Most of you know, our family moved from one state to another last summer. Moving is always hard, but for teens, I believe, even more so. Our daughter really struggled … but God met her, met all of us, through a loving church. Truly, the youth group helped carry our daughter through that time. Today Robin Gilbert  Luftig reminds us to be the church God desires–one that’s saturated by love and grace.

What Is Expected of Us?

loveyourneighborA young girl sits alone on the pew, hoping—yet dreading—someone will ask to sit with her. Her clothes are nondescript and she wears little makeup. Her hair is neat yet combed just right to conceal her face. She knows how to blend into a crowd. She’s had years of practice learning how not to be seen. She doesn’t seem to want to be seen … but does she?

Please, see me. Look at me. Talk to me. Let me know I matter. I have a secret I want to share, but I’m afraid to risk it with you.

An elderly man slowly walks into the church and sits down in your favorite spot. It appears he’s missed several 967875_41580221bathing opportunities and hasn’t shaved in days. His clothes are worn and his shoes flop when he shuffles. The only glint from him comes from the worn wedding ring he wears on his gnarled finger. He looks a bit sad; a bit lost.

Please, see me. My wife just passed away and I’m so lonely. I want to talk to you, but I’m afraid to show you my pain.

These or people like these sit in pews across the country every Sunday. Sadly, many of them go home just as they came in: alone and in pain, still searching for relief yet afraid to risk reaching out.

What do we do?

Jesus’ words are very clear. Get to know and involve yourself in the lives of those around you. Matthew 31:36-40, shares a conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We don’t need to offer an intense theological dissertation on a point of doctrine. We may just need to smile … say “hello, my name is ______, what’s your name?” When we see and acknowledge others, they may give us the opportunity to really see them. We may even be able to show them the love Jesus talked about.

Think about that the next time you have a visitor at church. Maybe their needs are so great words won’t be spoken, until they know you care.



Robin Gilbert Luftig has worked for many years to help broken people understand that God loves them. In 2009, she founded Renew Ministries, with the purpose of sharing with spiritually- and emotionally-broken men and women that God has a plan for their healing. She’s written From Pain to Peace: The Journey of Forgiveness After Divorce, available at She is currently writing a book on accepting God’s restoration

Robin lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, Lew, and counts serving broken-hearted people as one of her greatest privileges.

You can follow Robin’s blog at and on Facebook at Renew Ministries with Robin Gilbert Luftig


Books about failed marriages abound on bookstore shelves. Readers in search of resources to re-energize themselves in the wake of a divorce can find vast and varied literature on inward and outward healing. So why another book on divorce? From Pain to Peace offers a unique perspective on post-marriage relationships. The premise of this work is that everyone benefits from establishing healthy relationships after divorce-primarily ex-spouses, but also the children and other family members and friends. This book promotes the act of forgiveness that lies at the heart of the healing process. Written in a lively and engaging style and using frequent support from Scripture, this book offers a Christian view on the subject. Also included are personal experiences as well as testimonials from others to support this premise. Stories are included from people in variety of roles-for example, ex-spouses, ex-in-laws, children, and stepchildren-who share their feelings and experiences and who recount stories of their own divorce process.

Buy it here!


LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Perhaps you are going through a difficult time right now. It might be tempting to isolate. In fact, it might seem to take too much work or energy to get involved with church activities, but what if that is precisely how God wants to reach out to you–through the love of others? Or perhaps you know of individuals entering your church sanctuary who appear withdrawn, sullen … hurting. Maybe even angry (which most often is the result of pain). How might God want to use you to reach out to them? What are some easy, non-threatening ways we can do that?

Finally, has God used church members to minister to you during a particularly painful time? Share your experience here and let us celebrate God’s love together. 🙂

Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by   Grace.

On Mother’s Day, our family spent the afternoon looking through old photo albums. As we flipped through page after page, I was struck by how quickly time had passed. Glancing at my daughter–taller than me and of course much wiser. 🙂 — I had a strong desire to draw her close, to pull her into my lap like I used to.

But she doesn’t fit, and she balks at snuggles and butterfly kisses.

I wanted to hold her tight just the same, to cherish what little time we have left before she launches into adulthood.

Little did I know, God was stirring my heart for my next big task–one that hits a bit closer to home. It’s funny how He does that. He can (and sometimes does) command us to do something we’d rather not. But most often, He stirs our hearts first, planting a seed of desire.

1 Philippians 2:13 “For it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purposes.”

On Wednesday, we sat in our KC house, packed boxes all around, my daughter crumpled in my arms, crying. The next day would be her last day of school. She’d have to say goodbye to some dear friends, to a wonderful church, to loving neighbors … to embark on the unknown.

But what she fears most is loneliness. I feared the same–a long lonely summer of her stuck in the house.

Driving that evening, I poured my heart out to God. I know He values community. I know He longs for us to live in close relationships, to avoid isolation. I knew He had a solution, I just couldn’t see it.

So He showed me. This summer, I will be her friend. We’ll turn this event into an extended vacation–an opportunity to explore, have ice-cream, sight see, and giggle over silly things.

Incredible joy swept over me as I realized God had been setting this up all along. It began with a fledgling of a desire, stirred by a very real need, that blossomed into a solution.

What a tender heart He has!

So that’s what I’ll be doing this summer. And while we’re exploring Omaha, I’ll use our time–this move–to show her:

1) God is good, loving, faithful, and true. In all things, always.

2) God can and does turn all things to good. (Romans 8:28)

3) Blessings abide in every storm cloud … if we’d but avert our focus.

4) A faith that is not dependent on our circumstances, but instead, that is rooted in the truth of God.

5) How to trust not in our home, our savings, our friends, but instead, in God’s unfailing love.

Psalm 147:11 “No, the LORD’s delight is in those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His unfailing love.

What an opportunity God has provided! Making lemonade indeed, and my, is it ever sweet.

Let’s talk about this!

We all experience tragedy, hurdles, storm clouds that attempt to shroud our view and distort our vision … if we let them. But Romans 8:28 tells us God works all things out for our good. That doesn’t mean He’ll fix everything, but instead, that He will use every event, painful and joyful, to mold us into the men and women He created us to be. And that is cause for celebration.

Sadly, I often spend so much time bemoaning my circumstances, I miss out on these hidden and unexpected blessings. Blessings that abound in each day, each trial, each storm cloud. The question is, will I focus on the rainbow or the rain?

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about making pitchers of lemonade.

And congrats to Dicky To and Nichole Parks, May’s book give-away and gift basket winners!

Dicky, you’ve won a copy of Deborah Rainey’s Remember to Forget.

Nichole, you won the gift basket bundle listed on the May Donors page.

I’ll be contacting you both via email to get your mailing addresses. Be sure to join us Monday for another inspiring “Reach Out to Live Out” story.

When our daughter was an infant, she spent hours in my arms. Then she learned to walk, and our times together have grown increasingly shorter ever since. This makes those rare moments when she sits with me on the couch or invites me to spend an afternoon with her at the mall even more special. If you’re a parent, I imagine you can relate. Today Zeke Lam, author of subMISSION shares the heart of another parent–our Heavenly Father. I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to fathom the depths of God’s love, but we can catch a glimpse of it when we look at our own children.

Incomprehensible Love by Zeke Lam

When I consider God’s love for us, it generates an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. His unconditional and insurmountable love towards His children is easily the most powerful truth in our lives. Understanding the level of love that Christ offers has often been a reality that is difficult to fully grasp. Why does God care so much about me? How am I supposed to reciprocate that kind of commitment? These questions crossed my mind as I matured in my walk with Him.

The birth of my first child was an eye-opening event that catapulted my faith as it relates to grasping His love for me. On one occasion however, I received a love lesson that altered my thinking and settled any uncertainties as to what God expects of my life.

It was a typical Sunday evening service where I was filling in for our pastor who was travelling. With my head bowed in prayer as I always do before preaching, I heard a loud commotion coming from the rear of the church. It was my two-year old son. With tears flowing, he kicked, screamed, and wrestled out of my wife’s arms and made a mad dash towards the front of the church where his daddy sat. All I could hear was the loud chant of: “I want my daddy. I want my daddy!” My wife caught him and settled him down, but he generated quite a scene amidst the formal and quiet atmosphere of this particular service.

Two things happened as I laughed from the front row. First, I experienced an incredible amount of joy. As my son proclaimed his love for me, he did so with no regard for his surroundings. He didn’t care what other people thought. He refused to be held back. He wanted to run to his dad. I was so proud.

As I pondered with appreciation this little outburst and prepared to approach the podium, God spoke to my heart, “This is all I want from you.”

This was a paradigm shift in my life. In relation to God’s love, what He expects from me became so simple. He wants me to want Him with no regard for what others think. He wants me to want Him to the extent that I hold nothing back. He wants me to run to Him with all I have.

He doesn’t just command our love. He desires it.


What is the greatest challenge that the Church is facing today? In one word, author Zeke Lam suggests that the following is the greatest challenge: submission, or the lack thereof. It is not the external forces that nullify the testimony of a vibrant and Christ-centered Church. Instead it is the lack of submission to the Lord within the heart of each believer. Zeke Lam shares Scriptural truths coupled with real life experiences to demonstrate a life of biblical submission. Are you ready to live a life of joyful submission unto Christ?

Zeke Lam is a 27-year-old youth minister, evangelist, and missionary who followed God’s leading in 2010 and moved his family to Sugar Land, Texas. Although they knew nothing about the area, they soon met a church family that changeed their lives.

Writing subMISSION was another unexpected detour in Zeke’s life. In the book, he outlines his best advice for daily preparing yourself to be obedient to the Lord.

‘If you don’t prepare,’ he says, ‘one of two things will happen: 1) You will not hear the call, or 2) you will hear but not have the courage to obey.’

Zeke, his wife Kathleen, and their three children currently reside in Virginia.

As our daughter nears fifteen, she’s beginning to dream about driving and college and all those rights of passage that signify adulthood. (She’s already planned the furnishings for her college dorm room … and her future house, career, basically, the next twenty years of her life.)

She thinks she’s so ready, but often, my husband and I must hold her back. Not because we don’t love her, but instead, because we do. We know the vital steps that must occur, the growth that needs to take place, the dangers that await if we allow too many privileges and responsibilities before the proper time. We know there’s imperative character traits, like perseverance, inner grit, determination, that must be developed.

I believe God is the same way. He has an omniscient view of our lives. He sees our past, present, and future. He knows every obstacle we’ll face, every blessing that’ll come our way. Most importantly, He sees us not as we are, but as He plans to make us–a beautiful masterpiece ready to do His will.

Today, Fay Lamb, author of Because of Me, looks at disappointments through God’s sovereignty and loving Father’s heart. She reminds us, no matter what comes our way, God wants us to trust and obey. Trust His love, His goodness, His tender care.

God Loves Me More Than That by Fay Lamb

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD,

thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11

Life verses—they abound, and Jeremiah 29:11 is among the most quoted. As an author who feels that God has called me to write, I cling to verses such as this. For me, they prove that God’s love is a blanket of warmth against the coldness of a sometimes harsh reality.

The writer’s life is like a rollercoaster with moments of high exhilaration and days of deep despair. Times when all is right with the world, and then there are those occasions when a writer wants to crawl into a cave and hide from the very world where before all was bright and sunny.

God says in Jeremiah 29:11 that He knows the thoughts He has toward me. He declares those thoughts are kind and not evil, and He wants to give me a future of hope. When I meditate on this verse, I imagine this is God’s way of saying, “Daughter, I have a plan for you. Trust and obey.”

Often I hold my hand out to God, asking Him to lead me toward a writing contract, an encounter with someone, even an idea to build a story. Like a child, I want my prayers answered easily and immediately.

But God loves me more than that.

I do not like rejection, but is it truly rejection when God has designed the plan and I am walking in obedience to Him? No, it’s a step. I must trust God and move forward even when the path is rough and harrowing.

I do not like to be unsettled in my spirit, yet criticism has a way of doing that. Truth given in love, however, is one of a writer’s most valuable assets. The sting at first may leave me uncomfortable, but when I come to terms with it and take the suggested steps to improve my writing, my spirit is filled with the peace that God promises.

When I start out on a trip, I am the one who likes to know every stop along the way. Trust and obey means that I trust God when he doesn’t tell me each leg of my journey. My life as an author may take unexpected turns.

I have purposed in my heart to remain content with any direction God purposes in my writing career. In fact, I’ll be satisfied on whatever road He places me. My future hopes rest in Him and not in my desires, and God has promised a future better than any I can dream.


Fay Lamb works as an acquisition/copyeditor for Pelican Book Group (White Rose Publishing and Harbourlight Books), offers her services as a freelance editor, and is an author of Christian romance and romantic suspense. Her emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Because of Me, her debut romantic suspense novel will be released on February 3, 2012, by Treble Heart Books/Mountainview Publishing.

Fay has a passion for working with and encouraging fellow writers. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she co-moderates the large Scribes’ Critique Group and manages the smaller Scribes’ critique groups. For her efforts, she was the recipient of the ACFW Members Service Award in 2010.

In 2012, Fay was also elected to serve as secretary on ACFW’s Operating Board.

Fay and her husband, Marc, reside in Titusville, Florida, where multi-generations of their families have lived. The legacy continues with their two married sons and five grandchildren.

Because of Me:

Issie Putnam’s life took a detour the night she was raped at gunpoint in front of her fiancé, Michael Hayes. Instead of marrying Michael, a promising young investigative reporter, Michael, along with the man who attacked her, and the man who held the gun on Michael, are imprisoned for conspiracy to assassinate the local district attorney—a crime Michael was trying to expose but had no intention of committing. Issie’s name is ruined, she lost her perfectly-planned future, but she gained Cole, her son—born of that rape.

On the eve of her attacker’s parole, Michael, already released from prison, follows through on his plan to return to the small town of Amazing Grace and protect Issie from the madman who promised to seek revenge. There, he meets Issie’s seven-year-old son for the first time.

Can Michael learn to love the child Issie holds so close to her heart? Will Michael be able to protect the woman he loves from the man who will stop at nothing to destroy them all?

Purchase the book at Amazon.

Let’s talk about this!

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about our disappointments, hopes, and dreams and try to view them through our Father’s eyes. How does trusting in God’s love for you, His plan for you, His continual care, help you persevere? If you’re a parent, how has your experience as a parent changed your understanding of God? Has there been a time when you’ve been able to look back on a delay or detour that, although painful at the time, turned out to be a blessing?

Todays story comes from a woman who understands the depths of grace and learned through experience what it means to let Jesus carry you. The Bible promises God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Learning to lean, or perhaps more accurately, learning to fall, is never easy, but when we let everything go, close our eyes and jump, we find God’s protective hands to be strong, steady, and unmoving. And when everything else is stripped away, one thing remains–God’s love. And in that moment, we find it to be more than enough. We find it to be all we need. (The author of the following story wishes to remain anonymous.)

*   *   *

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’” John 5:8 

My story starts 20 years ago when I fell in love with and married my husband. Well, it really starts before that, with my upbringing, because that of course shaped the way I behaved with him. I had a stable, safe and comfortable life, but my family wasn’t very affectionate and close-knit. We laughed and enjoyed family times like camping trips, but we weren’t touchy-feely. We didn’t talk much about important things. We had no faith to hold us together. As a result, I never felt deeply loved. So when I met Evan*, I found someone who became my lover and best friend. I knew he really loved me. We had a good marriage. He made me laugh. We could talk deep into the night. He told me often that he loved me and that I was the most beautiful woman in the world. I responded that if he kept saying that I might just start believing it.

There was just one problem. I found out very early on that he had an addiction. He used crack. His usage was almost always brought on by drinking too much. He didn’t do it if he was sober. Mostly, he drank too much on the weekends, but also during the week. He would drink and then take off to get some crack, then come back and stay up all night and sleep half the day. At first, I was fearful and worried, but I thought it wasn’t that serious and that he would get over it. We were still young. He couldn’t possibly want to continue his habit once we started a family, right? I didn’t leave or tell anyone or tell him to get help, because my fear of losing him and his love was much greater. The time we spent together when he wasn’t drinking or using were almost always enjoyable, so I put the pain and fear away in a box and closed the lid tightly.

We lived two lives. One where everything was fine and happy. Another where he was using and everything looked dark. I can’t tell you how many times I cried in anguish for hours from the moment I heard the garage door go up just minutes after I took the boys upstairs to bed. I knew the weekend was done for. I felt abandoned on those days. I wondered how he could say he loved me one night and leave me the next. In those early years I begged and cried. I called in sick for him. But the good times gave me hope, kept me going, made me happy for a while. Eventually, I resigned to it.

I was paralyzed. And I stayed paralyzed for 18 years.

Like the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, I had no one to help me into the healing waters. I had no one because I didn’t ask and didn’t tell. My paralysis wasn’t obvious, however, like the paralyzed man’s. No one knew. Evan* was a master at keeping his secret life secret. And I helped him. His parents didn’t know. He always kept a job and paid the bills. He was liked and respected. Even our boys didn’t know!

So what changed? How did I get from paralysis to walking freely again?

The problem with living two lives is that eventually the dark side starts to seep into the good side and infects it. In the last few years we were together, he began to get more withdrawn and depressed. His bursts of anger were more frequent and scary. His drinking got heavier. We didn’t have those late night talks anymore. He stopped telling me about work because he didn’t think I was interested (which wasn’t true). The boys and I had to tiptoe around him, keeping quiet while he slept, leaving him alone as he read or watched TV.

I began to confide in a few friends. I secretly went to Al-Anon meetings. My friends wrapped me in the love and grace of Christ and walked with me through months so painful I could not have imagined. In May of 2009, I had been feeling very anxious because I felt Evan*was lashing out at me frequently about little things. I got so upset one day that I spent the night at a friend’s. We “patched” things up in the next couple days and decided to go up to the mountains for a long weekend we had already planned. The boys were on a trip with their grandparents. My anxiety didn’t go away, however. I had resolved to make a very clear statement to him about his drinking and drug use. It took me until Sunday to get it out. I told him I loved him and accepted him for who he was, but couldn’t accept what he does. I was going to get help, counseling, talk to my pastor, talk to friends. I said I wanted him to get help, too, but if he wasn’t willing I would go on my own.  Well, I guess all he heard was “I hate you. You’re a jerk.” He shut down immediately. For the next couple weeks his silence was so hostile it got unbearable. I had to move into another room to sleep. Then I moved back. Over the next couple of months, we gingerly tried to make up, talk a little, understand each other – with some good days and some bad.

Then in late July, I told him a couple of things that I had withheld from him… that I had bought a cell phone when I was feeling especially fearful of how things were going, and that I had confided in a friend of ours. I’ve always hated keeping things from him. All hell broke loose, literally. From that point on until late October when I finally told the boys the truth and we moved out, he barely spoke to me, except to hiss nasty things under his breath. He glared at me and avoided me almost completely. We even went on a trip to the Rocky Mountains, during which I was a complete non-entity.

What I hoped would happen as a result of moving out was that he would wake up and want to get some help to get his family back. My in-laws were devastated. They had no clue all those years. It was awful telling everyone. I gathered some family and friends and we attempted an intervention. He took off and wouldn’t face anyone. The boys and I along with my mother-in-law and her husband went to the Betty Ford Center’s family program together. Evan* and I communicated by email for a while – with great frustration on both sides, but he called no one. He completely refuses to talk to or see anyone even now. The boys haven’t seen him or talked to him in over a year. I filed for legal separation, still hoping that he would do an about-face. He didn’t show up for the custody hearing or court. Now he has initiated changing it to a divorce.

So this all paints a pretty sad picture, eh? But, my friend, this is only part of the story. To see what God has done throughout this experience has overshadowed the pain and loss. He has set me free from bondage! Not bondage to marriage – I grieve the loss of it – but bondage to sin. I have come to know the reality of His great love and grace. I have never felt so sure of God’s will and assured of His love for me. He has poured out his love for me through the support and prayers of friends and family. He pulled me up out of a pit that I had been stuck in for many years and got me moving forward.

“There is a difference in the woman who is saved and getting by as best she can and the woman who is saved and living every day of her life filled by the power of the Holy Spirit. The first woman is a carnal Christian. And the second one is a spiritual woman. If we stay with our illustration, we’d say that the second woman is dancing. The first one continues to walk according to her old desires, and the other is being led by the Spirit of God. There is only one degree of choosing that separates these women. But as it turns out, one degree makes all the difference.” -Angela Thomas, When Wallflowers Dance

I realized that, although I thought of myself as spiritual, and had a great desire to live a Spirit-filled life, I was just getting by as a carnal Christian. The one degree that made the difference for me was an act of obedience, that is, I finally voiced my opposition—with truth and love—to something I had kept silent about for years. And then, once I left, I felt I was being carried along with the Lord going before me, that it was all out of my hands and truly safe in His perfect will. The image I shared with a friend at the time was of a leaf being carried along the top of a rushing stream. I was the leaf and the stream was Living Water.

Here are a couple things I wrote last year:

April 2010: “Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing.” -Oswald Chambers

Have you ever felt so completely helpless about your future, not knowing when-how-if it will all work out? Have you ever felt compelled to take actions that seem to be the opposite of God’s will (like leaving your husband) and seem to take you further from resolution and away from your ultimate desire? That’s where I am and it is such a strange place to be! I’ve never dove deep like this and completely placed everything in God’s hands, trusting Him to work out what is impossible for me on my own. I feel like I am just standing before Him with my hands limp at my sides, and at the same time moving forward. I’ve been saved for many years now, but am really seeing Him for the first time. I only caught glimpses of Him before. I feel safe and confident as I look to Him and not at my circumstances (although He doesn’t shield me from the pain, but walks me through it).

May 2010: Sun at my back, legs heavy, breath labored, I put one foot in front of the other to climb another hill. It’s early in the morning and there is still a chill in the air. I listen through all the chirping to pick out a red-winged blackbird. The thistle and wild mustard stand as tall as my shoulders and the wild grasses tickle my shins. The hill before me is steep enough that I have to lean forward as I climb. My legs burn and the arteries thump in my thighs. At the top, I feel invigorated. Recently, I have been feeling very depressed. Our house is sold and in escrow and it feels like the last nail in the coffin of my marriage. I knew I couldn’t continue feeling this way and even contemplated going to the doctor for medication. I also knew that a better option would be exercise. So the first day I ventured out to the rolling hills nearby (one of the best perks of living in XXX*), I started climbing and hiking and going and going and going. I finally returned an hour and a half later. A friend of mine said that as I do this I will squeeze out every ounce of sadness with each step. I don’t know about that, but hiking does lift my spirits and gives me energy for the day. It gives me time to thank the Lord for all the good things he provides – from the care and love of friends and my boys whom I adore, to the ladybug on the thistle and the cottontail that appears to fly over the grass as it dashes away from me. As I keep leaning into Jesus and pressing on with perseverance, I grow stronger. I know there is a hilltop ahead where I will feel invigorated and renewed, and I pray, if it is His will, see restoration.

The Lord has shown His love and care for me and my boys in amazing ways over the past year. He gave us friends who let us live with them for eight months, caring for us and walking with us. Staying with them allowed me time to get my bearings and to grieve my marriage. Giving yourself room to breathe and grieve is so healthy! And so painful. But I resolved to allow myself whatever feeling came along, without embarrassment or trying to bury it. Then God sent me work that I could do at home when I was looking elsewhere and provided an apartment surrounded by friends and church family. He has given my boys friends and support from church that enrich their lives and are helping them grow into godly, caring young men. A long-awaited visit from my sister and her husband was a source of great comfort and joy. 

I have come to truly know deep within my soul how much God loves and cares for me.It took a work of the Holy Spirit to get that from my head into my heart. He has enlivened my spirit. For so long, I saw in others joy and peace and longed for them for myself, but didn’t know how to get there. But now God, in His mercy, has given me a white stone with a new name (Rev. 2:17) – Joy. I still look at the future as uncertain, but now there is no fear. My future, and my husband’s future, are in God’s hands.

*Name and location have been changed/deleted for privacy purposes.

(If you have a story to share of Jesus took you from bondage to freedom, send me an email, jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot) com. Your story may point the way to the ladder of grace for someone else still trapped in the pit.)

I’ve heard it said there are two types of people in this world–givers and takers. If you’ve read many of my posts, you probably know my husband is a giver. He’ll give and give and give, without complaining, expecting nothing in return. If I’m not careful, it can be easy to take advantage of this situation. Combine his sacrificial nature with my self-absorbed, goal-oriented side and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Which is why I keep post-it notes sprinkled around the house, on mirrors, taped to the coffee pot, or any other surface my eyes might scan in a given day. These constant love-reminders help balance out my perpetual self-love.

If you’ve got a giving friend, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We all love it when others are focused on us, right? Because that’s what we’re focused on, too. It’s natural. And it’s easy to get swept away in the its-all-about-me-tide. Unless you determine to do otherwise. Because chances are the friend who keeps on giving has a reciprocal need in there somewhere. And as his/her friend, its your job to find it. But that’s going to take work. You’re gonna have to u-turn once in awhile, learn to listen, ask open-ended questions. Whatever. Just take your eyes off yourself. (Yes, I’m talking to me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me. There, I think I got it.)

I’ve also had enough takers in my life to know the feeling of being a well-trodden doormat. It hurts, especially when the relationship is one-sided. Authentic friendships are mutual. Reciprocal. Built on give-and-take.

Which means those lone rangers out saving the world need to learn to take a little, too. One night (a few years back) I was sitting in the office watching our neighbor mow her lawn while her two young kids cried for her attention. My husband was watching a ball game. My parentally-allergic daughter was playing with friends. I had two hours, maybe more, to myself. And yet, I remembered those times of crying children, when taking a shower felt like a luxury.  So what’d I do? Offer a quick prayer on my neighbor’s behalf then go my merry way? No, I jumped up, ran out the door, and offered to help.

And she politely declined, of course.

So I offered again. To be honest, I felt a bit pushy. Even kind of embarrassed, but I believed God wanted to love this woman through me so I determined to be obedient to God, regardless of the results.

She declined again.

It was hot. Like skin-blistering, lung-stifling hot. Her kids were crying. Exhaustion was etched across her sweaty, blotchy face. Her yard was huge and mowing it would take at least an hour, probably two. Two precious Mommy-Kiddo-hours she’d never get back. (Both her and her husband worked long hours as they struggled to make ends meet and juggle all the demands that came with raising a family in today’s dual-income world.)

So what’d I do? Walk away with a “Well, I tried”, self-righteous pat on the back? Oh, how we love those moments—when God calls us to do something but we find the convenient loop-hole.

No. I lovingly, but firmly, maneuvered my way between her and the lawn mower and began to mow. At first she just kind of stood there, eyes wide, face flashing between gratitude and mortification so fast it looked like a silent film on fast forward. But within ten minutes she was playing with her kids, smiles on all their faces. And I was beaming. By allowing me to be obedient to God, she also allowed me to experience God’s love as it poured through me to her. It feels great when God loves on us, but that’s nothing compared to the heart-bulging, giggle-producing pleasure of experiencing God’s love for someone else first-hand.

So again I ask, are you a giver or a taker? And how might you go about striking a God-intended balance?

Romans 12:9-13 “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are needy, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” (NLT)