Love

A Love Perfect - In One Year

"If I ride the wings of the morning,

if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

even there Your hand will guide me,

and Your strength will support me."

--

Psalm 139: 9-10 

(NLT)

Wow. One year ago today, on my 28th birthday, I wrote my very first post here on A Love Perfect. So much has transpired in my life over the course of this year.

If I could sum up this year in one word, I would use the word "free".

For the first time in...well, ever... I am totally and completely at peace. I can't really explain it. It feels like an unbothered, unworried, settled feeling in the deep of my spirit. I'm happy. Finally.

To be honest, for so long my happiness depended on my surroundings; my outward circumstances. My joy lied in the hands of my peers. I had inconsistent peace. I allowed my life's events to dictate my state of being.

One of my greatest lessons this year is learning that joy is internal. Resting in the peace God gives leaves me without worries. It reminds me of something I shared in an interview last year with

All The Many Layers

, I said:

"There is no freedom like knowing that your joy can not be taken away from you. Once you find that internal joy and take advantage of the peace that only God provides, the joy you thought you had will be amplified. Your soul will ultimately be content. No one thing or person can enter your life and steal it away. That is true security."

Truly grasping that concept changed me for the better. I really began to understand the security I have with God's love. 

So getting older isn't so bad. I'm actually in a place where growing, maturing and evolving excites me. And I can't do that without getting older right? I can't evolve without being pruned and shaken. I can't be whole without being broken. And I can't love deeply without first learning to forgive. All these lessons were learned during the most difficult times in my life. I finally understand the phrase "growing pains". 

I am so amazed at how God is growing and carefully shaping me. This journey I'm on is no where near straight. There are twists and turns, bumps and roadblocks, but I moving forward. In the direction that God is leading me. 

I'm so grateful for A Love Perfect and it's growth over this year. I'm so thankful for the many wonderful souls I've connected with and the many hearts my words have been able to touch. Look at what God is doing! 

I could go on and on, but I want to end with a blurb that I recently wrote in the notes section of my phone:

"I've changed so much in the last few years. So much. Sometimes when I get glimpses of my past, whether it is a picture, writing or memory... I don't recognize that person. However, I am learning to love who that person was. Love the pain that that person went through, love the uncertainty and the flickering light within that person...without her, I wouldn't be full blaze. I appreciate her."

Love. 

Saunya Shelise

 

The Prayer Project Challenge #4 Sign Up: Turning The Other Cheek



We are approaching our fourth challenge of The Prayer Project! I am beyond excited for this particular challenge as I believe that it will be the most difficult yet most impactful. 

For the month of July we will come together once again and intercede on behalf of individuals that God places on our hearts. This month I am challenging you to pray for someone who has hurt you. This may be a friend, a sibling, a parent, a spouse, a boyfriend, a girlfriend etc. Anyone who may have betrayed you or hurt you in a way where you may have found it hard to forgive; or maybe you haven't yet forgiven them. 

You may be asking, "Why in the world should I pray for someone who has/had no concern for me? They did me wrong, why do they deserve my prayers?" Let's see what Jesus has to say.

"But if you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you." - Luke 6:27-28 (NLT)

If Jesus asked us to pray for those who hurt us, there has to be a reason why we should right? During this challenge we will further discuss why Jesus asks us to do this. (Sign up to receive emails below.)

Holding on to hurt or bitterness toward an individual does you more harm than it does them. Whether it was intentional or unintentional, the effects of dealing with hurt, especially if it was from someone close to you, can be very damaging if dealt with improperly. Releasing that hurt through prayer is symbolic of handing over the burden of that hurt and casting it onto God. Imagine the peace you could have by praying for the very person that tried to destroy you. Imagine God's power healing the heart of someone who tried to ruin you as a result of your prayers. 

This challenge is indeed the most difficult so far, but I believe that together we can overcome the hurt that may be holding us back from receiving all that God has in store for us. Join us on this journey of freedom, peace, forgiveness and tough but rewarding love.

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Theme for July: Pray for someone who has hurt you or someone you know.

How to Participate:

  • Choose a person (that has hurt you or someone you know) that God places on your heart to dedicate 30 days of prayer to. Do not inform the person you are praying for that you are doing this.
  • For 30 days, write one prayer a day as a journal entry. Keep them in a handwritten journal or type them and keep them in a folder on your computer.
  • At the end of the 30 days, if you choose, present the person you were praying for with the prayer journal as a gift. Let them know that God placed them on your heart to lift them up in prayer and that you decided to pray for them with no hidden agenda or intent to receive anything in return. Make sure you are doing this as a pure and genuine act of love.
(Note: Each challenge theme changes, if however you already have someone in mind that you would like to pray for that doesn't fit the theme, please go ahead and pray for that person.)

Challenge #4 of The Prayer Project 30 Day Written Prayer Challenge will begin July 1, 2014.
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If you are up for the challenge, sign up at the link below to let me know that you are joining. 
Make sure that you check your email and click the link to confirm your participation. If you have already signed up for a previous challenge, no need to sign up again. If you haven't

HEAL Them With Kindness

Have you ever heard of the common saying, "Kill them with kindness"? I always wondered why it was phrased that way. It makes kindness sound like a weapon or a manipulatory tool used to get what you want. That's not the purpose for being kind to someone at all. We forget that even though we think we are doing the right thing, God ALWAYS looks at our hearts and will judge us based on our motives and not just our actions. The motive behind the things we do is our truth. It's who we really are. The people around us may not know our motives but God does, and he knows exactly why we do the things that we do.

"The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve." - Jeremiah 17:9-10

With that being said, it is important that we on a daily basis ask God to clean our hearts from any hatred, jealousy, envy, unforgiveness, bitterness or anything that is in there that is not like Him. It definitely is a daily struggle. Afterall, we ARE human and we tend to have these feelings in our hearts on occasion. 

However, we have the choice to harbor those feelings and allow them to fester and grow, or we can choose to acknowledge them (and not pretend we are perfect and it's not there) and ask God to release those feelings from our hearts. I try my best to make sure when I pray to ask God to show me the things about myself that I may not want to see but need to see. And He does.
Sometimes it hurts and is shocking to know that I have things in my heart that I'm not proud of. But because God is a forgiving God and a cleansing God, I make sure I ask Him to help me clean up the mess that's in my heart and make me pure for the days ahead.

With a pure and righteous heart, I am better able to respond to people who come at me in any negative way. Because my heart is in a better condition, I am able to easily recognize when someone is hurting. They may be disguised as a mean, negative, hateful person but sometimes it's best to take a moment, breathe and ask God to help you by giving you the strength to be kind to them (because Lord knows if it were up to me I wouldn't be able to lol). Understand that it definitely requires supernatural power to be able to hold our tongues when someone is coming at us sideways. Sometimes everything within us wants to snap back and give them everything they are spewing at us. When this happens, I try my best to remember,

"A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare." - Proverbs 15:1

Wherever someone says things to you that may hurt you or may cause you to want to brush them off and look the other way, don't. Realize that it's not them. It's a quality or characteristic in them that God has not yet perfected. Continue to love them, be kind to them and pray for them. God is still working on them. The less you take personal, the more you can look past those "unfinished attributes" and love the God that's in them. With this attitude you can actually help them reach a place of wholeness faster. But harsh words and cold shoulders do nothing but make the imperfections in them grow worse. How you respond to them could actually determine how slowly or quickly they improve. 

Swallowing your preferred choice words and being kind will calm any angry person down. Your motive shouldn't be just to shut them up, but to help them. My preferred saying is to "HEAL them with kindness". Your genuine kindness could be just what they need to kickstart their journey to becoming whole again.

Love.

Reference Scriptures:

Prayer: Intercession - "Take Care of My Friend"

Did you know that one of the reasons that God gave us each other is so that we can encourage and pray for one another? We often forget that we have the ability to go before the Lord on behalf of our friends, loved ones, family, strangers, and even enemies. It's called Intercession. God hears and honors the prayers of pure hearts that go before Him honestly in efforts to help others. Sometimes we know people who are hurting so bad that they have trouble praying for themselves. It is our responsibility as their Christian brother/sister to step in and intercede on their behalf. So the next time someone you know is struggling with sin or are hurting, or even just having a hard day, before you open your mouth to judge them, pray for them. Love them. Let God handle the rest.
Dear God,

Today I want to pray for ___________. 
They are hurting and they need your peace. I know that I can't heal their hurt no matter how much I may want to, but I know that You can. Please cover them, comfort them and ease the pain so that they will feel Your love. Let them know that this trial will not last forever and that You can use it to make them stronger! Although they may not feel it now, remind them that they are valuable in your eyes! Lord, shield them from the hurt of negativity and judgments from people who do not care, but surround them with people who will love them, support them and build them up so they can push through this stronger than they were before. Show them that You really love them and that You are able to restore any brokenness that they have. And as You are working on them, help me never to judge them and to just be a supportive friend. Show me how to love them as You love us, without condition. Lord, I trust you to take care of my friend. 
In Jesus' name,
Amen.


"Share each other's troubles and problems and in this way obey the Law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody."  Galatians 6:2-3

Love.

The Indirect Power of Giving (Short Story)

Sitting here reflecting over my weekend and I wanted to share something that happened this weekend that really filled my heart...

About two weeks ago, I was out and about as I usually am, running a few errands. I made a stop to my nearest Target to pick up a few things (a few things? Right. lol). As I was walking to the entrance, I noticed a Caucasian male standing near the entrance. As I got closer, I heard him say,

 

"Excuse me Ma'am."

 

I turned around to see a slender, slightly unkempt gentleman trying to get my attention. I already knew what he wanted after quickly observing his demeanor. Rushing to get to the door so I could get in and get out, I briefly turned around (didn't want to be rude) and said,

"Yes?"
 

"Would you happen to have any extra change so I may get me something to eat?


Now, I live in Chicago. Believe me when I say that this happens ALL the time. There are pan handlers everywhere. In front of stores, on the corners, and even in the street at stoplights. Sometimes without even hearing what they have to say I brush them off most of the time because I don't feel like dealing with them. And sure enough just like I thought, this gentleman was asking for money. But for some strange reason, I noticed a sincereness in his eyes when I looked at him. At that moment I felt the Holy Spirit gently whisper to me,
"help him." But as usual, I walked past him, shook my head and replied,

"I'm sorry, I don't."

I walked into Target, got my "few" things and walked out on the opposite entrance so I wouldn't have to interact with him again.

On the drive home I kept thinking about it. For some reason, I couldn't get this man's face out of my mind. I immediately felt convicted and sad that I didn't help him. I couldn't really understand why out of all the panhandlers I say no to, this one weighed heavy on me. I knew then that it was because I didn't listen to what the Holy Spirit told me to do, and I was sorry.

Fast forward to this past Friday. Friday morning, I thought about the situation again while laying in my bed. I thought about how it wouldn't have taken much for me to give him the change from my coin purse. I brushed the thoughts off and just went about my day. Later that day, I again was out and about running errands, picking up food to prepare for a few house guests later on that evening. Walmart was on my list of places to go to pick up some snacks. As I was looking for places to park (the lot was unusually packed), I had to park further away from the entrance. As I pulled into my parking space, I see a man a few feet away from my car. I took a quick glance and I knew it was him! I was shocked! And I was surprisingly happy! I got out of my car and heard,

 

"Hey there pretty lady, would you mind sparing some...

 

Before he could finish, I smiled and asked him if he was the same guy that I saw in front of Target the previous week. He said yes and I chatted with him for a bit, asking him how he was doing (like I knew him lol). I told him that instead of giving him money, I would get him something to eat. He smiled and said he would wait by my car for me to return out of Walmart. I walked into Walmart smiling because I knew I had the opportunity to do things right this time. I got what I needed and walked into the Subway inside and bought a footlong sub, 2 chocolate chip cookies and a Coke. As I was walking back to my car, there he was, still standing there. When he turned around and saw me handing him his food, he started laughing with excitement. I had never seen anyone so happy! I don't think that he believed that I would actually buy him food. He thanked me, took the food and walked away. I got in my car and noticed as he was walking away he did a little fist pump and mouthed "YES!" I drove off and he waved at me again as he saw me leave.

This may not mean much to many, but to me this was monumental. At first I thought that this was a mere coincidence but then I realized that no, God orchestrated this. He gave me a second chance. He taught me a lesson. He used me to be a blessing to His child. And although I was disobedient the first time, He gave me a second chance all the while teaching me how important it is to give.

All of these thoughts and feelings overwhelmed me while I was driving and (me being my sensitive self lol) I started crying and I wasn't sure why. I was overcome with emotion and my heart was SO full because of the realization that God loved me so much that He gave me a second chance to do things right. I was also full because it made me realize that we sometimes take what we have for granted. All this man wanted was to eat. God has blessed me with so much, what would it take away from me to help him? My Dad always used to say, "We get to give to get to give to get to give..." It's an ongoing cycle. Ultimately, God blesses us to be a blessing to someone else. And although it is impossible for us to help everybody, it is extremely important that we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit when He urges us to help someone in particular. I may not know why it was so important that I help this man that God gave me a second opportunity, but I do know that it was part of His plan. And that fact alone is enough for me.

I am so glad that God allowed me this opportunity. I'm glad that I was able to mirror Jesus' love by helping someone that could possibly never help me. I believe that I benefited more from helping that gentleman than he did. Helping him indirectly helped me.The joy I felt was priceless and incomparable. God taught me a powerful lesson. The indirect power of giving.

 

Love.

Love Without Commitment

"Feelings of love can create intimacy that overpowers reason. People too often are in a hurry to develop an intimate relationship based on their strong feelings. But feelings aren't enough to support a lasting relationship. This verse encourages us not to force romance lest the feelings of love grow faster than the commitment needed to make love last. Patiently wait for feelings of love and commitment to develop together." - Student's Life Application Bible (in reference to Song of Solomon 2:7)

I am not afraid to admit that I in the past have been guilty of allowing "feelings of love" whisk me away into the wonderful emotional realm of love. Before really taking my time to develop that commitment, both parties (him and I) moved at a rather rapid pace and allowed our strong emotional feelings to grow much faster than our decision to commit to one another. Needless to say, it ended rather painfully because of the premature strong emotional attachment. That heartbreak could have been avoided had I (and him) made a conscious decision to take our time and not include "romance" until we knew 100% that we were going to be together.

In Song of Solomon 2:7, Solomon advises us "...not to awaken love until the time is right." Here he is suggesting that we not rush into romance, sex or a relationship prematurely (which is before marriage).

I know that sometimes that is hard to do. When you develop a connection with someone and the chemistry is just right, sometimes all reason and logical thinking goes out the window. Those "feelings" make us feel like we are on top of the world and anything or anyone that tries to combat that is a "hater" or "jealous". But sometimes when our emotions are all stirred up, and we begin to feel like we are "in love" we don't realize that we are attempting to build a relationship with sticks instead of bricks. What I mean here is that, trying to build a strong successful relationship on strong connections, chemistry, and feelings alone (aka sticks), is not enough to keep that relationship together. As soon as those feelings and that emotional high dies down, or as soon as a rock is thrown, the relationship won't have anything left to hold it together. It will crumble. And this is when heartbreaks occur.

God wants us to experience the joy and beauty of relationships in its fullness. He doesn't want us to experience emotional heartbreak due to us giving ourselves away in exchange for emotional highs. He shows us clearly in His Word the benefit of waiting until the time is right. He shows us all we can experience if we wait until we decide to commit to a person before we get lost in those "feelings" of love. Consciously slowing down your fluttering heart when dating can give you both time to strengthen your relationship without the distraction of romance. Taking time to build your relationship with bricks means slowly allowing your feelings of love to grow with your mutual decision to commit. Then you will experience love and commitment in its fullness, exactly the way God designed for it to be all along.
xo
Reference Scripture:
Song of Solomon 2:7 

Blurb: Solomon has become one of my favorite writers in the Bible. He challenges us by writing about topics that we rather not talk about. (He also wrote Proverbs & Ecclesiastes). In the book of Song of Solomon, Solomon eloquently writes of his love for his bride in the most endearing and poetic way. He depicts what God designed love to be like between a man and his wife. If you haven't read this book, I encourage you to read it and get a glimpse of the beautiful sanctity of marriage the way God intended.

Prayer: "Transform Me. I want to love like YOU do"

Many days I'm reminded that I just don't have the power to love the way Jesus loved. I mean, He endured the most pain, torture, criticism and He still loved. He shared with people, He forgave, He encouraged and taught without a bit of reservation. When I lash back at people who have hurt or betrayed me, sometimes I think, "Is this what Jesus would have done?" How did Jesus do it? God gave Jesus the power to love in spite of how people treated Him, and He gave us that same power. Even if it seems impossible, God gave us the ability to love those who are unloving toward us. But we can only receive this power if we ask for it and allow God to control our emotions. It's so easy to turn our backs on people who don't love us and I am guilty of doing so. Why would I want to love someone who did me wrong? It just seems so logical right? I honestly didn't truly understand what loving others really meant until my adult years. Loving those who hurt us heals, restores and helps the very person who hurt us. It really is powerful. Read 1John 4:7-20 and it will blow your mind what God has to say about love.

Dear Lord,
Every day I wake up is evidence that you still have a job for me to do. But everywhere I turn there are doubters, fear, betrayal and hurt. How can I continue on when negativity is all around me? How can I continue to love others when others willingly hurt me? Lord, I know that I can only do this with Your help. I need Your strength, I need Your power. Help me to easily forgive. Help me to not harbor pain and hurt and place it in Your hands. Lord I trust You, but I know I can't wholly trust You without giving my all to you. And that includes my past and all of my past painful situations. Lord help me to be free so I won't carry that heavy weight anymore. Please give me the power to love, share, and give freely even if I don't receive it in return. And as a result, those around me will know that You reside in my heart and the light they see in me comes from You. Lord, I thank you for Your transforming power and grace. Thank You for the work You're doing in me.
In Jesus' name,
Amen.