You can go here, but not there…

There is something about being at the beach that seems to bring about the idea that life really does make sense. Maybe it’s the salty air. The sounds. Or the fact that our ever moving minds and bodies are truly in “vacation” mode. But here…I hear His Spirit once again and it revives me.

As I took one of my long morning walks along the shoreline, I took note of the pattern and rythym of the waves and thought of their movement. How do they know where to stop? The waves that is. How do they know how to get to shore, and know they can only go but so far?

I, the Lord, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set. Jeremiah 5:22

They can only go but so far. God created boundaries so the earth would not be covered by the sea. As we walk along beaches we trust in the one who demands the wind and waves obey. Knowing they cannot cross His boundaries.

But what about those boundaries he sets for us? What happens when he tells us “You can only go this far?”

Do we listen? Or do we venture out on our own into territory He hasn’t set out for us?

Just like He commands the seas to stop at a certain point. Tells them you can go here, but not there-he sets the boundaries of right living for us as well. “You can go here, but only this far. Going any further without my guidance, against my better judgment will consume you.”

He provides us direction and boundaries because His way is always far better than ours. The direction we want to take isn’t always the one God intended. So in an effort to ensure we are not tossed by the waves, or consumed by the waters of the sea, He tells us, sends us as far as He is willing to let us go.

His boundaries are to protect not to harm. His boundaries are set to keep us safe, not to stifle us. His boundaries are set because His ways are higher than our ways.

Are we going to trust His judgment? Or are we going to stray too far away? Are we going to keep pushing boundaries until we are taken under?

What boundary are you pushing that is keeping you from going where God intends for you to go? Maybe it’s time to let Him direct you, and finally listen when He says, “You can go here, but there? I am not sending you there.”

No longer the broken one

I write to get things off my chest. I didn’t for a time. And those things, they took root in my soul and grew bitter fruit. Things I thought forgiven, lay buried underneath the surface. Waiting for a season of isolation to burst forth all that needed to come out from hiding. All that needed to be reckoned with. All that needed to finally be laid down at His feet. Surrended to the one who should really be carrying it.

Come to me. All you who carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Back in December I read a book that at the time altered my response to all the pain I was going through and feeling. When I read, I do so for pleasure, but I also try to take one sliver of something I read and apply it to my life. Otherwise, what’s the point of adding books to a “read” list. Head knowledge is no good without application. In it, the author, described her letting go of her nine year old self, and the burden of carrying that nine year old version around for most of her life.

I could totally relate, but what was the heavy burden I was carrying? It wasn’t nine year old me, but it was a 17 year old version. The version of me I could not rescue. I carried her in every kid I spoke a little too loudly for. Every student I stormed into rooms for demanding their voices be heard, even if I wasn’t invited.

She screamed out each time she felt not listened to. Was interrupted. She became a little more brazen. A little tougher in speech. A bit more bold. A bit harder to deal with and rough around the edges.

She refused to remain silent.

Silence was the driving force behind the forward motion of many events she could not be rescued from. Through each daily act of present bravery, I was taking back that 17 year olds power. Giving back what was stolen.

But it was exhausting. It cost a ton. It was anxiety filled. And it kept me stuck in the past cycle of defeat. A cycle God wanted me to release.

And I hear Him say: Surrender. Lay it down at my feet. This burden wasn’t yours to carry then, but you did brave girl. You did. Don’t carry it now. Give it to me. Let me do the recusing. He gently says, “Just give her back to me.”

So I do. In the stillness of a gray, winter morning. Christmas lights twinkling. Hot coffee in front of me. I close my eyes, and I surrender. I take her to the altar. I picture it. She doesn’t look much different than me. Still small and very fragile looking, but strong and brave in ways you wouldn’t believe. Dark, curly pony-tail bouncing, but head bowed in shame. She walks beside me. Dependent on me to protect her, speak up for her, help her hold her head high.

I whisper to her as she bows at the foot of the cross. “It’s OK. You were not asked. You weren’t given a choice. You didn’t know your voice. I’ve tried to rescue you, but He will now. He will.”

I step back. And I let God take her in His arms.

Knowing I held her, and I protected her and those like her in the best way I could.

And then I let Him hold me.

And in the that moment in the place of that dumpster, because that’s what I saw for many years; a dumpster when I thought of her. I see a cross.

Instead of a symbol of trash, I see a symbol of grace. Instead of a symbol of worthlessness, I see a symbol of my immense worth. Instead of a symbol of all the ways I was unacceptable. Unloved. I see a symbol of His unfailing love.

You’re not the worthless they made you feel
There is a Love they can never steal away
And you don’t have to stay the broken girl. Matthew West, Broken Girl

I left her there, and finally decided to honor me. All He had done for me, while I carried her around, and what He could do once I surrendered her.

No longer unworthy. Loved beyond measure. Unbroken.

I don’t own rights to video, lyrics, or music.

WWJD: Love that never ends

Love never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies. 1 Corinthians 13, MSG

In the last several weeks, I have gone through the various aspects of love that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13. Today, I wrap up the truth about that elusive and often misunderstood “Love Chapter.” We now know the love we are called to show, the love that reflects God and His Son requires patience, kindness, has no room for envy, or selfishness; and desires the truth be heard and told.

We all want love. We all want to be loved. Even more-we all want a love that never ends. But are we looking in the wrong places? Are we rejecting the One who can deliver on this?

Love. It is the thing we all crave. We all want to feel connected to someone who accepts us. Every messy part. Love is one of our deepest desires, and can also be one of our deepest hurts. Because we often focus on earthly love. The kind we desperately seek from each other. The kind that often disappoints. Too busy at times to meet our needs. It doesn’t always put up with our flaws, or even accept us. It can sometimes be selfish, and fail us.

And it fails us because we forget its source.

Its source comes from the love of the Father. Our Heavenly Father.

It’s the thing that God purposed, because it was important to Him-for us to know love. So important the word alone appears 551 times in the New International Version of the Bible. It is mentioned in relation to God’s presence. It is mentioned to describe how He expects us to love others. It is more than just a mere word.

The word “love” is thrown around between people all the time. It is used to quantify how we feel about things, and flippantly said to people. For instance, I say all the time I love tacos. I could eat tacos every day. I enjoy many versions of tacos, and I like to cook them-a lot.

Yes, love is a really strong word. Not the same as “like.” See, because I really only like tacos. I am not so sure I should be using “love” to describe how fond I am of them.

This is why: It cheapens the full extent of what love truly is. When I say I love this, or I love that; or say “I love you, too” out of obligation; It is often due to what I am getting out of that thing, or from that someone.

See, tacos feed me. They don’t provide any additional support beyond my plate. No…that kind of “love” only feeds my cravings and desires.

And it will most certainly die. When that craving or desire for that thing fades, so will the “love.”

Because love is more than mere words. It’s more than a mere desire or craving. It doesn’t die away once the need is met; and it’s not waiting around to get something in return. Jesus loved and cared for a number of people who could never give Him anything in return. There wasn’t anything Jesus needed, besides others to just know His Daddy. And His Daddy went through great lengths to make sure we knew His love was for real. Unfailing, and would never die.

God went that far for us because loves goes the distance. It goes the extra mile. And it goes after that which has been lost.

I recall this story told one Sunday morning during a missions service at church. I can’t recall the speaker, but I do recall him telling a story of a woman who would enter the church each Sunday, sit on the front row, and save a seat for her loved one. In the hopes they would one day be seated next to her.

Because love goes the distance. It shows up. Even if it is in vain each and every time, with the expectation that one day, the one we love will show up beside us, part of our Heavenly family.

She was serious about it, and He was, too. So serious about it, He has been in heavy pursuit of you since the beginning. Long before you ever knew of Him. Long before you may ever accept Him, and He continues to pursue us. To woo us, until we finally say yes.

Love goes the extra mile. It doesn’t get to this point and decide-nope. This is as far as I will come to get to that one. It goes further and further and further. Reaching and reaching and reaching, until it is finally accepted.

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” Luke 15:4-7, MSG

Like that. He pursues the one, over the 99 that already know Him, just so that lost one will know His love. Yes, it is THAT serious to Him.

It surrenders all. All its own needs, wants, and wishes. It’s hatred, jealousy, and feelings. Its own son. Its own life.

Love is often unexplainable. Not measurable. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it can seem reckless to the one who doesn’t know the unfailing love of God. They can’t understand why we would keep going, sacrifice ourselves so someone could know who He is, and how much He loves. It looks reckless to those who don’t believe. It just won’t make sense.

Because God’s love is what is referred to as “agape” love. Making a conscious choice to love someone unconditionally. Willfully desire the best for them. Place their needs above yours. Unfailingly.

Paul was right when he stated that love kept going to the end, because the love of God has no end. It reaches into the darkest places to yank us out into the light. Forgiving. Redeeming. And never bringing the past up again.

That kind of love is the kind of love that’s undying, and its offered to you from the only One who can truly keep the promise: “I will never leave you or abandon you?” (Hebrews 13:5) He is pursuing you. Everyday. Are you going to finally say “yes” to His undying love?

“I’m fine.” But is that the truth?

I wrote a post recently about truth. In it I shared the importance of telling the truth to those we love. As I thought more after I posted it, and after I reflected on truth some more in the passing days, I thought about this: Are we telling the truth to ourselves? What about the truth of what we feel inside? Are we sharing this? And what would happen if we did? Would we be accepted? Or shamed?

So we hold back the truth. We lie.

Lie number one you’re supposed to have it all together
And when they ask how you’re doing
Just smile and tell them, “Never better”
(Matthew West, Truth Be Told)

Put on a happy face. Pretend that before you got here. Clocked in. Walked on stage. Came down to dinner. Greeted your family. Your co-workers. Your friends. That you were not just crying on your bathroom floor. Or just thinking how worthless you were. Had a fight with your wife. Got bad news from the doctor. Or had someone leave you.

Put on that happy face. Pretend it’s all good. Smile. Look pretty. Happy. Even if inside you are anything but.

Lie number 2 everybody’s life is perfect except yours
So keep your messes and your wounds
And your secrets safe with you behind closed doors

Perfection is not the truth. Yet we look at the filtered lives of others and assume theirs is just that-perfect. And when ours doesn’t measure up to that, we hide our pain. We hide our mess. We filter our lives to draw some type of comparison. None of it is the truth.

Truth be told…none of us have it all together. No life is perfect. Many filter out the bad stuff so you only see what is good.

Truth be told. We lie about the scars we hide because we are afraid of what people will think. That once people know what hides within they will run and hide from us. That if others see our brokenness, then we will be found out, shamed, criticized, and shunned. So we continue our farce. It just seems safer there.

What if we admitted we are not fine? That we were sad. Bitter. Grieving. Wrestled with doubt. Wondered about our purpose. What if we told each other the truth?

What if we put away our “fake faces,” our prettied up lives that aren’t real and are a facade, and shared what makes us so not fine?

Truth be told? We’d probably be a bit more “fine” than we are now. Feel a bit more accepted. Perhaps a little less broken.

Think it’s time to tell each other the truth?

Sending into the void

It was like any kid conversation. A stuffed animal. Used to talk about feelings. But not a typical day. Not really sure why exactly.

I hadn’t felt God answering me. I hadn’t understood the good in many things. I was emotional.

The one place I felt effective many days was here, in one of my many counseling spaces; because I had been setting some boundaries, and after many years of taking it home, I was finally learning to leave it here. Not take it personal. Not take on too much. Too much that wasn’t mine.

Oh, no the turtles hurt.” To which I asked what exactly the turtle did once he got hurt. “He asks Jesus to heal his wounds.”

I knew this was true. But I’m a skeptic in these situations now. I don’t trust where these questions come from some days. Where these conversations lead. I don’t trust that there could be an ulterior motive.

I don’t always like my doubting spirit.

“Yes. He may take a while to answer because he’s busy. But he always answers.” That’s what the child said to me. He always answers. He just takes a while. That was a solid answer. Because it was biblical.

He will bind up your wounds. He will answer when you call on him.

But see…I had been calling on him. For a REALLY long time. But I wasn’t so convinced he was listening.

And on that morning in particular, I was only focused on the things I couldn’t see. On the answers he hadn’t given me. On the prayers I just didn’t have the heart to pray anymore that morning, because I was so frustrated with the waiting.

Until I had someone say to me the very next day when I was discussing these prayers, and his silence, “Have you asked?” Of course I had. I had asked him every morning. Hadn’t I?

So on one particular morning, I asked him this: Lord, show me. Show me that all of this wasn’t for nothing. That all this praying and anything that I did for you will work out for your good. Just show me.

And I waited. And once again I heard nothing.

Until…

That morning we had a training at church. During our training we were placed into groups to share our thoughts on a number of questions. I can’t exactly recall one of the questions…the only thing I recall is the moment she pulled out the Bible. Her Bible. The moment she said, “I write little messages in it, so when I’m gone; they (her children) will have a piece of me, and will be able to know about Him, and what this means. It’s my legacy to them.”

I heard that, and then I heard this: “I told you, my word once sent out, will not return void.” It was a promise God had given to Isaiah that His Word would accomplish what He wanted it to-changed hearts, restored souls, for good, to bring light into the darkness. And isn’t that what I had been praying for all along?

And I lost it. I ran and hid in the bathroom and had a good cry.

Why?

Well, God hadn’t been silent. I was expecting my answer when I wanted it; and He…well, He answered during His time.

See, for quite some time I had written messages in a Bible also. I had given that Bible with all its messages in the hopes that His word would be understood, clung to, and touch hearts. I just couldn’t see the fruit, and it was bugging me.

Her Bible. His still small voice. It was a reminder, that the promise that God had been repeating to me from Romans 8:28, would be seen…even if I was not completely convinced it was true in this case. The promise that all things would “work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

So back to 7 year old faith.

He is working things out for good. He is healing. His spirit is working. He does hear us, and he is working on it; it’s just not in our time, it’s in His time. What we want right now, God knows…we may just have to wait.

But it doesn’t mean we can’t attach sticky notes, and messages to Bibles and continue our legacy. Sending out His word to fill the void.

In it…he’s still at work. If we believe like a child believes, and keep asking. Keep praying. Keep sending.

Dandelions and Jesus

My 7th year. I am coming to the end of my 7th year of this counseling youth gig. Of stepping inside schools to hopefully provide safe space for those that just need a breath of fresh air. A minute away from pressure. Someone to guide and direct them to share and express their feelings in a way that is healthy.

For the first couple years, I hid God while in those schools. Hid my Bible verse tattoos. Hid my Bible. I was scared to mention His name. Mention anything related to Him because well, I walk the halls of public schools. That is a “no-no” in these halls. The one year I did shed the long-sleeve shirts, and left my Bible in plain view? Well, that was a year filled with strife and battles. Pain. Heartache. Opposition. One I will never forget.

But…I don’t hide Him anymore.

While I don’t walk the halls thumping people over the head with a Bible, when I have an office, I still keep a Bible in it. I still pray daily before each session with each client. I still wear my cross and my Bible verse tattoo out in the open. I don’t hide, but I don’t shout it from the rooftops. Public school, remember?

So, I have found it interesting that even though I never say His name, these are the conversations I seem to be having week in and week out?

“If I wish on this dandelion do you think God will hear me?” This is the question I was asked as we went on our weekly “walk and talk.” Originally, I was surprised by the question. He had never mentioned God in our conversations before, and neither had I; so why now? And how did he know I was safe?

And I realized, I never had to mention Him by name.

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. 1 John 2:6

He knew to mention God because I had shown God to him. Through my actions. I never had to say a single word about Him, I simply had to show up and be like Jesus in each and every encounter on those walks.

How? Quite simple, really. I was known by my fruit (Matthew 7:16). The ones mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Those of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I never had to say one word about the Bible. Never had to mention Jesus by name. I just had to be like Him, and people saw Him in me.

This teen, though too cool for school most days. Angry, yelling and ready to yell back at any adult most days. Taller and much better at basketball than me, wasn’t too cool that day to stop and make wishes on dandelions. He also wasn’t too cool to ask tough questions about God, or even talk about him at school.

Why? Because someone had been patient. Someone had been kind. Someone had been gentle with their words. Shown self-control in their responses when he was upset.

Someone was Jesus.

I have had many conversations about Jesus prior to this day. I don’t tell people in my secular role that I am a pastor. Once they find out they often treat me differently, or are more guarded. I simply try each day to be Jesus with skin on as I walk into a session with each person who is sitting with me. Whether wishing on dandelions, shooting baskets, or playing a game. I try to be an example of Him everywhere I go.

Some may have tried to diminish that light before, but like dandelions-the hard to kill weed-the light can survive and thrive in the most hard to reach places. It grows in conditions that seem unfathomable (even out of concrete sidewalks), and it’s hard to miss their bright yellow blooms, or their dry seed heads in an open field. It’s hard not to want to pick one up and make a dandelion wish.

It’s hard not to notice the light of Jesus, when you are displaying His fruit.

WWJD: Keep on loving

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7, NLT

Ever wanted to give up on someone? Just wave your hands in the air, accept defeat, and let them go on about their (usually destructive) business?

I know I have.

But something often stops me. Yes, I am a softy. My best friend tells me I am “too nice.” I have made it a personal goal to set some hard, fast boundaries around my limits and heart; but there are some things, God will not allow me to relinquish. Even though I want to just give up.

It reminds me of a story of another woman who was persistent in the saving. The Shunamite woman. Her story begins in 2 King 4, and she is not named, she is only listed in the King James Version as a “great woman,” and in other versions, as a “wealthy woman.” She had everything she needed, but one thing-a son. Elisha would come into town, and each time he did, he would come have dinner with the wealthy family, and the woman, knowing he was a man of God, made a place for him, a place for him to stay. She took such good care of him, she was promised a child; but then something happens to that child.

One day when her child was older, he went out to help his father, who was working with the harvesters. Suddenly he cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!” His father said to one of the servants, “Carry him home to his mother.” So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died. She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and left him there. 2 King 4:18-21, NLT

She wanted him to be saved. To be healed. She loved him dearly. And you must believe, so did God. And sometimes this is where we end up wanting to give up. The desire to save becomes too much. Too much to carry. It seems we want it more at times than the other person, and we can even grow resentful, angry, and bitter. There are also times when we give so much of ourselves we can enable others not to seek their own saving.

And don’t get me wrong here, I realize I am talking about love today. And I am writing about not giving up. Not losing hope, remaining faithful and steadfast in love. But we can do this, and let go. We can do this and give those people back to God.

Did the Shunamite woman not do this with her son? Did she not love him simply because she carried Him to the one who could truly save Him, and let him go. Let God do His work?

But how do we do this? How do we continue to be faithful, hopeful, and loving; yet not give up on the people we just can’t carry any longer? How do we lay our burdens, our “sons” at the feet of Jesus?

Prayer.

We love by praying.

We continue to remain hopeful that God hears our pleas for their salvation. We do not give up praying that they seek truth and wisdom from Him.

This is how we demonstrate faithfulness and perseverance in love to those we just have to let go.

Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Never stop. Don’t give up. Always remain hopeful that He hears you, and He cares about those you love.

To know my Jesus

Are you past the point of weary?
Is your burden weighing heavy?
Is it all too much to carry?
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus
Do you feel that empty feeling?
‘Cause shame’s done all its stealing
And you’re desperate for some healing
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus. -Anne Wilson

We all come to a point when we are weary. So heavy-laden with burdens, that are just too much to carry. We all have shame we hold from past choices. And we all need healing from those feelings deep inside us. We have likely tried every “potion” the world has offered, and still have not found the healing we so long for.

I know this, because I tried looking for all the solutions from the world and all its promises once, too. But I never found any help there. So…let me tell you ‘bout my Jesus.

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke 19:1-10, NLT

Oh, wait. What’s Zacchaeus got to do with Jesus? Well, he wasn’t letting anything stop him from getting to Him. He knew Jesus was his ticket to healing, and he was going to all lengths to see him, to hear him, to get to him. Sell everything he had. Pay it all back, even!

That’s how much he really wanted to know Jesus.

How much do we want to know Him? How much are we willing to give up to be saved? Are we willing to let go of our easy life? Our pleasures? So we can have the life He has promised to us when we accept Him? Are you willing to ask the tough questions? Crack open the Bible and sit a while? Do what those Red Letters are asking you to do?

Are you ready to hear about, learn about, and be about my Jesus?

Note: When I saw the video version for this song, it spoke to me for a very specific reason. Want to know why (Hint: It has to do with a Bible)? I’ll tell you THAT story in Sunday’s post, where I have begun sharing some of the stories that God has been leading me to share on this journey to trust and faith in my Jesus.

Reflections on “self-love”

There’s a misconception that to love oneself, you are not surrendering yourself to God. I read somewhere recently in fact that indicated that loving oneself was wrong, and unbiblical. Selfish, is the word the writer used; stating it takes our eyes off God. That the only way to truly love oneself is to love others without boundaries.

It was on the internet. There were tons of comments. I didn’t rant underneath it. I didn’t unfollow. I agreed to disagree, moved on, and looked in the Bible instead. To what God has revealed to me over a number of months.

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses? Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:36-39

As yourselves.

So the question: How do we truly love our neighbor if we hate ourselves? Shouldn’t we know how immensely God loves us and embrace that first?

Yes. Because I have loved without boundaries, and it has left me feeling useless, unworthy, and forgotten. Totally unloveable. I didn’t know the first thing about love (I talk about that journey here and here), and I took the time to talk to God about it.

Love others as you love yourself. Love yourself. As God has loved you. Know His love, accept His love, and wear it like a crown, so you can show His love to others.

That’s what He revealed to me. And knowing whose you are, and who you are; and loving that is not selfish. Love is God’s tool for us to use to light the world, but never to the point we begin to doubt His love for us. That’s not love. Not healthy love, anyway.

Through that time I also wrote a personal mission statement. A statement to remain in His love, and honor the love He has given me, so I would never question my worth. I am here to tell you: If you don’t know the love of God, you won’t truly know what it means to love others as yourself.

Personal Manifesto

I will embrace forgiveness and grace from my Heavenly Father, and forgive myself for the mistakes I have made. I may walk with a limp, but that limp tells the story of a woman so dependant on her Father for survival, of a woman so blessed. So beautiful. Broken, but made new and whole.

I will not look to this world for approval. I will embrace the fact that I am already approved, set apart, and made great by my Maker.

I can not control the thoughts and actions of others. Only they can.

I cannot fix people. Make them nicer. Make them more respectful. Make their lives better. Only God can.

I will continue to be kind, despite unkindness. Because it’s what Jesus would do.

I will, however, honor myself and my well-being by choosing not to be in the presence any longer of people who treat others with hate. Choosing to pray for changed hearts instead.

I can choose to stay away from toxic people. Those who consistently tear down and suck the life out of me. Realizing my kindness may never make a difference in some cases. Choosing to pray for changed hearts instead.

I can and will put my needs first when it’s necessary. My desire to foster positive and healthy physical, mental and spiritual health is not at all selfish. It’s mandatory.

I can and will set boundaries around my heart. Choosing to let go of people who consistently reject and abuse them.

I will decide not to be defined by the world’s standards of success. Knowing that riches fade, but kind, loving souls and hearts don’t.

I will not lose hope. I will realize that bad things exist. People mistreat people. But there is also good in the world. I will make a point to look for the good.

I will honor who I am in Him through my words, my thoughts, and my actions. Teach others how to treat me, and model to the world what love truly is. Love for God, love of the person He has made me to be, and love for others. Even those that are unloveable.

I will be me. Unapologetically.

It’s not selfish to honor this daily. To practice habits that demonstrate your value and your worth. To care for and love yourself. These steps give us the capacity to love others in ways we never have before. Without any agenda. Without any motive. With only the love of God. That love He so freely has given to us.

Offered to all. Unselfish as He is. Worthy to be celebrated and honored in the person you were made to be! As magnificent as he/she is.

Claim it. Own it. Put your personal “stamp” on your mission to “love yourself” as He loves you!

Are you hiding your “stamp?

What are the things that make us run and hide? Find the safest place we can find to sink into and escape from the chaos of the world? Or simply hide parts of ourselves?

Shame? Yes. It can be shame. Even guilt. The first man and woman set the example of this type of hiding.

But what about protection? What about when we feel the desire to hide away to protect ourselves?

Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. 1 Kings 18:13

“I just made everything private. Then I have to approve anyone who is looking or trying to twist the truth, or looking for the wrong reasons. See! Even my blog. I made that private, too!”

I had been triggered. I had told myself I wasn’t. That another’s opinion of me didn’t really matter, but it had triggered me. And I wanted to crawl into a private space and protect myself. Only let in people I allowed to be here.

I wanted to crawl into my on-line cave. Until I decided when it was safe to come back.

“You just put your light under a bushel. That’s what you just did.” My husband let me know my need to gain the upper hand somehow with all this “protection,” was really diminishing.

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:15, NLT

My friend had told me just the day before my privacy crusade that I left a certain “stamp” when I graced a place. And here I was…trying to erase this “stamp.”

That stamp was a light. The “light of the world, on a hilltop that can’t be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)

It should not be hidden.

Even if people are looking for the wrong reasons, the Jewish leaders were trolling Jesus for the wrong ones, too (Mark 12:15)

I can’t stop people from gossip or slander. From ill will or unforgiveness. That’s not a journey I can walk for someone, only alongside with support. But I can be a walking, talking version of light.

Even if I don’t stay “private,” I can ensure my public demeanor is just as holy as my private one. That my light shines the same at home, at the grocery store, at work, at church, and on-line.

That the stamp I leave simply says this:

JESUS WAS HERE

That’s a stamp I’d like the world to see. Through me.