American Beauty

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. (Song of Solomon 4:7)

This summer, some friends and I went to the beach to hang out and do some outreach.  I distinctly remember waking up, looking in the mirror and feeling fabulous.  I was rocking it…that is until we got to the beach.  Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by girls in their bikinis.  Girls that I felt were in much better shape than I was.  I immediately began to feel self-conscious and although I started out the day feeling like a cutie, I ended up questioning whether I should go home and put a housecoat on.

Sounds kind of funny, but at some level this is a big thing we deal with as women.  Let’s be honest.  We have the tendency to subject ourselves and others to a really unhealthy level of comparison.  Left unchecked this can lead to a question of our worth, value and the individual beauty God has given us.  In her book Unrivaled, Lisa Bevere states that &God loves us uniquely.&  Each of us are unique, with a beauty all our own.  The beauty of another women does not take away from what God has given us.  We are not in competition, but too often we feel as though we are.

This summer, I learned a valuable lesson about what makes me beautiful.  One day while I was away with YWAM, I decided to take a walk to Mcdonalds to eat some ice cream and work on a message.  I left wearing sweats, no make-up and with my hair a mess.  As I was sitting at a table, a young man, a few years younger than me, came over to ask about what I was writing about.  We struck up a conversation and myself and another YWAMer, who happened to be in the Mcdonalds, began sharing about the love of God.  I shared about my faith and passion for Jesus flowed from my lips and my heart.  The young man’s expression began to change and suddenly he was looking at me as though I was an angel that just stepped out of heaven.  His shift in expression was noticeable and it was evident that he thought I was beautiful, but it was as though he was looking through me.  He started talking about the words we were using to describe God and how their was something so beautiful about the way we spoke of Jesus.  He actually said he couldn’t understand it, but he sensed something so different about us.  As he stared at me, I could tell in his head he was scrambling to figure out what was happening and what it was about us that had him so perplexed.  At the end of the conversation, we were able to lead him to the Lord.

Later, as I was thinking about this, I was struck that past the sweatpants, messy hair and bare face this guy was able to see a beauty in me that had nothing to do with my outward appearance.  What he saw was the heart of the Father in me.  He sensed God’s beautiful love pouring out of me.  Through the experience, God was showing me on another level that as I express His heart, His beauty flows out of me.  This is a beauty that never fades with age.  It’s a beauty that is unique to me, as my expression of it will be different than anyone elses.  My smile, the twinkle in my eye when I speak about things I’m passionate about, my playful prankster princess side, my wild mane of messy curls, my assets and even my imperfections, all add to an individual beauty that’s unique to me.  But at the center of it all is a love that doesn’t come from me.  It comes from my Father.

Let His love flow out of you and let your unique beauty shine.  You were made to shine.

Where your treasure is…

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matt. 6:21)

Recently, God has been speaking to me alot about value…what I value, along with where my value as an individual comes from.  All of that should be wrapped up in Jesus, but if I am honest, I would have to say that there are times when I have allowed other things to slip into the seat of my utmost affections and there have been times when I have allowed people and circumstances to give me feedback about what my value is.  The enemy will always try to distort the messages we receive, leaving us to conclude that we are ultimately not that valuable at all.

This week, a good friend and I were discussing the above verse and what it implies.  This friend pointed out to me that whatever thing you treasure most is the thing you will be most afraid to lose.  That simple truth sunk deep into my heart.  The thing or person I treasure most is the thing I will look to most to affirm me and tell me what I’m worth.  I will work tirelessly and without rest to hold on to my most prized treasure and I will entertain an underlying fear regarding what will happen should I ever lose it.

Ladies and gents, it is a dangerous thing when we allow ourselves to put any person or thing as number one in our lives.  That is a position that belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone.  It is He who defines our identity.  It is He who defines our worth.  The love and affirmation we receive from others will always be conditional.  Even the most awesome people will have their bad days, go through their funks, be loving at moments and less loving at others.  But Jesus stays the same yesterday, today and forever.  He loves us with a love that is everlasting.  We can find rest in security in Christ and Christ alone.

When we allow anything to take the place of Jesus in our lives, the things and the people that were designed to bless us can become more like a curse.  We become consumed.  We become controlled.  We try to control.  We invest all our time and energy trying to maintain something by our own strength that God always meant for us to entrust to Him and do together, with Him in the driver’s seat.  We can become so fearful of losing that we aren’t even free to enjoy and rest in the blessings that God has given us.

When we make Jesus the treasure of our heart, we have the assurance that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5).  We know that He will be with us always (Matt. 28:20).  He promises that nothing will ever separate us from His love (Rom. 8:38-39).  We can put our treasure in God and that is a treasure we never have to have fear of losing.

When we make Jesus our greatest affection, it frees us to love others more.  It frees us to be vulnerable and to build meaningful relationships, even if it means we risk sacrifice and hurt along the way.  When we make Jesus our number one, we anchor ourselves in something so sturdy that even if we should lose something important to us or experience brokenness, we never lose ourselves, our worth or our identity in the process.  We have given our hearts to the Lord to guard and to mend.  Our hope is in His faithfulness.

My Delight.

Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart’s desires. (Ps. 37:4)

Recently, I have been doing a lot of study pertaining to our thoughts and the mind.  In a short span of time, I have read Breaking Free by Beth Moore, Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer and Heart Made Whole by Christa Gifford.  (All excellent reads!)  God is bringing me through the process of rewiring my brain, in order that old pathways of fear and insecurity can be rerouted in the ways of faith, expectation and unconditional love.

Through this process, God continues to speak to me of His great love for me.  He loves me for the sake of loving me.  I am guilty of coming before God always trying to improve something, change something, do something, but God is showing me over and over again that He simply desires to hang out with me, because He delights in me.  In Psalm 149:4-5, we are told, “For the Lord delights in His people; he crowns the humble with victory.  Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them.  Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.”

This understanding has deepened my level of intimacy with Christ.  Although I continue to study the word, pray and worship, (all necessary, vital and of utmost importance), I also take time to sit with Jesus, to admire the beauty of creation with Him, to go for walks together and to sit in silence, knowing He sits with me.  There have always been painful things in my life I have needed to confront.  There has always been some degree of chaos around me.  The problem is I have too often been guilty of letting the chaos going on around me get inside of me.  Too many times I have allowed circumstances and people to rob my joy.  This knowledge of the God who so immensely enjoys me, empowers me to have a good day no matter what situation I am facing.  I made a decision recently that no matter what goes on around me, I would make the choice to choose joy, even if that means getting away from the crowd to enjoy a sunset with Jesus, after a long stressful day.  It fills my heart with joy, acceptance and belonging to know that He doesn’t require me to come with words, a plan or a course of action.  He just wants me to come with my heart, in whatever shape that it’s in, so He can mend any places it has been torn and give strength to those parts that have been made weak.

I put this to the test the other day.  Due to some circumstances outside of my control, I was up all through the night. I felt angry, worried, exhausted, you name it.  After finally getting some sleep.  I got up and decided in my heart what kind of day I was going to have.  My day would be a good day.  Because I was going to spend it with Jesus.  I got together with a really good friend of mine who asked me what I wanted to do.  Although I really wanted to visit a beautiful park I had heard of and never been to, I told my friend we should go to the orchard that was closeby.  The park was a long drive away and I figured it would be more convenient to go to the orchard instead.  We stopped by the orchard but didn’t stay very long.  My friend said we should leave.  Not thinking too much of it, I got back into the car.  Next thing I knew, we were on a long drive thorugh the country.  I let all my circumstances melt away and began to reflect on God’s goodness and love towards me, as I watched the sun shine through the trees.  I took in all the beauty and allowed myself to let go, relax and rest in Jesus.  I felt Him massaging my heart back to good health and felt truly joyful.  Although I enjoyed the time with my friend, I so enjoyed knowing that Jesus had made that trip with us.  Eventually, the car turned into the very park I had wanted to visit, but had never expressed.  Jesus had used my friend to give me that gift.  Everything about my day perfectly met my heart’s desires.  From the beauty of the park, to the places we stopped on the way home, to the flavor of ice cream I ate, I felt that God had designed it all to show me His love in a special way.  He delighted in being with me throughout the day and setting up these fun surprises.

It tells us in Psalm 37:4  that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts.  When our delight is God, He gives us more of Himself.  He gives us more of an understanding of who He is, His nature and His heart towards us.  He gives us a greater desire and capacity to know Him better.  The more He becomes our delight the less other things will be able to take away our joy.  When your joy is in the one who will never leave you or forsake you, the one who remains the same yesterday, today and forever, you are undaunted and unshakeable.  And while things won’t always go the way we thought or planned, and while we will have those hard, tough days, this God delights in surprising us.  He takes joy in making our dreams come true, dreams He gave us to begin with.  He loves to draw us to Himself, wooing us and romancing us.  His heart is always to do in our lives more than we can ever dare, ask, think or imagine (Eph. 3:20).

Make Him your delight.  Enjoy Him with every breathe.  Open your eyes to His love notes all around you.  Find yourself in the center of His heart.

Limitless Love

Limitless Love

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.  Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him.  Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.  May you experience the love of Christ though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  (Eph. 3:16-20)

Recently, an experience of God’s love restored to me my awareness of my identity as a beloved daughter of God.  In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul makes it clear that it is by experiencing the love of Christ that we are made complete and brought to wholeness.  I went away this summer to find direction, to regain focus and to come away with an action plan.  Although those things did come, what I found during my time away more than anything else was love itself.

To be honest, I felt as though God orchestrated that whole trip to speak to my heart over and over again, “You were made for love.  You were made to love and be loved in return..” The messages I heard of God’s love were simple yet profound and struck a deep chord in my heart.  One girl challenged us to consider a time when a person’s gifts or words made us feel particulary adored and cherished.  She pointed out that God intended for us to feel adored and cherished every day of our lives…because we are!

Another leader on campus shared a story about how he watched a dream he had one night unfold in real life.  Mike came to YWAM lost, looking for a better way, but unsure of the reality of God.  He had grown up in the church, but was deeply affected by the hypocrisy he found.  He had turned to alcohol, drugs and partying as a means of escape.  He came to YWAM a complete mess, but God was pursuing his heart.  As he sat on his bed one day, he watched a dream God had given him play out before his eyes, as a young man presented Him with a sea shell, saying “Mike, God wants you to have this.  He loves you so much.”

Reflecting on all this one night, during time with the Lord, I felt God saying to me, “Theresa, I want you to treat this journey with me more like an adventure in Disneyland and less like a stroll through the trail of terror.”  I realized that I have spent far too much time waiting for the ax to drop, terrified at what might jump out at me.  I couldn’t see that God intended this journey with him to be the greatest adventure.  I couldn’t understand that although I may come across some dark forests or steep mountains, every challenging passage was intended to strengthen and develop my warrior heart.  Each opposition God allowed, to prepare me for future chapters up ahead.  I became so focused on the challenges that I lost sight of the fact that the road before me was bursting with exciting surprises, endless opportunities and saturated with the limitless, unconditional love of my Father.  Here I was a princess whose heart was being pursued by my King, a girl loved and cherished.  Somewhere along the way, I had laid down my crown, tooken up the position of a frightened servant and forgotten my identity as a beloved bride.

As God spoke to my inner core, “Daughter, don’t you realize, I just want to love you?,” I reclaimed my  crown.  I stood up and once more assumed my proper position as a daughter of  the creator.  I felt myself becoming me again.  Life began to seep into my heart.  Joy washed over my soul and once more I became pregnant with hope.

True to the passage referenced above, I found strength in my inner being.  Instead of being easily shaken, I found myself anchored with roots that grew deep down into God’s love and acceptance for me.  I began to understand a fraction more of God’s unlimited, matchless, passionate love for me.  And in this love, I found myself complete and whole.

Do you hear the gentle whisper of God’s voice today in the inner recesses of your spirit, saying “Son, daughter, don’t you see I just want to love you?”  Let the adventure commence.

 

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