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loved by the Father

A journey of being loved by the Father.

A Decade of Lessons

Last week marked 10 years that I am working in social services.  10 years! Wow, I can’t believe its been that long.  Part of me can’t believe I am old enough to have a professional working career that long.  The other part of me can’t believe how fast the 10 years went and feel my age with every ache in my body.

I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into when I started working in social services.  You see I kinda stumbled on this field.  When I was in college, I started out as a business management major.  I loved business and still do to this day but it didn’t feel like the right fit.  I met with a career advisor at my college and I was asked “Would you rather work with people or numbers?”  I can still remember sitting in the office as I answered “people.”  This person introduced me to human services(social services).  I had no idea such a field existed and did not know what to expect but I knew I wanted to work with people.  It was interesting trying to my family what human services was.  I finally just said “I would help people.”

Little did I realize that someone in social services played a huge part in my life.  This person changed the direction my life was going in.  They introduced my family to Milton Hershey School.  And because of this introduction, I was set on a path that allowed me to make better choices for my life.  One of the opportunities that was made available to me was to attend college and get double degrees in business management and human services.  This would most likely not been otherwise.

I remember being very early on in my career thinking 10 years was so far away.  I was not sure how long I would make it in the field..  When I took my first job in the field, I did not know what to expect.  I did not know how much I would grow, the people I would encounter, the stories that would touch my heart, the situations that would break my heart and the friends I would gain.

Here are a few things I learned along the way (Well it ended up being a lot more than a few.)

  • Things are not always as they seem.
  • You can not judge a person by just looking at them and if you do, most likely your judgement will be wrong.
  • Without significant relationship there is no significant change in your life and their life.
  • Building relationships with people can get messy but the rewards are far greater.
  • You have to take time to be present and listen to the person you are with.
  • Listen to the things that are not being said verbally.
  • You have to be willing to hear people out even when they are upset.
  • Remaining calm and listening when someone is upset usually results in them calming down eventually.
  • To be aware and observant of your surroundings.
  • It is better to “Teach a man to fish, because you feed him for a lifetime.” rather than “Giving a man a fish you feed him for a day.”  (Empowering rather than enabling) The quote is from a Chinese Proverb.
  • To do things scared and nervous, eventually they aren’t as scary and nerve racking and rewards are much better than the scared feeling.
  • When to speak up and when to let something go.  Not all battles are worth fighting or are mine to fight.
  • How to advocate and fight hard for someone when the system and or people fail someone.
  • As the person who empowers others, I can not want their change more than they want it.
  • It is better to confront someone directly about an issue that you have with them rather than not confronting it at all or dancing around the tree about the issue.
  • Hurt people hurt people.
  • When people are upset, most likely they are upset at the situation and not you.
  • Not to be so blunt and straightforward.  There is a time when that is needed but most of the time people need a softer approach.
  • To ask questions to help people arrive at their own solutions rather than giving them the solution you think they need.  Often their solution is better than yours. And often they already know the solution that they need.
  • That the process someone goes through is more important than the destination.
  • Tears are created by God when words can not express what breaks your heart.
  • Grief comes in many forms and it is pretty much the loss of anything.  It could include a loss of a person, loss of a relationship, loss of a life they thought they would live but can’t because of a major life change.
  • To not to change my word in the middle of another word, because it could sound like a word that is not appropriate for the work setting.  Thankfully I had a gracious family and they just laughed.
  • Walking the journey with others, looks different for each person.
  • Introduce yourself immediately when you are meeting someone for the first time and you are walking into their home.
  • Everyone’s journey matters

After 10 years, I am a more confident person.  I know who I am.  I know whose I am.  I have a deeper trust in God than I ever have.   I know that God walked this journey even in the hardest moments.  I know that God has given me the grace and the strength to walk this journey of social services for the last 10 years.  I am humbled that God chose me to walk this journey and that my participants have allowed me into their homes and into their lives.  I am grateful for the many lessons I learned along the way and look forward to what else God has to teach me.

 

He cares

There are times that we think of something we want.  And we think of ways to make this thing we want happen.  So often we don’t talk with our Creator about it.  We rely on our strength to make it happen.

Recently there was something in my life, that I have wanted for a while and originally when the opportunity came up I passed on it because of lack of finances.  This opportunity was possibly coming up again.  This time around I prayed and I envisioned myself taking advantage of the opportunity.  I thought through several options so that I could take advantage of the opportunity.  But God decided to take care of the finances so that I can take advantage of the opportunity!

A couple weeks, I was talking with a friend about their life and she told me that God recently provided her a sewing machine and a kitchen table.  The kitchen table was the exact color she wanted and it matches her kitchen cabinets!  These are both items that she wanted but due circumstances she was not able to get these items herself.

God does really care about our wants and needs!  “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Luke 12:7  I love that God cares for every detail of our lives!  He delights in providing for His sons and daughters.  God cared enough to not only provide a kitchen table for my friend but He cared enough to make sure it was one that matched her cabinets perfectly and it was the right size for her kitchen.  These are details that are so small but they made a huge impact on my friend and her faith.  In my situation, God cared enough to take care of the one barrier that was in my way and might I add it was a large barrier in my eyes.  But in His eyes the barrier was nothing!

So the next time you think that something is too small to take to God, think again!  Speak with Him about your wants and needs and then let them in His hands to take care of them for you.  And there are times that He will give us what we want.  He will always provide us our needs.  I am not saying that God is a genie that He will give you your every want and desire.  But I am saying that He want to hear about your wants and needs just like you would tell a friend about them.

The costs of being jaded

I have been in social services for almost 10 years and in these 10 years I seen and experienced a lot.  I have gotten to meet many people through the years.  Many I was able to help but more importantly there were many that taught me life lessons.  I think of the man who taught me how to be present and actively listen rather than think of the next thing I am going to say or do  I think of the individuals who have worked so hard to get ahead but life keeps hitting them with hard moments.  But they chose to continue working towards their goals and not allow life circumstances to determine their direction of their life.

As I continued to work in social services, I became jaded.  Webster’s dictionary defines jaded as: fatigued by overwork or made dull, apathetic, or cynical by experience or by having or seeing too much of something.  And I almost wore this jaded filter as a badge of honor.  I thought it was okay to view my clients that I worked with through this jaded filter.  In some ways, I thought I was being wise when I looked at my clients with this jaded filter.  I remember telling a coworker that I can tell she is early on in her career because of the hope and optimism that she has in a situation with a client.

I was on the way to work one morning and someone was talking on the radio about people who are jaded.  And how this jaded filter is not something that we should have.  It caught me by surprise but the more I thought about it, I realized this person was right.

I believe that every decision and belief have reactions with they good, bad or both. And having the jaded filter has reactions in our lives and the lives of those around us.  The problem with being jaded especially in social services, you are indirectly telling that person they are going to fail with what ever they are working towards.  And being jaded causes you to be cynical rather hopeful not only in the lives of our clients but also in our own lives.  Being jaded also has you always looking for the worst in a person or you have the belief that the person will never change.

I think often we adapt this jaded filter because it “protects” us from being hurt or vulnerable with others.  Another thing that happens when you have a jaded filter for a long time is that you quit dreaming for yourself and others.  This keeps most of our relationships more at a surface level and we miss the blessing that can comes from being willing to walk beside someone in their journey.

And the last affect that the jaded filter has, we are deciding the future for the person from our point of view.  We are believing what society, life circumstances or labels say about someone rather than what God says about them and who they are.

When in relationships with people, we need to be wise but we also need to be willing to get vulnerable and show them that their journey matters to us and more importantly to God.  And live in a way that others see that the belief that no one is too far gone and that they can be redeemed by God.  And they can live in the blessings that God has for them.  We are called to build relationships with others and God, walk the journey with them and believe in others even when they do not believe in themselves.

So have you become jaded?  If so what is being jaded costing you and those around you?

 

 

 

Unexplained Tears

Last night I experienced something at church that I did not understand but yet there was a peace and sweetness about it.  When worship started, I felt the need to walk away from the crowd and find a spot to sit against the wall.  At my seat I started to get teary eyed.  But once I sat down against the wall on the floor in the back of the room, the tears started and did not stop.  As I sat there in my Father’s presence, I could not figure out why I was crying.  Rather than getting frustrated I just sat in the presence of God and let the tears fall.

During the time of me being present with my Creator, the only word that came to me was healing.  And two images came to mind.  The first image was my Father standing there with His arms open for an embrace.  The next image was me laying my head against the Father as if I was an embrace with Him.

While I was sitting there, I remembering wishing someone would come to pray with me.  I then felt the need to go to the next steps room for prayer during worship and I told God “I am not sure what I am asking for prayer, since I do not know why I was crying and I don’t know what is going on right now.”  A still voice said to me “You don’t need to know.  I know and I will give the person the words to say.”

I walked up to a friend, she hugged me and asked me “if everything is ok?”  I explained to her that I have no explanation for my tears, I can not stop crying and that I am not sure what was going on but I feel the need for prayer.  The Holy Spirit was right!  He did give her the words to pray and the exact words that I needed.

All this to say, sometimes God does something that we have no idea what is happening but through it there is a peace and sweetness.  I still am not completely sure what happened last night and I pray that I will understand someday.  But even if I never know what last night meant, I would do it all over again just to spend time in His presence.  There was a peace and sweetness in His presence that I want to experience over and over again!

 

Judge Less and Love More

Scenario #1: Have you ever seen a mother at the store with her children who are screaming and crying; you wish she would tell her child to be quiet because you had a long day?

Scenario #2: Or you meet someone who is struggling to pay their bills and they may go to a food pantry or use food stamps for food?  And you think if they would only work harder, they would have money to pay their bills.

Scenario #3: Or you see woman park in a handicap spot at the store and when she seems to have no physical limitations that would warrant the handicap placard?  You wonder if she is using some else’s handicap placard, just so she can park close to the front door.

Scenario #4: Or you go someone’s home and they do not have electricity in the home because they could not pay their electric bill.  They ask you if you can help them pay for the electric bill.  As you look around the home, there are nice things in the home that you think they could sell to pay bills.

These are all quick judgements that we make and we think these are things they can do to improve their lives.  And if I am honest I have been the person who has had these thoughts at one time or another in my life time.  It is so easy to judge others when we know little to nothing about the other person.  We don’t know their story or what has brought them to where they are today.  And perspective can change this for us very quickly.  Let me explain the scenarios above in a different way.

Scenario #1: The mother at the grocery store with her children that is screaming and crying, has had a day of appointments and this is her last stop before she goes home.  She prayed before taking her child out of the car seat for the 8th time that day, that they would be happy long for her to complete her grocery shopping.  She needs to finish the shopping trip in an hour to her other children get off the bus.  And the other 4 year old daughter that is with her, is cranky because she missed her nap that day and the last thing she wants to do is go into a store!

Scenario #2: The individual that needs additional assistance with food is working a full time job at McDonald’s.  Right now the only place that will hire this person the area, they live is McDonald’s because they aren’t many jobs in the area and they live in a rural community.  They are not able to work more hours or get a second job because they have children that need childcare and a family member that lives with this individual provides it when they are working.  And this family member has a part time job when this person is not working.  And if this individual gets a second job and makes more money, they lose the very benefits that is keeping their family afloat.

Scenario #3: This woman who from the outside watching her may not think she does not have physical limitations that warrant her parking in a handicap parking spot.  Reality is that she has breathing issues that cause her to go into a asthma attack if she walks too far.

Scenario #4:  In the past, this individual has always been on time with their bills because they were working.  Their credit score was excellent.  But while at work they got hurt, they were receiving worker’s compensation.  After a period of time of getting worker’s compensation, the company decides to stop paying worker’s compensation.  This individual has not been cleared to go back to work.  So they can not go get another job but there is not income coming into the home to pay their bills.  Meanwhile they credit score is decreasing rapidly.  And they are worried about losing their home, that they worked so hard to acquire.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5

We are commanded to love others and not judge them.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31

Imagine how this world would be if we would judge others less and love others more.  It would transform our communities into communities that care for each other and transform the hardest of hearts.

So I challenge you before you judge someone, take time to love on them and learn a little about their story.  Most of all show them Christ’s love first because Jesus loved us first and did not judge us for our sin that He did for.

 

He listens!

Recently God has shown me that He listens to everything I say or think even the smallest things.  A week before Valentine’s Day this year, I wrote down in my planner a desire that I had “God, I want flowers for Valentine’s Day and I didn’t care where they came from.”  I did not tell anyone about this desire or thought. Normally I don’t care about Valentine’s Day and whether I get something or not.  The morning of Valentine’s Day, when I came into work and there was a ceramic flower on my desk from a coworker. I did not have time to process it till later on in the morning.  Once I did I realized that God gave me the flower I wanted through my coworker!  As I was getting to head out of the office for a meeting later on, my CEO came into my office and gave me a real yellow rose. He had bought a rose for all his female staff for Valentine’s Day.  So not only did God fulfill my desire for a flower once but twice in one day!  

He listens to us and cares about even the smallest things like me wanting flowers. The ceramic flower will always be a reminder to me that God does listen to me.

You still created me!

You knew the shame and guilt I would struggle with and you still chose to create me!

You knew my failures in my life and you still chose to create me!

You knew the fears that would hold me back and you still chose to create me!

You knew my frustrations and you still chose to create me!

You knew my struggles and you still chose to create me!

You knew the insecurities I would struggle with and you still chose to create me!

You knew the pain and hurt I would carry and you still chose to create me!

You knew there were things I am going to choose over you and you still chose to create me!

You knew everything about me and you still chose to create me!

I created you because I knew that this world needed you in it.  I created you for a purpose that only you can fill.  And guess what, when I created you I told all of heaven with delight “look there is my beautiful daughter!”  “My daughter, I love you more than you can imagine.  Daughter, just as the grains of sand at the beach, the stars in the sky and the rain drops in a rain storm can not be counted.  My love for you can not be counted.”

 

It is Well

In life, we have some days when we are celebrating and other days when we are struggling.  But no matter where we are at in any particular day, we can have a peace in our Father.  The song “It is Well with my soul” was written in some of the toughest circumstances.  But yet the writer, Horatio G. Spafford, was still able to say it is well with my soul.

Although Horatio was a successful business man in Chicago, him and his wife had several loses within a couple years.  They lost their son at a young age in 1871.  Then went on to lose most of his business the same year in a fire.  Two years later, Horatio’s wife Anna and his 4 daughters were on a ship headed to Europe from the U.S.  The ship they were collided with another ship.  As a result of the collision, his four daughters died.  Anna was the only one that survived from the family.  Anna sent a message to Horatio “Saved alone, what shall I do?”  Horatio booked a passage to join his wife.  While he was on the ship headed to his wife, he wrote this song.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
What ever my lot you have taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though the devil will ruin, though trials may come
Let this blessed assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And He shed His own blood for my soul

It is well, with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight
And the clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul” by Horatio G. Spafford

This is one of the most beautiful hymns written in history.  Some of the most beautiful things come out of the most broken people or circumstances.  This song was written by a man whose heart was broken and lost almost everything in a short span of time.

After hearing this story, this song has become my favorite hymn.   It is also reminder to me that even when life is hard and it does not make sense, it is well with my soul.  Because of who my Savior is.  He is Sovereign, Prince of Peace, the ultimate Lover, Comforter, Rock, Redeemer and Deliver.

So when life is tough, confusing, uncertain and painful, we can say it is well with my soul because of who our Savior is.  I challenge you to find joy and peace in your Father as Horatio did in tragic times.  It is in these moments that when we find what we need in God, we are hopeful  And hope is what gives the strength to go to the next moment and to keep going from there.

 

 

Jesus Loves You More!

Recently I was thinking about the saying “I love you more.”  This is commonly said among those in a romantic relationship or parental and child relationship.  As I thought about it,  I was reminded that Jesus loves you more.  This love is greater than anything in our human mind could even begin to comprehend.  It is so great that Jesus laid down His own life for me and you so that we do not have to take the ultimate consequence for sin.  The ultimate consequence of sin is separation from God, our Creator, eternally.

The amazing thing about this love is that there is nothing we can do to change this love from God and Jesus!   “I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” – Romans 8:38-39

There are times that we do things that we may think we have messed up and God is not going to love me or forgive me or give me grace anymore.  This is where we are wrong!  And the fact that we are wrong is a beautiful thing.  God created us and as the Creator He has gigantic love for His creation.  A love that our human mind can only comprehend a fraction of.  Think of a time when you have created something.  You are proud of and love this creation that you made and the purpose that creation was created for.  This isn’t much that creation can do that would not cause you to love it.  Now take that love and pride that you have for your creation and multiple that by an infinite amount of times.  This is the love that God has for you!!

This is the simple gospel.  A Creator who loves us so much that He wants to show us this love in something as simple as having a relationship with Him.  As in any relationship the more time you spend with someone and get to know them, deeper the love you have for this person.  This is how it is with God.  We need to put aside the things that we think we need to gain His love.  And just get back to the basics of building a deeper relationship with our Creator.

God celebrates baby steps

Sometimes in life we think that we need to have do big milestones before we can celebrate or before God celebrates with us.  And because of this we become paralyzed and might not start anything at all.  Or we don’t think baby steps that we started are worth celebrating.

But in reality God celebrates every step we take.  And He especially celebrates the baby steps.  Sometimes the hardest steps are the baby steps because it may mean the beginning of something new.  Many times, there is uncertainty in it.  Which requires us to trust in God when we are taking these first baby steps.

These baby steps could lead to a milestone in our lives.  For me one of my milestones in my life is to be the first one in my family to graduate from high school and college.  While these are great accomplishments and God celebrated with me when they were accomplished!  But God also celebrated every time I was dedicated to study for a class.  Studying for a class is many baby steps of a larger goal of getting a diploma.

It is hard for me to fathom in my human brain that God has the time to care about my baby steps.  The amazing thing is that I don’t need to figure that out for me to celebrate my baby steps.  As a human, we are not meant to put God in a box.  And this is something we do often when we try to figure out God.  So, when I put aside my human rationalization, it is exciting for me that I have Father who created the universe rooting for me and celebrating every step of my journey.

As society, I believe we do not celebrate enough. There are many examples in the Bible of celebration.  “We see celebration not only here in Nehemiah 12, as Israel dedicated the wall, but we also see celebration throughout the Bible. The shepherds, wise men, and angels celebrated the birth of Jesus with gifts, songs, and prayer. God gave Israel many celebrations in the Old Covenant such as the Feast of Booths, year of Jubilee, etc. In the New Covenant, he has given us the Lord’s Supper and baptism. We also see future celebrations such as the wedding of the Lamb and the wedding feast with Abraham.”  We sometimes think it is trivial to celebrate the baby steps.  Baby steps give us the hope to keep going to the next steps.  And eventually many baby steps lead to a milestone goal completed.

So celebrate baby steps whether they are yours or someone else’s because our Creator celebrates them!

God reminders and lessons

Recently life has thrown some challenges at me and my family.  Some of the challenges could be enough to shake someone’s faith.  Some of the things are big and life changing.  There are a few things I learned along that way or that I have been reminded of; as I deal with and process the events that have been happening.

First, that God is still good and sovereign no matter what life puts in my path.  And He walks right beside me as I walk through the trials of life.  These trials in life did not surprise Him.  He knew they were coming.  I am grateful that this is a foundation in my life because without this life would be much harder than it already is.  “The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.” – Psalms 145:9

Second, the peace of God is worth more than the most expensive item on earth!  If you don’t have peace it robs you of the amazing things that God has in store for you and your life.  I am grateful that I have His peace as I journey through life.  For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,  says the Lord, who has mercy on you.” – Isaiah 54:10

Third, my strength come from the Creator of all things.  There are times I feel weak and do not feel strong enough to go through the battles of life.  I have realized my strength comes from Him and not from myself.  On my own I will never be strong enough.  I will always be weak on my own without Him.  This is a relief knowing that I do not have to strong and that I can go to my Father for the strength I lack.  “The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless his people with peace. – Psalm 29:11”

Fourth,  my emotions and life circumstances will not dictate on whether I have joy and peace.  Sure I will have days where emotions will be strong and life circumstances will be hard.  Because I am human!  But they can not take my joy and peace away.  I will have joy even in the moments that I would rather have a pity party for myself.  “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.” – Psalms 5:11 

Life is full of lessons and reminders.  And there is a joy and peace when it does not makes sense to have it when you are walking the journey with your Creator.  What lessons or reminders has God given you when life is crazy and tough?

Fixing Others

Too often we think we have to fix others.  So often we think we need to have answer for someone’s struggle in life.  When we think we can fix someone, we are being prideful.  And what right do we have to think we can fix someone when we have not created the person?  When a creator creates something, they know the ins and outs of that creation.  God knows everything about His creations and knows how to heal the hurt and pain that needs healing.  I have been reminded recently that I was not created to fix a situation or a person.  I was created to walk beside them in their journey and empower them not lead their journey.  Even when I can not fix anything about the situation or the person.

It is through walking the journey of life with someone that relationships are tested and the result of this usually they become stronger than they were before.  We are called to walk in the trenches of life’s moments even when you have no idea how help someone and when it is messy.  And we may feel inadequate.  This is when we learn to lean on God for guidance and strength.

It is in these moments when we don’t know what to do it is God to shows up.  We have to be open hearing His voice.  Sometimes He will provide the answers and other times He gives us the strength to walk the journey.  Jesus walked in the trenches of life with people to show them that they matter to their heavenly Father.  Through the journey of walking with people and leaning on God, this is also when our relationship with God gets stronger.  Because sometimes He is the only being heavenly and earthly strength that we can lean on.

Walking that journey with each person and situation in our life will look different.  Sometimes we need to just be in a moment with someone and not say a word because words are not adequate.  Sometimes it means to do a task with someone.  Sometimes it means to be ok with not having answers or solution for their struggles.  Sometimes it is pointing the person to their Creator.  Sometimes it is showing love over and over again even when it is not reciprocated.

When we realize that we are not called to fix anyone, it takes the pressure off of us.  It allows to walk the journey with people in freedom.  And we don’t need to worry about finding that solution because their Creator will be the one to provide what they need.

Who in your life have you been trying to fix?  And how has that affected your relationship with them?  Who in your life do you need to walk beside them in their journey?

 

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