When You are Loved by God

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

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I open the envelope and read the scathing words. They pierce and cut. Destroy. Mutilate a heart that is already in pieces. I can't face the disdain. The lack of grace is almost too hard to bear. There is no love...only hatred.

People become our mirrors. We look at them to see ourselves and think it must be the truth. We say to ourselves, "I must be unlovable. I guess I deserve this volley of terrible words. There must be something totally wrong with me if others are treating me this way."

There is only one real Mirror. We are totally loved my Him. He will always tell us the truth without ripping us apart. He will reflect what He wants to see  in us, because He doesn't see us as we are, but rather what we will be. He knows us and sees us better than we can ever know ourselves. We can't even begin to comprehend the type of love that makes God man and allows a King to be crucified.

Being loved changes us. It makes us into better people. And while we are all loved by God, many of us live unloved. We don't grasp the depth of His love. We don't even beginning to understand how much we are cherished. I am convinced if we can truly get how much He loves us we would change the way we behave and who we are.

So how does understanding how truly we are loved change us?

We fear less. Who needs to worry and fret when you know there is Someone who cares about you even more than you do for yourself?

We can live generously. We don't have to grasp at people and things, because we know God will provide.

We can face the heartache. He loves us so much He will walk us through it. We can be confident He won't leave us.

We will be less jealous. A jealous person really holds to the belief that God is holding out on him or her. A person who knows God's love realizes there is no need to have angst over what others have.

We can forgive. When we see how much God loves us we can let go of the hatred knowing that whatever hurt He allows in our lives can be used by Him for our good.

So how do you live loved? Here are a few things that I do to remind myself how much I am cherished by God...

Maintaining a gratitude journal- Every morning I start the day by writing down a few gifts God has given me in the past twenty-four hours. It is amazing how much we don't see how God is at work in our lives if we aren't paying attention. A gratitude journal is a reminder that He truly does care for me.

Meditating on His Word- As I read Scripture, I try to ask myself, "How do these verses show God's love?" Many times I list the ways He loves me right beside the verses. {A Single Column Journaling Bible has enough space to make these lists.}

Changing my thinking on God and people- People's behavior towards me is not a reflection of who I am, but rather of who they are. Also, God is not "people". People's love is fickle and sometimes selfish (not love at all). God doesn't love like people do. However, I have been treated by others is not a reflection of what He thinks of me.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ... Ephesians 3:17-18

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Your Worth Measured in Love

Monday, February 8, 2016

We measure our worth on a daily basis. Did I do enough? Did I do it well enough? Will I ever be enough? Our worth is measured in social media likes and follows. We feed off the number of Facebook friends. We tell ourselves that if we are well-loved we have worth. The opposite scenario is painful. Rejection from others is devastating, because we believe our acceptance from others validates who we are.

In the past few years, God has been teaching me about what it really means to be loved. I have struggled as I have had one family member reject me and then part of my former church family. When you experience deep rejection and betrayal it takes time to recover and an understanding that you are loved. I have to admit that I have struggled with feelings of being unloved and consequently, worthless as I try to heal from the damage done.

And then, I came across these verses a week ago. I have read them a million times. I could probably quote them in part, but I never saw what I saw until last week...these verses speak to where our worth comes from...

"If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. And if I have prophetic powers, and  understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." --I Corinthians 13:1-3

And there it is. Besides the fact, that we are loved by God, which I believe is the real reason we have worth, there is another way we have worth. It isn't about who loves us, but who and how we love. We have worth when we go out and love on others. I have felt like a loser because others around me had rejected me, but their rejection of me has nothing to do with my value. The fact I am loved by many or few has nothing to do with my worth. It is when I love that the self-worth comes.

A person can be great at what they do...successful, famous, popular. But if they can't love those in front of their face then they are nothing and truly gain nothing. So here is my challenge to you...if you are feeling unloved, spend some time in his Word to learn how much you really are cherished by Him. {Here's one way to do that.} And then, go out and love, because, after all, it isn't about how loved you are, but how you love others...

Ten Ways to Ward off Worry

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

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You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Matthew 24:6

If you are a worry wart like me you are a professional. An expert of the "freak-out". I have had plenty of practice. You could say I excel in creating the worst case scenario in my head. For 2016, I have chosen FEARLESS as my Word of the Year. Not that I think I can overcome every fear or get rid of every anxiety. Some fear is healthy. I am more focusing on the unhealthy practice of my mind swirling because of my numerous worries.

In January, I read Max Lucado's book Fearless. I have read several books on anxiety, but this one has been the most enjoyable! I know. It sounds bizarre, but Max adds humor and grace to his writing. I have actually read books on anxiety that gave me MORE anxiety. Fearless didn't do that for me. It actually helped me see how useless worry really is and how trustworthy our God is. One of the quotes in the book really jumped out at me and has become my goal for the year...

Be a worry-slapper. Treat frets like mosquitoes. Do you procrastinate when a bloodsucking bug lights on your skin? "I'll take care of it in a moment." Of course you don't! You give the critter the slap it deserves. Be equally decisive with anxiety. The moment it surfaces, deal with it. -Max Lucado

I need to swat those worries away, because I know what happens. The more they sit comfortably in my brain the more I freak out. They suck the life out of me. They extract my joy. They kill my spirit. The only solution is to fight back. Fight the fear by swatting them away.

So how in the world do you keep worry at bay? How I wish there was a worry zapper...you know like the little tennis rackets that burn bugs? I want one for my worries when they buzz around in my head. However, no such brilliant gadget exists for anxiety. So here's a list of what I am doing when anxiety tries to take a bite out of me...

  • Read God's Word-The command not to fear occurs over and over again in Scripture. It is as if God knew we would struggle with worry. I love that God is honest...like in the verse I put at the top of this post...Matthew 24:6. God declares that bad things will happen, but that isn't the end of the story.

  • Pray- I have been doing this more and more lately. As a mom, I worry a lot for my boys, but really, it doesn't do them any good. Prayer does. Giving it over to God is far more fruitful than stewing on the what if's of life.

  • Redirect You Thinking- This is true "worry swatting". I decide not to stay with a thought that causes me angst. I move on and do one of the other activities in this list.

  • Keep Your Hands and Brain Busy- I do this with adult coloring books. {See this post.} Coloring actually calms me by giving me something else to focus on. If coloring isn't for you, find something else that keeps your brain engage so it isn't ruminating over your cares.

  • Exercise- Being physically active helps control anxiety. I can always tell when I haven't exercised enough. I become more restless and anxious.

  • Talk it Out- Sometimes talking out your fears with a trusted friend helps. You will find you aren't alone in your worries and he or she may be able to offer some possible solutions to your fears.

  • Record What He has Done-I have been keeping a gratitude journal for several years now. I literally count my blessings. I have a journal that I write in each day numbering the blessings from the day before. Currently, I have over 6,000 blessings recorded! When I worry  I go back to these lists and see how God worked everything out for me. I can trust Him with my future considering what He has done in the past.

  • Write the Psalms {or a Psalm}-This year my goal is to write out the entire book of Psalms!!! You can read about it here. I find that the Psalms above all speak to our worries more than any other book. Don't feel like you have to write out the entire book though. Even picking a Psalm or two to write out is beneficial.

  • Wait for the End of the Story-In the middle of everything sometimes we lose sight of the fact that it isn't the end of the story. We don't need to worry as God is working out His plan. As Max Lucado writes, "Everything will work out in the end. If it's not working out, it's not the end."

  • Trust the Story Writer-God is trustworthy. He works out the details that we don't even foresee. Sometimes we just need to give in...not to the worry, but to the One who writes our story. Give him control of the pen so He can finish your story.

So how do you swat away your worries?

Writing the Psalms {Tips for Writing the Word}

Monday, February 1, 2016

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I am almost afraid to write this post. What if I fail? I surely don't want the whole world to know. However, that thinking is ridiculous, because if I can encourage anyone to spend more time in God's Word it is worth the risk. So here goes...

I have committed to myself to try to write out the entire (Yes, you read that right...ENTIRE) book of Psalms this year. I know. I am half-crazy. I can tell you that many year long commitments go by the wayside when it comes to my resolve. I lose interest and quit. However, I am giving myself the grace that if I quit at least I have spent a good chunk of my time focusing on His Word. I am currently writing out Psalm 32...we will see how far I get.

So you are probably asking yourself...Why write out God's Word? Why the Psalms? I mean, really, the longest book in the Bible?

To answer the first question...I have a serious problem slowing down in life. It could be my anxiety...I always feel the need to race through everything I do. A few years ago, one of the Bible studies I was doing at home asked me to write out the book of Ruth. I did. Then I did Beth Moore's study on James. She also had the optional activity of writing out the entire book of James. I did. These were small books, but it gave me a taste of what writing out Scripture can do. It makes you SLOW DOWN! Slow down and really thinking about what you are writing. It is just what I needed to get myself to focus. Writing it out makes me think it through. The practice of writing the Scriptures is even mentioned in Deuteronomy 17:18..."And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law..."

So why the book of Psalms? Because I fight fear on a daily basis. I struggle with an anxiety disorder which can lead to depression. The Psalms have to be the one book that I go to time and time again when I am afraid, worried, or generally just freaking out (which by the way I am a pro at!). The Psalms repeatedly ask us to trust God regardless of the circumstances. I need to be reminded of this daily. Every hour.

It may take me awhile to finish the Psalms...Actually, I counted it out...if I do about ten verses a day it should take me around 250 days. We will see how it goes.

So here are some tips to writing out God's Word:

  • Buy a journal. Having all your copying in one little book keeps things organized. I love 
  • these journals because they lay flat! Easier to write in.
  • Be consistent. Even if you don't write out a bunch of verses, it is wise to make a habit of doing a little each day.
  • Re-read after you write. I make myself read what I have written for the day. If I am in the middle of the chapter I will start at the beginning of it and read up to what I have written. Or when I finish a chapter I will go back and read all the verses from it. It helps give a big picture to what I just wrote down.
  • Don't stress it. This isn't about getting quickly to the end of the chapter or book. At least that is what I tell myself all the time. (Remember, I am the one that likes to race through tasks.) It is about letting God's Word soak into your soul. Slow down. Take your time.
Also, here is something to check out...a schedule for writing Psalm 119 which takes twenty-two days. It might be a way to get started in writing out one of the Psalms.

So I encourage you to find a passage, book, or section of the Scriptures and start copying them down! I would love to hear from you in the comments if you are doing this and what part of God's Word you are writing.

Color Around the World

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

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So have you joined the coloring craze? I am absolutely loving using the coloring books that I own! I find it relaxing and de-stressing (is that a word?) to sit down at the end of the day and color a bit. I don't know if it is because it takes me back to my childhood or if the act of doing art is somehow mentally relaxing, but I am hooked! I have several theme-based coloring book posts here if you would like to take a look at what is available. There are all kinds of books out there!

Faith-based Coloring
Coloring Books for Animal Lovers
Nature-based Coloring {coming soon!}

As a language teacher, I love all things international. Here is a look at some of the coloring books out there that can take you on a trip around the world while you stay in the comfort of home...

Folk Art Coloring Book- Folk art from Mexico, Russia, Sweden, the Ukraine and much more!

Creative Haven Vintage Hand Fans Coloring Book - Decorative fans...many from around the world.

CityScapes: A Coloring Book with a Hidden Picture Twist -Twenty-eight pictures to color from cities around the world: London, New York, Paris, Florence, Buenos Aires, Lisbon, etc.

Nordic Designs Collection Coloring Book-Sixty-three Scandinavian designs.

Celtic Designs Coloring Book- Thirty-one designs inspired by Celtic artwork.

Vive Le Color! Japan -This is a top-bound coloring book which makes it great for right or left-handed artists. Beautiful designs from Japan.

Vive Le Color! Africa- From the same company as the Japan coloring book except this time it is Africa! It is scheduled to release TODAY!

World Traveler Coloring Book: 30 World Heritage Sites -International landmarks to color like the Mayan pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Dutch windmills, and the Great Wall of China.

Have fun coloring!

When Your Worry About Your Child's Future

Sunday, January 24, 2016

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This is my year of NO FEAR. I am like every other parent in the world...I worry about my kids. I worry what their future holds. I worry about how they will fare in life. I want the best for them, and yet, sometimes I forget that there is One who is even more concerned with getting the best for them...God. Fear in regards to my kids can loom large if I forget that He is there guiding them and loving them when I can't be with them.

I thought toddlerhood was scary. Nobody informed me that parenting teen and young adult kids is just as hard. Sometimes scarier. As my boys have grown, I have lost control and influence in their lives. This is normal. It is a natural part of life. It is as it should be. And I don't like it! I want to be there for them...to guide them and love them. In the last few months I have come to realize that really none of us is in control when it comes to our kids...no matter their age or season in life. We can only do our best to raise them well. Eventually, they will make their own decisions. Life may lead them down a road that even they didn't intend to travel. So what is a parent to do? They only thing he or she can...PRAY.

So here is a list of verses I am praying over my two boys, both who are teens and one who is officially an adult. I don't have control over what they decide in life or what happens to them, but I can bring them before the Father that cares for them more than I ever could! {I have left a blank where you can add your child's or children's names. Feel free to use other wording. The idea is to pray the verses over your kids.}

Girl Meets Change

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

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There are times when "change" is like a four-letter word instead of the six-letter word it really is. I don't do change well. I don't even like it. Change creates anxiety in my heart, and if it is big enough-- grief. Over the last few years, I have learned to endure change and give it a space in my life. At first, I fought it. Slowly, I began to accept it and welcome it for what it was doing to me. Change has changed me. I am hoping for the better.

For me, change has brought deep grief. It doesn't matter what kind of change you go through normally there is an element of loss or grief. Even good change can bring stress. And bad change? It is one of the best types of change there is. It is those times when we grieve hard in our life transitions that we grow the most if we allow God to work. Grievous change is hardly ever welcomed, but it is the one that has the potential to leave the greatest good in our lives.

So when I saw Kristen Strong's book, Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life's Transitions, I knew I needed to read it after all the transitions that life has brought me recently. Her book talks about the effects of change on our lives, our need to heal and accept our limitations while giving thanks in our circumstances. The book is filled with bits and pieces of wisdom like...

Time doesn't heal all wounds--time with the Healer does.

When change throws me into the splits position, a flexible spirit is what keeps me from a debilitating injury. 

Gratitude is the way of hope, especially during seasons of difficult change.

I don't just want to survive change; I want to thrive through it...To thrive means to grow well.

In other words, we need to get to where we like big buts and we cannot lie. {Ok, you are just going to have to read the book to understand this quote! It is a priceless concept! :-) }

Change can be weathered by spending time with God, giving Him thanks, and letting Him reframe our life transitions to reveal the positive in them. If you are going through change now in your life, Kristen's book will help you navigate the challenges of a new normal.