While mindlessly scrolling through Facebook today, I saw a saying about God’s unconditional love. It was one of those pretty pictures will a sunrise and a fancy script saying. I honestly don’t remember what the whole thing said because I couldn’t get past unconditional love. It’s been on my mind all day. Unconditional love. Without conditions. Without strings. Without hesitation. I think that I take that saying “unconditional love” for granted. I have heard it all my life about the way God loves His children. I almost think it’s one of those churchy phrases that I have listened to so many times that it has lost its power almost. But today, it hit me right in my heart house.
As mere humans, we truly can’t fathom that kind of love. Our society tosses around the word love so very flippantly and loosely that the word is almost tarnished. “Ooohhh, I LOVE your shoes!” Or how many times do we proclaim our love for an actor whom we have never met. And I promise that I have used that word when talking about ice cream (just last night as a matter of fact). But y’all, that unconditional love that comes from our Father is unmatched by anything we know here on Earth. Yes, we love our kids like our Father loves us – that is the closest we could ever come to understanding His love for us. But even then, it’s not exactly the same.
So why did it hit me today like it did? I’m not sure that I know, but I’m fairly certain that God slowed my scroll and stilled my mind long enough to get my attention. This morning I woke up still fighting my annual spring cold, feeling unrested and moderately grumpy. I did not want to get up and go to school. I even said to myself as I slovenly rolled out of bed “I don’t want to adult today. I just can’t.” I was sure that I did not have the energy needed to show up for a room full of 9 year olds. Basically, my attitude sucked. I truly didn’t think I could make it through the day, and I was mad at myself for my attitude. Maybe this is why God needed to get my attention.
His love for me – even with my ugly, early-morning grumblings – doesn’t waiver. When I’m not at my best He loves me – just as much as He does when I’m at my best. When I’m not as loving as I should be, He still loves me. When I stumble and lose my way, His love remains steadfast and strong. Why? How could He possibly STILL love me after all of my shortcomings and grumblings and doubts and fears. Because He can…Because HE IS LOVE.
There are so many worship songs that attempt to describe this love in many different ways. His love is extravagant, overwhelming, never-ending, reckless. His love never fails. It is unending. His love awakens. He loves me, this I know. And all of these songs are beautiful proclamations of our Father’s love. But I’m not sure that His unconditional love can fully be described and understood by us until we truly believe in our hearts that love is who God is. And we are His beloved. What if tomorrow we take carry that title “beloved” with us all day? How would that change the way we love others? How would our self-talk change if we started it with the name “Beloved”?
I’m so thankful for a God who listens to my heart when I don’t even know the words for what I need. I’m so thankful for His nudges (and at times, smack upside my head) to slow down and find Him at my center. Most of all, I am so thankful for His unconditional love.
This school year has definitely been different than any other in my career. Many days I feel like I am a first year teacher again. I feel like I am having to create new ways to do things nearly every day. Most days I feel overwhelmed and completely flustered. I am exhausted before the day even starts. I spend early morning hours in my classroom trying to find new ways to teach – to reach all of my kiddos. I spend all day behind a mask hoping that they can see the smile they bring to my face. I study their eyes – searching for a glimmer of understanding. I miss seeing the smiles that I know are there, but are masked. Creating engaging, cooperative lessons has become a difficult task. Sharing learning and ideas from three feet apart somehow just isn’t the same.
I come home at night, carrying a load that is much heavier than the stacks of papers in my bag. Did I even speak to her? Was he okay today or did he seem sad? If I could have only spent more time reading with them. Finding the balance between work and home is even more burdensome this year than ever before. As I lay my head on the pillow (or the couch, sometimes even my desk) my thoughts drift to tomorrow’s challenges. Do I have the energy for one more day of this environment? How am I going to reach them? And keep them safe? And listen? And show them how much I truly care – from three feet away?
But here’s the thing…I LOVE what I do – even when I’m doing it in the middle of a pandemic. I love my kids (my students carry the title of my kids). I love that they are so resilient and they handle every day of this crazy school year like seasoned veterans. They are still kids. They still laugh and play and have fun. They bring me so much joy when they draw me pictures or write me notes (even when the spelling is a little off). Yes, it has been a really tough, deflating year trying to make things feel normal when they are anything but. The pride I feel when I see how amazingly my kiddos are navigating all of the chaos – well, it makes every minute worth it.
I might be overwhelmed and allow myself to complain about the day to day details of the “job,” but the reality is, I love my “job.” I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to pour into these little lives each day. And the best thing is that I always get so much more from them that I give. My burdens may feel heavy at times, but my heart is always full. Teaching is not my “job.” Teaching is my passion.
For the past few weeks I have been battling my fibromyalgia pain in a BIG way. Most of the time I can manage the pain and it stays around a 2-3 (1-10 scale). Lately, I have let anxiety and worry really take me over and I know that my rising pain levels are a direct result of that. For the past few days my pain has been a consistent 8 or 9. Those levels make it so very hard to function day to day with all that is on my daily to do list. I have let it get me down. I have cried a lot of tears and felt pretty hopeless. This has been the worse bout of my fibro pain since I was initially diagnosed. As the pain persists, my mental and emotional state has begun to deteriorate.
But there are positives to be found in all of it. First, I have a tribe of ladies who show up daily to encourage me and pray for me and keep me positive. That is truly amazing. I am so thankful for their sweet voices and thoughts. I feel them standing next to me in my fight. Secondly, I am praying a lot and feel myself drawing closer to God through my morning devotionals and quiet time. I am spending more time in the word, really studying and leaning into what God is saying to me.
This morning, I woke and my first feeling was pain. I had a hard time just getting out of bed and instantly my mood deflated. (Not the way I like to start my day). I stumbled out of bed and poured myself my morning coffee (my cup of ambition – typed in my best Dolly Parton voice) and headed to my office for my quiet time. My morning devotional could NOT have been more fitting! (Don’t you just love when God does small things like that – just when we need them!?). “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” That first line…gave me chills. God was saying the best way for me to feel better was to start with my heart. How? What does a cheerful heart look like? It’s a heart filled with gratitude and thankfulness. It’s a heart that counts blessings! My devotional went on to explain that a cheerful heart can improve one’s health – spiritually, emotionally, and even physically! (Just what I need!). And then this…the line that hit me hard…the words that I’m carrying with me all day…”Let these divine nutrients soak into the depths of your being. Let them strengthen and enhance your health.” My heart condition (cheerfulness) will affect my health. Does this mean that I don’t need to take my medicine…..NO. It means I need to work on my perspective and focus on what is in my heart. My cheerful heart is medicine for ALL of my being.
Probably not anything earth shattering…not a giant revelation…but rather, the gentle nudge, the small a-ha moment that God knew I needed today. How’s your heart? Would you describe it as cheerful? Make it your goal today to fill your heart with gratitude and thankfulness, and let that be your medicine. Soak in all of that goodness. Have a blessed day. Much love!
“God is not at all concerned with me being good enough, but completely concerned with my being TRUSTING enough.”
I came across this quote this week while looking through an old journal of mine. I think it is so enlightening to dig back through old writings to help me see where I’ve been and how far I’ve come, and even how so many emotions have repeated themselves in the years of my life. This quote came from a sermon. One of those sermons that wrecks your heart. One of those sermons where you wonder how in the world the pastor knew exactly what you needed to hear. One of those “He is talking directly to me” sermons. Looking back, I do not honestly remember what I was going through at the time that made these words hit me so hard. But I do know that the quote resonates with me in a big way today.
Throughout this pandemic/stay at home/lockdown crisis, I have struggled. My emotions have controlled me. I have tried to face this out of control situation and control it. Worry has wrecked my sleep. Anxiety has overtaken my thoughts. Fear has captured my focus. I have been short-tempered with my family. I have spent days crippled by sadness – and then beat myself up for not accomplishing anything. All of this has left me wallowing in that old, lingering feeling that I’m just not good enough. I have allowed the small, powerful “IF” drive me crazy. If I was a better mom….If I was smarter….If I could manage my time better. ..If I could just be better…If I was good enough!
I do not believe that I came across this quote by accident this week. God knew I needed to hear it now. Because God truly does not need my goodness. He doesn’t need to me fight and claw to be good enough…because guess what, I never will be. I will never be “good enough” to earn His love. And that’s a good thing, because His love is offered free. What God does want from me is my trust. He desires that I would let go of the control I crave, and to trust Him with all that I am. He wants me to trust that He is in control. Trust should trump fear, anxiety, worry, and all of the other emotions that do not come from Him.
So, my prayer for today, and for every day going forward is to just trust. I pray to be wholly surrendered to Him and to trust Him enough!
This sounds good, right?! This is a great “go to” verse when times are hard. These words make for a great, inspirational social media post for those of us who are feeling run down and weak. But do I really believe it? Am I living everyday (in lockdown mode) with this joy? Is my behavior truly reflected in this quote?
As I sit and soak in the word this morning, I found myself dwelling here, in this verse. Lingering on these words in Nehemiah forced me to earnestly check my heart, and not only to ask the tough questions, but also to answer them.
So, I go back to the way I was taught to read and understand the Bible – one word or phrase at a time. Break it down and listen for meaning. Joy – different from happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances or events, and is primarily about MY feelings. It centers around ME. However, joy is a constant. Joy is a contentment of the heart, regardless of happenings and surroundings. Joy is a purposeful choice. This joy is found in the Lord – it is the Lord. And this very joy – is mine! It is my strength. It is what stands in the gap when I am overwhelmed by life. It is there to satisfy my needs when I can’t find my own way. This strength from joy calms my fears, dries my tears, and soothes my spirit – even in the ugliest of circumstances.
It is a promise from the word of God. And I believe with all of my heart that God’s promises are real and true and everlasting. So…..do I believe this “go-to” verse? Am I deeply, truly, strongly “bought in”? YES! I am and I am carrying it with me today and going forward. In this scary, unpredictable world, I will find my strength in the joy of the Lord!
What is true about me? This morning I spent some quiet time in my office trying to get my brain and my heart ready for the coming day (can’t even think about the whole week – just one day at a time). As I sat and just listened (hard for me) I just kept hearing the question “What is true about me?” As I began to ponder the question, I found that it was challenging to pen positive things about me. I had no trouble coming up with the negative aspects of myself – but I’m pretty sure that’s not why I was being asked this question. I spent the better part of an hour contemplating what I know to be true about me. More than once I was brought to tears as I wrote my truths. Why is it so hard to acknowledge the good in ourselves?
I do not know why this question was on my heart today, but I am so thankful that I followed the still, quiet voice in the early morning calm and answered. I decided to write my truths in my journal, rather than just answer in my head. Somehow, creating a written record of the things I believe are true about me, made them true. Sharing them here – well that just feels scary…but I think its another important step in this process.
So I’ll leave you with this challenge; What is true about you? Take some time (most of us have more than we know what to do with right now) and ponder this question. Really think about it. We all have our own truths. I would love to hear yours!