This I Love

ps46-10It took a disease for me to even begin to understand the parts of God’s word that have to do with resting in Him.

A disease, man. A really mean and ugly one, at that.

It is a thing so ugly, that it has turned my entire life upside down, made me feel like I am riding on a perpetual roller coaster (inside and out), and it LOVES to wreak havoc and create chaos at any time it pleases (grinning all the while). It even tricks me sometimes and makes me think it has left the building – for good, this time….only to return and do so with a vengeance. Ain’t nobody got time for that, but it still happens, yo. (bless my soul)

Yep. It took something that took over the wheel and took ME out of the driver’s seat. I’ll give it that much – it did do that. But that isn’t good either, because that is not who is supposed to be driving. So I looked for Him and asked Him to take over (finally).

To do that, it demanded that I fight for the right driver and part of that fight (most of it) comes in the form of surrender. That’s right –  not to the disease, but to the Lord. That right there is a HUGE battle. We are at war, in case you haven’t noticed.

And guess what? I’m only just learning about this surrender thing, man. I’m only just now learning.

The other day in my morning devotions, as I was reading chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes, this verse hit me like a ton of bricks:

One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.

When you have fibromyalgia, you feel like you are chasing after the wind most of the time – as you grasp and strain for any sense of normalcy in the midst of the topsy-turvy-control-freak-show-evil-grinning-master-of-chaos that this disease is, you strain yourself all the more. The struggle is real, no doubt about it. So much so, it’s truly hard to do it justice by trying to put it into mere words.

But more than that, it has put into perspective that much of what I was doing in my “healthy” life before was only a prettier version of the same thing.

  • All the striving…
  • All the performing…
  • All the reaching and coveting and the never-ending goal-setting and planning.
  • All the good intentions I told myself I had as I worked hard and tried to always give everything my all.

My false idols weren’t ugly ones, my friends. They were very pretty, and that was really deceitful. I’m sure I have some more of them right now as I write that are hiding from me.

My false idols were veiled behind false beauty – very convincing, I might add! I wanted to do my best to please others and myself. I told myself God was part of that too, but you see – He wants all of me, not just the leftovers. Maybe a little bit for God was in there, but a whole lot of self was still the reigning factor in the equation, dudes. It still is a lot of the time – but I’m onto myself now. That’s not a fun one to face. But truth is a beautiful thing.

My desire for fitness was not just about being healthy (the good thing), but also about having control over something – being in charge – perpetuating an illusion that “I can still do this and do it well.” There’s good in that too, but it can quickly cross over the line from being a good thing to take care of our bodies, the temples of the Lord, to becoming a false idol and a control mechanism and in some way…taking His place.

We may reach our goals in whatever it is we are striving to do, but if we cross that line, we are chasing after the wind. I did that.

None of these “good things” apart from God are lasting in the face of eternity. Not one.

Struggling, though? WOW. When we struggle and it seems we can’t grab hold of a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g at all – that EVERYTHING is out of our reach? Like….

  • The ability to even get a good night’s sleep…
  • The possibility of predicting whether we will function even halfway well today…
  • The knowledge that we have our situation or illness or circumstance at least under-control enough that we won’t  have to give up our job, stop seeing friends, and be able to keep the disease from growing and taking everything else over and smothering us…
  • Knowing if we can even walk well today, let alone go out and hike or jog!

In the face of that unknown and the inability to grab hold of anything and hang onto it, we end up with nothing but a feeling that we have nothing. But that nothingness – if we can begin to understand that God wants our all, even if a lot of stuff has been stripped away – we start to find out that’s what He wanted all along.

I tried before to give Him the me who also had it all. But stuff was clouding up the picture and now that I have turned into what seems like a big bag of mush,  it feels like He is finally getting more of what’s left of me than what I ever offered before. Weird.

And hear this one, because it is true – when it comes to the things of this world, none of it is ours to claim anyway. Not a drop.

We think we have all these rights – these rights to health, to happiness, to prosperity. But if we are followers after Christ, who are we to name it and claim it? Maybe it’s not ours to have! Sometimes He gives us seasons of prosperity, and there’s nothing wrong with that if it doesn’t take His place. But if not, I ask you –  Why should anyone be better than our Lord and Savior, who suffered, even to the point of death for our sakes? Why?

If you are someone who has figured out how to do that – how to walk through life without some form of suffering ever happening to them, but still not allow it to become, in some way, a false idol, I’d love to know your secret.

Maybe it’s an Annie thing. Maybe I just haven’t learned yet how to be content in abundance or seasons of prosperity. Maybe that will be coming down the road. And maybe not. Because…Annie.

But the Lord IS teaching me a lot about contentment within my own form of lack. And let’s be honest – I still have much. I haven’t lost everything. But the lack and the hard that I am going through is real and He is using that to make me understand all the more about HIM. And for that, I am very grateful.

I don’t have this surrender and contentment thing mastered – like I said, I’m just starting to learn. Where I struggle the most is in the things that would seem easy – not the big stuff.

The big stuff?

  • I have accepted that I have a disease and there is only so much I can do to make it easier to live with.
  • I  have accepted that God can work all things together for our good and often, He uses ugly things like this to do that very thing.
  • I have accepted that God can  heal me if He so chooses – in His timing – but that if He never does remove my thorn from my side, He has good reason.

I’ve accepted these big things.

But I struggle in the small and minute – the finer (edgier) details:

  • Do I continue to allow things into my life that cause me to still strive? Or do I give up those things all together because….Annie, man!
  • Do I continue to dream for things, or am I to ONLY set my eyes upon finding joy in the moment and dream big for eternity and that alone?
  • Do I try this new treatment (again) or is that just chasing after the wind too?

I don’t know the big answers to these smaller questions in my life yet, but the Lord encourages me that His teachings are resonating with me as He reminds me that the fact that I’m okay with not knowing is a dang good start. Go figure!

I am learning friends – for the very first time in my life – the true VALUE of rest. Literal rest and what it means to rest in Him.

He is giving me something I  have never been able to say I really had before – no, not ever! A semblance of contentment EVEN WHEN my circumstances cause distress – it’s about contentment in HIM. I will never find it in my circumstances.

  • Finding joy in Him and who He is!
  • Fixing my eyes upon eternity rather than the things of this world.
  • Helping others who struggle with their own kind of hard.
  • Learning how fragile life really is and that it’s not about how strong we can make ourselves appear, but how big and powerful HE is through our struggles and weaknesses.

And enjoyment of the little things in this earthly life while I’m still here – wow! Has that stuff ever come into full focus for me now!

Things like the joy of being able to hold a puppy or hug one of my young adult children or my husband, even though I feel like my body (and mind, at times) is about to crack all over the place like an egg. I can still do that! And that is GOOD!

I’m able to revel in the beauty now of what it looks like to just be….to be in the moment, even if I am covered in hot water bottles and blankets.

I now what it’s like to not be able to strive and in many ways, be okay with that!

  • To not be able to go out and jog to release my anxiety bothers me, but it also gifts me the chance to putter around in my garden instead.
  • To not be able to know if I can dream big without making that dream become a false idol. is actually a blessing in many ways.
  • To not be able to know if I can even continue to work next month used to distress me, but now, I’m just going with it.
  • To not be able to know if I can meet for coffee tomorrow has become something I’ve learned to accept instead of cry over.
  • To not be able to know if I can go to the family reunion, the party on Friday, church services on Saturdays, the errand I need to run on Wednesday – all of that forces me to focus on what can happen today and makes me look for the beauty in the little things in front of me. It makes me seek His face instead of all of these other false certainties.

I GET to rest in Him and what I do know about Him all the while.

That is what I now hold in my hand – and it is FULL.

And better yet, He holds ME in His mighty hands.  And He isn’t letting go.

And this I love.

rest

 

A Significant Speck

th (2)

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4

I am at a crucial stage right now, I think – in regard to how I perceive myself. For a while I was standing at the crossroad, but now I think that I have started down the path I am supposed to take. I think so, at least.

I don’t know this path well – I am a little fearful and trepidatious. But that’s because I am only human. I’m a small human with a big God in my life though, so I know it will be okay.

This path is vast. It’s a bit foggy and misty right now, and there are many trees along the dirt road. There are no other people walking it with me, although at times, I can see others out there in the distance. I can’t tell if they are on a different part of the path, yet far away, or if they are on a completely different one. But I know they are there.

So for the most part, I am alone on this part of my journey. But not really alone. God IS with me. And that’s part of why I’m here.

  • He is teaching me that He is always with me, no matter what.
  • He is teaching me that He is all I truly need.
  • He is teaching me that even good things can be used by us to form our identity and sense of significance.
  • He is teaching me and it doesn’t always feel good. But He is faithful and will NOT leave my side.

This long and winding, dirt-floored, tree filled, foggy and misty, not bright, but not totally dark path makes me feel tiny. I’m but a speck on the road. There are no signs, no landmarks, no hints whatsoever of where it leads or if there’s even a final earthly destination.

This path is all about the journey that God has set out before me. It’s about walking it with HIM.

I did see a flower on the side of the road the other day. One, lone, white flower growing up out of a log that I sat on for a bit of rest. I stayed for hours and gazed upon that beautiful thing. It smelled good and was a small, bright light in the middle of all the gray and mundane.

I believe it was a gift. But I also believe that God doesn’t want there to be too many distractions on this journey. I am meant to embrace what it is to be tiny. I am meant to feel alone, but know that I’m not. I am meant to venture into the unknown with the One who does know all. I am meant to learn about what it is to be small, but significant because of HIM.

Sometimes, I learn about how tiny I am because I can’t escape it – there’s a lot in my life to cause me to feel humiliation right now, if I allow that in. But then I remember not to stay in that place – because I can “boast in my weaknesses” with His permission – and His “power will then rest on me.”

It’s because of this that I have been given the gift of that in the face of my humiliation – HIS GRACE.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12: 9

I am also learning about how important it is to embrace how very small we are and how tiny this earthly life is by gazing upon His creation and our speck of a spot we take up in it. That kind of stuff really used to make me feel….insignificant. But I am learning now that it makes us see, all the more, the MIRACLE it is that HE created little ol’ us.

  • My smallness and my speck of a life is a gift.
  • I get to hide underneath His mighty arms.
  • But He sees me and He LOVES me.

The more tiny I feel in the face of the big stuff all around me –

God’s creation ~ the mountains and the oceans and the stars and the heavens and the universe and then….just me.

A vast path in an unknown and sometimes scary wilderness, upon which there are few other people at all and I really am just a tiny little speck venturing into….I don’t know what.

A chronic disease that is SO BIG that it reminds me every single second of how very fragile my body (and even my mind) really is and threatens to smother my soul too and makes me feel at times like I’ve disappeared ~

All of that and more it has caused me to have nothing but one choice: Disappear completely, or embrace it and ask God if He has a purpose in all of it.

He has answered me, and I am so grateful. I found the answers in His word. I find out more about what the answer is meant to do in my earthly life as I walk with Him every day.

Me. The speck that seems insignificant, but isn’t – because of Him.

With Him. The Author of all Creation – and the One who is writing this story too.

I have found joy in the midst of the things that make me unhappy, and most of that is because instead of fighting against this disappearing act, I am actually finding out more about what it means to have almost my ENTIRE EXISTENCE be about my relationship with Jesus.

  • No, I haven’t lost my family – thank you Lord!
  • No, I haven’t lost my home – thank you Lord!
  • No, I am not living in poverty – thank you Lord!

I haven’t lost it all. But I did have to give up SO VERY MUCH of what was still (even when I didn’t realize it) forming a lot of my “identity.”

  • The dream job that I loved.
  • Getting to be consistently involved in my church community (in person).
  • Jogging, hiking, going to fun get-togethers.
  • Shopping, doing lots of projects, being the life of the party.
  • Feeling GOOD IN MY OWN SKIN consistently – most of the time!
  • Having a sharp brain and a quick wit and never struggling to concentrate or focus.
  • Having choices – about which paths to take.

Many of those things are not bad things, friends. It’s okay if you are in a season in which the Lord has blessed you with them, and as long as you aren’t letting them take His place, it’s okay to embrace them and be thankful for them.

But for me, He is teaching me something right now and had to remove some stuff to cause that to happen. I’m a stubborn girl and I play tricks on myself sometimes. God knows that about me. I don’t think that I was trying to sin by any stretch of the imagination in loving it when I had those things in my life. I just know that the Lord wants to help me understand something that we can only understand as He allows certain things to be stripped away and takes away the crutches and distractions.

I’ll tell you now – it’s hard to realize that you really ARE just a speck, at first. It’s hard to embrace your smallness. It’s difficult beyond belief to make peace with how very tiny you are in the big God picture of things. But once we get to where we start to feel a peace about it – once we find that there is SIGNIFICANCE in being one of God’s tiny specks, and that HE is the One who is BIG, it is so freeing.

Chains have been broken. I knew that before, but I didn’t know  how to walk in it.

The battle has already been won, and God doesn’t need my help for that.

I am small, but the Lord still has plans for me. Even if no one ever sees them come to fruition but Him.

I still have so much to learn. As I said, I have only just fully realized what it’s like to move past just knowing what I know – that I am a small and tiny speck in the midst of God’s creation and the humiliating things in life that make us realize how small we are – to starting to LIVE it and walk it out with Him on the gray and vast path into the unknown.

But, He is with me. He is teaching me that my significance is not MINE. It is all about Him and how He loves me. It is all about the purpose HE has for ME to bring glory to HIM. It is about how He uses the smallest and most insignificant-seeming things to work out His will.

He doesn’t need me. But He still chooses me. I am a significant speck because Jesus truly loves me. He has numbered every hair on my head. (Luke 12:7) I matter to HIM.

I want for Him to matter to me more than I matter to myself. And that’s where I still have much to pray over and learn about.

  • That’s why I’m on this path.
  • That’s why God is teaching me about specks in the midst of His vast creation.
  • That’s why I am so grateful today, because at least I’m starting to feel a peace about it.

The smaller I get and the more the world around me starts to disappear, including my own mind and body, the more magnified He becomes in my view. And that is worth seeing and experiencing, even when it’s painful.

Because He is beyond lovely. He is vast and large, but not too Big to come down and walk by my side.

He is the whole point of it all. He came down for us – the significant specks that He created.

HE IS.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11

black-and-white-flower-background-1357801864i2h

 

 

 

Dear Fibro: I’ve Got News for You ~ I’m Beautifully Broken

I was recently challenged to write a letter to my Fibromyalgia – some of this you may have heard me already talk about on this blog, friends, so if it seems redundant to you, just know this is part of a challenge for a new support group I am privileged to be a part of now. But the idea is to acknowledge what you used to be and what Fibro stole from you all in the process. The ultimate thing that I wish to acknowledge, is that although sometimes I feel like Fibro has beaten me – it has not. You know, it went into a remission of sorts last summer and fall – it came back with a vengeance. God is greater than Fibro – I can be whole in spite of the holes it has punched in my life, my body and my mind. And it’s all because of Jesus, friends. He makes ALL THINGS NEW!

hole-in-my-heart

Here is my letter:

Dear Fibro: I’ve Got News for You ~ I’m Beautifully Broken

I used to be “that girl.” You know – the one who was just chock full of energy, light, happiness, joy – the one who was always right there in the mix of it all cheering others on. I was a cheerleader ~ a coach ~ a leader of sorts. But always the kind of leader whose greater purpose in life was to lift others up. And the energy to do so was never ending.

I still am –DEEP within my soul.  It’s just changed now. Sometimes I feel really sad about it, but then I have to zoom back out and remember – I am being made into something new – something better than that girl that I once was. It just hurts in the process.

Just because you can’t jump and do cartwheels, doesn’t mean it changes the core of who you are. It can seem that way, but it’s a lie.

You see – things come upon us to wreak havoc in our lives-  they give us a run for our money, yo. That’s what you’ve done here, Fibro. You weren’t even invited, you know. You are a bad house guest. And not to be rude, but I have tried and tried to make things work out for you to be around, but you just keep on trashing the place.

NOT OKAY!!!!

So I have a few things to say to you. It’s time I tell you the truth of the matter. It may be hard to hear, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. You can handle it, right? (You are just sooooo strong, eh?)

You see – as I said –  you showed up uninvited in the first place. But because I try my best to have the most positive outlook  I can, I tried to make things work with you. Then, when it got tough, I talked to you about it all. You did not LISTEN. You just got worse. It’s as though no matter what I do to make things work out okay – you being here – you aren’t satisfied with that at all! You just want to keep creating drama and destruction everywhere. What’s left to destroy? I shouldn’t even ask that, I guess, because I KNOW that you will try to find something.

Let me tell you what my life was like before you showed up. My house was clean, man. It was sparkling and pretty and everything was in order. I wasn’t rich, by any stretch of the imagination – not in the way of material things. But I was rich in the fullness of life. I had my dream job – coaching a team of others in their personal and career growth and development. I was living out my greater purpose in every way – through work, and in my personal life. I was the person who “got things done” when no one else could seem to squeeze it into their schedule. AND I LIKED IT.

I was running/jogging 5-7 miles a day – the ONLY thing I asked for that was just for me – myself – my alone time. And I LOVED IT. I could run up mountains, hiking with my family, go to every event I was invited to, be in the middle of everything when there were noisy get-togethers and parties, TOTALLY focus on all that I was doing without losing track of anything and being able to REALLY ENGAGE with others.

I was that girl. And I liked her.

Then you came. You hit me like a ton of bricks.  I know that makes you smile, but wait for it. Like I said, I’ve got news for you!

First, the pain all over my body. No problem – I can deal with that. It sucks, but I have been through worse things than this. You wouldn’t even tell me your name at first – (sheesh, don’t you have any social graces at ALL?) but I knew you were someone who had a ton of issues and you weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I tried to work through it – your unwanted arrival – but you kept yelling at me and making it worse. Whatever! 

Then, my mind. You took it, man. You confused me and took away my focus. I couldn’t keep my dream job. I certainly couldn’t jog any more. And then, if that wasn’t bad enough, you even took my ability to sit in church and worship with my family away half the time or more. You made me hate crowds, and lights and noise – you  made me have an aversion to my favorite thing – PEOPLE. You stink! I DO NOT LIKE YOU.

But get this: I have figured one thing out after three unrelenting years of this. I may not be able to make you leave – I may not be able to control you – I may have to admit, if I’m being honest and truthful, that your presence has changed things and I can’t fix that. You know that I’ve tried. But I have NOT been defeated.

YOU. HAVE. NOT WON. I know you’ll keep on trying. But I have a far more powerful ally on my side.

You broke everything – from the inside out. You smashed it to pieces. Sometimes, I sit there and I look at the shards of glass all around me and I weep – I’ll admit it. And I know you like to laugh at me when I do that – I know (sick and sad).

But guess what? Inside – you know that weeping and that crying out honestly to the Lord that I do – you KNOW that means you haven’t fully won.

Because you can’t take away the Lord’s ability to make me whole. You just can’t.

Sometimes, I don’t know whether to step forward or not – even a little bit. I’m on to your scare tactics –  they aren’t lost on me at all! I know you like to paralyze me and lie to me and tell me that I have to sit still, curled up in a fetal position, lest I step on the shards of what I once was and get cut to pieces.

What’s a little blood, anyway?

Other times, you try to trick me and make me think that if I could just at least TRY to glue some of the glass back together into a semblance of a solid structure, that it will mean that I am whole again. But I can see the edges of ugly when I do that – and there are holes there. All the water I then try to fill inside the pieced-together structure just seeps right out. It just doesn’t work. Ain’t nobody got time for that anymore.

But I have finally reached the point where I’ve figured something out – it’s about surrender. And it’s about truly WINNING.

It’s not for me to fight the battle alone – the one against YOU, dear Fibro. It’s not for me to fill the hole in whole and do a messy job of it at that! It’s not for me to constantly fight, totally give up, or remain paralyzed all on my own. It’s about moving through all the murky and muddy and stew like states of existence that continue to change with my God who is NEVER CHANGING!

I don’t have to do this alone. And THAT is my secret weapon that you KNOW you cannot touch.

It is the love and support of my Savior – Jesus – and others, like through my support network – that you cannot take from me.

You can steal jobs- you can steal memories and concentration and focus- you can even rip me apart limb from limb and fill what’s left with shards of pain – but you cannot choose to fill that ONE HOLE INSIDE with yourself that keeps me from being whole. That is RESERVED. You are blocked. You know you can’t go in there as hard as you try.

Because Jesus is there. My  family and friends (the real ones) are there. Who I really AM is there. And it’s NOT YOURS.

I’m not going to say that I never go into a dark place because of  you – who wouldn’t? But I know enough now to know that I have to just move through it and that I don’t have to do it alone. And when I emerge from the darkness – after crying out to my Lord and Savior? He has filled that hole in whole with HIS light, HIS love, HIS power, and HIS strength.

And it makes me be able to go on, oh, ugly friend. It makes me be whole again.

With or without you, I am whole. And it’s all because of Jesus. Maybe “that girl” was never REALLY whole to begin with. That’s why I can still say I am grateful for the mess that has been created as a result of you. But you don’t get the credit. No….you don’t.

God is creating a beautiful mosaic out of the shards and fragments of my old self. He is making all things new in SPITE OF YOU, ugly Fibro friend. In spite of myself too. And that is wonderful.

There is beauty in the ugly – you didn’t know that, did you? And you can’t stop Him – I will no longer try to step into the shoes of being the artist and Creator of the masterpiece mosaic- Someone else is doing that. Someone ALL-POWERFUL AND DIVINE!

 It’s not my job. I know the world screams at us to the contrary – self-reliance, and all that bull. But I know better.

 I am just here to seek Him through it all – to seek others who go through suffering or other struggles such as myself. To think outside of myself as much as you try to get me to think only about me.

That fills the hole in whole. And you ain’t got nothin’ on that, friend.

I’m beautifully broken – and the fact that I am turning that brokenness over to the Author of all Creation, makes me more whole than I ever could have been before – when I was “that girl.”

And since I know that you will now get really, really angry – know this as well: during those times where all I can see is shattered glass, the Lord reminds me – even when it still doesn’t feel very good – of the truth. That truth is that He has already won the greatest battle of all – for our sakes. That truth is that this is not my story, but His! That truth is that those shards and fragments of what I used to be are being used by Him and HAVE A PURPOSE. That truth is that He is creating a mosaic out of my life so as to bring glory to Him and hopefully, draw others to Himself.

That truth is that He is NEVER changing. But, thanks be to HIM, He will always change our stories and make them His own if we let Him.

He will make a mosaic out of the shattered glass – and I just have to stop trying to put it back together to a semblance of what it once was. He knows better. He is meant to fill the hole in whole.

It may sting. I may not know how to take the next step without getting cut, even. But for this girl, I know that I have to STOP trying to glue everything back together and let the Author of all creation, My Savior, DO HIS WORK.

He is bigger than me. And He is most certainly creating something far more beautiful than the vase all these pieces of glass used to signify in my own little life. HE MAKES ALL THINGS NEW, FRIENDS!

And it’s all because of the blood of Jesus and His love for us that any of this can ever make any sense.

Thanks be to God.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

2 Corinthians 4:15-18
For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

IMG_3609

 

 

 

Use Your Gifts

use-your-gifts-2

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

I have come to the conclusion that is is BAD…very, very BAD for us not to open and use the gifts God has given us. They are given to us so that when we USE and SHARE them, it can possibly benefit others. They are given to us so that when we USE and SHARE them, it brings glory to God! That matters, folks. More importantly, that matters to GOD!

So let me expand upon that a bit differently, Annie-style.

God has given each of  us various gifts – spiritual gifts, as well as special talents and abilities. Part of why the Lord made each of us different is because He wants us to USE those gifts to edify others and connect to others – ultimately, as a way to shine HIS light to the world and spread HIS truth and HIS love.

These last 6 months (or longer) that I have stepped away from this community and blog have been NO BUENO for this chick feelings-wise. BUT……..I had to do it to do some reflecting and such. As you know, I wrote (practically every day) for the first year or so after I created this blog…and I stinkin’ LOVED IT, yo!

Why? Because I was using those gifts and connecting to others while doing so.

AND………..

Because, like I have always said – writing out or sharing out my heart and how Jesus is working in my little life (this utterly messy and sometimes mixed-up gal), does my heart good and is a form of worship of my Savior, in my opinion. Sharing it, causes me to live more vulnerably, and also gets me to think outside of myself as I have been reflecting on the inside. It is beyond therapeutic – it is something that causes me to TRANSFORM each and every time I share something with YOU. And if it helps even just ONE PERSON, each little thing I share, that is something that makes my heart smile. Big time! And it’s ALL BECAUSE OF GOD.

So, back to the story.  I pulled away for a while to reflect. Something just wasn’t quite right in my life. I took a slight turn and started to go down a little bit of a different road – a new adventure – it’s still a work in progress. As I embarked upon this new journey, I had to give my ALL to that change and transition – learning curves aren’t fun for this girl, but necessary and if you know me at all, I had to FOCUS my ALL into learning these new things. I had to give up some of the things that mattered MOST to me as I was in such a new transition, completely foreign to me. And it was important to do that as we are called to do our work as unto the Lord.

But the absence of getting to do this for a while also gave me some time to think and reflect on it.

It gave me time to MISS YOU, friends.

It gave me time to realize it is a HUGE part of my time with God – the time I spend sharing with others.

And that is GOOD.

So, I have returned, and I have some new ideas on how I will expand the WAYS that I share my heart for Jesus, for the beauty and the ugly stuff in life, for the mundane and the intense things we walk through on this earth, and for the BEAUTIFUL HOPE THAT IS ALWAYS PRESENT as we walk through such things together in Christ. I will be sharing those on the blog very soon.

But for now, here is a little background for you on the MAIN THING I have learned during this time of reflection! Again, in Annie-style, so this will take a paragraph or two to explain…

I have been really praying and working through the concept of contentment with the Lord. There’s a LOT to it that I won’t go into detail about yet, but call it sufficient when I say, there is a DIFFERENCE between walking around not being content because we covet things that aren’t for us, and knowing….. just KNOWING that we have something inside (Holy Spirit, anyone?) creating somewhat of a HOLY discomfort.

It’s all about the PEACE, YO!

When the LATTER REASON is causing that unsettled feeling – it will grow and grow if we DO NOT LISTEN.

I know this, because it’s what has been happening to me and I’ve FINALLY been able to identify it.

You see, I always err on the side of assuming it might be the first reason – the fleshly one- and then I have to pray about it and test that out to be sure it’s not just a case of me not being obedient or that maybe I am just being spoiled, coveting, or ungrateful as I go through this unsettled feeling.

That’s what I’ve been doing this past 6 months. That, and a WHOLE LOTTA PRAYING, dudes!

I have concluded with no SHADOW OF A DOUBT that yes, I am a sinner (nothing new there), and yes, sometimes I want things that aren’t mine to have (not a news flash either), BUT, that I am NOT using my gifts God gave me to the fullest, or even TRYING to, for that matter.

Again: That = No Good, Man.

The Holy Spirit is telling me (and has been for quite some time)…that no, it really is ME telling you this and you will remain uncomfortable as HECK until you DO something about it.

So I’m going to.

This book I am reading right now nailed it: I had prayed and prayed for the Lord to lead me to understanding this inner conflict I have been going through. I had been reading and reading in Proverbs, and many other parts of the Word about all of this. I kept coming back to a passage in Romans that I will place at the end of this for you.

And then this book fell into my hands (another story in and of itself).

Here is the statement that I could never express, but that describes COMPLETELY the struggle I am talking about in just a couple of short sentences (not Annie-style, nope):

“There is a big difference between wanting what we don’t have just for the sake of wanting more and wanting to do something else because we know, deep down, it is where we are meant to be. It is often difficult to strike a balance between a healthy longing for something more and choosing peace, no matter our circumstances. After all, how are we supposed to find our sweet spot when we are stuck in a job or town or situation we don’t love? How do we remedy the tension between choosing contentment and striving for more?” Living Well Spending Less ~ Ruth Soukup

BAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can be grateful for what I have and choose to bloom where I’m at, but AT THE SAME TIME know that I am supposed to do something more. Those things CAN co-exist and I am living proof of it. I would venture to guess that many of you are as well.

It’s not always either/or.

We are CALLED if we are followers of Jesus Christ and COMMANDED to use our gifts to build up and edify the church and be light in a lost and dark world. If we leave the gifts unopened or unused, that is so utterly sad and Such. A. Waste.

No more for this girl.

As always, it’s a work in progress – finding the gifts we are called to use for the Lord’s glory, pulling them out of the dusty box if they have been hidden for a while, and getting them to work well again. We have to find our way – try new things – live them out in vulnerable and risky ways and let the Lord make them hum when He so desires.

But we gotta use them.

Remember today, dear friend, that you have gifts and you will WILT if you do not use them. There are people out there that NEED to benefit from that. There are people out there who NEED to know someone is there. It’s part of having a servant heart and being a bond servant of Christ. And if you don’t know what yours are, seek HIM and have a heart to find out. It may take a while, but He will answer!

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.Romans 12: 6-8

your-talent-is-gods-gift-to-you_what-you-do-with-it-is-your-gift-back-to-god-srqqkb

 

 

Home Sweet Home

IMG_4498

My beautiful father-in-law, Alden, went home to be with Jesus, friends. And we will miss his presence here with us on earth, for certain.

BUT….

At the same time that we grieve OUR loss, we are rejoicing too ~ because we KNOW, that we KNOW, that we KNOW – he is with his Lord and Savior right now – and for that we rejoice!

Bless the Lord, oh my soul!

I couldn’t sleep last night, because I kept writing this poem in my head as I was laying in bed. I got up this morning and the rest of it came together, so I want to share it with you today.

If you are grieving the passing of a loved one who is also a Christian, friend ~ grieve away ~ and remember to give your grief over daily to the Lord. He will comfort you. He will be with you. He will place you under His mighty wing of refuge. It’s okay to grieve. We just need to do it with the help of our Savior.

And as you grieve, know too the peace ~ that only the Lord can truly provide. Know too, the promise of getting to be in our true home with our Savior when we leave this tiny dot in the universe to go home. Know that your loved one who accepted Christ as his Savior is there now. He is right there with Him…..

With GOD.

 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

Home Sweet Home

He gets to run ~He gets to jump

He gets to dance and sing.

He gets to see ~ His shining face

And all the light He brings.

He gets to laugh ~ He gets to hug

And tears? He’ll never cry!

He now has wings ~ And gets to soar

Throughout the heavenly skies.

He gets to kneel ~ He gets to bow

He gets to worship in praise.

He gets to shout ~ “Thank you, Father!”

For eternity ~ all of the days.

He gets to live ~ his real life now

Days of adoration, joy and love.

His Almighty Lord ~ His Risen Savior

He meets Him, up above.

He gets to live ~ he gets to abide

Next to God and all His saints.

Where there’s no grief, and no, not war

Only praise, devoid of complaints.

He gets to do this ~ ’cause of mercy

From our Jesus, he is now there.

He loves His precious ones ~ all His children

He’s counted each and every hair.

And he is one  ~ he is God’s child

And His Father called unto him…

Come home, my child” ~ it’s far past dark

Into the light, where there’s no sin.

He gets to shed it ~ that broken body

And fly home, as it should be.

No longer encumbered ~ no longer trapped

God’s face now, he’ll always see.

For You have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living.

I believed, therefore I spoke,“I am greatly afflicted.”I said in my haste,“All men are liars.”

 What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
 I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people.

 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.

Psalm 116:8-15

41fc6f540e84d56d920d9733d71e5c06

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of the Story about My Dad

11167904_10202644834720917_2592723387956722474_n

Hi Friends.

I have a story to tell you – not really a STORY, but something I really need to share with you today.

It’s about my dad. It’s about me. It’s a story about things that happen in our lives that form, change or solidify things that we value (or don’t) in life. It’s also about Jesus.

As always, it’s about Jesus.

Recently I felt the need to apologize to my face book friends, because I had found myself sharing not only big picture things about deception and corruption I see in our world but specific things about our current presidential candidates. That is not something that was coming across well, and it is probably largely because of two things:

  • My own anger and emotion was coming through.
  • All of us right now are feeling a bit emotional about this election in the United States and the candidates especially.

In light of that, I feel strongly that many of the folks who are on my face book and also read my blog should know a few things about me. I want for you to know where I was coming from.

BUT – I also do NOT want to minimize that I have still been in the wrong to allow my anger to seep in to what I share.

So please know that. This is about giving folks a little bit of insight that they may never have had before in regard to myself and what drives me to share things.

My father served in the United States Air Force for almost 20 years. He was dedicated to this country and the constitution, upholding the law, protecting us from evil things and corruption. He sacrificed a lot – including ultimately, his own life.

There were many things the man just could not tell us – and he told me that. There were also things he could tell me, later in life – because I too, worked for the government with a certain level of secret security clearance. The few things he COULD tell all of us hit us like a ton of bricks (it did me, at least). You could see it in his eyes how very important it was that we remember these things.

  • Things like what totalitarianism and dictatorships can mean for people.
  • Things about terrorists – their ideologies, philosophies and goals to destroy.
  • Things about the methods of Satan and all the very real things that enemy seeks to do to human kind.
  • Things that were going on even back then – under the surface – in our very own government – that our current President at the time was fighting AGAINST.

He taught us about the good things too. This was not a man led astray easily. He was (and I truly don’t say this just because he was my dad) BEYOND INTELLIGENT. He was wise. He sought after Jesus with all his heart, mind and soul. Like most of us, he had his times in which he became a bit lost – or couldn’t find a good church to attend, and even fell away a bit in his relationship with His Savior.

But he always came back. Especially toward the end of his life. He told me the last time that I saw him how very important Jesus was and our relationship to him. He told me that I might go through times that were extremely dark and difficult but to rely upon JESUS through it all. He told me that is the place he was in – after all he’d seen and experienced – and that he saw how easy it was to get caught up and grief stricken about the darkness we see around us.

He told me to always remember during those times the following two words: BUT GOD.

He had almost a photographic memory, so not much was lost on him. He looked at all sides of things and made up his own mind as to where he would stand firm for himself. He was not brainwashed. He carried experiences and things with him he couldn’t share with anyone close to him – only with Jesus.

So, I feel very strongly about a few things in regard to national security and especially terrorism. I feel strong feelings regarding corruption – in government and in other leaders in our world too. I won’t go into that at this time, but trust me – I have my reasons.  And they are SOLID.

But more so – I feel compelled at times to bring to the surface the things I see in the enemy – the real enemy – who hides in the shadows and tries to trick us. Always, Christ’s truth and love is what is most important to me. But sometimes we have to be willing to go deeper into the mud before we can free ourselves from the pit.

Lt. Col James Michael Basile was killed in El Salvador in 1987. Ironically, although he was working there to deal with some corruption issues and saw and dealt with first hand what the terrorists in central america were trying to do, he died on a routine rescue mission in a helicopter.

He was in his early forties.

Right before he died (a couple of months prior) he had come home to us in Panama for a rest. The man was despondent. He had just seen something horrific happen (due to terrorists) that I cannot even repeat here.

Friends of his died. Families broken. Human sensitivities to such things only can withstand so much. He was pretty tapped out.

But he still got up.

He got up and he showed up for all the normal little things we, his family were going through at the time. My brother’s graduation from high school. Some activities my other brother was involved in. Family time and family dinners.

Then he had to go back to El Salvador. Alone. And I could see the deep grief and sadness in  his eyes the morning he left.

That was the last time we got to see James, “Jimmy” Basile alive.

We all wrote a letter to him for Father’s Day that year. We each wrote a paragraph or two and mailed it to him from Panama, where we were living comfortably. This was one of the things that I was deeply worried and concerned about when we found out he died….

Did he get the letter and was it opened?

We did find out later that yes – it was in his apartment and was opened. I still have that letter today and treasure it.

This gives me peace and I believe with all my heart that it was a gift that God gave to me at the time.

My point is this – friends, we all have things that  have happened in our lives that we feel pretty emotional about. We have things that have formed, solidified, or utterly blown apart certain values we hold dear.

Some of us are called by Jesus to share His love and His truth. Sometimes the truth part as to what Jesus tells us is really going on all around us isn’t pretty or comfortable.

Jesus went all the way to the cross for that and more. But He did it IN LOVE.

BUT…..we are little humans. We are sinful creatures. It is easy for the enemy to sneak up on us and get us to focus on one thing more than the other.

  • The Ugly Truth OR….
  • The Beautiful Love.
  • OR the distorted truth and/or the distorted love – the counterfeit ones.

I say this a lot because I really mean it: When it comes to JESUS’ truth and love, it’s not  either/or. It is meant to be both/and.

But sometimes we have to choose to emphasize one over the other at certain times. That’s what listening to the Holy Spirit can do for us. That’s what being in tune with the Lord does – it helps us to discern whether to do both/and or either/or at just the right time.

The Holy Spirit, our Helper – helps us to know when we are falling off course and helps us to correct our footing. Also, we are helped to stand firm when needed if we only seek the Lord in prayer and lay it at HIS feet each and every day.

Right now, although I feel strongly that I am called by Jesus Christ to share BOTH His truth and His love, it is HIS, not mine. And if it becomes tainted with myself, my own “feelings” or anger, it’s time to listen to correction and change course.

And I am now moving into a place where He is asking me to share more about the love than anything else – without sacrificing His truth – not by any stretch of the imagination!

Always with and in HIS love.

At times the Lord puts it in my heart to get tough and share the things that aren’t so nice to hear, but are true. At times, He asks me to share nothing but encouragement and light. At times, He asks me to do both. But when my human sensitivities start to get in the way, that’s when it all just becomes corrupted by the enemy.

I told you in my post the other day – it’s a conspiracy. And often what I write about is something – a spiritual war I am waging myself, or a thing Christ is working on within me – right at that very moment.

  • It’s not because I am enlightened and “past” the attacks myself.
  • It’s not because I have some awesome wisdom or knowledge that others don’t have.
  • It’s not because I am on the other side of it and not waging the war myself.

It’s quite the opposite of these things I just listed in most of the things that I write, dear friends.

That’s the whole point. I write about what Jesus is showing me about these things in my own life and sometimes I feel He urges me to share it.

Right now, when I look around myself – I see things the way I think my dad did at certain times in his life. He dug deep. That man dug for gold in others around him and he also dug for truth – even when it wasn’t pleasant. He didn’t hide his head in the sand but he didn’t forget that we have to love one another at the same time that we seek the truth.

Of late, I have felt so strongly to share with others that Jesus tells us to remain watchful – because there will be so many coming in His name to deceive – because the enemy is walking around – prowling – waiting to devour.

What I see right now is that maybe once in a while I need to do quite the opposite at times such as these.

Maybe when I see how utterly deceived we are – we are soooooo being led astray – instead of sharing what I see, I am to share more of the light and the love again.

I don’t know. I am in prayer about it like I haven’t been about something in a long time.

BUT GOD –

But God will reveal Himself to us – those who seek Him – even in the ugly.

And for now? I have only to remember one thing if and when I am conflicted or in a place where it feels like I have to choose between truth and love:

It is both/and. But it needs to always be done in love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

TheTruthInLove

 

 

 

 

 

God sees right through the Bubble

unnamed

This one’s going to be hard to articulate, so I ask you to bear with me as I attempt to put into words what has been on my mind and in my heart these past few weeks.

It’s about living in our protective and self-made bubbles. It’s about avoidance, friends. It’s about withdrawing, forgetting, ignoring, and self-protecting. It’s about closing our eyes.

It’s about selfishness. Pure, utter and total selfishness.

Yes. This is going to be another one of those blog posts. And I get to talk about it, because I am a prime offender. I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you that I like my little feel-good bubbles. I like them way to much and I often do everything in my power to avoid having them popped wide open.

I like to be comforted. And I often look to my own devices to find those soft and fluffy things that will make me feel good. It’s a fact.

And although it is not always wrong to seek comfort and regroup, to care for ourselves so we can be better for others, our motivation behind it is what is important.

  • Are we trying to run from something, or are we moving TOWARDS God?
  • Are we becoming so comfortable that we never come back out again?

These are the burning questions on my mind lately.

So, before you get to this next part, please keep in mind that this is not a political post. This is not just about refugees or people hurting in other parts of the world.

This is about the state of humanity all around us and inside of us! It is about how we don’t want to look at the ugly and how we think somehow, that by closing our eyes to it, we can escape it.

So this came across my news feed the other day on face book – and it reminded me, friends. It reminded me about the bubble – the dangerous bubble of self-protection we often live inside of and guard with all that we have.

download - Copy

You see, he reminded me ~ this little boy reminded me. What he expressed deep from within his sincere little heart right before he died brings back  home (it never should have left) the truth ~ the OPPOSITE of what our world and our modern culture tells us is the actual truth.

  • We are NOT to live for ourselves.
  • We are NOT to close our eyes to the suffering all around us.
  • There ARE and WILL be consequences for everything humanity is doing against humanity, and ultimately, against GOD.

And this little boy is telling on us.

GOOD FOR HIM!

I think about Jesus and how He was when he walked this earth alongside of us. I think of how although he often retreated to the mountains or the quiet places to spend time with His Father in prayer, He then immediately immersed Himself among the lost, the suffering, the left out and the shunned.

Jesus didn’t avoid looking suffering right in the face. Not the suffering of others around Him, and not the suffering He took upon HIMSELF.

No. Jesus is not about avoidance of the ugly. Jesus IS about the hope and beauty that only HE can bring about as He steps inside of our ugly mess and pulls us up, up, up.

Ugly stuff ain’t got nothing on the power of Jesus Christ, friends.

And Jesus sees right through our “protective” little bubbles – the ones we like to think hide us from the bad and uncomfortable stuff and even from His divine and mighty view. You know these bubbles well, I’m sure. The’re those things we use to prevent anyone from seeing the pain and ugly within ourselves.  They’re the little things we try to tell ourselves will shield us from things that might drag us down.

We think they are our friends, but they’re just big, fat fakers. Masters of illusion. Liars.

He sees inside and He is telling us that there is a time to come out.

There is a time to burst out of the bubble and rejoin the living – the ugly of it and the beauty of it, friends.

All of it.

There comes a time to rejoin – the reality in life – to look it full in the face and soak up the whole of it.

  • The beauty.
  • The ugly.
  • The heartache, joy and pain.

But it’s hard. It is so hard to open our eyes and come out of our cocoons of self protection, isn’t  it? It feels so warm and soft inside and out there – well, it’s cold and harsh, man.

It’s challenging for any of us to do this – especially when the world tells us the opposite of truth:

You have to look out for number 1.

You must stay positive above all else.

Remove negative forces from your life and immediate environment – that is the true mark of a healthy human being.

Don’t tolerate negativity or stuff that just drags you down.

Self matters. 

Self matters.

SELF MATTERS!

I find it especially difficult because of my health and the nature of my Fibro – people often ask me why I spend so much time studying world events and news when it’s just so negative! I do so because I am somewhat trapped inside of my home due to my condition – trapped from going to be a part of things that are too overwhelming for my senses and my nervous system. I don’t want to go completely dark while I am not able to go “out” into the world as much as I could before I had the Fibro.

I don’t want to lose complete touch with what is going on in the “outside” world.

I find that the Lord gives me a peace about having to look the ugly full in the face as I watch the news, read about world events, and compare these things with what He tells us in the Word.

I don’t like to see the suffering, friends – but I see the good in how the Lord uses this to remind me it’s NOT ALL ABOUT ME.

But I have to be careful, just like anyone else does – that in “managing” my Fibromyalgia, I don’t end up staying in the cocoon all the time. I have to be willing to venture out and take risks so I don’t get caught inside the bubble of health management. It’s a hard one, I tell ya – and it bothers me. I need prayer over this matter, for sure.

There is so much outside of our own little world – our own bubbles, so to speak – the ones we create for ourselves or the ones that circumstance lays upon us. Sometimes we can’t burst out all the way due to things like health issues, living in a remote location, or being in a place and time in your life where you are somewhat stuck where you are for right now.

But the Lord has given us so many ways to stay connected – even in the midst of such limitations.

When I look the ugly full in the face – when I look at the suffering I see around me – it’s only a microscopic picture of what is really happening, I know. And even that small amount is so-very-unpleasant.

  • It’s tempting to avoid it.
  • It’s easier to run from it.
  • It’s “better for us” to take care of ourselves and surround ourselves ONLY WITH those things that make us feel good.

But when we do that, we miss out on all God has for us.

When we do that, we don’t get to see the way Jesus works His divine wonders through even the ugly and the dark, the suffering and the pain, the seemingly insurmountable circumstances and state of the dark side of humanity and darts and arrows of the enemy.

We don’t get to truly appreciate the triumph and saving grace of the Lord if we don’t look it ALL full in the face.

So today I am reminded:

  • I am reminded of how when something dark and sad pulls deep within me and tugs at my heart in ways that hurt – that literally hurt – Jesus is there.
  • I am reminded of the fact that the Lord came to save the lost and LOVED US ENOUGH TO DIE FOR US even while we were still sinners.
  • I am reminded that Jesus never tries to avoid looking at the suffering for His own sake, rather, meets us right there and looks it full in the face with us.

The state of the world can be depressing if we lose sight of that – if we rely upon how things are going as our true indicators of how Jesus works and moves in mighty ways, we shall be lost.

We shall spiral down the staircase that leads to nothing but death, utter hopelessness and despair.

BUT…………

If we look full in the face the reality of the world – the horrid things that happen to us and to others in their suffering and REMEMBER WHAT JESUS CAME FOR – we will know.

  • We will know that ONLY HE can save us.
  • We will know that although sad and terrible, these things are part of what He said would happen as the time draws near for His return.

We will remember and we will know.

  • We will know, just as this sweet little boy in the photo above knew – all the way up to his last breath:

We can tell it all to God.

God IS there for us, in spite of how much evil there is in this world.

He has NOT forgotten us.

And our real home is with Him.

Little boy didn’t get the option of staying inside a bubble of comfort – quite the opposite is true. And now?

  • Little boy is not crying any more.
  • He is no longer suffering.
  • He is home in his eternal and beautiful home with Jesus.

He knew that he was going and he knew that God would be welcoming him home soon and very soon after this photo was taken.

And he’s telling it all to God!

Little boy’s earthly life was taken from him – but he is telling God everything. Just as God asks us to do. And now, no one can take life from him ever again. Praise God!!!!!!

  • No one can take his joy from him now.
  • No one can inflict suffering upon him now.
  • He has the ear of the Lord right there with him now – and for always.

Thanks be to God. No more need for bubbles.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. John 16:20-22

33001

 

 

 

 

 

Sunshine Spots

trees-1164123_960_720

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

girl-690119_960_720

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sliver

girl-926020_960_720

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

sun-999185_960_720

 

All the Way Yes

1881a37338a1f786d7d9a6eb8e99fdc3

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.

masterpiece-1

 

 

 

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

dandelion-692317_640

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

girl-619689_640

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

boy-447701_640

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

girls-462072_640

10 Things Not To Say to Someone With an Invisible Illness

nurse-37322_640

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

encourage

Thorns Have to be Pulled Out if We Want to Heal

deco-839118_640

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

heart-608787_640

More than 24 More

IMG_3946

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.

IMG_3947

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

get-attachment (9)

Hello. Is it You I’m Looking For???

Little joys make the things that are less-than-great all the better.

As my health took a downward turn over the last couple of years, the Lord has really helped me to appreciate the small things that I can do. I’m also learning, through the process of reveling in such wonders, a whole different perspective in regard to doing our work as unto the Lord.

Little stuff counts. It counts a lot. But we truly have to be intentional in looking for these little lovelies sometimes, my friends.

So here are a few of my favorite things right about now. I bask in these; I bathe myself in them. When the world tells us to live a little and let go of such menial tasks, I find myself LOVING it when I get to do them. (sorry, never-ending laundry, you didn’t make the cut).

Hello, clean counters. I love to wash you and stroke you with my fabulous 409 every night before going to bed so that I can wake up to your gleaming face every morning before you get trashed all over again.

Hello, pulled together curtains. I love to pull you closed over the blinds each and every night so that I can enjoy your fabulous geometric sassiness for a while before I get the satisfaction of flinging you wide open (let there be light!) each and every morning. You complete me.

Hello, Pill and Vitamin Bottles. I love digging you out of “the drawer” every morning and every night, only to put you back away again so you cannot continue to remind me of what all I must ingest simply to exist. I also love the drawer in which you reside, because if I didn’t put you back in your cozy little home after my daily dose of AWESOME I might actually forget I swallowed you already and take a few too many. So yah…thanks.

Hello, Windex. I love you. That is all. #therejustarentwords

Hello, Mirrors, Mirrors on the walls. You make my heart sing. I don’t love you for the reflection I see when I gaze into your face, but I really love you for the way that you help me pretend I have more daylight streaming into my humble abode. Windows are overrated anyway, so there’s that. You are the best pretend window friends I ever had. Stay a while.

Hello, Blankies and Throw pillows. You make things look prettier even when stuff all around you is messed up. I appreciate you helping me to have a semblance of style amidst the chaos. You’re good like that. You are exceptional, I must say too, at helping me to hide the muffin top whilst sitting and laying around on the couch. It just makes me feel better. You serve multitudes of most-excellent purposes. Yay for efficiency and beauty entertwined in such a lovely manner! You are my shining stars.

And now, for a fabulous tune from our one and only, Lionel. His voice is amazing and brings me much joy. I wanna take a chill pill, curl up with my blankies, and gaze at my light filled mirrors, clean counters, and geometric curtains every time I hear him.

Every single time.

Jesus Sees

woman-801990_640

Do you suffer with something that seems to prevent you at every turn from feeling like you can be the “hands and feet” of Jesus? Are you sick, afflicted, grieving, or so overwhelmed with your day-to-day tasks and responsibilities that you struggle to be able to “go out” into the world and love upon others?

Have you cut out all the extraneous stuff that takes your time, attention, or space away to make room for what is truly important; yet you still get stopped in your tracks every time you try?

You may simply just not be seeing it then.

You may not be seeing that you can serve others from right where you are.

I want to encourage you today, dear friends if you, like me, sometimes forget to remember that you can love others the way Jesus commanded even if you can’t go out into the world to do so.

  • You can do it from your bedridden place.
  • You can do it from what seems like your prison of sorts.
  • You can do it, even if you feel isolated, too sick to go serve at the soup kitchen, unable to go to church because you might be contagious, too weak, or incapacitated.

Prisons got nothin’ on Jesus. Walls can be torn down.

Your heart is not incapacitated, friend. Jesus lives there if you have accepted Him as your Lord and Savior. Jesus is bigger than all the things that pretend to be obstacles that are insurmountable. He can and He will love others through you, even when it doesn’t seem like you are doing “much.”

AND…..sometimes another way that we can show love to others is by allowing them to share some grace with us in our own time of need. Let us not discount that part of loving like Jesus, friends. He let His own feet be washed, after all. He allowed others to wait upon Him at times too.

Humility is precious, yo.

Yes…part of being a true servant comes in allowing others to do things for us too. It is a mark of true humility if we can push down that ugly pride and allow others to meet us in our ugly places, our needy places, our spots in which we feel trapped or like we can’t give in return.

This is grace.

And we can love and encourage in our own ways too. Don’t let anyone tell you that just because you cannot go and volunteer at the church, meet needy people downtown, or run all the races to raise money for worthy causes that you aren’t giving of yourself; that you aren’t “enough.”

Jesus was sacrificially loving all of us while nailed up on that cross. Nails did not incapacitate Him by any stretch of the imagination! Quite the opposite.

Hands and Feet don’t have to be free from physical limitations to be effective.

Jesus proves it.

  • We can still stir one another up, even if we are ill or unable to literally be the hands and feet that are out there meeting others.
  • We are part of the stew of grace and love and truth.
  • We are part of the same mind and body as our fellow believers who may be enjoying better health and vitality than we are able to right now.
  • We are still part of the church, dear friends. Don’t let the enemy tell you otherwise.

So if you are down in the dumps today, wishing you could serve more actively and feeling like you are trapped and just not “with the program” of being the hands and feet of Jesus in the way the world likes to see, remember that your light is still shining.

And maybe it will help you to remember two simple little words today ~ I know I’m going to……

JESUS SEES.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2: 1-4

sparkler-677774_640

The Itch I Cannot Scratch

eye-743409_640

Those dudes in the scriptures? They were T-O-U-G-H peeps, my friends. The stuff they went through – endured – it’s truly beyond me.

Johah, Moses, Abraham, Job, David, the disciples and sooo many more! These dudes went through the ringer, man. I can’t even fathom it.

I get it: Some of them, at first, went through stuff without relying upon the Lord for help. But when they did turn to Him ~ when they did rely upon HIM, His power, His strength, they triumphed. Yes, even while suffering God can show us that because of Him, we have overcome.

That’s how our Savior does things. He pulls us up out of the broken pits of despair and suffering and works His wonders in and through those trials for the world to see. Glory be to God!

He doesn’t necessarily remove suffering, although we, small children that we are, like to think that a nice parent would do so.

Sometimes you have to allow your children to go through some stuff so they truly become stronger and learn and build character. All that good stuff, you know?

I laugh at myself of late, because I feel like I relate to Job. I laugh out loud because when it even goes through my little mind that I can relate to this dude and what he went through, it becomes crystal clear how small and weak I really am….ha ha. Why? Because what I am enduring right now is only a microscopic fraction of what Job actually went through in his time.

And if compared to the suffering that Christ endured? My trials cannot even be seen under a microscope!

Yes, I laugh.

And I cry.

I laugh and I cry because right now, along with the “normal” pain I carry with me all the time from the Fibro Monster, I am infected. Out of the blue (that’s what Fibro and CFS does – surprise!) my immune system started to shut down. Literally over night, my skin became inflamed and infected. It is now in my eyes (pinkeye), my face is covered in scabs (candida yeast) and I have fever blisters on my lips.

I cannot hug my kids or my husband. I can’t even kiss my puppy. I am itching all over and want to scratch my face off, but I can’t touch it. There is no escape. And it sucks rocks.

But…it’s really going to be okay. I’ve been here before. And I, unlike Job, have a doctor I can finally cave in and go to see today.

But when I think of Job, I often think only of how well he held up under adversity far greater than mine. I tend to walk in condemnation during such times because of that. I compare myself and my small faith as compared to men like these, and I come up quite short.

And then I realize later what I have done because God whispers to my heart – go and check a little deeper into the story, my daughter. Job was not so perfect in how he handled things either. He was human, like you. You can learn from him, yes. But also learn that he wasn’t pretending this was all fun and games and that’s not what I am trying to grow in you right now either.

I realize that Job, like me, at first accepted his plight with great dignity and minimal complaining…

The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21).

So very often, when I am under duress, I stop right there in Job’s story. And then I walk away thinking I am an ungrateful child. But when I check a little further and go a little deeper, I see that eventually, Job had his human moments too. He, much like David in the Psalms, cries out. He doesn’t pretend he is loving this situation at all. He even goes so far as to curse his life.

Yes, long before spilling their hearts out to the Lord, these men, like little old me, also went through phases of resentment, bitterness, self-pity, and even anger for all the calamities they were facing.

None of us is perfect when we have an itch we cannot scratch…

Why is light given to him who suffers? Why is life given to those who feel sad in their soul?  They wait for death, but there is none. They dig for it more than for hidden riches. They are filled with much joy and are glad, when they find the grave. Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and around whom God has built a wall?  For I cry inside myself in front of my food. My cries pour out like water.  What I was afraid of has come upon me. What filled me with fear has happened.  I am not at rest, and I am not quiet. I have no rest, but only trouble.” Job 3:20-26

There’s no pretending on Job’s part that this is a walk in the park, friends. The key is that he sees his infection, but doesn’t place blame on the Lord for it. He cries out to Him instead. He is honest in his anguish. And when we honestly share our burdens with the Lord, it is then that He can truly take them for us.

In His timing, of course.

So yes, this is why I laugh at myself, friends. This is also why I cry sometimes. Because I am like Job even though my infection doesn’t come close to comparing to all that he endured. And unlike Job, I allow the enemy to make me berate myself before I realize what is even happening.

But the good news is that like Job, I do not blame God for my suffering. Thanks be to God that He speaks to us and ministers to our hearts through His Word. Thanks be to the Lord that He can “work all things together for our good.”!

We go through these little processes when we are “suffering” don’t we? It is part of what the Lord uses to mold us and shape us and build our character. It is part of surrender. It is part of dying to self. We struggle to scratch and scratch and scratch. We struggle to satisfy and obtain our own peace and relief. We struggle to the point we can even sometimes forget for a moment and lash out and fight against the One who knows us and loves us the most.

Until we finally give up.

Through all the struggle Job endured, the struggle to understand what was going on was the very itch he couldn’t seem to scratch. Searching for the answers and looking TO GOD is what finally brought him relief of sorts. Trying to understand more about God versus his present situation was part of what strengthened his already-strong faith and character.

Job may have become angry with his situation for a while, but he never really cursed God. He did, indeed curse his situation and cry out a lot about it though. He stopped short of accusing God for the suffering that was inflicted upon him, even though he was angry and upset about his plight.

I think this is the kind of thing that God wants from us. He wants us to cry out honestly about our plight – to HIM. He doesn’t want us to pretend it’s all okay and show how tough we are.

Even through the suffering, Job did not blame the Lord…he even admits he came to know him and build his relationship with him in a new way…

My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Job 42:5

I am infected. I am not tough about it. But far greater than the infection I carry around upon my face right now, I am filled with the love of Jesus. And He saves me!

  • He scratches my itchy heart when it needs it.
  • He brings relief to my soul when I cannot get any from my physical and emotional ailments.
  • He has my heart in the palm of His mighty hand.
  • He brings me a greater peace than any itch-scratcher-reliever-thing ever could.

And it is all for HIS glory anyway. 

And oh, yah….

It’s not even about me.

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this” (Isaiah 48:10).

35774-Fix-Your-Eyes-On-Jesus

Party Rockin’ in the House Tonight

dancing-156041_640 (1)

There are some ugly guests that have decided to live with me and they keep having dance parties without my permission. You are about to meet just a few of them.

We gotta laugh at ourselves sometimes; at least this girl has to do it. If I don’t, I would wallow up in the fetal position under my bed forevermore or until the rapture happens, at the very least.

Here is just a snippet of what I really feel, much of the time. If this doesn’t prove to you that I am a sinner in need of Jesus, I don’t know what will.

Introducing today’s top five contestants in the contest to destroy Annie’s brain:

Dear Laundry Room ~ I tried to make you pretty to make it easier to be with you 24/7, but you just keep showing your true colors. Also, your dominating and selfish spirit is getting to me a bit. You try to keep me locked inside all for yourself, and pretend you are wonderful to me because you clean our clothes. Only half of that is true. I’m grateful for all of the skills that you have, but I’d like to spend a little time elsewhere. You may be able to wash the clothes like a boss, but you AREN’T THE BOSS OF ME!

Dear Scale and Perverse Pound Revealer ~ You are truly twisted and depraved. I don’t even know any more why I allow you to be in my house, let alone speak your rancid thoughts to me all the time. I’ve tried to put you away, but you just keep calling me from your dark little corner. It’s annoying. You’re poison. You need to depart from me. Apparently, you obtain some sick kind of pleasure in counting things and then rounding up to the nearest 100th, but I guess that’s how you roll. I shall resist you and just keep in mind ~ Jesus is on my side and he loves me, rolls of fat and all.

Dear Fibromyalgia and Menopause and Irish/Italian Temper ~ You think you have won, but I have news for YOU. You may like to come out to play but you are not my friends. You pretend to be ingrained into the most core part of who I am, but you are just unwelcome visitors who have stayed so long, you think I will forget that you don’t belong here. I know you like to wreak havoc and cause pain that then trickles out or comes in waves to crush all in my circle, but your party is sad and I wanna go home. #partiesareoverrated #idontlikeyourcake

Dear Person Taking Your Bad Mood out on Me ~ I never do this myself, so you shouldn’t either. What’s the matter with you, anyway? I never allow my feelings or concerns, stresses and ailments to cause me to FREAK OUT on others (anyone, anyone? Bueller?) in my line of vision or earshot. What the heck are you thinking?! Don’t you know you need to get a grip and grab it now and never let go? You are ruining the mood I am in and am entitled to BY LAW. Pursuit of Happiness ~ Yay!

Dear Paycheck ~ Why do you make me work so hard before I get to see you? And what’s up with the fact that you grace me with your presence only to disappear before I can even greet you with a hug and a kiss and spend a little time with you. You are a fair weather friend and have a lot to learn about lasting friendship and community. It may pay for you to stick around a little and actually get to know your people. I’m just sayin’.

Dear Melasma, Acne Scars, and Dark Circles that are Never Ending ~ I know you came to see me and stay (till death do we part) because you are cousins to the sun that I spent so much time with when I was younger ~ (we are family).  I have tried to love you, because just because you aren’t pretty, doesn’t mean that you deserve poor treatment. But you need to behave and hide a little when other guests come to play. We don’t want to scare everyone else who JUST CANNOT UNDERSTAND. People are all in a different part of the process, yo. Some day I may be strong enough to let you come out all the time, but right now, I’m still a sinner with issues who doesn’t want people to run away screaming ~ does she have chicken pox or leprosy? Sorry, but it’s true. I’ll work on my dark little heart.

Life is a mess, but Jesus does messy well. For this, I am ever-so-thankful, aren’t you? He loves us, messy and all. And once we have a full grip on the fact that we are broken, imperfect and in DEEP NEED of our Savior, He meets us there.

He will even meet the uglies.

He will take us one day to the real party ~ the best party ~ the one that’s filled with beauty.

I can’t wait for that one!

Yep. His Grace is Enough.

Even if my flaws try to pretend otherwise.

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:17

keep-calm-jesus-saves

The Scars of Love

heart-742712_640

There are so many things that I was told at a very young age, yet I am finding I wasn’t fully “taught” how to do these things, rather, I was simply told about them over and over again.

This is proof that knowing something doesn’t translate into knowing how to do that something.

It doesn’t translate into understanding it. It doesn’t mean it becomes a part of our character. It’s just some stuff that we think we know and that’s that. (Yah right…I got this)

Here are just a few of mine…

  • Don’t wear white after labor day (which I did, all the time, ’cause I’m a rebel like that).
  • Take care of your skin and don’t lay out in the sun (this one went right out the window, along with the sunblock and was replaced with lemon juice and oil, hot diggety dawg).
  • Seek first to understand others over being understood yourself. Love those “others” not only as you love yourself, but love them even better. Do I even need to explain how I lived this one out, friends? (Let’s just say EPIC. FAIL.)

So here’s what Mr. Stephen Covey says: Seek first to understand and then to be understood. And he is right.

But the Lord is even more right about this. The Lord actually doesn’t only admonish us to do this, but he tells us why and how. It can’t be done without Him. It can’t be done if we don’t fully surrender our own needs ~ our needs to be understood, our needs to be right and vindicated, our needs to get others to change or come around to our way of thinking or being the person we think they should be.

He is my God. And only HE is the God of my brothers and sisters.

Translation? I need to move my butt out of the way sometimes so God can work in others just as I need room for Him to be able to do His work in me.

We are called not only to take up our cross when it’s easy to carry, but to go the distance and even allow ourselves to be nailed to it. Sometimes, especially during conflict, we throw that right out the window. We enlist our inner rap star and fight for our right to party. And that just doesn’t make sense. But it is the human way, after all.

A huge part of loving others the way God asks me to comes down to putting them in front of myself when it comes to conflict and seeking understanding. In other words, I need to throw my need to be understood out the window and not my cross.

Truly. It is a mark of true wisdom to allow God to be God. And wisdom trumps knowledge and turns what we know into real action. It takes the worldly views and discards them, and enables the pure truth to emerge.

  • Wisdom tells us how to let God be God and tells us what place we have in the process when it comes to ourselves and others.
  • Without seeking God’s wisdom, we get no understanding. And that is one of the keys to relationship and dealing with conflict, friends.

Wisdom is the principal thing; [therefore] get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

So when does the magic music of true understanding usually grace my itchy ears ~ especially in relation to those things that I think that I already “know”?

In my own experience, I have found out how it should look through the times (so, so many) that I was doing it wrong. Sometimes, the wrong way, in hindsight, makes the right way stand out ever-so-clearly. (so sad)

I am now almost 50 and fully “understand” what I knew all along, but didn’t really absorb or believe. My skin has paid for all of the days of adoring the sun and allowing it to FRY MY FACE. Some of it is irreversible, so I get the beautiful privilege of carrying the scars and discolorations with me for the rest of my life.

The white after labor day thingie? Not of consequence to the Lord or myself, so in a glorious way, I get to be a rebel for life in relation to this one small thing. (happiness and joy!)

But the scars that we carry for the things we wish we would have listened to ~ they may be ugly and we may regret them, but they are still a reminder nonetheless. And that can be good.

They are a reminder that there are certain things in life I should seek to truly understand and live by, instead of responding with a “yah, I know that.

What scars will we carry to our death bed in relation to the fact that we haven’t fully lived out what it means to seek to understand others first, (and in turn, love them and esteem them more highly than ourselves) before being so intent on being understood ourselves?

Will they be irreversible for our entire earthly lives? Will relationships and conflicts and divisions the enemy creates through it all mar us and be a testimony of how much we messed up in following our Lord’s commandment to love others the way He has asked us to?

In the end, will we be able to say “I was right?” OR will the scars we bear be testimonies to the race that we ran, holding our cross with us the entire way. Will I go to my death not being understood, maybe even persecuted and spit on and mocked and beaten on top of not being understood by others?

Two words: Jesus did.

But guess what? He was still understood, dear ones. God understands our hearts, our thoughts, our feelings, our sorrows and our joys. If we are truly confident in that and have the relationship with the Lord that we are meant to have, we don’t NEED for others to understand us so very much.

It’s just icing.

I get to talk about this and share it with you because I have credibility. Why? Because I have screwed this up so many times (and continue to all the time) that I have learned a lot about the difference between truly seeking to understand someone and the lens through which they see things (which most definitely influences their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors) and only hearing them and being able to say ‘yah, I know that.

I have messed it up. I have the scars to prove it. I am the first in line to seek to be understood before even attempting to understand someone else. That is love of self in all its twisted and depraved “glory.”

I have been the first one to sign up to go through the motions of seeking to understand someone else (especially if I am in a conflict with that person), when all I’m really doing is getting ready to reply, show them the err of their thoughts, feelings, ways, or respond through my narrow view of how things “should be.” Or simply waiting my turn and biding my time to get my chance to take the floor and make myself understood and known. Capeesh?

But I do want so badly to seek to understand others first, because I believe with all my heart  this is part of what the Lord calls us to do in relation to truly loving others.

  • I used to think active listening was the key, but it’s not.
  • I used to think that letting them talk, and then talking after they had their turn helped, but it doesn’t always.
  • I used to think if we followed the rules of how do do conflict well, we’d come out enlightened and understanding one another even better. Not always the case.

It’s about listening with a truly surrendered heart. It’s about SEEKING to understand how that person feels, thinks, sees things. Especially if it’s “wrong” in our eyes. Especially if we walk away in the end not feeling understood ourselves.

This is beyond difficult to do. But just in case you haven’t heard the news yet,  all ye true followers after Christ: Love hurts.

But guess what else? It’s okay. 

The closest thing I have seen in the world to describe the kind of listening we need to employ if we are to truly seek to understand others is “empathic listening.” But go and read you some good old Proverbs and you will find the really good stuff. Listening with all our hearts does some really good things…

  • This takes true vulnerability.
  • This takes throwing away our way that we see the world and getting inside of the other person’s heart and mind (i.e. the epitome of being the opposite of selfish).
  • This takes surrender. (the real kind – the all the way kind)

This takes tapping into God’s love, God’s wisdom, God’s heart and allowing Him to rule and reign in ours right that very moment.

It also takes time.

It takes time to convince someone that you are truly seeking to understand them. It builds mutual trust, and then and only then, can we help them to understand us. To me, the best thing in the world, is to allow that person to understand myself not for me, but as a gift to them. Mutual understanding builds relationships.

Make sure they are ready to receive that little gift only after you have given them the best gift first – seeking to understand THEM. We may have to hold the smaller gift aside for days, months, maybe even years. But we know it’s there. So does God.

This is a mark of love. This is a mark of wisdom. This is a mark of being true followers of Christ Jesus.

My scars are going to start to change. I am going to be proud to carry some of them with me to the end of this earthly life. Some will be marks of regret, but some will be indicators of God’s true love in action in my life. All will be reminders of pain.

Jesus understands.

May the scars you carry and the new ones you take on be indicators of how well you loved others. May they be nothing but signs of how well you ran your race. And may the new ones be testimonies of the fact that you truly love Jesus and the gift of the cross He has given you to carry.

Let us not forget to remember: We don’t have to carry it alone.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

love-699480_640