Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Learning to Love Yourself

How can anyone forget that beautiful song that was sung by Whitney Houston?  The Greatest Love of All.  And boy, she sings it with gusto!

If I fail, if I succeed, at least I lived as I believed.
No matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity.
Because the greatest love of all is happening to me.
I found the greatest love of all inside of me.
The greatest love of all is easy to achieve.
Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.

I am actually coming into this very place.  I am talking about loving the me that no one sees.  The soul of me.  A long but beautiful housecleaning has been happening.  And without realizing it, I have walked into the sunshine and the clean feeling of being free.  Free from the past, free from condemnation, free from others' expectations.  Free to be me.  Free to live, enjoy, love.  Acceptance.

I have known alot of people who just seemed to come by this love naturally.  I always thought "boy, they really think they are all that!"  But deep down, I was envious.  I wanted to love myself.  I wanted to be myself.  I didn't want to fear others rejection.

Those of you who have struggled with thoughts of unworthiness and self-doubt, you know what I am talking about!

Oh, it's easy enough to tell someone they should love themselves.  But to a person full of worth issues, loving oneself sounds very selfish.  What?  Love myself?  It sounds self-centered, stuck-up and conceited.  And I don't know how, anyway.  Is there a button for that?

But truly, the beginning of a full and rich life must start with loving yourself.  And this love begins with God and being forgiven.  We cannot possibly build upon anything less.  When this forgiveness and a relationship with God are followed by an earnest seeking of more knowledge, more growth, more wisdom....the sky is the limit.

Notice I did not say that OTHERS needed to learn and grow.  We must take inventory of our own heart.  We must seek and knock and open, expecting to find exactly what we need to take the next step.  No more, no less.

There have been times when I clung to a phrase, a verse, a song, a poem for weeks until the next piece of encouragement came along.  In 2006, for three weeks all I could say was "Oh, God, help me.  Please help me."  This went on until the answer came.

Then I heard Pastor Joel Osteen say, "Just do the next right thing" and that became my motivation for several months.

In 2008, in frantic desperation for direction, a path, some sort of action plan, I started reading the AA book of 12 steps.

Of course the Bible should be our main source, but I am here to encourage you that God can use anything or anyone to speak to us.  We must be LOOKING for it!

Another time, when I was faced with a difficult decision, one that I did not want to make and was going to cause alot of embarrassment and turmoil, I tossed and turned all night with fear.  The next morning, I went into the other room  and tore off the daily devotional calendar sheet to read:  "Do you not see I am doing a new thing?  Will you not embrace it?"  It felt like music was playing.

A few months ago during my reading of Eat, Pray, Love I often considered Ketut's advice to "Smile with your liver", which is to say, smile from your insides out.  And so I practiced a deep smile from within even when I thought all was lost.  I still have this piece of advice hanging by my desk.

God can use lots of ways to help us when we are in need of emotional support or an answer to face a situation.  But if we don't watch for it, we will pass it by.  It's just like the loose change dropped in the parking lot that we don't stop to pick up.  Comes the time we are flat broke and we may go back to pick up that loose change and find it is gone!

Living a Real Life starts when we decide to Get Real.  Without fear.  Without bondage.  And this life must be sought with your whole heart.  Being real must become part of every decision, every step, every thought, every breath.

Don't let God's tender ways go unnoticed.  Watch for it.  Expect it.  He will help you find your path and to learn to love yourself.  It truly is The Greatest Love of All.

Dear God, Thank you is not enough for all that You have done for me.  You have worked me over good, molding, melting, purging, cleaning, teaching, showing, sharing, loving.....I can see so clearly Your hand in all of my life.  I know I did not have to hit ground zero to find You.  You were there the whole time, calling my name.  Your never-ending love has saved me.  ~Amen. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Feel Better Already

I am realizing how easy it is to fall back if I am not diligent in my pursuit of growth.  It is always when we feel the best, we must be on the highest alert.

In my quest to live A Real Life, at times, I think I have learned a thing or two.  Yet, just when spirits rise that I am finally getting a handle on life, reality hits!  And I am thrown, no tossed, back a step or two.

It seems natural that we would do this.  We get happy, comfortable, maybe a little too giddy in our achievements.  I need to get quicker at realizing that the rise in self-confidence is leading to a fall.   Maybe then I can grab hold quicker in an effort to minimize the damage.

So to grab hold and minimize damages, here I am, back at writing, reading devotions, recommitting to the items that help direct and guide me forward.  It is reassuring that it doesn't take as long to find my footing, since I have learned where my strength actually comes from and I know the tools to get me there!

Rule #1:  Trust in God.
Rule #2:  See Rule #1.

Here are a few highlights of last week's devotions that I am re-reading today, in case they may help you too:

"Change comes from taking riskes, and the greatest risk is to be honest with yourself and others."  ~Rick Warren

"Insecurity always manifests itself as control."

"Secrets, and the fears that drive them, are areas that you don't trust God with."

"When you have a two-way communication with God, that's called relationship.  When you have one-way communication, that's called religion."

As I sit here alone with my thoughts, I realize that while I have experienced a two-way communication with God, and once I feel the slightest bit of confidence, I promptly changed course thinking, "okay, NOW I got this.  I can do it myself."  I got a little power-hungry.  Can you say CONTROL issues?

I am not meant to "do it by myself."  God is my Friend and Comforter, a very present help in time of trouble.  I am not required to face anything alone.  Quite the contrary, He said He would never leave us or forsake us!  I need to trust Him more, with EVERYTHING.  I cannot pick and choose but must trust all of it to Him.

There.  I feel better already!

Dear God, Thank You for still being there after I run off to handle it all by myself.  I admit that I am unable to handle life and its questions alone and that only with You can I become the Laura that You want me to be.  May I realize that you know every single secret of my heart and that you accept and love me anyway. Your continuous and forgiving love is like no other.  Your love is not based on any amount of expectation of me nor do You give it as a reward.  It just is.  I humbly and gratefully accept Your love and correction in my life.  May I come to respect the relationship and put away any appearance of religion.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And the Tape Plays On....

Or perhaps I should say CD since no one knows what a tape is!  Anyway.....

Over the past few years I have been through alot of changes and growth.  It took a long time to find peace and to have joy but even more than that, to learn how and what it meant to forgive myself.

The past couple of weeks I have reached a level of joy that I never dared hope I would experience again!  Like I have said before, I always knew God could heal my heart and my mind, but I never thought I could feel this way again!  I feel great!

Then....I woke up yesterday morning and the tape was on autoplay....

"I am lonely."
"I don't have...."

"Wwwwaaaaaaait!  Hold it right there!"  Thankfully my headed quickly kicked in, even before I got my eyes open.

"What happened to all the joy and hope you've been talking about, Miss Cheerful?"

Gratefully, like waking up from a nightmare that seemed so real, my mind took over and began to right itself.  I am NOT that person anymore.  I am free from the burdens of sorrow and hopelesness.  I am joyful.  I am of valuable.  I do contribute.  I am deserving.  I am loved.

My heart was slow to follow.  I continued to feel the sting of that near defeat for the rest of the day, but I sure learned a valuable lesson.

Most of us A-personality and leadership types like to have some, uh, control, shall we say?  But I submit to you that if we are going to spend any time at all controlling anything, it should be our own mind.  (Forget about the neighbor who doesn't line the trash can and so the trash blows freely all over the street on pickup day.)

The thoughts that we let wander unchecked are like a computer virus running rampant, destroying everything good, important and of value and replacing it with sickness, wreckage and destruction.  It viciously attacks from within and attaches itself to everyone and everything connected to it.

"Choose your thoughts like you choose your clothes each morning."

Our thoughts and our attitudes are in our control.  We have a choice about how we react and how we treat others.  We also affect others with our behavior.

On Oprah's last show, she told about a sign that she has placed throughout the Harpo Network Facility.  It says, "Please be responsible for the energy you bring to this place."

So next time the tape, 8-track, CD, Ipod autostarts some nonsense in the tracks of your mind, take control, um leadership, and self-correct.  Don't react but rather CHOOSE your thoughts and behavior.

You will feel better and so will those around you!

Dear God,  Thank You for the changes and growth that You are bringing about in me.  Thank you for helping me to embrace my past and be joyful in my future.  Thank you for the hope that You have placed in my heart and the belief that You are always working all things for my good.  You are a wonderful Friend!  ~Me

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Real Life

This weekend I was excited to have plans to attend church with a friend rather than alone and to have lunch together afterwards.  I have always loved and learned from Pastor Jason at Easthill and this week was no exception.

The lesson was about during times of sorrow, despair, heartbreak, financial or relationship woes, we tend to ask, Where Are You God?  Sometimes it seems as if the bad always wins over the good and we feel very alone and easily lose hope.

There was discussion about these times requiring raw grit.  Guts.  Sacrificial love.

I believe I am coming out of this kind of walk, where it took all I had to just breathe.  To sit up in bed in the morning and plant my feet on the floor took all I had.  But as I began to search for my way out of this mire, I knew the only person I could create change in, was me!

While I may have looked at others to pass off responsibility or blame, the bottom line was it was I who needed to change.  But how?  When I haven't looked HONESTLY in the mirror for, well, my entire adult life, how do I begin to unravel the tangles and snares that were made of my own hands and find the real me?

Pastor Jason said it Sunday.  "Real life begins when you decide to get real."

As you can read from the description of my blog, it has been my intent from the beginning that I be brutally honest here.  I don't want to cover up or smooth over or make pretty.  It is deceitful and also takes away from the meaning of the victory when it comes!

I love the word "authentic" because its very essence makes me "get" what real means.  Here is the dictionary version:

                               -adj 1.  of undisputed origin or authorship; genuine.

When I consider this meaning, I find it interesting that it means undisputed origin or authorship.  What if I could get back to the Author and Finisher of me?  The original Laura that was meant to be before all of the confusion and tangles of life?  It also means "not a copy" so there is only one!  Just one you!  Just one me!

But this is the miracle. We don't go back. When God forgives us we go forward with a clean slate. 

And the word "genuine" is good too.  Here is the dictionary version: 

                              -adj 3.  free of pretense or hypocrisy, sincere.

I truly desire to my real self.  Have you ever been around someone like that?  It feels so good and freeing to watch another person just be themselves with no excuses, coverups or masks.

I know the journey is not over but I am finally coming into a period where I really believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be in life.  God has moved and changed me and I am growing and loving and reaching out.  New opportunites appear every day.  We have to be on the lookout for them!

In church Sunday, I was sitting by a young couple that I did not know.  I just really felt that they had a serious need.  I was compelled to invite the young woman to my ladies friendship group, Heart Warmers, so I hastily wrote her a note with my contact info (yes, on the tithe envelope, sorry!).  I held her hand during prayer and gave her a hug.  After the service we talked and she was so excited about the invitation and said it was just what she needed!

I felt so touched that God had used me right there in my seat.  I never expected it.  I went to church thinking about meeting my friend and talking at lunch.  But I got more than I ever imagined and I am excited about the new me that God is creating and cultivating.

I am finally living.....A Real Life.