Abraham Lincoln and I have something in common. I know you’re thinking, “They’re both tall and thin.” Or perhaps you’re saying, “Yes, I knew Renae was a brilliant politician. I think I’ll vote for her in the next election.”

Lincoln was tall and thin. He was a marvelous politician. But before he became one of the greatest administrative geniuses in our history, he was a failure. He tried numerous careers and nosedived. He was regarded as a no-account, a fruitcake, a flake. Many of you may think that’s what we have in common, which is okay. I actually like fruitcake.

Even during his presidential term, many despised him. A lot of people couldn’t stand him. Somebody even tried to kill him. During his administration, newspapers were brutal. You think it feels bad to learn people are talking about you behind your back? Just wait until they put it in black and white, so you can read the words again and again. And again.

Lincoln tried to avoid such articles. They depressed him. But considering the paper was the best way to keep up with the news, he didn’t have much choice. Occasionally, he ran across an article that spoke well of him. Some wrote glowing tributes. Others just included a kind word or two.

When Lincoln died, eight such articles were found in his wallet. He carried these around and pulled them out when he needed a bit of encouragement. The praise—a rare commodity for him—lifted his chin, and reminded him why he did what he did. It gave him strength and fortitude to keep trudging forward.

While I don’t keep articles in my wallet, I do have a box in my closet that holds a few such artifacts. Letters of recommendation from employers who were truly pleased with my work. Letters from parents whose children I taught, or from the children themselves. Notes from friends, reminding me why they love me. Little handmade cards from my own children, proclaiming me the best mom ever.

But even without that box, one love letter stands out, and it will never grow old. It’s written to each of us, personally. And it’s from God.

When people look at us, they often see our flaws and overlook our strengths. But when God looks at us, He purposefully overlooks our shortcomings. They don’t bother Him at all. All He sees is a child He adores, a child He created with unique gifts and potential. And He celebrates the uniqueness of each of His children.

It was the praise, the acceptance, the love that kept Lincoln going, kept him working toward a worthy goal. God wants each of us to have more than a few slim clippings, though. He adores us. He wrote an entire book telling us as much. He sent His own biological son to pay the penalty for our shortcomings, so we could be a part of His family.

When I feel vulnerable, like I can’t do anything right, like nothing I do matters anyway, I can remember He loves me. He created me—and you—with a unique purpose. When I let His words of acceptance and affirmation wash over me, it gives me strength and determination to live out that purpose one more day and one more day and one more day.

We can forget about the critics, and focus on what God has to say:

We are special.

We are wanted.

We are loved.

Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.