a thing called love.

"undeniable, unconditional, undoubtedly, infinity.
and oh so beautiful.
irreplacable, unforgettable, eternally. unmistakable, oh merciful.
and oh so beautiful."

God's love, that is.

That is how she described it, a mentor of mine who led a special retreat for the women of my church. One weekend with 45 other ladies, in a hotel meeting room in Newport Beach, California. It was a special weekend. One I'll never forget. I was just 14 or 15 years old, but the Lord touched my heart in a sweet way. I was ruined for any other life or love. And it changed me forever. 
Hearing those words above, sung in a beautiful melody, about the Lord's love... stilled the entire room that day. Women sat quietly. Some wiping their eyes, some kneeling on the floor in quiet prayer. It was high time for a lunch break, but somehow - not even one soul could not pull herself away from the sweetness of just sitting in that tender moment. Taking in the truth that was just sung and read:

"...how wide and long and high and deep
is the love of Christ...
this love that surpasses knowledge."
-Ephesians 3:18

During the weekend conference, the speaker asked the women to take their journal or pad of paper, and to write these 6 little words:

"Lord, why do You love me?"

Simple words. But oh the healing, the joy, the life that came from sitting down, stopping, and asking God how He loves us.

For some reason these past few days, I've been thinking about that special April weekend by the sea when my life changed. When I realized how big and beautiful God's love for me and you is. I have forgotten...with the passing of time, the wear of years, the blows of life's bitterness...just how oh so beautiful His love for me is. Sometimes, I get it so wrong. I go rushing around in a frenzy trying to "be good", "do good things for God", "serve others selflessly"...all good things. But, without the root of knowing Jesus...knowing Him for real, spending time with Him, knowing His love ..as the love of my life... those good things don't get me far at all.

That weekend by the sea, when I sat with an open journal and the words "Why do You love me?" scribbled on a lined page, my life was changed. Not in a flashy, fireworks kind of way. It was in a whispers of grace kind of way. A simple peace. In little things. And it grew over time. Through the sweetness and joy of singing words of truth in worship with a group of women I will sing alongside forever in heaven. In comforting words of a Psalm when my heart was shattered. Crying until I couldn't cry another tear, and feeling His presence all around me...giving me the strength to breathe. In those seasons of darkness when you can barely drag yourself out of bed in the morning, when staying under the covers in the darkness sounds much more appealing than going through the motions of life. His love...that gives you strength to somehow go on. His love...in hugging your sister. Laughing with a little child. Even sipping steamy cups of cappucino with a loved one. In the day to day ebb and flow of life.

I remember one of my best friends used to say, "I'm going on a walk. With the Lord. Just me and Him." And with that, she would take off...walking along and singing, smiling...completely enraptured with the Lord, the love of her life.

One of my favorite poems paints a beautiful picture of a woman who has opened her heart to the incredible love of God. Written in 1723 by Jonathan Edwards (theologian and missionary in the 1700s) about his future wife:

"They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that almighty Being who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on Him - that she expects after a while to be received up where He is, to be raised out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that He loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from Him always.
There she is to dwell with Him, and be ravished with His love, favor, and delight, forever.
Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction.
She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and sweetness of temper, uncommon purity in her affections; and most just and praiseworthy in all her actions; and you could not persuade her to do anything thought wrong or sinful, if would you give her all the world, lest she should offend this great Being.
She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind.
She will sometimes go about, singing sweetly, from place to place; and always seems full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what.
She loves to be alone, and to wander in fields and on the mountains, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her."

He loves you. And don't let anyone tell you He doesn't.
He doesn't love you because you are beautiful. Or because you were popular in high school. He doesn't love you because you can whip up the best batch of cookies this side of the Midwest. He doesn't love you because you have a beautiful singing voice or because you can snap some pretty darn awesome photographs with that camera. He doesn't love you because you get good grades. He doesn't love you because you are a good mother or a faithful friend or because you teach Sunday school.
He just loves you.
He doesn't love you less because of what you did last week in secret. He doesn't love you less because of what she said to you. Or what he did to hurt you. He doesn't love you less because you dropped the ball last year. Or because you wasted the last 5 years. He doesn't love you less because of what they think of you.

He just loves you. Because you are His. His little girl.
There is nothing you can do to make Him love you more. Nothing you can do to make Him love you less. He just loves you.

He is there. He is real. And oh how He loves you.

Ask Him.
Why do You love me?
And listen for His whispers.

And then when you know - go. And love, love, love, love.
With the amazing kind of love He has shown you.
Because, what is the response to being lavished upon so beautifully?
We cannot help but say, "Oh how I love You, Lord."
And out of this love....only then can you truly give and love and serve someone else.
And change the world.

Oh my darling friend, how high and long and wide is His love for you.

"I love those who love Me, and those who dilligently seek Me, find Me."
-Proverbs 8:17

"Love covers over all wrongs."
-Proverbs 10:12

"Love never ends."
-1 Corinthians 13:13

This thing called love?
It's yours.
'Cause He loves you. And His love is better than any riches or wealth,
the love of even the most wonderful man in the world or the most beautiful romance.
His love is better than friendship or even family.
It is exceedingly, abundantly the most beautiful thing I have ever tasted.
And I hope that you pray and ask this great God to show you how
He loves you.

'Cause He does. I know it.



ps - thanks to my sweet dad for helping me out with these photos :)