What Is Love

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I think we would all being lying if we said we hated the idea of love, of falling in love, of being in love, of love stories. In reality, I think it’s hard to hate an idea that centers around us being cared for, cherished, adored and frankly loved. We all long for that. Our culture is filled with romantic sitcoms and movies, it seems it’s on every billboard and it’s around every corner. The wedding industry is booming and Valentine’s day is celebrated by millions. However, what if I told you love doesn’t just happen once a year on a special day. What If I told you it’s an all year, every minute kind of thing. And even more, what if I told you love is not a feeling but it’s a choice…

I would be lying if I said that somewhere deep down inside I don’t long to be a princess. In fact, I used to think love was this fairy tale princess story that ended with a Happily Ever After and a ride off into the sunset with my Prince Charming. If you had asked me what love was two years ago that is exactly what I would have told you. It was Happily Ever After, tied with a beautiful bow around it. Now I know better. My friends, that is not love, because love is a choice, love is an action.

In fact, nearly four months ago I did marry the man of my dreams and I did have a fairy tale day but my marriage to sweet Brett has even more confirmed that love is a choice we make everyday. Because for any of you that have been married, had kids, had close friends, you know, laundry piles up, work days are grueling, you don’t always agree and life is hard. Feelings get hurt and we say things we didn’t mean, and it is in those moments that we have a decision to make, to keep loving. Brett and I stood up on that altar four months ago and we made a decision to love each other even when days are hard and we don’t feel like it and for that I am forever grateful.

However, I am not just talking about love with your significant other, I am talking about love with your friends, with your community, with your parents, with your extended family, with your kids, with yourself. I no longer hold the belief that love is this mushy, gushy feeling. If that were true then love would last very briefly. In the last few years (and even more in the last four months) I feel like I have gotten a crash course in love and what it means to love others and have them love you back.
I once had a conversation with a friend who told me that loving someone should be easy, it shouldn’t take work, it shouldn’t be messy and we should just have that love feeling. I tried to explain that was the opposite of what I believed love to be, because, love was all of those things, messy, hard, complicated, work, and it was anything but a walk in the park. We are human, we mess up and we are in no way perfect so why should love with other people be anything but imperfect. I believe there is only one true perfect love, filled with grace and that is from a Savior much bigger than any of us. So when it comes to imperfect people love is difficult. We often give up easily because love requires grace. It requires looking at someone and seeing their imperfections and loving them all the same.
Every day we wake up and we have a choice to dig deep with people. We have a chance to roll up our sleeves and walk through the messiness of life hand in hand. We have a chance to forgive and keep forgiving. We have a chance to live out grace. We have a chance to not treat others in ways they have treated us. Sometimes it gets really messy, sometimes it requires us to do things we don’t want to do, awkward things. It may require kindness to a stranger, it may be asking to help with a task you absolutely cannot stand, it may be physically cleaning up a mess, it may be time consuming. Each time we dive in and show that kind of love we are giving people a chance to see that beautiful face of grace and love.

Earlier this month, I got to spend time with one of my favorite friends who is beautiful inside out. She has mentored and loved me unconditionally. She has held me when I cried. She has talked me through the toughest times, shared her family and seen past my flaws. Most of the time I had nothing to offer her back but my mess and she still chose to roll up her sleeves, pick me up and help me out of my mess. She made a choice to love me when I was unlovable. That my friends is love, when we have nothing to offer and someone comes in sacrifices for us and scoops us up in their arms and makes a choice to love us.

Sometimes we forget to extend this same courtesy to ourselves. It is easiest for us to love others and not ourselves. My friends I want to remind you to extend that same grace and love to yourself, even when you are a mess and feel at your worst. You too need love, even from yourself. Real love is hard even for ourselves because it requires sacrifice. It may mean that we don’t get to watch a marathon of our favorite TV shows, maybe it means putting part of your paycheck into something less fun than a rainy day fund, sometimes it means telling the honest truth in grace and risking a relationship. That is where we often get caught up in a predicament, we are all about love, until it affects our bank accounts, our home, our time. I want to challenge you friend, true love requires this sacrifice. It means loving when the person isn’t deserving. It means loving when you want to quit. It means loving despite the fact that the other person can do nothing for you. It means loving the mess of a person laying in bed, who hasn’t showered, has bad breath and greasy hair. That is love.

This week I hope you think about the ways you can love others…truly love others, ways you can sacrifice and love people when it isn’t fun. It might seem hard and weird but just remember it is not a feeling you’re going off, it is a choice, it is an action. And as you begin to love others this week I have a feeling you will really begin to live and I pray you get that love and grace you are dishing out, served right back to you.
And may you ALWAYS REMEMBER…

YOU are LOVED!

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Losing Diamonds

If you were to look at my left ring finger you wouldn’t see that beautiful diamond that has graced my hand the last month and half. Nope it is not there…

Now before you all panic and starting sending me frantic texts and calling my mother, Brett and I are still very much together and engaged. In fact, if you haven’t heard we are having a July 4th wedding,which we are pretty stoked about. However, that diamond ring isn’t on my finger currently, although I wish it was.

Somewhere in between Sunday Church, lunch, a nap, and errand running the big diamond in my perfectly beautiful ring fell out. I was devastated. Gratefully we found the diamond on my floor after scouring my room, outside, cars, etc. The ring is currently being shipped back to the manufacture to be remade and the jeweler assured me this has never happened before and there must have been a defect with the ring. I am not sure if I felt better after that conversation or not. So for the next week and half if you see my left ring finger you will see a beautiful pearl ring my father gave my mother twenty six years.

As interested as I am sure you all are in my lost diamond saga, I think there is a much  deeper lesson that I have learned through it all that I would like to share…

I love people. I love spending time with people. I love sharing stories. I love phone calls. I love catching up. I love doing it all so much that I often schedule one too many meetings in a day. While it may be well intended, by the end of the day I am exhausted and sometimes I even have to cancel something because I am so overwhelmed with “all I have to do”. Just like I took for granted my beautiful diamond that set on my finger I take people and relationships for granted too.

This weekend I got to spend time with some of my favorite people, my RUF community. If you know me than you know how special they are to me, they are family. Half of them flew across country to witness the union of two of our dear friends. It was truly a beautiful special time. Some of us see each other often and others of us had not spoken in more than a year. However, we know each other, we get each other and after a few minutes together it was as if we had never been separated. We have smiled, laughed, and cried with each other. We celebrate victories and we comfort hurts.

Unfortunately, those bonds don’t come easily and they certainly don’t happen overnight. They happen one meal, one coffee, one secret shared at a time, one grace filled conversation at a time. Even more they don’t happen when taken for granted. Whether we all speak each week or we only talk every few months I can guarantee that we all value what each person has been and will be in each others lives. We realize that life is fleeting and friendships like these will not always happen. We recognize that although distance separate us, one day they will not and that one of the most beautiful pictures of God’s people in community is when we come together to share in life moments.

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Not only, did I have this beautiful reminder of community and friendship but I also had a much tougher example. Like my diamond ring that I once thought would always be on my hand forever. I often think I have infinite time with people and that if we miss one phone call than we can always catch up later. Sadly, sometimes that is just not the case. Last night, I visited my sweet 89 year old grandfather in the hospital. If you know me than you know that my Poppy has a very dear place in my heart. He was so much a part of my college years and in fact it is because of him that I had the best twentieth and twenty first birthday, complete with a Roaring Twenties and Mardi Gras theme. He has taught me to dance and to not take myself to seriously. He has loved me and laughed with me. He has beat boys off with sticks and taught me important life lessons. He seriously always makes me feel like a princess and the most beautiful girl in the world. Precious is an understatement of who my Poppy is to me. Last night, as it is becoming more normal, he didn’t know who I was. After some chatting he knew I was his granddaughter and after some coaxing he remembered my name. My eyes filled with tears at the smile that crossed his face and the pride in his voice as he said, Martha. Poppy may have years left or he could have months or days, we aren’t sure. However, his memory and dementia will continually get worse and there will be a day that he no longer is able to recognize me even with coaxing.

Last night visiting Poppy, was a tangible reminder that we don’t have unlimited time with people we love and in fact that we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Life is precious and it would be so easy to zoom through life from project to project and coffee to coffee without fully soaking in time and building relationships with people. In all honesty, who knows how many “diamonds” I have lost along the way because I rushed from thing to thing and took for granted precious people in my life.

Now I want you to know this isn’t a post to shame, this isn’t a post to make you feel bad if you are a busy person, and this certainly isn’t a post to say make sure you check and insure your valuable rings. This however is a post to encourage you and remind you to make time to focus on those who are the most precious in your life, to not let your schedule fill up, to not take any person for granted. As crazy as it sounds, it took a lost diamond to slap me in the face and to make me recognize that I have some of the most precious people in my life and I want to spend the rest of my life loving on them and being in community with them. My best guess is this is exactly what you want too. And while you continually loving and walking in community, may you always remember…

You are loved and you are worth it!

❤ MK

Life that shall endless be

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Last night I was reminded of how truly blessed I am. Wednesday nights have been my favorite  for the past four years.  Each Wednesday night I walk through the doors and am greeted by a community of people who love me exactly as I am…flawed, messy, and in desperate need of grace. Four years ago, I walked through the doors and was scared because I knew no one in the room. However, I was greeted with warm smiles and people that enveloped me in and for the first time during college I felt at home. A peace washed over me like I had never felt before and I knew I had found the community I so longed to be a part of…and that community is RUF (Reformed University Fellowship)…

As I sat there last night it hit me that this was my last time to sit and hear my pastor preach as a student. I still have a few more large groups left. I still have a couple more ministry team meetings. I still have the Craw fish Boil. I still have Summer Conference…but then it ends. And that is where my heart breaks…my time as an RUF student has flown by and I can’t believe it. However, my heart is still filled with such overwhelming  joy because, yes technically my time as a part of the RUF ministry as a student ends, but my community within RUF doesn’t and it never will and for that I am grateful.

I have been involved in many ministries since I was young. They were all wonderful and I loved my time with each. However, there is something about this group, this community that changed my life. It was within this community that I learned that I was messy and broken and  that I was loved and given grace despite my messiness and brokenness. It was within this community that I took my mask off, that I became real. These were the people who loved me in spite of my flaws and poured into me when I needed it most.

I have been blessed many times with communities that I have been spent with a group of people. These communities were people I  came together with for worship and a lesson, who I had great bible studies with, who we planned events together, had parties together. However, many times I have found that this is where the community ended. We came together for church, bible study, and special events but often we didn’t do life together and this is exactly what I expected when I became a part of RUF. I expected to have a great once a week large group, a good bible study, and enjoy some fun events, be able to sing on the praise team, and then I would go back to my life and do it all again the next week. I was wrong.

What I found is RUF doesn’t live within the walls of the chapel or within the space of Wednesday night. The community of RUF is visible, late nights at Whataburger, during the Slurpee runs at 7-11, at early morning breakfast, during birthday and Christmas parties, in the midst of break ups and heartaches, at the pub, singing karaoke on a Saturday night,  and whenever and however we are together or sharing life. These are the people who have held my hands, who have dried my tears, who have reassured my fears, who have loved me when I felt unlovable, who have shown me grace, and who have always  pointed me back to the cross. They spoke truth when it was hard to hear and came to my rescue when they saw me in need. They have shown me more love and grace than I could have ever imagined and they have shown me what it means to be in true community.

Now let me spoil the secret for all of you people who are thinking that we are this group of church people who have our lives together, you see that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I am going to speak for the community and say that we are ALL  messy, broken people, in desperate need of grace. We have messed up together, hurt each other, made dumb decisions, had to apologize, felt unlovable, had a multitude of struggles and suffered brokenness in many different ways. We in no way are perfect people we are a mess and we need each other. The sole reason that we have been able to love each other and show each other grace, despite our own flawed hearts is because, we have been shown a scandalous and truly amazing grace that none of us deserve. Because of this grace we were given we have tried to show that to others. We have spent time learning to live out this grace, to serve others, to love others, and even when we have screwed up we were shown grace. We believe in and serve a God who is bigger than us, bigger than our mistakes, bigger than our flaws, and bigger than RUF.

So here I sit a little sad because my time with a ministry I love is coming to an end but grateful that I have been given the opportunity to experience a community that keeps the main thing the main thing and even more joyful because this community lasts forever. These dear people are some of my best friends (but really they are :)) and while we may all be headed to different jobs, states, even countries and continents, we share a connection that can never be broken, and a faith and understanding of grace that transcends state, country and continent lines. If you are reading this and have been a part of this community of RUF, thank you will never be enough but I am going to say it anyway. Thank you for your love, your grace, your humor, your laughter, your realness, your brokenness. Thank you for embracing my ribbons and bows, my boy troubles, my Disney princess love, my love for Diet Coke and my constant use of the word best friend. Thank you for making me eat when I needed to, refusing to let me run when I couldn’t stop, for helping me eat ice cream and drink milkshakes, for introducing me to Wayne,  for coming to parties at GG’s, for praying for my family, for loving my friends, for listening to me sob, for listening to my uncontrollable laughter, for letting me lead worship, for encouraging me with smiles from the pews as I sing, for loving me when I was unlovable, for telling it like it is, for clinging to the gospel, for keeping the main thing the main thing and for always pointing me back to Jesus and His grace, love, and mercy.  Each and every one of you have changed me for good. The world we live in is all too broken and messy but you have made this side of heaven beautiful with the community that you have shown me (and I am not the only one). I am grateful for each of your friendships and my love for each of you is bigger than you can imagine. I am beyond blessed by each of you and you hold a piece of my heart that will be there forever. For many of us our time in RUF is ending but know that our love and friendship is not.

And what about those of you who are reading this and aren’t a part of a community like this? What if you didn’t know such community exists? My first thought is that if you are entering college or are already a college student find the RUF group on your campus! Seriously, DO IT! However, I know this is not reality for many of you. You may be past college age or not there for many years. The good news is that there are other communities like this out there, communities of people that are real, who cling to the gospel, and show love and grace despite their flaws; find those people.  You won’t be sorry you did…we all need a community this side of heaven to help bear in our burdens and love us well. I promise you they are out there. My friend, there is hope and it starts with unimaginable grace from a God who loves and chose you despite your messiness, He picked you. It is lived out by the community of people who are devoted to loving Him and showing this grace and love to others. Look for those people and if your interested in RUF… go check it out @ http://www.ruf.org. 🙂 And my friend, ALWAYS REMEMBER…

YOU are LOVED and YOU are WORTH  it,

<3MK