’s sermon on forgiveness. His metaphor about lugging around the suitcase (our “baggage”) and repeatedly choosing to drop it rather than holding onto it regularly enters my mind each time I struggle with forgiveness. Another time I was reading a book and stumbled across this verse:

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44 KJV

I don’t believe I had ever read this verse before and it was as though I had been waiting for God to personally tell me this… as if until he outright told me to I wouldn’t have to listen to that still, small voice. I’m pretty stubborn that way.

Again, not a romance novel, but I hope this encourages some of you to explore other types of love this Valentine’s day… not necessarily the fun kind, but rather the effortful, difficult kind of love that Jesus encourages us to pursue and ultimately modeled for us on the cross.

Whether it’s performing some random act of kindness for someone who has hurt you, letting go of an old grudge, or simply just praying for God to soften your heart towards someone, I hope God uses this Valentine’s day to encourage our hearts to love our neighbors as ourselves… even the ones who’ve installed surround sound in their living room, regularly hold band practice in their garage, and let their dogs explore your lawn.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Best Example of Love

Sweethearts---Barbara and Jay Fowler

Today's post was written by Christian Fowler

Growing up my world was full of love. The love of siblings, the love of parents, the love of pets, and of course the love of Christ. Throughout the last 20 years of my existence my mom has been the one to show me what love is and how to love those around me. Growing up as 1 of 7 kids meant that things were usually tight financially. My mom was always making sure that we had everything we needed and giving things up to make sure we were getting the most out of life. She would help each of us with our homework to the best of her abilities, then she’d slave over the stove making food for all of us in a cramped kitchen. She’d help us pack our lunches for the next day, attempt to spend time with each of us individually, tuck us into bed one by one and yet still found time to be a wife and spend time with her husband. She raised her children in the church and made sure that we had family devotions regularly. We’d all pile onto her bed and my dad would read us a Bible story then we’d discuss it, sing a few songs, then go around and pray one by one. She made sure that we knew Christ loved each of us and that nothing we did could ever make Him love us less. She allowed Christ to shine through her in her daily life and set an example for us in more ways than she knows.

 When my dad was diagnosed with cancer she stood by him and supported him through every second of it. She knew going into it that it wouldn’t end well but she continued to pour out her love for him. She stopped working in order to take care of him. Watching through all of his pain she gave him countless shots, gave him medicine that he didn’t want to take but that she knew would help him, and made it through the sleepless nights that became a normality rather than a rarity. She slept in the floor on numerous occasions so that she could be near him and take care of him. I have never seen someone so dedicated to anything in my entire life. Even after his passing she still has a flame for him burning in her heart. The way she loved my father is the best example of love I’ve ever personally witnessed. Their love was one that didn’t need words. She’d walk into the room and his entire demeanor would change.

 She continues to be an example for us children not only in her love for my dad but also in her love for Christ. She shows us that Christ was there with us through the loss of my dad and that he was also there with my dad. She has taught us, not only through her words but also through her actions, that just because something goes wrong, we should never turn from Christ. One day I hope to be that kind of example for my children and to love the way my mom does. I want to have an undying love for my husband and an undeniable love for my God.