Guard That Heart!

guard your heart

I read something today that really caught my attention. It said, “When your heart is hungry, it will eat just about anything.”

This made me go into Deep Thought Mode! The phrase was referring to lonely people, men and women alike, who find themselves in relationships that are unhealthy because they find it difficult to be alone. They listen to their heart instead of their head, and decide they would rather put up with a bad situation, and make excuses along the way, just to avoid lonliness.

While I have been in this situation in the past, I can say that those days are behind me. But I still struggle with one aspect of this scenerio – guarding my heart. I was brought up  with the idea that, as a Christian, we are supposed to be open and willing to give of ourselves to others, ready to love and be loved, always willing to take the chance on others because, well, that’s just how our life is supposed to be lived. It’s not about us – it’s about them.

Well, there is a problem with this concept, and I have been meditating on some Scriptures that refute this way of thinking.

Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Philippians 4:7 (NIV) “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I’ve been mulling these scriptures over in my mind. The first one tells us to guard our own hearts. But the second one says that the peace of God will guard it for us.

But what about Jeremiah 17:9 that says, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” If our heart lies to us, why should we bother to guard it at all? Why does it deserve our attention?

After some thought, I think I’ve figured out why ALL THE ABOVE are necessary for us to absorb. If we are reckless and freely give away love and emotions, no matter how awesome people seem to be, then God is going to allow us to follow our free will and we will face the consequences, good or bad.

But if we actively seek His guidance in relationships and situations, ask Him for wisdom along the way, and be willing to LISTEN to His urging, His Word says the Spirit will keep us in peace and emotionally safe. (Isaiah 26:3)

I haven’t been skilled in this, but I’m working on it. It’s an ongoing process, isn’t it? We love, we fall, we pick ourselves back up, and we learn.

And the reason why we should even bother to guard our deceitful hearts is because of this – If we don’t guard it properly, our heart will not only lie to us and lead us into bad situations, but then it condemns us after we fail! The guilt and condemnation can be enough to destroy an already vulnerable person.

But I’m so thankful I can read I John 3:20 and know, “If our hearts condemn us, we KNOW that God is greater than our heart, and He knows ALL THINGS.”

KNOW vs FEEL…we know things with our minds, and we feel things with our hearts. Feelings lie! But since God knows all things, He knows how much I want to please Him, even when I flub up! By believing His Word, I KNOW He will never leave nor forsake me, and I can lift my head again and keep going.

The need to guard your heart doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships. I have had my heart broken over family, friends, job-related situations, church-related matters, and crushed hopes – all because I ran headlong into situations with an open and trusting heart. I didn’t bother to use wisdom or patience, or I didn’t pray about the situation first and listen for an answer.

It takes practice. But look at it this way, you’re guarding something that should belong to God. Not everybody deserves a place there. You’re His son or daughter – not a door mat!

I pray that I learn to stop, think, and use caution and wisdom when it comes to matters that involve my heart!

I pray that God heals us of our broken hearts.

I pray that we learn to guard our hearts more effectively.

I pray that the journey is more peaceful for us in the future.

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The One

I recently heard a certain female Christian speaker give an inspirational testimony on how God had answered her prayer regarding specific qualities that she longed for in a future husband. She spoke about how He had ultimately brought them together when she finally met this man who fulfilled every single one of her many criteria that she had listed to God. She then described, in detail, the 20 or so different specifications she had for her now-husband – same faith, certain height, steady income, NFL fan, similar taste in music, etc.

She had actually requested that her future husband have green eyes! When she finally met this man, he had so many of her criteria that she was thrilled, but it was a dimly lit room, and she disqualified him in her mind because she thought his eyes were brown. It wasn’t until the next day that she saw him again and realized they were indeed green that she realized that he must be her soulmate after all!

Now I know her take-home-point was that God cares about the things we care about, and if we ask, He is faithful to give us the desires of our hearts. I realized, as she listed all the very specific details she wanted in a man, that God must care about her very much to have answered her prayer so precisely.

But after listening to her, I felt a little irritated. I thought, “I would never dismiss somebody based upon their eye color!” Then, for some reason I made my own list. I felt a little silly at first. I mean, to request things that I would want in a man was to admit that I actually hoped for something that I wasn’t sure I would ever find. But at the end of the night, I had done some soul searching, attempted to tap into a new area of faith, and came up with the following. I can promise you, it does not include his eye color!

If he ever comes along, he will have to meet the following criteria…

  • He will have to love God more than he loves me or anyone or anything else in his life, including himself.
  • He has to have purpose. To exist, rather than to live, is a mindset I want to stay far away from. Goals are as important in life as oxygen, to me.
  • He will see me, value me and protect me AND my emotions. No further explanation necessary…he either gets it or he doesn’t.
  • He will have to understand that I am always a mom, and I will always move heaven and earth for her.
  • He will have to understand that I love my music. He doesn’t have to love it too, but he has to have at least an appreciation for it and won’t tell me to turn it off when it’s obvious that I’m listening to it. I’m unwilling to butt heads with anyone over this.
  • He will have to value hygiene and health, and understand that self worth is mirrored in your appearance.
  • He will never have to be begged to touch, hug, or hold me.
  • He has to have a sense of humor. I need someone who understands why I laugh at the things I do, and be able to make me laugh!
  • He has to be a good communicator, and he won’t get pissy with me when I hold him to this.
  • He won’t behave in ways that he knows are hurtful to me. He will never hold my love for him hostage.
  • He will be honest.
  • He will be able to recognize his faults and actively work on them. If he is done growing as a person at any point in life, then he is not for me.
  • He will recognize when I’m working on my faults, and encourage me along the way.

Love, support, protection, and guidance would summarize My Wish List. I wouldn’t care about eye color, social standing, skin pigmentation, income, height, vehicle, or muscles. I would care about him, us, our life together. Our purpose.

If The One for me exists, I’m confident we will find each other. Or maybe he will just look over and recognize me.

Single Moments

That’s all they are – just moments. Blips in time. They don’t have to culminate into an entire mindset if you know how to handle them. I’m getting better at it keeping these moments in perspective!

Hands down, the worst moment for me to be single in the wintertime is when I crawl into bed under the cold blankets. Ugh, I so dislike this time of day and season! The windows of my bedroom are drafty, and the midwestern winds howl right on in and put a chill over my covers. Brrr! I long to reach for a warm body lying next to me with the mutual understanding that our needs will be met with a warm embrace and hot kisses! But instead, my toes and heart grow numb from the isolation. Dramatic…I know!

But there is a flip side to this. The best moment for me to be single in the wintertime is just as poignant! It comes after I walk in the door after a long shift, kick off my shoes and peel off my scrubs. It’s when I put on those soft fleece pajamas and wool socks, and then my fuzzy robe over that! My hair comes down in messy waves as I stretch out on the sofa, prop up my feet, and hug my purring cat. No one is giving me “the look” for having an unsexy appearance, and nobody rolls their eyes if I need to shed a few tears about having a bad day. If I want a bowl of cereal for dinner, or decide it’s bedtime at 9 pm, it is my choice alone, with no feelings of guilt or inadequacy.

 

Single Moments of Being Single

There are moments of pure contentment in this girl’s single life, as well as moments of stabbing loneliness. But I have repeatedly decided that this is the life I choose over settling for anything less, just for the sake of having a partner.

Because the moments that make me smile greatly outweigh the moments that make me cry, and I know exactly what I could lose by settling!

Single ladies and men, if you haven’t experienced both the ups and downs of being alone AND being with someone who isn’t the right one, let me encourage you to focus on what you have right now more than what you want, when it comes to a future relationship. I think that’s the only way you can actually grow and then move forward. Appreciate where you are, make YOURSELF ready for the future you want, (what do YOU bring to the table?) and then live in peace knowing if you want it bad enough to work on yourself for it, everything else will work out the way it’s supposed to.

In the meantime, I’m buying an electric blanket!

It’s What’s In The Bag!

This will be a short one.

I stopped by McDonalds for breakfast on my way to work this morning. In their efforts to make their customers happy, I’ve noticed that they not only display your order back on the screen, they also verbally repeat it at the first window when you pay, and then again at the second window when they hand you the food. This way, you can drive away with assurance that you have exactly what you ordered in the bag.

Well I learned firsthand this morning that they can say whatever I want to hear, but if it doesn’t match the actions of putting the correct food in the bag, it’s just empty words! After three layers of “assurance”, imagine my surprise when I opened an Egg McMuffin when I actually ordered a biscuit with egg and cheese.

Hang with me…I’m going somewhere…

I sit at work holding this sandwich and think – You can have someone say they’re your friend and they can look you in the eye with a joke and a smile every day, but if they sit and lie about you behind your back, they’re not really a friend.

Someone else may call themselves a Christian, but have a longtime habit of prejudice attitudes against other people, especially with different culture or skin pigmentation. That’s not like Jesus!

When this so-called friend and this so-called Christian tell me about who they are, I hear them, but in my mind I know they’re really just a crusty Egg McMuffin.

Words don’t matter – it’s what’s in the bag that counts!

It's What's In The Bag

Listening….

Recently I faced what could be a life-altering decision. Actually two. On paper, the choices that I should make were obvious. But I felt a tugging towards other options, and peace did not come to me until after I made my decisions accordingly.

You might call that instinct. Some believe that intuition can guide you through life, if you’re quietly in tune with that inner voice.

I haven’t always been quiet enough to hear those warnings inside, telling me what to do, what and who to avoid, and decisions I should and shouldn’t make. In fact, I kinda sucked at it most of my life!

So in my relatively recent quest to learn who I am at the core of my being, I started to recognize and listen to that “voice.” I attribute this to having gained more control over my emotions and giving less response to people and situations, in listening more than I talk, spending increased time in prayer and meditation, and in searching for guidance in Scripture. But mostly, just listening.

listening
Something I’ve learned – If you keep having the same quiet thought that something might not be right, or it feels like your soul gets pinched when you’re about to make a certain decision – that might actually be God talking to you! You should listen, even if it’s against what you want. Because one day when you look back, you’ll see He knew best!

Isaiah 55:8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”

Jeremiah 1:5“Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you…”

Matthew 10:30“But the very hairs on your head are numbered.”

Isaiah 49:16“See, I have engraved your name on the palm of my hands.”

How awesome it is to know the Creator of the universe sees me, knows me, loves me, AND has my well-being at heart! He sees the whole spectrum of my life, from beginning to end, and knows what might seem okay to me now might not be good for me down the road.

So…instinct or God? I guess it’s hard to tell. As a believer who has lived in faith most of my life (but stepped out long enough to wreck my life), I lean towards trusting that my footsteps are ordered and He will guide me if I give Him my control of my heart and life…and if I listen!

It’s not easy though, and trusting in an unseen force is certainly against human nature. But through trial and error, I found that quiet trust in His guidance is the way to live in peace.

I can’t really explain why I made the decisions I did. But for once, I just know they were the right ones.

Not sure why I wrote this. Just thinking about how grateful I am for every door that’s been opened for me, AND for every closed one!

A Picture of Success

I’ve been reflecting today about how people measure success differently.

It seems like most folks consider rolling in money, fame and popularity as getting their piece of the pie.

I can definitely see where being financially blessed has it’s perks (duh). I realize you can get more done when you have the dough. But at this point, being on my own makes all of that seem like a lifeless goal. Yes, I realize friends and family would come out of the woodwork if I ever hit it big, but it wouldn’t count. If I’m out there ballin’ for overtime and bonus pay, but don’t have a soulmate to share it with, it doesn’t mean much.

A couple may have to shop at Aldi to save money. But if they can have intelligent conversation while curled up together at night, as they inspire one another to push themselves to be the best they can be, believing in one another and praying each other through hard times, to me they have already reached success!

My pastor said the other night, “You can be content without being satisfied.” I would consider it a dream come true to have a partner who, like me, was not satisfied until we reached our individual and shared goals, but who had peace and contentment along the way, and already felt successful while on the journey.

I aspire to be effective on my job, with my writing, and I most definitely have other personal goals and plans, but how interesting it would be to already feel successful in 2017 while I work toward these achievements!

To me, it’s about the journey as much as the destination. (Thank you, Aerosmith, for those words!) Although I know where my final destination is going to be, this picture would be my pinnacle of success along the way – me and the king of the castle, working for what’s ours and what God has for us!

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How do you define success for yourself? Are you there yet? What are you doing to reach it? If met with obstacles, are you willing to fight for it?

Here’s to success in 2017, whatever that may look like to you!

In Repair

Please, dear God, let 2017 be better than 2016!

It’s been a year of false starts and knock-downs, renewed hope and crushed desires, rekindled dreams and reality checks. But I guess even all of that is a huge improvement from previous years when I actually thought my life was over! Thank God I survived those years! (Can anyone give me a post-divorce, post-cancer or post-any-kind-of-trauma AMEN?)

Still, what is it about 2016 that makes me want to look twice before crossing over into 2017? I feel ready – repaired from past damage – but what if I’m not? It is taking so very long for me to arrive, but maybe this time I’ll be ok.

The reason I hesitate isn’t because of fear – I think it’s because I really want it to be right, and I really want to be ready. You see every time I step out too soon, it just doesn’t work. Each time I make the wrong choice, I fail miserably. I seriously don’t just stumble either – I fall flat on my face, skirt over my head, and roll right off the edge of a tall building and into oncoming traffic – it’s ugly! I’ve learned that timing is everything. And if I’m not careful my next move could set me back again.

So I’m hesitant. Am I ready to step out and make these decisions just yet? I don’t want to be wrong!

I remember one time when I left my car at the dealership for some work to be done. It was promised to me in two days, so when the time came I went to pick it up. When I saw it, the front tires were new, and when I started it I could tell immediately that the battery had been replaced. I thought I was good to go! But as soon as I put it in gear, the same grinding sound that I had before was still present, and boy, was I mad! I huffed into the office and crossly informed them that they had not fixed it. Upon investigating, it was discovered that miscommunication among the mechanics had caused them to miss the most crucial problem of all. I had assumed I was ready to drive away. But there was still an unresolved problem under the hood.

Nothing can defeat you more than when you believe you have fixed your issues and that you’re good to go, only to get neck-deep into your next “situation” and find out that you’re still drowning in the same problems you had before!

So as I come to the beginning of a new year, I’m shaky from past events, but I still have hope in the future. I’m focused on decisions I need to make, and I’m determined to take the steps towards personal goals and in becoming the person God planned.

The question is, even though I’m not who I used to be, am I repaired enough to be ready for what is to come?