This day, Valentine’s Day, has me thinking about love. Not the romantic love that is conveyed in the ‘Hallmark Holiday’ creation, but love for self.
What does it look like to love who you are? Not only to look in the mirror and love what you see on the outside, but to know that the person on the inside is good?
What about loving the journey you’re on? Taking some time to stop over-thinking, over-reacting, judging, hoping, yearning and always expecting more or perhaps better?
This year, I’ve focused on the word contentment. That word can mean many different things to many people, and perhaps it does for me as well. More than anything, I knew that as 2018 began, I desired to find a level of contentment that I had not found in prior years. The contentment I was searching for had to begin within me – with loving who I am and loving the journey that I’m on.
First, I desired a deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father. The essence of that relationship is what is allowing me to begin to see and find some of the missing pieces. It is my belief that He leads us all on the journeys that we find ourselves walking – the large jigsaw puzzle of life, the map of all the winding roads, mountains & valleys. He directs us, nudges us, guides us and certainly sends people to cross our paths that guide, advise and carry us to the next stop. Sometimes we listen and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we really just think we know better (how dare we even say it) than what His plans may be. That’s simply love OF self. Selfishness. Ego. Pride. We have our plans. We know our walk. We know which step to take to bring us to that next big ME moment. LOVING the ME that other people SEE. The ‘all important’ me.
I’m sure many of you can relate, but there have been times in my life that I wanted to be seen. When you get the taste of a stage, it’s hard to step off of it. When you get a sniff of other’s envy, it can get a bit addicting. Privilege & status (in big and large circles) and all of that crap just gets in your head in a bad way. Luckily for me, God allowed me to see – He literally opened my eyes to some of these things growing in me and around me. And He has helped me continue to walk the jagged road of love OF self to love FOR self. Not easy, I’ll tell you! But worth it on the other side.
As I thought about contentment and what that looks like for me, I thought about the things in my life that bring me joy today and have brought me joy in the past. I thought about the things that stole my joy. And somewhere in the middle of that, I’ve struggled with discernment of things that both brought me joy and also stole it. Could it be possible that certain things in my life could do both? And how did the Lord want me to move forward with those things?
I’m not sure I have all of the answers yet, but I do know that I pray and I try to follow the Lord’s nudges. There has been one little nudge in that ‘somewhere in the middle’ zone that has been pushing me to write again, despite knowing that my eagerness to spread my opinions and believe that I have the answers to all of the world’s problems puts love OF self before love FOR self. But then again, does it? Am I overthinking that? Does God want to use me to speak words that others need to hear? It’s that in-between that I’m trying to figure out.
If you’re searching for contentment, maybe this can be your guide too. Identifying your joy givers and your joy stealers is the first step towards contentment.
First – JOY Givers:
- FAMILY – I’ve concluded that THESE people, these 4 others that I share this lovely home with, are my people. Nothing else should get in the way of loving them and putting them first ALWAYS, but more particularly, at this very moment.
- CHURCH/BIBLE STUDY – God wants to do good things in all of us, and finding Him, learning about Him, and leading others to Him is part of the plan. Woodstock City Church continues to bless us on that path.
- BOOKS – I love to read. In this push to greatness, I allowed lies like ‘there’s no time for books or TV on the journey to the top. When you get there, you’ll have all the time in the world for that.’ OK LISTEN. THAT IS TOTAL AND COMPLETE BS AND I AM PRAYING TO GET OVER THE ANGER FOR ALL OF THE PEOPLE OVER THE LAST 9 YEARS THAT PUT THAT IDEA INTO MY HEAD. Without time for you, time to escape to the land of novels and amazing television shows like ‘This is Us’ or ‘The Crown’. PLEASE PEOPLE. Climbing to the top can surely allow you to miss some great stuff if you let it. I was letting it. So, back to books. I’m on my 15th for the year so far and I’m super proud of that one.
- DOG – Have you seen my dog? He’s the best. He’s my favorite companion. He lays next to me while I read and wraps his paws around my arm. We will forget about all of the not so good things he does. He loves me unconditionally. And I love him.
Second – JOY Stealers:
- FACEBOOK – Dearest Facebook, you stole my joy for at least the last 5 years. You, like a drug, kept me on a News Feed repeat, always needing more, never seeing enough, saying enough, sharing enough, friending enough. Although I love being connected to many of you and I really do miss that connection, what I find in the scrolling of Facebook is ENVY and COVETING. Also a lot of eye rolling. My eyes just honestly were hurting. Some of us have a really really big LOVE OF SELF around these parts (not to exclude myself).
- SHAMERS – I no longer have time in my life for people that shame others. Until I read Brene Brown’s books, I didn’t recognize shame like I do today. I’m grateful I see it now and I’m thankful when the little ‘ping’ goes off that allows me to recognize it. There is no place for shamers in Sandora Land.
- USERS – Dear ones that are great friends when they need you and when their kids love your kids, but quickly forget about you, in fact, even turn on you, when they no longer need you, nor do their children. Done, ok? Just done with all of that. The road to friendship along with giving my heart to someone, is going to be a lot more careful and cautious going forward.
Finally – JOY Givers and Stealers:
- FOOD – Dearest Food, you are an addiction. You are the greatest thing and also the worst. You provide me so much joy, but the results of too much of you steal my joy. So for the time being, I’m taking all of the knowledge on whole food nutrition that I have learned since 2009 and I’ve started eating plant based. Mind you, it’s been 2 weeks. But 2 weeks is something. Is it forever? This I do not know. It’s for now.
- WRITING – I am going to figure you out.
Just making these determinations has given me more contentment. Acting on them, has brought even more. I realize that the one who clears my paths, who opens and closes my doors, is also the one that calls me worthy. He wants the best life for me. I want to give my best to Him by paying attention, prayerfully and patiently.
Contentment can not be found in love OF self. Never ever. The only place true contentment can be found is in Christ. Finding that relationship, strengthening it, brings you to love FOR self.
Psalm 34:10 Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
2 Cor. 12:9-10 “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Much love – and Happy Valentine’s Day!