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excerpt from, "His Princess...Love Letters from your King"by Sherri Rose Shepherd

My Princess . . . You are My Precious Daughter

You are a daughter of the King, and not just any king. You are My daughter, and I am the God of all heaven and earth. I'm delighted with you! You are the apple of my eye. You're Daddy's girl. Your earthly father may love and adore you, but his love is not perfect, no matter how great ~ or small ~it is. Only my love is perfect , , , because I am Love. I formed your body. I fashioned your mind and soul. I know your personality, and I understand your needs and desires. I see your heartaches and disappointments, and I love you passionately and patiently. My child, I bought you with a price so that we could have an intimate relationship together for all eternity. Soon we will see each other face-to-face ~Father & Daughter~ and you will experience the wonderful place I have prepared for you in paradise. Until then, fix your eyes on heaven and walk closely with Me. You will know that -although I am God- My arms are not too big to hold you, My beloved daughter.

Love, Your King and Daddy in Heaven

Chasing Other Loversby Harmony

I believe that one of the deepest desires of the human heart is for true intimacy. To be fully known and fully loved. Yet in my own life, for so many years, it seemed that the harder I chased after love, the more it eluded me.

My memoir, Scars and Stilettos, tells my story. Growing up, I never had a clear picture of what healthy love looked like. Abandoned by my father before I was a year old, sexually abused at the hands of multiple people-my picture of intimacy was completely skewed. I was so desperate for anything that resembled love, at the young age of 14, I slept with the first boy who came along and told me he loved me. He broke up with me soon after and raped me repeatedly over the course of the next year. Filled with hurt and shame, I remember thinking, "Is this what love looks like? Surely love can't hurt so bad?"

The next relationship I became involved in quickly became emotionally and physically abusive. Still I stayed. Because "to him who is hungry, even what is bitter tastes sweet" (Proverbs 27:7). Although the relationship was bitter and painful, I preferred it to the alternative-being alone.

It was that relationship that led me into a world of selling myself in strip clubs. So desperate to keep my boyfriend from leaving me, I attempted to buy his love with the money I earned while dancing for other men. Once again, my skewed view of love brought me pain. For the next few years, I lay awake at night hoping, praying even, that if I tried hard enough, if I chased him long enough, he would love me one day.

How could I know what True Love looks like if I had never experienced it? It wasn't until I began my relationship with God that I began to that it is patient. It is kind. It is not easily angered. True Love always protects.

It is no wonder that we crave intimacy so deeply. We were created for relationship. In Genesis, we learn that it was Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit that brings separation between God and humanity, separation from our perfect intimacy with God. Eve has access to everything she would ever need to fill the longings and desires of her heart, yet she still chooses forbidden fruit. How often do we fall to the same temptation and create fracture in our relationship with God? How often do we try to fill legitimate needs in illegitimate ways?

For years, I chased after men, looking to them to fill me. Nowadays, I tend to turn to chocolate. Just last week I was having a frustrating day and the first thing I did was grab a piece of my favorite, dark organic chocolate. The chocolate was delicious, but it did nothing to ease my pain. My prescription was insufficient.

The real trouble comes when our prescriptions become our addictions. It's when that piece of chocolate leads to binge eating, leads to obesity and compromised health. It's when social drinking becomes I-just-need-a-glass-of-wine-to-take-the-edge-off, becomes excessive drinking, becomes alcoholism. It's when a full social calendar becomes a lifestyle so bogged down with running from one appointment to another that we barely have a moment to catch our breath. Our prescriptions for our pain can become our addictions.

Ultimately, it is these insufficient prescriptions and addictions that stand in the way of the one thing that can truly satisfy-an authentic, unhindered relationship with our Creator. I believe that God is calling each of us to surrender the fragmented pieces of ourselves so we can experience true intimacy and love.

God is wooing you and I am hoping that we will give up our other lovers-whether they be man, woman, food, money, sex, busyness, beauty or something else. He knows the hollow end of those affairs. He knows that none of it will fill you like He can. The deepest longings of our hearts can only be truly satisfied by being fully known and fully loved by Him. There is no substitute-there is no filler-there is no other lover worth chasing.

Love, Harmony

A Father's Unconditional Loveby Briana

There is a new song on country radio right now called "Hurry Home" that, based on how often I hear it, has gained a quick popularity. It is about a man and his daughter who has run away from home. Her father's words to her are these: "It doesn't matter what you've done, I still love you. It doesn't matter where you've been, you can still come home." The first several times I heard the song, I felt tears sting my eyes. The words speak of unconditional love. A love some of us know, and others of us can only imagine, but all of us long for. No wonder the song is so popular - people recognize something in that song, something they can resonate with. It is the cry of our hearts to be loved like that! The father in that song does not have any qualifiers for the love he is giving. It's just

It doesn't matter where you've been . . . in the streets, in a brothel, in prison. It doesn't matter!

It doesn't matter what you've done . . . lies, theft, drugs, murder, prostitution. It doesn't matter!

Her daddy just wants her home - to have her in his arms again and to know she is safe. Love that can withstand anything is an amazing kind of love. That is the love of a father. The song is speaking of an earthly father, but luckily, regardless of who our earthly father is or how well he has loved us, our Heavenly Father offers that kind of amazing love. To all of us! We are all his daughters, and he is waiting to rescue us and bring us into his matter what we've done, no matter where we've been.

Do you really believe that?

Having become a mother in the past few years, it is starting to become clearer to me how this kind of love is possible. There are days (and sleepless nights) when I am frustrated, annoyed and angered by my childrens' behavior. But, even in the midst of that anger, my heart melts when they look at me with big eyes and plead for forgiveness. It is not possible for me to stay mad at them. It doesn't matter what they do. And so it is with God. It doesn't matter what we've done because He can erase the past, and make us new people! It doesn't matter where we've been because He will bring us out from there into a new place.

And, even better, he is patient with us! Toward the end of the song,it seems as though this daddy has waited a long time for his daughter's return, but his message to his daughter has not changed. He is not any more frustrated or angered with her than the day she left. God will wait, and He will wait, and He will wait. His love is never-changing. And it doesn't matter what we've done.

In Romans 5:8, it says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." He loved us enough to give up his life even though we were doing things he would rather us not be doing and living lives that were different than what he hoped for us.

You can rest in the fact that you have never done anything so horrible, or lived anywhere so dark that it could change the way your Heavenly Father feels about you. He loves you, and His arms are wide open, just waiting for you to run to Him and accept his love.

Where Does it Hurt?by Harmony Dust

The other day, my 1-year-old took her first tumble in the bathtub. After hitting her chin on the side of the tub, she slipped face-first into the water. I quickly swept her to her feet and began to examine her for injuries. She looked me directly in the eyes and cried at the top of her lungs. She wanted to know one thing, "Am I going to be okay?"

After finding no blood, bumps, or bruises, I held her in my arms and answered her question. "That was so scary but you are going to be okay, darling. Mommy is right here." Within moments she quieted and went right back to playing with her bath toys.

Pain can be good. It tells us that something is wrong-that there is something that needs to be addressed.

I realized that my daughter's response to her pain and fear was actually very healthy. She turned to me, her caregiver, and allowed me to assess her injury and give her comfort. It got me thinking about how I handle pain. Do I always go to God, my loving caregiver, and allow Him to assess my injury? To tell me if there is a wound that needs tending to?

The following day, I found myself hitting a wall. How many of you know that walls can hurt? So I came up with a solution: "I need a freaking piece of chocolate," I said out loud. The chocolate tasted great, but it didn't solve the issue. My prescription for the pain was insufficient.

In that moment, I could hear God whisper to my heart, "Come to me...Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest". In that moment, what I needed was the loving presence of my Caregiver, my Loving Father. I needed to spend some time with God and allow Him to assess my hurts. Like my daughter after her fall in the bath, I just needed God to tell me that I was in fact, going to be okay. It was an instance in which I just needed some perspective.

But sometimes our pain is an indication of an actual injury that needs tending. Perhaps an unhealed hurt, or a root of unforgiveness or rejection. We are walking wounded, trying to pretend that all is well-stuffing our faces with chocolate, our appointment books with activities, our minds with television. But these things can only offer temporary relief from the symptoms of our pain. They do not heal our injuries. We again find that our prescriptions for the pain are insufficient.

And there comes a point when our prescriptions for the pain can actually bring more pain. A point when they go from being insufficient, to destructive. It is when the chocolate becomes binge eating and excess weight that jeopardizes our health. When the pain of our loneliness causes us to look for connection in affairs and meaningless sex that jeopardize our families and our hearts. It's when social drinking turns to drunken stupors, hangovers and missed work.

There comes a time when our prescription for the pain becomes our addiction. We are chasing after what we think we need when only one thing can satisfy.

God has a cure. He says, "Come to me" for "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Ps 147:3). In the arms of our Loving Caregiver, there is rest. There is safety. There is comfort. There is healing.

Wanting our Mother's Loveby Kathy

My sixteen year old adopted son recently ran away. They were eight of the longest days of my life. I had a pretty good idea where he went and then had it confirmed when she finally called me – he showed up at the home of his biological mom. He was on a quest to find out if she loved him.

I remember being a teenager once myself and wondering if my mom loved me. I grew up in a strict family that didn't show a lot of affection. When I was doing what "good girls" do, I felt her affirmation. When I did things my parents didn't approve of, they didn't seem to want to be around me. I guess it was their way of disciplining me. I spent most of my junior year feeling rejected and alone. I didn't run away, but turned to boyfriends to fill the emptiness.

I'm not sure what all the dynamics are about wanting our mom's love, but I know it runs deep. I also know that for many different reasons, moms may not be able to give us what we want. My son's biological mom has a lifetime of pain and addiction to work through and she can only be a "sometimes" mom right now. My own mom's strongly held beliefs and prejudices keep us from being really close. Because we are human, there are a hundred different reasons why moms might be absent or unable to be what we want them to be.

My task in my son's life right now is to help him deal with his disappointment. If I hadn't eventually found a reason for hope, I might not have much to offer to him. Without hope, we tend to wilt like a flower without water. And if we hope in people or things that keep disappointing us, we end up in despair and our heart becomes hard as a rock. The only hope that I have found that doesn't disappoint is the hope I now have in my Savior.

God told the prophet Isaiah, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." Isn't that wild to know that our name is engraved on the palm of God? He will not forget us. He is not a "sometimes" God. Even when we disappoint Him, He doesn't stop wanting to be around us.

We can't trust our feelings about this, because feelings can deceive us. Sometimes we don't feel His presence, yet the Bible says that "He will never leave us or forsake us." I tell my son that it will take faith and time to trust how God continues to show Himself to us and to see how He is at work in our lives. I encourage him to watch for God, but also to pursue Him like he tried to pursue his biological mom. He didn't let anything get in his way. She was the only thing on his mind in that moment. He gave up his comfort and safety to find her. Although that search was disappointing, searching for God does not disappoint.

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5

Box of Chocolatesby Deb

For weeks before Valentine's Day, it seems as if all of the advertising on television, radio and in the newspaper flyers are filled with ideas of what we can do for that "special someone." We can't drive past a marquis or walk into a store without being hit with the red and pink reminders that Valentine's Day will soon be here.
But, what about those who don't have someone who will be sending them flowers or jewelry or taking them out for a romantic dinner this year? Or those of us who are in relationship with someone who just isn't that romantic, and seems to have somehow missed all of the reminders that we have been bombarded with? To them, it seems to go unnoticed, when we long to be told we are special, we are loved, that we are always on their mind. Sigh... It is easy be disappointed by all that we feel we're missing out on during this season, and to turn that disappointment into self-pity. Or worse, to begin to believe we are unlovable. But wait... there is someone who loves you (and me) and he has written all kinds of things about his love for us in his story, the Bible. God tells us in Jeremiah 31:3 that he loves us continually, no matter what, no matter where we've been or what we have done. He just can't stop loving us- wow! In one version God says to us "I LOVE you people, with a love that continues forever." In another version it states it like this "God said 'I've never quit loving you and I never will. Expect love, love, love and more love.'" He is telling us that we can rest assured that he will love us, unconditionally, no matter what. And it lasts much longer than a box of chocolates! Happy Valentine's Day and know that you are lovable, for God has said He loves you.

Pumpkin Patch Proposalby Briana

A few weeks back my family and I visited The Little Farmer. This is just a fun, fall activity for families. There is an apple orchard, a pumpkin patch, a playground, and hayrides. We took the opportunity to take the hay wagon out to the pumpkin patch to pick our own pumpkins. Many families got off of the wagon at the first stop, but we stayed on to go to a patch a little further out. One young couple did as well.

When we got off of the wagon, the young man asked the driver where he would find the "best" pumpkins in the patch, and was pointed to a corner of the patch that was a little bit out of the way. He thanked him and the couple walked away together.

My family spread out in the patch and after a few minutes my brother motioned me over from a far corner of the patch. He pointed to a group of pumpkins stacked on one another with a big one on top that read "Will you marry me?" We decided that it was probably set up for the young couple that joined us on the hayride, and wandered away to give them space.

After a few more minutes, the couple meandered to that corner of the patch. We watched from across the field as the gentleman took her hand and got down on one knee to ask for her hand in marriage. We couldn't hear his words, but his love for her was evident in his face and his actions as he took a step toward the commitment of his life. Within seconds the girl was jumping up and down and screaming as she threw her arms around his neck. We watched as they walked out of the patch with that huge pumpkin to commemorate their special day.

It was the moment that the heart of a woman longs for - the announcement that someone wants her, is willing to sweep her off of her feet and take her as his bride. Many women do not get this type of flesh and blood proposal, and spend much of their lives yearning for something that they feel is missing.

Jesus offers us this same proposal - to take his hand and be his bride. It is not a fairy-tale ending only for those in perfect relationships. It is a call to all of us. The heart of Jesus wants us to journey with him, and allow him to be our partner through the hardships of life. He wants to fill the desires of your heart that feel empty and void. You can choose to embrace him with the same excited response that this young woman gave her new fiancé! You can walk through life with someone who has "loved you with an everlasting love!" (Jeremiah 31:3). Are you ready to make the commitment of your life?

My Father's Loveby Deb

My Father's Love

Recently I went with my family to Six Flags Great America and while I was there I spent plenty of time in "Wiggles World" (you've got to love it; spending time with kids gets you to do stuff you'd never do without them!) I was watching the lines of squirming, excited children waiting patiently, and some less than patient for their turn on the pint-sized versions of adult-type rides. There were little helicopters to fly, the Big Red Car to drive and a miniature "Giant Drop." The Giant Drop has 5 seats across where children are harnessed in, elevated about 15 feet in the air and then "dropped" down a couple feet at a time.

As I waited in line with my grandson, we watched the children who were already taking their turn on the ride, most of their faces a mix of giggles and delight. However, one little boy, who just minutes before was begging to ride, now had a look of terror on his face, turning his head back and forth as he looked for some way out, some help. His eyes locked with the man standing next to me who also noticed his panic and the man called out to him "It's ok son, I'm right here." It was his father, his daddy, who called to him using the word "son" in such a comforting, endearing way and it struck me that he did not use the boy's birth name which is what he was called by everyone else. Instead he called him as son, a word that only someone in that unique relationship of a parent could use. The tension on the boy's face eased and he even managed a small half-grin as he rested in the assurance of his Daddy's presence.

I've thought of that man and his son several times in the weeks since, and I realized that's how God calls to me. When I find myself in situations that cause me panic or despair, either by choices I've made or the happenstances of life, my father, God, calmly calls to me "It's ok daughter, I'm here." That strong, steadfast love reaching out to me, calling me daughter in my time of need, brings me a calm assurance that I am his and he is there for me. Do you hear the voice of your father calling out to you? Listen for his voice in the midst of your uncertainly and fear. As this earthly father called out to his son providing a calming assurance, your heavenly father, your daddy, calls out to you, his daughter, to provide so much more of the same.

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