Category Archives: Self Worth

Mommed Out! — Learning Self-Care

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Here’s the core of what I know when it comes to self-care.  It’s something a Christian psychologist told me —

“If you don’t change your oil, your engine will freeze.”

Do you know what I’m talking about here?  Your car needs to have regular oil changes, or the metal parts in your engine will grate against one another, wear down, and eventually quit working.

We can experience a similar kind of grating.  Life gets crazy.  Our children need constant attention.  We’re overworked.  And we start having jagged edges in our inner workings.   We need to take steps to prevent ourselves from getting so worn down that something goes wrong.

When my psychologist told me I needed to “change my oil,” it was huge.  I had permission to get off the “MUST, MUST, MUST” treadmill.  In fact, I realized my mental health depended on giving myself breaks from all of the things I thought I SHOULD do.

Sister moms, the same is true for you.  You can’t just keep gutting it out.  It’s going to lead to depression, anxiety, health issues, anger problems. . . the list goes on.

We all need self-care.  We need refreshment and recharging.  But what is effective?  I’m gonna tell you, it’s not binging on ice cream and buying out Target!

Here’s the best place to start with self-care: nourish your soul with regular infusions of life from God.  Your time with your loving Father can be so restorative.  Find the cool refreshment of rest in him.  Bask in the sunlight of his goodness.  Cozy up to the warmth of his love and comfort.   Take nature walks.  Write gratitude lists. Listen to spiritual music and sing along.  Practice trust.

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You know, God describes to a tee what it looks like when we rely on our own strength, instead of going to him, “That person will be like a bush in the wastelands.”   (Jer. 17:6)  We’re like a dried up stalk, like our kids and life have sucked everything right out of us!

But Psalms 1 tells us a better way:  “Blessed is the one . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” (Ps 1:1-3)

Come on, admit it.  You absolutely NEED this time in your routine.  Start your day with it.  One mom came to this conclusion: “This is going to sound a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot), but I wake up earlier than my children. If I commit to doing this, I actually have more energy and approach my day much more grounded. Instead of being reactive, I have my plans and peace and am ready to give for what comes.”

The next thing you need for self-care is spiritual friendships.

Jessica and Yesenia

One of the best things I ever did when I was bringing up my kids was have a regularly scheduled hour each week for coffee with a friend.  It gave me a way to process, unload, and heal.

  • “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2)
  • “Confess your faults to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

You may need to work at making this happen.  I totally remember my children asking me, as I was taking them to yet another play date, “When do you get with your friends?”  Yeah, right.  But I was always intentional about squeezing in a little time with someone who was a lifeline to me.  Sometimes I was able to have more interactions.  Phone conversations often saved my sanity.

You may need to work at finding this friend.  Over the years, I reached out to many women who didn’t have the time or desire for a committed spiritual relationship.  But I kept trying, and eventually found sisters who were looking for the same thing I was.

Don’t think that this friend has to be a peer.  At one point I started getting with a widow who was retired.  It was so much what both of us needed.

And then you need to practice self-care by taking care of your whole self.

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That mom voice in you is always sabotaging your plans for self-care.  It tells you that your children need you with a capital “N.”  It says it’s too much trouble to make “me time.”  It screams that your floors need mopping.

The result is that you lose sight of yourself and anything you are outside of motherhood.

You’re like, “I need ‘me time,’ but I don’t even know who ‘me’ is anymore!”

The thing is, it’s not really about “me time,” it’s about God time.  You’re not wrestling to find a few moments when you can finally do what you want.  You’re walking with God, and seeing if there is an opportunity to shine for him.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  (Col 3:17)

God gave you a body, and it can feel great to work out.  He gave you talents, and it can be wonderful to use them to accomplish something. Whatever you do, make it about praising God though your actions, and you’ll find it’s invigorating.

Plus, looking at it this way gives guilt and discouragement a karate chop.  Some days you will feel like you’re failing as a mom.  Fight with faith!  Believe that you were created as you were for a reason.  You have abilities, things you can do, so don’t shrink back. Step out and do them!

When I was a young mom, I taught an art appreciation class through parks and rec.  I had craft parties with my friends and their children.

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I met an elderly woman at the grocery store and the kids and I started visiting her.  I shared with other moms when I went to the park, and studied the Bible with them.

I’ll admit, sometimes it didn’t go smoothly.  In fact, it could get uber crazy!  But I’m so glad I did those things.  I could feel myself growing wings and celebrating God.

Here are some recommendations from my mom advisers:

  • “Hobbies are great! You need something outside of the family life to keep your identity as an individual intact. I love blogging and photography.”
  • “I’m terrible at this part of “balance,” but my one thing is exercise. It gets my blood flowing and changes my mood right away.”

Finally, here is the statement you’ve been waiting for: Self-care is also taking a break and resting!”

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God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps 46:10)  And here’s another good one, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  (Ex 14:14)

God wants you to learn to stop.   He wants you to lie down in green pastures. (Ps. 23:2)  He wants you to take notice of the lilies of the field. (Matt 6:28)

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He wants you to quit trying to do everything (including his job) so you can realize who he is, what he does and what he will do.  All of this is so restorative.

Sister moms, oh, how you need this rest!!  When you have a job, you need time off.  Why shouldn’t this apply to you as a mother?

There’s just one thing.  You’re going to have to make a deliberate decision to let something else go in order to have time off.  You’ll have to be totally intentional, and schedule it.

This is how some moms are intentional about resting:

  • “Me and several other sisters switch out keeping each other’s kiddos so we all get a break. It’s so needed.”
  • “My husband has a little daddy son time every Saturday, so I get a couple of hours to myself.  Also, during my son’s nap time, I try to do one or two things, but leave myself at least an hour of down time while he’s sleeping to recharge.”
  • “My baby goes to bed at 8 pm, so I have up to two hours for reading, praying and playing a game or two in my phone. I also go walking with her.”

But wait, there’s more! Check out these ideas on other ways to practice self care: 

  • Get out of the house, especially if you are an extrovert.  “I like to get out during the day, to get us moving and experiencing new things, and to give me an opportunity to chat with other moms.”
  • Stay in and unplug (occasionally) if you’re an introvert.
  • Join a mom’s group. “I’ve found that mommy groups are great for social interaction for me and my kids.”
  • Engage in family leisure activities.  “Weekends, we try to do family things, a hike, or a beach trip.”
  • Do the little things that make a difference.  “Self-care is taking a shower each day, doing your hair or even putting on some lip gloss.  I play uplifting music while I clean.”
  • Unwind with your honey. “I go on dates with the hubby.”
  • Choose wholesome activities.  “I try to watch shows and read books that make me feel good, instead of those that leave me feeling kind of yucky, like I ate too much junk food.”
  • Be engaged in church. Don’t let it get crowded out.  It feeds your soul.  It helps you stay focused on what is most important.  It provides relationships
  • Live out your purpose.  It’s fulfilling.  Let motherhood be your ministry.  In raising your children, you are doing something supremely meaningful.  In reaching out to help other mom friends, you change lives and futures.  There will never be an easier time in your life to reach out.  And you will go to bed at night feeling deeply satisfied.

 In summary, self-care means learning how to pace yourself.

You can’t do everything.  Even if it seems like others are.  Even if your heart longs to do so.

Find your groove, as God created you.

Colleen

Recognize your capabilities, and plan accordingly.  Do what’s most important first.  Make space for replenishment.  Acknowledge that the more demanding life gets, the more you need to recharge. (I know, it’s so counter intuitive!)

Watch for opportunities to grow.  Watch for signs you need to scale back.

Be your best self, nothing more or less.

Work out a rhythm between you and God where you find balance and peace.

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecc 3:1)

Sister moms, you are wonderfully made! (Ps 139:14) Take care of what you have been given, the whole self, the physical and the spiritual.

Seek well being.

As you do, it will radiate and bring well being to those around you.

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Do you recognize this mom from the craft party picture earlier in the blog (third from the left)? Her mother was one of those I studied the Bible with many years ago.  What a beautiful young woman she has become, with a beautiful family!

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Filed under Balance, Self Worth, Mom Blogs

The Best Resolution for the New Year

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.  As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”  Mark 9:14-19

As I face 2018, I confess that I am in a bit of a funk.

I had the most wonderful Christmas.  The highlight of it was that my son and daughter in law surprised me and showed up at my door Christmas Eve.  I didn’t think that I would be able to see them.  But they came, and my whole family got to be together for the holiday.  I was beyond ecstatic.  Here are a few scenes —

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My husband and son grilling Christmas steaks.

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But now I feel like my grandson after we took him to a the small town of Valley’s Christmas celebration.  He rode the merry go round.  He saw Santa.  He slid down the slide bunches of times, and jumped in several bouncy houses.

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But when it was time to go, he got an attitude and kicked the ground.

He wanted to do more.

I want more — more time with my children, more ways for God to work.  I know it’s ungrateful, and I am so awed and thankful for the many things God has done.

But now I am facing the year ahead with a feeling of insufficiency.  There are things my heart is looking for in the new year that I feel totally inadequate to help bring about.

Today’s reading is perfect for this, because it gives me my answer.   The disciples were also feeling totally inadequate.  They couldn’t heal the boy.  I didn’t include the scriptures for whole story, but Jesus did drive out the evil spirit from the boy, and at the end, when his disciples asked him why they couldn’t drive it out, he said, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:29)

This year, things will only be accomplished by prayer.  This doesn’t just mean intense prayer, or prolonged prayer, although these are good.  But Jesus healed the boy in an instant, not with many words.

His disciples were stymied, because they had previously been able to drive out many evil spirits.  (Mark 6:13)  So there was something they were missing here, and Jesus said the missing ingredient was prayer, but not just any prayer.  It had to be the kind of prayer that was deep and daily, the kind that would bring them into a more faithful and powerful relationship with God.

That is what we need: deep and daily prayer.

We need to pray with listening ears, so that God will give us wonderful sustaining insights. “I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.”  (Ps 16:7)

We need to pray so that our faith is strengthened, by putting our requests before God and waiting in thankful expectation.  (Ps 5:3, Phil 4:6)

We need to pray so that we will remain in Christ, close to his power, just as he remained close to God.   “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  John 15:7

And much more.  What are the ways you will deepen your prayer life in 2018?

There are daunting things we will face in the coming year.  Will we be an unbelieving generation?  Or will we be able to face them with a strong faithful relationship with God?

“This kind can only come out with prayer.”  That’s the only way we can face the challenges to come.  That’s the only way to deal with our feelings of insufficiency.  That’s the New Year’s resolution we need.

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Filed under Faith, Mark, Prayer, Self Worth

Balm for the Soul

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”  Mark 8:35-37

Last weekend didn’t go as expected.

It started well. On Friday afternoon,  I went to Chewacla State Park with my friend Marisha, her daughter Makenzie, and our little friend Lexie.  It was a beautiful autumn day, and we had a wonderful time together.

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But then everything else I had planned for Friday night and Saturday fell through — two sets of people coming over for dinner and a women’s get together.  My spirits plummeted.  I knew it shouldn’t be a big deal, but I couldn’t help but feel down.

So I was wrestling with this, but then I thought, “Well,  I can have Saturday with my husband.  That will be great!  We haven’t had a Saturday together in awhile.”  I started thinking of how we could ride our bikes and go to coffee.  Then we could run errands and get caught up on some things we need to get done.  Wonderful!

Well, on Saturday morning, my husband dropped the bombshell.  “I want to go door knocking today,” he said adamantly, out of the blue.  I wanted to cry.  I didn’t feel like I had the emotional energy to go up and knock on the doors of strangers.  This was something I needed to pray about days in advance so I could get strength to do it.  I didn’t have to go with him, but then I would have felt like a spiritual slug and a selfish wife if I didn’t.

To make the story short, after awhile, the Spirit helped me get on board with this, and Ken and I went out in the cold grey afternoon for an hour or so and met some great people.  In the end we were very glad we pushed through.

What really got me, though, was what I realized when I was praying through my prayer list the following morning.  The second request on my list is for my husband’s evangelism.  I’ve started praying specific things for my husband that he’s mentioned to me, and that is one area he wants to grow in.

So that means that God was answering my prayer, and I didn’t even see it!  Instead, I wanted to oppose it.  Oh boy.  It makes me laugh and shake my head.

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Last weekend was a great illustration of the root character weaknesses that God has been revealing in me   — the need to control, and the need for personal affirmation (i.e. glory hogging).  It was so hard for me when things didn’t go according to plan.  And it was hard when I thought I wouldn’t be able to accomplish things, because doing things makes me feel important and valued. It assuages my insecurity.

I’m declaring smackdown on these weaknesses!  Here’s the verse that has been helping so much: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matt 10:28

Do you know what brought that verse to my attention?  It was quoted by Max Lucado in response to the Texas shooting. Lucado could have said a lot of things to help us deal with such a horrific event.  But instead, he got to the root of the matter.  We aren’t to fear the evil outside.

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We’re to fear what will happen if we don’t deal with the evil inside.

I have a lot of inappropriate fear.  I fear that I will do the wrong thing today.  I fear that I did the wrong thing yesterday.  I fear that things aren’t going as they should. I fear that something bad will happen and mess everything up.

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And what is appropriate fear?  It’s to fear the things that are destroying me on the inside.  And those things are the need for control and the need for affirmation.  Or in Biblical terms, they’re pride and more pride, with a side of unbelief.

So all of this leads up to today’s passage from Mark, and how Jesus said, “Those who want to save their life will lose itbut whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”   My heart is so convicted to realize that my efforts to control, so I can “save my life,” are having the opposite effect.  They’re causing me to lose my life, my soul!  I keep trying to figure out how I can fix what seems to be going wrong.  Doing that is hurting instead of helping!  My way of operating is innately destructive.

Now I’ve started to say, “No” to my deep craving for stability, and instead plunge myself into the goodness that is God.  I’m looking to him, not myself.  I ‘m losing my life a thousand times a day, to save it.

When Jesus said these words, he was dealing with people who didn’t get it.  They were worried about bread.  They told him he shouldn’t suffer.  In this passage, he was trying to key them in on what they really needed — to have a purity of heart and singleness of mind.  To know that the only thing that matters is the soul.

Because it’s the double mindedness that drives us crazy.  James wrote,  “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  (James 4:8b )   And he explained what this can look like: “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there there is disorder and every kind of evil. .” (James 3:16)

If our desires are for anything else, we end up like I was this weekend, feeling disordered,  emotional, confused and fearful.

Having a singleness of focus will see us through the troubled waters of our days.

troubled4Learning to be single minded has been like balm for me.  I can feel healing in the places I’ve inadvertently been damaging.

Here are some ways I’m working on being constructive, instead of destructive.  Perhaps they will be balm to your soul, as well.

  • Repeating passages over and over to myself that remind me what my inner state should be,  “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, etc.” (Phil 4:8) and, “The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, etc.” (Gal 5:22) 
  • Praising God throughout the day, which is much more appropriate than micromanaging him!
  • Picturing myself, like the elders in Revelation 4:10, laying my crown at the feet of Jesus.
  • Picturing myself going to God and drawing from his well of  goodness, rather than giving into my desires for control and affirmation.

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Filed under Having the Right Heart, Mark, Self Worth, Things I Am Learning

Restoring Our Souls

Yesterday I listened to a great podcast by John Eldridge on the soul.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Eldridge said that our soul is that unique part of ourselves that contains our abilities and characteristics.  It can also be called our “heart.”  It is our inmost being.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  We need to protect our souls.

Because, Eldridge pointed out, the Bible says we can lose our soul, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”  (Luke 6:26)  And he went on to say that losing our soul isn’t just a matter of going to hell.  We begin to lose our soul long before death.  The world steals it away until we are just a pale shadow of what we were.

Thinking about these things has been very good for me, because I realize that I’ve been too much focused on getting my self esteem from what I do, and not enough from who I am.  I keep thinking that I need to be productive to prove I am worthy.  Instead, I need to realize that I already have worth.  God created me to have a very special blend of positive attributes.

Several years ago I wrote down a summary of who I am:  I am someone who loves poetry, music, the majesty of God, truth, creativity, intellectual stimulation, celebrating life, and the infinite importance of each individual person. I am someone who dreams and believes that there is hope.

I wrote that because it’s so hard to remember who I am.  It really is true that the world steals our soul and we forget who we are.  I start focusing on being the way I think I should be, doing all kinds of good things, keeping a nice house, saying the right things.  And after awhile, I’m lost in the “shoulds.”

I get focused on my shortcomings.  I forget that with each gift of character God gives me, there is a propensity for weakness.  I tend to be a perfectionist.  That helps me to achieve, but it also can make me controlling.  I have deep emotions, but they can lead me into depression and anger.  The things I dislike about myself are actually a result of the GOOD way God made me.  It doesn’t mean I am flawed.

One of my new favorite songs is “She Used to be Mine” by Sara Bareilles.  Look at some of the lyrics and see how the character in the song feels like she is losing herself:

It’s not simple to say
That most days I don’t recognize me
That these shoes and this apron
That place and it’s patrons
Have taken more than I gave them
It’s not easy to know
I’m not anything like I used to be
Although it’s true
I was never attention’s sweet center
I still remember that girl

She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine

One thing I like about this song is that the woman in it loved herself, even though she saw she was broken.  And it helps me to appreciate myself and the mess I can be.  Yes, I want to keep growing in the good parts of my character and not give into the weaknesses.  But sometimes I am going to be a mess as I grow.  And that’s okay, because I still have the person who is me inside, my soul.  It’s better to be an imperfect mess, than try to be perfect and lose who I am.

So how do we restore our souls when the world has been like a vampire sucking them dry?  The podcast didn’t say, it was just Part I, and Part II wasn’t on the web site.  Bummer!!  Eldridge did a great job of pointing out that we go to all of the wrong things to restore our souls — we have an alcoholic drink, we zone out watching television.  But I didn’t get to hear what he thought were the right things.

However, we can get some ideas from the Bible.  If you have some thoughts, please share them with me!

Ps 23 reads, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.”  I think that if we will SEE how God is meeting our needs, giving us green pastures and water to drink, it is restorative to our souls.

“He guides me along the right paths.”  There is such a sense of peace in trusting that God is leading us in the best way.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”  God gives us gifts in our days, signs of his abundance, that will refresh us.

Trust, gratitude — these things replenish us.

Another thing I would like to mention here is the benefit of just being out in nature.  I think we can feel so close to God and restored if we will spend some time in the beautiful outdoors.  Perhaps it is no mistake that David was inspired by verdant pastures and pristine waters.

My husband mentioned that he feels it is restorative to the soul to serve and give to others.  I have to agree!  Even though it takes my energy, I feel so much better when I do something meaningful.  I volunteer for hospise, and I confess, sometimes before I go to visit someone, my heart isn’t in it.  But then once I look into the patient’s eyes and interact with them, such a deep sense of value comes over me.  THIS is what is really important.  It’s funny, because Ken and I went to Japan and exhausted ourselves serving all day every day, but we came back so energized!

A couple of other ideas — any time I spend a longer span of time on my knees in prayer, I feel restored. Singing praises fills my heart. Fasting almost always leaves me feeling restored.

Okay, I am out of time.  But think about this and vow to appreciate more the soul God created within you.  Let’s guard our hearts and find good ways to be restored!

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.  For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.  Ps 36:7-9

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Filed under Battle Against Evil, Self Worth

The Blessings in Finishing Last

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.  Mark 10:31

I so badly want to be first.  I want to be the Super Me, good at everything.

I realized this especially as I went on a short vacation this past weekend and spent time with family.

I wanted so much to serve everyone, say meaningful things to them, let them know how special they are.

I wanted so much to transform each moment into something golden, to savor the time.

But the reality was that I had several physical challenges.  I was tired.  I had a sore throat.  Some of the time my IBS was acting up.

How could I be Super Me when I was just trying to stay engaged, when the zing of energy and inspiration wasn’t there?

So I stayed in constant interaction with God.  Hour by hour, situation by situation, I laid my requests before God and responded to His promptings.  And He gave me direction.  He helped me to play with my granddaughter even when I longed to veg on the couch. He helped me to get out of bed and pray in the morning before everyone got up, to give and help when I was tired, to take the initiative, to say encouraging words.

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I guess I wasn’t Super Me at all.  I was Christ living through me.

And now I realize something really cool.  My plan is to do all kinds of awesome things for God and become an increasingly spiritual great person.

God’s plan is that I go through challenges that make me feel weak, even to the point where I can’t do the things I want to do, and I rely on Him more.

So at some point I will cross the finish line and receive eternal life.  But I’m not going to sprint all the way there with my wonderful deeds.

Nope.  I’m going to wallow towards the goal through the swamp of my challenges, pulling one foot out of the mud, and then another.

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Not first, but last.

How do I make peace with being in the swamp when everything in me screams that I’m failing if I’m not running full tilt?

How do I like myself when I don’t even FEEL like running?

Because it isn’t that I don’t like being stuck in the swamp, it’s that I don’t like the version of me who gets stuck in the swamp.

Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”  Romans 12:3

I need to be honest with myself.   I’m not Super Me.  I’m just a regular person with strengths and weaknesses.

And I don’t like the weaknesses.  I don’t like feeling useless and unproductive.

Coming home from vacation, I realized that I wanted it to be a succession of perfect memories

Instead I captured only glimpses, the peace on the beach with the wind blowing and the waves breaking cool against my legs, the beauty of sunflowers in the field, the laughter in my heart as my granddaughter tells me she’s having the time of her life.

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Maybe I am the same way.  I only experience  glimpses of the Super Me in my ordinary human life.

And that has to be enough.

Even before I went on vacation, I wasn’t feeling good.  I was super tired and foggy headed.  My IBS acted up.   Each day was one long series of pushing through.

And then, late in a listless afternoon, I listened to beautiful music.

It was amazing.  I had a deep sense of meaning and connection.  My heart felt restored.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,”  Isa 30:15

I remembered that quietness can be just as meaningful as activity.

You know, it occurs to me that when Jesus said the first would be last, that didn’t mean that the people who are last won’t receive as many blessings as those who are first.  They ALL receive 100 fold, now and in the life to come!

I think if I’m not running on all cylinders, it’s a sign that I’m not doing things right, that I’m not in sync with God.

But I’m realizing that I can find God just as much in being last, as I can in being first.

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Filed under Diary, Humility, Mark, Peace, Self Worth

Developing Self Love

Then they came to Capernaum. While Jesus was at home, he asked the disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?”  They were silent. On the road they had argued about who was the greatest.  He sat down and called the twelve apostles. He told them, “Whoever wants to be the most important person must take the last place and be a servant to everyone else.”  Mark 9:33-35

Okay, in the spirit of the apostles, who had to be vulnerable at some point to make this story known, I confess.  I want to be the greatest too.  I want to be better than others with my attractiveness, smarts, and competence.

Why? Probably because of my low self esteem.  Brene Brown said in her book “Dare Greatly” that narcissists fear being ordinary.  I can relate to that.  I’m always wanting to do something big.  If I live large, it proves I am worthwhile, right? But I also fear chaos.  Controlling my environment, being great instead of being a failure, seems so vital.

So I need to work on self esteem.  And that is just what my support group has been doing, as we do the “Healing for Damaged Emotions Workbook” together.

We’re learning that we should love ourselves because we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves.  “Jesus plainly made a proper self-love the basis for a proper love for neighbor.” wrote the author, David Seamands.

Love myself?  I don’t know how to do that without feeling conceited.

Hmmm.  So I started listing things I like about myself, starting with the way I look.  I realized I keep wanting to see myself in terms of flaws — the imperfect teeth, the cellulitey veiny legs.   Am I allowed to like my hair, my face, my shape?  Can I see the good physical characteristics as God’s creation, something to exalt God and not myself?  Because honestly it’s so easy to let them be a source of affirmation.

But all of my physical characteristics are just cells and mechanisms that I am husbanding for God.  They aren’t the true me, but the way I use them can reflect the true me, the things I like to do and have the ability to do.   My fingers can be creative, play music, or type quickly.  My feet can jog or dance.  My eyes can twinkle and emote warmth.   My voice can harmonize, encourage.

And I realize that the mechanisms behind doing all these things are amazingly complicated.  If I write this blog, it isn’t just talent working, it also involves muscles, nerves, bones, the brain.  Every time I hit a key, I am reflecting how amazing God is, that he could create something as complex as the human body.  The more I think about it, the more it comes to me.  The harmony of my soul and my physical being is MARVELOUS!   “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Ps 139:4

Here’s a thought.  If we are to love self, then Jesus loved himself when he was on earth.   I would think he would hate the physical tent – so messy, so limiting.  But he saw it as God’s creation — wonderful and marvelous.  Jesus had to have been comfortable with his skin, his appearance.  And he had to be happy with his character — his heart to love, his desire to teach, his passion for righteousness.

I love the Phillips translation of Eph 5:28-30 — “The love a man gives his wife is the extending of his love for himself to enfold her. Nobody ever hates or neglects his own body; he feeds and looks after it. And that is what Christ does for his body, the Church.”

Jesus extended his love for himself to enfold us.

And developing self love can makes us want to fold others in, reach out and embrace them,  serve them.  It increases our reservoirs of warm fuzzies.

How do we develop self love?  We can appreciate our God given attributes, as I discussed above.  But as I talked with the group, I realized that developing self love involves nurturing yourself, giving yourself permission to do the things you uniquely enjoy.  Here are some of the things we came up with:

  • Listening to music
  • Talking a walk in nature
  • Bubble baths
  • Worship
  • Writing poetry
  • Spending time with loved ones

I’ve been wrestling with something this weekend that has me tied in knots.  This morning I went for a prayer jog, and it was so soothing to my soul.  I experienced the pastel smears of  clouds as the sun rose, the yellow glow of streetlights radiating through the haze, the whistle of birds, the sublime music of hymns on Pandora — all of it washed over me and through me and I felt reborn.  All I wanted to do is spend happy time with God, not petition Him with my anxieties.

The sky this morning.

The sky this morning.

It’s so important for us to make our time with God something that is special to us, personally. We each connect in different ways.  It may be music and nature for me.  For you, it may be listening to a rousing sermon.  Learn to appreciate what YOU like.

Work on self love.  It’s a way we love God.

Working on self love is hard for me, because I have a pattern of self-criticism.  If you ask me how God feel towards me I would say it feels like He thinks I should do better, that I’m not doing enough.  I need to be doing more, more, more.  Meet more people.  Keep up with my friends more. Be more effective when I am with people.

In other words, I think I should be GREATER.  No wonder I can relate to the disciples.

But I AM enough.

It is enough to commit one act of love.  It is enough to be enthralled with gratitude for the beauty of one morning.

The Jewish Talmud says, “He who saves a single life, saves the world entire.” Great acts can be the smallest and humblest of acts.

In closing, I want to list the prayer Seamands encourages his readers to pray.  I think it is awesome!  I’ve typed it up so I can post it and remember it, and work on building SELF LOVE!

“Lord Jesus, I know you love me. Thank you for making me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have created is precious.

Thank you Father for calling me your child. Knowing this gives me a sense of being honored.

God you declared your value of me when you gave the life of your son, Jesus to redeem me. Thank you for valuing me so highly.

Jesus, you have promised to supply all my needs according to your riches. Today I choose to trust you with every need that I have. Thank you for providing for me so fully.

Lord, even before the foundation of the world You chose to adopt me as your own child. Thank you for having planned for me so carefully.

God, thank you for looking at me in Christ and declaring me accepted and beloved. It is awesome to think that you are delighted in me.”

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Powerful Encounters, Powerful Love

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”  Mark 9:2-6

This is a crazy story.  Jesus tells the religious leaders he’s not going to give a sign, and then he does here, at least to Peter, James and John.  We get to see without a doubt that there is something extraordinary and supernatural about Jesus.  He is not just a man.

And Peter later uses this in his testimony –“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”  II Peter 1:16-18

And it probably influenced John’s testimony as well –“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14

So what is so cool about this, is that through the transfiguration, God gave a powerful experience to men who would later have be able to impact the whole world through their strong convictions.  It’s not that Jesus didn’t want to do signs and wonders, it’s that he was going to do them at the right time, for the right reasons.

And I think the same is true for us.  God is not stingy with His grace.  There are times when we have powerful experiences Let’s be sure to attribute them to God, and let them impact us, and thus the world. 

Maybe it’s not on the same scale as the transfiguration, but I am amazed that I was able to have a yard sale last Saturday.  It is something that seemed completely overwhelming to me for years. Yet I was able to get it planned, get the stuff together, put out an ad, and price my items.  Tons of people came and we made $300 for special contribution!  Also, I think Easter Sunday was pretty astounding.  We had almost 90 people at church, including 16 children!  With the picnic afterwards, it was an idyllic day.

Jesus sought out powerful encounters with God.  He didn’t just go off somewhere to pray.  He went to a HIGH mountain.  It was a place where they could be by THEMSELVES. They had to put in some effort to get there.

We need to seek powerful encounters, mountain top experiences, too — times we go to meet with God and be transformed!

This is why we go on retreats.  But that’s not enough.  When I lived in Atlanta, in the pressure cooker of raising my kids, I used to have some pretty bad days.  When I was full of tears and emotion and felt at the end of my rope, I would drive to Stone Mountain and hike up to the top, praying all the way.  There was something about being up there with my Bible, looking out over the city as I wrestled with God, that helped.  I always felt better.

I remember other times when I would just take a walk, or go outside in the evening where it was just me and the fireflies.  There I would lay my troubles on God and try to work through them.

A couple of months ago I had a long car trip by myself, and I used that time to listen to the Bible and talk to God like He was in the seat next to me.  It helped a lot with what I was going through.  Sometimes I fast for a day, and spend some time with God and a notebook, writing it down as I feel like I get resolution from the Spirit on things that perplex me.

Okay, enough about that.  But here is one more thing I want to say about mountain top experiences.  We may be having them right now, and not even know it. 

I realized yesterday that I’ve been YEARNING to build the married and family ministry here.  In doing so, I’ve taken on an, “if only” attitude.  “If only we could convert some married, then things would be all right.”

The thing I realized about that, was that this is the same thing I’ve through through the years about other wants.  “If only we could convert a campus girl so Jessica wasn’t the only one.”  “If only we could have some baptisms.”  “If only we could get a leader.”

If only we could get those things, then I would be happy.  Then things would be all right.

The thing about that, is that attitude could keep me from relishing the amazing blessings I had, blessings I see even more clearly in retrospect.  They were awesome days when Jessica was the only girl, and we had great times getting together!  I can think of so many awesome times with people over the years.  I miss those people who have moved away!

SO TODAY, EVEN IF WE DON’T HAVE EVERYTHING WE WANT IN THE MINISTRY, IT IS THE BEST OF TIMES!  Let us be present and relish the relationships we have, and realize how powerful it is that God has given us this.

Going on, another thing about the transfiguration story that’s encouraging is that we can see the process of being physically transformed.  It helps me to have faith in what I will be one day.  My flesh will decay, but somehow I will have a spiritual body like Jesus.  After all, the Bible says he clothes us with his righteousness.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  II Cor 5:21

The last thing I a going to talk about here, and maybe my most favorite thing, is what God said to Jesus:  “This is my beloved son.”

The word for beloved is an extension of the word agape, the word for unconditional love.  The word used here is agapetos, and it means more than just loved unconditionally, it means divinely-loved; personally experiencing God’s “agapē-love.”

God basically told Jesus that He loves him in an extraordinary way, a full on Godly way.  It was a special kind of encouragement for Jesus.  It must have filled him to the brim with good feeling, even empowered him.

But remember, that Mark 9 starts with the statement that some will see the kingdom of God come with power.  And this is what I want to stress .  That the kingdom coming is not just a time when we die to self and have new birth, as I mentioned in the previous blog.

The kingdom ushers in a time when WE can be God’s children — HIS BELOVED, even as Jesus was the beloved son.  “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”  I John 3:1

This means so much to me.  In our emotional healing support group this past week I realized that one of the main things I need to be healed of is feeling that I don’t belong.  As I REALLY realize that I am God’s beloved child, I begin to KNOW that I BELONG.  That is just what I need.

God gives us his spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing that we are divine, that we are His and we have a place in His eternal kingdom.

I am enough.  I am not flawed, I DO fit in.  I am perfectly the person God made me to be, and He thinks I am incredibly special, and believes in my potential, even eagerly anticipates seeing me fulfill my potential, just as I anticipate this for my children.

So let’s seek powerful encounters with God.  Let’s appreciate the powerful ways He is already working in our lives.  And most of all, let’s bask in the sure conviction that we are beloved, and He will equip us with everything we need for the future.

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