Love Languages and God

The other day my dad called my mom while he was on his way home and asked what the family wanted for dinner. We couldn’t decide on a place, as usual, so he made the decision to go to Chick-Fil-A. My mom and I shrugged and agreed and my brother nodded.  Then Dad asked what our orders were. Peter smirked and said “if you know me, you’ll know what I want,” and my first thought was oh, here comes a blog post! My dad was flabbergasted since Peter tends to change his order pretty regularly. I stepped in and said “Spicy chicken sandwich, no pickles,” and Peter smiled at me. “You know me.”

Later on, the family and I were sitting around the table with my dad passing out our orders from Chick-Fil-A. Dad started getting picked on since he didn’t get our orders 100% correct – not that we had exactly told him to get well-done fries, diet Dr. Pepper with no ice, or bar-b-que sauce. We just decided that he should know those were our extra requests. “I think I know why it bothers me so much that Dad didn’t know what I would have wanted to drink,” I said. Everyone looked at me with a puzzled expression.

This incident had me thinking about our love languages. My dad looked hurt at our comments, my mom was frustrated, and I was disappointed (Peter got exactly what he wanted because I ordered for him). “It’s because my love language is Gifts,” I said simply.

“What does that mean?” Peter asked. My dad also gave me the same puzzled look and I could tell my mom was trying to figure out where I was going with it.

“Well… there is this book I read called The Five Love Languages. It helps you learn how to make others feel loved. My language is Gifts. That means I like receiving something that makes me feel like you thought about me when you saw it. Or you knew I would appreciate it. So to me… when Dad didn’t get me something I would like, I felt like he didn’t know me enough.”

Peter nodded and looked over at our dad. “What’s his love language? And mine? And Mom’s?”

“Dad’s is Words of Affirmation. He loves being told he’s appreciated. So when we tell him how we’re not pleased with something he did for us, it hurts him more than it would hurt us. ” I went on to explain how different and similar we all are, according to the book, and how knowing each other’s language helps us all feel like we’re known and loved. Peter smiled after I explained and nodded. “You really do know me. You spend a lot of that quality time with me.”

 

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After dinner I started thinking about God’s love language. Is it gifts too? People used to offer their harvests to Him, and now we tithe in His name. That counts as a gift. Or maybe His language is quality time. We are supposed to seek a space to be alone and dedicate time to him. Could it be acts of service? He has called us to work for His good, to spread the gospel, to be His light in the world. Surely it’s not physical touch…although He heals us with a touch and we can feel His presence.

I think I’ve settled on my answer. He is all of these languages. How could He not be? We are made in His image. We never have to say “if You knew me, You would….” to Him because He knows us intimately. He is pleased with us when we spend time with Him, praise Him, do good in His name, offer Him gifts, and seek the presence of His Spirit. Since we tend to give others love based on our own language, He accepts our love in each way. He also gives His love in each language. He offered His son for our sins. He spends time with us when we seek Him. He performs miracles. He gives us the warmth of His presence.  His Word guides us and tells us how much He loves us. And since He loves us all equally, no one language is worth more than another. Psalm23_64

What is your love language? If you don’t know, you can go here and take the quiz: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/.

Do you agree with my thoughts? Let me know!

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Women are bombarded every day with different ideals of beauty. We are told that sexy is a thin girl in her (overpriced) underwear walking down a runway with fake angel wings. We are told that you must have a certain bra size, waist size, hip size, a thigh gap, ribs that can be noticed when you stretch, collar bones peeking through…you get it. We are told that if you don’t belong in the last two sentences, that you better have a pretty face. You should get your eyebrows done, have perfect skin, take at least 45 minutes to do all of your makeup, have long nails, long hair, long legs…you get it. You also have exude confidence, even on your worst days. Even when you’re told that you’re not sexy, you’ll never be sexy, so you should settle for cute but chubby.

Guys have it too. If a man doesn’t have a chiseled jaw line, broad shoulders, six-pack (or more) abs, thick muscles in his arms and legs, that “V” line on his  hips…. I swear I already see the girls nodding and picturing this hunk…you get it though. If a guy isn’t that, he isn’t lusted after either. Guys are told that they have to work out a lot to be attractive, even if they’ll never obtain the Hollywood body. He has to be funny, smart, not too nerdy and obsessed with video games. He also has to have a good job that pays well and makes you proud to be with him.

You might like a guy or a girl who isn’t those things. And if you do, great! You might be married to him or her. But you can’t help but carry the baggage of feeling like you don’t measure up to society’s standards. Or they carry the baggage and the weight of it in your relationship and it is really starting to do damage.

In high school I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I was so critical of every mark on my face, every ounce of fat, every hair out-of-place. Every girl I knew was the same way. And we sought attention, no, we sought confirmation of our value from guys. If a football player stared at us for a second we immediately tried to get more of his attention. If a “scene” kid was interested in us, we became “scene.” We wore tight clothes, revealing clothes, heavy makeup, whatever it took. We molded ourselves to whatever we thought others wanted us to be. We did whatever it took, or almost whatever it took. Some people died to achieve society’s standards. Some people felt so alone, so rejected because nothing they did to feel beautiful worked, so they ended their life or attempted to. Maybe that was someone you knew, maybe that was you.

I have carried this baggage, these heartbreaking issues, for a long time. My soul has felt so heavy, my whole body ached for relief. It wasn’t until I was worn out from trying to mold myself for someone else that I read this verse with the right mindset:

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

Psalm 139:13-14, NKJV

He formed me. He covered me. He placed every hair, every birthmark, every nail, every muscle, and more. He didn’t do those things on accident–He did this meticulous work on me because he wanted me this way. I don’t have to try to mold myself to be anyone or anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we can’t color our hair (I do it all the time) or have piercings, or get tattoos. That’s up to you. I’m saying we need to take pride in ourselves, in who we are at this moment in time.

Do you feel overweight? Work out to take care of the body God gave you, not out of obligation to some superficial standard. Give me some workout ideas! I want to join you. Do you like putting make up on because it makes you feel beautiful or because you want to accentuate the beauty you already have? Go on and highlight those cheeks, line your lips, add some fierce wings. Tag me in your Instagram photo @anamercy . Getting a tattoo? Are you doing it to hide something or because you’re proud of something? Show me your favorite ink, tell me the story behind it. Putting crazy colors in your hair? Are you doing it because you want to cover up your mousey-brown hair or because you love purple and think it’s fun?  Send me pictures, tag me, I want inspiration.  Whatever you do to yourself, do it because you love yourself, not because you think it’s what society youareneededwould want.

Our beauty isn’t determined by what others think of us. Our beauty was predetermined by the one who looks at you with pride–the one who loved every inch of you while you were safe inside your mother’s womb. I look in the mirror now and smile at myself. When those thoughts of doubt, of low self-worth come creeping in, I stop them by remembering that God created me in His own image (Gen. 1:27), and that He loves me just the way I am. He loves you too.

Father,

Thank You for creating me. Thank You for my smile, my eyes, my ears, my nose. I thank You for the things I once wanted to change. You know how hard I’ve been on myself. You know the tears I’ve cried over wishing some part of me was what society said was beautiful. I know now that You find me exquisite. I know that You look at me with love and with adoration, the kind that Hollywood says I should search for in some guy. I know You place so much more value on me than I place on myself. I know You hurt when I don’t love how You made me. I strive to keep Your Word in my heart and on my mind. 

God, thank You for making me wonderful and marvelous. Amen!

Are Christian and Christianity Just Words?

 

The other day I was asked what the word Christian means. And it stopped me for a second before I was able to respond. A Christian is “simply” someone who believes  God sent His only begotten Son to earth, so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. A Christian believes  God’s Son’s name is Jesus. A Christian believes  Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. That Jesus then took the punishment we deserve because He loves us that much. That three days later, He was resurrected and told us that it was our turn to step up. That we should share what He did. And because of what He did, we have the ability to have an unbelievable relationship with God. That is Christianity.

I then heard “so everyone who says they’re a Christian believes that?”
And the answer was no. Some people say they are a Christian just get people off of their backs about religion. Some people say it because they want to have something in common with other people. Some people say it but don’t understand what it all means.
Then, there are some people who are afraid to say it. They are afraid of being lumped in with people who are bigots, sexist, racist, and more. They are afraid of this perceived notion of what Christianity is, of who Christians are. Or, they might not feel that they are a good enough person to call themselves a Christian. We have this notion that we need to clean up our act before God will consider liking us.

Being a Christian doesn’t automatically make you a good person. Actually, there is no true “good” person anymore. The one good person who lived and breathed on earth was Jesus. So stop putting people on pedestals because we will all eventually fall off, and you will be the one hurting more for believing in people instead of Christ. You could technically be a horrible person and God will still love you as much as He loves  Mother Teresa. You could technically believe in Christ and go to heaven but still be a mean, greedy, selfish person. There are no strings attached to salvation.

However, when you truly believe in the sacrifice Jesus made, it changes your heart. The love and hope that God provides settles into the cracks of your soul and heals it. It’s not a forced change. God doesn’t want to force you to do anything. But, when you are feeling that good, it’s hard to hide it from other people. It’s hard to want to keep it to yourself. When God is working in your heart, you will notice the hurting happening in the world. You will want to help. God will guide you to where people are if you are open to it. He won’t force you to though.

That sting in your heart, the ache in your belly when you see something horrible happening, that is God. That fire inside of you, wanting people to unify and act out against horrible occurrences, that is God. God loves you as much as He loves the people who hurt you. God loves the victim as much as He loves the culprit. When you do something wrong, that small twinge of guilt in your head or your heart is His heart breaking for you and the person you wronged. I believe it’s the hardest part about Christianity, about being a Christian. You don’t get loved more than anyone…but you also don’t get loved any less.

 I still can’t listen to how Jesus was crucified without crying. Without feeling the weight of my sins being nailed into Him. Without feeling the breathtaking release of knowing that I’m forgiven because of it. I still struggle with feeling worthy of such amazing love. Christ loves us fiercely. He is waiting with open arms for us to turn to Him and accept His love. His heart breaks for every extra second it takes. And the most amazing thing is that He doesn’t want anything from us. He doesn’t want us to clean up our act before we ask for help. He doesn’t want us to hide anything. After you come to Him your slate is wiped clean. Your purity is restored. Your addictions are broken. Your healed.

That is what being a Christian is. It’s knowing you’re a mess but trusting Christ to clean it up for you and guide you to your next step. It’s beautiful. And telling other people about being a Christian is Christianity. It’s letting them know that they don’t have to feel alone, be afraid, or stay on the pedestal.

Lord,

If anyone is curious about You, I ask that they open their hearts and thoughts to You. I pray that they accept the love, peace, and understanding that only You can give. Lord, I ask for your healing on everyone who is hurting. I ask that You continue to place them in my life, that I can continue to spread Your love to everyone I can. I know that I’m just one person, and that I constantly ask You for things. I know that I sin every day and to people watching I am not the best Christian. I thank You for Your mercy, for Your sacrifice. I am so grateful that You love me more than I could ever imagine. And I’m so thankful that You love us all the same.

Seven Times Seventy

I’ve been wanting to write about forgiveness for the last two weeks. Okay, that’s a lie. I haven’t wanted to write about this which is why I haven’t posted in two weeks. It’s been heavy on my heart and I’ve been struggling because I don’t think I’m really one to talk.

It’s a difficult thing to do, to forgive someone who has hurt you. How do you know if you’ve truly forgiven them? Do you just accept the apology and stay friends? Sometimes you know that the friendship isn’t healthy for both parties, but if you don’t stay friends did you really forgive?

The answer is yes. You don’t have to maintain a friendship just to forgive someone. You can part amicably and never have the cloud of unforgivingness over your head, or even worse, the resentment toward them in your heart.

What happens if you forgive someone, but they continue to mess up? Do we forgive even after they come to us asking for forgiveness for the fifth or twelfth time? In Matthew 18:22, Jesus says, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” If you don’t have a calculator handy and are as terrible at math as I am, that looks like this:

7 x 70 = 490.

Jesus says to forgive someone four hundred ninety times. Now, should we attempt to keep track of how many times we’ve forgiven someone?

What if Jesus did that? What if, throughout our entire lifetime, God was counting the amount of times we apologized for our sins? Do you realize that God views all sins on the same scale? We as humans don’t. We feel certain issues are worse than others. But it’s all a sin against Him. Jesus did not die on the cross to only save us when we lie, cheat, or steal. He forgives murder, abuse, and rape. He was on the cross, telling His Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Those people hadn’t even started to ask for forgiveness. They were dividing Jesus’ possessions instead of apologizing for crucifying Him.

I know forgiving someone who has hurt you is hard. It doesn’t matter what the deed was, how easy it should be to get over it or not. If you claim to love the Lord and trust in Him, you need to forgive. “For if you forgive men for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14–15).

Onto part two of this struggle: Accepting Forgiveness.

 I thought forgiving someone was hard. I thought that trying to move past sins committed against me was hard. I thought writing about forgiving others was difficult. Admitting your own struggles is more difficult. Nothing is more humbling than realizing you are wrong and having to apologize. Nothing is worse than someone telling you that you are forgiven but you still feel guilty. You still walk around feeling that nothing you do is good enough. That you’ll never be forgiven entirely. That what you’ve done is too big of a deed to ever be completely forgiven.

For me, it’s not something that I’ve done against a friend or a stranger. It’s something between God and me, as a result of things that I am working on forgiving others for. It really calls into light Matthew 6:15, “if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins.” I have lost sleep praying and crying. I have spent days in bed, not feeling strong enough to get up. This guilt, shame, and hurt just hangs on my heart, holding me down.

I’ve recently started going to church again. I thought everyone would just know what my shames are, what my fears and struggles are. But they didn’t. They welcomed me and I thought I could just keep hiding things. But God’s been working on me, more like in me.

The messages I’ve been listening to keep repeating in my head. I’ve opened my Bible more times a day in the last few weeks than I have in the last twenty years. Verses that I’ve heard in church before, so many times, are still being repeated—but I’m understanding them now. And on days where I’m feeling so low that I wonder if I really have any worth, that I’m afraid of not being valuable, Scripture starts running through my mind by the grace of God. Matthew 10:29-31 (my favorite Bible verses) says,

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear. You are more valuable than many sparrows.”

And 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

“What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are not your own? You were bought with a price.”

Our God sent His only Son to die for all of our sins (John 3:16), not just the minor ones. We have to accept that the Jesus who forgave those who crucified Him is the same Jesus who forgives us. Then, we have to release that guilt that burdens our hearts and live.

Lord, 

I pray that whoever reads this can have a sense of peace in their life, over their struggles and hurts. Lord, I know I have a lot of growing to do. I know that I am not perfect in any sense of the word, but I ask that You help me to accept Your forgiveness and that You help me forgive daily. Every time resentment stirs in my heart, every time the same people apologize for the same mistakes, I will forgive and move on. I will not carry guilt or shame in my heart after I lay my troubles out to You and seek Your forgiveness. 

In Your name, amen.