Tag Archives: unconditional love

Unconditional

steamboatThe semi-circle of peaks wraps around me, too distant to hug, too soft to stand sentinel. But they do both stand guard and comfort. It is November. Their sides are dry and brittle, beige and grey. The slopes are dotted with rust–almost a pop of color in this season. And dark brown. Even brown is color now. An evergreen rises past this bank of third story windows, reaching past the fourth floor above, a deep green reminding me that the ever-living part of us takes time to reach to the sky. Here and there the miracle of modern sprinkler systems create little circles and squares of green grass, but even that color is November-muted.

All of this has nothing to do with what is on my mind.

Or does it?

I’m thinking of love.

Our youngest son and his girlfriend spent the weekend here with us. We took them to a glorious hot springs nestled among the rocks and slopes, hiding at the end of a long, bumpy road. The natural pools form little ponds of steaming water. At one side the scalding waters flows over tiny falls into the pools. On the other flows the river. Cold, cold river. In the middle we play. Float. Rest. Choose our temperature.

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Jerry and I watch and smile as they dance the dance of young love. He splashes in the cool, river-fed pool, colder because it is November. Freezing because our bodies have been in the hot springs. He splashes and dives. Brings her rocks. They toss them. Skip the flat stones. He begs her come over the wall. Leave the perfect temperature and adventure in the river side. She resists. His eyes soften. Call. Emboldened, she stands first on the dividing rock wall. He counts to ten while she gathers courage, then with a shriek and a splash they are no longer separated.

Young love. Push. Pull. Can’t-bear-to-be-separated love.

They tease. Comfortable enough to be goofy. In love enough to be sappy.

“Momma, isn’t she beautiful?” he often asks.

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Of course she is.

I am fifty-one. Jerry older. These nights we can’t bear to be separated, even by pajamas or space in the bed. We wrap warm bodies around each other as we sleep. Wrinkles are forgotten. Bulges in wrong places of no consequence. We are flawed inside and out, but it doesn’t matter.

Love is unconditional.

We’ve weathered years. Hardships. Joys.

Forgiven each other our weaknesses. Our faults. Our bad choices.

They asked us about marriage, these young ones. About what parts are hard and what parts are not, and now, two days later I panic at all the life they must someday navigate, at all the experiences they’ve not yet had, at the cost they do not yet understand.

And I pray.

And Jesus reminds me I too was once young.

And that He was there. Is there still. And will be for them.

That His unconditional love will teach them how to love, how to weather the hardships and the pain and the unexpected difficulties. That He does this for all who ask. And that we learn, over time, the cost and joy of love.

How to let it be unconditional.

Jerry and I came here to heal. I feel soul weary, the last book demanding more of me than I ever dreamed. I left it in the hands of the editors and formatters and proof-readers and came to this place seeking.

Refreshment. Companionship. Mountain views. Hot springs. Time alone with Jerry and Jesus, surrounded by those two from whom I receive unconditional love.

They take me.

Always.

Flawed. Healing. Joyful and sad. Strong and weak. Tired and energized. They choose me. Accept me like this. Without mask. Without decoration. When my colors are bland.

The pale blue sky, not yet winter, but no longer the bright cobalt of autumn, dims outside the window. A pale line of color clings to the mountain peaks, not orange. Not bright enough to be peach even. Just a dusting of color over the grey peaks which have yet to be decorated with snow.

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All is muted.

At peace.

Accepted in this state of quiet.

Nothing expected.

But beautiful.

Unconditionally.

I sip my Merlot and watch as dusk becomes night and lights come out to twinkle against the mountainside.

(Thoughts from November in Steamboat Springs . . .)

Until next time,

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Fighting for Grace

Can I let it all hang out?

My fight to breathe in grace?

Some people are recovering alcoholics; I’m a recovering perfectionist. Which means, at its root, I’m a recovering religious legalist.

My desperate desire is to please and follow God. I want to be sweet and love Him and be loved by Him.

But as much as I long for perfection in this, I just can’t be perfect.

Sometimes I’m salty, not sweet.

20140526_133259My kitchen floor issue is still not resolved. We’re pulling up boards trying to find all the water, trying to let things dry out. I’m struggling to manage kitchen duty (and we’re one of those families that rarely eat out, don’t use pre-packaged food, and consume LOTS, so kitchen duty is a big deal) in a difficult situation.

Yesterday I chose to bake banana cake, Seth’s favorite. He’s home from college and well, it’s one of our love languages. And there is never a reason around here to do a single recipe, so of course I doubled it.

I’m leaning over floor boards that have been pulled up and stepping into cracks of sub-floor to try to work without further damaging my beautiful boards. (There’s a point.)

I’m ready to put the bananas in the batter, but Stephen pulls out a spoon and has a taste, one of his favorite things since childhood. His face scrunches up in distaste. I scoop a little into my mouth. It’s terrible. We add more sugar. No improvement. I taste the sugar. It’s bitter. Salty. I have no idea what 20140526_134405happened, but it was good for nothing but to be thrown away.

And I can’t help but think of myself like that canister of sugar. I want to be sweet. I’m supposed to be sweet. But I’ve been salty.

And something as non-life-changing as a dishwasher leaking under my favorite floor is what is tipping me over the edge. (There’s plenty of more important stuff I’m navigating, and I seem to handle that. But my floor! My beautiful floor!!)

I was mostly salty at God. I said some nasty stuff about Him to a friend. I don’t like to talk bad about those I love, and it hurts that I did.

And sometimes when I’m a jerk I think I should be thrown out like I threw out that salt. If I’m not sweet, I’m not doing my job, so just toss me in the trash.

But I KNOW that is my old mindset creeping in. Legalism. Pride. I’ve never been sweet all through every moment, and I never will be. It’s not my goodness that makes me close to God, it’s HIS.

My behavior is not going to separate me from God because Jesus’s behavior when He offered Himself on the cross is what connected God and me in the first place. It’s what keeps me connected long-term.

But I felt that old self-censure creeping in. That inability to believe I was worthy of His love when I was so nasty. That secretly He was a God who would withhold His gifts because I wasn’t being a good daughter.

So I typed a plea to a safe circle of friends asking them to pray, to help me hold onto Truth and not give into the old thought patterns. I wrote, “I know know know that God’s blessings are not dependent upon my perfection. I know that He forgives freely . . . I have been really angry with Him and acting like an entitled jerk. I’m struggling to get over my anger and to also to believe what my head knows, that I was forgiven for the awful things I said to and about Him even as I said them.

I know if one of my kids talked that way to/about me I would have been really hurt, yet I expect God to just take it from me and still open the floodgates of heaven and help me. It seems wrong.

Then I wonder about grace and unconditional love, and I suspect the root of my struggle is actually about not opening my heart to this grace, to this forgiveness, that my self-censure is returning to old crap . . .”

And one of my friends replied with the Truth and grace I already knew but struggled to receive, “There is NOTHING you can say to Him that hasn’t already been said. NOTHING you can do that hasn’t already been done. Peter argued with the LORD all the time. Paul was a murderer. David was an adulterous AND murderer. Abraham was a coward. Moses had no faith. Joseph was prideful. Jacob wrestled with the LORD to the point he had to have his hip dislocated.

“Paula, there is NOTHING God sees but your heart. It is a human heart that struggles with everyday life, yet when push comes to shove still leans on its Creator. Your relationship is so close that you can be honest with your God. DO NOT look at the Father-child relationship you have in human terms. God’s love is NEVER performance driven. Think of all the heroes we read about in the Bible and they all messed up big time. But they had one thing that the LORD loved more than anything–honesty before their King. That, my dear, sweet Paula, is what you have. Don’t let the enemy tell you otherwise.”

And so for the past two days I’ve told myself what I already know: God’s love is never performance-driven.

God’s love is never performance-driven.

God’s love is never performance-driven.

Always God’s love is mine, given freely, spilling all over me without measure. I don’t have to be a perfect child to access it. Even when I blow it He loves me.

He loves me.

He loves me.

He loves me.

And instead of casting me aside when I’m salty, he patiently remakes me into His image.

20140526_134248I baked those cakes over again, using good, sweet sugar. And they were the blessing I hoped they would be.

The blessing I want to be and often fall short of.

But GLORY-BE (southern roots showing here) like cakes I, too, can be remade.

Say a prayer for me, my friends . . .

Until next time,

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Spirit Seeker Sunday~Beloved Before

“We must resist slipping into performance mode.”

Oh my goodness! I about broke into a cold sweat just reading the title of Lysa TerKeurst’s devotion, “Well Pleased” And I KNOW better.

Much of my life was wrapped up in performing. Feeling good when I succeeded and terrible when I failed! I DO NOT EVER want to be that girl again.

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Photo By Stephen Moldenhauer

Talk about bondage!

Yet I still often have to talk myself down from performance-driven, people-pleasing, ick.

When the Father spoke about Jesus He said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” God spoke that over Jesus before He began His ministry, before He was obedient even to death. God was pleased BEFORE. Just because Jesus is His.

He is pleased with us like that, too. Before we find success on our weight loss journey. Just because we’re His. It doesn’t get any better than that.

YOU are LOVED. CHOSEN. ADORED. With YOU He is well pleased. As Lysa said in that devotional, Let this truth “fill the drain holes that leach away your significance.”

Let’s follow Jesus’ example, hanging onto our identity as BELOVED, loved forever, always, and unconditionally. Loved BEFORE we perform. BEFORE we find success.

BEFORE we are skinny.

In the identity of beloved, let’s stand strong and move forward!

How about you? Do you struggle with knowing He loves you, deeply, truly . . . accepts you, fully and completely . . . on the good days and the bad? When you feel successful and when you don’t?

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Beloved even before the victory

Spirit Seeker Sunday 6

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Let His Spirit move you like water in a stream. Fresh. Flowing. Bubbling. (Photo taken by Stephen Moldenhauer on a hike in the Colorado Rockies.)

“We are only one good choice away from being back on the path of perseverance.” ~ Lysa TerKeurst, the Made to Crave Devotional

This has to be one of my very favorite nuggets of truth on my get healthy journey.

Some days (months, years) are super stressful, and I find it hard to CARE about a thinner, healthier body, much less take action. But the good news is that my God dearly loves me whether I’m having a successful weight loss day or not. His love never changes. It is not based on my performance, but in my position as His beloved child.

Every single moment I am only one choice away from returning to my goal. It’s never to late to step back onto the path of perseverance and success. No matter how many days I ignored my goal, in a flash I can be back on track.

Whew! Talk about encouragement!

In her Made to Crave Devotional, Lysa TerKeurst talks about being raised in a culture where food equates love. I relate. My grandmother was a fabulous cook and her love language was feeding you. It wasn’t unusual for Grandma to make fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, AND stewed potatoes–in one meal. She wanted everyone to have their favorite. And she did the same things with the bread. It wasn’t enough to have homemade yeast rolls. She had to make biscuits, too, because I liked them best. And a meal isn’t a meal in the rolling hills of eastern Oklahoma without cornbread. At least at Grandma’s table.

I bought into the whole concept of loving through food. If my boys were to write a book on love languages,  instead of The Five Love Languages, there would be Six. The sixth would be cooking for those you love. Just the other night I made pan cookies at 9 p.m. just because my Seth’s big blue eyes begged. Of course since he works out a couple of hours most days and has the metabolism of a twenty-year-old, those pan cookies don’t affect him quite like they do me. Like it or not, a whole lot of the meaning of family at our house is a big meal or a home-baked treat.

While cooking is a way of loving–an act of service my sons and husband appreciate–food is not love. God is love. Being a part of His family is as simple as choosing to be His child by accepting His unconditional love and forgiveness offered through His Firstborn Son, Jesus. Because of Jesus’s act of Love on the cross, the rest of us have the opportunity to be adopted by the Father. We can be part of the family.

We can enjoy many expressions of love, including someone’s good cooking. But in our journey to know God and in our journey to healthier lifestyles, it’s important to break the idea that we can fill up our love holes with food. The only way to fill up a love hole is with God’s unconditional, always present, never wavering, fully perfect LOVE.

When He looks at us He loves us. It’s that simple.

When we throw our heart and arms open to God’s love, we are more able to go forward in all of life. In our identity as children of the King of the universe we can persevere in the hard stuff–like weight loss–and make that one good choice that puts us back on the path to perseverance. And then the NEXT good choice.

How about you?  Does it encourage you to remember that you are HIS precious daughter no matter your weight and no matter your performance? And how do you feel about being only one good choice away from perseverance?

How about sharing these thoughts with your friends?

When God looks at us He loves us. It’s that simple.

My identity is as God’s precious child; not based on my performance.

No matter what I’ve done, I’m only one choice away from persevering on the path to my goals.