Be Kind to Yourself

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

We know that an admirable quality is being kind to others. But have you ever thought about being kind to yourself?

Honestly, I really hadn’t until a few weeks ago.

I was allowing adverse thoughts to have their way with me, and they were not producing life and peace. Then one day, this thought occurred to me: “You would be kind and compassionate to others. You would forgive others. Why not be kind to yourself? Don’t allow these thoughts to rob your peace and joy!”

I mean, I’ve always known God loves me. I’ve “known” the verse that says the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest is to love others as I love myself. But “knowing” something and “living” it are quite different. God really wants me to love myself! Not in a selfish way where I put myself above others, but I should love others AS (at the same time, in the same way) as I love myself.

It seems like a simple thought, but it’s been profound to me and increased my quality of life. A small change in trajectory can create a big difference in destination. Peace or anxiety? Gratitude or regret? Hope or despair? Judgment or mercy?

Be kind to yourself

Give mercy and grace

As you would to others,

Be kind to yourself.

  • Matthew 22:37, Ephesians 4:32, 2 Timothy 2:24, Galatians 5:22, Colossians 3:12-13, Philippians 4:8-9.

    The Response to Troubling Times

    These are troubling times—something I think everyone, regardless of political affiliation, would agree. It is all too easy to allow frustration, anxiety, fearful, grief, (and more) to take up residence in our minds.

    I woke up at 3:00 this morning. Thoughts quickly pounced into my brain about the troubling state of things in our country. I finally began to pray. And then this word from Jesus came to mind: “Don’t let your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1) Within moments my heart settled into peace as my faith in Him rose.

    “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

    Oh, how I love His word! I have been reading Psalm 119 all week. It is the longest chapter in the Bible, and filled with so many references to the power of God’s Word. His Word is to be our delight, our declaration, our meditation. In return, it will be our strength, our direction, our peace.

    I love Psalm 119:14-16: “ I rejoice in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts and keep my eyes on Your ways. I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.”

    Look how many times “I” and “I will” is used. I have to purposefully do some things!

    Psalm 119:165 says: “Those who love Your law have great peace….”

    Isaiah 26:3-4 says: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord we have an everlasting rock.”

    Keeping my thoughts on Him (because I trust in Him) is my part. The result is perfect peace.

    “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things. Do those things which you have both learned and received, and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

    Honestly, this command is no small feat! But the resulting peace is worth it!

    “For the word of God is alive, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

    “Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your waist girded with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, having your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace, and above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-17)

    The Bible, the Word of God, is not just a book. It is our source of faith, comfort, peace, direction, instruction. It is also a spiritual weapon!

    [Note: I write this to Jesus-followers. Christians. Those who have confessed Jesus as Lord according to Romans 10:9-10, 13: “… If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation…. For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Upon this confession you are “saved” from eternal damnation (John 3:16) and your spirit is made new and alive unto God. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Then you can begin the process of “renewing your mind” (Romans 12:1-2), that is, putting His Word into your heart by reading and obeying it, by letting His words take preeminence over your old way of thinking. This part is a lifelong process!]

    Christmas: The Never-Ending Story

    “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” Brooklyn has repeatedly asked me this season, usually as we are driving somewhere. I always say it’s the time we celebrate Jesus’ being born into this earth. It’s His birthday. “Jesus is the reason for the season!” I say happily.

    But there is obviously so much more to the story. Christmas is the day we celebrate Jesus’s birth; but the real Christmas story actually began in the very beginning, before God created mankind.

    When God created mankind, He gave us a free will, and for some inexplicable reason, in the midst of the beautiful garden in which He set Adam and Eve, He placed a forbidden tree. “Eat of any of the others, but not this one; eat from this one and you will die,” He essentially said.

    Most everyone knows the story. The devil came in the form of a serpent and convinced them to eat it. At that moment, sin and death (and thus separation from God) entered this world.

    Man needed a Savior, and God knew that he would need a Savior.

    He had already made The Plan.

    Why Jesus wasn’t born one or two generations from Adam, I don’t know. Why God waited 4,000 years for Jesus to be born of the virgin Mary, I don’t know.

    But during those 4,000 years, God kept hope alive by sending many prophecies of a coming Savior. The exact number, I’m not sure: It could be from 108 to over 400. But, interestingly, in the 1950s mathematician Peter Stoner calculated that the odds of even EIGHT prophecies coming to pass in one person’s life was one in one hundred quadrillion!

    The point is, about 2,000 years ago an angel appeared to a virgin named Mary and told her she was blessed and highly favored among women and would conceive and bear a Son named Jesus, the promised Savior. She was confused as to the logistics since she was a virgin, but the angel patiently explained that it would happen by the Holy Spirit who would come upon her.

    To Mary’s great credit, she agreed to this plan (God did not “rape” Mary, as I saw one claim recently): “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be unto me according to your word.” Thus the seed of God was implanted into humanity, and there grew, and was born.

    What a glorious day!

    We don’t know exactly what day of the year it was, but we celebrate His birth on Christmas day.

    It’s what Jesus did at the end of His time on earth that makes this a never-ending story. He became what no one else could: a perfect sacrifice for the sin of all mankind. Every person is born with this Adamic sin nature; but when we are born AGAIN, we become a partaker of GOD’S divine nature! We are made a new creation!

    John 3:16 records Jesus’ summation of The Plan, saying that God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son, that whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life.

    Eternal life. I’m very interested in that, you see, because I have a young daughter whose earthly life was cut short.

    How does one receive eternal life? How is one born again into God’s kingdom, a kingdom of life and not death?

    The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-10, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

    Because Jesus came, lived perfectly in the face of temptation, suffered and died on the cross, was buried and subsequently resurrected, we can now have life by believing in Him. Through Jesus’ resurrection, we have resurrection—first of our spirit, then one day our body.

    He was the first fruit of many. The never-ending story of life and hope.

    Because of this never-ending story of Christmas, I have hope. I have hope for eternal life, and I also have hope that I will see my beloved daughter again, because she believed in Jesus and what He did for her.

    Because of this never-ending story, I write this today so you can have that hope, then you can share this same hope with your loved ones so that we never have to experience eternal separation from the God Who Saves or from those we love.

    (Genesis 1-3; Isaiah 53; Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:26-38; John 1:1-5; John 3:3-18, 35-36; 1 Peter 1:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Romans 3:21-28; 6:23; 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-26; and many more.)

    Try to Remember the [Good] Times in September

    It’s Labor Day weekend here in the USA. For most, I’m sure, a holiday to mark the last hurrah of summer. For us, it’s “that weekend.”

    Our Emily went to heaven suddenly on Labor Day, 2013.

    We can try to act like it’s just another weekend. We can try to have fun (and we will). But we don’t mention “it” because, why? Why turn a holiday into a time of mourning?

    But it’s there. It’s there in the heart, loud and clear. It’s in the social media “memories” that pop up, lest we forget. “This day five years ago” leading up to September 2nd brings happy pictures in which the pain of losing a dear one has not yet been etched in our faces.

    The very old song “Try to Remember” comes to mind. “Try to remember the kind of September … when life was so tender, when no one wept except the willow.”

    Emily’s birthday is also in September.

    So I try to remember the GOOD times in September.

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    I remember when, after a miscarriage and months of trying to conceive, I was blessed to carry and give birth to Emily in September, 1992. We were surprised at the blond hair and blue eyes that greeted us since we both are brown-eyed brunettes.

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    I remember how happy we were to add two more daughters to the family. So many good times we all had together over the course of Emily’s 21 years.

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    I remember how much she loved animals.

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    And dirt. As in mud, dirt races, and mud truck madness.

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    I remember the look that said, “Enough pictures, Mom!”

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    I remember how beautiful she looked when she got married in a sweet, simple ceremony in our backyard, the blue waters of the lake reflecting the happiness of the day.

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    I remember her being pregnant with our first grandchild, and all the doctor appointments that I took her to. Due to her medical condition, her pregnancy was deemed high risk which meant we had the pleasure of viewing ultrasounds every month! Her doctor was 80 miles away, so we always made a day of it.

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    I remember watching my firstborn become a precious mommy.

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    Emily left us so many wonderful memories. But the best gift she gave us, after herself, is her beautiful daughter, who, like her mom, surprised everyone with her coloring: red hair, coming from blond parents. Emily’s little girl is our own. She fills our lives with joy and grace and laughter and gratitude.

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    I remember the times in September and November and December and all through the year. The good times. The blessed times. The wonderful times. When I do that, my heart is filled with thankfulness, along with the unswerving hope of seeing her again in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Resurrection

    It’s Resurrection Sunday, also known as Easter. I’m a Christian, and the resurrection of my Savior, Jesus Christ, is a defining moment. If He had only lived and died, He would be like everyone else. But He rose on the third day, just like He said He would, and walked on the Earth another 40 days before ascending to Heaven in a cloud of glory.

    Resurrection. Sometimes the word stabs my heart, because I have a sweet daughter whose body quit way too soon. I was there some time later, as the doctors worked on a shell whose spirit had long left and was enjoying the wonder and splendor and perfect love and complete health of heaven. When they gave up, I did not, and continued to call her back in Jesus’ name, because I believe in that. One of Jesus’ last commands was “Raise the dead,” so I know I’m within the bounds of His will to do so (Matthew 10:8). In hope and faith, I spoke life to that body.

    The only thing is, she also has a will, and I can only imagine that having experienced the pure presence of Jesus in a completely healed body is something she had no desire to give up. So her earthly body died and was buried, along with part of this mama’s heart that will only be truly whole when I see her again.

    Having my girl in heaven is like having one foot in this world and one in the next.

    And that is where hope comes in. Because I have come to realize that we humans can barely exist without it. We have to have a hope in someone or something. So each day, and sometimes each moment, we have to find and grasp that hope in order to stay alive.

    Romans 8:9-11 says that if I am in Christ, then the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in me and gives life to this mortal body through His Spirit that lives in me.

    So that’s where the circle is complete. Because He died, I can choose to die to sin by choosing Him, and because He rose, I can rise and live with His presence in me. In Him I find hope whenever hope dims.

    “But I would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and arose again, so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall be forever with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 MEV)

    So, on a Resurrection Sunday in which I formerly found myself with low hope and a hurting heart, I find resurrected hope in my resurrected Savior. This day and every day.

    Yay, Yay, Another Gray Day

    Yay, yay

    Another gray day

    Time to laugh

    And time to play

    Time to read

    And time to pray

    Yay, yay

    Another gray day!

    * * *

    The sound of the rain began in the wee hours of the morning. How easy it is to sleep being lulled by the incessant patters of rain on the roof.

    Opening the blinds at first light, my eyes confirm that it is another gray day. To some, this may mean gloom, but to me, it is my heart’s delight. Especially on a Saturday with no other plans.

    Another gray day means time to read while my favorite music plays in the background. I only need to pause while I wash the week’s clothes or unload the dishwasher.

    Another gray day means more time to play. More time for snuggles with a red-headed sweetie-pie.

    Another gray day means time to slow down and pray and purposefully and deliberately reconnect with my Creator. Unrushed.

    Yay, yay, for another gray day.

    Here’s the Happy

    “How’s your week been?” texts my sweet friend. “Girl! The crappy and the beautiful! Always! Until I get to Heaven, then it will all be beautiful!” I reply.

    “The crappy and the beautiful” refers to an earlier blog in which I described the highs and lows of this life after my daughter’s death.

    And let me stop right there. Because part of the crappy is simply choosing words to describe the present state of my precious daughter, words that don’t pierce through my heart and stop my train of thought. I really can’t stand to refer to her as “deceased” and certainly not “dead!” Dead is the worst word in the world.

    The truth is that she is very much alive in heaven, but the reality is that I am here on earth. So, however I choose to refer to her, the words don’t come easily, but always fall clumsily from my mouth.

    So there’s the crappy, but there’s also the happy.

    A huge part of the happy is the part of my daughter that she left behind. She named her Brooklyn Grace.

    Brooklyn was ten months old when her mommy went to Heaven (my favorite way to describe her passing), and through a wonderful miracle of God, we were allowed to adopt her.

    So in addition to my two beautiful surviving daughters who are grown and gone (out of the house), we are now parenting this curly-haired, blue-eyed, five-year-old redheaded bundle of joy.

    Here’s the happy, when she throws her little arms around my neck and asks if I need “some lovin’s.” Answer: always yes.

    Here’s the happy, when the sound of her voice either singing or talking to herself as she plays fills this house and this heart.

    Here’s the happy, when she says, “Nana, you’re my best friend.”

    One day we went for a walk and picked some wildflowers. “Why do these have splinters on them?” she asked after I handed them to her.

    “That’s just the way God made them.” (My go-to reply when I don’t really know the answer.)

    “He shouldn’t put splinters on flowers!” was her astute reply. I laughed and agreed.

    This is how we think life should be, right? Only beautiful. But the reality is that the flowers have splinters. The challenge is to look past the crappy to the beautiful. To savor the sweet in the midst of the sad. To see the happy in the midst of the hard.

    Here’s the happy.

    Missing

    It’s time to write again. I haven’t written in this blog for many months because it had become a log of my grief journey and, frankly, I got tired of grieving. Moreover, I was really tired of talking about it.

    When you don’t talk about it, you begin the task of telling yourself that you’re okay, that you were blessed to have her 21 years, that you’re blessed to have other precious daughters, that you’re blessed she left such a wonderful little human behind so full of love and sweetness. You try to find the good, all the good you can, hoping it will overcome all the bad you feel inside. And when it doesn’t, you feel worse.

    When you lose someone, a part of yourself is missing that can never be reclaimed. Sure, you go on with life, you find many moments of joy. But the hole is always there. The missing returns.

    So you keep a secret drawer with a few items of her favorite clothes. And you retreat to press your face into them, searching for the familiar scent of her that has long since faded.

    When you take a family picture it’s never whole. It’s imperfect. It’s incomplete. The heart sees what the eyes don’t. She’s always missing.

    You better believe your heart will never let you remember any times your beautiful, sweet, soft-spoken daughter was anything but. Your head knows different, but the heart speaks louder. Recalling only good times. Good times. Good times. Thump thump. Thump thump. Thump thump.

    The sweeter the memories, the stronger the pain. Oh, my heart, why you gotta be so mean?

    I think for the rest of my earthly days I will travel this path back and forth, the sad and the sweet, the despair and the hope, the head and the heart.

    This is what missing someone feels like.

    The Real Steel

    Last night I turned on the TV for a few minutes before going to bed and caught the end of the 1989 movie “Steel Magnolias.”

    I haven’t watched the movie in many years, but it was sadder than ever, the parallels all too real for me this time.  The ending where the mother loses her daughter and goes on a tirade in the graveyard, from acceptance to anger to grief to laughter. It’s not unusual to go through the grief process in 30 seconds, but that doesn’t mean you’re done with it. Sometimes, nearly two years later, I may experience all these things in a single moment. And the part where she finds joy in the precious gift her daughter left behind, her grandbaby. And the part where she feels distaste at religion’s sorry attempt to soothe by fabricating explanations that have no scriptural foundation, when in reality the truth is that the devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy, while Jesus comes to give abundant life (John 10:10), and the reasons it happened are always complicated and never easy and usually we will not fully understand this side of Heaven. So your best response to someone’s loss is your presence, not your theology.

    But then that’s also another part of the ending I identified with: the presence of friends and family.  Everyone, every gesture matters. Every visit to the wake and funeral, every gift, every card, every text, every social media  message and comment, and every single hug, mattered. Each one mattered a lot and helped a lot. And when all of those are gone, your friends and family remain, and that’s what keeps life going. “Life goes on,” as Shelby says.

    There are still times where grief ambushes you and gives you a gut punch, but mostly the days are filled with the stuff of life: working, eating, sleeping.  Better moments come when we can offer a measure of comfort or help to others. The best times are in appreciating and spending time with the ones who remain.

    And so, as life goes on, somehow also must we, thus being compared to a flower that is beautiful and fragrant, while being strong as steel. 

    I guess we become what we need to be.

    However, though religion as a part of our Southern life is woven into the movie’s fabric, I would have to say that in my case religion as RELATIONSHIP plays the biggest part of my life as I strive to thrive and not merely survive. 

    Relationship with a Heavenly Father that begins through believing in His Son, Jesus Christ. A relationship characterized by prayer, reading the Bible, and listening to the still, small voice on the inside. Strength summoned by getting a word in due season, by entering into His Presence through praise and worship (not just at church, either), and by gathering with a body of believers. And more. So much more.

    In the movie, Annabelle is probably the character which seems to have the most authentic relationship with God, though she is portrayed as sort of backward. However, in the end, she seems to gain some backbone. When  Ouiser says,  “Well don’t you expect me to come to one of your churches or one of those tent-revivals with all those Bible-beaters doin’ God-only-knows-what! They’d probably make me eat a live chicken!” Annabelle retorts, “Not on the first visit!” 

    One might venture to say that this is an accurate portrayal of a true relationship with God (except for eating a live chicken): it begins as a decision but, as we commit to Him daily, we might just find ourselves doing things we never imagined! Whether that is teaching a Sunday school class or raising our hands during worship or simply surviving tragedy, we find we can do all things through Christ Who gives us strength (Phil 4:13).

    And therein lies the real steel. 

    Good Grief?!

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    I am quitting the grief process. That’s it. I quit. I don’t like it. It’s not working for me. No good.

    I read a lot about it. I can see it’s been well-studied. There are steps to take and things to do and feelings to feel. But Grief and I don’t get along. Grief weighs me down and fills me with sadness.

    Before I go any further, let me interject here that I don’t despise or in any way think any less of anyone else who finds comfort in following through the grief process. I say, if it brings you comfort, and helps you navigate through the awful pain, go for it! Lord knows the anguish of losing someone is too great to not have help of some kind.

    But for me, grief isn’t good.

    In Isaiah 53:4 I see that Jesus bore my griefs and sorrows, and as a dear friend of mine put it, “He did it completely and perfectly!” Oh, what a relief it is! Thank you, Jesus!

    Instead, I’ve got a new focal point: HOPE. Oh, yes. Hope. That determined expectation of seeing my sweet daughter again, and very soon. SOON and very soon. That makes me smile so big!

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    Let me be perfectly clear: this doesn’t mean I won’t have moments of missing her. I will miss her until I see her again. I will think about her and look at pictures of her and remember her on the spur of the moment, and tears may come to my eyes. There is an Emily-shaped hole in my heart right now, but I am filling that hole with HOPE. Not “I hope I will see her again,” because I KNOW I will see her again. I know Jesus was her Lord, as He is mine. Hope is expecting it to happen, and looking forward to it eagerly! What a hope!