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Dear me,

I know there are days when you doubt your worth, when you think all you do is cause problems. And those days? Well, those days aren’t your best or your most loving.

You’re cranky with the kids. Frustrated at work. Picking fights with the man you love most.

God is crazy about you

The whole time you can hear God whispering that He loves you but that critical voice inside your head seems to be yelling so very loudly. On those days – the days where it is really hard to love yourself, much less your neighbor – I want you to ask yourself a few questions:

• How are you measuring success? Is it by the money you make, the awards you win, the number of friends you have, whether or not your bath towels match? Is that in line with what God wants for you?
• Are there things in your life that you need to let go of? Is it time to look at the burden of your obligations? Are those obligations still a good match for you and your calling?
• What is it that you are passionate about? What brings you joy? Wouldn’t it make sense that those areas – those places where God has specially crafted you – might be a target for enemies? Could it be that resistance and complaints are a sign of progress?

Everyone has rough days and doubts, but please don’t linger there. Please don’t make it a habit.

God is crazy about you, and He thinks you are worth it all.

Rest in that.

And when you’ve really got your head and heart full of God’s love, please share it with others. They need it, too.

Love,
Marketta

31daysoflovingyourneighbor

Loving Your Neighbor
The idea floats in softly at first, like a feather carried on the wind. I could write about loving my neighbor – could join thousands of other writers and bloggers who craft articles each of the 31 days of October.

And then I laugh just enough to blow the feather away.

I have a husband still healing from a fractured ankle, the weight of a big project at work and a personal attitude problem that seems so comfortable with me that it’s having its mail forwarded to my house.

I can’t write about loving my neighbors, I tell God. I don’t have time and I don’t even like myself right now, much less other people.

I start with the mental list of things I’m upset about, things that I wish I could change about me. For starters, I don’t share well. I even argued with a librarian once about returning a book I wasn’t quite finished with – and sharing is kind of the whole point there.

Then, there’s the constant nagging I do at home and the complaining I do when my plans get interrupted. Plus, my need to control and my need to worry when I’m not in control. I’m about to start page three of my grievances against myself when another thought comes along.

Start there.

Start with your own self.

31 days of Loving Your Neighbor
I take a deep breath. The lightweight feather is now more like a wild turkey flapping around my yard. It is sort of hard to miss.

I suppose if I did want to love my neighbors, I would have to start with me. I’d need to evict my I’m-not-worth-anything attitude, and I’d need to forgive myself in order to move forward.

I might even need to take better care of my introverted self. Maybe treat myself to a nice, peaceful walk so I’m in a better frame of mind, a better frame of soul, to love others. Maybe spend more time reading scripture and praying to the one who never runs out of love for me – or for my neighbors. Maybe then I’ll hand out grace and understanding in larger doses.

Maybe this idea to write for 31 days straight? Maybe I’m the one who needs it most. And maybe I need it now more than ever.

Would you like to spend the month discovering how to love your neighbor, too? If so, check in here throughout October – and we’ll get better at this together.

Day 2: Learning to love yourself again

31daysoflovingyourneighbor

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How to let more light in

For the second week in a row we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, told why we were interested in reading a novel about four women who meet on a spiritual retreat and why our hearts were pulled to discuss the book with others.

This woman had been there before, had driven the 45 minutes to hear what we were learning from the characters and from our questions. But this time, as we told our names and our stories to the new people, she mentioned owning an apple orchard.

I told of my three crazy boys, of make-shift wrestling matches in the living room and of being suspicious of silence in our house. And once we were no longer strangers, we talked about “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” and how we could see sticky notes and dog-eared pages in the books we held in our hands.

“What parts did you underline? What parts meant the most to you?” I asked.

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One woman turned to page 15, where Hannah, one of the main characters, is being reminded of a sermon she preached about God pruning things like a gardener would. Hannah had told her congregation that pruning isn’t punishment – it’s improvement.

“I had never thought of that scripture that way,” the woman said as others chimed in about pruning and its painfulness.

But the woman with the orchard shook her head and waited for a turn to speak.

Pruning is essential, she said, and we do it more than once a year because the trees need space. The fruit needs nutrients. And pruning allows for more light.

That last thought – the one about the light? That’s the one that keeps ringing in my ears. That’s the one that has me asking what I need to let go of so God and love and light can more easily find their way through my muddled mess.

Maybe it’s my own expectations that could stand to be cut back or the binge watching on Netflix that could be trimmed a bit. Maybe I could take the scissors to my spending, my procrastination and a hundred other bad habits that pull time and nutrients from my soul.

The gardener knows with each snip, there would be room for more light and stronger growth.

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how to use what you have to teach kids about faith
how to use what you have to teach kids about faith

Mama used to joke that I’d be the only bride who registered at junk stores for wedding gifts.

I think that started after I found a pair of wooden theater seats tucked away in a store that looked like a chaotic indoor flea market. Or, now that I think about it, maybe she said that after I drug home that old Army chest.

Regardless, no one was surprised when I bought what looks like a shallow wooden basket and put it – chipping paint and all – on our coffee table. I, however, am surprised by how helpful it has been in talking with our family about faith.

I started by filling the basket with seasonal items and stringing a tiny banner made out of scrapbook paper across the handle. Within minutes, I found out that this was prime real estate in our house. Anything I put in the basket would be touched and read and rearranged by our boys. So, I started using the basket more purposefully.

In the spring I scoured the house for anything bee related and brought it to the coffee table, along with books on God and animals. Soon I’m planning to borrow the wooden fruit and vegetables from the boys’ pretend kitchen and talk about what we learn about God from watching seeds grow and be harvested.

Eventually I want to pull together quiet bags that inspire questions and conversations much the same way the basket does – only in a portable fashion for those times when we find ourselves waiting or needing to be silent.

I also mix in storybook bibles and other faith-related books with the stacks of Star Wars and train titles we read, and religious music is in the rotation for family dinners. I write scriptures and prayer requests on the chalkboard in the kitchen.

If I want faith to be at the center of my family’s lives, it helps for faith to be at the center of our home. So, I use what I have – even a wooden basket with chipping paint and crumbs of chalk – to teach and shape, to question and invite.

And I pray that God will take my chipped and broken efforts and use it all for his glory.

If I want faith to be at the center of my family’s lives, it helps for faith to be at the center of our home.

Sensible Shoes Sharon Garlough BrownWe were so thankful to have Sharon Garlough Brown, author of Sensible Shoes, spend time with us on Facebook as part of the Simply Faithful Book Club. She is full of wisdom and grace, so I wanted to capture that conversation for you here.

Click on the comments button (the one that looks like a speech bubble) to read along… Be blessed!

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