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Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." The second is this: "Love your neighbor as yourself." There is no commandment greater than these.

There is so much good stuff packed into these two verses.  I am always intrigued by the specificity of heart, soul, mind and strength.  For one thing, women are often accused of being complicated, and I feel like this is proof that we are actually all pretty complicated.  We are emotional and spiritual and intellectual and then all those conceptual parts are housed in a physical body.  It's complicated for all of us!  

Likewise, caring for our whole selves is complicated, but it turns out that to follow through on verse 31, "love your neighbor as yourself," we need to be taking care of ourselves.  Our neighbors need our love more than ever, so we also need to practice self care like never before.  Consider some of the questions and techniques below.

What would it look like to care for your heart, soul, mind and strength?  How might you be able to love others more fully if you took better care of yourself?  Below are four questions to ask yourself and to take to the Lord in prayer.

What are you consuming? 
If you are like most people, you take in a mix of healthy and junk food, a combination of uplifting and not-so-uplifting television, and a diet of social media that can vary greatly with our mood.  Often we are unaware of the what we are really consuming if we are not being really mindful about it.
Whether your media or your meals, it is important to evaluate what you are allowing into your body, your mind, and your spirit.  Social media has become a lifeline for so many as we sheltered at home during the pandemic, but it is also one of the key sources of stress and frustration.  Taking the small step of limiting notifications can help keep social media from intruding into conversations and workflow as well as reducing other negative impacts.  Similarly, small steps in meal planning and grocery shopping can help eliminate frustration and improve your chances of making healthier choices.

What activities are you doing? 
Work, sleep, and meal time are often not very flexible, but we do have choices about how we spend the rest of our time.  As you plan your schedule, are you thinking about your whole person and what is good for each aspect?
Self care is not just about limiting what goes in, it is also about how we engage in learning, exercise, therapy or support groups, serving others, etc.  Finding a group, class, or even just a buddy can help you stay accountable to your goals.  Trying new things is stimulating for our muscles and our mind, so take advantage of YouTube tutorials if you’re feeling stuck.  This season has made telehealth and other support more accessible than ever, so this is a wonderful time to take care of your emotional and mental health.

How are you connecting with God and others? 
A core need for all human beings is to feel like we belong, so nurturing our healthy connections with God, our friends, and family can be critical.  
Time spent with those who love you is an important part of caring for yourself.  Consider quiet times for listening and just being still along with times participating in hobbies.  Rest and play bring balance to our own lives and to our relationships.  Improving connections is often as simple as finding a way to laugh together--whether with God or with our friends and family.  Invite God to join you as you run, paint, sew, garden, or do whatever you love so that it becomes another meaningful way to connect with him.

What do you think about most? 
We often say that we are our own worst enemy, and often we do so because we are full of negative self-talk or we continue to run negative scenarios in our minds.
Studies show that an attitude of gratitude can change almost everything.  Choosing to focus on thankfulness, joy, and hope can help stop the cycle of replaying only the worst moments of our lives.  Try beginning and ending each day with a few words, maybe in a journal or as part of a prayer, that express what is good.  If you already have that habit in place, try abstaining from complaining.  And, of course, make a list of the ways you notice God around you in the beauty of nature or the change in your heart, he really is doing something amazing all the time.

Be well and love well my friends!

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