Pursuing Love In The Valley

This week marked 14 years of marriage for Hubby and I. Though as a young bride I couldn’t have imagined the victories and valleys we’d share youth made me sure that we’d conquer both together, victorious.

I remember hearing of longtime, happily married couples whose lives had been shaken with grief and loss so powerful it was as if it had been an earthquake. A perfect “10” and the aftershocks had left their marriage in the rubble. I’d also heard of happily married couples who’d taken that rubble, and rebuilt something stronger, and more beautiful out of the pieces that were left. images (18)I often wondered what had happened to the latter. I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which Hubby and I would not cling to the one person under the sun who knew us best. After all, we’d experienced hardship and loss before. We are so very different by nature that where one of us had been weak, the other had been strong. Those strengths and weaknesses had complimented each other and served as tools to help each other through.

But what happens when you are both weak? When neither of you have any strength? When both of your plates are full to overflowing with grief, pain, loss, stress and worry and your cups are empty? How do you help your spouse balance those emotions when your own plate is dangerously close to dropping? You can’t.

I couldn’t. This last year we experienced our own perfect “10” and what I found was that my cup was empty. I barely had the strength to balance my own plate, never mind relieve some of Hubby’s burden. I could not lighten his load. I could not cure our children. I could not pay the mounting medical bills. I could not give him peace and comfort when I struggled just to save myself. So I prayed to the One who could.


Isaiah 40:29

29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.


Father, please take this from me! But if this is Your will, please fill my cup and give me the strength to bear it. Please lighten this overflowing plate.

Ah, but He already did.

And He was patiently waiting for me to remember that He himself would carry the load. Would give me His strength. Had already offered to fill that plate and cup with His bread and wine!download (1).jpg

As I surrendered more to Him,my burden became lighter (Bread is rather light) and He filled that cup with strength born of hope. And made me aware that I needed to love Hubby. Not the feeling, that was still there. But the action.

Father, I don’t know how to help Hubby, Please give me the strength, wisdom, and knowledge to love him the way he needs right now. 

I was reminded of a message years ago images (14)by our pastor in which he shared praying for God to help him see and love his wife as He does. This ended up being to make the bed,but I was sure that wasn’t the answer for Hubby (Though I’m ALL for expressions of love that include a tidy bed). I was really sure that Hubby was going to need a lot more. So….

God, please give me Your eyes so I can see. Help me to see him and love him as You do.

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That’s it? It does not seem like enough. Not for this.

But when I kept my focus on meeting Hubby where he was, as he was, being patient and kind, and praying continuously to see him as Jesus does, and love him as Jesus does it was a powerful thing. I became more aware of his pain and suffering, which was hard, but it naturally evoked more patience and kindness. And in return, lightened his load and opened his heart towards me and towards God.images (16).jpg

Yes, love is God, and God is love. And, our love is stronger and more beautiful now after pursuing it in this valley than it ever was before.

My cup overflows…..

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Follow Me

I recently had the privilege of hearing a message from one of the founders of a relief organization called Tutapona. Eight years ago, Carl, his wife Julie, and their young family picked up and moved to Uganda to provide trauma and rehabilitation counseling to what would turn out to be thousands of refugees in the area. Carl provided an update of their progress, a victim’s heart wrenching story and the relief she found in the program, and plans for Tutapona‘s expansion to Iraq.

In a sanctuary full of Christians, Carl posed the question of how many Christians were truly followers of Christ. He maintains that to simply believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior, is not enough. A true transformation of the heart will cause a transformation of your life. We are called to be disciples. This term implies active participation on our part. An outward reflection of our inner faith.


dis·ci·ple

(dĭ-sī′pəl)

n.

1.

a. One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another.
b. An active adherent, as of a movement or philosophy.

Sharing several verses in which Jesus states “Follow Me”, it is pretty clear that Jesus intends us to, indeed, follow Him. (I searched on my own…and stopped counting at 19)

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Often, when processing a message, I am gifted with images that help make sense of, and usher important information to be stored and filed in the orderliness of my long term memory. Over the past few days, I have a clear picture of a classroom full of Christians. All have professed to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Jesus silently enters the room and speaks two words.

Follow Me.

That’s it.

Now, there is a person in the front, center. Let’s call her A+Disciple. Her hand wildly waving, squirming in her chair, she’s practically shouting, “Ooh, Ooh, Pick me! Pick Me!”. The Christians in the back are mulling things over. I’m sitting in the middle, off to the left, unobtrusively hiding behind someone taller than I am. I take a couple of deep, bracing, breaths. You know the kind; in through the nose, out through the mouth. And resolutely raise my hand.

If I were to “unpack” my reserved response, I believe it’s not necessarily fear that has me mentally preparing myself. I think it has more to do with the seriousness of the invitation. The knowledge and respect of what this commitment requires. There’s a (not so nice) part of me that wonders if A+Disciple truly appreciates the gravity of what she’s signing up for. At the same time, noticing her unreserved joy at the offer makes me wonder what I am lacking in faith that makes me so somber at the thought of following Him through anymore valleys that I sometimes can’t hold onto the joy of the promise of my final destination?

(This is when I’m reminded of Julie. Bless her beautiful, honest, Christ filled,heart for sharing her lack of joy when first called to uproot her family from a place they’d grown to love and follow Jesus to Iraq. Was she willing to follow wherever He led her? Absolutely. But even she had a moment where she raised her hand without chair squirming, arm waving, JOY. I also like to think maybe she will be saving a seat for me next to her on the bus?)

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A+Disciple is skipping to the bus while I am mentally “packing”. Repeating comforting scripture and pondering how many toothbrushes I should bring? After all, God seems to keep His itinerary pretty close to His chest. Now, A+Disciple is, of course, already on the bus, in the front seat, not so patiently waiting for the journey to begin. I see the loving smile Jesus welcomes her with and wonder if I’m worthy of the same reception. After all, I’m not exactly skipping in line, but putting one foot resolutely in front of the other while holding onto the promises written on my heart.

But He does.

He smiles at me with love and understanding. The same invitation. The same reception. Accepting me as I am, where I am.

Follow me.

Okay.

And those Christians now sitting, watching from the curb? He smiles at them with love too. Patiently waiting for them to pick up their cross, and follow Him too.

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The disciples on the bus are surely in for hair pin turns, low valleys, some rough roads (after all, the road less traveled is bound to be bumpy) and the most beautiful destination. Sitting in the middle, staring at Jesus, I find the JOY. When I’m focused on Him, and not what’s coming up ahead, I find the joy in the knowledge that not only has He made a way for me, but He’ll be with me through the whole journey.

So where are you on your discipleship journey? Are you dancing with joy ready to leap into anything He calls you to? Are you sitting, prayerfully waiting for instruction? Or are you still sitting on the curb deciding if you really need to pick up your cross and follow Him?

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UPDATE:

If you are already on “the bus”, are daring to be a Disciple, please take a moment to view the following video and prayerfully consider supporting the ministry of Tutapona either through prayer or a financial gift and help many more to follow Jesus. ❤