Extravagant Love

I love when songs come alive to me. When I am singing and get such a personal vision I know it is God inspired to take me deeper. There is a song that has been playing in my head lately, Extravagant by Amanda Cook, Bethel Music, and Steffany Gretzinger, the lyrics are:

It’s extravagant, it doesn’t make sense
We’ll never comprehend, the way You love us
It’s unthinkable, only heaven knows
Just how far You’d go, to say You love us
To say You love us
Here is all my love
It’s Yours, no conditions
When You pull me close
No I won’t resist


As I repeated those words, my mind immediately went back to working with children who experienced trauma. Many of the children that I worked with were diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder. In its simplest form, reactive attachment is a disorder with problems developing healthy relationships. This disorder usually stems from early childhood trauma.

Some of these children would come into foster care; well meaning foster parents would think that they could quickly help the child form an attachment. Time and again I would see the child push away the foster parent’s best attempts. At times, these children would do everything they could to sabotage their placements. Sometimes the attempts were unintentional. Other times they could be down right vicious with an intentional sabotage.

Even when the child was able to let the walls come down and start to truly develop a relationship, they often have a hard time comprehending how someone could love them. They start out giving love on their own terms. How it looks, when and how often is all in the child’s control. It is such a big deal when the child starts to receive the love. When they don’t push away when embraced, it is a magical moment.

I realized that I have been the same way with God. Much of my life, I intentionally sabotaged my relationship with Him. I didn’t feel worthy of His sacrifice, and so I would act out just to give Him a reason to reject me. I figured if I messed up enough I wouldn’t have to worry about attachment to One who would ultimately realize I wasn’t worth the relationship.

Most of those feeling are tied to early childhood trauma, deep seeded feelings of rejection. I had formed an attachment, but my father was removed from our home when I was in 1st grade. My mother was not a comforting person. I was left with so many unanswered questions. As a young child my perception of God was shaped by those early memories. My relationship with Him was insecure, because I was insecure.

I knew my parent’s loved me, just as I knew that God loved me. My parents didn’t know how to show me love in the way I needed it. Much like the children I would one day work with, I just didn’t know how to receive love.

Although I am learning to receive His love, I am not sure that it will ever make sense to me. God’s love is so extravagant. Little glimpses of it, take my breath away; even after thirty-four years. His extravagant show of love overwhelm me, often. I think of how far He has brought me, and I can see how far He was willing to go to show me His love and to try to help me learn to receive it, even conditionally.

I just felt that nudging, of Him wanting to draw me closer. The feeling that He is longing for the time when I won’t pull away when I feel like I have had all of His love I could possibly deserve, and still then some. That He is waiting for that time when I won’t resist, but will instead allow His love to surround me, not just in head knowledge of His love, but without buffer.

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A glimpse of love

I was sitting in morning prayer before church. My grandkids are here for the weekend, and so they sit on either side of me while we pray. They are most cuddly during this time of intimacy with the Lord. As I looked down my grandson laid his head in my lap and looked up with the biggest smile and love in his eyes. A love so deep that it just cut right through to the deepest parts of my soul.

My grandson’s bigs eyes don’t see all my imperfextions and faults, they see one he loves and cherishes. That smile doesn’t say everything is perfect, it is one of true joy for just being in that moment with his mimi.

I realized, that is a glimpse into the heart of my Heavenly Father for me, for any of His children. God looks at His children with such deep love. He sees His children not through a lens of our sins but through a lens of finished work of the cleansing blood of Jesus. He smiles over His children. He rejoices over us.

The problem is that we don’t take time to allow ourselves to see His love. He don’t still ourselves, or quiet our hearts long enough to allow His love to penetrate our hearts. We aren’t mindful enough of His presence to let Him speak. During this holiday season, I would encourage you to take time to allow God’s love for you to become real. Look for the little ways that He shows His love to you, and picture the love in His eyes and the joyful smile He has for you. You will be surprised if you take time to be mindful of it, how many times during a day that He will bring your attention to Him and His deep love for you.

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Have you ever just needed a cup of coffee?  Old school coffee, not the k-cup kind.  Coffee where you grind up the beans, put the grounds in the coffee filter and brew a whole pot.  I love the aroma from the grinding to the brewing, the smell is intoxicating.  Even when I didn’t like coffee, I loved the smell of it in the morning.

One thing I quickly learned is you have to make sure the filter is in just right; otherwise, you end up with coffee grounds in the pot, and worse yet in your cup.  Nothing makes a customer or husband more upset than coffee grounds in the finished cup.  Unfiltered coffee grounds can run a perfectly good cup of joe.  I also learned that coffee tastes so much richer when you take the time to clean all the mechanics, the little mesh filters need cleaning just as you change out a paper filter.  I never realized how much checking and cleaning the filters could change the flavor.

Our lives are the same way.  Most of the time filters operate under the surface and we never really give thought to the influence over our perspectives. Every day the things we hear, and the way we respond, goes through filters, sometimes we are aware of the filter, but often that we have no idea about the filters we use.  Filters have their place.  Not all filters are bad, but most of us use them in our personal lives without even checking for correct position or considering they might need cleaning!

filterSome filters we can immediately recognize and make changes. Noise is a filter. Internal noise like when I am not paying attention, lost in my own little world. My daughter or husband will often have a conversation that I can not recall, because of the internal noise I was really paying attention to as they were talking.   They know if they want me to remember the conversation, they need my undivided attention.  They also know when that works to their advantage.  External noise is also a filter.  Background noise like music, television, internet or others talking can prevent a message from being heard, even if the person is trying to listen.

There are also some filters we recognize and  make accommodations for, but can’t necessarily change.  These would be filters like gender, language, age, and culture. I can not talk with my grandson at the same level I would my aunt or grandfather. Their ages, as well as mine, give each of us a filter which must be accommodated because the differences won’t change. I can not speak a foreign language fluently, but I can accommodate through a translator or interpreter if I need to communicate. There are even dialects within cultures that can create a filter. I have a friend from New York and as we planned a Christmas play I had to have her spell out the word “donkey” because I had no idea what she was saying as we discussed the nativity scene. Or another friend from New Orleans that would say “Come see.” with such an accent I thought he was saying “Come sing.”  What he was communicating was “Come here.” Our dialects were filters.

There are times, when I know people wish others would use a filter.  Like when the grandchild exclaims loudly in the store “Mimi, your butt is humongous.”  Or “He looks like he has a baby in his tummy.”   They are not trying to be mean, just saying what they are thinking without a filter.  Yep, that would be my kid or grandchild depending on the year.  At one time, it was me too.  My family has often asked me to use a filter.  I can be rather blunt at times.  There are times, I know that people could not handle my unfiltered self.  And so I take things through the muted filter.  I am still me, I just keep all that orneriness inside.

Then there are those filters that we have no idea exist until they are brought to the surface. Our experiences shape how we see things. Good and bad things can act as filters.  As children, we grow up thinking that everyone else’s world is just like our family.  Then we start visiting with friends and learn that most families do different things.

My daughter and I were talking about this recently.  She attended a group activity  and  were asked to share the worst thing that ever happened to them in childhood. She has a positive attitude and really struggled to find something. She wasn’t trying to be superficial, but she was raised to deal with things as they come up and then move forward. I don’t remember what she finally came up with or if she did – she was brainstorming with me like “My mom bought Kraft instead of Velveeta Mac and Cheese.”

As the other ladies shared, she realized that even though they were sharing through tears their pain, she had experienced the same things. I wasn’t married to her dad, he was an absent parent. I was an angry bitter person in her childhood, I yelled more than I talked. She witnessed physical violence, substance abuse, and was moved around a lot. She filtered her childhood through a positive filter and couldn’t even pull those things out until they were brought up by others in their own experience.

For some time now, I have been trying to recognize when I am listening or responding through a filter instead of being present in the moment. I would love to say that I have it all figured out, but even now there are filters that I know are present that I have to battle against. I was reminded of that yet again this week.

I was driving home from work and got a call “I’ll be home late tonight.”  It was filtered immediately through a negative filter from my past.  I was immediately taken back to twenty-three years before when my life had forever been altered by those words.  My life had been flipped upside down for some time following, and in those five words I was immediately back there.  I admit, I stayed there for a few minutes before I turned the corner physically and brought myself back to the moment.  I realized where my mind was trying to take me, and I spoke the truth out loud that I would see him later.

If I am honest, that filter didn’t start twenty-three years ago, it started in early childhood.  Only in the past few years have I allowed myself to process where certain filters came from.  Rejection is one that I deal most often with, and it is seated in childhood misperceptions.  My mind filled in the blanks with things it knew, when I didn’t understand what was going on around me and adults were trying to help me understand.

How does a young child understand sexual abuse of sibling?  As rejection.

My sibling gets alone time with daddy, a lot. 

How does that child understand “your daddy is not coming home for a while?” Rejection.

What did I do wrong that he has left me?

How does a child interpret being drug to older siblings school events, and then parents who don’t take time to come to any of the child’s events throughout school?  As rejection.

They don’t care about me as much as they do my brother and sister.

How does a child understand sitting outside counselors and pastors offices weekly for hours? As rejection.

I am not important enough to be told what is going on.

Children don’t understand words like abuse when it isn’t happening to them.  They only see the grooming that takes place that they are not a part of, which on the outside seems desirable.  The list goes on and on of things that my childhood perception was incorrect about, but no one took the time to help me understand.  It wasn’t until I was an adult and started thinking about the situation through the trained eyes of an ex-child welfare worker that I thought about the grooming process, the court orders, the conditions of probation, and being a registered sexual offender not allowed around children places like schools.

I didn’t realize how deeply that filter had become part of my identity.  I was more inclined to put up walls because I already knew I would be rejected.  I didn’t enter in conversations that didn’t start with me because I knew I wasn’t part of it and would be rejected.  Sharing what happened as a child, even though I didn’t know what it meant, suddenly would mean friends weren’t allowed at my house, rejection.  My heart broke as I realized how deep it went.  I didn’t have feelings of guilt or shame tied to my childhood past, it was just filled with rejection.  That rejection filtered most everything coming after it and I hadn’t even known.

If we can become aware of our personal filters, the change in our interactions can be pivotal. It is not easy to fight something that has been engrained for over 35 years.  Becoming aware that it existed was a game changer, because I can recognize when I am filtering situations and conversations through a filter of rejection and make it unfiltered.  I can cleanse the dirty filter so I can gain a richer perspective.

So now when I think I might be filtering through a false perception, I can pause and ask myself a few questions, just like I do when I am making coffee.  Am I in the right position?  Do I need to stop and wash that filter?

Am I looking through a lens of perceived rejection (Or whatever you filter things through – fear, lack of self-worth, anxiety, depression, victim, etc.) or am I looking though an unfiltered lens at what is happening?  Am I making assumptions or am I basing my view on hard data/facts/truth? 

Sometimes I really am being rejected, and while that doesn’t feel good it is not a misperception.  My actions and response can be based on that truth of rejection.  If it is not real though, I need to ask one more question.  What is the truth? And then I need to speak the truth.  I need to act on the truth instead of my feelings.  I might need to gain more information, but I need to work on getting the information, not just build a wall.

We all have filters.  Some we can easily change, like turning off the television or setting down our phones.  Some filters, we have to make accommodations for, like talking on a child’s level or using an interpreter.  Some filters, we chose to not use at all, like children in their innocence or blunt people.  Some filters we have to do some soul searching to see, and then we have to work to overcome those filters.  When we recognize the impact the filters have, we can start to recognize when they are at play and make changes until they no longer impact our interactions with others.


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Flip side

There is a flip side to every story, even a bad one. Last night our women’s bible study group was discussing offenses. The passage was:

Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.
Ephesians 4:26‭-‬27

The conversation turned towards how our words and actions cause others to take offense. I have had the conversation with countless people, family, friends, clients. It is a common theme, people wanting to take responsibility for how others feel.

I do not believe other’s feelings are something people should take on for themselves. I am responsible for my actions, if I wrong someone I have responsibility in that. If by my actions someone takes offense, I am responsible for my actions, not their offense. I am responsible for how I feel, not how others feel. If my actions make me feel a certain way towards someone, then I need to address it. If I am feeling convicted, I need to make it right; not because I caused someone to feel offended, but because I am convicted. I need to make things right, so I am right with God.  My actions are not based on their feelings, but mine.

flipsideThe flip side of being responsible for someone’s negative feelings, is that I would  also be responsible for their positive emotions. Trying to control someone else’s moods is too much responsibility.   It is a full time job. Multiple it by every person that you have chance to offend, and the job is insurmountable.  We can not take on responsibility for other’s emotions, good or bad.  Trying to control my own emotions is enough responsibility.

This is one of those areas where my career field backs up my point-of-view.  I have seen too many abusers use the line “if you hadn’t made me mad.” Or blame their feelings caused by another to manipulate a child into actions that no child should have to do.  Control is something that is given.  When we take on responsibility for other’s emotions, we are giving them a way to control us.  Learning that we are not responsible for another’s emotions, helps create a boundary that people with abusive tendencies can not use to be given control.

Helping others take responsibility for their own emotions, and knowing that we are responsible for our emotions helps develop a clear boundary.  It helps to prevent enmeshment.  It helps to easily define where one person starts and the other begins emotionally.

We all have times that we feel the need to take on another’s emotions or feel responsible for them.  However, we should not take on that responsibility.  It is too much for one person to carry another’s feelings.  It can lead to abusive relationships and negative issues of power and control.  It also helps to define clear boundaries in relationships.

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Focus Close {#Write31Days}


When all else fails, or even better before you start your journey, realize that if you seek God first, He will guide your path right where He wants you to focus. If you are feeling discontent, look at how close you are drawing to Him. If you are feeling lost, look at how close you are staying to Him. At the darkest times in my life, He has been the one that I have drawn close to out of necessity and desire to get through it. When I was a teen parent, I drew close to God. He carried us through.

When my husband left right after our son was born, I drew close to God. I needed His guidance and direction because I had no idea what to do. He taught me what it meant to depend on Him.

When I was homeless, I drew close to God. He directed me to the support system that could help me and that would help me get back on the right path.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, I drew close to God. When he died, I was so angry at God. I didn’t draw close to Him, but His right hand still held me.

When I remarried, I drew close to God. He had to be the center of our relationship if we were going to make it.

When I pursued a college education away from all my support system, I had to draw close to God. This was probably my favorite time as I learned what it meant to have a personal relationship with Him. I was saved at an early age, but no one had taught me about pursuing Him for myself.

When my best friend died tragically, I drew close to Him. I got to see God work miracles for me and encouraged me throughout that time.

When I started working as a Social Worker, I drew close to God. He taught me what it meant to carry other’s burdens and how to release them to Him. I have seen Him work mightily in the lives that I have worked in, direct answers to prayers that only He could answer.

Throughout my marriage, I have drawn close to God. He has taught me so much about myself, changed me in ways I didn’t know needed changing.

As a parent, I drew close to God, I needed His wisdom and guidance because they didn’t come with instruction manuals.

As I think about the plans and purposes that God has for my life, I know that the only way that I can focus on what He wants for me, His perfect will, is to draw close to Him. To seek His voice, I have to be close enough to hear Him. To allow His hand to guide me, I have to be close enough for Him to touch me. To find my purpose, I have to focus on Him.

This blog is part of a #Write31Days series on Focus with prompts by #FMFParty. Write 31 Days is an online writing challenge, where bloggers pick one topic and write a post on that topic every day. Five Minute Fridays provides prompts and encourages writers to free write for five minutes on the prompt.

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Focus your Voice {#Write31Days}

What you say about your dreams, visions, and goals is more important than what anyone other than God says  about them.  Because of this, it is important that you focus your voice to speak life into your purpose.  None of us can stop the thoughts from coming into our mind, but you don’t need to meditate on them or give voice to the negative thoughts. 

VoiceYes, there are going to be obstacles, instead of focusing on the obstacle, focus on the solution. Instead of saying “I don’t have the funds for this.”  Say “I need wisdom for how to finance this part of my dream.”  It is about reframing statements into a positive mindset.

I believe wholeheartedly that we were made in God’s image.  He created the world with spoken word and our voices have creative power too.  It is important that we focus our voice to create the right environment for our dreams to thrive instead of speaking death to them.

Our voice must align with what God says about our dreams.  He is not a God that will give you a dream that is impossible.  He will give you a dream that requires that you trust Him and that challenges you to rely fully on His understanding not your own.  That is why your voice must mimic His.  You have to give voice to the impossibilities that on your own can not be done, but with God the impossible says in His voice “I’m possible.”


This blog is part of a #Write31Days series on Focus with prompts by #FMFParty. Write 31 Days is an online writing challenge, where bloggers pick one topic and write a post on that topic every day. Five Minute Fridays provides prompts and encourages writers to free write for five minutes on the prompt.

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Focus Together {#Write31Days}

Much of my married life was spent chasing my own dreams and goals and my husband chasing his.  To say that we are completely different in our thinking is an understatement.  The things we like to do are different, as our are taste in music, movies, activities.  Our interests are on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Our personalities are similar, we are both a Five on the Enneagram.    While what drew us together has changed, we are both committed to our marriage and love still runs deep.

TogetherDuring times of struggle in our marriage, it seemed like only one of us would be focused on making our marriage stronger.  The other seemed to at least resist, and sometimes downright fight against it.  There have been many times were we were two people living under the same roof, more like roommates than husband and wife.  Other times, out of desperation from one party or the other, we would be in counseling and for brief periods focus together on our marriage.  Probably more often, we glide through things with the familiarity and comfort that come from twenty-six years together.

Relationships take work. Whether it be a marriage, a friendship, dating, parenting, etc.  They will grow stronger when both parties are focused on building, maintaining or deepening the relationship.  Focus on quality time together.  Focus on communication with each other.  Focus on commitment to the relationship.

We have just within the last five years, as our children started moving out and doing more on their own, realized how little we had focused on our relationship.  We had date nights, we had physical intimacy, but we hadn’t really talked about what we wanted for the future or how we saw life as empty nesters. We were just letting life happen around us.  We communicated about what was going on in the immediate or from the past, but hadn’t really planned for our future.

We realized we had to focus together on common goals in our relationship.  Not that we magically developed the same interests as the kids moved out, but without needing one of us to be with the children, we could pursue things together.  I still believe that there is a plan and purpose for our marriage that we will pursue together.  It may draw from our individual strengths and interests, but it will be for a greater good and have an impact larger than either of our individual footprints.   I still believe that there is more for me to learn about focusing together with my husband, but it is a journey that I am interested in taking. 


2018Write31DaysThis blog is part of a #Write31Days series on Focus with prompts by #FMFParty. Write 31 Days is an online writing challenge, where bloggers pick one topic and write a post on that topic every day. Five Minute Fridays provides prompts and encourages writers to free write for five minutes on the prompt.



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Focus Song {#Write31Days}

When I have a hard time focusing and nothing else works, I turn to the power of music.  Songs have always played a powerful role in my life.  When I find things to be more difficult than I can handle, music tends to be an outlet for that pain.  I can connect with the words on a level I generally can not tap into any other time.  Throughout my life there have been songs that spoke to the depths of my soul, songs that even to this day still can bring me to tears.

songThere was a song from a performance that my older sibling’s youth group did at our church called “Dreamer” about the life of Joseph.  The song was called “He Will Carry You.”  I have very few memories that are clear as a young child, but I still remember most of the words to that song.  It is a powerful reminder when I feel overwhelmed, that God will carry me.

Then there was a song by Michelle Pillar (1982), who came and sang at a community crusade.  I was pretty young when this song was introduced also, but I feel like my mother bought the cassette tape which reinforced the song.  The one that spoke most powerfully to me was called “You Were There All Along.” Those words came to me even as I walked away from God, because He was there all along.  When I came back to God, I would often sing this song as a special at church, but I added my own words to it because I had more to the testimony of the song.

As I have grown in my walk with God, I go through spells where certain songs speak louder than others.  At times, I can listen to a song with little interest, even singing every word.  Then one day, something will click and the words of the song tap into something that needs ministering too.

Music has a powerful way of ministering to the soul.  It doesn’t have to be Christian music.  Although that is what I listen to now, there are times when I pull from my past and listen to some music from REO Speedwagon, The Cure, Poison, Def Leppard, Kiss, Metallica, Garth Brooks, or John Michael Montgomery, just to name a few.  It just depends on the mood and emotions that I am trying to tap into.




This blog is part of a #Write31Days series on Focus with prompts by #FMFParty. Write 31 Days is an online writing challenge, where bloggers pick one topic and write a post on that topic every day. Five Minute Fridays provides prompts and encourages writers to free write for five minutes on the prompt.

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Whole Focus {#Write31Days}

I probably feel least qualified to write about being wholly focused. I have attention deficit disorder. Only recently have I allowed the doctor to put me on medication to treat it, in part because I hate taking medications of any kind. In other part because I was concerned it would change the essence of me. However, I tried a medication to help with binge eating, and the focus I had while taking it was amazing. I allowed the doctor to do an official test and then I started trying a few different ones until we found the right one with right dosage. It has helped with both my attention and binge eating.

I digress. I am one of those people who multitask. Up until recently I rarely gave 100% of my focus to any one thing. Research is mixed, but more recent research shows that multitasking is not really productive. I am learning this to be true.

WholeIf something is important, aka like your purpose, your family and friends, God, etc. It deserves your whole focus. Not that at times there might not be interruptions, but every attempt should be made to give your undivided attention, on a regular basis for an allotted period of time. Nothing else should get your attention when your focus is something or someone that is in a place of priority in your life. It should be a rare occasion, not a regular occurrence.

2018Write31DaysThis blog is part of a #Write31Days series on Focus with prompts by #FMFParty. Write 31 Days is an online writing challenge, where bloggers pick one topic and write a post on that topic every day. Five Minute Fridays provides prompts and encourages writers to free write for five minutes on the prompt.

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Moments of Focus {#Write31Days}

If you capture your focus and it is just for a moment, is it worth it? Yes! Moments add up, they build, they expand. Those moments will get you to your goal eventually if your consistent.

In June, I joined several people in a Run For God program at our church, similar to a couch to 5K program, but with a focus on God being why we take care of our bodies. The end goal for us was October 6 as we completed a community 5K.

On June 16th, I had never really run even in school. I am active, but running has never been for me. I signed up because my husband used to run and it was a hope to connect him to some men in the church. I had completed a 5k before. I walked it, slowly. Had I not had my keys with me back in 2014 when I did the first 5K, I would not have completed it.

That first day in the Run for God program was a 30 second run like 4 times in a 30 minute period with 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down. The moments of running were difficult for me. Thirty seconds seemed like a moment of eternity.

I kept with the program, but anything more than 2 minutes of running at a time and I turned into a walk because I couldn’t breath. When the group started running 5 minutes, then 20 minutes, then 30 I really wanted to quit. I didn’t, but I also never reached the running time goal.

On my best run day, I was able to run 6 rounds of two minutes for a total of 12 minutes of running, with 90 seconds of walking and the warm up and cool downs of 5 minutes. I prayed into every one of those two minutes for God to speed up the moment in time because I wanted to quit running. I have not found that I love or even like running, but I do like how I feel after.

MomentI completed the 5K. I finished in under an hour which was my goal. When I set out, I really had hoped to run more of it. I finished last, which was not my goal. Other people complained of body aches, mine was breathing. I walk a 5K most days at work.

I wanted to be negative after. My husband reminded me of that first day I ran. He pointed me to the progress made during that time and encouraged me to keep going. We have done just that.

I started a new program walk to run 1 mile. Day 2 I realized that I don’t like treadmill running and that I would have to alter the speed they wanted if I wanted to succeed. I could not breathe. I was cleared by the doctor before I started the 5K program, but I haven’t learned how to control my breathing.

My husband and I started back running on the trails for nice days. We have different goals, it that is okay. I have a goal in my mind that I’m working towards, a straight run. I am working on endurance, he is working on speed.

I realize that it will for now happen in moments. My goal is to increase those moments until I can run from the start of the trail to the first road. It is a little under a mile. Then I can increase the goal to run back.

Building a habit happens in moments. My moment of running has increased from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. I am not where I want to be, but I am making progress. Those moments of progress will eventually get me to my goal if I keep focusing on them.


2018Write31DaysThis blog is part of a #Write31Days series on Focus with prompts by #FMFParty. Write 31 Days is an online writing challenge, where bloggers pick one topic and write a post on that topic every day. Five Minute Fridays provides prompts and encourages writers to free write for five minutes on the prompt.

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