Category Archives: God’s love

Are You My Answer?

Little bird with caption:  Are You My Answer?

by Lydia Floren

Are You My Mother? is a classic children’s story about a little bird who broke out of his shell and found himself alone in his nest. Somehow, he knew he had a mother and that he needed her, even though she wasn’t there. So, he hopped down from his perch and started looking for her. Each time he spied a potential candidate (animal or object), he would ask, “Are you my mother?”   And each time, he got the same response, “No, I am not your mother.”

The baby bird continued searching until he finally encountered his mom.  Curiously, he didn’t ask her, “Are you my mother?”,  because when he saw her, he immediately recognized her.

“I know who you are,” said the baby bird. 

“You are not a kitten or a hen or a dog. You are not a cow or a Snort”

“You are a bird, and you are my mother!”

We can often wander around in our lives in search of someone or something, to take care of our deepest needs.

We don’t use words, but like that little bird, we do ask the same question over and over again, “Are you my answer?”,  or in other words, “Will you be the person or thing that will fill that big hole in my heart?”

For example, we can do this when we rely on attention or accomplishments to bolster our self-esteem. Or when we focus more on what we can get out of a relationship than what we can give.  “Are you my answer?”, we query. “Will you give me the sense of significance, the feeling of belonging I so crave?”

But no person, or thing, is able to satisfy our deep hunger for unconditional love. Only God-Who-Is-Love can do this.

“Are you my answer?”

When we ask God, His response is always the same:

“Yes, dear Child, I am your answer.  Come. Lay down your burden of shame and self-contempt. Stop trying to fix yourself.  Rest in this truth: you are completely known and fully loved by Me. God. You are so precious to me that I chose to die for you. Nothing you do – past present or future – will ever change my love for you.”

When we truly encounter God’s love, when we allow it to seep into the core of our being, we don’t need to ask. We know. He, the God-Who-Is-Love, is our answer – is The Answer – to our deepest need.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   Ephesians 3:17-19

Huge tree with tangle of roots and the caption, "Be rooted and grounded in love."

Lifeline, by Lydia Floren

Lifeline

by Lydia Floren

I have spent a lot of time, over the years, learning how to experience and live in God’s love. I have read books, scoured the scriptures.  I have prayed. And I have written articles and launched a website, and spoken to groups on this topic. And prayed some more.  You would think by now I would be living a life where I experience God’s love all the time, that it would come naturally to me. But, often it doesn’t.  Yes, there are times when I “live in the presence of accepted tenderness”, as Brennan Manning calls it.  In those moments or days, I feel like I am in a speedboat skipping over the waves, grinning from ear to ear.  My heart overflows.

But how quickly my world can shift!  I get caught up in the little things, which somehow morph into big things. Or I get blindsided, suddenly lashed by a severe storm. One minute I am atop the water, the next I am up to my chin in choppy waves, struggling for every breath. My natural reaction, of course, is to flail, to fight with all my strength to keep my head above the current.  In my panic I have lost sight of Jesus’ steady gaze.  I no longer see his strong hand just inches from my own.

My lifeline

In the middle of the tempest God often whispers (and his whisper can be very loud, believe me!)

“Give thanks.”

“What? can’t you see I’m drowning here, Father? There is no time for this.”

“I see exactly what is going on, Child.”

“Give thanks. Now.”

I have learned through hard experience that I had best pay attention to that oh-so-kind voice. To take a gulp of air and give thanks right where I am.  When I do, the whole tempest around me shapeshifts into calm. The storm isn’t gone, of course.  I have just found the calm in its center. So I begin…

Thank you…

Thank you that you are going to make something wonderful out of all of this, and work it all to good. thank you for your goodness. Your care. Your constant presence in my life. thank you that I can trust you to give me strength to do what you are calling me to do. thank you for teaching me not to avoid the fire, but to walk through it under your protection. Thank you that you are not, and never will be, ashamed of me. That you know and have covered, not only my past mistakes, but also the ones I will make in the future. Thank you that you love me more than I can imagine. And thank you that I can trust you to guide me, and protect me. 

Thanksgiving changes everything. It is like opening the valve to a fire hydrant on a hot day.  Or turning on the light in a dark room. Or…or meeting God’s gaze in the middle of the storm, and then clutching on to his hand with all my might.  Terrified one minute, and content the next.

Are you in the middle of a storm? Overwhelmed with mounting bills, a deep hurt, or a scary diagnosis? Or an oppressive sense of failure? Are you fighting for your life?

Maybe it’s time to stop reacting to the problem, and start looking toward Your Lifeline.  To quit flailing.

Take a deep breath.  And then whisper these simple words: “Thank you….”

Once you start, He’ll help you fill in the rest.

Christmas Stories

Christmas Stories

by Letitia Suk

I have a large pile of Christmas books, because I like to read other people’s stories. Usually, they center on a situation with a sticky problem. then a miraculous solution that shows up, at almost the last minute. Do you like those, too?

You and I have our own tales of Christmas, too, like the “Ghosts of Christmas Past.” Maybe not as dramatic, but no less precious. I started keeping a “Christmas Journal” about thirty years ago, as a place to hold all my stories, but the best ones I know by heart.

Some of my memorable Christmas moments didn’t start out all cozy, but more like crazy, or even disastrous. Quite a few, in fact. Sometimes, the solution was a little slow to show up. Funny, how we don’t remember the uneventful ones nearly as well!

Some Christmas memories are almost quirky.  Like my earliest and best Christmas memory is a smell:  the plastic-y smell of a new doll, as every year one showed up under the tree. I still love the smell of new shower curtains, because it is exactly the same scent!

But there are different kinds of memories we can pull up this time of year…

In the great Magnificat, or Mary’s Song, as recorded in Luke, that we read or hear every year, there is one lin, that melts me every time: “For the Mighty One has done Great Things for me, Holy is His name.” ( Luke 1:49)

“Great Things He Has Done,” wow!  I can say with Mary, great things He has done for me, too. I bet you can, too.

What great things are in your storybook? Not just from Christmas-time, but from all times of your life.

The Bible reminds us often to remember. “Only be careful and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart, as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deut 4:9)

Do you have memories of God’s power?  His faithfulness?  His provision?  Great things He has done in your family? I hope you are nodding your head.

Can you remember the first thing God did for you? I wrote about my first memory in “Getaway with God.” I’ll give you a hint, it is about a bird.

At an Advent retreat years ago, the facilitator sent us for an hour of alone time, to answer that question: What are the “great things” He has done? Turned out to be one of the most powerful lists I have ever made.

Try something fun this season, and set aside some time to name all the things God has done for you, in this last year, month, day, so far. If you’ve got a little more time, go back as far as you can.  You can even sit by your tree and sip hot cocoa while you compose your list ☺

Maybe your memories won’t end up nicely packaged on someone’s coffee table (they might!), but you can re-read your own favorite storybook anytime. It is always right at hand.

And this story never ends.

Letitia Suk, author of  Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat.          c. Letitia Suk 2016/Letitiasuk.com

Thank you, Tish, for “guest blogging” this week! Merry Christmas, all! May God’s love fill your life to overflowing in this coming year!  Lydia

The Lord is my Shepherd

the-lord-is-my-shepherd-

the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want

The Lord is my Shepherd

by Lydia Floren

This week’s blog is the first in of a series of pictoral blogs on Psalm 23. Take a moment to think about this phrase this week.  What does it mean for THE lord to be your shepherd?  What pictures or scenes make you think of the phrase “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”?  

Snap a picture, or jot a few words down, and share it with the rest of us.  It’s easy–simply post it on the Belovedlove Facebook page. (with photos, if you have time include a few words about your photo, such as why you chose it, or where you took it.)

Everyone’s eye is so different, and God speaks to each of us in special ways!  Thank you for sharing part of your world with the rest of us!

Lydia

I thank God in all my remembrance of you!

pay-attention-4x6

 

Right Now

love God and love others

Right Now

by Lydia Floren

For some time, I have been focusing on learning to receive the love of God. I am convinced that in order to obey what Jesus said was the most important commandment—to love God, and love my neighbor as myself—I must first receive God’s love for me. In fact, I believe it is impossible to obey this command without first being filled up and living as one who is beloved. The question is how. How do I live in the love of God? How do I learn to embrace God’s love for me personally? How do I accept this love every day, and fill up with it? Answers to these questions have been coming to me in pieces rather than all together. Today I have been given another piece:

Have you ever been in a “mood”? A state of mind where nothing is good or right or positive about the world, the people you encounter, God, and especially yourself? I was in such a state this morning, and after lingering there for a while, this thought came to mind:

“I love you right now.”

“Now, God? Now is not a good time to be loving me. I am crabby, having a pity party, mad at the world, frustrated with myself. This is not a good time to be loving me. ”

“Now. Now is the best time to love you.”

He is right, of course, much as I don’t want to acknowledge it. There is no better time for Him to love me and for me to accept His love than right now, because it is as I am. And because now, when I know myself to be a crabby, sorry individual is when I need His love the most. Now is when His love really does the most good, has the most transforming power. But now is also the hardest time to receive His love. I am ugly and I know it. My heart is spewing forth negativity, anger, condemnation, self-righteousness, pride, selfishness, self-loathing.

And yet He calls to me:

“Come on child, climb out of the pit of your pity party—your hopelessness. Receive my transforming love. Let go of your shoulds and oughts for yourself and those around you, and just be loved. I’ve got this. And I’ve got you. You are safe, and you are free. Simply follow me in the next step, and watch me work! “

Now.

I am not hopeless. And I am not helpless. He knows me and loves me just like I am. And He wants me to live in that love.

Now.

I do have a choice. Do I accept His knowing and loving and forgiving? Do I accept His grace? His embrace? When I do, I am letting go of the lie that I can live in joy without Him. Or that I would want to. I choose to believe He is safe. His love is there always, even (and especially) when I am at my worst.

Even now.

He loved me first.

He loves me now.

We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19 NAS)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 NAS)

Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8a NAS)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

Waking Up With a Smile

8:4:16 Waking up

by Lydia Floren

“Father in heaven, when the thought of Thee wakes our hearts, let it not awaken like a  frightened bird that flies about in dismay, but like a child waking from its sleep with a heavenly smile.”  –Soren Kierkegaard

Our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally. When we turn to God, we always have a warm welcome.  His arms are open wide. We can run into His embrace, and unburden our cares and worries, leaving them at His feet. Once we are settled and at peace, He’ll give us a big hug, tousle our head, and send us on our way with a smile.

Being in God’s presence reassures us that He is with us, and will guide us through whatever difficulty we face.

We can always turn to God with complete trust and confidence.

       When I awake, I am still with You.  Psalm 139:18

8:4:16 When I Awake

8:4:16 Every Smile

Hanging Out

6:24:16 hanging out

Hanging Out

by Daniel Floren

Dad took me to Chicago for Spring Break. It was an incredible trip full of hilarious improv, great food, and cool culture spots.

One day, I really wanted to go to a particular pizza place and check it out. I took it upon myself to figure out all of the transportation details, feeling quite accomplished as the ’son’ directing/leading ‘dad’. We got to the address, and saw nothing but high rise buildings. It was the Corporate Headquarters for this pizza spot – no where close to the actual restaurant. I was soooo mad. I spent the next hour trying to walk off my frustration. “I totally screwed it up,” I thought to myself.

The next day, after the Shed Aquarium, we had about a 4-5 hour gap with nothing to do. I turned to Dad as we looked out at Lake Michigan, and I asked him with some urgency, “Dad, what do you want to do? I don’t know what comes next, I’m out of plans, I didn’t plan well enough. I’m sorry, but we have some free time. How can we redeem it to make the trip worth the money? What do you want to do?” He looked at me and just kind of half-smiled in amazement, shaking his head. He took a second. “Daniel. This. This is all I want. Just spending time with you.”

In that moment, a number of curious things clicked into place. I looked at Dad’s shirt. It was the TKA Elementary School shirt from when he was my soccer coach. Yesterday he wore my high school football shirt, and the day before that a TCU polo. The point was always to spend time with his son. All of the gifts and adventures of Chicago were just a nice backdrop for hang-out time.

I have always come to God asking, “What do you want to do?” With my life, my marriage, my job, my friends, my day, the groceries, this very second…

Strangely enough, I think the answer has always been, “We’re doing it!” Christ wants to hang out and commune with me and love me! By the very nature of turning to God and asking, “What do you want to do?” we’re there! We are now talking and hanging out! Before I take another step toward anything, I’ve got to first realize that that is the most beautiful thing. We’re just there already. His Grace met us there and his love keeps us there. All of our purposes and plans must be in context of just hanging out with the Lord. Then, without any pressure, we can go grab pizza.

Patience

Perfectionists are  a restless lot. As a perfectionist-in-recovery, I am no expert on patience.  Impatience?   Now that is something I know well.

Much of my life I have lived in the world of impatience.  I am impatient for a project to be done, for people to hurry up and catch up, for the house to be perfect, my kids to be perfect, my husband to be perfect., and– most of all– for ME to be perfect.

Every perfectionist is really hard on themselves, and I am no exception.  I try-I really do-to correct all my imperfections, to achieve the elusive status of “perfect,” for once in my life.  (I wonder what that might feel like?)  Occasionally I get close, and have the momentary sense of satisfaction before the all-too-familiar restlessness returns.

I am learning that perfection is such a hopeless goal, and it is so unnecessary:.  The truth is, I am already perfect.  God through Christ has made me that way.  My  job is to claim perfection for myself, not to create “perfection” in myself.

Patience grows in the soil of contentment, watered by thanksgiving. From belovedlove.org

Patience takes root when I quit focusing on self-improvement.  In fact, it really flourishes when I quit focusing on myself altogether, and

  • I give thanks for God – His character, wisdom, kindness, honesty, integrity, and
  • I give thanks to God, for His enormous love for me and every other person on the planet.

Patience thrives when I am thankful to God for His infinite patience with me, and for teaching me – slowly and surely – to be patient with myself.

Patience grows in the soil of contentment, watered by thanksgiving.  And as I turn my face toward the warmth  of God’s Love, that patience blossoms with Joy.

Overcoming Fear

3:16:16 Overcoming Fearby Lydia Floren

I have discovered that I can carry a lot of fear around with me. I have a fear of failure, fear of being rejected or disrespected. I am afraid of loneliness. Sometimes I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes to make and keep heartwarming, life renewing relationships. I am afraid that I am “not enough” (whatever that means), and I am afraid that I can’t fake it well enough to keep others from finding out. My fears can alter my reality, and change the way I respond to people and situations. Here’s how:

I beg
And I can act on my fears, by trying to be good enough. I try to

  • please people
  • grab attention
  • compete
  • do the best I can to be lovable

I beg for the love and acceptance I need so desperately. I am like a little kid whining for a treat.
But the few crumbs I get from others don’t satisfy my gnawing hunger.

I steal.
When my fears overwhelm me I start believing the worst: no one could ever really love me. And desperation sets in. My response?

  • Escape: I immerse myself in a project, or eat lots of chocolate, or withdraw into a book.
  • Retaliate. I get-angry-and-get-even by manipulating, or just snapping someone’s head off.
  • Complain. I steal other people’s joy by criticizing or complaining.

I steal peace and joy where I think I can find it.
But the glitter is not gold.

I hide.
When I am afraid, I tend to focus on myself: I try to

  • Protect myself so I can’t be rejected or hurt in the future.
  • Insulate myself with popularity or position or competence.
  • I keep others at arm’s length so they cannot know my weaknesses and hurt me with that knowledge.

But my hiding place is not safe, or secret.

There is a better way.

Overcoming Fear
There is a better way to be validated, and free from fear. It requires that I do something counterintuitive. I have to choose to quit looking at myself, and instead choose to look up.

When I take my eyes off my situation and start focusing on God, it changes everything. God is the most scary-smart [He makes MENSA look like preschool], wealthy, important, powerful person in the universe. And He loves ME. He cherishes ME. He considered me highly valuable, worth paying the price of His son’s life. He has adopted ME into His royal family. His secret service protects me 24-7.

There is nothing to fear.

My identity, value, belonging, and calling are secure. Nothing and no one can change these – not even me. Nothing anyone else does or says can alter this inner person that I am in any way. I am a precious, unique individual. I am loved. I belong in God’s family. I have a calling: to encourage and love others in my own unique way.

When I am not afraid, the world looks totally different, and I respond differently.

I quit begging for others to validate me with their attention, respect, admiration. I come out of hiding, because I am 100% safe. I stop trying to grab a cheap imitation for joy wherever I can find it, because I have already received the real joy of being completely known and loved.

I start serving. I just want to help others to see their unique precious identity, value, belonging and calling. I want them to know the safety of living life under the protection of the God of the Universe, who loves them much more than I ever could. I am aware of God with me, and want nothing more than for Him to lead me, and empower me to love those that cross my path.

Once I am deeply and completely satisfied  in the waters of God’s love, I can really live. My cup overflows.

Let the joy begin!

Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6

Newlyweds

2:11:16 Newlywedsby Lydia Floren

Have you ever spent time around a pair of newlyweds? Over the Christmas break, all we Florens had the privilege of hanging out with the freshly-minted Mr. and Mrs. Andrew and Monique Graaff. Andrew (or Aundrew as we like to call him) and Monique were married December 17, at their home in Johannesburg, South Africa. After spending a week honeymooning in Durban, they buzzed back home for Christmas day, and then, the next day, got on a plane to come visit with us. They had been husband and wife for a total of 8 days!

All the kids were home for the holidays, and, by the time they pulled up to our house, we were in full Floren mode. (I know, this makes some of you cringe.) Movies, football, games, teasing. Intense discussions. Friends stopping by. Lots of laughter. And of course, food – massive amounts of food.

I am sure that Monique was overwhelmed by all of our Floren-ness. Andrew, on the other hand, acted like he never left, at least when he was interacting with us.

But Andrew was definitely different. Settled. Smiling. Tender. Happy. I’ve never seen him so happy!

It was easy to see why. Monique is special. She is gentle and strong, and sensitive and friendly, smart and talented. And she is beautiful (stunning, in fact). But her beauty is so much more than her physical features. Monique is one of those rare individuals who has learned to receive God’s unconditional love, and she shines with that love (as well as the love of her adoring husband☺).

Newlyweds are in their own little world. Not rude, by any means. Just set apart. Andrew and Monique called each other “My Darling.” They exchanged tender glances. Andrew brought Monique coffee in bed. Monique served Andrew lunch. They snuggled and cuddled, and laughed and whispered. And they smiled. A lot.

Sometimes their eyes just followed each other, as they moved around the room.

You know, God’s gaze follows each of us, as we move about our lives. And He looks at us with a tenderness that can take our breath away. He wants us to live in the circle of His arms, knowing we are completely loved and cared for. Completely forgiven. Completely flawless in His eyes. We are delightful. Beautiful. Magnificent.

The more we bask in the love God offers us, the more beautiful we become. We are settled. We smile a lot. We shine, and scatter our joy like rose petals at a wedding, blessing everyone who crosses our path.

Want more?  Read the recent post “Someone”