In Spite of the Thickets and the Thorns

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In the past two weeks, my devotions have been permeated by one main theme: In our trials and suffering, if we always remember to look up to the Lord, we will receive a reward that trumps the ugly of our situation.

That’s really the whole theme of this blog and I find it interesting that I am learning even more about what that really means – what it really means to look up in SPITE of all that clouds our vision here on earth. To look up in the face of intense opposition. To look up when our heads keep getting yanked back down. Just to keep looking UP.

But I don’t mean looking up in the way that the world does. The world tells us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get a good attitude. The world tells us to have a positive outlook and believe in ourselves so we can change our circumstances. The world tells us it’s  about mind over matter, motivation and willpower. The world tells us we can choose happiness and health no matter what.

The world tells us it all hinges upon US. The world tells us to look up to OURSELVES.

No. That’s not working for me – it never has. I have to seek Jesus and His face so HE can work all things together for my good. Only He can do that. My looking doesn’t even make that happen – it’s just the mere part that I play in it all.

Seeking HIM. Looking to HIM.

  • To look up to HIM – the only One who offers clarity.
  • To look up to HIM – even when all we want to do or feel that we can do is to hang our heads low.
  • To keep our eyes wide open and seek Jesus in everything – because He’s there in the midst of it all if we only search after Him.

We don’t often find ourselves ardently searching for His face in times of joy and ease. Sure, we can praise Him through the beauty of a time unmarked by pain, suffering, or difficulty. But for me – I find that when I have to look  harder, and I finally can fix my eyes upon HIM – He cuts through the cloudy and the murky and the junk – He cuts through it like a sharp blade and emerges…..CLEAR.

He gives me a point of focus through all that is murky and beyond my ability to endure alone.

But it’s not easy.

  • It’s not easy for us to look to Him when we don’t feel like it.
  • It’s a daunting thing to search for His face in what can seem like a forest of obstacle courses that have been set up with the intent to not only derail us, but maybe even wound us beyond repair.

And when it gets really hard for me – I focus upon Jesus and the many times He looked up in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

In the Garden of Gethsemane…

In the dark….

Surrounded by trees and very, very alone.

Knowing. Knowing what is about to come…

And He still looked up.

He looked up in the midst of an excruciating pain and blunt and brutal knowledge of the cup He was about to have to drink of in a mere few hours.

And I think of my Jesus upon that cross…

When not only gravity and the relentless pain and torture inflicted upon His body was pulling Him down…down….down, but also the spiritual pain and torture He must have endured that screamed out to him relentlessly….”give up already – they aren’t worth it.

And He still looked up.

Jesus looks up while upon that cross and He cries out!!!

He looks to the Father even in the face of having all the sin of the world resting on Him.

In that moment and in every moment, Jesus always looks up.

So can we.

Is there something in your life right now that makes you feel like all you can do is hang your head low? Do you find yourself seeking after the Lord, but unable to find Him? Would you please keep looking up in spite of it all? Would you have faith that He will show up, even if it’s not in the way that always feels good or removes your trial or thorn from your life? He is our Almighty and Loving Father, friends.

He wants what is best for us. Even if we don’t always understand it, He will work all things together for our good in the midst of our challenges, sufferings, even our sin. Our “job” is only to seek Him in the middle of it all. And obey if He asks something of us.

Just like Jesus did that day on the cross and every day – every. single. day.

No – The cup was not removed from Jesus, friends. But oh! What happens now for an eternity by far surpasses that horrific suffering that He endured.

For us.

Jesus looked up for us.

And He yearns for us to look up and seek His beautiful face. Every day.

Sometimes the days feel like weeks when we go through them living with these thorns that we cannot remove. Sometimes we wonder when it will all end or if we will ever have an answer as to exactly why it all had to happen in the first place. But we can trust in Him that He has us right where He wants us. We can work through our anger, our disdain, our confusion as we look up to Him for His peace, His comfort and His joy in the middle of it all.

Sometimes it’s the only way to embrace beauty in the midst of the ugly anyway.

  • He is always beautiful.
  • He is always faithful.
  • And He promises if we set our eyes upon Him, it will always be better than hanging our heads down low or resorting to our own inadequate devices.

I don’t have to feel great about this stuff that makes my days feel like weeks and my weeks feel like years. I don’t have to love my pain or my suffering. But I can be thankful in the midst of it all that I know that one day – one glorious day – I will be with my Savior for all eternity. And there – in that blissful place – there will be no more suffering. 

And we will always see His face. We won’t have to look long and hard and search through the thickets and the thorns. All of this will be a blur by then.

And we shall walk in the light and the love of our Lord and Savior forever more.

To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Psalm 123:1

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Stormtrooper

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A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

I feel the anxiety rising up in the pit of my stomach. I try to run. I try to hide. Then I make my feeble attempts to move into a place of accepting it.

But the body fights – it fights for its rights.

All to no avail.

So I stop trying and just….exist. I just commit to exist in the midst of it. All expectations must be thrown out of the window – smashed. Except for one.

I won’t do this alone. I will NOT do it alone! And that’s not because of my own expectation, but because of a promise made by Christ Himself.

He will meet me here. He will draw near.

My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being. Not only does my heart cry, but real tears stream down my face throughout these last 24 hours. How much longer? How much longer, God?

These are the times.  These are the times that make me realize that the DAILY pain I have ALL THE TIME with Fibro, is nothing compared to the stuff that jumps off the scale when there’s a weather situation or an illness on top of it all that exacerbates it. I can live with that stuff (the day to day aches and pains), and still offer something of myself to others; experience a good mood even though it is a wicked little thorn in my side that never leaves.

But THIS.

“Don’t you know, Jesus – don’t you know that THIS is where I draw the line? I have to deal with the daily crud of Fibro and I don’t like it, but I’ve been a good girl and I suck it up. I seek you in the midst of it all. But why do I have to deal with THIS on top of it all. It’s not fair.”

Jesus didn’t draw a line with regard to how much suffering HE was willing to endure, now did He?

Ha Ha. Silly little girl.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

Practical paralyzation – just bad enough to make EVERY SECOND excruciating to get through, but not bad enough to be given a pass not to do life – work, tasks, chores. That little tidbit right there?  THAT is one of the WORST PARTS ABOUT FIBRO! Or – is it a blessing? Got me!

But then there’s this one too…..

Attacks from the ugly enemy.

“this is nothing compared to what Christ did for you. Why are you compaining? There are people out there suffering far worse than you. Why don’t you just pull yourself up from your bootstraps little girl and persevere for once? Geez. What a little baby.”

I long for rest. I want to run, but there’s no where to hide. It’s inside of me and I can’t get away from it, friends. I have no choice but to move through the pain. One ugly and long, drawn-out second at a time. Each hour seems like an entire day. Each day seems like a long, bad, drawn out week.

Where’s the end? Where’s the destination? Where’s the party, yo?

Vice grip, trapped in concrete. Unable to move to the left or the right. Even being still comes with its own level of crushing pain.

I want my mom! Oh yah – she’s in heaven with Jesus. I’m happy for her. I really am.

But what about ME!!!!

Are we at the peak yet? When will we move down the other side of this evil bell curve? I’m ready for the fall, because after its done, it spells a semblance of relief. Right?

We are going to get off the ride eventually, right?

Can Jesus just meet me here in the midst of it all? Do you think its possible that He would?

Will you, Lord? Will you bring me peace through the pain? Will you carry me through these excruciating moments, minutes, days in which this suffering wreaks havoc through my body? Will you massage my soul and my mind that is growing weary as I trudge through this? Will you pour Your grace out upon me – more of it, even though I am stamping my feet right about now?

A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

And a peace –

And a joy –

And a comfort provided by the only One who can offer it.

The Great Physician.

My Almighty Savior.

The One and Only Divine Healer of all our hurts, all our pain.

My Lord Jesus Christ – He shows up in the storm and through the rubble it leaves as we move through it. He clears the path.

And through this, I shall know Him better.

Through this ugly, His glory shall be made manifest.

This I know.

I look to YOU, Lord. I see you clearly even when my eyes are closed. I can see you when I am in the middle of the darkness, inside the tunnel when it seems there’s no way out. I can see you even on the roller coaster ride that is spinning my head and blurring my vision. I can see you, Lord!!!

And I know that YOU see me.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. …1 Peter 4: 12-19

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Free Love

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We all have struggles. We all make mistakes. But some of us don’t realize until later in life that one of our root issues or problems that we’ve been carrying around since ummmm, FOREVER ~ is a big reason for all of those other trials we experience.

I’m one of those people. And it’s time to work on discarding the layers of gunk that don’t need to be there anymore.

There’s enough to contend with that causes us to be tempted or stumble in life without all this junk that we carry around that was never meant to be there in the first place. I’ve mentioned several times before that part of what I struggle with is how I handle conflict. If I told you why I think that is or what all has perpetuated this issue, I would be writing a book instead of a short little essay today. So we won’t go there.

Conflict is part of life. But if you are someone like me, you allow other layers of junk to get in there and add to the root issue. That stuff is not meant to remain with us. It is evil and needs to be completely discarded.

This is by no means easy to do.

So I just want to share today that the Lord is truly enlightening me in regard to one MAJOR AND DECEPTIVE culprit in my life when it comes to conflict problems –

Boundaries.

For most of my life (all of it) I really haven’t had or enforced many boundaries. And not only is dealing with conflict getting harder and harder for me now (almost unbearable), but I truly think a lot of my health issues are coming as a result from this as well – at the very least, they are being worsened by it.

Because of the lack of appropriate and Christ like boundaries in my life, I have opened the door to more sin. Resentment, bitterness, outbursts when I can’t take it any more…AND a perpetual cycle of trying harder, doing better, so as to avoid wrath or displeasure with those with whom I interact. I find myself having to withdraw more in order to regain composure. But the worst kind of withdrawal comes from inside of my heart.

I shut down.

Part of the need for withdrawal in the midst of conflict, in all fairness, is due to the issues that Fibromyalgia causes a person…you really have no choice when you get overwhelmed but to remove yourself for a while. And removing yourself from evil or situations that are becoming sinful is also a part of what God asks us to do, as long as it is due to the fact that you have chosen this as a boundary line that is healthy, rather than escape with no intention of resolution at a later time.

It gets blurry sometimes.

But sometimes we just flat out withdraw. Sometimes we build walls after realizing we  have no property or boundary lines. And that’s kind of like going from one extreme to another, don’t you think?

We are meant to have clear lines of demarcation (boundaries). When we have them, we don’t have to build walls very often. When we don’t, we end up having to go curl up into a fetal position alone or come out guns-a-blazing.

The book I am studying right now along with the passages in the Bible that talk about healthy conflict management and appropriate boundary lines focuses on how HAVING good boundaries is truly loving like God wants us to love and NOT HAVING them is NOT.

It’s eye opening, yet heartbreaking at the same time. You see, I asked God to  help me take the logs out of my own eyes so that I can work on how I deal with conflict (hence, relationships and love better as a result) and this is what keeps coming up for me.

  • Boundaries are crucial for living in the likeness of God.
  • Boundaries are imperative if we want to love like Christ.
  • Boundaries walk us into truly giving in freedom – from the heart – not from fear of retaliation or consequences we might reap in relationships that aren’t healthy.
  • Boundaries  help our relationships – IF those we are surrounded with respect them and IF we respect the boundaries of others.
  • Not having boundaries is NOT loving and leads to sin and evil. So does not respecting the boundaries of others.
  • Boundaries are NOT just physical. They are emotional, mental, spiritual, etc. We cannot take ownership for the feelings of others. We must take ownership for our own feelings.
  • Not having boundaries binds us up and prevents us from giving where God would have us give.

The first book I am studying (aside from the Bible) is called Boundaries, and is written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Here is an excerpt that hit me like a ton of bricks:

  • “WE are responsible to others and for ourselves. ‘Carry each other’s burdens,‘ says  Galatians 6:2, ‘and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.’ This verse shows our responsibility to one another. Many times others have “burdens” that are too big to bear. They do not have enough strength, resources, or knowledge to carry the load, and they need help. Denying ourselves to do for others what they cannot do for themselves is showing the sacrificial love of Christ. This is what Christ did for us. He did what we could not do for ourselves; he saved us. This is being responsible to “to.”
  • “On the other hand, verse 5 says that “each one should carry his own load.” Everyone has responsibilities that only he or she can carry. These things are our own particular “load” that we need to take daily responsibility for and work out. No one can (or even sometimes should they) do certain things for us. We have to take ownership of certain aspects of life that are our own “load.
  • “The Greek words for burden and load give us insight into the meaning of these texts. The Greek word for burden means “excess burdens,” or burdens that are so heavy that they weigh us down. These burdens are like boulders. They can crush us. We shouldn’t be expected to carry a boulder by ourselves! It would break our backs. We need help with the boulders – those times of crisis and tragedy in our lives.”
  • “In contrast, the Greek word for load means “cargo” or “the burden of daily toil.” This word describes the everyday things we all need to do. These loads are like knapsacks. We are expected to carry our own. We are expected to deal with our own feelings, attitudes and behaviors as well as the responsibilities God has given to each one of us.”
  • “Problems arise when people act as if their “boulders” are daily loads and refuse help, or as if their “daily loads” are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry.”
  • “Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. They help us to “guard our heart with all diligence.” They help us keep the good in and the bad out. They guard our treasures (Matt 7:6). “

All of this is biblical, friends. In fact, I was led to it from a couple of Pastors that truly teach from the Word and even Focus on the Family recommends this book throughout so many things they deal with in regard to conflict issues among Christians.

The whole point of this is that in order to even think of being a peacemaker, we  have to establish good boundaries. In order to even think of loving like Christ, we must follow his mandates in regard to loving from the heart, not because we fear loss of love, loss of acceptance, or anger that might come our way.

This Boundaries book also opened my eyes to the fact that the idea of boundaries comes from the very nature of God. I have gone to the Word to check this for myself, and it’s all throughout the Bible!

  • “God defines his personality by telling us what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes and dislikes. He differentiates himself from others. He tells us who he is and who  he is not. He limits what he will allow in his yard. He confronts sin and allows consequences for behavior. He guards his house and will not allow evil things to go on there. The “gates” of his boundaries open and close appropriately. In the same way, he gave us his “likeness”. He gave us personal responsibility within limits. We wants us to “rule and subdue” the earth and be responsible stewards over the life he has given us. To do that, we need to develop boundaries like God’s.”

The entire reason I started down this road and am embarking upon intensive (and biblical only) study of conflict management is because it has been made clear to me that the deepest desire of my heart is to love like Jesus wants for me to love. He desires “mercy, not sacrifice.” (Hos 6:6). I realize now that for most of my life, I  have missed the mark here. I  have allowed fear to dictate what I will do for others, rather than asking the Lord to tell me what is appropriate and right to do, and what is not.

I neither created nor implemented healthy boundaries.

And when we don’t, the bad stuff gets inside and distorts real love. It makes us sick.

I would covet your prayers regarding all of this, dear friends. You don’t reach the age of 50 and start learning how to create God-like boundaries and do it with ease. Not only do you have to learn, but as you implement, it may be hard on others in your life who aren’t used to you being this way. I need prayer that the Lord would guide me and lead me to have healthy boundaries and own them in love. I truly want this to be something that is beneficial not only to me and my own relationship with God and others, but that frees me to discern where there are true burdens I can lend support to, instead of carrying so many loads that take my eye off what really matters to God.

I need to own it and it’s not going to be easy.

But it is crucial. It is absolutely crucial that I learn what others’ boundaries are, as well as allow mine to be created (and implemented, even when it’s hard) with the leading of the Holy Spirit. He will help me to stick to them, regardless of how it feels – this I know. I just need a lot of prayer for wisdom, clarity and courage right now.

Everyone must work their “own salvation out with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). This is no different than that.

It’s high time.

We see a clear example of healthy boundaries right on the cross – it is seen between Jesus the two thieves hanging next to him.  One repented and opened his heart sincerely to Christ. The gates were flung open and Jesus invited him to enter into paradise with him. The other was not repentant or sincere, and Jesus drew a line – He wouldn’t even look at him. Boundaries are Christ like. Appropriate ones.

I don’t want to be that guy that Jesus wouldn’t look at. I want to be sincere, through and through. I want to truly repent. I want to love with compassion, not sacrifice. (Matt 9:13)

I would rather learn now to create healthy boundaries to be more responsible for what God has called me to, than continue down this path I have been on, especially when it comes to conflict.

Will you pray for me, friends? If you also find yourself struggling with having either inappropriate boundaries (too many, not enough) or not honoring someone else’s, would you go to the Lord about it all? If you even question whether or not you are doing things for others out of sacrifice or pure love, out of fear of a bad result, worry about withholding of love or acceptance, or fear of anger and retaliation, will you turn it over to God? If you find that instead of loving others by helping them carry their true burdens, you are too busy carrying the loads that don’t belong to you in the first place, will you consider asking Jesus to help you have clarity and power to change?

So often, we Christians only cling to the verses in the Bible that sound good – we take them and distort them without looking at the context in which they are written or without applying all of the other principles Christ has put forth for us in the rest of the Bible!

  • We can’t REALLY “do unto others as we would have others do unto us” if we don’t have good boundaries.
  • We can’t  REALLY “bear one another’s burdens” if we are carrying everyone else’s loads or asking them to carry all of our own.

But if we surrender this twisted stuff over to the Lord, He will empower us. He will enable us to learn more about how to walk in the freedom He has given us and love with freedom and from a pure place.

A God place.

This is part of what it means to walk the hard and narrow road as a Christian. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it”. Matthew 7:13

But I know, that I know, that I KNOW – He will be there with us every step of the way!

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18

 

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Out of the Brown Box

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Sometimes ( a lot) the enemy attacks me inside for being completely honest with you, dear readers. I have things run through my head that I know are from the ugly enemy all the time – things like “no one wants to hear that stuff, you need to talk about the more beautiful things of life and help uplift others, Annie. You’re doing it wrong.”

And I know what that is: It’s the master of deceit’s attempt to get me to think of this little blog as something I do only for others and that I should tailor it to the things people might want to hear. The enemy tries to whisper that I should write only about that which makes me come across as strong and together and that I got it all going on just perfectly because I got Jesus. He says that something like this should not be something I do to bring about my own personal growth (spiritually) as I work through things with God – because that is….Just.So.Selfish.

The enemy tries to tell lots of pretty little lies, friends.

But I do write in order to work things out with the Lord, friends. I do, because He is the ONE and ONLY who can make us whole through the messy stuff in life. Writing this stuff out actually makes it more real and takes away the foothold the enemy likes to take advantage of when we keep it all inside. But he just keeps on whispering – that ugly minion. The enemy whispers that I should portray things as only being all glittery and shiny – like a beautiful treasure chest full of jewels – you can’t wait to open it to see what you will be rewarded with next.

But in so doing, I know that I would create a false prison of sorts. I know that I would be lying. The fact is that the Christian life is messy and ugly and beautiful and intentional all at the same time. So I write the way that I write for that reason. I share the way that I share for that reason. I share it ALL because it’s the TRUTH.

This blog was started as a form of worship of the Lord. Some people worship through music, or art. Some do it by serving in person at the church and expressing their love for Jesus in that way. I write. I write out my feelings and struggles and joy and everything I go through as a Christian far better than I speak it. I am a pretty sensitive person when it comes to things like the body language of others, tone of voice, etc. And I screw up all the time when it comes to my own peripheral forms of communication, so I know that by writing things out, the LORD knows my heart and He reveals things to me in that process. I know that by writing things out that He is working on within me, it takes power away from the enemy and enables me to have more clarity to see things that I need to turn over to the One who holds me tightly, in His mighty hands.

Not everyone who may read it does understand where I’m coming from. And that’s okay. Because another reason I share this stuff out here in cyber space is because I know that there are others who feel alone in their messy stuff right now. There are others who DO feel sort of the same way at times, and need to know they have company. There are many of you, dear friends who read this stuff from time to time who are isolated, and the only form of “fellowship” you may be able to have with other believers is through things like this.

So, I don’t have to share only the happy and shiny stuff here, friends. Because I truly believe that if the Lord would have something I write about help another person, He is God, and He will convey to that person what they might need from it. He will make it work together for our good. He will make it beautiful, in the midst of the messy. If He wants to use anything that I write in someone else’s life, then so be it. Whether it be to encourage, uplift, or just shine light on the fact that sometimes our less than pretty junk is part of the Christian life.

We are NOT perfect. Far from it.  But HE is.

So….I will continue to write the way that He has led me to. As mucky and weird as it may seem at times, I will continue. And it can be unpleasant stuff sometimes, I know.

I write a lot about angst – I write a lot about struggle – the struggles that come from sin, iniquities, and walking as imperfect beings who may have accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord, yet still sin. I am tempted at times not to write about such things. Yes, I am tempted beyond belief.

I am tempted at times to share only the joy-filled, awesome and feel-good stuff that convinces others that I am filled with the joy of Jesus Christ. There is always that pull, no matter who we are or where we are at in life as a Christian, to pretend that everything’s okay. There’s something in there that the enemy has lodged quite deeply – waaaay deep down – that whispers…

“but you must be a good example of how GREAT it is to be a Christian, you little complainer! You are leading people astray by sharing all this hard stuff. You are coming across as a martyr or something. You are __________, __________, and _____.”

But I know. I know what led me to start this blog and I know that Jesus only gave me the ability to express the things He is doing inside of my own heart and mind as a form of worship, and a way of speaking His truth AND love.

Love doesn’t always look pretty. Neither does truth. But the result of Jesus’ love and truth is always B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.

So I hold firm to the promise I made to the Lord – I will not cover up (as I write and I share) the ugly stuff.  We are still  imperfect humans –  And we still struggle – sometimes even more than we did before we were true followers of Christ. But HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness.

I write about such things because they are the reality that most of us (we Christians) truly do grapple with, but are afraid to admit at times, for whatever reason. I write about such things because I feel the Lord calls me to do so – He calls me and it is loud and clear.

Share it, Annie. Share it. Share the stuff that everyone thinks or goes through but maybe feel they can’t say. Share the stuff that is ugly and twisted and messed up, so others may see that they are not the only Christian out there still struggling. Share the stuff Annie, so that through it all, others will be comforted and know that I, Your Mighty King, have the power to help you all overcome these struggles.

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Yet He also whispers that I am to share the good stuff too. He tells me through my prayer and devotion time that what He really wants is to have others see that truly, beyond truly, He works all things together for our good.

  • He brings correction when there has been disobedience.
  • He brings restoration when everything seems to have been shattered.
  • He gives us peace during the most angst-riddled of circumstances or situation.
  • He grows our love when we feel like we’ve lost every last ounce of that loving feeling.

So as contradictory as it may seem, these things of beauty do come out of the ugly if we allow Christ to work in us. He is the Creator, the Great Physician, The Almighty and All-Powerful Lord and King. He can and does do it all.

So I shall also write about peace – peace that comes only from Jesus in the midst of these struggles, trials and temptations we face sometimes. And I shall write of love. The love of Jesus that is always there for us, trying to dominate our own hearts and spill forth in spite of the ugly stuff that tries to infiltrate. Most of all, I will share how God works through my own personal struggles and the lack of such things as joy, love and peace in my own little heart to draw me closer to Him and help me be more and more like Jesus through it all.

So often, the reason I can even see the need for greater love in my heart – the reason I see the need for more patience to be developed in my character- the reason I see the need to allow Him to correct me and grow me and help me change direction and take my hands BACK OFF THE WHEEL, is due to the absence of them. He shows me through writing things down that my heart and at times, my mind still need much work. He shows me how very much I struggle putting into practice what I know to be true under duress. He shows me that I am His child and that He loves me too much to leave me the way that I am.

He shows me my need for Him. More of Him.

He must become greater; I must become less.” 1 John 3:18

I hate how much of ME there still is. I want to be nailed to the cross once and for all, like Jesus was. But I struggle with signing up for stuff that’s painful. I don’t have the same kind of love that Jesus does, friends. I care about my own comfort too much. And that pains me in its own way….because I know this so well about myself. And it is hard not to walk in condemnation in the face of that.

That mirror is one I want to shatter sometimes.

But there’s good news in the face of all of that! It’s wonderful how the Lord knows each one of His children so well. He’s aware of every little nuance and quirk about me as a person. He knows what works with me and what doesn’t. He knows just how to get through to me.

He tailors His approach to me in a way that will work to pierce my ungrateful little heart. But He never changes His truth in order to do so.

He never stops loving me while administering the exact and perfect dose of truth that I need in order to stop being sick and return to good health.

One of the ways that He does this with me, in particular, is He has made me very aware when there is some form of toxic darkness in my own heart. I may hold on to it for a while, or I may try to trick myself into thinking it’s not there or denying its existence, and sometimes I have to regroup for a while to discern where it’s coming from, but after sitting still for a time, if I search after Him to reveal it to me, He does.

Every. Single. Time.

This is never a fun process, and I wonder ~ does the Lord ever get sick and tired of  having to discipline me for the same repeat offenses? Does He ever wonder, “will she ever learn?”

But He is my Father, and He knows this is how I operate. He knows that I try to continue moving forward in spite of the weed that is starting to grow in the garden of my heart. I get tired of pulling weeds, so sometimes I just pretend they aren’t there. Or I try to pull them, but if it proves too difficult for me, I just get exasperated and give up after a while.

I do this because I hate conflict that can’t seem to be resolved within reason. I do this because when things seem unreasonable or insurmountable, sometimes I want to flee. I do this because I still put how I think hard stuff should be handled in a little box of my own making.

And Jesus wants to blow out the box. Time for an explosion. The solace and protection we find under the Mighty wing of Jesus is far greater than a fake brown box of our own making. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. We like the cocoon-like feeling of our own boxes and like our security blankets of our own choosing. But God knows.

So at the same time that I hate that I finally go and try to hide from the thorns in life, or can’t tell the difference between surrender and resignation, the Lord uses that escape artist tendency for good. He uses that time that I retreat from the ugly to shine a light on the part of the ugly that is in my own heart. He helps me to purge that crud right out of there. But oh, is it a process.

And here it comes – the need for yet another fruit of the spirit to grow stronger in my life….

Patience.

I struggle with patience, but the lack of it manifests itself inside of me in such deceptive ways. I believe there are times we must walk away and regroup with the Lord, but at the same time, I want the work He does during those times to move at MY PACE.

I realize now how very much I do the either/or thing in my own life. This holds true especially in regard to conflict. I get so worked up emotionally in the face of conflict that stretches out over a period of time, that I lose all clarity – to the point that I have to retreat completely and let God bring about some sense to it all.

Do you do any of this, friends? Let me give you a short list of examples of what I am talking about here.

  • Suck it up and let it go. You just have to worry about your own actions here. (this breeds bitterness over time).
  • Attack the ugly stuff with kindness in spite of the fact that you know there is still a big thorn growing larger all the time that you have to pluck out. Just ignore it since all of your attempts in the past to eradicate it failed. (not gonna work – it’s still growing)
  • Work on yourself and ignore the stuff that is wrong with others involved. You’re only responsible for you. (not loving – real love confronts)
  • Give up – you have been defeated. There’s nothing more that you can do. Build a wall. Build a TALL wall! (still giving the power away to the enemy – still a fake brown box)

For now, I am in a place of being still, even though it may have come about because of my “flee and withdraw” tendency. And God is using it for His glory.

I  have confidence that He will show me what He needs for me to see, and shatter the box. He is already doing it and it has only been a short while now.

I am struggling in these days of remaining still and allowing myself to face the reality (look in the ugly mirror) of what He wants to have me discard out of my heart and mind. I am going through turmoil as to what is to be surrendered, and what is to be held on to tightly.

But our God reveals.

Our God refines.

Our God restores.

And I trust in Him.

If you are struggling today because you are in a place in which you know God is working to help you tear down a wall or shatter a cocoon you have created for peace and comfort, will you let Him bring about the heart work and move you closer toward Him? If, on the other hand, God has asked you to surrender something and retreat for a while to spend time with Him alone, will you obey and let things move in His timing? If you realize you are inside of one, will you allow the Lord to help you venture out of the brown box when He says it is time and move underneath His protective wing instead? If you are having a hard time stepping, ask Him to carry you for a while, because He will. You may even be called to quite a treacherous journey, similar to the walk Christ made to calvary….bloody, even. But He will be with you every step of the way.

He is a loving parent, and our mighty protector. He will help us to walk in what seems like exposed vulnerability, with His protective hand around us the whole time. He knows you, His child. He knows how to make us better. 

We have only to open our mouths and allow the medicine to do its work. We have only to turn the burden over to Him. And we must listen when He tells us to pick up the cross. He will give us the ability and the power to carry it.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

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Paradoxical and Perfect Peace

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Should I even share and write about this right now? I really don’t know, friends. But something (someOne) is whispering inside (thank you, Holy Spirit) ~ and He tells me that I should.

Why? Because when we feel raw, if we can share with vulnerability, God does some magnificent work.

Magnificent God.

There are some very raw thoughts that run through my mind of late. These are the slings and arrows of the enemy. They are the attacks, relentless ones, that are coming at me constantly. They are also the work of the Lord inside my mind and heart – those things can hurt too, you know. No one ever promised the Christian walk would be a bed of roses.

“Follow Me”. ~ Jesus

Most of you have experienced the same kind of battles and tough refinement in certain seasons of your life. If you have read this blog for any period of time now, you know that mine (battles and growth in Christ) have been as pervasive as the illness that I carry around with me.

Some of those “thoughts”……

Why, every which way I turn, do I feel like I am alone when it comes to finding ways to improve my health? I know it isn’t true – but I still feel it. A lot.

Why? Why do I beat my own self up even more with self-condemnation and guilt when I feel a bit sad and sorry for myself sometimes that I have to contend with this beast of an illness? I know that I don’t operate through my daily living with an attitude of self-pity – I just have moments in which the grief overwhelms me. Shouldn’t that be okay? Yes. Yes it should. (or should it?)

Why? Why can’t I just focus on all of the beautiful blessings God has brought about in my own little life in spite of the ugly of this illness? Even the illness (suffering, I guess we could call it) has strengthened my faith. It has been a gift, in a way – as much as it is a royal pain to live with. This has truly been one of the most ironic and paradoxical things I have ever experienced, because it is not a one-time thing, rather a continual paradox that I live and walk and breathe in daily. And it hurts at the same time that it helps. I am weary.

Why? Why do I not find myself actually celebrating that more often? Why, more often than not, when I think on these things, I find myself knowing the good stuff to be true- but I don’t feel the good stuff? I know it’s not all about feelings. But I am ready for the cycle of grief to stopI am ready to move into full-on acceptance and out of the sadness stage. But God determines what I’m ready for, and when, friends. God determines that. Because He is God.

Be still and know that I am God.

So, even with all of these thoughts and all of this heart work going on, and as my cup seems to drain down to mere droplets physically, mentally and emotionally, Jesus fills it back up with more of Himself. I am alive – more than ever before – in the way it truly matters. My body may be crumbling, the vitality of good health may never return, but I am alive in Christ Jesus! This is the truth.

“I am the truth and the life.” ~ Jesus

But for now, I am still here on earth, so I get to deal with my sad and tattered daily baggage. It’s heavy baggage on the back, seeping into the heart and mind, and seemingly exacerbating my condition.  I’m ready to dump it, Lord. Problem is, something seems to fill it back up daily and I have the dump process to go over again the next day. Because I’m a sad little human.

But I am also a child of the One, True King!

“I Am.” ~ Jesus

I would like to be able to say I still hope for better health, but aside from my hope in the Lord that He can do anything if He wants to, I don’t hold out much hope for that. Sure. I will do all that I can to improve things – but I kind of feel like I’m in the place right now where I vacillate between just accepting stuff, which then turns into me feeling even worse physically – and simply fighting all the time – which causes conflicts, and pining away for things that I think will help me that may not. I find myself walking a fine and dangerous line between becoming content in my current circumstances, and simply giving up and throwing in the towel.

This is its own kind of battle, and probably the one that I am most weary of at this point.

I’m tired of this battle, friends.

I so badly want to be able to embrace my current circumstances in a way that would bring glory to God that I can taste it! Yet fear of giving up and not trying for better health attacks me. I start to believe that we are losing when I think this way. But often, God’s glory shines even more through what seems like loss and human failure.

To think that I need to do “better” in helping God to bring about His glory through my little circumstances has quite an arrogant ring to it, doesn’t it? God doesn’t need my help. He’s got all the right stuff.

“Trust in God – Trust also in me”. ~ Jesus

And, as weary of the battles that I find myself becoming, I’m also grateful for the victories that Christ brings about in the midst of this never-ending war.

It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.

And that’s a weird, yet glorious place in which to find yourself. It’s an ugly, yet beautiful thing. It’s a frustrating, yet peace-inducing experience. And all of  it goes on and on and on and on. It’s a place in which there is truly no control we can claim to have.

Yes. This is surrender, friends.

And do you know what else?  I think that there are so many things that make surrender so hard for us – we talk about them all the time. But one of them that I haven’t shared about much is one that resonates greatly for me today as I write this:

Perception and false expectations.

I can’t speak for you, but for me, I have always had some distorted version of what a person feels like after they surrender. See, that implies that although you appear to be losing the battle, at least you are D-O-N-E.

But you aren’t.  :(

What happens after you surrender can be more difficult that the battle was in some ways. It’s its own kind of weird and difficult. But thanks be to God that He knows what He is doing. He is in all of it!

Sovereign God.

Thanks be to God that He will never forsake us and He will get us through.

Thanks be to God that no matter how weary we may become with this perpetual battling and cycle after cycle of surrender, He will show up and He will take the baggage and give us a reprieve.

Thanks be to God that He will bring about His glory through our sufferings and failures as well as our victories. They all come from Him anyway.

They are His.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. ~ Jesus

Thank you for the reprieves, Lord. No one ever promised that I should get to have one, but I am sure glad that You deem them important in my life. Thank you for making all things beautiful and new. Thank you for being able to bring about YOUR glory, even in our weakness, our sin, or our ugly stuff.

And I will accept. I will accept what I don’t want to accept, because only YOU get to determine if it’s time for a new or different season for me regarding health.

You know me well enough to know that I will struggle with this surrender and acceptance thing again tomorrow – probably even later today. But I want you to know that I will always come back to surrender, even when I fight like a kicking and screaming brat at times.

And I will only be able to do so because of YOU.

Gracious God.

I know you will be there, Jesus. I know you are here. Will you help my friends know the same? If they don’t feel You near today, will You help them? Will you wrap Your loving arms around them?

  • So, yes. Today I feel raw and vulnerable. Maybe you do too.
  • Yes. Today I find tears of grief streaming down my face for the good health I used to experience, but never really appreciated fully.  Do you?
  • Yes. Today I find myself moving back and forth between sorrow, yet joy in the knowledge that God is doing great things through this thorn in my side – not just in me, but in others around me. Do you also, friend?

It’s about His will being done in our lives. We have to trust Him and surrender it ALL to Him. And we can cry out to Him when it’s hard for us. Because He understands.

Faithful God.

  • I want to hang on so badly to my own desires to have my health back. Do you?
  • I want to hang on to some idea of “happiness” that isn’t really what it’s supposed to always be about for us. Don’t you?
  • I want to hang on to false hope, if I’m really honest. Because I’m human. Because I’m sinful. And because it FEELS SO GOOD. How about you?
  • But I know – I know that my true hope lies in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Do you? 

I pray that all of my friends do – that you DO know this.

“I am the true vine.” ~ Jesus

Our true hope lies in eternity spent with Jesus Christ; where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more suffering. That doesn’t make it a lot easier in some ways to deal with our earthly sorrows, but it does make it better in the sense that this is the WORST IT WILL BE!!! (this earthly stuff we contend with).

It only goes “up” from here once we leave this earth – if we truly follow after Jesus and have accepted His gift of salvation.

To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Psalm 123:1

May you press deeply into the hope you find in Jesus, dear friend.  If you are struggling in any way today with surrender or sorrow, cry out to Him and look up and see Him in all His glory.

And may He give you PEACE.

 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”  Revelation 21: 1-5

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Sin: How I Know It is Our “Natural” Tendency

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Sin is a part of this earthly life – it is inevitable. But we don’t have to leave it at that.  God asks us NOT to accept that inevitability – quite the contrary.

Some people may find it hard to believe that we are born into sin. And some Christians may find it hard to believe that it’s still a part of our lives even after we have fully given ourselves over to Jesus. And then there are those who feel that Christians think they are now perfect and that because they have been saved from sin through Jesus, it means that they don’t struggle with it any more.

But I don’t. I don’t find it hard to believe at all.

Not any more.

Deeep down inside – we have all the makings of someone who WILL sin. It’s inevitable. And a lot of it has to do with the power of the flesh. The question is – do we accept that inevitability and simply embrace it? It’s a perfect excuse, after all.

  • This is just who I am….
  • Well, at least I’m being honest.
  • I’m going to be true to myself and focus on the good parts about me.

No, No, and N-O!

A lot has to do with the flesh and the things it will seek for its satisfaction. The desires of the flesh are strong. Sometimes, even stronger than we may realize.

Add in the layers of the workings of the mind, the heart, and all the twisty-turny-jumbled-up-type stuff that starts to complicate our inner workings as we walk through this world, and you have a perfect set up for sin.

I may have to accept that it is in my nature to sin, but I won’t accept it remaining there. It will be eradicated one way or another. But it’s best to ask the Lord to help us to deal with the ugly little monster. This is what is called sanctification. And it’s imperative to lay hold of this very important part of what God wants to do in us (daily) as true followers after Jesus Christ.

Pssst: Sanctification hurts. But so does sin. One ends in walking hand-in-hand with the Lord. The other is an empty and dark path laced with loneliness. Except for the devil. And he likes to pose as a fair-weather frenemy.

But people don’t like the word sin. We conjure up images of hell fire and brimstone, of people being judged and burned at the stake, of bullies who sit in judgement of others and their hearts and making decisions as to whether or not they are really saved.

And sometimes, those who shout “SINNER” are doing just that.

But I have learned what sin really is and what it really means. Sin is simply anything that falls short of the perfection of God. That’s most stuff, friends.

That’s most stuff.

None of us is perfect. None of us is God.

But here is what makes me really and truly know that sin is a part of human nature. It’s the fact that even if you have worked with the Lord to move away from a sin that had a grip on you at one time in your life, sometimes, you can pine away for the feeling that sin brought about for you.

Your mind can be tempted to glorify the good parts of that sin and even long for it lustfully.

We over-compartmentalize it and we discard the parts of it that made it sin in the first place and remember the “benefits” that it brought to us at one time.

And that is the work of the enemy, right there.

Here are some ways it happens to me at times, and I will share it the way the words and thoughts actually run through my crazy little head! Keep in mind, that these are things that ended up being sin in my own life – and maybe they aren’t causing sin in your own if you do some of them, K? Okay.

“Boy, oh boy – I sure am glad the Lord delivered me and saved me from alcohol. But, WOW, did that stuff ever WORK! It took the pain away – I wasn’t really getting drunk, per se…..just taking the edge off. I can see why people (including myself at one time) get stuck on that stuff. Too bad it can be so evil and take hold of a person like it does. If I am really truthful, I would say I wish I could  drink sometimes.

Man….I really wish I could just tell that person to take a flying leap of a high cliff. Maybe it would actually HELP them for someone like me to stand up to them and give them a taste (a hefty gulp) of their own medicine.

I hate that person inside right now – my heart is turning black right this very moment and I can feel it. They are being mean to me and I don’t care about all the other good stuff about them or their circumstances or about seeking to truly love them in the midst of all this. I just want them to be nice to me and if they won’t, I want to be angry and bitter. Period.

See? There is sin, and there is temptation to love and glorify parts of that sin. We don’t have to act upon those things, but if they are creeping across our thoughts and trying to edge into our hearts, we have to turn that stuff over to the Lord. If not, the temptations will take root and become sin manifest in our lives.

It’s inevitable.

But the most wonderful news of all is that we are saved from it all if we trust in Jesus as our Savior. He washes away our sin so we can live with Him for all eternity. He sacrificed everything for that.

We don’t have to sit and wallow in that shame any more. We don’t have to choose sin.

Does that mean the tendency to sin will be removed? No way, no how. But we don’t have to white knuckle it and fight it all alone.

We are doing battle while we walk this earth, friends. Sin has a grip, but we don’t have to walk in it and revel in it. But yes – we do still have to fight against it.’Cause the flesh still lives and breathes right now.

So, if you struggle with this in ways like I do, and Jesus is your Savior and Lord, know this:

  • He has washed away your sin in the eyes of the Father.
  • He has equipped you with the Holy Spirit to help you discern how to handle things until you go to live with Him for eternity and sin doesn’t threaten your flesh any longer.
  • Sin will still be a part of who you are, but with God’s help, you don’t have to walk in it.

And if we do sin? We can go to Him – the One who saves us from it all. We can go to the One who can wash us clean each and every day from the muck and mire. We can go to Him and thank Him for saving us from it all and ask Him to remove it from our path.

We can. He will.

God is in the business of taking what is “natural” on this earth and putting His divine stamp upon it. That trumps everything we call…..natural.

  • He saves us from eternity and He saves us from ourselves.
  • He is always here for us to help us fight against those natural (but very wrong) tendencies.

If we call upon Him he will come.

It is inevitable.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:19

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Sunshine Spots

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Puppy breath

Big fat smiles

Steaming Coffee

Running Miles

Happy Dances

Snoopy Lives!

Receiving Flowers

Husband Gives

Young Adults

Babes are Grown

All those seeds

They’ve been sown

Bible Time

Words of love

Speaking Life

Gifts from above

Beachy Getaways

Airplane Rides

Toes in Sand

Birds that Glide

Jesus Joy

All around

Inside Out

His grace abounds

Sunshine Spot

The puppy seeks

Laying there

For weeks and weeks

Plants and flowers

Growing tall

Life goes on

In these four walls

Smiling faces

Hearts to hug

Burdens lifted

No need to lug

Peanut butter and honey

On top of toast

Dripping and delicious

Satisfies the most

Books to read

Poems to write

Colors to embrace

Black and white

Seeking light

While hugging chains

Basking in sunshine

Appreciating rain

All of it pales

When I seek His face

The greatest gift of all

He’s in every place

Jesus, my Savior

The One who lives

Thank you for the little things

For the light You give.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12

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Sliver

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Here’s another one of those tight rope things to consider, friends. It’s about hopes and dreams and walking in line with God’s will for us. It’s about dark and light and which one is truly more powerful. It’s about the pull that seems so strong, but is really just trying to fake us out.

It’s about God’s power to overcome all of it.

In the Bible, we find many stories of men who had hopes and dreams. Some of those dreams were crushed, but God still worked out His perfect plan for those guys. The dream they thought they had became something much bigger, much greater, and most importantly, something that lined up with God’s will for them.

God’s plans are more important than our dreams.

The walk toward the “dream” was always one of hardship. Was this a dream that God planted inside of their heart, or was it one of their own making? Finding out is usually what brings on the challenges.

Most of these guys went through some type of process of captivity first – look at Joseph – look at David – look at Paul, and many, many others. Dying to self is always an aspect of bringing about GOD’s plans for us.

And it hurts. A lot.

If not actual captivity (being bound in chains), these guys experienced some serious obstacles every which way they turned – ailments, iniquities, sin as stumbling blocks, people trying to murder them, being beaten, flogged, swallowed by a big fat fish!

Nonetheless, God took what started out as their dream or their desire as to where they wanted to be or go, and used those challenges along the way to change their path – correct their course – so they would end up on HIS path and doing HIS will.

God’s compass seems confusing to us, but it’s always right.

I struggle all the time with the desires of my own heart and sacrificing all of that and laying it at the feet of Jesus, friends. What are my dreams, and do I even have any left any more? Should I even have dreams or are they just dangerous things that lead me down a path to self satisfaction? Usually my own dreams are things that will help me escape my current plight – that’s why they are often quite unrealistic. Although God can do ANYTHING and nothing is outside of His power and reach for us, I feel that He is trying to help me learn to be content – Under some pretty rough circumstances too.

Chains make it hard to do that. I’m a comfort creature, friends. I’m like that person in the Princess and the Pea story – I will notice ANYTHING right now, due to the Fibro that doesn’t “belong.” They feel like heavy chains to me – weighing me down. And I don’t know how to do contentment in the midst of discomfort.

But Jesus does.

Lately I have struggled again with some of the ugly depression that creeps into my life every so often – it is a clinical type of depression, mostly physiological – in other words, it doesn’t start with emotional or mind-type stuff, it starts because of the neurological issues going on in my body. But mine then does impact (once it sets in) my mind, my heart, and sometimes it FEELS like it even touches me deep in my soul. So the emotional things – the attitude, the perspective, the thoughts, the heart – they all follow.

And it HURTS. (Please don’t pity me – I’m just stating a fact here)

It’s the double whammy of depression, friends. The physiological cause, and the emotional and mental effect. Compound depression. Anyone out there who experiences this knows EXACTLY what I am talking about. And it stinks!

During these times I have to walk a line between surrender and fighting to even walk each day in the face of that surrender –

  • In giving it over to God and asking Him to let it run whatever course it is supposed to and trusting Him to remove it.
  • In giving it over, but not laying down and letting your bones dry up.
  • In not struggling tooooo hard, because if you do, the chains are going to bite right down into your flesh.

You can’t fight it out of the picture. You can’t fully give up, either. You just have to ask the Lord to help you know when to move and when to stay still. And most of all, you have to ask Him to keep fear from setting in, because that will completely immobilize you.

During these darker times, (this should go without saying) I feel an even greater sense of being in prison. You see, the “normal prison” is one I have made the best of, friends. I have found, along with Jesus, how to live inside of it – the light can burst out from the inside and still move outward in the world. Even though I am “in here” I am not confined by these walls. Jesus can do anything!

But during the depressive times, the beauty of my prison fades….it becomes a darker and more “dried up” place. I have to search for drops of His water more fervently, because it’s hard to see. I want to run, but my chains seem even  heavier. It feels like the light has gone out, although there’s still a sliver of it living inside of me. It feels like it wants to burst free, but it isn’t time for that right now.

Talk about discomfort. It’s hard to just lie there and hug your chains when you fear you are wasting away.

The dreams you had left die a little more….

Death to self becomes a whole lot more real and talking about it becomes an actual acted out, very real, and very tangible thing in one’s life.

The pain associated with that is not even something I can articulate. I am sure many of you know it all too well.

But we can’t buy into the lies of the enemy. He wants for us to believe that because the dark cloud seems more pervasive than the Lord’s sliver of light, that it is actually more powerful. The enemy wants us to believe it is going to overtake us and extinguish ALL the light. And he makes it seem very likely and very imminent and very, very real.

We MUST remember that the light in the midst of that darkness is there -it is Jesus – and it’s pretty clear to see that it’s there if only we lift up our heads. It doesn’t always make the depression or the chains disappear – it doesn’t always make the black and threatening cloud go away immediately, but it does give us peace, comfort, and even some joy.

It extinguishes any doubt as to whether we are alone.

He is always with me. Always.

So yes….it’s hard not to “dream” during these times – dream of the things that would take us away, if only for a moment. Dream of the things that would  help us escape the cloud of darkness. Dream of the things that would offer a fake sense of lightness, satisfaction and freedom from the prison or the chains. Dream of light and bright places that aren’t really bad things, but also aren’t the real source of light, freedom and living water we are to be seeking after at all times.

I find myself wanting to be on the beach and hearing the waves crashing around me – my toes in the sand feeling it wrap around me like a cocoon – the sun hitting my skin and melting away the chains that bind up my muscles and tissues on a daily basis – the melatonin (oh what beautiful stuff) that helps our mood and lifts away the heavy and dark…..these are all good things.

But none of them are Jesus.

The beach can’t meet me in the dark places. I can’t make it magically appear to help me feel better. The sun doesn’t really shine in the dark corners of our hearts and can’t melt the chains that are wrapped around us so tightly during dark times. It’s all a temporary “fix” if you will.

But the Son of God can.

He is my sun – He is my light – He is my freedom.

Is He yours? Are you allowing Him to meet you in the dark places? Do you cry out for Him all the time to help you walk through whatever might come your way? He is here for you too, you know. One sliver of His light can penetrate the death cloud the enemy is trying to use to threaten you. Do you feel it melting away? The burden can be turned right over to Him – He can bear it for us. He wants to take the weight of it all and lift it from us. We have to open our hearts and our eyes to Him. He is here.

I do believe that when I go to live with Jesus in eternity, there will be a beach there. I just think He knows the desires of my heart and will far surpass my own idea of a beachy life. He builds palaces instead of mere houses. He fills us with light from the inside out instead of just tanning us on the surface. He ebbs and flows through us more powerfully than the depression or ailments of our bodies and hearts and minds ever can.

He is with me in the dark and He is always there for me when I come out the other side of that darkness.

I don’t have to walk in darkness, although it comes for me some of the time. I get to walk with Him no matter where I am. No chains can ever stop Him from penetrating all of it. A sliver of God’s light is more than enough to penetrate through that cloud of dark.

He looks at me and smiles and tells me to bask in the light with Him. He says it is time to dance with Him on the water. He wraps me into Himself and shows me without question that He will hug me far tighter than the sand ever can. He warms me with His light in a way the sun can never do.

He is my rock. He is my salvation. He is my freedom from all the chains that try to bind me.

He is God.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:5

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Depression: Zero / Jesus: Undefeated

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Circle, circle; round and black

You surround me, front to back

Make your rounds and throw the dart

Wounds may hurt and skim the heart.

 

Round and round the black it goes

Scanning weak spots, head to toes

Maybe here’s a place or two?

To launch the grenade, and black turns blue.

 

Run the course, as soon it’s time

For you to leave; ’cause this is mine

Actually, it’s not ~ it belongs to Him

And His light’s too bright for you to dim.

 

Circle, circle; round and black

Prepare thyself!  We will attack!

Darkness ~ no match for His divine light

Return thyself home, to your dark night.

 

Psalm 40: 1-3 

I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.

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Fine Lines: Not My Thing

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I’ve shared a lot in the past about the thin lines between things – the blurry ones – the ones that once you are saddled in-between (on top of and riding the “line”) you are in danger of staying there and remaining paralyzed. Or worse yet – you find you are crossing over the line, and that you are now on the wrong side of it – in the wrong place. Or maybe you are supposed to get on the other side of the line – and some type of obstacle (usually fear based) is stopping you.

So you try to join the circus for a while.  But then you realize you were never meant to be a clown.

These are the lines upon which one feels they are playing a dangerous game with a tightrope. Even if someone seems proficient at tightrope walking, it is pretty much inevitable that taking a fall is in the near future for them. It’s part of the game – the in-between game, yo.

And I have to tell you………when it comes to me, I am definitely not cut out for it!

  • This girl has no balance.
  • This girl has no rhythm for dancing upon a tightrope.
  • This girl does not like fine lines.

I like to know my boundaries, and I like to know them well. I prefer for them to be drawn thick and clear – these are the kind of lines you can see for miles and miles. You don’t need glasses or vision enhancers to spot them.

In fact, I don’t even mind so much (most of the time) if the wrong side of the lines are even blocked off  completely. This makes it easy to see the places to which I should not venture.

That keeps me feeling safe and secure.

That makes my little world seem like there’s a semblance of control surrounding it.

That is an illusion – but one that I seem to like – a lot.

So sad.

Here are some of the blurry and fine little lines that keep showing up on a regular basis in my own little life:

  • The line between full blown obedience and just a little bit of sinning.
  • The line between real love and just….affection.
  • The line between true joy and happiness.
  • The line between dependence upon God and crossing over to dependence upon self or other people.
  • The line between chronic illness and just plain – laziness
  • The line between surrender and giving up and throwing in the towel.

I could go on and on and compile a list of blurry lines that would make your heads spin. I bet you could too!

Isn’t it funny? I love black and I love white. But I do like gray as well – when it comes to my fashion choices. And if I am honest – it seems that much of the time I choose to walk in the gray areas of life to perpetuate the illusions that are counterfeits of the real thing.

Gray is neutral. But so is black and white.

The two latter ones are much more crisp, if  you ask me.

The gray is just – comfortable, man. It fades some into the background – helps one go unnoticed. It doesn’t take your eye off the ball – all that is glitter and shiny around it stands out.

That can be dangerous. Thinking you are in a neutral space seems to make one feel like they are safe somehow. But if we aren’t careful, the gray seeps into our hearts.

  • We don’t want to neutralize our hearts.
  • We don’t want to darken our hearts.
  • We don’t want to confuse our minds.

Or do we?

Yep – I can say without question that most of the time, I recognize it when there’s a fine line, albeit a blurry one, that is taunting me. I have to ask the Lord during those times (every day) to help me see clearly. The only way to do that is to take our eyes off the lines and look up – to Him.

  • He makes all things clear.
  • He is unchanging.
  • He is the One who is safe – the Only One.

He understands the black and the white and He understands all the confusion and gray in-between.

He makes all things new! Even the gray stuff, friends.

Do you have a fine line upon which you feel you are teetering, my friend? What are the blurry lines you find yourself trying to navigate right now in your own life? Do you find that you feel safe and comfortable there – in the in-between place? Or do you find that you recognize the blurry for what it really is and you are seeking God’s face and His clarity, safety, and power to stay on the right side of the line? Is there a line over which He does want you to cross? Or is everything around you trying to force you to think you need to take just – one. more. step. ?

Ask Him.

Ask Him for wisdom and discernment, dear friends.

We all have to do it sometimes. He is here for us – just waiting. He knows fine lines really aren’t meant to be our thing.

And Jesus?

Jesus never promised it would be easy for us. But all of His promises and gifts He has in store for us are well worth it – even as we walk this crazy tightrope in life that we are dealing with daily.

We have to walk it with Him. Correction: We GET to walk it with Him!

Heaven won’t be a dangerous circus full of tightropes, dear friends. Heaven will be a place of joy and peace and beauty – never gray –  all light and bright and beautiful.

  • We won’t be confused.
  • We won’t be anxious.
  • We won’t feel crippled and perplexed.

I don’t know about you – but this girl can say with absolute certainty that THAT IS my thing.

Jesus gave it to me.

Jesus is my everything.

And He has drawn a line in the sand – it is a firm one. It is a clear one.

  • It is not blurry.
  • It is not fine.
  • It is only dangerous if we don’t pick the right side.

I’m so grateful to be on His side of that line!  Aren’t you?

We will always grapple with this blurry stuff in life until we go home to live with Jesus for all eternity. It is part of the war between the flesh and our submission to the One who has saved us. But Jesus is here for us to guide us and to lead us. He has good things in store for us if only we follow after Him with all our heart, mind and soul!

He will pull us over to the right side if we seek after Him and ask Him.

He will save us from the dangers of tightrope walking.

We are not clowns. We are His children. We are royalty.

Just reach out your hand today if you feel yourself teetering. Ask Him to grab it and pull  you back to His loving and safe arms. Then listen – carefully.

He will do it.

You may be on a new tightrope tomorrow – but He will be there for you then as well.

If you haven’t already, won’t you make following fully after Jesus YOUR thing, dear friend?

Say Yes. Make Jesus your EVERY thing. And let Him show you the way.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8

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Annie’s Inner Warrior Woke Up Today!

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I used to be a fighter ~ a driven, serious fighter. If I wanted something or had a goal, anything that stood in my way would eventually be “removed.”

Let me actually expand upon and clarify that statement I just made: I am a peacemaker. I am an “unhealthy conflict” avoider. BUT…if pushed too far, there’s this part of me that awakens- a part that lives deep, (deeeep) down inside – and that part is a force with which to be reckoned if it is awakened from its comfortable slumber.

It’s what I like to call the fighting force ~ and it doesn’t wake up nicely sometimes.

I’d like to introduce you to the warrior that lives inside of Annie.

This is the part of me that comes out once I have been pushed and pushed and beaten and beaten for far too long.

Annie’s inner warrior.

Sometimes it comes out the wrong way  or gets up on the wrong side of the bed – just ask my husband (hee hee). I have had to (and continue to have to) ask the Lord to tame the warrior at times. Usually this happens when it is my old inner warrior friend ~ the one that relies upon its own strength and might. During these times, just like any other, I have to ask God to cut away the parts of self that  have crept inside and messed with the warrior’s head a little.

Other times, if I am prayerful as she is emerging, (and also after she has come out to play) then she is nothing that is dangerous to my walk with the Lord ~ she is but a part of who God made me to be. That is the part that is strong, but not tainted with self, powerful, but laced with His divine power and inspiration – mighty and focused, because she know that  she has already won.

This warrior sometimes looks worse for the wear, but make no mistake about it; she remains undefeated.

Because of God.

I fight in other ways all the time – ways that I like to call amicable sparring matches:

  • Fighting by putting my fists down when all I want to do is raise them up but I know that the time is not right for that yet.
  • Waging daily war by taking punches while knowing the truth inside is that the only thing I am surrendering to in reality is the Lord (even if it looks from the outside like I am being a total victim or doormat).
  • Giving up on something that I want in order to spend time waiting upon the Lord and prayerfully considering if He wants me to fight in open and tangible ways OR be quiet and still and carry out my war against the flesh in more of a meek manner while He prepares the way.

But there comes a time where you know the Lord is calling you to action- waiting was an action He had you take as well at one time- but that time is nearing its end.

And you know it.

Now it’s time to get up – No more staying down gently.

Yes. There comes a time where surrender crosses over into giving up – and then, it’s anything but true surrender – the kind that God would have us do. Then laziness seeps in. So does self.

I’ve realized for quite some time that I have been teetering on that fateful line – the line between surrender and full-blown resignation and giving up. I hate tightrope walking just as much as I hate roller coasters. Have I toldja that yet? ‘Tis the truth.

So today I woke up and realized something has clicked. Something clicked so loud down in my bones (I guess literally and figuratively today, dear friends) that it woke someone up.

That someone is filled with a major dose of healthy anger at the Fibro Monster that is living inside of me.

  • Healthy because it is being guided in the right way – it is going to be used as a motivational force – and it will become the most formidible enemy that my fibromyalgia has ever encountered. God’s hand is guiding me and literally pulling Annie’s inner warrior out of hibernation.
  • Healthy because it is well-rested, energized, and more than ready to roll (not with the punches, by the way – but I guess we shall see).

Today I declare utter and complete war. And I know that I know that I know that God has given me His blessing.

Guess what else? He is on my side!

Diplomacy is out the window – I tried and it failed. I am a gifted diplomat, dear friends, but the Fibro Beast is not reasonable.

No. With the Fibro, it is now time to fight or die.

When it comes to this beast, chances of taming it are akin to the chances of a million snowballs creating an eternal colony in hell.

  • There is no taming to be done.
  • There is no more talking and compromising to attempt.

And I have known this for a few months now. Problem is, that I laid down and just took punch after punch upon realizing it. Maybe I was supposed to though.

The great news is that in spite of not moving into action for a few months after knowing that this season of rest is over, I am stronger now. I am wiser now. And yes, there’s a bit of anger in there too.

And righteous anger is stronger than Fibro is.

GOD is stronger than Fibro is!

I’m not going to go down without a fight.

I am ready.

I got on the elliptical and treadmill today friends and punched the picture I have of the Fibro beast in front of me the whole time. I prayed that the Lord would equip me with a spirit of perseverance like I have never seen before. I prayed that the Lord would fight this battle with and for me through my inner warrior. The one that He created to live inside of me for such times as these. The one that I have asked that He fill with His Spirit, His wisdom, His love and His truth.

That one.

So the battle is changing now – the wind has turned. It has begun.

Fibro? I have news for you:

My name is Annie Birkelo, Child of God and Daughter of the One True King.

You tried to kill my inner warrior. You tried to steal my peace.

Prepare to die.

Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31

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When an Inch Takes You Further than a Mile

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Inching my way through so many days in 2015 taught me some things, the first of which is that this gal has so very much more to learn. I suppose I will until the day that I go home to live in heaven for all eternity. Thanks be to God that I have a love of learning!

Some days, I had to literally crawl out of bed and inch my way to the bathroom – slowly, but surely – like a little snail making its way to an important destination. I would find myself stopping and stretching along the way to loosen the Fibromyalgia-ridden muscles that had frozen up even more over the night of restless sleep I had just experienced.

But I kept inching and moving to where I needed to be.

I was able to get up. I was able to make it through another day in this new, but very old and unhealthy body.

Inching. Crawling. Stretching. Hoping.

Hoping that eventually I would be able to stand. Upon standing, I would then be able to walk. And after walking for a little while, the aching muscles would finally warm up and begin to melt enough to walk throughout my day. My entire day.

Then it would be time to do it all over again.

Yes, in 2015 inching my way through things became a part of my new normal. But the learning that the Lord brought into my life through this new form of “suffering” went on for miles and miles.

It always worked you know- the morning ritual of inching my way along -the heat from within my awakened body would begin to melt the pain enough to make it through. Some days I would be able to walk in a more sprightly manner than others. While other days ~ well ~ inching along would become my mantra on those swell little 24 hour periods of time.

  • I learned to appreciate how far I could still go even when I had to inch my way toward my next destination…Thank GOD that He is on my side.
  • I learned that inching along rather than running from place to place gives one time to ponder, appreciate, mull things over, and reflect….as long as we remain in His divine presence every “step” of the way.
  • I learned to celebrate – celebrate like there’s no tomorrow – each individual accomplishment along the way! Each inch was a mountain that I had just climbed – and it was all because He carried me along the way.

And now, this new year has ensued, and I have desires that I find myself striving for, and the Lord is helping me along the way. He is helping me to make sure that my own desires are in line with  His for me. And, as always, He is ever-so faithful.

He takes me on journeys that seem to last for miles and miles with each  and every inch that goes by.

We got an elliptical trainer for our family for Christmas, friends. Along with our treadmill, we hope it will serve our little clan well as we all try to make movement and good health part of our daily habit.

Two years ago, an elliptical trainer was “too easy” for me.

Two years ago, our treadmill was a back-up tool only for me for when it was too cold to go running outside.

But today – today, I am able to get on that elliptical trainer. I couldn’t fathom the thought a few months ago.

Today, I am able to inch my way toward exercise again, friends. And those inches seem to last for miles and miles.

My first day, I was barely able to do five minutes on the elliptical, with NO incline, and on the LOWEST setting.

Today, I did eight minutes.

I am inching my way toward my goal. But I am far richer today than I was two years ago when I could run for miles and miles.

Maybe once I am able (if?) to run again, I will remember – I will remember what it is to only be able to move one inch at a time.

I will remember what it is to move forward with Christ at my side, knowing fully that I am totally dependent upon Him and Him alone, and that I will move at the pace He has set out for me, as long as it is on HIS path and His alone.

Maybe I will have a new season of health again. If I do, maybe I will remember that I am just as dependent upon my Savior in good health as I am when it isn’t so good.

 I pray that I will.

Let us press on toward the true things that Christ has laid out before us, friends. Whether we are able to run for miles and miles or can only move forward one inch at a time, He will guide us and lead us to where He would have us go – if only we trust in Him.

It’s not about us anyway, right? It’s about Him and His story. We are all only here to do His will. And His will is just as powerful in the inches as it is in the miles.

 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

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The Good Old Days?

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Ahhh. This morning I woke up to a raging headache. It wasn’t a surprise, as it had reminded me of its presence all night long as I woke up every hour upon the hour with reminders that it was there.

  • Right there with me in bed.
  • Right there with me upon waking.
  • And right here with me apparently to take up residence in my body and stay for a while.

So I woke up and, of course, I found myself thinking back on the good old days – the days in which I would wake up feeling GREAT!

The days in which I would not, upon my first waking breath, feel pain and swelling throughout my entire body. The days in which I would jump out of bed, in a phenomenal mood, because all I had to do was look forward to what fun was ahead for my family and myself.

  • Maybe some hiking today?
  • Maybe a fun, long jog to get that awesome endorphin rush my body so loves?
  • Maybe running around from place to place, touring shops and going to a movie and doing like, TEN things all in one day with reckless abandon?

The good old days?

Yes…I will admit there were good (GREAT) times when I didn’t have to pace myself from moment to moment lest I go into a full blown Fibro and autoimmune flare that puts me down for weeks to come.

There were beautiful and long seasons in my life in which I could bask in the abundance of great health and being beyond comfortable in my own skin.

I will admit it was nice to be able to just go along for the fun – whatever was suggested I had the choice to say “yes” if I wanted to – my body wasn’t going to dictate all that I could or could not do.

Yes…I have sweet memories and will admit that sometimes I find myself pining away for that feeling again – that body that is void of pain. That body that…if it DID have any remnant of discomfort running throughout it, I could actually pinpoint with magical accuracy EXACTLY what caused it and (wait for it) DO something about it and I would be in great shape the very next day.

Problem solved?

But I also remember that back in those days, I may have  had a wonderful situation physically, but I was in a daze of sorts.

Of sorts? No!

I was in a daze of all dazes!

  • I wasn’t hyper aware of how good we really do have it because through any and every situation – good, or bad – we have Jesus to carry us through it all if we only trust Him as our Savior and know that HE. IS. GOD.
  • I wasn’t focusing on how Great my Lord is, rather – what was next on the agenda of fun and fabulousness.
  • I wasn’t living my life with God at the center, rather trying to find the next awesome thing to go out and do to add meaning, purpose, happiness to my life.

I had it all. And I wanted….MORE.

And these days? These days, (we know it’s true) I am also in a daze. But it is one that is not being brought about by all the clutter in my life, rather it is mostly from the brain fog that my physical condition brings about on a regular basis.

Yet in the midst of the current glazy and dazy and murky and mucky days of my life now, there is a clarity that never leaves me.

It is the clear message that Jesus Christ sends to me each and every moment of every day:

“I love you, dear Annie. You are MINE.  I am never letting go. Focus on Me.

What peace! What joy! What beauty that cuts right through any and every ugly that besets me!

How Great IS our God?!

I won’t pretend I am different than I was before in ways other than what I just mentioned in regard to all of this. I still find myself wanting more much of the time, it’s just being brought about for a different reason. It will always be a battle we find ourselves in until we go home to be with Jesus – the fight to have it “all” when in reality, if we have Jesus and rely fully upon Him, we already DO have all that we really need.

Yes – sadly, the battle continues.

I still pine away for a body that feels good so I can be that exuberant person that loves to be around lots of people and commotion and is always filled with energy to give, give, give toward others.

I still want.

I still just want.

But I know in my heart that I have it all in Jesus.

The flesh is strong and it fights us – it is a formidable enemy to our spiritual contentment. So are our hearts if we don’t turn them over to Jesus daily for cleansing.

But He has already won!!!!

Yes. I have resolved myself to the knowledge – the absolute and complete fact that I will probably always experience some kind of daze as I walk through these earthly days of my life.

But I will take these days now over the others if I have to choose.

I will take the brain fog daze over the fog that ensues when I don’t have any physical limitations holding me back from seeking to fill holes in my heart that are there when I am not looking upon Jesus over self. The daze that comes about from going, going, going…..from looking for the next thrill, or fun adventure to make me whole and “happy.”

For those who can do both things – fix their eyes upon Jesus and seek out adventure and fun without allowing those things to take His place, keep it up, because there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. (P.S. Can you tell me your secret sometime?)

But that’s not the way this girl went about things, friends.

Maybe some day I will be able to be healed physically, and out of this season in my life, I will have learned not to let the circumstances of my good health get in the way of relying upon and truly focusing upon Jesus.

Maybe it will never happen in this earthly life, either.

But guess what? I’m okay with that, friends.

Yes, I still find myself wanting it all – that want will probably never go away. But I can be okay with that because I know that He has allowed things to happen for His divine reasons.

How about you, dear friend? Is something in your current situation causing you to pine away for the good old days? Do you recall a better time physically, mentally, spiritually that you wish you could experience right here and now again? Why not take it to the feet of Jesus and ask Him to show you how He can make all things new in spite of what is old or cracked right now in your life? He can do it, you know. He can and will cut right through the haze and the daze. We have only to cry out to Him and trust in Him and His perfect timing.

  • I recall the good old days with mixed emotions, it’s true.
  • I reflect on the current days of my life with the same murky mixture of feelings as well.
  • Sometimes I find myself riddled with fear that I will never be “the same again.”

But God. God then tells me I need not fear. He shows me the obvious that I was missing as I was getting lost in the fog of it all…

I don’t WANT to ever be the “same again.

He makes all things new!

All in all, I have a joy that surpasses all of the mixed-up-stuff that puts me into a daze at times and tries to steal my focus.

In Him, as I gaze upon the face of my Jesus – I have clarity. So much more is revealed to me about Christ even in the midst of the daze that my physical condition brings about.

Cutting right through every last bit of it, is the peace of God.

Glory Be to God!

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

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Simplifying Is Complicated

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I haven’t written much lately, as I have been in a mode of making a SERIOUS attempt to simplify some things in my life. In particular, this involves my surroundings – my home environment has become all-the-more-important to how I function now that I work from home and cannot go out and about as much because of the Fibro-Monster.

What I have found over these past two months is that trying to simplify your surroundings is daunting, to say the least. When your brain is as foggy as mine can be because of the Fibro, anything that feels “cluttery” can make it so much worse. It becomes beyond difficult to focus when things aren’t right in your environment. This has a lot to do with what is happening in the nervous system regarding the senses – vision, sound, even touch become hyper-sensitive and can put you into a full-on fight or flight mode if you aren’t careful.

So simplifying my surroundings has become imperative, but it’s hard – it’s complex – the whole process of letting go. We have emotional attachments to things we have kept over the years, especially those that belonged to loved ones who have gone home to live with Jesus and are not here with us any more.

By the way: I’ve been at this for a couple of years now. My attempts before, however, were feeble. I would stop mid-process and not keep the momentum going. But in the last two months I have been tackling it hard core. From all that I have researched regarding the desire to truly simplify and declutter one’s life, it is clear that keeping the momentum is of the utmost importance.

I’m still not done.  But I am getting close.

When we get to where we are nearing our goal – it comes time to edit relentlessly and this is truly the hardest part. Letting go of a lot of this stuff in the first one or two rounds was not very hard. It actually felt quite freeing and I immediately felt lighter – more clarity – a sense of peace. It’s especially great to know that so many of my mother or father’s things will go on now to help someone who has less than we do. I like knowing that someone who needs something for a Christmas gift, or for use around their  home can get it for free now.

Another thing that makes the editing process difficult for me personally, is that I am not really a minimalist at heart. I just want to be. I do have to have a home now that feels clutter free, yet comfortable and still cozy. Friends, when you wanna get rid of clutter and have a space with, well – SPACE in it, that is beyond difficult to do if you don’t simply do a complete gut job.  I can’t do it that way and maintain the cozy vibe that is so important to me.

That’s what’s making it take so long. So I guess we can say I brought those complications upon myself because I forced the process to be this way instead of just gutting all of it.

I don’t know about you (all ye who have been through this lovely little process as well), but for me, the part that is the most difficult is not the emotional attachment stuff. I know that I know that I KNOW that I will see my loved ones again one day in heaven. So, letting go of stuff that reminds me of them isn’t so hard as I kept back the most important things and have a peace about giving away the rest. They would have liked that too, and that makes my heart happy.

It’s the sensory issues I have with regard to the Fibro and stuff that has made it the hardest for me.

For me, being in the home all the time entails a deep seated need to feel good in this environment. If I move one thing to gain a better sense of clutter free space, it has a rippling effect akin to an earthquake that will rock your world. Just ask my husband: One thing gets rearranged and it causes me to need to change all the paint colors and furniture arrangements in every other room of the house.

That is beyond frustrating. But if you are like me and  you start this “process” it is also beyond necessary.

But guess what? It is do-able. And we have done it. We are nearing the finish line and now it’s a matter of living the simplified lifestyle and maintaining that mentality. We are working on other stuff too – not just the clutter in the home. I have been streamlining how I do bills, email, clothing, laundry, cleaning. I have been limiting my social media time and not doing it all over the place, but in specific blocks of time. All of it is helping my crazy little brain. All of it is helping me embrace a simpler lifestyle. But I have a lot of work to do and a whole lotta surrender left to embrace to truly keep my life more simple.

Who knows? Maybe some day I will become a true minimalist, and another seismic sweep of the household will be called for if that happens.

But for now, I feel lighter. For now, I feel a greater sense of clarity through the fog. For now, I feel like there’s more room to focus upon Jesus, my family, and yes – the daily chores, but without the layers upon layers of that which is unnecessary clouding up my vision.

And honestly, that is the most important goal for me out of all of this. I want to help my brain and sensory issues as much as I can so I can focus on Jesus and family and all that is truly important in life.

We won’t be taking anything with us when we leave this world anyway. Jesus and heaven is all we will have then and it will be all that we need. Why not start now?

Yes….for now, he’s given us books and movies, couches and beds, dishes and pretty wall art to gaze upon. But it is my desire that none of that stuff takes the place of my own Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

More than anything else, I wish to gaze upon HIM. And I don’t need a lot of stuff cluttering up my sight line.

But maybe I do need a reminder once in a while – so as I took away so many of the other nick-knacks and wall hangings in our home, I placed these instead in my bedroom.

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And these in my office.

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It boils down to that one simple fact for me, dear friends – that if I set my eyes upon Jesus, I can’t go wrong. And that if something gets in the way of that, I need to cut it out and discard it.

Wow. I guess it’s not really that complicated at all.

Hebrews 12:2 We must focus our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith

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All the Way Yes

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If you knew that by being the way that you are ~ a deep thinker, someone who is highly empathetic, someone who cares to the point that sometimes they cross the line into worry or anxiety, would you have changed those things about yourself if you could have?

If by changing all of that you could have prevented this ugly illness (or depression, or whatever “consequence” you wish to list) from manifesting and taking tentacle-like root in your body would you have done it?

  • If given the chance to go back in time would you have made that trade?
  • Would you have become someone different if you’d been given the ability to do so to avoid the ugly that might ensue as a result of being the way that you are?
  • Would you  compromise who God made you to be inside to dodge the darts and arrows that would result from being that person?
  • Would you trade the growth, the refining, the deeper knowledge of God and who He is that came from being who He made you to be and turning yourself over to Him for daily molding to live a life of greater comfort, ease, and vitality?

This is the burning question that keeps showing up in the ticky tape of my thoughts ~ over and over again, of late. I can almost hear the sound of it (am I hearing voices now?) in the background pretty much with me ~ all the time.

“Should I have changed the way that I am early on…as a young child… so I wouldn’t be dealing this this Fibromyalgia right now? Is this somehow my own fault?”

And I think that’s because I NEED to be constantly reminded of this question and the answer which is…………………

Yes and No.

There are times that if you were to ask me this question ~ last night was most definitely one of those times ~ I would be VERY tempted to say flat-out yes. But it is really yes and no. Yes, I should have lost the parts of myself a long time ago that did not serve God, but self. But NO WAY would I change the good stuff that God made in me in order to avoid the consequences those things bring about.

Honestly, it’s just that sometimes I am soooo sick that I find myself wishing I could be someone who could say a full-on yes to that. But I know in my heart that I don’t truly mean it. I know in my heart that the thought of that is quite laughable.

It’s just so much harder to have it be yes and no. It would be so much easier to just have it be all the way yes, or all the way no!

I know in my heart that I am filled with things that God made in me, and yes…..some of those things may have contributed to my Fibromyalgia (amongst whatever all else is going on with my body) to rear its ugly head in a major way in my life eventually.

  • Being there for people in death and heartache – consistently – no matter how much it might hurt.That didn’t help my fight or flight issues.
  • Showing up each and every day for a child who struggles with special needs and all the emotion that goes along with that. That’s gonna take a toll on a highly empathetic individual.
  • Engaging the deep thinking and the soul searching and placing of self and ugly in the heart on the chopping block daily that comes as a result of searching to know God in a deeper and more meaningful way. Yah…that’s some intense stuff, folks.
  • And just the way my brain and heart flat-out work ~ let’s not forget about those little contributors to all of this.

The world will tell us a version of the truth that can be distorted, you know. It’s not very often the WHOLE truth. But some of what we are told is true as long as we don’t lose sight of God in the midst of it all.

That little list I made above? That stuff came out of the bad stuff. That is the beautiful stuff that God made out of the selfish stuff that has been there from the beginning. He truly does work all things together for our good if we allow Him to be our God.

Yes. That list is what God did as He chopped up the parts of me that weren’t supposed to be ruling and reigning in my life in order to make me more like Him.

Self-reliance is maybe the biggest thing about myself I WOULD change if I could that contributed greatly to this monster that has shown up in my life.

But God DID change that for me through all of this! God is STILL changing my tendency toward self-reliance. And it IS making me more like Him every single day. Maybe that war that I have been waging all my life – the one we are all taking part in – the war between self and surrender to the Almighty One – maybe it’s that war that has taken the greatest toll but that holds the greatest reward for us all at the same time.

I do believe in making changes that line up with what God has for us, friends.

I do believe we should try to take care of ourselves – because our body is His temple. We can try to eat more healthy food, avoid the stressors and things that bring about no good especially when we contend with an illness like I might have, and change the things about ourselves that do more harm than good in our lives.

I do believe there are times we continue to show up for others, but times where dusting off our feet and moving on is called for as well. And I believe the Holy Spirit can and will guide us when we encounter such times as those.

I do believe in utilizing the tools and resources that we have been provided with to help ourselves get through the hard stuff – the safe ones – The heating pad, the essential oils, some Tylenol, etc.

But ultimately, this illness has caused me to press in deeper to God’s bosom – to take shelter firmly beneath His wing. I find myself crying out for His comfort, His mercy, His companionship, His authority, and His truth and love in a more raw way now, if you will.

  • Nothing replaces that feeling of knowing that only HE can truly help us through something.
  • Nothing comes close to be able to describe what it’s like to meet Him in the midst of our suffering.
  • Nothing comes near to what we experience and how much richer we are when He shows up for us in a new way and reveals something magnificent about Himself that we never could see before.

Asking Him to tell us what to change about ourselves – and what to keep – well, that is something that we can do, you know. We are meant to be who God made us to be and the stuff that has crept in and tried to pretend it’s been there from the beginning is the stuff we have to allow Him to cut out and discard.

That’s what makes us more like Him – being pliable. Submitting. Being the clay.

Being more like Him doesn’t mean comfort, but it sure does mean blessings! Think about how Jesus was when He took His last breath on this earth. It wasn’t pretty and void of suffering by any stretch of the imagination.

But He didn’t leave this earth that way. He rose again after three days. He ascended to be with His Father in heaven. He lives! And He lives inside of us and is with us now.

Suffering does make us see Him in a new light, friends. And one day – one glorious day, all that suffering goes right out the window. Forevermore.

As we close our eyes to the pain and the ugly that our ailments, afflictions and sufferings reveal to us ~ we open them to our One True God.

The Almighty and Great Physician.

The Great I Am.

The Shepherd of our Souls.

He is the Potter Who is shaping our clay into a beautiful vessel!!!

So if you feel like a big lump of clay that has no form or purpose right about now – if you feel like you have lost direction, shape or meaning – if you feel like you have been ground up and left in the dust – turn it over to the One who promises to make it beautiful and right again.

Turn the lumps over. Let Him decide what to keep as part of his masterpiece and what to discard. Grieve if you need to for the discarded pieces – but turn to Him and allow Him to help you see the beauty of the creation He is making out of you.

And then…..you can give Him the answer to the real question ~ the one that really matters:

“if I could have allowed GOD to change me and mold me all along to be able to embrace any suffering that comes my way but be more like Him through it all, would I have done it?”

If your answer is “Yes, but it’s never too late”– well, then you are in a very good place, my friend.

It might hurt a little. But the rewards and the blessings that come as a result of it far outweigh any of that ugly stuff.

He has us in His mighty hands. Let us submit and allow God to be God. Let us say Yes day in and day out. Not yes and no, but simply….YES!

He most certainly has said “yes” all the way to us.

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I’m Tired of Being an Over-Achiever ~ And God’s More than Okay with That

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All of my life I have been an over-achiever. It was ingrained into the core of who I am to give it your very best ~ always.

The problem is that I took that to mean that I had to give EVERYTHING my very best and do so every minute of every day. That makes a person tired…very, very tired.

Who does that???? I’ll tell you: A crazy person does that. I never said I wasn’t crazy.

  • Who does that and sustains some kind of normalcy in life?
  • Who does that and maintains a strong sense of health and well-being?
  • Who does that and simultaneously is cautious about their motives so as not to strive for perfection, seek after man’s approval, or develop a NEED to be the best at everything all the stinking time?
  • Who does that and is seeking after God’s glory more than their own need to achieve?

Not this girl. I didn’t pull it off, friends. I mostly achieved my goals, and exceeded them in most instances, but the rest of the stuff went out the window. The important stuff.

And I’m paying for it now.

I have been working closely with the Lord in regard to this – for several years now. And just when I think I have let go of the need to achieve, I realize that without question, I am still hanging on.

  • I still want to be the best at what I do work-wise.
  • I still want to be the opposite of where I’m currently at fitness-wise – so bad I can taste it.
  • I still expect myself to give it my best – the difference now is that my best stinks a lot of the time because of how much I have burned myself out.

I’ve also found that I added in an extra pressure-of-sorts and I didn’t even realize I had been doing it until today: On TOP of trying to learn to surrender my over-achiever nature to the Lord, I started to develop an over-achiever mentality in that very endeavor.

I wanted to over-achieve when it came to surrender. (Told ya….C-R-A-Z-Y)

Let me explain it better: Constantly failing at the surrender piece of things was causing me angst and pressure internally because I felt I was letting God down. I felt I wasn’t “doing well enough” at the surrender thingie. I wasn’t “achieving” my goal of not trying to be so much of an over achiever any more.

Geeesh.

If that’s not an indicator that I have a problem, dear friends…well, I don’t know what is.

Here’s the deal: The flesh is strong. So is the mind and the heart.

I fail every day. I fail at trying not to fail. I fail at trying to be okay with failure. I fail at failing.

But I have already won because Christ gets me!!!

Jesus understands my little problems, my sinful nature, my “issues” – every last one of them.

And He loves me anyway. #beyondgrateful

So, instead of beating myself up for failing to relinquish control, failing to let go of being an over achiever, failing to “whatever”…today, I will just revel in the fact that my God understands me and wants the best for me.

And through the things that I am limited by right now, He will show His glory and might.

Through all that I cannot do, or fail to do right, or do too well (and self starts creeping in) and pick back up when I should be handing it over to Jesus, through ALL of THAT….God is in control.

And I believe that.

I have the fullest of faith in Him.

I know He has His plans and nothing I do or don’t do will stop Him.

He just wants for me to hand it over.

So this girl will continue to practice the beautiful art of waking up each day, and doing what I can, as I am moved by the Lord.

  • If He moves me to try to get on a treadmill, I will do it, but lose the expectations of meeting some type of goal for now.
  • If He moves me to let go of needing to exceed my results at work last month, and just be okay with doing a good job, I will do it.
  • If He moves me to sit still and listen, I will do so.

But this crazy girl does need your prayers. #thanksinadvance

Do you find yourself realizing that you need to relinquish control over something, yet persevere at the same time, and you simply don’t know how? Do you find that God asks for you to surrender the need to achieve all the time, but you aren’t sure when to sit still and when to give something your all? You are not alone,dear friend. It’s about Him and not about us, and sometimes all we can do is ask Him to magnify that one thing in our lives…the knowledge that it is all about Him and the trust that He will help us gain clarity as we seek more of Him and less of us.

You are not alone.

  • Let’s make our focus rest on Jesus, and not spend so much of our time trying to find our own perfect balance in how we should or should not be.
  • Let’s focus in on Him each day and ask Him to guide our steps and our lives instead of making so many plans.
  • Let’s give up being over achievers together and then watch God’s glory shine through it all!!! #BrighterbecauseofJesus

He has been waiting for it, after all. And He’s ready to embrace us in full if only we run to Him.

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39

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Three Positive Things to Say to Those Who are Suffering ~ Power Punch!

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A long time ago, someone shared with me that one of the most loving things we can do for others is to tell them what we need. It gives others the same opportunity to show grace and love and care that we ourselves have when they do the same for us. If we withhold, we rob others of that gift. And being able to give grace and help others in time of need is truly just that; a Gift.

So that’s what my last few essays have been about here on my little blog.

But make no mistake: I am not only talking about things that I have concluded that I need for myself. I truly believe this applies to so many people out there in the world ~ not just those who might struggle with an invisible illness, like my Fibromyalgia. There may be some deep and dark grief that is lodged firmly inside of their heart, or things that are causing internal stress that is wreaking havoc in their life. Most every person is fighting a battle of some kind that may be invisible to the naked eye.

By the way: I hate the “outta sight, outta mind” deal, if you haven’t noticed. I truly feel it glorifies God to celebrate all that we are grateful for, but also refuse to sweep under the rug that which is uncomfortable or ugly simply for convenience, selfishness, or whatever reason it is that is driving us to….sweep and hide stuff. And I do it all too often myself. Ick!

Jesus didn’t do only the fun stuff when it came to relationships when He walked this earth, friends. Why should we?

Others may have a “list” that is different than mine, but in most cases, I have found that it boils down to three main things ~ belief, compassion, and care.

In the last essay I shared 10 things that we might NOT want to say to someone struggling with an invisible illness or fighting a battle we cannot see, but that is very, very real. Today, as promised, I will share what I personally feel IS good to say in these situations.

Why only three things when it comes to the positive aspect of this?

Because to me, these three things hold more power all by themselves than even 100 of the things that we shouldn’t say do.  They are a Power Punch Trio of beauties that always make me walk away feeling cared for, and wanting to share all of myself with the person who has said these things to me and said them with a sincere heart. When it’s sincere, their follow-up actions always prove their words to be overall true.

As you read what I have shared here, please remember that as always, it’s about the intentions of the heart and know that these are simply the things that almost always scream to me “I love you and I care.” It is a personal feeling, a by-no-means-exhaustive list, and just what I have seen it boil down to as I have struggled these last few years with invisible ailments (physical, emotional, and spiritual). As I said, it can take on many forms and words can be tweaked here and there ~ but for me, it always has come down to these three things that make me actually feel I can share my burden with someone else. For REAL.

So here it goes….

“What you are dealing with is REAL.” In other words, “I totally believe you.” I can tell you without question, that especially when it comes to Fibromyalgia, we are treated as though it is not quite all the way “real”. But this holds true to many of the other invisible things that folks around us deal with as well. If we can’t see it, measure it, label it, or somehow control it, we seem to throw our hands up and either avoid it, or chalk it up to some other junk. We have to put meaning behind these words too – the person struggling with something like this needs to be convinced again and again that we believe them. Why? Because they are being bombarded with messages that are quite the opposite on a daily basis. They need to know that you believe them just as much as the friend of yours who just received a cancer or RA diagnosis. Invisible Illness, Grief, Pain or Stress from something that happened a while ago, but has rocked this person’s world and still is TODAY, all of this stuff is just as real as the stuff we can slap a label on ~ we have to dig to bring that which is not seen to the surface. Helping to encourage someone that you believe them is often the first step in allowing the ugly thorns that attack them relentlessly to come to the surface so they don’t have to bear the pain alone.

“It’s truly okay to feel bad about it sometimes.” Guilt for being sick all the time is not only self-imposed. In my case, I do take the guilt up on my own a lot of the time, but I must tell you that the medical community, the world at large, is not helping matters for those who struggle with chronic and invisible illness. We see the way that others are treated who have a clean-cut (albeit ugly) diagnosis, versus those of us who have one that is about a condition the medical field doesn’t even understand yet. We see it and cannot help but wonder why we aren’t given permission to feel bad about our pain, our brain fog, our limitations, while others who struggle with something that is more tangible for others to grasp can. We have to ultimately be able to give ourselves permission to feel bad about what we are going through most of the time. But it certainly helps when those closest to us do so as well. This holds true for stress and grief that people are walking around holding inside and dealing with all by their lonesome selves. If they only had permission to talk about it and even know that it’s okay to feel bad about it sometimes, maybe they could actually get on the road to healing and even helping others.

“I want to understand as best I can.” We stink as a society about being willing to deal with the ugly stuff in life. We want all the flowers and bows and pretty little wrappings to make things easier for us to swallow. Basically, we just want to have the party and not do any of the work to make it happen. I don’t know what world we think we are living in, but this fairy tale land we have made up for ourselves is a lie. If we truly want relationships that are lasting and real, we have to be willing to get down in there with people ~ share in the beauty AND the ugly, wade through the things we can easily understand and the things that puzzle us to no end. It’s about wanting to and trying to and being there even when we don’t. But so often, we fail to even express to others that we’d like to understand better what they are going through. Just allowing them to talk helps. But asking questions does too – it shows interest, desire, and an actual care and concern that goes beyond a stance of “I’m here for the ride” and moves right into, “I am sitting right next to you and not going ANYWHERE. Talk to me, brother!”

So those are my three things, dear friends. My three things that I think we can say to others who are struggling with stuff and may feel alone in that battle. My three things that I feel hold more power and punch than all the many little negative things we can try to avoid saying.

Our role is to find ways to encourage others and help them know they don’t have to allow the battle, illness, grief, stress to remain hidden. It can be brought to the surface, and dealt with, even if it takes a lifetime ~ together. We don’t have to bear it all alone and we most certainly don’t have to do that and hide all that is ugly from the rest of the world.

When we do, we truly aren’t doing others in our lives any favors.

MOST important is to remember that only God can truly heal us. Only God can truly understand us, friends. But He has placed us in one another’s lives to be encouragers to one another, to be iron that sharpens iron, to help one another bear the burdens (especially the ugly and invisible ones). There are times that we  have to face parts of things alone (just us with God), but if we make it a habit of bearing all of our burdens by ourselves, self starts to creep in and surrender becomes elusive.

Let us look for the invisible hurts and pains that our very own neighbor is contending with today. Let us search for the beauty and the ugly in the lives of those with whom we interact. And let us encourage each other that we are here for ALL OF IT….the long haul, the sickness and in health thing, the for better or for worse deal.

Because only taking the good parts and discarding all the rest makes for a petty little party. I want the real relationships, don’t you? I’ll take the Power Punch of true friendship and love over the petty party any day.

And that, is what makes me go to sleep at night feeling a lot lighter than when I woke up earlier that morning.

It wasn’t the cake, or the flowers, or the circus animals that did it. It wasn’t all the fun and frilly ribbons and presents ~ or the snacks or the treats or the music and dancing on the tables. No….not at all.

It was the Power Punch. 

And it didn’t even have to be spiked.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

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10 Things Not To Say to Someone With an Invisible Illness

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I will be sharing a post soon on the upside of this kind of stuff soon…the positive spin, the “how to help” and happy-go-lucky kind of stuff. Yes…something more along the lines of what we can say that helps those who struggle with invisible illnesses.

But so very often, I think what helps us get into the mindset of what we can do that is positive, is to start with what not to do. Sad, but true.

We all make mistakes…I know I do. We learn from experience. So often, we learn best when we, ourselves, see things from a first hand perspective. This is where I come in on this topic.

We all struggle to know what the right thing is and what to stay away from when we are living with someone who struggles with something we cannot even see with the naked eye, let alone…fully understand. This holds true for grief, internal battles we cannot see (that we all go through) and as I am discussing today, the invisible illnesses people suffer with, like my own Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.

Now that I have been living with an illness that is not outwardly visible in many ways, (but oh-so-very-REAL), I have seen first hand an entirely different layer of what so many in our world deal with ~ and they often feel alone.

Here are a few things I have learned that folks like myself don’t want to hear when struggling with an illness or battle that is unseen. These things do not help in most cases.

As with anything, you have to take it all within the context of the conversation – of course. But in most cases, I can say that when I hear such things as the list below, it not only doesn’t help me, but I walk away with more than just the battle I am already fighting due to my illness to contend with.

And I must say ~ This battle is enough.

“Well, at least you don’t have ___________” (insert something “real” here). This happens all the time, friends. We already know that we need to focus on what we are grateful for in the midst of the battle (WAR) we are fighting. We already know that we are more fortunate than many others and we still have much to be thankful for. We already know that this probably won’t kill us. But none of that makes it any less real to contend with. WE can say this, but when others say it TO us, it makes us feel small, diminished, and “less than.” The world has decided what it calls a “serious” illness and chalks the rest up to mere annoyances. The world screams this to the person living with the chronic and invisible illness. We don’t need our near and dear ones to do it too.

“Maybe you just need to exercise, eat differently, drink more juice, take better care of yourself, etc. Although this may hold true for many who have a chronic illness, doesn’t it also ring true for the majority of the people in the world? I can speak for myself that this girl was IN SHAPE prior to being struck down with Fibromyalgia! I was not lazy by any means when it came to exercise or even the way that I ate and took care of my physical health. And it still happened. This is a very sensitive area. Most folks who struggle with a chronic illness, especially one that not even the doctors fully understand are on a roller coaster constantly. They are trying every vitamin, every eating plan, every form of exercise, rest, sleeping techniques and helps known to man and under the sun. To imply that they could do better when they are struggling to fight their illness AND implement a multitude of coping skills, just adds to the defeat and exhaustion they probably already feel.

“You might want to go see a counselor.” First of all, your friend has probably already been down this road. Think back for a moment. Look at things like autism, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder. A couple of decades ago, these were invisible and non-measurable “illnesses” as well. The world didn’t accept that there was a physiological link in the mix. The world wasn’t even sure these things were real and not all in their heads. But now – today, we accept these things as very, very real. Fibromyalgia (my thing), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue, and other illnesses like these are still being viewed that way. The world  hasn’t caught up to us yet. And we know this. Most of us understand this and employ grace towards the rest of the world who doesn’t get it yet. We know that the world hasn’t figured out whether or not to believe it’s a real thing. But we want you to trust us that It is not all in our heads. A counselor may help, but exercise caution if you are going to suggest this to a loved one – the context needs to fit, as always.

“This too, shall pass.” I’m sorry, but give me a break. Most of us are struggling to surrender and accept, friends. The line between accepting our illness and full-blown resignation is very thin. To hear that it may magically disappear one day does few of us any good. What we need is to believe we can live with it better, not wish for or hope for some magic wand to be waved and take it all away. Sorry, but I am a realist. I am also a Christian and believe that God can heal us. That is part of my reality as a follower after Christ. But I look at the reality of many who suffered in the Bible and not a whole lot of it was “removed” from them while they walked this earth. Yes… most of us just want to learn how to cope as best we can if for some (crazy) reason, this never does pass. Do we promise a cancer patient that it will pass and go away some day? I hope not. The way we BEAT THIS THING is not to live every moment hoping that it will disappear, but find ways to live for Christ in the midst of it.

“Do you take vitamins and supplements?” Yes…let me go grab my suitcase and show you. Want some? I have plenty and am willing to share.” ‘Nuff said.

“You “should” _____________” If you suffer from a chronic, and invisible illness and have been around the block a time or two, please take this one off your list. You can say this all you want. But if not, then there is no place for “shoulds” in our vocabulary when we are talking with someone about their illness battles. Again, it implies they have not done enough. It implies that we assume they haven’t already been there, done that. And they probably have. I’ll be the first to say that there may be some things I haven’t tried in order to cope with this thing, but chances are, I have tried most things on the “should” list. Multiple times.

“Well, you seemed fine yesterday ~ what happened?” These things, dear friends – these crazy problems that come with these invisible illnesses or battles that we fight – well, they have a mind of their own sometimes. I can say without question, that I, for one, have serious control issues. I am one motivated individual when it comes to employing every coping (control) skill in my magic Mary Poppins-like bag when it comes to avoiding pain and suffering. And if I could wake up today and use all of my tricks and tools so I feel as good as I did yesterday, I would do it. No contest. (yesterday…all my troubles seem so far away…sing it with me!)

“So much is about attitude. Mind over matter, baby.” Yes. And my attitude just got flushed down the toilet right after you said that to me. Hee Hee.

“You just need to give it over to God.”  For the Christian suffering with one of these monster illnesses, this is one of the worst thing another Christian can say to us as a blanket statement. Again, if shared in the right heart and within the right context, it is more than okay, but so often, we hear this just the way I have written it above. Saying it this way and without framing it appropriately implies that we aren’t…that we haven’t been on our knees beseeching the Lord to teach us and refine us through this thing. It insinuates that we are suffering because we have failed to let God be God in some way. It may be true that we need to surrender and learn from God through our suffering ~ isn’t it true for us all? But to imply that in some way we are sick because of our lack of surrender is just…well, kind of sick in its own way, don’t ya think?

“You just have to persevere.” Yup. Gotta run the race and run it well. Also, need to surrender at the same time. I have to tell, you friends. Sometimes, we want to give up. Some days we need to give up. We probably won’t stay there. But we need a break today. Don’t you have days like that even without being assailed by an invisible illness? Part of the way that we run our race when we are dealing with the invisible realities (battles) in life is to step out to the sidelines and stop for a minute. Pep talks like this don’t help us. Hopping on Jesus’ back instead is what we really need to do sometimes.

So…there we go. Let me conclude by saying that all of the above apply to me. I am not only the receiver of such comments but the giver of them as well. I am not the only person suffering with something hard and invisible today. This list applies to me with my invisible illness as to things I don’t really appreciate hearing. It also applies to me when it comes to things I should keep in mind when I am talking with someone else who is suffering in some way. We can learn from one another how to better build one another up, encourage, specifically pray, and just truly be there.

In the next post, I will share, from my own perspective, what we CAN do that helps those who struggle with these invisible battles.

Because isn’t that what it’s all about? One of the most loving things we can do for one another is to share with them how to help.

Maybe they, in turn, will do the same for us some day.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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Thorns Have to be Pulled Out if We Want to Heal

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I’ve been feeling a pulling inside of my heart lately ~ a tugging. It’s a gracious little pull, but firm and unrelenting at the same time. God is nudging me ~ and that means I need to perk up my ears and listen.

He has something to teach me. It’s something that’s important to Him, therefore, it’s important for me.

It’s about Mercy.

What is mercy, anyway? Well, just for starters, dig on this….. (and this is just the definition that mankind has tried to come up with for it):

  • Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

And for those who like the one-two-punch-type-definitions ~ Try these on for size:

  • Leniency
  • Clemency
  • Compassion
  • Grace
  • Pity
  • Charity
  • Forgiveness
  • Forbearance

But God’s definition of mercy even goes far beyond all of that. We have only to look at the cross to see it ~ and then we get to gaze upon the EMPTY tomb and the blessed hope we have because of what Jesus Christ has done for us!

God doesn’t need our offerings, our sacrifices, our works. He wants, more than anything, for us to show His love and MERCY.

This is what it is to love in a merciful way ~ doing it especially when it’s hard.

This is mercy.

  • It goes far beyond something as simple as offering support or acceptance.
  • It moves right on past feel-good harmony and shows up even in the midst of conflict.
  • It entails blood, sweat and tears on our part sometimes and the pain is most assuredly not lost on us.

But who are we to be absolved of that when our own Lord and Savior allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross as He showed us all of His beautiful mercy?

Just who do we think we are to retain any kind of “right” not to offer up mercy to others?

It’s what He wants from us, friends. But we must ask Him for the power, lest we fail. ‘Cause mercy may be a gift, but not one that we offer up without a cost.

Showing true mercy can truly hurt.

  • So today, as I walk through my own kind of hard stuff, I shall ask the Lord to search my heart and pull out the thorns that are blocking it from being pliable and mercy-filled.
  • Today, I will ask Him to fill the spaces that are raw and possibly even bleeding from the wounds ~ fill them with His healing balm so mercy and love can flow.
  • Today, I will pray that my Savior will help me to remember that it’s not all about seeking to “do the right thing” when it’s hard, but to truly share His love and mercy and allow that to then flow out toward others.

And I covet your prayers, friends. Because this is one of those things that I think you might easily apply the “be careful what you pray for” little snippet to.

We shall not fear.

How about you? Is there anything in your life that you have started to approach with a sacrificial mode of thinking instead of asking Jesus to give you a heart of true mercy, compassion and grace? Do you find yourself struggling under the weight of the sacrifice and carrying a burden that seems to be getting heavier every day? Are you feeling empty, depleted, and like there is nothing left to pour into others? Is there a place God is calling you to display His mercy but you feel you are holding back for a multitude of reasons?

I can answer yes to all of the above, so just so ya know, you aren’t alone.

And that’s when I realize that I am doing it wrong. That’s exactly when I know that it’s time to stop working within my own power and turn it all over to Jesus.

This is part of what this really means, I think. This is part of how we show mercy instead of offering up sacrifices that over time just run dry. Relinquishing the sacrifice-and-serve-because-I-should-do-it mentality and simply let God move us one moment at a time.

This is how Jesus does things. And He will help us too if we simply ask. We will probably have to ask over and over again, because self creeps in often and tries to take the reins.

But He is faithful.

He is merciful.

And He will deliver.

So that pull inside of my heart and the one that you may be experiencing yourself right now? That little tug that is unrelenting? In a way, although it can be uncomfortable at times, it’s just another way the Lord is displaying His mercy towards us. He cares too much to allow the thorns to remain, friends. He loves us too much not to heal our infections in our hearts.

He has work to do in me. And I have so much to learn.

But I am ever-so-grateful that I have the best teacher a girl could ever ask for.

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13

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More than 24 More

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who decided she would get married, have three or more children, and live happily ever after by the time she was about 20 years old. She wanted to have her children young, so she would be able to be a hip and fun grandmother some day.  Her husband would be handsome, fun, and reliable (loyal). He would take care of her until the end of her days on this earth, never cause her harm, and make her feel loved. Always.

She had it all planned out: She would keep herself pure for her husband, always be beautiful and the perfect partner for him, never be mean or angry, and then, maybe she would be worthy of the love she knew he would provide for her. She didn’t want to mess this up; not before she met him, and certainly not after.

But she did. She messed up all of her plans.

Yes, something happened to the girl along the way. She searched for love in all the wrong places. She gave up thinking that she would ever find the guy – the one who would love her unconditionally, support her in the good times and the bad, and be her best friend at the same time.

She gave up.

So she threw in the towel. She screwed up in her search so badly, that she felt even more unworthy by the time that she actually got in touch again with the man that she had met at a younger age…the one who would be her husband.

She was happy when they reconnected again, but had already made the firm decision that marriage would not be in her future. She was done…finished. And besides ~ she was tainted goods. How could this guy ever love her for who she was now?

But God made it clear: this is the one. This is the one for her to marry, as much as she didn’t want to get married after all that she had been through.

So she did.

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I am so thankful for 24 years of marriage with my guy. But I have a newsflash for you, dear friends: He’s not THE ONE.

  • He does love me unconditionally.
  • He does take care of me in sickness and in health.
  • He is loyal, reliable, handsome and fun.

But he wasn’t THE GUY.

He is not the One that my soul was thirsting for. He’s not the One who could make me pure again after all the screw ups from my past. He’s not the One who will FOR CERTAIN be with me until I take my last breath.

But He is the one I was meant to marry ~ thanks be to God!

I’m so glad that God lent him to me. I’m so thankful that he is right next in line behind my Lord and Savior for me to love. I don’t always love him as well as Jesus would have it done, but I try.

And the girl does get to live happily ever after. And so does the boy. With The One!

#morethan24more #whoohoo #eternitywithChrist

As I look back over the years of our marriage, I find myself not only grateful, but enjoying a moment of clarity as well. There are two main things that I truly think have carried us through and drawn us closer together over the years, in spite of how we can be in different places regarding different things at the same time.

  • Our mutual and individual love for Jesus Christ.
  • Our desire to be good friends above all else.

The first thing has to be there, or we start placing our expectations upon our spouse for love and acceptance. We start living for that, versus allowing Christ to live in and through us. We start trying to glorify ourselves, worship our marriage instead of the Lord and what He wants to do through our marriage, and live for self instead of for Christ.

We start seeing “love” as what we get out of it instead of what it really is meant to be by God’s design.

And to me, the friendship thing is soooo important because all the other stuff fades anyway, friends. We get old; can ya dig? We stop being so sexy. We can become sick, even ugly in some ways. Just ask my husband how I look during one of my Fibro flares first thing in the morning…ha ha. (He probably won’t tell you though – cuz he loves me too much – so there!)

But because he is my next-best-buddy-second-only-to-Jesus ~ he simply laughs at my disarray and lack of charisma. And I love this about him a whole bunch. It’s one of my favorite things.

So Happy Anniversary to my best husband ever! You are my favorite friend on this earth and I am so grateful that you love me for who I am, even when I’m a messy monster.

God displays his sense of humor frequently in our marriage. But He also shows us His unending grace and mercy.

Once upon a time there was a girl who became, in many ways, quite the opposite of what she thought she’d be as a wife, a friend, a mother. God took her and married her to a wonderful man of God who showed her without question, Jesus and His grace, love, mercy and compassion in physical and tangible action on a daily basis. He showed her through this man that she can be loved, flaws and all. He made it clear that with the help of Jesus, she can love better than she ever thought possible too.

  • 24 years of beauty mixed in with some ugly too ~
  • Loving moments coupled with some scrappy, nasty conflicts ~
  • Impossible-to-verbalize joy and palpable painful seasons ~
  • Blatant imperfections all overridden by gracious and unmistakable gifts from God.

24 years of blessing and time to understand God’s kind of love a little bit better right here on earth – together.

And here’s to more than 24 more!

Above all, love each other deeply; because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

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