Lisa Appelo is a single mom to 7 and young widow. She's a speaker and blogger who shares soul-deep encouragement for the adventure of faith at LisaAppelo.com. She recently authored Countdown to Christmas: Unwrap the Christmas Story with Your Family in 15 Days.You can connect with Lisa on Instagram and Facebook.
Years ago, a girl gave her heart to a boy.
He’d first been a best friend. There’d been laughter and stories swapped on long youth trips, open school bus windows blowing in hot air and legs sticking against vinyl seats.
There’d been summer Sunday fellowships after church with games and swimming and school year lunches when the whole gang squeezed into the birthday booth at Burger King.
When the oldest in their circle got a license and family car, there were weekly day trips to find waves and she’d gone for the sun.
Somewhere in the laughter and bus rides and waves, she’d gotten to really know him and she fell hard.
Months were filled with double dates, flowers at the front door, letters and pictures and ticket stubs that slowly filled a shoebox in her closet.
One day, he wasn’t returning her smiles. He walked her to class but left without conversation. Nothing’s wrong, he said. But there was distance. And when she pressed, he said he’d been watching her give the smiles that used to be his to another. He’d noted the “harmless” time she spent with another.
It had been an imperceptible shift to her.
He wanted the first love.
Love only for him.
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (Revelation 2:4)
It’s almost undetectable, each day’s small move toward or away.
It comes from giving my attention to another.
From giving priority to another.
From “harmless” time with another.
It comes from falling in love with the gifts when it was the Giver who wooed us.
It comes from serving where He’s called but losing wonder of the Master.
God’s name is Jealous. (Exodus 34:14)
He will have nothing less than our single-minded heart.
After Dan died, emptied of so much that had been life and crushed for what life was now, I fell in love all over again.
The emptying and crushing times help us see that we need God so desperately. We can feel Him intensely in those times. We talk to him constantly and hear Him clearly.
We beg His wisdom for all the scary new and cling to His hope for the unknown ahead.
He is the deepest love at our weakest and darkest.
Oh, how I begged God to never take me from that place of deep love when my heart didn’t hurt so much and life looked brighter.
First love can flourish in the sunny days as much as the hard days.
How to keep first love flourishing?
1. First love thrives with reckless trust.
Am I trusting God to step out to places where I need Him desperately? To places where He is my hope?
2. First love flourishes when God’s voice is first.
Do I crave time in the Word with God? Do I fit the Word into the leftovers of life or fit life around the Word? Is God speaking to me more loudly anything else?
3. First love deepens when God is all.
Do I want what God wants? Is God enough or do I expect more? Is God my peace and satisfaction or am I looking for that somewhere else?
Today we will either move toward God or away but none of us will stay where we are.
“For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2 NLT)
Today Lord, bring us back to our first Love. Our heart is Yours alone.
You are our only all.
This post appeared first at LisaAppelo.com. Lisa is a young widow and single mom to 7. She writes about faith in the hard, grief and hope. If you'd like encouragement in your inbox, subscribe here and you'll receive Lisa's free 100 Days with Christ Bible study and journal.
I had something I was writing to you yesterday. It was nearly written and I just needed to edit and put some finishing touches on it before I hit publish.
But laying on my pillow last night, I realized I had something altogether different I really want to say. So here I am, laptop back open, typing away at the keys with words that won’t let me sleep until I write them down.
It’s a simple message. Nothing really dressed up with a bunch of flourishes because it’s a place I’m still working through.
Some days I think I’ve nailed it. But other days — many days — I find myself struggling to win this.
I want to live fully where I am. And I want to love where I am.
But it’s so hard. Because I loved the life I had.
I wasn’t ready to let it go. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch but it was the life I knew and the life we’d shaped and all the life I ever wanted.
There were lots of deaths the day Dan died. It wasn’t just loss of my husband but loss of the meter to our days, the assumptions of our future, our hopes and plans and family as we knew it.
The good news is that God is healing. He has so tenderly rescued me from the pit of despair and pain that were those first years of grief and set my feet on the rock of His hope.
But there are days. There are days I miss what was.
Maybe your life has taken a hard left turn you never saw coming and you find yourself struggling to live where God has you.
One of the hardest parts of grief is letting go of the life that was and taking hold of the life that is.
It’s a process. It’s not a one and done thing. We have to deliberately release the life that was and begin to root ourselves in the life that is.
This life we didn’t see coming can feel foreign, like we’re trying on someone else’s clothes and they’re too big and floppy. I’m the girl looking for my old jeans – the ones that felt at home and fit so comfortably with their well-worn memories.
This hard-left life doesn’t just feel foreign; it feels blank. It’s hard to re-imagine a future when the present is still being reshaped.
And yet, this is where I find myself. This is where God has put me.
And while I never saw it coming, God did.
God doesn’t have surprise endings or second-best options.
There is never a Plan B with God; only a Chapter 2.
I don’t want to just accept God’s will for my life; I want to agree with it.
To #livewhereyouare and love where you are is to agree that God got it right.
To #livewhereyouare and love where you are means THIS is exactly where we’re supposed to be and it has as much abundance and joy and satisfaction and laughter as the days before.
To #livewhereyouare and love where you are ensures we don’t miss the good here because we’re missing all that was there.
For the last few months, I’ve been using the hashtag #livewhereyouare on Instagram to help me mine the treasure that is life now.
What if we had a whole community of believers who agreed that God is getting it right? What if we fully faced this life as it is and mined the treasures that are here?
I’d love you to join me in community to document the moments that help you #livewhereyouare and love where you are. We’ll be using #livewhereyouare♥ to make it unique.
Show us your #livewhereyouare♥ moments. I can’t wait to see them, celebrate them and repost them.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
* * *
This post first appeared at LisaAppelo.com.
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Last year, when I woke up the morning of February 15, I sighed and relaxed.
I'd made it. Maybe you did too.
I was not prepared for how hard Valentine’s Day would hit. But scrolling through my news feed on Valentine's Day was painful.
My emotions were set to an all-day spin cycle with a mix of reminiscing and remembering, missing and wishing.
I signed onto Facebook early in the morning to send a few messages and instead got distracted by all the Valentine updates. Status after glowing status of friends and family happily coupled, framed by Valentine hearts and “I Love Us.”
Pictures of flowers sent, notes written, dinners out, jewelry given. Words about why she’d pick him all over again and why she’s still the one.
True, I probably should have shut off all social media for the day but even Publix made it hard to ignore that everyone seems to have someone on Valentine’s Day.
I made a quick run into the store for two things. Now, weekday afternoons at my neighborhood grocery store are usually pretty quiet and slow, with a few retirees or moms with a buggyfull kids running in for afterschool treats or before-dinner needs.
Not yesterday. The store was buzzing with a steady stream of men hovering over the flowers and chocolates.
The card aisle – usually the one empty lane good for a quick cut-through to the back of the store — was aflame in pink and red and lined with men hunting up that perfect card.
Oh February 14, you mess with me.
Valentine's Day is a sore reminder for so many -- of the relationship we no longer have or the relationship we dearly want or the relationship we're huring in right now.
Thing is, I don’t want to do away with Valentine’s Day.
I would actually be the first to cheer for marriage and for friends and family who’ve done the hard work of staying married. Marriage should be celebrated.
I know what hard work marriage takes.
It’s dying daily to self.
It’s fanning embers of a once-fiery love in between night feedings and broken dishwashers.
It’s saying I’m sorry a thousand times and accepting I’m sorry another thousand.
It’s being committed to commitment when emotions threaten to undo everything.
It’s allowing love to bend and widen, to soften yet harden, to flex and yet bind.
Only in the ache of loss did I realize how each ordinary, fearful, hard, hilarious, beautiful moment can stitch two into one.
I am not jealous OF marriage. I’m jealous FOR marriage.
And so while that spin cycle has me remembering what I no longer have, I find myself smiling over pictures of those who do have it.
I'm sure missing mine but I'm so very happy for theirs.
So go ahead and post your wedding day throwbacks and anniversary tributes. Go on and gush over each other.
You have so much to celebrate. Because you made it too.
February 14 might mess with me. But I wouldn’t want to do without it.
This post first appeared at LisaAppelo.com.
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