An old friend…Love.

Love is not only realistic, but our only hope of survival.  -Gary Chapman

I don’t know about you, but God seems to find ANY WAY possible to get a message He needs me to hear into my hands.

Most recently, He used a silly series of events to get me to listen to a book on CD (yes, a CD…those little round shiny things!).

The book was Love As A Way of Life by Gary Chapman, the author of the NY Times Bestseller The Five Love Languages.  I have owned this audio book for several years and it was packed away in boxes from our recent move.  However, it “mysteriously” showed up on the shelf I was cleaning the other day and I set it aside…maybe I would listen to it again once school started and I end up in long car lines.

When I had to drive 2.5 hours to the She Speaks Conference, I decided to listen to the book on the drive.  I thought I had come up with a brilliant idea, when, in fact, I now have no doubt that God planned on me listening just at the time all along.

From the moment I began to listen to Dr. Gary Chapman’s southern drawl, I was drawn into the overall theme of the book…Love as a way of life.

Love…as a way of life.

Almost immediately, I realized that I was not living out that statement.  It’s not that I didn’t love.  It’s not that I didn’t ever show love or receive love.  More so, it was not my current “way of life.”  Let me explain.

In the core of our being, we tend to have a driving force.  Something that drives our daily life and sets the tone for our days.  Dr. Chapman’s book tells us that love should be that driving force.

God’s love for us gives us the ability to love.

We love because He first loved us.  1 John 4:19

He calls us to love…out of ALL the things we do, He wants us to love.  

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.   Colossians 3:12-14

So, what was my “way of life” if I wasn’t “above all, putting on love?”  Fear.

FEAR was my way of life.

And here’s the real clincher….it was a fear of love.  What?!  A fear of love?

Have you ever been hurt?  Have you ever been scared to love because you were fearful of being hurt?  If so, you understand what I am talking about.

When we are hurt, we pretty much have two options: LOVE or FEAR.  Fear is the root of other emotions we may experience after a hurt….shame, guilt, anger, loathing, resentment, etc, etc, etc.  Deep at the core of those feelings is fear.

I was fearful of being hurt.  So I was choosing to keep a perimeter that love couldn’t break through.  When we place walls around us, we create a barrier to all that love has to offer us.  

My drive to that conference was life-giving.  Listening to what “love as a way of life” looks like helped me to see that I wasn’t living that way.  Fear was standing in the way of pure and true love that was waiting to pour out of me and into me.

None of the concepts were new to me, but I needed to hear them again!  How often do we  learn something only to have a need to revisit it, especially when we are prideful enough to think “I got this?”

I strongly encourage you to read or listen to Love As A Way of Life by Dr. Gary Chapman. I pray that God will reveal an area of your life where something other than love is your driving force.

May LOVE be YOUR way of life.

www.sidebysideministry.org

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Attitude of Gratitude?

Is it really November already?

Is it already time for the busy holiday season?  I don’t know about you, but when November rolls around, I sometimes feel like a bull in the ring, blowing smoke out of my nostrils, and kicking up dust….readying myself to bust through the next two months of gatherings, events, shopping, and doing, doing, doing.

Even just writing that, I am exhausted.  I would venture to say that many of us feel this way, if we are honest with ourselves.  There are even songs written about the craziness of the holiday season.

It’s not shocking that our attitude would be like that of the bull, ready to charge!

Let’s look at the two main holidays that we are about to celebrate.  Thanksgiving.  A holiday where we gather with family and friends to show our thankfulness for the bounty that has been given.  A time to take stock, so to speak, on the blessings we have received, not only as children of God, but as citizens of a free nation.  A time to show those around us that we love them…by sitting shoulder to shoulder watching a sporting event, or chatting over pumpkin pie.

And then Christmas.  A holiday that has been taken over by commercialism, but is meant to be the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  A time to love God and thank Him for sending the Messiah as a babe, to one day save each and every one of us from our sins and bring us to be with Him in eternity.

In the next two months, we have been given the gift of time to worship God and love His people.

We can be grateful for that gift.

Are we? Coming into the “holiday season,” do we have an attitude of gratitude?  Or are we getting ready to charge through it HEAD FIRST (not HEART first!) so we can just “make it through?”  Be honest with yourself.

In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is.  This is his reply…

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We have been given an opportunity to:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love our neighbor.

In the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we are being handed a platform in order to do the greatest of the commandments!  What a gift! But do we have an attitude of gratitude?  I’ll go first….I don’t!  I can sometimes go into this season with a dread of what is to come.  And that mindset-that dread-will color all the things I do and all the encounters I have.  What a shame.

I don’t want to do that this year.  I want to change my attitude!

I want an attitude of gratitude!

I want to be grateful for the time that I have been given to do God’s will….to love Him and His people.  I want to truly worship Him for what He has done in my life.  I want to wake up in the morning with a grateful heart and a yearning to love the people around me, even and especially the ones who are so very unlovable!

Will you join me?

Let’s do this!  Let’s enter this holiday season with an attitude of gratitude!

In the comments below or on our Facebook or Instagram page, share with us how you will make that shift in your attitude.  Let’s help each other…spur each other on, encourage each other to have an attitude of gratitude this season.

www.sidebysideministry.org

 

 

 

3 Important Ways to Prepare for a Storm.

So, in case you hadn’t heard, Hurricane Irma paid us a visit last month.  Only shortly after Hurricane Harvey made a devastating visit to our friends in Texas.

Storms happen.

Plain and simple.  Storms are a part of life, literally and figuratively.

Now, I could write for days on how to prepare for a literal storm, since I just spent hours and hour researching about what we needed to do in preparation for Irma.  But I feel called to focus on the figurative storms in life.  The ones that have nothing to do with “mother nature” and everything to do with our heart.

How can we be prepared for the storms of life?

Is it even possible to be prepared for a storm when you feel blindsided by one?  I believe it is possible.

So, here are three questions to ask yourself in order to see if you are prepared for a storm:

1.  Where is God?

Is He the center of your life?  Is He the one you turn to when things go wrong?  Are you making decisions in your life based on what He tells you through the Bible?

Be honest with yourself.  You are not preparing yourself well by fooling yourself.  If you are a Christian, you “know” the right thing to say here. But is is a fact in your life?

Or is God being placed lower and lower on your priority list?  Are you having to remind yourself to spend time with Him, only to find at the end of a long day that you “couldn’t find time.”

When your relationship with God is solid, that is a firm foundation that no storm can destroy.

Having God placed at the center of your life is VITAL to being well-prepared for a storm.

2.  Where are you?

Look around you.  Are you in a “good place?”  When I am not doing well mentally, I will say to Steve, “I am not in a good place.”  What I mean is that something is off…something in my life is causing everything to falter.

So, where should you be? What is a “good place?”  Well, that is different for each of us.  I will dare to say that much of my good place depends on the answer to my first question, Where is God?, in my life. But there are other factors, too.  Is there a sour relationship occurring?  Do I have work piled up that I have ignored or been too busy to get to?  Have my husband and I had quality time together?  Is my time being spent wisely? Am I surrounding myself with like-minded, godly people?  Do I feel mentored as a parent or wife or ministry leader? Do I have people in my life that I trust and am accountable to? Am I enjoying life, truly enjoying it?  Are my healthy desires being met?  Am I achieving goals?  The list goes on and on.

Think of it this way…if you are going to have to stay in one place for an extended period of time while a storm rages outside, you want it to be a nice spot.  No one wants to hole up in the gas station bathroom during a storm.  Ick.  We’d all prefer to be in a comfortable home, preferably with a huge generator and a stocked pantry.  It changes how you experience the storm.

Where YOU are–good place or not so good place–changes how you experience the storm.

Don’t stay in the “gas station bathroom” place.  Make the changes necessary in order to be in the fully stocked comfortable home when that storm hits.

3.  Are you ready to do what it takes?

This is huge, friends.  Are you ready to truly do what it takes to not only make it through the storm, but thrive in the middle of it?  This takes grit and determination.  It takes humility and grace.   It usually requires forgiveness and sacrifice.  It always requires faith. 

The answer to this question is also dependent on the answer to question #1 and even question #2.  With God, all things are possible.  Without God, it’s super hard and even impossible.  And if you are in a bad place BEFORE the storm, it’s even more difficult to rally strength and perseverance once the storm hits.

When a storm comes, there is so much to focus on.  You need to brace yourself, expect the unexpected, protect yourself from danger, protect others around you, and so on.  Then after the storm, the focus is different but still all-consuming.  So, though you may be tempted to do a quick clean-up and move on, I encourage you to stay focused on the details of the storm and what it takes to completely heal, live well and even be better than you were before the storm.

Doing what it takes requires focus and sacrifice.

When preparing for Irma, my usual schedule went out the window.  I couldn’t possibly focus on all my normal daily tasks while also taking on the added stress of preparing our family for what could have been a catastrophic storm.  Don’t get me wrong, I did the things that HAD to get done, but any extras or those items that weren’t necessary were removed.

The same thing applies with a figurative storm.  You have to dig your heels in and hyper-focus on the task at hand.  You can’t expect to keep status quo on all the other areas of your life while you are trying to battle an enemy in one area.

We speak to couples in crisis a lot.  And we have experienced many couples that have a difficult time accepting that repairing damage in a marriage requires sacrificing in other areas of life.  In this day and age, we are all so busy and lives are filled with schedules and appointments and tasks and jobs and lists and this and that.  Something has to give, friends!

And sometimes it’s the things you really like or the things your kids really like.  If your marriage counseling sessions are scheduled during baseball practice, then it might be that your child needs to skip this season.  Or maybe you need to step down from that leadership team while you sort out a family crisis.  Maybe your spouse needs to change jobs in order to be home more while you battle an illness.  You cannot continue at your usual pace and with your usual priorities while a storm is wreaking havoc on your life.  You just can’t.

I know of a couple that sold their beautiful home and moved their family of five to a small apartment in order to reduce their spending so they could get out of debt.  It is a big sacrifice for their entire family.  But the sacrifice is nothing compared to the peace they are experiencing in the decision to rid themselves of the weight of financial burden.

Prioritize.  Be ready to do what it takes.

God will lead you.  The Holy Spirit will prompt you to what needs to go or stay.  Listen to Him!  Lean NOT on your own understanding, but in ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your path. (Proverbs 3:5-6, my emphasis)

In the storms of life, we need to:

1. Keep God at the center.

2. Create a life of peace, love and joy.

3. Be prepared to prioritize and sacrifice.

Hurricane Irma was the largest hurricane in recorded U.S. history.  But I felt safe.  I trusted God and His plan for me.  I was in a “good place” where there was no room for fear.  And I was prepared for extreme sacrifice.  May it be so in the next storms in my life…and yours.

 

 

 

 

15th Anniversary Fundraiser Event Recap + Testimonials

Have you ever been on a road trip and looked around at all the other people in cars and thought to yourself…where are they going? Or where have they been? Sometimes, I will look over at a car and see that it’s the same person that was in line next to me at the last rest stop.  Or I will see that someone I passed earlier in the day is now passing by me.  We are all on a journey, seemingly going along on the same path in the same direction.  But when you look closely, though we travel along simultaneously, we are having vastly different experiences at varying paces.

Recently, we shared Side By Side: Our Journey From Hurt to Hope at our 15th Wedding Anniversary Fundraiser.  Nearly 150 people experienced our story and learned more about the future of our ministry, Side By Side.

 

Looking from the outside, you would see many people in the same room having the same experience.

But each and every person in that room was in a different place in their own personal journey.  So, their experiences were completely different.  Just like the cars on the road traveling next to you.

In the days following our event, we have heard comments from many of the people that attended.

It’s amazing to hear how they receive the story of our journey based on where they are in their journey.

The story we tell is “our journey from hurt to hope.”  Well, the people that came to see Side By Side are all over the spectrum of that journey from hurt>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>to hope.  People tend to gain different insights from our story based on where they fall on that spectrum.

From a godly couple that has come to Side By Side three times:

“Our marriage is better since being introduced to Side By Side.”

From a couple that viewed it on video when headed for divorce (and now have seen it live, too!):

“If it weren’t for Side By Side, we wouldn’t be married.”

From a couple that has been married over twenty years, and seen Side By Side twice:

“God shows me something new each time.”

From a ministry leader seeing it for the first time:

“It’s like Christian Broadway!”

From a couple experiencing marriage difficulties:

“This was life-changing.”

From a single woman:

“I can apply much of what you talk about to any of my daily relationships.”

Every person at our event was in a different place in their journey….all over the spectrum from hurt to hope.  As we shared how God has worked in our lives, He was working in theirs.  He uses our mess, on a daily basis, to speak to people and show them that He has a beautiful plan for their life, no matter where they are on their journey.

So, how did our event go? (People have asked us that a lot in the last couple weeks!)  It went exactly as God intended it to!  We shared our journey and, through God’s providence, spoke directly to each person in the way they needed to hear it.  For some, God used our story to make radical changes in their lives.  For others, God helped people to see how they can support Side By Side.  For us, He faithfully reminded us of His goodness and His love and His grace.

Thank you to each journey that was represented that night.  We pray that we are all journeying on God’s path toward the HOPE that can only come from Him.

 

 

Ask Me Anything?

Yes! Ask Me Anything!

Ask Me ANYTHING!

At a Side By Side event, we share our journey through song and story.  But, after that, we also provide a time called “Ask Me Anything” (AMA).  The audience that just viewed our presentation is able to anonymously text in ANY question they like and we do our best to answer it. Continue reading

A night like no other.

Last night, we shared Side By Side at Calvary Chapel-Boca Raton.  To say it was a blessing would be an understatement.  In fact, the blessing started long before last night.  Only God could orchestrate this event.  Here’s the story.

Continue reading