What I Wish I Knew when I Graduated

I was privileged to attend my oldest granddaughter’s high school graduation this past week. There were so many things I would love to tell her about the times to come, but some of them she will just need to learn on her own. That is how wisdom is gained. However, I decided to write a letter here with the top ten things I want her to know about life.

To My Dear Granddaughter,

I have watched as you have grown from an imaginative and spunky little girl, into a kind, thoughtful, and beautiful young woman. You make people feel good just by being around you. I love that about you. Your life is just beginning and you will have many opportunities to choose the path you will follow. Choose wisely.

When I look back to my time in college and afterwards, there are many things that I wish I had known. I think sometimes I just had to learn the hard way, but I hope that you are wise enough to listen to the lessons others can give you. So here are some things I think may be helpful on your life journey.

  1. Always keep God first. There will be many times in your life that you will be tempted to forget all about God. There will also be times that you look at organized religions and are disappointed at the disparities your see. Instead look at the life of Christ. See his actions and listen to his words. Because they will give you a life worth living. Jesus cared about truth and justice. He cared about the poor and disenfranchised. His ministry broke racial (the Samaritan woman) and gender boundaries (Mary Magdalene was one of the disciples that traveled with their group). Love God. Love your neighbor.
  2. Establish boundaries in your life and learn to graciously say no. Decide what and who is important to you. But even those you love sometimes need boundaries. I recommend the book by Lysa Terkeurst, Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Loving Others Without Losing the Best of Who You Are. Sometimes it is hard to set boundaries and say no, but for your peace of mind there will be times it is necessary in your life.
  3. Always keep a sense of humor. Be able to laugh at yourself. Laugh with others (not at them) and remember that joy is a gift from God. It is well-known that laughter really is good medicine. Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
  4. Choose your friends wisely. I still have good friends that I made in college. It is important when you are choosing the people you are hanging out with, that you are sure they are the kind of people you need in your life. Good friends build you up, they don’t tear you down. Good friends are encouraging, they are not negative all the time. Good friends can tell you the truth in a loving and kind way. Good friends don’t gossip and backstab. Good friends share your laughter, you tears, your joys and your sorrows. Choose wisely.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I always tended to let the “what ifs” discourage me from trying something new. Yet, I found that it is sometimes better to try and fail, than to not try at all. And when you try and soar, it is all worth it.
  6. Choose a vision statement. Think about what you want out of life. Write it down. Figure out what you need to get there. Then go for it. Through different stages of your life, that vision may change, but always keep a vision of where you want to go written down where you will see it frequently.
  7. Don’t let failure define you. Everybody fails at something. I could make a whole list of people who have failed at something– people like Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein. Every time you fail, look at it as an opportunity to learn.
  8. Become a well-rounded person. Read books. Watch documentaries. Learn a foreign language. Take piano lessons or cooking lessons or Taekwondo or a painting class (you get the picture). Learning new skills is good for the soul.
  9. Develop the art of listening. Listening to someone’s story gives you great insight into their personality. Sometimes even the person who drives you crazy has a story that leads you to greater understanding of why they are the way they are. Everyone wants and needs someone to listen to them. (Granted there are some people who you really want to turn the stop button on.) But listening will help you become a better friend, mentor, and teacher for others.
  10. Love yourself. Second to loving God, I think the most important thing I can tell you is to LOVE YOURSELF. It is so easy in this media saturated world to make comparisons. You are unique and there is only one you. We can always stretch and grow, but learn to love yourself the way you love others. Stop the negative self-talk and instead give yourself some positive self-talk: I am kind. I am a good friend. I am empathetic. You are worthy of being loved.

There are so many things learned in life. Some of them are painful, like a first heartbreak. But some of them are wonderful opportunities that enhance your life. Just remember that you are surrounded by people who love you and care about you. When life gets overwhelming sometimes, just pick up the phone and talk (I know you prefer texting). I promise, I will listen.

You have had a piece of my heart since the first time I held you in my arms. I wish only the best for you as you journey through this thing we call life. I love you, Nana

When the News Is Good or Bad

Yesterday was an emotionally challenging day for me. As I woke up anxiety surrounded me. My heart beat faster, my thoughts raced, and even though I kept telling myself, “God has you in his hands” my anxiety level soared.

Then I got on Facebook. And guess what? God even uses Facebook posts to send me reassurance that he loves me and cares about my challenges. First, I read some scripture someone posted about God’s presence. Then a friend of mine posted a skit. The skit was about the very issue I was facing and even more amazing, one of the key players, Mrs. Linda, shared my name.

Then one of my friends posted a podcast where her husband was the keynote speaker for a fundraising event at a hospital. He related his journey and how God put him in the path of people who were just what he needed. He shared how God was with him every step of the way.

After hearing his story, I bowed my head and prayed, as tears rolled down my cheeks. I asked God to reassure me that no matter what the outcome of this visit, I would use it to glorify him and share his blessings with others. I surrendered my heart (which I seem to find myself needing to do on a frequent basis) and my health to God during that conversation. I had a sense of peace and knew that God’s presence was surrounding me. My anxious heart was beating normally and my thoughts focused more on God, who knows my every need and loves me with a great depth of love. God got my attention and reassured me that all my cares could be cast on him.

My daughter picked me up and as we drove to the doctor’s office, I sensed God’s presence with me even as we discussed the possible scenarios that may be before me. As I talked with her, I replayed in my mind the months that had led up to this day, including the hospitalization that resulted in a CT scan of the abdomen, which surprisingly showed a spot on the left lower lobe in my lung. This was followed by a regular CT scan a couple of weeks later, and then a wait of a month just in case it was an infection that needed to clear up. Then another CT scan with contrast followed. Then came the recommended PET scan. The PET scan came back with some red highlights.

By this time, a lot of options had been discussed and my doctor felt strongly that I needed a biopsy done. As he discussed the one-inch mass with irregular borders, I followed along in my mind. I knew he was convinced it was the dreaded word–CANCER. By this time it was a primary concern for me also. Because of the location, my only option was to have needle biopsy. The radiologist, too, felt we were dealing with possible cancer. Lung cancer. I never smoked. How could this be happening?

As the day of the biopsy came, my sister (who is a nurse) accompanied me to the hospital. I survived the procedure despite my rising anxiety levels, and then the waiting began. In the scheme of things, five days is not long. But when you are waiting for what could be life-changing news, it seems like forever.

As my daughter and I waited for the doctor to enter the room, I actually felt much calmer than I thought I would be. It helped that my 3-month-old grandson was with us and we watched as he cooed and smiled. The doctor greeted us and then sat down at his desk. He pulled up my files and reassured me that he just wanted to make sure he wasn’t missing anything as he reviewed the results.

Then I could hear the smile in his voice as he said, “It’s not cancer.” I could have danced around the desk and hugged him, but I managed to restrain myself. Even though I had given it to God and asked him to use me no matter what, I really was relieved that the “what” wasn’t cancer.

The doctor told me that he had been certain it was cancer and he was relieved to tell me it wasn’t. What I do have is treatable and in actuality, I had the same thing in 2015 (only then I was very sick with it). So I am extremely grateful that I have been down this road before and know how we need to proceed.

But I got to thinking about this. Would I still have praised God if it had been cancer? Would I still have had peace and put it all in his hands. I like to think I would. God is good (and he would have remained good even if it was cancer). He answered a lot of prayers that have been going up on my behalf. He led me on a journey that deepened my trust in him and made me treasure life even more.

I know there are some of you reading this who did not get the good news that it wasn’t cancer. You may be on a journey that is difficult and long. But in the midst of it all, God is there. He knows your burdens and trusting in him makes all the difference in the world. As my friend, Don Sigler, said when he had cancer, “I am in a win/win situation. I win if I overcome cancer, and I win if I die, because I will be with the Lord.” His win was to be with the Lord and cancer free forever.

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” I pray that I will always know the joy of the Lord, even if it is in difficult circumstances because I am in a win/win situation.

Embracing the Pause

Lately I have been thinking a lot about “the pause.” Our church has been doing a series on the elimination of hurry in our lives and it is a big challenge in our society to even take time to rest or pause in our lives.

In music the pause is the place where there is a brief rest, a place to savor what is happening in the music before rushing in to the next notes. When you are in an argument the pause may be where the people arguing realize they need to take a break and calm down before continuing. The pause can give you time to think about what is happening and where you need to go. Sometimes the pause is when you are lost and do not know the correct direction to go in now. The pause helps you with a roadmap or recalibration on Google maps to find the correct next steps.

Sometimes the pause is actually something like menopause. As a woman, I can attest to the fact that this is a significant pause. It indicates the end of one era of life and the beginning of another (while dealing with the side effects and hot flashes that accompany it!).

Sometimes the pause is voluntary, such as a retirement or a change in your job. But sometimes it is involuntary; maybe it is an illness or a layoff. But the fact is that when “the pause” happens, it usually happens for a reason.

In 2009 I was laid off from a job I enjoyed and this put my life on pause while I tried to figure out where I was going next. A few months after the layoff, my husband passed away. As I look back on that period of time, I realize that God’s hands were all over my circumstances. I would never have been able to spend as much quality time with my spouse before his death if I had been working. And while his death caught us all by surprise, I don’t think it caught God by surprise. In his graciousness I was able to savor the last few months I had with my husband because I was in the pause.

Most of us find times in our lives where we either have a voluntary pause or we have an enforced pause. We were not created to hurry through this life with the mentality of more, more, more. Instead, we should look at the life of Jesus. What he accomplished in the last three years of his life is absolutely amazing (and we were allowed only a glimpse of it–the rest of it would have filled books). But even Jesus Christ took time to pause. Many times he would go out early in the morning and pray. Sometimes he would go in a boat (and even sleep through a storm) to obtain his pause. Frequently he talked about pausing and spending time with the Father.

In John 4 we see Jesus pause for a rest. “So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from his journey, sat down at the well. It was about noon” (John 4:5-6). Jesus paused. Sometimes the pause allows something to follow that can be life-changing, as it was in the case of the woman at the well.

In John 11 we see that Jesus paused before going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He delayed going to Lazarus when he was told he was ill. When he finally left and went to Jericho, Lazarus was already dead. But we find that it is in the pause that faith happens. And when that pause ends, frequently miracles happen. We see that when Lazarus was raised.

Photo by Priscilla Du Prez on Unsplash

So I would encourage you to savor the pause when it occurs in your life–whether voluntary or enforced. Occasionally we need to make room for the pause by eliminating something from our to-do list. Because it is in the pause that Christ can do some powerful work. It is in the pause that we can slow down enough to spend more time with our heavenly Father. It is through the pause that we can hear God’s voice more clearly.

It is interesting that just today I read about Elijah, who was feeling like he was the only one left to stand up for God (1 Kings 19). His life had been threatened and he was on the run from Jezebel. God appeared to him. But it wasn’t through the winds, the earthquakes, or the fires that he appeared. It was through a quiet whisper. How can we hear God when we are in the midst of busyness and chaos? It is through the quiet that we can hear his whisper the most. So embrace the pause and take the opportunity to hear God’s whisper to you.

Spewing Is a Nasty Thing

When my oldest son was about three-months-old, we decided to go on a three hour trip to my brother’s house. We were only about thirty minutes into the trip when I heard my son throwing up. I am going to be graphic here for a reason. By throwing up, I mean literal projectile vomit spewing from his mouth hard enough to hit the seat he was facing. Needless to say, it was horrifying to watch my little baby throw up in such a way. I knew something had to be drastically wrong. (It turns out that he experienced motion sickness, which explained why I never could rock him to sleep without him crying harder!)

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Today I experienced something just as horrifying as watching my little boy spewing vomit. I opened up my Twitter. As I read I was appalled at all of the hate and vitriol literally spewing out of the mouths of most of the people on there. The right wing, the left wing, the LGBTQ, the anti-LGBTQ, the politics, the hate for Trump, the hate for Biden. I was sick to my stomach and closed my phone after 10 minutes of reading. All I really wanted to do was look up the people I follow, and yet I was caught up in reading comments I never should have started reading.

I understand that in America we have some significant divides and ideologies. I worry for the state of America and my heart is saddened for the people who continue to propagate all the hatred. I fear for where America is headed.

However, as a Christian, I need to realize that no matter what happens here on earth, God is ultimately the one we will answer to for our behavior. What he has asked of me is that I love the Lord, my God, with all of my heart. Then he has asked that I love my neighbor. He did not say, “Love your neighbor if he thinks the same way you think.” He did not say, “Love your neighbor unless he is a sinner.” (We all are.) He did not say, “Love your neighbor only under certain circumstances.”

He said, “Love. Your. Neighbor.” I know it is easier said than done. Loving someone does not mean condoning their lifestyle and choices. It does mean showing them kindness, goodness, and the light that Christ brings in your life. It means trying to develop a relationship of respect so that you open the doors to have candid conversations. It means listening to them and understanding what has shaped their lives. It sometimes means inconvenience and messiness and hurt.

Frankly, there will be times you will need to walk away. But walk away with dignity instead of hurtful words, slurs, and hatred in your heart. Those things will never lead someone to the Lord. But your gracious words, your humble heart, and your prayers for someone will yield far more positive results than vindictive and hateful words and actions.

Spewing. It is distasteful, no matter where it is coming from. It is time to start loving God and then loving your neighbor in such a way that you are a light to the world around you–no matter how dark it seems.

©Lindadelaywallace.com 2023

The “MONSTER” (The Perversion of Forgiveness)

I have been working on my book and am deep in the midst of my main character’s struggle. This article speaks to me. Forgiveness is often for the sake of the victim’s peace of mind, but it is never so that the perpetrator can escape the consequences of the harm he has done. The church needs to start helping victims to recover from their trauma. Let the healing begin and then eventually, forgiveness may come.

Anabaptist Revival

All things God creates and institutes are beautiful – human sexuality and marriage, the Church and brotherhood, forgiveness, and redemption. These and more are tokens of His love to His creatures. Yet such very blessings are what Satan perverts, and with mankind’s permission, he turns them into curses. It is urgent that we focus on one of these diabolic deviations and the terrible damage that it is inflicting.

Forgiveness and redemption and how they were accomplished are the ultimate expression of God’s love for us. Likewise, only as we forgive one another as Christ forgave us can we live together in joy and harmony. However, I am discovering that the principle of forgiveness has been so distorted that it has become a frightful monster, wreaking havoc and destruction in the church.

The perversion of forgiveness prevents the wounded from healing. It makes the brotherhood an unsafe place for the vulnerable…

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Gloomy weather

Photo by Callum Blacoe on Unsplash

I enjoy springtime in Missouri. But more times than not, that means gloomy, cloudy, windy days versus sunny days. I would assume most of us prefer sunshine and warmth, versus cloudy and chilly. While I occasionally enjoy curling up with a book and reading during a thunderstorm, I would not choose that on a daily basis. I would choose sunshine. But the fact is we need the rain on a regular basis. If not for the rain, our world would be in dire need.; a desert wasteland, with the lack of water causing drought everywhere.

Isn’t it a little like that in our lives? None of us would choose the bad days and would much prefer the good days. The difficult days are the ones that challenge our patience and even our faith. They bring bad news, health challenges, job issues, and more. And yet, without those we would not have an appreciation for the good days.

The fact is our challenges and trials make us into wiser, more mature individuals. In fact, Romans 5:1-5 says, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (NLT)

We become people of character and hope when we encounter the trials and difficulties of this life, if we rely on Christ and stay strong in our faith. The bad days will undoubtedly come occasionally to all of us and, indeed, some of my friends seem to get more of them than others, But those times of testing and trials serve to help us develop character and wisdom. They also gives us hope for the future of heaven, where all of those trials and tribulations will be gone. The tears will be wiped away, and we will be living in the presence of a holy God. That makes the gloomy weather worth while in the end.

Loving My Neighbor

When I sold my old house the one thing I missed was my old neighborhood. I knew every family on my block and we frequently would have impromptu potlucks in the cul-de-sac at the end of the street. One person would send out the call, and we would all show up with whatever we had decided to fix for dinner that evening. Two of the families would pull out tables and chairs between their houses. Sometimes the grills would be fired up and we would gather around. There was always a good assortment of foods. We had a variety of ethnicities on the street and one of them made the best potstickers I have ever had. One of the neighbors was a food critic (he has articles published routinely in the St. Louis Magazine) and you never knew what he was going to cook. One time it was fish with the head on. In some cultures eating the head is common and considered a delicacy. My husband was game to try anything, but I think he may have been the only one to eat it!!

It has been slower to get to know my neighbors in my new subdivision. It is mostly older adults. I have gotten to know the neighbors on both sides of my villa and there are four of us who routinely get together in the warm weather, sit on our decks, and have snacks and beverages. I live in an attached villa, where I have a neighbor on the east side of my house. She is delightful and I have gotten to know her well. She just lost her husband a few months ago, and it has been a difficult adjustment for her. I was glad that I could share with her my experiences of losing a spouse and some of the resources that are available to her.

The things is, loving your neighbor is easy when your neighbor is a delightful widow. It is more difficult when your neighbor is belligerent, plays loud music into the wee hours of the morning, or just downright rude. But this is the thing about neighbors–Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Wow. That is a a direct command coming right after “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.”

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

A young man who graduated from the same college I did, decided he was going to take the task of loving his neighbor to heart. He and his wife and children moved to one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city of St. Louis. Their children go to the public schools. They have made a point of getting to know everyone in their block. They have hosted block parties, babysat, and helped their neighbors. It has made an impact on their street. Suddenly, people were taking more pride in their properties. Programs were started to help young men and women learn skills, and educational tutoring was provided. The resulting ministry called “Love the Lou” has made an impact in the community and they have received publicity for the difference they are making in an area many people have written off..

But the young man would tell you out of all the lives changed, his has changed the most. The world looks different to him now and he recognizes that by loving his neighbors, his life has been enriched. It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses, but the lessons he has learned about loving others with God’s eyes has been invaluable.

What about you? Have you learned to love your neighbor in such as way as to enrich the lives of the people around you? If you are like me, getting out of my comfort zone is difficult, and yet my life becomes blessed when I take God’s words to heart. Think about ways you can show love to your neighbors today. You will be glad you did.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” — Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

Confessions of the Weak

In June of 2011, I wrote the following blog post. I cannot help but look back and see how faithful God has been in my life—time and time again. Not only did he enable me to find a job and sell my money pit of a house, but through my mom, a way was provided to build a villa that more than meets my needs. I did, indeed, need to use some of my IRA to live off of for the three years it took me to find a full-time job after my husband died. But I truly can look back to this difficult time and know that God was present every step of the way.

I am still weak in many ways. But it is in that weakness that God does his best work. It is in that weakness that I see God the most as he works in my life. So if you are struggling, keep holding on tight to God, because he can do his best work when you are at your weakest.

June 2011

Last night I poured out my woes to my sister and a friend, giving in to the discouragement that hit me squarely in the heart last evening. As I looked at the fact that I didn’t have a full-time job since June of 2009, lost my husband in October of 2009, have a house that needs some major repairs, and have expenses that far exceed my small income, I gave in to my woes and worry.  Until this point in the journey, I have stayed fairly upbeat and positive, relying on God to see me through.  I confess, I am weak.

Do you ever have times in your life when you wonder if you can just go on?  Is it hard to get up and face the day with a positive attitude?  Do you think . . . if I just had more time, or more money, or more of whatever it is that you need?  It is easy to give in to doubt and discouragement.  And I confess, I am weak.

As I got online and looked at the zero balance in my checking account, I felt myself doubting.  Will God really see me through?  What will happen to me if I don’t find a full-time job soon?  How will I keep paying the bills that exceed my income? How will I keep a roof over our heads?  Will I need to cash my IRA and take a chance on not having retirement income?  All these thoughts and more ran through my head and I became disheartened. I confess, I am weak.

And as always, and just when I need, God showed up in a marvelous way.  I am studying the book of Hebrews and today, I came to chapter 11–just what I needed to hear.  This is the famous faith chapter in Hebrews, outlining those of the faith who have gone before. As I read this chapter I was once again reminded of the value of a faith in a God who delivers time and again.  Whether it is from oppression (as with the Israelites leaving the nation of Egypt), or from sin (as in delivering the prostitute Rahab from death because she welcomed the spies), or from persecution, God has a reward for those who remain faithful to Him.  It may not be seen while in this journey here on earth, but it will be in his glorious presence someday.

And so, my encouraging word for today is found in Hebrews 12:1-3, ” Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with the perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. “

I confess I am weak– and weary and have lost heart, but God, through His Word, has encouraged me and reminded me to remain faithful.  I don’t know where my next dollar will come from or how my next bill will be paid, but when I look back on this journey so far, God has been faithful and met all my needs.  I just needed to be reminded of that.

I don’t know where God is leading and what he has in store for me.  I confess. I am weak. But I know in my weakness, he shows HIS strength and I will take joy and comfort in that thought today.

I Love You a Bushel and a Peck

I don’t have many memories of my mom singing to me (probably for a reason—let’s just say she wasn’t a gifted singer– but I do have memories of her on the rare occasion singing “I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck!” Just in case you are wondering, a bushel is 32 dry quarts, and a peck is 8 dry quarts. If you are not aware, the song comes from the musical Guys and Dolls and was sung by Doris Day in 1950.

For some reason that simple refrain brings back one of the few fuzzy, warm memories of my mom during childhood. I can still see her singing that song to me when I was little. In some ways it eases the more frequent memories of her criticisms when I was growing up. (Just for the record, in her late thirties my mom went to nursing school and once she had a career, she was a much happier woman and it showed in her parenting.) I found a picture with the saying, “I love you a bushel and a peck” on it and I gave it to my mom for Christmas one year. Since Mom’s death it has hung in my home, a constant reminder to me of a happy occasion.

February is a month when many people focus on love. With Valentine’s Day coming up on February 14, many individuals will have mixed emotions. There will be those who just think this day is all about retailer’s making a profit (and they do), or this is a stressful day when you buy valentine cards for your child’s classroom (how annoying is that?). Or it is a day when some will experience profound sadness because they lost their spouse, or they never had one to begin with, and they experience more loneliness on that day.

Whatever the reason, the focus of Valentine’s day, and mostly the month of February, is on love. So, let’s talk a little about love. In the Greek language there are four types of love that are mentioned in the Bible. You may already know these, but just in case, here they are:

Storge- Familial love (the love a brother has for a brother or a mother for a child)

Eros – sensual or romantic love (as mentioned in the Song of Songs book in the Bible)

Phileo – Brotherly love (church sisters and brothers, friends. It is the root for Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love).

Agape – God’s love, unconditional and sacrificial love.

It important that we have a deep recognition that God loves us. In internalizing that love, we can more easily love others. Did you know that in the NIV version of the Bible, the word love appears 551 times. That’s a lot of love.

Love is at the very core of the essence of God and God is constant in his love. Isaiah 54:10 says, “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

Of course, most of us are familiar with John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

God’s love for us is so great he sent Christ to earth so that he could not only show us the way we should be living, but also become the sacrifice for our sins. The power of that love cannot be underestimated. In Romans 5:8 we read, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

If we study scripture, we know that God loves us. However, love needs to be a two-way street if we are his children. Jesus states that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 34:37-40) and the second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself (which I will address in an upcoming post).

You would think it would be easy to love God in return for all he has given us. The very idea that he sent us his son as a sacrifice for our sins demands our attention. The question is, how do we show God our love?

Here are four ways I think we can show our love for God.

Abide in him.

The apostle John talks about abiding in Christ. And he is a man who knows what it takes to abide. Not only did he walk with Jesus and was intimate friends with him, but he also changed his whole life after his encounters with the son of God. It is interesting that Jesus called James and John “sons of thunder,” probably for their tempers and boldness. John is the only disciple who died a natural death, but he had plenty of trials while he was witnessing for the Lord. And yet, he abided.

In John 15:5 Jesus says, ”I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

1 John 4: 15-16 “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

If we abide in Christ and stayed connected to him, we will thrive and grow. The more intimate we become with the Lord, the more our love for him will flourish.

Obey his commands.

In 1 John 4:19 it says, “We love because he first loved us.” If we love God, then we need to obey his commands. In fact, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

While it sounds simple, sometimes we have difficulty obeying his commands. But the more we do, the closer we will become to being Christ-like in our attitudes and actions.

Develop gratitude.

Don’t forget what he has done for us and praise God for his many blessings. Write a gratitude journal. Take a walk and just look at nature. It is a well-known fact that people who are grateful are also happier and more content.

Practice spiritual disciplines.

We need to continually seek God. We can do that through Bible study and practicing spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, meditation, fasting, solitude, and confession, among other things. Practicing these disciplines in our lives leads us to be closer to God. God promises that he is near when we call on him. “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:15 ESV)

Loving God. While we celebrate loving others, celebrating loving God is the best Valentine’s Day gift ever!

Feeling “Less Than,” Part 1

Have you ever felt that you were less valuable than others? Or less talented? Or less attractive? Or less . . . well, everything? In my last blog post, I referred to my feeling of being “less than” in many circumstances. I am going to warn you that this blog post is going to be personal—all about me in a way. I am going to be vulnerable and share some things that have impacted my life in significant ways.  

In all honesty, I have been struggling with seeing myself as not as important or less than others for most of my life. Looking back at my blog posts, I realize that as far back as 2017 I wrote a post about this very subject. For me, as it may be for you, some times are better than others.

I recently realized (again) I have been letting the fear of not being good enough stop me from doing some things I really enjoy. I love to write. I write my blog somewhat routinely and started writing it because even though I am an ordinary person, I have an extraordinary God and I want to share that. I have things I have written that I have never submitted because I always feel like someone else out there can say it better than I can. I have a novel I have been writing forever and need to complete, but sometimes struggle working on it because I let my doubts get in my way. Somewhere along the way, I have convinced myself that what I have to say or do is not as valuable as what someone else says or does.

I had to ask myself, why is that? What has happened to me that makes me lack confidence in my abilities. So on my quest to better understand myself, I recently called my oldest sister. She is one of those wise people who has learned many lessons by facing difficult situations in life. She is a hypnotherapist and frequently works with clients in a variety of areas.

As I shared with my sister, I realized some of the reasons for my feeling inadequate are easy to pinpoint. She also gave me some great feedback and asked hard questions about things that occurred in my life that I would rather not think about. Some of my background is easy to understand, some more difficult.

I had a perfectionist mother. While I loved her, her expectations definitely impacted me and my siblings. It was hard to grow up in an environment where nothing was done to her standards. So it was easy to fall into a trap of feeling that nothing I did was good enough. As an adult I understand how my mother’s past shaped her perfectionist tendencies, but it did not help me as a child growing up.  

Maybe some of you can identify with that feeling of never measuring up to someone’s expectations. If you grew up with a perfectionist or critical parent or sibling, it makes an impression on that inner voice which says you are less than.

I was sexually abused as a child. My sister and I talked about the impact of my sexual abuse as a child. I internalized questions like, why did he choose me? I always told myself there must have been something about me that made an easy target. Like many childhood victims, I buried my feelings about what happened to me and never shared that part of my life with anyone until I was an adult. But my experience reinforced my feeling of being less valuable than others.

I was the middle child. I had an aha moment when my sister mentioned that my being a middle child may have impacted how I see myself. I was the fourth daughter in our family (although one of them died at one-month old), and after me came the only boy. If we had been living in earlier times, he would have been the long-awaited heir. Then I had two more sisters. While some people believe that there is no validity to birth order, I am not one of them. Sometimes I frequently felt lost in all of the chaos of having so many siblings. Now when I look back on things, it is easy to see that I felt unseen many times. That is probably one of the reasons I was such an avid reader. As soon as I learned to read I could go to places and have adventures that I could get lost in.

I was the last one picked. Once you start to go down that path of feeling less than, it is easy to take every little thing and turn it into a negative voice. You are the last one picked for the recess and PE sports teams and you internalize how much of a klutz you are. You hear someone make fun of the way you sing and you tell yourself you should stop trying. Your skinny aunt tells you that you are fat (when you weigh 115 pounds) and you think your body is awful. There are a million little lies you let yourself believe when you think you are less than others. And EVERY single criticism you hear just reinforces that in your mind when you buy into the lie that you are “less than.”

The fact is that I am not alone in thinking I am less than others. Almost every woman I know (and most men, although it is not as statistically high with men) has dealt with these thoughts at one time or another. I recently watched a TED talk* on YouTube and the speaker noted that she asked a group of teen girls to name something good about themselves. It was heartbreaking that initially none of them could think of a thing.

I can say with confidence that over the past few years I have become better at hushing that negative voice that says I am less than. But occasionally it rears its ugly head again and I find myself struggling with all the negative thoughts it brings.

The fact is there are some things I do well and, quite frankly, I give all the credit to God for the gifts he has given me.

I am a Bible study leader for our Home Team from my church. I enjoy it and I do a good job. I put in time studying and preparing lessons and work at guiding discussions so that everyone in the group can contribute.

I speak one Sunday each month at an assisted living facility and speak well—at least that is what everyone assures me. And I occasionally speak for women’s events. Even though many times I am nervous before speaking, I enjoy it, and I learn during the time I take to prepare my talks.

But it has taken me time to allow myself to say I am a good teacher, and I am a good speaker without putting a qualifier with it.

In my next blog I will talk about ways we can overcome the lies that Satan tells us when he convinces us that we are “less than.” Believe me, I have heard the lies in my head many times over the years. And I bet at times, you have too. So tune in to the next blog post and I will talk about some positive ways to shut out that “less than” voice that has you so convinced that you can never be enough.

* Here is the link to the TED talk I referred to earlier.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOrzmFUJtrs&t=67s