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This is Love

It’s been a decade since Andrew told me, but I’ll never forget the words that spilled out of my little boy’s heart effortlessly. Words that changed the way I pressured myself into believing I had to be the perfect mom.

Driving through carpool line, Andrew held his bag of Valentine treats and asked when they’d be passing them out in class. What he meant was, Do I have to I wait ALL DAY to stuff excessive amounts of candy in my mouth or will the teacher let us eat all the chocolate we want during morning snack time?

He didn’t care that his treats weren’t decorated with cool cartoon characters, hearts, or any Valentine Day indications at all. But I felt like the biggest failure as a mom.

The night before, Andrew reminded me he needed treats to give classmates the next day, and I had none. After we put our boys to bed, I ran to Target where the Valentines aisle looked like a bomb had exploded. Mismatched candy and gifts everywhere. No appropriate elementary school cards or treats to be found.

Humiliated, I grabbed a few packs of mini Kit-Kat bars and decided my poor child could write, “From Andrew” with a Sharpie on the back of each treat. I would apologize profusely and promise to never forget again.

The next morning as we drove to school, I wondered if I could make up my for my mom-fail with a big Valentines Day surprise when Andrew got home from school. Realizing it could mean another trip back to Target, I tried to get a sense of  what he’d want, so I asked Andrew, what makes you feel loved?”

He thought for a minute and then he said, “THIS.”

This?” I asked.

“Yeah. This. You being with me. You driving me to school and talking to me about my day. You telling me you’ll be there when I get home. That makes me feel loved and secure. Thanks mom. I love you, bye!”

And he hopped out of the car.

This is love?

You mean, I don’t have to work myself into a tizzy shopping for a toy that will convince my child I don’t forget him, even when I forget important things to him?

I can just be here for him and that will be love. Even though I was a grouchy mom the day before, so much that Andrew asked if I was mad about something, more than once.

This is still love?

I stopped to wonder if God were to ask me what makes me feel loved, what would I say?…. 

Keep reading over at inCourage where I’m sharing this story and how my heart answered that day. I’d love for you to be part of the conversation. Click here to join us. 

Forever Wanted {+ a book giveaway!}

We all struggle with identity—who we are, why we are, and what we have to offer the world. And just about the time we find a sliver of worth or significance, something happens to make us fully aware of how much we lack. A harsh word. A broken relationship. A failed attempt. Then, in spite of our best efforts at positivity or affirmation, we can’t escape the insecurity and aloneness we experience as a result.

When it comes to this epidemic of misplaced identity, my dear friend Michele Cushatt understands the struggle first hand. Without giving away her story (which you can read in her books), Michele knows what it’s like to lose her footing, and to wonder if she’d ever again be able to stand. But she also knows what it’s like to cry out to God for grace and discover the miracle of His Presence and His Purpose right here, right now.


The night held magic.

I knew it before the sixteen-year-old boy standing next to me reached for my hand.
Although we went to the same high school, I couldn’t believe it when he asked me out. He was an athlete, part of the popular crowd. I was completely average, an insecure academic.

So when he asked me to dinner, I fell all over myself saying yes. Clearly, my high school luck was changing.

I remember nothing about the date except for its ending. After driving us back to my parents’ house, he grabbed my hand and took me outside for a walk.

The moon and stars filled the fall sky like scattered shards of crystal. The evening was just cool enough to require a light jacket, but nothing more. Idyllic conditions for a romantic, hand-holding walk. Everything about the night seemed perfect. Which is why I didn’t balk when he pulled me to a stop and leaned in. His lips touched mine in an explosion of adolescent fireworks.

My first kiss.

Magic. In seconds, I went from unwanted to wanted, average to extraordinary. I floated like a balloon on a string held in his hand as he walked me back home.

The magic of the moment carried over to the next morning. Someone liked me! After years of girlish longing, it felt amazing to be wanted. Little did I know, the dream wouldn’t last. Too soon, the magic proved nothing but an illusion.

The truth became clear when I arrived at school. Within seconds, the girl sitting next to me in class said words that stopped me cold: “Something looks different about you today, Michele. Like something happened last night, for the first time.” It wasn’t her words as much as the gleam in her eye that gave her away.

She knew.

Heat filled my cheeks. I tried to shrug it off, but even my naive self knew something was amiss. My fears were confirmed when another girl—someone I’d known for most of my life—said something similar. Throughout the day, more smirks and comments came my way. Then, when the boy never again acknowledged my existence, reality made itself plain.

The entire thing had been a setup. A sham. A few weeks before, I’d confided to a friend that I’d never been kissed. She spilled my secret to a high school full of unmerciful teenagers. What I thought was magic was merely a popular boy’s response to an adolescent dare.

Nothing but a game. He won. I lost.

I lost far more than my first kiss that day. I lost my innocence. I’d been duped, manipulated, and misled. I wasn’t wanted; I was used. A prop to propel a teenage boy a little farther up the popularity scale.

As a result, I bought into the belief that the only way I’d ever be wanted is if I worked at it. I needed to put on a good show and put some effort into being worthy.

My experience with human love has, at times, left me jaded and self-protective. I’m afraid to trust love, to lean into it. I’m afraid I’ll find myself once again duped and used. And yet the Bible promises God’s love can be counted on. Do I trust His sincerity? Do I believe His love will not fail me?

There’s a story in the Bible about a woman who needed to be noticed by a man. When Ruth’s husband died suddenly along with her father-in- law, she became destitute, along with her adored mother-in-law, Naomi. Wanted one day, alone and without resources the next. No spouses, no means of income or provision. Alone.

Until Ruth discovered she had a kinsman, a relative who could assume the role of husband out of respect for his deceased relative.

But it was a long shot. Why would this relative, Boaz, want to give up his independence for a widow and her mother-in-law? An unnecessary burden. And yet Ruth and Naomi both knew it was their only option.

So one night, after the day’s work was done, Ruth walked over to the field where Boaz worked. She found him asleep on the threshing floor, likely exhausted from a full day’s work, and she curled up at his feet to sleep. As custom dictated, when he awakened to find that Ruth had “thrown herself at his feet” during the night, Boaz had a choice to make: receive her as his wife—and become her kinsman-redeemer—or reject her request. It may seem difficult to understand, but Ruth’s life hinged on the whims of one man’s wants.

Have you been there? Maybe you’re not a woman waiting for a man. Maybe you’re simply a person longing to be wanted. You trusted love once upon a time. But then a rejection or loss. An injustice or betrayal. Something hardened within. Never again would you throw yourself at the feet of anyone. Never.

I understand. But I’ve learned something since that devastating first kiss.

Human desire is a flawed echo of a flawless love.

While there is merit in romance, it was never meant to be the apex of all love. Instead, even the most beautiful and perfect human love is merely a hint of something far better.

God’s is love.

That means we are wanted by one who plays no games and hides no ulterior motives. He became the one who was used, unwanted and rejected so we would always know what it felt like to be protected, wanted and received. His love heals our wounds and soothes our hearts. And when we throw ourselves at His feet, there is no fear of what the morning will bring.

For the morning brings with it the knowledge that we’re already wanted. We’re redeemed by the one who holds the power to do the redeeming.

Every lesser love is merely child’s play.

~ Michele Cushatt, I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is
Copyright 2017, Zondervan Publishers.


These words pulled from the pages of Michele’s most recent book—I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is—were penned during her long and grueling recovery from a third diagnosis of tongue cancer, during which she was permanently altered physically, emotionally and spiritually. In it, she speaks with raw honesty and hard-earned insight about our current identity epidemic and the reason why our best self-help and self-esteem tools aren’t enough to heal our deepest wounds.

Michele is one of my best buddies and dearest friends. But she’s also one of the most powerful communicators of the spoken and written word. Her book came at a time when my foundation had been rocked and my security needed shoring up. Here’s the endorsement I wrote after reading it last summer: 


Using personal stories, insightful biblical teaching and soul-searching reflection, Michele Cushatt helped me reframe my life through the lens of who God is and who I am because I am His. Through this powerful 60-day journey of I Am, I found hope and courage to let God re-write the narrative of the story I am living and the story I am telling myself every day. ~ Renee Swope, author of A Confident Heart


ENTER TO WIN

From the moment a woman wakes until she falls, exhausted, on her pillow, one question plagues her at every turn: Am I enough?

When a brutal bout with cancer changed how she looked, talked, and lived, Michele Cushatt embarked on a soul-deep journey to rediscover herself. The typical self-esteem strategies and positivity plans weren’t enough. Instead, she needed a new foundation, one that wouldn’t prove flimsy when faced with the onslaught of day-to-day life.

I Am reminds us that our value isn’t found in our talents, achievements, relationships, or appearance. It is instead found in a God who chose us, sent us, and promised to be with us—forever.

HERE IS HOW YOU CAN ENTER TO WIN

1. LEAVE A COMMENT below this post, where it says “Share Your Thoughts.” 

2. SHARE this POST on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter, with the hashtag #IAMbook

That’s it! Your name will be entered into a random drawing. Be sure to tell your friends so they can sign up too. The drawing will take place on Monday, March 13th! {Contest is limited to US & Canadian readers only.}