Saturday, May 27, 2017

What Love is Not - Getting to the Root

     Christians and non-believers alike are all keenly familiar with 1 Corinthians 13. The LOVE chapter. Usually gracing the middle of wedding ceremonies, the list scrolls: "Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres". There are so many lessons in this text! What is this envy which challenges Love? What is this boasting which damages love? What does a protecting love look like? How can we persevere in Love? How do we do it all?!

 
    
     Recently, I have been mulling over the five words "Love is not self seeking". What does it mean to be self seeking? Is it really just selfishness...wanting your own way all the time? As believers (and hopefully mature adults...;)), it is kind of understood that we won't be going "gimme, gimme, gimme" all the time. We should not be hearing of major tantrums when someone takes something we wanted. We shouldn't be irate when someone gets a position we wanted -- whether it is on the Worship team or a position at our job. Where the Spirit of Christ is working, there should be an offering of preference extended to others. We SHOULD be going out of our way to show graciousness, mercy and generosity. 
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     BUT. What I HAVE been thinking on are the sneaky little self-seeking thoughts that so often tiptoe their way into our minds. The thoughts that unconsciously can take root and grow into a stubborn weed. When someone says something with a "tone". When someone wears something we deem 'inappropriate' to church. When we see someone who seems to be better friends than we are with people. When we compare ourselves, our relationship with Christ, our physical appearance, our ANYTHING with others. When we get our feelings hurt. When someone makes a mistake which we think "foolish". When we see others with SO many more gifting than we see within ourselves. Note that I said WHEN....not IFWe are going to encounter each of these things. Someone WILL offend us (just go get on Facebook..aheh...). Someone WILL have a 'tone'--whether intentional or because of life stress spilling over into our conversation. Someone WILL be more "gifted" than us. We WILL get our feelings hurt. (We're human! and we aren't in Heaven yet!) ;)


     I, personally, am realizing more and more how sensitive *I* am. I am a conflict avoider, which makes me even MORE aware when there are undertones in voices or in situations  (I'm talking beyond "natural introverted quietness"). When this happens, I fold. I curl up in a ball inside and try to hide. I shut down because I feel helpless to fix things or I assume major guilt for problems I am not a part of. I don't want to get my heart hurt and so I put up a protection of silence. I have found that sometimes I withhold my opinion or my thoughts because someone might be hurt by the Truth...or they might reject ME. Jesus, in His INCREDIBLE kindness, has deemed it quite time to weed this out of my heart. PRAISE THE LORD! I never realized what it fully looks like until we recently had a series of several conflicts. I felt like my eyes were opened up to the way that I respond--which may seem harmless to the outside, but it is actually quite painful to those around me. I was putting myself first by intentionally shutting others out. "I won't let you hurt me" was the foundation I laid, brick by brick. Word by poorly timed word. I was seeking myself first.

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     As the Lord has been healing my heart of some past wounds, I feel like He is re-teaching me the foundations of Love. Jesus Himself is LOVE---complete surrender to the Fathers will, ultimate giving of His entire life, and choosing to continue caring for us even while we were (and ARE) so unable to repay our debt. His love...His LIFE never was self-seeking. He never shut down when others hurt Him. He knew the Father. He knew where He stood in the Father's affections. He knew His Father's heart. He knew the Scripture. He poured out. He prayed. He walked in the Spirit. He healed, He encouraged, He challenged, and He never STOPPED. 


   So....I've been working on two new lists. I'm calling them "Lists of the Heart". Lists that we, especially as proclaiming Christians, need to fully grasp. If we want the World to actually SEE Jesus, WE have to get out of the way. We have to stop tearing one another down. WE have to make a decision--we have to stand against this. Self-centeredness has no place in the body of Christ. 


"Love is Not"
-Love is not defensive. 
-Love is not suspicious. 
-Love does not assume. 
-Love does not intentionally withhold affection. 
-Love does not withhold Truth. 
-Love does not accept a "defeated mindset" because it is not focused on winning. 
-Love is not self-centered. 
-Love does not build walls. 
-Love does not shut out or down.
-Love does not show partiality. 
-Love does not doubt. 
-Love does not rejoice in other's failures...or missed opportunities. 
-Love does not challenge harshly. 
-Love does not mock. 
-Love does not "lord" over another person. 
-Love is not vindictive (revengeful). 
-Love does not lash out in anger.
-Love doesn't harm. 
-Love does not gossip (speaking ill of another's character, even if "it's true")

"Love IS"
-Love is a defender -- a defender against the lies of the Enemy.
-Love seeks to address conflict without tearing another down.
-Love encourages -- when someone is struggling, Love comes alongside and says "lean on me".
-Love THINKS WELL of others -- even if evidence may suggest otherwise, Love CHOOSES to believe well
-Love GIVES affection without counting the cost. 
-Love generously shares the Truth, in kindness.
-Love shares the burden
-Love is Christ-conscious, eyes fixed upward instead of on self. 
-Love tears down walls and opens the door to all who would come in. 
-Love chooses to accept, unbiased
-Love rejoices in other's success!
-Love builds up others -- in courage, peace, hope and FAITH. 
-Love serves. 
-Love CHOOSES to forgive...not because they FEEL like it.
-Love pours out. 
-Love does not keep tally on favors. 
-Love speaks well of others. 


     What I want, what I REALLY want, is to fully grasp this. I want all of us to grasp this. What would it look like if we weren't satisfied with addressing only the outward signs of selfishness? What if we actually humbled ourselves enough to stare that weed in the face, and then have the Lord begin to remove it? I want to live out Corinthians. I want to shine the love of Christ--by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the thing is, we CAN'T do any of the above without the help of the Spirit. There is no physical way we can choose selflessness when selfishness comes naturally! But the most amazing thing is that "the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5). God has shown us incredible, selfless Love. In turn, He has given us the Holy Spirit, not only that we might walk in righteousness and LOVE, but so that we might also show HIS love to others. We love because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). It is not just a check list. "oops. I need to work on my patience today". The fruit of the Spirit--or the "evidence" of the Spirit at work--is something that comes as we grow in Christ...as we put to death selfishness and self-centeredness. The Spirit at work within us is shown as we are earnestly pursuing Christ, listening to His voice, reading His Word, and seeking to love others as Christ does. We can't conjure up (and maintain) a life like Corinthians on our own strength. But that's the beauty of Christ. He knows that. :) It is the reason Christ died for us--because we can't save ourselves and we can't make ourselves perfect. But we can believe Him at His word, putting our trust, our hope, our life, and our salvation in the hands of Christ. 

So, friends, pursue Christ. Walk by the Spirit. Choose love--real, selfless love. Even when it's uncomfortable. Even when it seems like that person is unable to love you. And on the days where you stumble, look to Christ. Because "I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" ( Phil. 1:6). By the power of His Spirit and for His glory!

In Christ, 



Saturday, April 8, 2017

All Things New

I have started about 15 blog posts since December....or whenever it was that I last sat down and wrote something. As a friend reminded me, it's been a while since I put something up in my own corner of the world. Now here we are....having landed in April. Life has been a bit of a whirlwind since that last post in December. New seasons of life, new struggles, new joys, new opprotunites to grow. I've been doing what I do best--keeping busy! Working, taking a few classes at TFC, baking, Bible Studies, crying out to the Lord for healing in some health issues, adventures, making trips down to Southern Virginia to keep up with my Grandma, and continuing to pray for the Lord's direction in my life. Like I said....typical Dumaresq schedule. ;)

I'll share a few highlights, considering it has been a while since you have heard from me:


 March 4 Life in Washington D.C. with our Church Family (CrossLife Community Church)



Afternoon Adventures



Holding Babies in parking lots (Abbie Brocke) and quick visits with Rachel <3


Farmer's Markets and new adventures!

Spring snuck up on me...not that I'm complaining... <3

 Annnnnnd...somehow...my birthday (and my mom's) also snuck up on me...*hello 24*!
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As I have mentioned, I've been pretty quiet since December. Part of that reason is that I get frustrated with myself because I so want something encouraging and hopeful to share. I want to shine my own little "light" with those who happen to read my posts. However, another part to the quietness is that the Lord told me in January that it is time for something new. Something deeper. Something needed. Something that I would need to be still and quiet for. The Lord told me that it's time to let Him touch some places in my heart which I had kept tightly bound up because I didn't know what to do with them. I am an internal processor. I stuff things down inside like a tissue box....and...apparently...a heart should only stuff so much!  I don't know exactly how much I'll share here, but I will say that a person will never realize what they carry within the little corners of their heart until the Light of Christ is shown fully in those places. I realized that I have been carrying some burdens which are not mine to bear, ignoring hurts instead of forgiving (which is an interesting thing to realize!), and trying to make everything better for those around me. But, Jesus asked me to sit still and let Him work. It is time to let HIM work instead of my feeble attempts to "always make everything better". And so....I am sitting still. :) 

Also, if you wouldn't mind praying for me, I would really appreciate it. I have had a lot of health issues over the last 10 years and I'm frequently in a lot of abdominal pain. The last month or so, it seems that I have developed stomach ulcers which...are really really painful (this is an educated guess from my doctor without any internal scope tests being done). I sometimes go to bed at night doubled up in pain and eating has been difficult. Anyways. I feel like the Lord has been also prompting me to be more vocal about what I'm struggling with because we are the Body of Christ....and I could use wisdom and prayer. :)


I have a few things on my heart which I'll be posting soon, but I just wanted to pop in and let you know I'm still alive! ;) Until then, I'll leave you with this encouraging verse from Isaiah. 

"The LORD will guide you always; 

He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.

 You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." 

|  Isaiah 58:11 |

 May the Lord bless you, and I'll talk to you again soon!

In the arms of Jesus, 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Hunting for "Christmas Spirit"


Merry Christmas Eve! I don't know if you are anything like me, but I had to look back on this year with wide eyes. This year has been HARD, y'all. So many things have happened for our family--job hunting, health issues, working on relationships, school, volunteering, deaths, beginning new friendships...I actually can't believe it is Christmas already. 
~

 Truth be told, entering Christmas season was challenging for our family. Not to mention coming right off of the...uh...swarm of election emotions. Honestly, there were a few times I cringed when I thought about Christmas approaching. NOT because I wasn't excited to celebrate Christ, but because I was looking around as people were backbiting, tearing one another down, and "unfriending"--all the while preparing to sing about "goodwill toward men" and "peace on earth"....I really didn't want to "pretend", because it didn't make SENSE. It wasn't the truth. At one point, we were so out of sorts that three of us girls were driving (being really goofy) around the Costco parking lot "hunting for the Christmas Spirit". Needless to say, we couldn't "find" it and were left laughing (and a bit dizzy!). ;)

Still, in the back of my mind this month, I've been wrestling with these questions.

Lord, how can we truly have peace when there IS no peace in our world? How can I show others the Hope I've found when even I'M struggling to have Hope? How can we cling to Joy when people have no joy? How can we rest in Your arms when it feels like we're drowning in the chaos, pride and fear of man? How can we celebrate Your birth when we are wrestling with such discouragement? How do we, as believers, show "the Christmas Spirit" of Joy?



And one of the most reassuring, awesome things I have learned about God as my Father is the fact that He CAN handle our tough questions. He can handle us. :)


~

I was really praying and crying out to the Lord for help, when He oh so sweetly reminded me of the Truth. The Truth is that despite how we feel right now--we CAN sing about the birth of a Baby, we CAN rejoice in the coming of a Child, we CAN celebrate this small form because He didn't STAY a baby. For His birth wasn't ONLY the miracle of a new life; it was the beginning of a craved Hope. He IS the Messiah. OUR Messiah. HE IS the long awaited Christ. OUR long-awaited Christ. HE IS the one in whom "nations would (and CAN) place their HOPE" (Matthew 12:21). He is the One in whom WE can place our hope. In HIM is forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14). In fact, He came TO save us from our sins--pride, fear, lust, greed, jealousy, lewdness, bitterness, adultery, witchcraft, and every thing that stands in opposition to a Holy, pure God (Matthew 1:21). He came to bear our burdens (Ps. 69:19). He IS our all in all...in the tiniest, most unassuming gift wrapping. A little, innocent child.


That's just like Christ. Humble. Unassuming. Yet SO powerful, SO true, SO unwavering, SO trustworthy, SO incredible. So very pure.

Tonight as you prepare to celebrate Jesus tomorrow and if you are finding your "Christmas spirit" lacking, just remember this. We don't just celebrate a birthday. We celebrate the birth of Hope. We celebrate the gates of Heaven being opened up to us in a NEW, glorious Way. He IS the promise of eternal life (Romans 6:23). He IS the Redeemer through whom we have been adopted as Children of God--inheritors of a Kingdom of Light (Gal 4:4-5). We celebrate the One who IS Himself JOY. We celebrate the One who IS our Peace, because no one can take Him away from us (Romans 8:31-39), Through Him, we can be freed from our burdens, our fears and our sins. Through one small bundle, so very long ago.

And in THAT, my friends, is every single reason to rest, rejoice and WORSHIP. No matter what, no matter where.

Rejoicing in Him!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Fall into Christmas

I love this time of year. That crisp morning air, newly settled frosts--that hint of Christmas just around the corner. Perfect mornings for coffee. ;)

What a crazy two months it has been. Birthdays, the Election, baking for a Vow renewal, and just everyday LIFE. My dad is on his last stretch of his "busy season". He works with Humana insurance, and October-December is the busiest time of the year for him, as people are "aging" into different plans. He makes a majority of his yearly income in two and a half months...needless to say, it can get a bit stressful for him. ;) So this busy season often becomes a "press in" season for our family. Pressing forward even when things can get hectic, and pressing on in our pursuit of Christ.

Some highlights from the last two months:

Some dear friends of our decided to renew their vows, recommitting to honor and serve one another. 
It was a GORGEOUS, simple ceremony...and I'm pretty sure every single person cried. ;)

I have a running joke with the "Groom" that it's not an event until my cheesecake makes an appearance. Thus, I got to make Carrot Cake Cupcakes (Brides Choice) and the "Grooms Choice" was "Anything that Anna makes" (aka Cheesecakes)

A VERY sweet evening, one highlight being that I got to spend a little time with my Cousin Taylor. Even though we live in the same state, we often don't get to cross paths because of crazy schedules.

I (along with my little sister and a few friends) got to try our first "race". 
 I LOVED it....and you may find me doing it again. ;)

We also chased some sunsets while house-sitting. 
No matter the states I travel to, Virginia will always have my heart.


Thanksgiving was also pretty exciting for our family. We planned to go out of town the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, knowing that Rachel would be "somewhere around the country" and not able to come home. However, Tuesday (while I was at work), I got a call saying "Hey, can you come get me tonight in Staunton?" So, I met Rachel and the Sky Family at 1:00 a.m. in a Walmart parking lot to have Rachel home for Thanksgiving! Needless to say, it was a crazy, sweet, food-filled time. We were also blessed to be able to share one last trip to the cabin with a dear friend who has (now) moved back to Kansas. 
~


And NOW we are headed into Christmas! Is it just me, or has this year FLOWN?! I'm still sitting here wondering how we got a Tree up so quickly. But on that note, as we head into this Christmas season, I've been praying that the Lord would grant to me a quiet, contemplative spirit. I really want to grasp the incredible gift we have been given--how Someone SO Holy and worthy of continual worship would humble Himself, entrusting Himself to a young "insignificant" couple. We have SO many reasons to be Thankful for our blessings that God has given us every day, but I want to really understand (again) the Glory of the ULTIMATE gift coming to Earth. A gift which we do not deserve. Jesus, the Son of God, born into flesh. A quiet, humble birth. No self-proclamation. No "pomp and circumstance". Just the sweetness of the Holy Spirit and the glorious, perfect ways of a God who cares for us. All so that WE might be free from Sin, from bondage, from addiction--with the ability to walk in fullness of Joy with the expectation of Life with Christ in Eternity. Hallelujah!

Just out of curiosity, what are some ways that you prepare for this Advent & Christmas season? Do you do a Bible study? Do you do Advent readings with your family?

Resting in the Joy of Christ, 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In Case You Forget

In case you need a reminder--a little seed of encouragement: don't give up. Don't hang your head in despair. Do not be afraid of what the future holds (even with the upcoming elections..aheh...). Don't be timid about the unknowns of tomorrow.


You are NOT alone. You have not been left in this world to fend for yourself. You are upheld, little one, in the arms of Christ--the sweetest, safest place to ever seek refuge. He is your Shepherd (Ps. 23), your Deliverer (Ps. 18:2), a husband to the widow (Is. 54:4), and a tower of Refuge. He is your safe place.


NO matter tomorrow, no matter next week, next month or next year: He will hold you fast (Isaiah 41:13). Jesus Christ will carry you through. He will carry you through this trial, this heartbreak, this illness, this death in the family, this period in History--this very day. In Him is no deceit, no lies, no shadow of turning (James 1:17). HE is your beacon of Light amidst darkness. He is your calm within the chaos. He is your peace in the middle of turmoil. CHOOSE to set your Faith within the hands that were stretched out upon a cross for you. Even when you did not know Him...He knew of you. He knows you. He knows your situation. He knows your needs. He knows the cry of your heart. What He sets before you, He will bring you through. He will bring you through your Red Sea--however seemingly impossible.



In case you forget, amidst your topsy turvey life: Jesus wins. Trust Him. Rest in Him. Let your heart find HOPE in His name. He who promises is Faithful (Hebrews 10:23). He will not fail, for He never has.

In Him,

Monday, October 3, 2016

Oh, October

And just like that, you blink, and months have hurried past in a blur. Quite a bit has happened since I had the opportunity to post! Even saying this, I just arrived home yesterday from a week in the New England area (specifically Mass. and Connecticut).

Here's what the Doomsquad (my family's nickname) has been up to--from my perspective, at least.


June begun with the passing of my Grandfather in an unexpected trip to the hospital. He was there for a few days when we realized...t reeling from my Grandfather passing away, June passed in a hushed manner. After the funeral, my family slipped away to Myrtle beach for a much needed week of...quietness.
~

Following Myrtle Beach, I snuck out of Charlottesville on a spontaneous weekend with my friend Samara for a little blessing straight from the Lord. I was so weary (especially emotionally), and the Lord ministered to my heart through my quiet times in the sweet mornings, and with life-giving conversations with this dear heart. 


~


July found us flying around as we packed in the summer activities. We spent July 4th at my grandparents cabin, celebrating our Independence with family, It was a bittersweet time, considering out last trip there was for Grandaddy's funeral. His chair just doesn't look the same without him in it.


**I will also add that it is such an incredible blessing to have a generous cousin who doesn't mind sharing his boat with our family! We have been so blessed by him and his family, as we got to watch fireworks ON the lake!**




Next up was the ThinkWell Conference. It was a fantastic week, FULL of incredible teachers (including Del Tackett from The Truth Project)--specifically for training teens how to defend their faith. Topics included the validity of the Bible, Spiritual Disciplines, Living out Christianity in Today's culture, and SO much more! Our Church is earnestly praying about doing it again next year! As Admin for our church, I was running around like my hair was on fire...but I loved it. ;)
~
July also held the CRAZY weekend roadtrip to New Orleans that my sister Charlotte and I were able to go on, accompanied by our dear (New Orlean Native) friends Catherine and Kayla. We popped off to Nashville to pick up Kayla (where she lives), and then headed down to NOLA. What a crazy, amazing, tiring, food filled weekend! I am ready to go back! p.s. Beignet Donuts from District Donuts are so worth every mile of driving. True story.  



(French Quarter, NOLA)

August found me struggling with some continued health issues. All summer I struggled with unexplained fatigue, turning colors, and feeling really lethargic. Yet, amidst my discouragement, the Lord greatly encouraged my heart and gave me strength. I found such continued JOY in my walks, continual encouragement through conversations, and felt the Lord's presence surrounding me as a shield. (August was also full of a LOT of baking)

\
(Downtown Charlottesville, Va)


Filled with the anticipation of cooler weather, September arrived like a long lost friend. Birthday's, leading a Girls Book Study, working, and caring for the day-to-day tasks...the hands of time ticked quietly by.

My reminder of the Lord's Faithfulness


Some of our favorites!


I traveled up to Massachusetts and Connecticut towards the end of September to visit some dear friends, hold LOTS of babies, and kidnap Rachel to come home for a few days! Our little Spudnut turned 16 on September 30th, so our activities were centered around gearing up for our Fall-themed party! What an incredibly sweet few weeks....and how tenderly cared for and provided for I am by my Heavenly Father. My sustainer, financial counselor, and giver of Wisdom! All my travelings, my baking projects, my surprises, my conversations--all filled my heart with the encouragement of Christ. How sweet it is to trust in Him, to press close under the safety of His wings. 


(My email buddy Korrin and I)


 There are always so many things to add--so many stories to share--but (as usual) I've probably already swamped with you with covering the TINY bit that our summer included. All I can say is...I am continually humbled at this life I have been given. Through heartache, struggles, health issues, financial struggles and doubt--Christ is there. Through joy, laughter, provision, strength, encouragement, and new friendships--Christ is there. No matter where I am, how I feel, or my circumstances, Christ IS there. He gives me the greatest, most memorable adventures. And Summer 2016 was no exception. ;) 

Here we come October!
Love, 

Furthering Friendships in Spontaneous Ways ;)