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Hello Friend,


Every once in a while my husband will come up behind me while I'm sitting at our kitchen counter to give me a hug. I do a quick two second adjustment - I sit up straighter, suck in my tummy, and adjust my lounge pants to disguise my lil muffin top. My husband hates when I do that, but I do it anyway. And then I giggle a little.


We women have all sorts of tricks to pull things in, tighten things up, and gird ourselves. There are girdles, spanx, sports bras, firming creams, and plastic surgery. We exercise to firm up from the inside out. (And by “we”, I mean you.) Not only that, but we often do the same to our hearts: we protect them, put up walls to keep them from being hurt, and often hide what’s deep inside of them. The firmness of my own heart was recently brought to my attention, but more on that later.


When I was younger, I wasn’t concerned about wiggles and jiggles and firming things up. That was true of my heart as well. My heart was soft and free. This could be seen in the way I played with my Barbies. I would spend hours weaving stories of life, birthday parties, and love. My Ken doll made a fine prince/hero in spite of his arms falling off during wardrobe changes. (I blame my sisters.) I faintly remember “borrowing” my sister’s plastic horse for Ken to come riding in on. Oh, the fantastic adventures we had!


The whole fairy tale scenario, a sentiment many of us shared as young girls, seems to be tarnished or removed altogether by life over time. But I wonder if God is the one who originally placed all those blissful ideas in the core of our soft youthful hearts. Are all those familiar fairy tales evidence of yearning for His story?


Reminiscing about my youth stirred something deep down in my heart. And Jesus met me there. I thought about our story, and my heart caught sight of His vast love for me and became full. The Prince of Peace loved me first. He came for me. He rescued me.


And then those “firm up” thoughts came back saying, “watch those feelings and don’t get too emotionally carried away!” (Say what?!!!) Logic/intellect, wounds from human love, and not wanting to get our hopes up shadow the extravagant love that is God. I felt my heart get all spanxed up again. Humph.


That whole experience opened my eyes and showed me the condition of my heart. How often do I come before God with my heart protected? We tell ourselves we need discernment and wisdom when we go about our daily life. We need to protect our hearts, so we aren’t tossed around by feeling alone. And our faith needs to be based on more than just emotional encounters, as our hearts can be deceitful. I get that. But do we take time to uncover and free our heart when we come before our Lord? I now realize, I don’t always.



Our hearts are safe before God. We can let them breathe, feel, be full, and be free before Him. He can handle our emotions. He wants to touch our hearts, guide them, and heal them. He also wants to pour His love into them. I’m trying to uncover that childlike heart once again, the one that easily receives love from my Saviour.


The following is the first and greatest love story. It’s true. It began before time, and it will exist for all eternity.


Jesus came from another kingdom to enter into our fallen one. He took on human form in order to be able to step into our domain as one of us. He saw us first and loved us in our tattered peasant’s garb, scrubbing floors, covered in dirt, and smelling like sweat and other foul things. We didn’t have to get all dolled up and masquerade as a princess to catch His eye. He knew what condition we were in when He left His kingdom, and Friend, He still came.


...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 ESV


Every choice Jesus made on earth reflected the reason He came - to give us abundant life. Every day of His life was lived in light of His mission and His love for us. He pursued us while we were in our pitiful state, imprisoned by our sins, and sentenced to death. Our sentence wasn’t a case of mistaken identity or the innocent being put on trial. We deserved it. The object of His affection deserved death. Instead of looking into our prison cell through those iron bars and telling us good-bye, He took our guilt and death sentence upon Himself, freeing us. The rescue plan included Him suffering excruciating pain and a horrific death on the cross. Jesus knowingly agreed to the terms.


With every great love story, there is always some drama, miscommunication, or misunderstanding. (Have you ever watched a Hallmark movie?!!) That is the place many of us get stuck in. It’s hard to fully grasp God and His love. We might officially be righteous “princesses” now, but we still have peasant tendencies and mentalities that need to be worked out. Throw in a very real villain who is out to destroy us and our relationship with God, and it’s no wonder that sometimes we have problems opening our hearts to Him. Thankfully, we are not alone. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to keep us company and help us in this (and in so many other ways) while He went to make a place for us. And like the wonderful ending to all those beloved fairy tales, our story will also have a “happily ever after.” We will spend eternity together, and we will finally see God, Jesus, this relationship, and everything else as they truly are.


For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. I Corinthians 13:12 ESV


Until we get to that point though, remember: we have a book of letters from Him, the Scriptures. God wants us to know Him, His heart, and the future plans He has for us. He wants us to know Him with our minds AND our hearts - to seek Him with both while we wait for Jesus to come again. In the meantime, NOTHING will separate us from His love.


For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 ESV


Maybe this letter seems a bit mushy or over the top. It did at first to me, too. But that’s okay since we are talking about God’s love towards us. It’s greater than any human love we have experienced. If we aren’t overwhelmed by it, shocked at the weight of it, or overflowed by emotion every once in a while, something may be wrong - our hearts may be bound. So in closing...


You have been pursued, fought for, suffered for, and yes, died for. Jesus lived His life in such a way as to open a door for a relationship with you. You are cherished, loved, and known. He has asked you to enter into the greatest love story of all time, the one between the Almighty God and you.


If you have accepted His invitation and entered into a loving relationship with Him, take time to let your heart be soft before Him. If you haven’t accepted His invitation, but would like to, it’s easy. Take a moment to talk to God. In your own words acknowledge your need to be rescued from your sins, and acknowledge that He is the One who can do it. Tell Him that you accept the invitation to be His. Then thank Jesus that because of Him, you are now washed totally clean. You are new. Invite the Holy Spirit to go with you on this new journey, filling you, guiding you, and helping you. Then rejoice! You have just become a citizen of His kingdom! You are His.


And someday Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will return on a white horse.


Your fellow rescued princess,

Candace


P.S. There are many songs God has used through the years to help soften my heart. And there are numerous songs I have serenaded (worshipped) Him with. Two songs came to mind when I wrote this letter: “Just to be with You” by Third Day and “Oh How He Loves You and Me.” You can find them on YouTube. What are some songs that have become part of your love story with God?


Dear Friend,

Last week, my son stood in front of me and stated, “I am your shield.” He then began circling me tightly. His sister joined in, and I found myself being orbited by two laughing kids. I finally said, “Enough!” and had to get off the ride. This momma doesn’t do carnival rides as well as she used to. But I left that ride contemplating my son’s words. They echoed what God had spoken to my heart only days before.

Shortly after joining First Love, I came across Psalm 115. What grabbed my attention was the repetition I found in verses 9-11:

“…trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.” NKJV


This greatly encouraged me as I knew I was going to need help in this new endeavor - help from Joelle and Sarah and help from the Lord. For one thing, so much is done online. To many of you, technology is like speaking your native tongue. For me, well, it feels like (actually it IS) a middle-aged woman trying to learn a strange second language all the while forgetting the intricacies of her first one.

As I chewed on these things spoken to my heart, something else stood out. Saying someone is your help and shield (and meaning it!) is a bold thing to say. If I told my husband I was his shield, it’s hard to say which one of us would burst out laughing first. If I “shielded” him from anything, he would have to spend the next week nursing me back to health.

If you have children, you can fully relate to the following: my kids have “helped” me on numerous occasions. When they were younger, their “help” resulted in more work for me and minor mess explosions (“I’m helping Mommy!”). To truly help someone, you must know what their needs are and how to aid them. You also have to possess the capability to help and have access to resources.

As for the “shield” part, we are in a battle whether we want to be or not. Blows are coming. Having a shield is great and all, but if it isn’t between you and the battle, it’s just an extra burden to carry. It has to be in the right position and able to withstand the coming onslaught. It’s worth mentioning that even with a shield absorbing the majority of the blow and keeping us from destruction, we may still feel the impact of the attack or be knocked to the ground. But God will absorb enough of the attack so that we will not be destroyed.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. II Corinthians 4:7-8 NIV


Psalm 115 was making a bigger statement about God than I had originally grasped. God intimately knows how we need help and which battles we are individually facing. He IS our help. He IS our shield. We CAN trust Him.

Know that as you step into a life committed to and led by God, He will help you and shield you as you take your place on the line where He has called you.

Helped and Shielded,

Candace

P.S. How many times as parents do we help and shield our kids without them even realizing it?


Dear Friend,


Thank-you for letting me join you and Joelle on this journey. I was excited when Joelle told me about First Love and what God has laid on her heart. It spoke to me in a big way. Let me explain… This year I found myself feeling distant from God. I was surprised and frustrated as I was in the Word A LOT! I was teaching Sunday school and leading a Bible study, but I didn’t feel close to God.


In time I realized I was studying God like a subject. I had forgotten about relationship. I had lost my first love. Not only had I done this in my relationship with God, but I had done this with my husband as well.

How about you? Do you walk around with the title of “wife” or “Christian”? Do you have a mental list of all the things a good wife or believer should do? Wash the dishes – check. Pray for the kids – check. Everyone has clean undies and socks in their drawers – check. Went to church – check. Was affectionate to my husband – check. Opened the Bible – check. And the list goes on.

Some days we do a great job crossing things off the list. We accomplished wonderful things for God and our family. That’s a good day, right? So why does it sometimes feel like something is missing?



Sometimes we get so focused on fulfilling a role and doing what’s right, we forget the reason we signed up for that position. We forget about the love that drove us to commit to our husband or to Christ. And somewhere along the way we find ourselves committed to a role and not a person.


Does underwear still need to be cleaned and put away? Yup. Do we still need to feed the fam, wash the dishes, and pay the bills? Definitely. Do we need to avoid lying, cheating, stealing, etc…? Uh, yeah. Are going to church and reading the Bible great things to do? You better believe it. But when they become the relationship or when a list full of checkmarks displays how well this relationship is going, then something is off kilter.


I’m reminding myself that my husband and Jesus are my best friends. Do I treat them as well as my best female friends? I don’t have lists I check off for my girlfriends. I’m trying to see my husband as not just my husband, his role to me, but as a man I’ve decided to walk beside and do life with. He’s a real person with thoughts, feelings, frustrations, preferences, and individuality. We’ve been married long enough that a reminder is needed every once in a while.


We both may be believers, but I get to have my own personal relationship with Christ. I’m trying to remember it is about relationship, not rules, religion, or serving until a state of exhaustion is reached. I get to spend time with and get to know God Almighty. How exciting is that!?! I’ve been a believer for a number of years, so every once in a while a girl needs a reminder.


Remembering the relationship,



Candace

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