Thursday I hosted a party for my new book, Walking By the Homeless. Although I’m an extrovert and love seeing my friends, I was dreading the event. Why?

Although part of me craves being the center of attention, another part of me loathes it. 
I’m embarrassed when people have asked me face-to-face about the book. I’ve rolled my eyes (figuratively) when people have said they’re proud of me. When I confided this to my close friend she said that if one of my kids or friends had written a book, I would be thrilled and wouldn’t hesitate to praise them. She also told me, in love, that for whatever reason I’m unable to accept that for myself. And she’s right. There’s a pervasive voice in my heart and head that is critical and condemning of me. I told my friend I needed to continue praying about all of this; things I already knew and have been praying and lamenting over in my discipleship group with her, every week for months. 
Yesterday, I drove into the inner city to pray. I went to Hope Street, a ministry where I volunteer that provides transitional living for people formerly incarcerated, addicted and/or homeless. I didn’t know why I felt drawn to go, but I knew it was where I was supposed to be. Mr. Wiggins, a 70-year-old man who lives at Hope Street, read a devotional then prayed. He asked God to help us each find a way to be an encouragement to someone and then he said, 
“Lord, help us not be to too thick-headed that we cannot accept encouragement from someone else.”
A little while later another member was talking about how grateful she was to live at Hope Street. She talked about how she couldn’t see her husband because he’d broken twelve of her ribs and punctured her lung “with one blow.” She lamented about her daughter watching it happen. And just when she started talking about her history of drug abuse she stopped suddenly. She paused then said, 
“But, I’m not looking back there. I’m looking ahead.”
After another pause, she talked about how much she’s changed since coming to Hope Street. She said she could hear God so clearly now that she isn’t on drugs. She talked about how good she feels and again, about how thankful she was. 
As I always do when I attend prayer at Hope Street, I learned some things yesterday. I learned I have the choice to receive or reject encouragement. The latter seems quite foolish and “thick-headed” when we realize it is a choice. The second thing I learned is condemnation, is a thief.  Believing the lies I tell myself robs me of seeing God, myself and others under the light of reality. I also learned I can’t see and love others or hear God as clearly, when I’m focused on feeling bad about myself.
I realized some other things, too, but as a friend of mine recently said, 
I’m not looking back there. I’m looking ahead.

P.S. My book is available on www.laurasandretti.com. All profits go to Hope Street Ministry.

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