To Love Like Jesus Loved

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I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately, as have a lot of us, I imagine. And my thoughts have led me to Jesus, how he would love, what he would do if he were walking among us today. I’ve thought of several stories of his life, how he walked among the unbelievers of his day and my mind wandered to the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery.

I’ve printed the whole story here because I think it’s important.

John 8:1-11

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

When I thought of this story I thought of myself, 16 years old, unmarried and pregnant. In ancient times, Jewish people could be stoned for a lot of offenses. Yes, for being gay, or having an affair, or being 16 and pregnant. If I lived in those times, I would be dead and so would my beautiful daughter Amanda. That was the law. The law is unbending and unforgiving. The law brings death. God gave the law to the Jews so that they could see that they could never follow it perfectly and were in need of a Savior. A Savior who brought grace into the picture. He didn’t nullify the law–he simply turned the law around and made it a mirror. They had to look at themselves and realize that they also were law-breakers.

When the mirror of the law is held up to me, I have no room for throwing rocks. When the mirror of grace is held up to me, I see how very much I’ve been forgiven, and I would be a hypocrite to hold others to a higher standard.

The answer is and always has been Christ. He set such an amazing example to believers of how we are to walk among unbelievers. He broke bread with those that were considered the worst sinners of the day. When he was with them he showed in action and in words that he was the way to life. He bent low and washed the feet of his disciples during the Passover dinner (John 13) just before he was crucified. But he didn’t only wash the feet of the disciples that loved him, he also washed the feet of the one who betrayed him.

That’s love. Serving others, especially those that don’t believe. Someone who is an unbeliever may never listen to anything I have to say, but if I meet their need and love the way that Jesus loved then I have a chance. I’ve heard stories of our missionaries in Nepal who are ministering tirelessly to those injured in the earthquakes there. And there have been people who have come to Christ because their needs were met. The question is can I lay down my pride and wash the feet of someone who needs it?

So, how did Jesus love? Matthew 26:39 says, “39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus didn’t live for himself, he lived for others and died so that they could be reconciled to God. Being fully man and fully God, he knew exactly what he would have to suffer in order to do that. That’s why he prayed if there was any possible way to avoid this cup of unbelievable suffering let it be taken from him. And then he suffered because it was the only way.

Fear, futile arguing, insults, hate: those aren’t the ways of Christ. Those are the ways of the ruler of this world. Love, prayer, humility, bending low: those are the ways of Christ.

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

The message of the cross is sacrificial love. Bending low. Humbling ourselves. Not making our opinion the most important thing, but making the Great Commission the most important thing. One way to bend low is to look up. Look up and see the people around you that need Jesus. They need to know that Jesus loves them and died for them so that they can be reconciled to God. So that they can be a recipient of this great grace that we as believers have received. So that they can walk in freedom. Not freedom to sin, but freedom from sin in this life, and freedom from the consequences of sin in the life to come.

I’m Back

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So, I’m back. I have to say that after months of quiet it’s really hard to get a blog post out. I’ve talked with Travis about it and knew it was time to write again but about what? It seems like the first blog post out of the gate should be meaningful and great and profound and…that’s too much pressure. So, for my first blog post I want to leave you with this.

To all of you that are struggling right now with circumstances that are stretching you to the breaking point remember this,

“Let us hold tightly without wavering

to the hope we affirm,

for God can be trusted to keep

his promise”. Hebrews 10:23

Currently I’m struggling with severe neck pain and I have been for almost 4 weeks. At the beginning of this year the Lord gave Travis and I a clear word about some areas that we were going to see breakthrough in this year. One of those areas was my health. So far this year I’ve had surgery and I’ve been out of commission for nearly a month with my neck. But that doesn’t mean his promises aren’t true. The surgery was part of my healing and I expect that going to the chiropractor is too. Why? Because I know God’s character from reading the Bible and from experiences in the past that he’s brought us through. And what I know to be true is that He is trustworthy- always. When things are really hard and we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, He is trustworthy. In sickness, in finances, in relationships He is trustworthy. In everything. Whatever He promised you and regardless of how long it’s taking, He is trustworthy. He will bring His promises to pass.

I’m really glad to be back :)

Amy

In With the New

I’m pretty sure that I have finally fully made the mental and emotional transition to our new city and our new house. I went shopping with the girls last night and as I stood next to my car waiting for Halle to get out I realized that everything felt familiar instead of strange and new. I actually really love our new city. It’s tiny for sure but the upside is that I can get anywhere in town within 10 minutes. And since I can get to Target in less than 10 it’s a big win for me.

I mentioned in my last post that we’ve had a lot of overnight guests since we moved in and I joked to Travis that we should start calling our house the Button hotel. Trav’s brother and his girlfriend visited last week and next Monday the Button hotel will be abuzz with Trav’s brother and family, my parents and Amanda and Daniel- 13 people in all.

In our last house, which was less than half the size of this one, we had ten people total for Thanksgiving. We also had less than half the bathrooms that we have now so everybody had to be very considerate to make it work- and everybody was. I remember hearing, “I’m about to shower, does anybody have to use the bathroom?”, being shouted several times a day. I also remember all 10 of us being together in the tiny living room at the same time. We also had dinner seating for 6 at the most so one year the kids ate Thanksgiving dinner out on the patio- thankfully it was a warm Thanksgiving. And last year at Christmas Travis stood up and ate Christmas dinner. He was a good sport about it but it wasn’t ideal.

This year we have an actual dining room! I’d been using it as an office and thought about making it a seating area since we don’t have a bonus room (we have everything else we wanted plus some). Travis works from home at least once a week though and since we also homeschool it’s too noisy for him to work downstairs. We also decided that we really needed to use the dining room for dining. So it was time for a dining room set.

I’ve been an avid Craigslist shopper since we moved into our last house. It was the perfect way to get the furniture I needed with a tiny budget. I’ll admit though that I’d grown weary of taking out the seats in the minivan and moving heavy furniture out of someone’s house and then lugging it into mine. Maybe I’ve gotten lazy. I also didn’t find the perfect combination of function, price and likeability. I did find a vintage set that I loved but it only sat 6 and I wanted a table that would seat at least 8. After Travis and I measured the dining room to see how big of a table we could buy though we determined that we could seat a maximum of 8. So we went shopping!

And found this…

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I liked it because it was formal but not too formal, traditional but not too traditional. I think it’s because the backs of the chairs are straight rather than curved. We looked at less formal sets but since the dining room has wainscoting and hardwoods we felt we needed to go with something more formal.

I really like the way it looks in the dining room.

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It’s a bit of a bummer that when it was delivered there was a decent gash in the top. Thankfully, without my even asking, American Signature is sending a new one. So far I’m really impressed with their customer service.

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I love that we got a buffet at the same time because in addition to being pretty, it also serves as storage for tablecloths and homeschool supplies.

I was also able to accessorize a bit. I knew that I wanted a pop of color in that room (my eyes are kind of tired of blue) and found the picture of poppies on sale at Kirkland’s for $35 but it was another 40% off so I feel like I stole it at $22 (with tax). I got the light gold mercury glass candle holders at Ross for about $6 each and I let the girls pick the candles at $5 each. The lantern was a super-awesome housewarming gift from my aunts. I love it and I’ve wanted one for forever. So, even though we bought a new set I was able to accessorize with bargains.

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The room also serves as a place for Chloe to do her school work. In the last house the girls were always fighting over table space which added to my stress level. Now each girl has their own table to work at, it’s such a blessing.

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I think I’m ready for Thanksgiving.

Little Bits of Happy

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I’ve decided that lofty blogging goals are going to be impossible in my current life season. We returned from a much needed vacation last week then our oldest daughter flew in Friday, my parents drove in, our youngest daughters have been sick and were kind enough to pass it on to me, a college friend will be staying with us while she’s in town and we have a conference, church and meetings all weekend. We are sprinting toward the end of the year.

Oh yeah, we homeschool too!

I’m thankful for all of it (well, except the sickness). I’m so happy that our house isn’t just for us. Travis and I really wanted whatever house we bought to be big enough for people and for whatever ministry God called us to. So far we’ve had people stay with us and have had at least one party so I think we’re off to a good start.

In light of all of this and because I want to keep blogging as a hobby, I thought I’d take the house stuff in manageable, bite-sized pieces. Which also means I don’t have to wait until my house is completely clean before I write :D

Today I’m focusing on the fireplace and mantle.

When we were looking for a home I was convinced that only a wood burning fireplace would do. I love the smell and the crackle of the wood burning but I’ve actually become very fond of just flipping a switch to start a fire. We still have a fire pit so I can have a wood fire outside. The benefit to me is that I don’t have to deal with cleaning up ash inside.

I’m not sure that I love the configuration of the TV and the ugly chair needs to go (I’m almost serious about it this time since it’s gotten less comfortable) but that’s how things will stay for now.

I don’t expect the house to be completely personalized for a while. It made me crazy at first to have to live with beige walls… okay it still makes me crazy. I’ve got too much going on though to paint right now. Which is why I chose teal curtains for the living room. A splash of color helps my psyche.

Until next time,

Amy

Finding the Good

Travis asked me a few days ago if I was ever going to write again. Of course, I immediately took that as a challenge because that’s what my type A personality does. I informed him that I was already working on a blog post but I hadn’t published it yet. So there. I’m sort of kidding. I know that he asked just because he likes to read what I write. It’s nice to have a husband that is also a big fan of mine.

I’ve thought and sorted and thought some more about what to write because I imagined that once I did write it would be a great post about the house with pictures of what we’ve done- and I’ll get to that- but if I’m going to be completely honest, this move has been a much more difficult transition for me than I thought it would be.

I loved living in Franklin. Anyone that knows me well knows that about me. Living in Franklin was the closest to home that I’d felt in the years since we left Florida. The historic homes and buildings were what I loved about my hometown in Lakeland. For years my family attended church that was a 30 minute drive from where we lived and since there was no interstate to make the commute faster, we had to drive through the center of town…a lot. Four times on Sunday, twice on Monday and twice on Wednesday. I never, ever tired of driving around Lake Hollingsworth with it’s big historic mansions. I loved taking Success Avenue past the historic Mediterranean, Foursquare & Cottage homes. Through downtown I could see historic hotels, some had been converted to assisted living and another was full of homeless people until it shut down and was later refurbished and reopened but I always thought they were beautiful. I tend to see things for what they could be rather than what they are presently.

When we moved to Franklin I loved it. Once again, every Sunday, we were driving through the historic district to get to church. Franklin has a decided advantage over Lakeland in the lack of crime and I always felt safe walking there. I instantly felt at home. We’d already lived in Tennessee for about 7 years and although I had really tried to, I hadn’t felt at home before we moved to Franklin

So why didn’t we stay there? Well, after years of living in a house that was way too small, that was older and needed so much expensive work, I was tired. We were tired. All of us, even the kids. The real estate market had gone up drastically, very quickly, which was good for us in that we were able to sell our house but we weren’t going to be able to go up in space as much as we felt that we needed to for the price we wanted to pay and we definitely didn’t want another fixer upper. We prayed about it, of course. We talked to our leaders at church, we talked to our Realtor- who also happens to be a leader at our church- we talked to friends that we love and respect their advice, & we talked to our parents. We didn’t want to make a mistake because real estate mistakes are expensive and can bring a lot of misery. Been there, done that. So, having talked (a lot) and having prayed (a lot) we decided that we were going to move to Spring Hill.

And you know the rest of the story, we found an amazing, brand-new house that had everything we wanted and a lot of things that we hoped for but were sure we wouldn’t get. It’s truly amazing. I’ve said to some friends that it’s like God peeked inside my head and put everything I wanted into our home, stuck a bow on it and gave it to us. Just the space alone has made so many things easier for us and I have been so thankful.

We’ve hosted my parents and friends and Amanda and Daniel have already visited and we had room for everybody. Travis and I remarked over and over about how much less stressful it was to have four extra people stay in our new house. There were plenty of bathrooms and bedrooms and we could have everyone in the kitchen at the same time and still have room for more people. Our home is beautiful. We have granite countertops and wood floors, a fireplace and front porch. Our yard was fenced in before we ever moved in so Daisy is safe, the neighborhood has sidewalks and a swimming pool. It has everything that I said I wanted and more.

So imagine my surprise when I started waking up depressed.

I never thought that a new house would make me happy. I was pretty sure that a new house would make some things in my life less stressful and I was right about that. It’s much less stressful to have a garage and closets to store things in. It’s much less stressful because when I open a closet door, nothing falls on my head. But I’ve known for years that the thoughts of, “if only” were nothing more than a diversion. If only we were out of debt, if only my house were bigger, if only…add whatever you’re struggling with here….my life would be better. “If only” keeps us from facing things inside of us that need healing, it keeps us from facing our misery head on. So we sit and stew and focus on the big things that we think are making our lives miserable instead of the root of the problem. I can say this because I used to live in the land of “if only” and it never helps.

Okay, so “yay” I was right. My house didn’t make me happy but I can say with all certainty that I didn’t expect it to depress me. So, I did what I always do.

I mentally freaked out.

For days and days I tried to figure out why in the world I could possibly be depressed. God had moved mountains for us. He sold a house that I was convinced we would never be able to sell and had given us everything that we wanted. I had no right to be depressed and I told myself that over and over and over. I was being ungrateful. Except that I knew I was thankful for everything and for where God had brought us so that couldn’t be it. But maybe it could. So I tried to forget about it. And I didn’t want to get out of bed. So I told myself I was being lazy. Over and over and over again. It was a merry-go-round of misery. I read my Bible and I prayed but I didn’t feel like doing either thing. I was crabby and irritable and I wasn’t sleeping- again. I wondered what terrible sin I’d committed that would cause me to be in such a funk. I looked for things in my neighborhood that would make me feel at home. I walked and took pictures and was determined to find something, anything that would help me not feel so out of sorts.

The walk actually really helped.

Something else that helped was taking a walk with Travis through our neighborhood and just talking to sort it out. When I’m depressed I’m very quiet. If you’ve followed my blog through the years you could probably pinpoint when I’m happy and optimistic and when I’m depressed or dealing with big things just by how often I write. I’m not a terribly mysterious person. Although if I’d just talk it out I’d make things much easier on myself.

So, Travis and I talked and talked and walked and walked and imagine my surprise when he brought up the subject of possibly buying 5 or 10 acres and building a house at some point in the future. Wait, what? I suddenly had permission to dream again. This house wasn’t the end of the road. If Travis thinks of wanting to do something else in a few years, then maybe I’m not being ungrateful for feeling hemmed in by houses and a privacy fence. Maybe it’s okay for me to dream of someday having my own orchard and a couple of goats.

Then for Labor Day we had some friends over that hadn’t seen the house yet. These people are so dear and went through every single bit of drama with us last year. The old house’s remodel, Travis getting laid off, us trying to figure out where to move, and they fasted and prayed with us for the sale of our house. During the course of the evening we talked and laughed and we also prayed for each other. At the very end of the night, I don’t remember how it came up, I was very honest with them about how difficult a transition this has been for me. And I was so surprised to hear my friend say that she had been concerned about that for me. I said that it shouldn’t matter because Franklin is only 20 minutes away, I can still visit, but I was actually depressed and didn’t want to get out of bed. She told me that she’d experienced the same thing when she moved. She told herself that she was moving from a small town to a small town but she still cried when she went to the grocery store. In that moment she gave me permission to feel sad that I’d moved away from a place that I loved. Suddenly everything made sense and I felt a giant weight roll off of me.

It wasn’t complicated or mysterious anymore. I’m a girl that misses her adopted hometown. That’s it.

I don’t let myself feel sad, angry, disappointed, etc. without spending a whole lot of time berating myself for having “bad” feelings. My feelings were an indicator that something was wrong but because I’ve been trained to believe that every feeling that isn’t happiness or joy is of “the devil” it kept me from getting to the bottom of what was actually wrong. Because something was wrong, I was sad. Denying it, rebuking it, trying to pray it away didn’t do any good. Understanding that we made the right decision to move here, for all the right reasons hasn’t exempted me from the consequences of that. Consequences is a word that’s typically taken as punishment, ie, “you disobeyed and those are the consequences” when all it really means is, “a result or effect of an action or condition”. We moved to Spring Hill and I’ve had to deal with sadness because I moved away from Franklin.

So why would my first blog post after I move be about this? I can’t say anything other than I felt like I should write about it. Because I’m never the only one. I like to think that I’m completely unique but I struggle with the same things that everyone else does. And also so that I’ll remember the next time I’m in a situation like this. I should have called someone and been honest about struggling. But honestly, everyone was so happy for us that I didn’t want to bring anyone down. I also didn’t want to be the woman who just wasn’t going to be happy no matter what. I didn’t want to be called ungrateful or deal with being reprimanded over feeling sad- yes, that’s happened before. I felt pressure to be only happy and whether or not that was justified I felt that way anyway. I’m writing this so that next time I can pray about who to talk to about it because God knows who I needed in that moment and for every other moment. I had no idea that my friend and leader would understand that even though I was happy and excited and thankful about our new house I could also be very sad about leaving Franklin. But God knew and even though it wasn’t part of my plan to talk about it, it was part of His plan. And I honestly don’t feel so sad anymore. I’ll keep looking for the good and I have no doubt that I’ll find exactly what I’m looking for.

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