Our First Love

I spent some time with my mom recently. (She lives a few hours away.) She has Alzheimer’s. As I approached her, the caregiver leaned toward her and asked, “Do you know who that is?” One more time I was blessed with her frail words, “It’s Teresa.”  And I whisper thanks to God.

At some point in our visits, I scoot my chair close to her wheelchair, wrap my arms around her and rest my head on her shoulder. Sometimes she brings her hand up to mine, and I feel like she’s holding me. I know that doesn’t make sense . . . Her touch simply represents the strength of her love over the years.

When I arrive and before I leave, I turn her chair to face me, look into her eyes, smile, and tell her how much I love her. Each time, I feel like I’m held in the moment, as I look into her blue eyes. Her words are few these days, but she still speaks love through those eyes. She always has.

A little over a year ago, a traumatic incident almost took Mom’s life. As a result, she was hospitalized, non-communicative, and only briefly opened her eyes to then sleep again. One night while I sat with her, she began to murmur, so I put my ear near her mouth. She never opened her eyes, but her words became clearer as she repeated this prayer over and over again, “Jesus make thou my heart humble; Make it humble unto thine.”

Jesus is always with us. Our prayers respond to His presence.

As much as I wanted to help her, I was comforted to realize she was being held by the One she needs.

Hard stuff is woven into the fabric of Mom’s life—just as it threads through yours and mine.  God was her Go-To and her First Love . . . and I trust Him, that He still is. Often she would say, “I know God must be tired of hearing from me.” Her words spoke instruction and inspiration.

Our First Love is the One who first loved us.
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4.19)

Our primary go-to is the one we trust most, the one whose love we believe above all others.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4.19)  In all that we ask for, God first gives our truest need—Himself.

As we spend more time with the One who first loved us, He grows us aware of His love for us. He becomes the one whose love we depend on, the one we trust above all others. Our First Love becomes our primarily Go-To.

Dear God,
May the truth of your Word—that you first loved us—permeate our heart, this day. Thank you that you loved me long before I was even born. Your love for us never changes. No one can love us like you. Help us draw nearer to know you as our First Love, our greatest love. Amen.

The Power of a Smile

dsc01540Picture this. Your child or husband glances your way or walks in the door—and smiles just at you. It’s a moment, fleeting yet formative. We love our family most, so it makes sense that their smiles are of greatest value to us. So, this means that our smile is of greatest value to them.

It’s a moment, fleeting yet formative.
It is one way that we encourage and build one another up. Our facial expression carries influence to a child’s heart. Throughout the day, a child receives all sorts of messages – at school, among siblings, on the bus, among peers at an event, at a sleepover, or on social media. The warmth of our smile helps wash away the film of the other messages. We communicate value.
When we’re in a challenging season with a child, a smile says, “I love you no matter what.” It’s a tangible way to demonstrate and distinguish that our dislike is toward the challenging issue at hand, not the child. When we smile, God’s love shines through and stirs relief in a child. When we smile, we invite nearness. We extend grace. We love.
dsc01529At different times God has gently shown me the absence of my smile toward Terrell or our children. I’ve realized this mostly happens when I’m distracted by a circumstance or busyness. It’s so easy to unintentionally move through a day in our home without a smile, even though these are the very people we love most on this earth. Thankfully, God is our help in all things.
“A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face” (Proverbs 15.13, The Message)
The key to a cheerful heart is our personal relationship with Jesus. He knows that daily circumstances can give us emotional whiplash. In the Old Testament, David wrestled through hard relationship challenges, yet God was his focus and this relationship sustained him. His gladness was in God and his countenance displayed this.
“I bless the LORD who gives me counsel:
     in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices…”  
(Ps. 16.7-9a)

dsc01525Our desire to smile rides on the condition of our heart. It’s easy to smile when we’re happy,  when good or encouraging things happen. But when disappointment, discouragement, or disobedience color the day, it’s hard to muster such desire. Our optimistic-tank is drained dry. God knows. Like David, we can “set the LORD always before” us. With God at our right hand, we will not be shaken. We can smile because God is good.

Dear Jesus,
I want my relationship with you to be more. I want my gladness to be found in You—and then overflow to my family. Thank you for your love. Amen.

The Greatest Inspiration to Obedience

DSC00150Love is the greatest inspiration to obedience.

I look over my life and see plenty of disobedience – toward my parents and then also toward God. I loved my parents and I knew they loved me. I love God and know he loves me. So, why did I disobey as a child and why do I still struggle to obey God as an adult?

My heart is deceitful above all things. When I read that in Jeremiah 17.9 for the first time, I thought, Wow, that’s a strong statement. I didn’t want to accept it – but my heart proves it over and over again.  I don’t know how a hurt, offense, disappointment, or personal desire will influence my heart and my decisions. I don’t know today what personal struggle of obedience I may have next week.

God knows. He knows the hurdles ahead and the hardships of our past. Through all of it, he works. We need God’s love to stand on, to be wrapped in, to hold on to, and to call us to obedience.

DSC00153We are being made. From the inside out, God shapes you, me, and our children. His work is in our heart. Our heart bends toward who or what we love most. Our decisions reflects who or what captivates our heart. The same is true for our child.

“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3.18b)

Each opportunity of obedience provides practice for us to respond to God’s foremost command: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6.5)

God knows this ONE submission will inspire us to GREAT OBEDIENCE.

DSC00157It’s just so hard for us.
But, it’s not too hard. “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you…” (Deuteronomy 30.11) God commands what he knows we can do – with his help. The more we know him and embrace his love for us, the more we love him and want to obey him.

As we experience God’s great love and practice obeying him, we learn how to love and discipline our child.

Video #8 is about discipline – and how we can be God’s vessels to help our child learn to obey. Will you join me for 13 minutes?