Week in NYC & Life Lessons

26 Jul

I spent the entire week in NYC as my cousins just had twins and they’re in the process of moving.  It’s been a busy week to say the least.  A lot can be learned when you spend a week with three children under the age of 2.  People were not kidding when they say sanctification at its finest occurs through marriage and parenthood.  Spending the week with these kiddos taught me a few things about myself: I’m impatient, too easily frustrated, selfish, and a sleep snob.  How about those lessons?  Not fun to chew on.. especially when the vessels God chooses to use are absolutely adorable and edible.

Funny things happen (..and by funny, I mean so not funny) when you’re running low on sleep.  You say and do ridiculous things.  I won’t go into detail because I think there’s too many to count and let’s be honest, I’m not proud of them, ha.  As I’m wrapping up my trip the Lord has really been convicting my heart of all that’s in there.  There’s a lot.  Trust me.  Gross, really.  Two things: (1) it’s so frustrating humbling seeing your own sin magnified and it’s (2) so relieving knowing that the blood of Jesus completely covers over all of that sin and I’m somehow being made more like Him in the midst of the awareness.

I guess that’s what Christ meant when He said that we can’t enter the Kingdom without being like ‘one of these’.  Children.  There is a purity of heart, simplicity of faith, and complete trust and dependence.  I’ve never seen anything like it honestly.

I’m grateful for the love of God. . the fact that He is so slow to anger, abounding in love, and ridiculously rich in mercy.  There’s much for me to learn.  So much.  I love Him.  After this week, I’m even more aware of that desperate love.  I can’t seem to do life right without Him.

Hot mess.

Sometimes, the things that hurt the most make us more aware of our need to cling to the Cross and His grace.  And so here I find myself, barely hanging on, but somehow hanging.
You know I can’t end this blog without showing you my week in pictures.  I love my niece and nephews.  They are an answer to many prayers and a means of grace in our lives.

Naaman Jacob, Matthew Philip, and Amelia Madhuri Varghese.

photo (5)Tons of selfies were taken by this little man

photo (6)Naaman and I went on daily walks about the city and fun trips to Central Park

photo (7)Yup, bed head and sleepy faces every morning!  Nothing like it. 
On another note, I didn’t wear one ounce of make-up all week!  When you’re chasing kids around like a headless chicken all day, there really seems to be no point.  I didn’t miss it one bit.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetI woke up to this face every morning.  Sometimes, I would simply just watch him while he was still asleep.  Borderline creeper, I know.  I cannot help it!  I would lay my hand on his back every morning and pray that the Lord would open His eyes to the Gospel and that all he would remember looking back was a life in step with Christ.  Time moves too quickly for these moments not to be cherished.  Every single one.
Naaman, Sheryl Aunty loves you so much.  There are no words to describe how much you make me want to be more like Christ.

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 preset

photo (9)

photo (10)

Mornings with Matthew were every bit special.  I love this boy’s personality, even now.  Unlike his twin sister, there is a calmness and laid back ‘boy-like’ quality to his demeanor.  He is an observer.. constantly looking around.  I absolutely love holding his hand in mine.  There’s a contentment with it.  We became quick buddies.  Matt genuinely makes my heart very happy.  I can’t wait to watch him grow up and see how he takes ‘middle child’ to a whole new plateau.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Putting my little lady to sleep everyday was a highlight.  She would cuddle into the crook of my neck and I pretty much melted into a puddle on the floor.  Every time.  Amelia’s middle name ‘Madhuri’ means ‘sweetness‘ in Sanskrit.. and she is simply that!  She also has sass for days, even at 1 month.  She is every bit dainty and lady-like.  She’s the baby in the family with 2 big brothers who have their own unique personalities.  I don’t doubt one bit that she can and will be holding down her own quite well.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetThey say hello.. and goodnight friends!

Building Walls and Painful Love

25 Jul

Ever felt wronged by someone and find yourself building the Great Wall of China around your heart because you’re too worked up to allow yourself to see clearly?

Worked up may be an understatement.

Frustration turns to legitimate anger.  Anger turns to unhealthy silence.  The silence leads to feelings of betrayal, bitterness, and un-forgiveness.

You can be at this state of reclusion and frustration for days weeks if someone doesn’t love you enough to forcibly pull you out of it.

Oh wait, you don’t have this issue?  Sure.. I don’t either..

Let’s just say I do.. for the sake of writing this blog.. *smiles*

The heart is a very delicate thing.  Maneuvering around it is one of the hardest things to do.  When cracks begin to form, the ground might as well have split in half, because often times that’s what it feels like.  You lock and chain it because vulnerability is not fun.. easy.. and can be uber humbling.  What makes you feel more small than having to take the lock and chain off the heart and expose yourself to hurt over and over again.. and find yourself repenting more than you have fingers and toes?

Sometimes I wish loving people was easier, like snap-of-a-finger easy.. instead of pulling teeth painful.  It’s uncomfortable.  Awkward. Makes your thoughts go into overdrive so you find yourself blogging just shy of midnight, simply to get it all out of your system.  If someone warned me as a child that being a Christian required death to myself constantly, I probably would’ve thought through the decision of following Christ till I was blue-in-the-face before actually deciding to make it.  The hardest thing for me to do in moments of hurt and pain is to allow death of those feelings to occur.  I would rather dwell on the feelings and get into my shell because it’s a ‘safe place’ where no one is allowed to enter unless invited, and let’s be honest, no one gets invited to that place.

As I find myself working through these feelings, I’m blown away by God’s love for me.  He sees the depths of my heart and doesn’t run away.  You know, the ‘safe place’ where no one is invited and somehow He’s always the uninvited guest.  Mind BLOWN!  I can’t get over that love because I have never seen anything at all like it on this side of Heaven.  As I think about Christ’s physical death because of the Father’s stubborn love towards me, it makes me wonder how much dying to self is simple really when it comes to our relationships with people.

The love of Christ should compel us to love others instead of draw us to hate others and love ourselves.

Relationships are so difficult.  Can I get an amen?  We’re broken, messed up sinners constantly needing grace upon grace to simply get us through conversations.  We love our own glory and run from making His greater.  So, I’m really grateful for the Holy Spirit and his constant push in our lives towards holiness, the resounding conviction we feel when we know how sinful our heart is and how Holy and loving our God is.  I’m thankful that God chooses to work through broken, messy people.  Through this dynamic, I’m blown away by how much greater love is than hate.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  And then some.

This same love breaks down ancient walls.  Now you begin to realize that man-made walls don’t protect, they in fact destroy.

Love protects.

Love guards.

Love cherishes.

Love covers.

…and it never, ever fails.

I’m trying to think past the feelings of pain and think upon love.  Wanna join me?

“Friends, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”  -Philippians 4:8

Intimate Strangers

26 Jun

Navigating through these survey responses sometimes makes me feel like a stranger in my own home.  Out of place at times.  I’m trying my best to navigate through them without feeling the need to grab a pint of Häagen-Dazs and eat straight out of the container.

The affects of the hundred crunches I did this morning tells me to refrain from it and I begin to pour through the responses.

Something clearly sticks out to me.

Ladies in their twenties find intimacy to be a scary thing.

They use words like “nervous” .. “scary” .. “frightening” .. “cautious” 

In a world where sexuality is on full blast, intimacy is often pushed under the rug.  How can we be so comfortable yet so uncomfortable?

- – -

Observations on Intimacy: 

(3o0 ppl. surveyed)

(1) Twenty-something men generally think of the act of physical sex as intimacy.  Simple response.  Black and white, really.  Sex was the most common word that came up in their responses for their thoughts on “words that come to mind when you think ‘intimacy'”.

(2) Twenty-something women described their feelings when they thought of words describing intimacy.  They shared their fears, doubts, reservations, and insecurities.

(3) Men describe intimacy in clear-cut lines, tangible black and white categories, while women are not able to disconnect tangible affection from the emotional. There is a lot of room for gray and color with them.

(4) Brokenness in intimacy among twenty-somethings is the common elephant-in-the-room.

- – -

In many ways, the difference between men and women in terms of intimacy is vast and loud.  I can’t help but wonder what are some of the experiences that women have felt or have seen that cause genuine fear.  Where’s the disconnect?  Relationships and marriages often involve intimacy, but for many, one or both individuals approach it as strangers.

Can you imagine.. intimate strangers?  

Everything in me wants to close the gap.

I’m going to put this on pause for now.. giving us some time to chew on the above.. and I’ll share more of my thoughts on intimacy among twenty-somethings in a little bit.

Think & Chat: How do we bridge the gap between strangers?  How can we perceive intimacy through a lens that is restored, healthy, and pure?  What are some external factors that change the perception of intimacy today?  What are some things that come to YOUR mind when you think about this idea of ‘intimate strangers’?  Let’s begin to talk these things out..

Can you Have Your Cake and Eat it Too?

18 Jun

Eat Cake

They want to have their cake and eat it too.

This is the trend I’m beginning to notice with men that I’ve had conversations with recently.

Everything in me wants to scream in frustration, but I put aside my temper (to match my ‘what should be red hair’) and I listen.  I stop conjuring up a response in my head and simply listen.  There’s something to be said about choosing to be slow to speak and being quick to hear.  Conversations tend to go a LOT better.

Four very different men who wouldn’t label themselves as ‘practicing Christians’ chatted with me on this concept.

They want the ‘good girl’.  

What’s the good girl?  The girl who is kind, loving, responsible, family oriented, no drama, intelligent, beautiful, funny, and has morals.  The irony in this is they find themselves attracted to girls who follow Jesus.  They interact with them at work or in school or even through friends every day.  Funny how that works right?  They spend so many years avoiding the one thing that is now beautiful to them: the work of Jesus in the life of a messed up person.

They want ‘the bad girl’.

What’s the bad girl?  The girl who is feisty, takes risks, isn’t waiting to always be led but takes the lead sometimes, doesn’t think about consequences, lives out the here and now, mysterious, and open-minded in all things sexual.

This is the struggle.  They cannot imagine relationships not revolving around their physical desires.  This leads them to temporary solutions. They’re always wanting more.  Always. They have one foot in the door and one foot out the door.  So begins the downward spiral of rebound relationships, broken hearts, hooking up, and one-night-stands.

Hip hop artist, Drake, has a song that is titled “Hold On We’re Going Home”.  The entire song is about this idea of a man spotting out a woman he is drawn to that is genuinely a ‘good girl’.  On the surface, she is exactly like the other girls, but he finds her to be different.

That’s the pattern I find with these conversations I’m having – they want the good girl, but they also want the bad one.  A Jekyll and Hyde thing really. They want to have their cake and eat it too.  Can it be done though?  Does it truly satisfy?  I’d have to say no.  Sure, from the eyes of a young Christian lady, all that I see is through the lens of the Gospel, so I could be accused of having a major bias — which is why I ask those who don’t currently have the same lens if it’s possible to be done and be permanently satisfied.  I’m yet to receive a ‘yes’ response.

In a world where we tell ourselves we can have our cake and eat it too, let’s think for a moment..

Religion and belief aside.

Race and ethnicity aside.

Gender aside.

Socio-economic status aside.

Does this way of thinking and living bring you long-lasting contentment?  Does it truly work?  What compels you to want both?  Is there something deeper than what your eyes can see?

Go deep. 

There is one who has all of the answers to your questions.  He is the answer.  I can promise you one thing: if you seek Christ – you will find Him.  If you find Him, you will realize that nothing on earth compares to knowing and loving Him.

-

Let’s chat: What do you think about this emerging trend?  Do you agree or disagree with the ‘have your cake and eat it too’ policy with relationships?  Grab a cup o’ Joe and share your thoughts.. I’d love to hear from y’all!

Thank you!

18 Jun

In the process of writing and uncovering patterns about love within my generation, I realized the best approach (apart from face-to-face conversations) is to create a quick, but detailed survey that can be sent to the masses.  It gives people room to remain anonymous but the freedom to speak what’s on their mind.  It creates a story to every response.  Y’all know how much I’m a goober for stories!

And so I created the survey.  I asked questions on love, marriage, and intimacy.. and y’all responded!

“Perspectives: Love and Life”

Thank you so much!

For real though, thank you!  A writer cannot write without the inspiration and stories of others in her life.  It helps shape the writer into who she chooses to be.  You all are that inspiration for me.  I’m wrestling through tons of emotions as I go through these responses.

Sadness.

Joy.

Heaviness.

Amusement.

I will eventually get through them, even if I have to go through them in waves.  I think you will be fascinated by what twenty-somethings all over the U.S. are looking for in terms of love.

Again, I’m grateful for y’all.. and let’s chat soon!

Being Found

12 Jun

‘You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.’  -C.S. Lewis

I picture a middle-aged man sitting alone in a semi-dark room, slightly lit by candle-light, head held up by his hands and deep in his thoughts.  He has a blank sheet in front of him ready to be written on and his mind is everywhere but there.  He’s told himself for years that God is not real.  Then he finds himself angry with his thoughts.. why can’t he simply get his work done?  If God doesn’t exist, why is He always on his mind?

I absolutely love that C.S. Lewis penned this because it is so relate-able to me.  Many of us have been here.. fearing, almost dreading the pursuit of God in our lives.. and so we run as fast as we can, hoping He’ll move on to the next sorry bloke.  We cannot understand the chase.  It’s intense.  We’ve experienced nothing like it before.  It doesn’t even make sense when we try to put it into logical terms.

Then, something happens..

We find God.

God finds us.

(for lack of a better term)

After years of His unrelenting, stubborn love for us.. our eyes are opened to the beauty of the Gospel.

  • This Gospel which shares that God’s love for us is so deep that He sent His own Son to be murdered on behalf of all of our sins.
  • This Gospel which shares that God is holy and just, and there is no way for us to be brought near to Him without completely righteous, innocent blood being shed as a sacrificial substitute.
  • This Gospel which shares that through the brutality of the Cross, you and I are now adopted into His family.

There is no greater love than this.. a sinless man would lay down His life for his enemies 

What are you looking for today?

Has running away from God brought you closer to what you’re looking for?

Let’s stop running for a moment.  Just a moment.  Be still.  Let’s think about what we are truly looking for .. and in the process, do not be taken back if you find yourself surprised by JOY .. because in the pursuit of life and love .. Christ finds you.

Blue-in-the-Face Love

10 Jun

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about one of my dear friends.  She’s been struggling with love.. and Jesus.

One is the essence of the other .. when God gets taken out of the equation, the other doesn’t exist.

She finds herself hitting a wall of frustration with loving family, friends, and people in general.  She simply does not know how.

My heart aches for her.

She’s a twenty-something that is figuring out the basics of Christianity all over again.

What is love?

We’ve all been here.

..months since we’ve last talked to God.

..months since we’ve last read the Word.

..months since we’ve last been in Godly, encouraging community.

But, we insist on living life to the best of our abilities.  We smile. We laugh. We occupy our days and nights with things and more things.  Everything around us seems to be going right – going up the ladder at work, health is great, family life is looking positive.  We have everything this world can offer, literally, but we struggle to love and be loved.  We ignore that still-small voice inside of us that now sounds like a blow-horn, ‘nagging’ us to examine the way we love people.

We’re running on fumes.

We don’t know how to love people.

At once, we walked with a swagger because we thought we loved well.. now we’re walking on egg shells.  It doesn’t feel natural.  Where’s the manual for loving specific individuals and personalities?

It hurts.

It’s uncomfortable.

It makes us frustrated.

It is exhausting.

We begin to wonder is love really worth it.  Is it worth the effort and the energy we exert?

That voice inside of us which speaks Truth in the midst of our many emotions speaks clarity into the situation:‘Yes, love is worth the fight.  Love is worth the battle. Abide in Me and I in you.  I am love.’

In Christian circles, people have spent so much time battling theology and Biblical principles, that we’ve forgotten the beauty and simplicity and depth to love.  Theology without love is a disaster.  Biblical principles without a heart that exudes love for its Maker is simply morality at its best.  It’s not of Christ and it’s worthless in my opinion.  When the rubber meets the road, their love for Christ doesn’t reflect in the way that they love people.  My heart is torn as I continue to do life here on Earth and I see hurting, bruised loved ones leaving the Church.  When my head hits the pillow at night, I don’t rest well thinking about these things without doing something.

I pray.

I connect.

I ask questions.

I pray some more.

I don’t stop connecting.

So, as I’m trying to figure out love in the web of all the Church has taught me over the past 27 years.. I’m realizing that the depth of it is simple: God is love and apart from Him, there is no love in me I can find of my own.  I can wear a million hats and juggle tons of plates, but without love I am nothing.  Without Christ, there is no good thing in me.  No good.  Nothing.  With Christ, there is something that this world cannot take away – finding joy as we love the people around us.

- – -

What do you do as a Christian?  Look around you.  Open your eyes to those hurting.  The twenty-somethings and the thirty-somethings who are leaving the Church all around us. The ones frustrated by religion and cannot seem to find Christianity to be attractive anymore.  Love them till you’re blue in the face.  Yes, Willy Wonka blue. You’re not too busy.  You’re not too important.  You’re not too scattered.  Beg God for grace to sustain and patience to endure.  Love is not easy.  It is a fight.  Love is the only fight that enables both sides to win.  When the punches are all thrown and the bruises are all tender, get back up again and try again.  Love that family member.  Love that co-worker.  Love that friend.  Love that neighbor.
Before you look to change the world around you, have love be a part of your own DNA and let it change you.  May your love for Christ be so attractive that it draws men unto Him.  Not you.  Step aside.

- – -

As I think about my friend and what is the best way to serve her weary heart, I think about genuine blue-in-the-face love.  Christians may be the last thing she wants anything to do with right now, but I know (that I know.. that I know) that love will draw her back to Jesus.

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