Growing in Gratitude

I chose the word growing as my focus for 2019.

Grant this former English and writing teacher/professor a little grace as I throw in a brief grammar lesson. Growing is the present continuous form of the verb grow. “So what?” I hear you asking. Well, this means the action of growing is happening now, and it’s also continuing into the future.


I want growth that produces
momentum for greater growth.


I don’t want to just grow, I want to bloom in every aspect of my life. But even more importantly, I want my growth that produces momentum for greater growth–especially in the most important dimension of my life, my spiritual life. One important goal for growth for me this year is growing in gratitude.

I struggled in this area for many years. It’s not that I didn’t say “thank you,” and feel grateful for the things I had. I took people for granted. I took God’s presence and blessings in my life for granted. These things showed up in a critical spirit and a victim mentality. I was pretty much blind to these things until people who loved me graciously held me accountable. I talk about this journey more fully in my book The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk: Conforming Deadly Though Patterns to the Word of God.


God gives us the ingredients for growing in our spiritual life:
the Word of God,
the Spirit of God,
and the people of God.


Gratitude means more than saying “thank you” or acknowledging that we’re blessed. We convey gratitude in actions we choose and the attitudes we convey to others. We express gratitude in our nonverbal language. We show gratitude through joyous generosity that flows from humble awareness of all God’s given us.

Gratitude is the rain
that nourishes the seed of forgiveness.


Gratitude is the sun that melts the proud heart and graces the humble with quiet power.

But how does growing in gratitude work on a practical level?


I love my husband, and I’m enormously grateful for many things about him. I can tell him I’m grateful for him a dozen times a day. I can write my thoughts in cards. I can display them on the bathroom mirror in red lipstick.

But my words mean nothing if my attitude and actions don’t match. I negate what I say if

  • I ignore him because I’m too engrossed in my own priorities.
  • I use sarcasm and criticism that disrespect him.
  • I do things behind his back that I know he disapproves of.
  • I talk disrespectfully about him when I’m with friends.

True gratitude expresses itself in ways
that can be seen and sensed.

  • Sacrifice
  • Humility
  • Service
  • Respect
  • Looking out for the best interests of the other
  • Forgiveness and reconciliation

For me, this comes down to paying attention to my self-talk. This is where I discover my true motives and priorities. As I examine my self-talk, I discover that my self-interests often crowd out gratitude and love for others. You can find more information about self-talk in my book The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk: Conforming Deadly Thought Patterns to the Word of God.

Gratitude grows as I grasp God’s love for me and compels my heart to conform to His.

Ask God to magnify your appreciation for all He’s done for you. Ponder the blessings of your life–large and small. Then ask Him to increase your heart of sacrifice, humility, service, respect, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Gratitude is a lifestyle and a mindset.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’”

Lamentation 3:22-2


What about you? How do you show gratitude in your life? How do you want to grow spiritually this year?



Encouraging Ourselves Through Truth Talk

vineandbranchesLately I’ve been focuing on the the truth that Jesus is the vine and I am a branch. This means that I’m connected directly to Him. My life flows from Him. My nourishment comes from Him. I can’t do anything that isn’t connected in some way to Him.

I have to admit that I don’t always feel spiritually connected. I need encouragement. Aches and pains, financial challenges, relationship heartaches, and other frustrations can infect my attitude before I have a chance to figure out what day it is (sometimes that takes ALL day). One of the key aspects of practicing my “vine life” has been remaining in conversation with Jesus. To do this I literally envision Him standing beside me (because He IS with me) and telling me all the things He’s said to me in His Word that apply to my life in that moment or in my hurts and challenges.

Conversing with God is one of the best ways to encourage yourself. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10.) This means that I sit quietly as Jesus tells me who I REALLY am. Who He REALLY is to me. What my REAL purpose is in life and on this particular day. What I am responsible for (obedience, loving God and others, trust, repentance) and what He is responsible for (loving and taking care of me).

The more we converse and stay connected to the vine, the more encouraged we become because we focus on truth and Jesus.

For more help on transforming your self talk, check out The Silent Seduction of Self Talk: Conforming Deadly Thought Patterns to the Word of God. and to hear more from me and author Wanda Sanchez on the topic of encouraging yourself, tune in to the Freedomgirls Sisterhood blogtalk podcast with host Dawn Damon Monday nights at 8:00ET.


Confidence in the Real You



When I was young, I lived for my father’s approval. 

Dad was a strong Christian, a great provider, and a morally unwavering and faithful husband who doted on our mother. But he wasn’t perfect. No earthly father is perfect. For many years into my adulthood, most of my achievements were driven by the desire for my father’s approval.

The inner child inside me was longing to hear him say, “That’s wonderful, Shelly, but you don’t have to do anything for me to love you. I love you just the way you are.”

This desire for belonging and inherent value is wired into all of us–men and women alike.

And if we don’t have a clear understanding of the difference between self-worth and self-esteem, we will struggle for a lifetime.

Self-worth is the unchanging reality of my value and worth. Talking about self-worth is like saying that a five dollar bill is worth five bucks. My feelings don’t influence the value of the money in my purse (now wouldn’t that be fun?). If it did, I might try paying for a Caribbean cruise with a $10 bill. Our self-worth is fixed and set by God. As my friend Pastor Dawn Damon says, “The most important thing about me is I am who God says I am.”

I can’t change my self-worth by impressing God because my value is based on what Jesus did for me. I’m already priceless.

I can stop living for approval.

Self-esteem is the value we place on ourselves, based on the things we do and how we feel about ourselves.

Our understanding of our true self-worth as Christians should determine our self-esteem. 

We are who God says we are. God sees His children as flawless. We’re joint heirs with Jesus Christ. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have a bragfest when they talk about us because they see us as perfect kids.

Can you imagine? But it’s true. God DELIGHTS in His children.

Unfortunately, we often refuse to believe or accept this. We can’t seem to find a way to get off the well-beaten path of approval-seeking. We struggle for the approval of parents, friends, church leaders, bosses or fellow employees, those in our social circle, people we admire or want to impress…the list could go on and on.

This was me for a very long time. And sometimes it still is because I make the mistake of listening to negative emotions and self-talk. We struggle with self-esteem because we believed the lie that we need other people’s approval to measure up. But this is because we don’t understand and claim our self-worth. When we recognize that we are immeasurably treasured, loved, valued, and accepted apart from performance, we can free ourselves from the approval of others.

I still live for my father’s approval–my Heavenly Father. But it’s not to gain His grace or favor. It’s because I’m grateful for everything He’s done for me.

I invite you to listen to a candid and heart-changing discussion about self-worth and self-esteem this evening at 8:00 ET on FreedomGirlsSisterhood Radio with Pastor Dawn Damon, Wanda Sanchez, and myself. You can also read more on this topic in my book The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk.


Gossip and Speculation: The Silent Seduction

ConversationAndBubbles“You won’t wear that ring in public, will you?” My mother examined the three modest diamonds set into the new antique-style ring I’d just picked up from the jeweler.

“Why wouldn’t I wear it?” I was surprised by her question. “The stones were gifts from people I love, and it didn’t cost me much to have them set. I can hardly believe I own something so beautiful.”

Dan and I lived on a Christian school administrator’s salary. Groceries, a mortgage, and bills would always beat out jewelry. I’d saved for years to pay to have the gifted diamonds set.

“People know you can’t afford a ring like that. What are they going to think?”

I hoped they’d think I was blessed to own a beautiful ring. I can still remember my outrage at my mother’s question.

But looking back, I understand that my outrage was youthful naivete.As humans with a fallen, sinful nature, we struggle with pride.

One facet of our struggle with pride is judging others for things we know nothing about. 

You know, a family member goes on a cruise that we can’t afford, and we automatically assume they’re spending big bucks (which we judge to be “bad”). We swell with a rush of pride that we don’t spend our money in such frivolous ways and may even drop an offhanded comment or two to a few people about “So-and-So” being off on “another one of their high-priced vacations again.”

You know. Not REAL gossip. Just enough of an insidious dig to cause someone to question their character.

At the heart of gossip lies a killer’s heart: “Did you hear…” Gouge out a little piece of someone’s pride, their reputation, their dignity, their honor.


Little piece.

Of gossip.

At a time.

I became angry the day my mother questioned me about my beautiful ring because I didn’t understand a central truth about my heart.

Like everyone, I sometimes use my tongue to decimate those I claim to love.

I gossip because I put myself first.

I gossip because I want to be noticed.

I gossip because I want to always be right.

I gossip because I don’t love you enough to treat you the way I want to be treated.

I gossip because I’m willing to push you into the mud to make myself feel better than you.

I speculate because pride pushes me to believe the worst about you so I can feel better about myself.

I speculate because it inflates my skewed sense of self-righteousness.

Gossip and speculation are driven by pride–our sinful desire to makes ourselves feel and look better than other people. 

Romans 1:29-30 states God’s opinion of gossip pretty clearly: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents.”

It’s pretty clear that God hates proud, self-motivated language.

Romans 1:29-30 shows us that He ranks it right up there beside murder and depravity. Perhaps this is because gossip is the first to mar God’s creation.Satan introduced gossip into the world shortly after Adam and Eve were created. He distorted the truth about God and spread rumors when he told Adam and Eve that God had lied to them. He made them question God’s motives and doubt God’s love. Satan’s twisted words introduced literal and spiritual death into the world. (Gen. 2:16-17)

When Eve repeated God’s words a chapter later, she added the phrase, “lest you die” (Genesis 3:3). Satan’s rumor had already begun to seep into her thoughts and erode her opinion about God. She was beginning to believe God was unfair.

Beginning to believe…in other words, she was beginning to believe that lies were truth. To the point that she didn’t even recognize the fact that she had twisted God’s words.

And we, just like Eve, tend to believe anything we repeat enough times.

Our words carry the power of life and death. But we typically speak without evaluating our true motives. 

This is because we seldom think before we speak. Philippians 4:8 should serve as our guide for both our thoughts and our speech:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true,

whatever is honorable,

whatever is just,

whatever is pure,

whatever is lovely,

whatever is commendable,

if there is any excellence,

if there is anything worthy of praise,

think [and speak] about these things.

Overcoming Gossip

Gossip is one of Satan’s most powerful spiritual weapons. To overcome gossip, we must fight using spiritual weapons through the power of the Holy Spirit. The first step is to understand that Satan’s goal is to justify your actions, to accuse others, and to judge. Satan wants you to look for every opportunity to tell yourself that you’re better than “those people.” Gossip and speculation are two of his most powerful tools.

Of course, God’s agenda is for you to repent of prideful actions, not judge, not accuse, and not justify gossip or idle talk about others. Before repeating anything about anyone, ask yourself if you have the facts. Then ask yourself if you could repeat the information in the presence of the person involved and if they would allow you to pass it on. Finally, ask yourself if repeating the information is helpful or potentially hurtful.

Our ultimate goal as Christians is to love others as we desire to be loved. If we remember to speak of others as we would like to be spoken about, we will have no question about what to say and when to say it.

For more information on gossip, listen to the podcast on “Brain Gossip” featuring Pastor Dawn Damon and author Wanda Sanchez. You may also want to read a more in-depth explanation of self-talk from a biblical perspective in my book The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk.

Oh, and by the way, I’m still wearing my favorite diamond ring.


What about you? Have you been hurt by gossip? How did it affect your life?

The Hardest Book to Write: The Story Behind “The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk”

silent Seduction Cover Image JPG low resI arm-wrestled with God about writing The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk.

Obviously, he won.

I‘ve compared writing this book to stripping down to my “spiritual Underoos” and walking a fashion runway in front of the world.

Except I was exposing the stuff everybody tries to cover up: our/my silent seduction into self-deception through self-talk.

Our innate ability to believe we’re loving God and others while we rationalize pushing ourselves to the front of the line.

My journey began in a self-revelatory flash.

I was sitting in the office of a Christian school. A mother was standing at the counter, yelling at the secretary. Apparently, the school had enforced their late policy and issued the woman’s daughter a detention for her tenth tardy.

I watched the woman–a church leader–scream at every employee in the room. Suddenly the realization dawned on me that she thought she was doing the right thing. She had no idea that everyone watching her shared a much different opinion of her and her actions.

If they were thinking what I was thinking, they felt sorry for her daughter. Mom’s behavior was embarrassing. Rude. Disrespectful. A poor reflection of a Christian.

And she had no idea. Why? Because she was self-deceived.

Flash. Could I be just like her?

Could I believe I was loving God and people and, instead, be living life to fulfill my own selfish agendas?

Did I actually take pleasure in proving my husband wrong, shaming him, using sarcasm and tone as weapon?

Did I quietly manipulate and control? Did I justify my behavior–things like screaming at other drivers while I was behind the wheel on the interstate or making a co-worker’s promotion all about me?

The truth is, we all plunder and powerplay our way through life, seduced by the monster within.

The good news is that our self-talk was created to be God’s gift to us.

We are hard-wired directly to God through the words that run through our head at 1,300 words a minute.

Our self-talk can be the single-most resource for our spiritual growth if we learn how to harness its power.

Discovering that truth changed my life.

Slowly, life became a moment-by-moment exercise in worship. 

I learned to lean into the power of the “if”–living in expectancy of change and growth through the power of the Holy Spirit. This can be your journey, too. God’s greatest gift to us is that he loves us so much he doesn’t leave us where we are. He changes us. Discovering the power of self-talk is the key that unlocks intimacy with God.

Join me Thursday, April 9th, as I talk more about how self-talk and how it influences our relationships on Focus on the Family.


Stress, Self-Talk, and the Holidays

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Researchers tell us that the holidays can be the most stressful time of year for many of us. And for good reasons:

  • Schedules become jammed with parties, commitments, and family gatherings.
  • Holiday celebrations often put us elbow-to-elbow with people who measure high on our Stress Meters.
  • We can become overwhelmed with extra cooking and shopping.
  • We typically get less sleep and indulge in our favorite holiday goodies.
  • The holidays can be a time of grief for those who’ve experienced the loss of loved ones or who are separated from family and friends.

Stress can cause our self-talk to become toxic, as we focus on the things we believe we’re missing out on or the things we wish weren’t being heaped on us.

So how can we control negative self-talk?

  • Take positive steps to control your attitude. Believe it or not, no one owns a remote control to your attitude. You choose how you’ll respond to your circumstances. We can choose gratitude, serving others, focusing on the humanity of those who irritate us, and pre-thinking how we’ll respond if we become annoyed. We can choose to relinquish negativity. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a byproduct of a life well-lived.”
  • De-stress. Learn what method works best for you to chill out in stressful situations. Biofeedback is an excellent tool for some people. Others find meditation and prayer to be the most effective. Deep breathing also helps. Jennifer Maddox, therapist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker suggests the following method: Breathe in to a count of four, then hold your breath for a count of seven, and breathe out for a count of eight. Do this four times. This help re-set your central nervous system.
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a popular approach taught by many therapists, but it’s as tried and true as the Bible. Listen to your self-talk and examine what’s really happening. Examine your motives and your goals. What are you telling yourself about yourself? The other person? Your circumstances? It is true? How can you adjust your expectations to move toward balance, truth, and a positive outcome?
    • Replace the toxic with the life-giving: “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right…”( Philippians 4:8 The Living Bible) Focus on what’s true.
    • Become a student of your thought life: “Your life is shaped by your thoughts.” (Proverbs 4:23) The Good News Bible) Ask God to show you strongholds of false thinking that have held you captive.

For deeper study on how to change life-long patterns of negative thinking, read The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk: Conforming Deadly Thought Patterns to the Word of God. 

Learning to Listen In: Tools for Self-Talk


A few years ago I discovered my self-talk. I mean, I REALLY discovered it. I started listening to the things I said to myself in the privacy of my head, and I didn’t like what I heard.

It was like eavesdropping on someone else, really, as I discovered I told myself I believed one thing but I convinced myself to act in totally different ways.

Love my neighbor? Sure–as long as he wasn’t the idiot cutting me off on the freeway. Then I’d justify my anger.

Honor my husband and kids? Sure–as long as I could throw in some sarcasm and criticism and make sure they knew I knew best.

Long story short, God gave me a peek inside my head so he could strip away the pride and change me. Once I saw the junk inside my head, my heart broke. I went on a mission to learn how to change my thinking (James 1:23-24).


So what did I do?

P: purchased a journal. Nothing fancy. But I’m a teacher, and I was on a mission to become a student of myself.

O: I began to observe myself. I listened to my self-talk and began to ask questions about what I was thinking and what my motives were. I talked less and listened more.

W: I wrote down what I was hearing. And some of the stuff was awful. I began to see that what I thought were good motives were often mixed with pride and selfishness. I saw my need for control and manipulative tendencies.

E: evaluated my self-talk and looked for answers to my thought patterns. At the time, I was in counseling, and I talked to my counselor about them.

R: I began to renew my mind with the truth of the Word of God, accountability with the people of God, and by listening to the conviction of the Spirit of God. We’ll never change until we change. Duh. That means taking off the old and putting on the new.

U: I worked to uproot the strongholds in my life. For me, those areas were control and manipulation. As I mentioned, I worked on those areas with a Christian counselor and watched as my thinking and behavior began to change.

P: prayed for God to reveal lies in my thinking: lies about Myself, lies about Others, lies about Relationships, lies about my Environment/circumstances, and lies about God (MORE God).

Then I did the work. I prayed. I humbled my heart. I listened. I questioned. I listened. I wrote. I learned. I learned more.

And I changed. 

Praise God. He promises to change us and make us more like Jesus through the power of his Spirit. And the most powerful tool to accomplish that goal is tapping into spiritual intimacy through the gift of self-talk.

Photo Credit: TZ

Bluetooth and Self-Talk


This week my husband and I bought a new car–the first new car we’ve ever owned.

My writing partner/colleague and I do a lot of driving.


For instance, we’ve driven from California to Michigan more than once. So it seemed like a good idea for two women alone on the road to start driving a car that had less miles on it than the distance from the earth to the moon. (238,900 miles for you Jeopardy fans.)

I didn’t need a lot of bells and whistles. You don’t expect them when you’ve been driving a vehicle with a driver’s window that you can’t roll down to pull through a Sonic drive-thru in the rain unless you’re going to a pool party and don’t need the window back up for say…three days.

So I got really excited when I learned my car came equipped with Bluetooth. This would mean I could talk on the phone hands-free. The world would be safer. My husband Dan would be less fearful about calling me. And I could get frustrated trying to figure out yet another form of technology. Yeah.

I was tooling down the interstate yesterday, mentally making a packing list for an upcoming speaking trip, when my car rang and pulled my thoughts back into the present. A few seconds later, I was talking to my ninety-two-year-old father, whose voice was apparently being broadcast to me from what sounded like the bowels of my engine. (Do people eventually get used to this?)

The experience was a bit surreal but pretty cool–to be snatched out of my day-to-day reverie by the voice of my father and be reminded what’s really important. To take time to listen to him.

Self-talk is a lot like learning to listen expectantly for a Bluetooth call. One minute I can be sitting beside my husband, annoyed that he’s breathing wrong/chewing too loudly/has hairs sprouting from his ears. Mentally, I’m packing my bags for trip to Wife-Nagging-Land, stuffing in self-righteousness, pride, a controlling spirit, sarcasm, condescension, and a few other toxic attitudes into my bag. But if I listen, a call will come.

The still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, speaking the words of the Father.

“Take a look at what you’re REALLY doing. Listen to my voice. Right now, in this moment, I want to change your heart and change you.”

That’s pretty much been my journey for the past eight years–learning to listen for the voice. Leaning into the expectancy of change. Thanking God that I’m not the same nagging wife and mother I used to be.

And that through the divine gift of self-talk, I can chat with God non-stop. Hands-free.

Yes, I’m packing my bags and ready for this trip.

What Mother Teresa and Caregiving Taught Me about My Self-Talk


Not too long ago, my life looked a bit like a circus sideshow. At least it felt like it.

I was recovering from a brain lesion that had temporarily stripped me of my ability to walk and see and left me with mysterious symptoms that resembled multiple sclerosis. My docs had told me to take it easy and get plenty of rest. I’m sure I wrote that down somewhere on scrap of paper. Or maybe not.

Three months later, my husband I moved. A month later, we moved his father with Parkinson’s disease and mental illness into our home. At the time, we were also caring for my mom with Alzheimer’s three states away. And just weeks later, our son, who’d suffered a closed-head injury 18 months before and had spun off into a period of life my husband and I referred to as “stupid boy tricks,” also moved back into our house. (This boy-now-a-man is now a godly husband and father.) At the same time, our daughter came home from serving overseas in one of the world’s most devastating natural disasters with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Life in our sandwich generation house was–shall I say…unconventional and unpredictable. I often found myself arriving at work hours late spewing scenes of melodrama upon anyone within two feet of me.

But what I discovered as I learned about the power of self-talk and began to listen to my stories was that I always cast myself as the hero. In the chaos of life, I was the Mother Teresa who held things together.

“Life at our house is out of control. Things are crazy. But keep your eyes on ME–I’m the plate-spinner and saint who holds it all together.”

No matter how much I talked about God, I’d made caregiving all about me.

Over the following years, I slowly learned to talk less and listen more. To the Holy Spirit. To my husband–even when I wanted to force my opinion on him. To my children–even in their frustration and, yes, their anger. To Norman–even in his silences. To my mother–even in her vague ramblings.

And most of all, to listen to myself. To the self-talk that exposed my true motives and showed me where God wanted to change me from the inside out.

Praise God, he loves us as we are but so much that he does not leave us there.

Self-Deception and Ripping Off Our Brothers

silent Seduction Cover Image JPG low res

Ever get one of those flashes of insight that shows the mucky thoughts you’d rather not let other people see?

I don’t like to admit it, but I this happens to me pretty often. I’m cruising through my day thinking what I’d like to believe are “good Christian thoughts,” when suddenly a subtext of vanity and pride bubbles to the surface.




I seem to discover those thoughts pretty often when I’m in crowds and I slip into an internal slime pit of judgment and condemnation. At a recent conference, I was surrounded by other Christians–people with whom I share a sisterhood and brotherhood at the deepest level: our shared faith in Jesus. Yet I found myself passing judgment every so often based on pure externals.

It was pretty darned ugly. And if we’re honest, we’d have to admit that we’re all familiar with that slime pit.

We all indulge in ageism, sexism, denominationalism, racism, and other forms of judgment and condemnation. We say we believe in loving our neighbor as ourselves, then hurl obscenities on the freeway or scream insults at the ref at the game. We claim we’re committed to showing God’s love to everyone, then insult a telemarketer before we hang up in their ear.

And we can walk around a Christian conference and be more concerned about what people are wearing or whether or not they’re raising their hands than the bond we share in Jesus.

Our self-talk is often a silent seduction. But it is also a valuable tool that reveals our heart and opens the opportunity to spiritual insight, repentance, and a renewed relationship with others through the power of the Holy Spirit.

–Shelly Beach
Author of The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk (Moody Publishers)