happy valentine’s day

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Valentine’s Day:  A holiday that some love and others love to hate.  A day where your Facebook and Instagram feeds will be filled with pictures of happy looking couples and posts about gifts and probably even an engagement or two.  Seeing all of this can ignite negative emotions for some.  If you’re in a relationship, it may make you feel upset because someone else’s partner did something more than yours.  If you’re single, it may make you feel alone, insecure, or unwanted.

I thought a lot about what to write for a Valentine’s day post.  So I’ll just start with a confession:  I’ve never had a Valentine.  There have been times when I’ve bemoaned that fact.  I’ve sat at home feeling lonely and upset more times than I’d care to admit because all my friends were out with their significant others.  But over the years, I’ve truly begun to learn and lean on the love of Jesus.  The only real, true, and flawless love we will ever know.

One of my absolute favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Hosea. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it.  In the story, the Lord asked Hosea to go and love a promiscuous woman.  To bring her to himself and love her as God loves his people.  He had him do this as a parallel to His love to “promiscuous” Israel.  So Hosea married a woman named Gomer, who many scholars believe was a prostitute.  Gomer had a few children by Hosea and was unfaithful to him.  At first, God seems very harsh in how he punishes her.  He speaks of taking away everything He’s given to her because she doesn’t realize that it is the Lord who has given her everything she’s had until now (Hosea 2:8).  So there’s half a chapter dedicated to everything the Lord is taking away from her(and when he is speaking of “her” he is really referencing his own rebellious people in this parallel).  Then, halfway through chapter 2 in one of my favorite verses, he flips the script.

 “Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14).

 He goes on from there to say that he will give her everything back and will take her to be His wife forever.

 “I will take you to be My wife forever.  I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion.  I will take you to be My wife in faithfulness, and you will know Yahweh.”  (Hosea 2:19-20).

This is the kind of love that is hard to even fathom!
And certainly not a love that is able to truly live in the flesh of men.  This type of sacrificial, sometimes unrequited love is only able to come from the true lover of our souls.  Our Savior, our Messiah, our Lord.  Gomer in this story is every single one of us.  She is the one who has been unfaithful to her husband.  She is the one who has made idols of work and legalism.  She is the one who has put her love life or her marriage on a pedestal above her true King.  She is the one who has sat at home on Valentine’s day bemoaning her single life instead of reveling in the Love she already has.

Gomer is all of us.

My challenge to you this Valentine’s day, no matter where you are or who you’re with, is to remember this story.  Remember the love that our God has for us, that no matter what we do, how we behave, He is ready and waiting to lead each of us into the wilderness to speak tenderly to us. So while you’re getting ready for your Valentine’s dates or girls nights, put on some worship music and praise Him.  If you’re home alone, consider spending at least part of your evening in prayer and reading about the immense love God has for you. That is what earthly men can only ever strive for.

 You will never know a more sacrificial or righteously jealous love.
You will never know another lover who will want you back,
after you’ve turned so far away from Him.
You will never know a love so great as the love of God.
Let Him love you, dear sister.
On this Valentine’s day and every day.

Love,
Ashley

To my sister who longs to be content…

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First off, you are not alone. The struggle to be content is real. We make it more real than it ever needs to be. Living in a world where you can buy anything at any time whether you have the money or not, has become normal. We let the fantasy of earthly romance briefly fill a longing in our hearts, while crossing boundaries that chip away at our innocence. We think moving to the next thing, attaining success or a new job will solve our problems (because our problems aren’t that big to begin with, right?). Wrong.

When we desire things or people more than God, it’s sin. When we struggle with honoring God as all we need, it goes beyond the surface, being rooted in our hearts. In order to take our focus from wanting stuff or people, we have to surrender our hearts to Christ. It is so very easy to lose sight of that when we begin to feel content because of things other than Jesus.

So back in May, I wrote a note in my phone. It started with, “Why do I always feel like I need something new? There are a handful of days out of the year when I feel content. Like truly, fully content.” I had found myself so easily pleased by spending money frivolously. It could be anything from buying new work clothes to lunch for my husband. This only happens when my focus shifts, and I am not spending enough time actively worshiping God. But I found myself feeling fulfilled or complacent. Feelings can get you in trouble, let me tell you. God created emotions. He gave them to us; perfectly crafted emotions for us to relate to each other in ways we wouldn’t be able to without them.

Our emotions do not get to dictate our actions, unless we allow them to. Sometimes we experience the best things when we only follow our hearts, but all too often we replace truth with how we feel. Our emotions are so real and raw at times that it’s hard to see beyond them. The best part is that truth never changes; therefore, God is constant, unwavering in the face of our emotions, and working for our good in spite of the lies we believe.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom…” That’s the first half of 1 Corinthians 1:25, and it so simply shows how greatly we fall short of the Glory of God. We can be so easily blinded by our version of wisdom, when in fact we are beyond foolish. We convince ourselves that the unnecessary will fill our hearts with peace and joy, when everything we need is found in Jesus. Content at its very definition means to be satisfied with what you have; not wanting more.

So as we work to shift our focus from things to God, we will experience some growing pains. Hebrews chapter 12, verse 11 says,

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

We have to remember that God holds the title of our Father. As a loving father, he wants to shape us and mold us, and that requires discipline. It doesn’t always feel good. We won’t always feel content. But as I said earlier, truth never changes and God’s word is truth. The Word promises us that if we stay the course and surrender to Christ, we will receive “peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Contentment will come with practice.

When you find yourself struggling to feel content, take time to reflect on how you have been living. Take a look at where you spend your resources, including: money, time, and skills. Schedules and routines aren’t for everyone, but make dedicated time for God. Don’t replace that time with anything else because you might walk away feeling content, but your soul will still be hungry. Let His word sink into your heart and continue His transformation. God loves you where you’re at, but too much to let you stay there. The more you practice being content and focusing on God throughout your daily life, you will find that no matter where you are physically, emotionally or spiritually, God is there and that is enough. When you don’t have a Pinterest perfect life or even a glimpse of it, God is there and that is enough.

Breathe in Emmanuel. Exhale the world.
❤ Ran

A Gift that Gives Beyond

Sisters,

Whether you’re looking for a Christmas gift, handcrafted goodies, or an epic company that gives back, we have got you covered! We have partnered with beyondBeanie to provide our readers with a great option for gifting this season! In a world where companies are cutting costs and treating employees like dirt to make money, it’s refreshing to see a company that is doing some major good with their business model. This company truly works to help kids in need. Every time you buy a product, your money goes to a worthy cause.

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Currently, beyondBeanie is working with Amanecer Salomon Klein children’s center in Cochabamba, Bolivia to help provide kids with food, medical care and school supplies. If you would like to help this awesome company accomplish their goals, I really encourage you to grab your beanies and accessories while they are in stock! Anything in their store would make a fabulous and meaningful Christmas gift!

After you have received your warm and toasty beanie, feel free to write a letter to the person who made it. After all, you can do that because of what this company stands for. The artisans, women who reside in Bolivia, hand sign their work! These talented women are featured on the website so that you can see who handcrafted your purchase.

beyondBeanie is also incredible because you can be an ambassador! Being an ambassador involves ordering some sweet hand made items, taking a picture with them and putting the pictures and a link on your social media accounts. We have taken advantage of this awesome opportunity to share and support a business worth believing in. It really is that simple.

Our hope is that by sharing this company with you, you would be encouraged to look beyond the hustle and bustle of this time of year. Take a moment to support a worthy cause by giving a gift that spreads hope internationally.

To learn more information, click here and be a part of something globally unique. Use the coupon code ROROMAN to get 15% off of your entire purchase.

Good tidings yall!
–Ro

New in Christ

To my sister who is a new Christian…

First off, I want to say welcome!  I know it can be overwhelming diving into this whole new life, but I promise it is a sweet, sweet ride.  One of the things I love about Christianity is the familial aspect of it.  We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, so when you come to know the Lord, you also join a worldwide family of believers.

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To give you a little background on my own faith walk, I grew up going to church and claiming the name of Christianity without really having an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus.  I remember praying as I was growing up but not really having any understanding of what that meant or if Jesus was even listening to me.  I went to church every Sunday, participated in events, and even sang in a church choir.  It wasn’t until I was in my last couple years of college that I really began to take my faith seriously.  One of my best friends invited me to her small group where I was challenged in my faith and really started to grow in it and know Jesus.

I remember praying as I was growing up but not really having any understanding of what that meant or if Jesus was even listening to me.

I think that those times were a real shift in my life and it was such a sweet season of getting to know my Father in Heaven.  I also know it was a little overwhelming learning about the “Christian life” and trying to make sure I was doing everything “right” (which is totally impossible and why I’m so thankful for God’s grace and mercy).
Here are a few things that I learned along the way that may help you out too:

Prayer

You know those people who pray and every word that comes out of their mouth sounds like a sonnet written by angels? Yeah, that’s not me.  That never has been and likely never will be me.  When I first began talking to Jesus, I was very insecure about prayer, ESPECIALLY praying out loud.  (You can talk to my sisters Randall and KJ about that because they were along for that ride with me).  I thought I was no good at praying because I didn’t sound like they did.  I didn’t speak quite so eloquently.  I thought for sure God only listened to the “pretty prayers”, as I like to call them.  But you know what God loves?  He loves prayer.  He loves hearing our voices.  Just as a human father loves hearing from his children no matter how beautifully they speak, our Abba Father loves to hear from us.  So don’t be intimidated to pray!  Think of it just like talking with a friend.  You don’t have to muster up the courage or think of beautiful words to say to have a casual conversation with a friend and it’s the same with Jesus!  Pray for people; pray with people; and most importantly, develop a private prayer life just between you and the Lord.  

The Bible

The Bible can be intimidating, figuring out where to start and what to read and even what it all means!  The bottom line of scripture is simply that the Lord created us, He loves us, and He’s coming back for us.  The entirety of it is just like a love letter to us from our King.  Spending time reading and studying it is so important because it is God’s direct words to His children.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  

Scripture strengthens us.  It inspires us and gives us examples of how to live and love.  If you’ve never really picked up a Bible before, but feel the move of the Holy Spirit in your life, I would suggest starting with the book of John, which really captures the essence of who Jesus is.  If you’ve already read John, give Ephesians a try!  Ephesians shifts to talking about who we are in Christ.  Beyond that, there are so many commentaries and online devotionals to get you started and keep fueling your fire for the Lord! Check out some online, free devotional resources. Whatever you decide, just start somewhere.  He’s promised to give us wisdom and understanding if we ask for it, so just start and pray for the Lord’s guidance!  He will give it to you.

Community

Community is a huge deal for Christians, old and new alike! Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  Christian community is essential to life as a believer.  My first suggestion to you is that if you have not already found a church, do so!  Explore those in your area. Ask the Lord to direct your steps and pray for a community where you feel like you belong.  And remember, everyone is a little nervous going to a new church.  Just know that wherever you go, you are already family.  My next suggestion is to find a small group to join.  Most churches offer those with specific categories, whether it’s age range, special interest, gender, or specific life season (single, married, moms, etc).

I’m currently writing a blog with my two very first small group leaders so you never know where these things may take you!

Small groups have been so important in my faith walk, and I truly believe that joining one will change, challenge, and grow you.  Plus, you may make some lifelong friends along the way!  I’m currently writing a blog with my two very first small group leaders so you never know where these things may take you!  My final thought in regards to community is to pray and seek a mentor, or at least a mentor-like person.  I wouldn’t say I necessarily have one specific mentor, but I have a few women who are older and more experienced than me that I can be honest with and call on in times of confusion or trouble in my walk with Jesus.  Surround yourself with other women who will hold you accountable and help you grow.

Sweet sister, I want you to trust and believe that you are on the most wonderful journey you could ever imagine.  Life is not always easy, and that is not any different for Christians.  The only difference that we have is our hope in Jesus and our knowledge that our lives are more than this world.  But, now is a time to celebrate walking into the arms of your Savior.  All of Heaven rejoiced the moment you said yes to Him.  You are loved more than you could ever imagine.

Love always,

Ashley