Making the Time

philippians-245_3468_1600x1200

First things first: Anyone new to this blog or anyone who hasn’t read from here lately needs to know one super important thing before reading on – everything the Lord lays on my heart to write about and share is stuff He’s working on in ME. If it resonates with you and you take it to prayer and benefit from it – awesome. But you should know that I am not sharing anything with you that I do not already feel convicted about myself. So there’s that. All righty then!  🙂

You’ve heard this before, right?

One of the greatest and most precious gifts we can give to a person is the gift of our TIME.

Time is something that once given, we don’t ever get back. It’s one of our most precious little things that we hoard ~ often held so very close and even greedily to ourselves (you can admit it, right?). It is often used as our excuse for what we can’t or don’t do, and can even be a false idol, if we really stop and think about it.

We like to say that we DON’T HAVE enough time. But it seems to me that we sure do waste a lot of it.

Television –

Surfing the Internet –

Emails –

Selfies –

Instagram –

Facebook –

Event after Event after Event (including the good stuff)

Magazines –

YouTubeVideos

And so on and so on and so on!

And don’t even get me started on all the scattered (many) things we run to that aren’t necessary.

These aren’t all bad things, but they can be time suckers. Even serving at every church or charitable event, signing up for every last possible activity ever offered for our kids or at their schools, or always working overtime when it really may not be necessary, can whittle away at this very valuable time-thing. And guess what? That can take away from what God values- yah – the people-thing.

Ever heard the phrase “too much of a good thing can be bad?” It’s true. I used to be involved in just about ever extra activity you could count up to – and they were GOOD things. It was too much. I was ignoring what was MOST important, man. And God found His wonderful way to make it abundantly clear to me. He’s good that way.

We can fill our time very easily and before we know it, there’s nothing left for some of the things God may be calling us to invest in – like HURTING PEOPLE.

Are there people out there within our reach that could really benefit if we invested real time in them?

What about those who are hurting or reeling right about now?

How about the folks you know who need more than a quick check-in to see how they are here and there?

Someone in mourning? Going through a serious challenge in their life? Struggling with a new chronic illness, a divorce, or the loss of a child? Anyone out there you know that is feeling totally alone and needs a friend?

What about them?

I also see a lot of the division that is increasing in relationships lately – ALL kinds of relationships – And some of it is happening because of two things that could be avoided, or at the very least, diminished greatly: Miscommunication and Differences in Perception.

Guess what a root solution is for a lot of that kind of junk?

Invest. The. Time.

  • Invest the time to discuss things – not sweep them under the rug. I always like to say – if you sweep the crap under the rug the room will start to STINK even WORSE than it did in the first place! The rug may look pretty on the top side, but something beneath it is starting to FERMENT. (graphic, but true).
  • Invest the time to allow everyone to be  heard and WORK THROUGH solutions – together.
  • Invest the time to follow up and follow through and do it for the long term, man.
  • Invest the time to be a REAL friend. Not with everyone – just with that person God is placing right in front of you and that the Holy Spirit is nudging you about. #justdoit

Hit and miss is not gonna cut it when people are hurting deeply or are facing insurmountable obstacles. This is what Jesus did and still does in and through us if we follow His example. He INVESTED in those disciples of His, man. He caused them, commanded them, and inspired and equipped them to invest in one another. Yes – they reached out to the masses here and there and then had to move on to the next crowd, and every person that Jesus touched was blessed in some way, even if they didn’t get to be as close to him long-term as the disciples did. But Jesus modeled what it is to truly invest in those immediately around us – for the long haul. And then they invested, and they invested, and they invested.

Not gonna happen without giving up that precious time.

Jesus often stopped right in His tracks to deal with a situation at hand even when He was already on the way to go somewhere else! He didn’t wait to deal with that person in need – he stopped and helped that person right in front of Him.

True discipleship and real help and support cannot really happen without a commitment of our time. It won’t happen if we aren’t willing to slow down and stop for someone. It takes a true desire to see how we can MAKE the time. And it takes true compassion, and an intense drive to keep our eyes open and LOOK FOR THOSE who God may be placing in our path.

It takes being present. It takes a commitment. It takes a desire, drive and dedication. It takes seeing it – the need for it. And no one person can do it all. That’s not what Jesus modeled for us anyway.

That’s why it takes a village, man. A village to invest in others. A village to communicate one with another so all the pieces fit together. A village to look under every rug that the crud is getting swept under and GET. IT. OUTTA. THERE.

It takes more than one or two warm bodies.

It takes more than a passing “hope you’re doing okay.”

It takes TIME and a whole lot of it.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. Not in most cases, at least. But at the same time, not much will change when folks are facing serious struggles and we aren’t willing to come alongside them and invest in them. All the way.

Yes – we have to have some quiet time with the Lord – we can NOT sacrifice that, and are NOT called to do so!

Yes, we have our own spouses and our families. They are the people (disciples, anyone?) that we live with and do life with all the time and come right next in line to our time spent with Jesus.

Yes, we have jobs, church commitments, and extra-curricular activities. I personally have found that even those things can’t always come in line first before people though. How about you? We are called to be good stewards of such things, but we sometimes  have to make tough decisions there when weighing priorities in life.

For me, I just found that I came to a point where I truly had to ask myself – “what am I doing with the rest of my time, really? Am I investing in what GOD would have me do? Or what I think is most important?” These questions don’t just get asked once – I find I have to do it every week, seriously! Because that wasting time thing or not having my priorities straight thing starts to sneak right back up on me. #stealthy

I can help another even while I am resting with my crazy-messed-up Fibro Body from my bed and with my computer or my phone and at least spend TIME talking with them in that way. That’s something!

I can meet them for lunch or at church or have them over to the house whenever possible to have some face to face time as well. And that’s even better.

I can think of them, pray specifically for them, and TELL THEM I AM DOING SO every single day through a quick text, (this is how facebook messenger can be a VERY good thing), sharing of a specific prayer, and a wonderful scripture verse the Lord lays on my heart that just very well may comfort them.

All these little things really do add up to a lot of time – and once we realize our time is really not OURS anyway – we can embrace giving it away.

Not at the expense of our relationship with Jesus. Not at the expense of our spouse, children or families who need us and live right next to us.

But in addition to that. And it can happen.

I wish I could make the time to be able to be intensive with my time with everyone that I feel called to invest in. I wish sometimes we could all just live together – say 12 or 13 of us – like Jesus and the disciples did. But asking Jesus to help us make every extra moment count for something (even for rest or quiet time – we gotta be filled too, or we start to run on empty), really does make a difference.

God will make the way if we simply ask Him to do so.

Let’s make the time and give of ourselves in this way freely. And let’s realize it isn’t really ours to keep all to ourselves anyway. Jesus does. And if the Savior of the World could “make the time” maybe we could stand to do so as well.

the-power-of-love

 

 

Advertisements

Who Ya Gonna Call?

17 - 1

 “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise”
Proverbs 15:31

Wow!!!

I can remember when I was younger and I thought that “wise counsel” meant nothing but “support”. Support of what my desires, dreams and feelings were. Total loyalty to ME and what I wanted. I thought it meant finding people in my community that would always be on my side, no matter what.

Truth is, it was still all about ME. I wasn’t seeking wise and godly counsel – I was seeking friendship. We need BOTH.

So I came to realize, as I learned more and more about God’s character and sought what the Lord says on this matter throughout scripture, that truly wise and godly counsel is not always “just the fun parts” that come along with having “support.”  It ain’t all about having a bunch of friends who will just tell me what I want to hear.

Nope.

Wise counsel must be delivered with the heart, motivation and intention of God’s real love and real truth behind it. These two things lie at the core of truly wise and godly counsel.  It should be constructive not DESTRUCTIVE. It should align with scripture – the whole of it, not just the bits and pieces that fit OUR particular “feeling of the moment”. It should point us to God and what the Lord might have us do in that situation. It should come from a place of humility, yet confidence in the LORD and what He is equipping us to be able to speak into another person’s life.

Wise counsel is honest. Wise counsel is loving. Even when it’s hard.

It takes COURAGE to do this – on both sides. It takes submission and surrender and courage to love like Jesus does. It is NOT EASY. But this is what church really is. Walking it out in the ugly and the messy – that is true SUPPORT in the body of Christ.  Being willing to confront all of it ~  together. Not running or cutting out when it starts feeling uncomfortable.

We don’t get to deliver truth without love. We don’t get to provide REAL and true love without being willing to be truthful, either. Not if we are really walking through life with someone else. And unfortunately, because we often don’t walk through all of it together, we often find ourselves only doing one or the other. Truth OR Love. And it’s gotta be both. I have yet to see this be able to happen if we try to come along side someone halfway.

That’s what Jesus did in His ministry here on earth. He dealt with the hard stuff, man.  He continued to love in the process as well. And if people refused to listen, He allowed that and moved on to help those who were truly open and willing to confront their need.

He doesn’t force us to submit or surrender to Him – but He is there and will show up if we are truly willing. If He places people in our lives that are willing to go all the way and do the hard stuff along with us, it is WISE not to shun that or scoff at that.  If and when we do, we will have to then walk in that. That walk is often one in which we will eventually find ourselves feeling very alone. We may have a few friends out there who are there for us part of the time (I mean – they have lives too, no?) – but they won’t really be doing life with us. Not all the way.

It won’t stay pretty for very long. #guaranteed

So, recognizing who the Lord places in our lives to do this with us means we have to really be discerning and ask ourselves – am I seeking only those who will tell me what I always easy to hear, or the parts that aren’t TOO UNCOMFORTABLE or easy for me to digest – or am I willing to allow those who truly want to be there for me in this and go the distance in my life be there for me?

Gotta be open to it, or it ain’t gonna happen.

Just like with what the Lord wants to do in our lives – We get to choose. Then we gotta walk in what we choose. We get to own it. The good side and the bad side of our choices. It just seems kind of dumb to me when we choose to go our own way. But it’s what we do a lot of the time, isn’t it?

The truth AND love thing? It’s a difficult balance for the one offering help to strike. First, because we are not perfect – not a one! Second,  because real help sometimes has to come in the form of being willing to deliver some bad news.  And NOBODY LIKES THAT!

BUT – sometimes, as we wrap our minds around the hard stuff, we can face it – together! We can bring into the light all the junk that’s in the dark. And THEN real stuff starts to happen!

Or we can run.

The halfway stuff just isn’t gonna help us. It may make us feel better for a while, though. That’s for sure. Hence, the difficulty – the temptation to think we truly are open and willing to confront things with others God places in our lives –  the deceit we operate under and the things we tell ourselves about truly seeking wise counsel – well, it simply then remains and continues to weave a web all around our minds and our  hearts. And that is from the enemy. #truth

Sometimes, God can get downright firm with us. So godly counsel is willing to do the same thing if needed. If the desire is to BUILD US UP (that includes character, not just feel good stuff) and help us truly get through things in our lives that are causing DESTRUCTION AND DIVISION, a loving friend, counselor or mentor WILL put themselves on the line to not just tell us what our “itching ears want to hear.”

They may screw it up (probably will sometimes)- but if all we do is push it away, in reality, we are pushing away those who maybe – just MAYBE – the Lord placed in our lives to TRULY HELP US. Something to think about and take to the Lord in prayer, at the very least!

Jesus displayed that firmness AND love at the same time, over and over again (minus any screw ups) as He walked this earth. He still displays it in our lives today if we allow Him to.

Choose. Choose life. Choose truth. Choose love. Choose all of God’s character to speak into your life. Choose the real deal.

Choose REAL.

No – God doesn’t always tell us what we WANNA hear. That is NOT God’s character. He also doesn’t forget about the compassion and love piece, either. It is BOTH/AND.

We can come to Him freely (as we are – while we are still sinners) for salvation. But when it comes to sanctification, we must be open to hear even the hard stuff. Otherwise, we will start to make our own plans, man. We will go with what OUR heart wants. WE will continue to walk our OWN way. #noteasy

Support and encouragement matter, that’s for sure! BUT….if we REALLY seek true wisdom, real truth, and REAL LOVE, we go first to God in prayer, and then we surround ourselves with WISE counsel. Not just the people who can quote scripture left and right (and often out of context) to make us feel better. Not just people who pride themselves on SPEAKING THE TRUTH and throw love and compassion out the window every time. Not just the people who tell us how to get around things or make others yield to our desires. And not people who don’t understand that we need to take responsibility in order to walk out the counsel of the Lord and TRULY GROW.

Do you find yourself pushing away anyone who wants to come along side you simply because you don’t like some of what they are speaking into your life because it is uncomfortable? I’ve been there, friend. Many times in my life, I have BEEN THERE! If you do see yourself doing something like this and your heart realizes it now, it is not too late to return.  Return to what scripture says – the WHOLE OF IT- when it comes to wise counsel. Take a look at who you have chosen to truly surround yourself with. Got anyone in there that’s willing to share the hard stuff too? Are they willing to be in – ALL THE WAY IN this with you? If so, you are truly blessed. That’s not a gift I would think we might want to simply toss.

Here’s some stuff from a GREAT Christian article (one of many) that I read – all of it resonates with so many parts of what scripture admonishes us to do when seeking truly wise counsel in our lives. Just some food for thought. I know I can always use it.
Wise counsel will come from individuals who know the difference between…

  • what is ultimately good and what is just currently popular,
  • what is really valuable and what is just cheap,
  • what is achieved by hard work and what is just lucky,
  • being happy and just having fun,
  • a sincere apology and a weak excuse,
  • what is true and what is just a matter of opinion,
  • what is to be hard sought and what is to be tolerated,
  • when help is appropriate and when it should be withheld to encourage one to struggle,
  • love and lust,
  • what is really dangerous and what may just be somewhat risky,
  • what is worth fighting against and what one should run from,
  • what is a legitimate source of hope and what is just what we want to hear,
  • what is wise and what is foolish,
  • what can last forever and what is only temporary,
  • humble worship that glorifies God and pride-filled religious rituals that offend God,
  • what is from God and what is from the world.
  • from http://www.christianityetc.org/wise-counsel.php

Proverbs-28.26

 

 

 

What People Living With Chronic Illnesses Think But are Sometimes Afraid To Say

 

8acdc01462518c12ed8b5e9bebb2cd35

I’ve only lived with Fibromyalgia for just over three years now – at least, with the diagnosis of it. I will say one thing about that ~ knowing what had been ailing me for a lot longer than just the past three years did help. It helped to know I wasn’t crazy (totally) and just imagining it. But it had been lurking there – right under the surface – for a lot of years. It also is probably a BIG PART of the other stuff I have contended with in life – we just didn’t know what to attribute it all to before the diagnosis.

What did rear its ugly head early on in my life, however, has been depression and anxiety. Chronic. Life long. And I don’t like to talk about it sometimes, but it’s the truth and I have to be honest with you. I’ve lived with my own sort of depression (and anxiety)- mostly chemically/hormonally/biologically driven – for the better part of my life. I am fifty years old, by the way.  That’s a long time. Don’t feel sorry for me about it – there’s a point to this story that’s about something much bigger than that.

I know it for what it is – I no longer buy into the stuff that others, including myself used to tell me about that second part of things. I will say it over and over again until the day that I die – when it comes to depression or anxiety, there are two MAIN kinds. The kind that is about perspective, attitude, outlook, behaviors – (semi-controllable with life changes) and the kind that is chemically driven (not so much controllable). I have both, but mostly the second kind is what takes me over sometimes. Yes. The two can co-exist. Yes – it’s hard for those around us to see which one you can do something about and which one is beyond your control.

It’s the same way with Fibro and the way it manifests itself (mostly invisibly) in your life.

I’ve learned one thing throughout all of this – but it doesn’t mean that I’ve perfected living it out. Feeling like we have to hide it from the world is still VERY PERVASIVE in our society. And I get that. I do. It sucks, but I understand it. It’s all about not being able to understand something if  you don’t go through it yourself. We are only human.

So, here is a PARTIAL list of things that I suspect most people who are struggling with chronic illness, chronic pain, chronic depression or anxiety or a host of other chronic things that make them “different” than who they really are inside, would like to say.

I share this with the heart of letting you know, that although there are some of us that do not feel this way, many of those I have met that struggle with things like this DO feel this way. We may tell those in our near and dear circle these things, but often we don’t feel that you truly believe us. More often, you hear us, but it just doesn’t STICK, because life clutters stuff up, man. And we are SO BUSY managing our chronic-whatever, (IT’S A FULL TIME JOB), that things like this – things that need to be said over and over and over again in order to stick, well – they get lost.

So, here we go:

Most of us realize that life is not all about us. Most of us deal with a lot of guilt when we think about how much worse things could be and we find ourselves crying in our Cheerios about our own situation.

Most of us feel selfish for having to focus so dang much on ourselves. Yet, we don’t know what to do, because we HAVE TO think about our situation so much – especially if we have chronic pain. There’s no where to run and little distraction from something like that. At least, there’s none that is lasting for much longer than a small stretch at a time.

Most of us were not always this way – it may have always “been there”, but we used to be able to do more things, have more good days than bad, and be more focused on others. Our whole lives didn’t used to always revolve around our illness and managing it. You probably remember that too.

Most of us still remember what it was like before. And we are in the cycle of grief. We know that you are too.

Most of us know this is hard on you. We know that we know that we know. And we feel responsible, even though it’s not “our fault.”

Most of us know that you have your own problems – some of them big ones- too. We want to be there for you. We want you to know that we get it – that you matter to us.

Most of us feel we are alone to a certain extent. Even when you help us – even when we pray. We KNOW we are not alone, but we FEEL alone. A lot.

Most of us realize there is a fine and messy line between knowing when it’s time to fight and when it’s about growing in surrender. That is very hard to discern. Why wouldn’t it be even HARDER for YOU to discern when you aren’t living in this skin? We get that.

Most of us feel pressure to act/deal with/look at things the way that those closest to them would want for them to. We try to look up, but sometimes, we just can’t. Then we feel like we have let you down. Again.

Most of us know that you are doing the best that YOU can in the face of this. We actually appreciate all the grace you extend to us, but feel bad about it all at the same time. It’s easy to say “it’s okay” but sometimes, we can’t help but think we are nothing but a pain in your butt. It’s part of the deal, man. We need lots of reassurance.

Most of us still find ourselves just wanting to be understood and to be sure you know we understand you as best we can. We also realize that part of surrender is giving that all up. That is H-A-R-D.

Most of us would snap our fingers and move this out of our lives (and out of YOUR life) in a hot second if we could.

Most of us want to do more for you and have the center of our lives be ANYTHING other than managing this junk. We are sick of ourselves. And that makes us even more sick. Dig it, man.

Most of us feel lost, even when we press in to God. We are reeling, spinning, and doing our best to try or not try – depending upon where we are at. We aren’t comfortable living in our own skin – but we keep trying to keep perspective in the midst of the fog of it all. For us, for you. For everybody’s sake.

Most of us feel all the same pressures as “normal” people have, along with knowing we must dedicate a lot of hours to managing this crap – we feel like failures and losers, even when we know it isn’t true. We know we are not martyrs, and that there are starving children digging through dumpsters in the world. We don’t want to try to explain our illness and situation to you in order to make you feel we are “one-upping” your problems- rather, we find ourselves desiring SO DEEPLY to help you understand. Not just for our sakes, but for YOURS.

Most of us finally shut down and stop sharing our feelings because when we see that it can’t be understood and it doesn’t help much to explain, that’s what we feel we need  to do for everyone’s sake.

Most of us know it’s more about surrender than fighting. You can’t know that until you are living in our shoes. You just can’t. It may look like we are giving up, when we are “practicing” surrender. It’s a process, yo. We don’t know how to do it any better than the next guy would.

Most of us try 99 percent of the time to keep perspective and look at the upside. But we have days where we can’t see straight, even when we turn our eyes upward. We know it hurts you when we share with you on those dark days – and yet….we feel we need to speak to someone who loves us about all of it.

Most of us would give anything to jog again, have a clear head again, and be able to hold a convo with you that’s all about YOU and NOTHING about our illness.

Most of us know that our identity SHOULD NOT be defined by our illness, but that so much of our lives are spent managing it, that gets murky and muddy too.

Most of us know you miss the old us. Newsflash: We do too.

Finally, most of us know that the world does not revolve around us, and that this completely sucks for everyone involved in our lives. But we have to hang on to the fact that God has a purpose in everything – that He is teaching not only us through this ugly hot mess, but that He may be trying to teach others in our circle a few hard truths  as well.

We often laugh at ourselves, because in some ways, we feel like test subjects. We are reminded thousands of times a day of what failure looks like, and we have to WORK HARD to keep that in perspective and realize that what looks like failure (not being able to have any stamina, having to lay in our bed to protect our bodies and minds so that we can be productive for the 6  hours a day that we can, saying too much when we are in a very dark and unreasonable place mentally, crossing the line between managing our chronic condition and letting it define us and take us over), is just topical.

It’s what is inside our hearts that matters. Truly. It isn’t what impacts the world around us right away – all the junk likes to take on that role. But it IS what truly matters.

So, if you live with someone or around someone who struggles in these ways, please know that as much as we can, we get it. We don’t want to be a burden to you. But MOST OF US are fighting against completely shutting down to “protect” you.

Most of us want to be real with you, yet let you know that we are okay.

Most of us know that you miss us. That’s not lost on us. But please know, that although this has changed us on the outside into something that can seem MONSTROUS and UGLY the vast majority of the time – if you look a little deeper, you just may find that the inside is being transformed into something of beauty.

And we want to share THAT with you too. You see – we get to understand something now (so do you) and use that for the glory of God!

So I will leave you with this verse. If you ever feel lost, not sure what to do with your chronic friend or family member – not knowing whether you are helping or not…remember this one thing, if nothing else. It’s all worth it if we use this to comfort others in the name of Jesus.

It’s all worth it.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

de485669b285fc284bea114f0b848629

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

So that, Yo. So THAT.

 

4d2982e5bff124830a7c0bbb0c1c91c2Not one detail of the Bible is in there just to embellish things or simply make them exciting for us. Not one word is there by mistake. The Word of God is truly living. The Holy Spirit teaches us and speaks to us through it – not only while we are reading or studying it, but as it works its way into our hearts and minds and consequently, our actions.

On suffering, man! Let’s talk about this for a moment. Yes…..again.

You know that I get it – in my own little way. I get the mixed-up mess that our suffering can be in our lives. I totally understand how our minds can play tricks on us as our bodies, our feelings, our emotions, our circumstances wreak havoc in our lives. I’ve had my share of my own form of sufferings in my fifty years on this earth so far – and I totally understand the GUILT AND CONDEMNATION the enemy tries to place upon us while we go through such things.

I think I know why, but for just a moment let us visit some of the thoughts that come to us as we suffer when we end up trying to do it on our own.

Any of these sound familiar, friend?

“I can’t believe you are such a baby. This is NOTHING compared to what other people go through. You really need to get a grip.”

“Why don’t you just change your attitude – your outlook – your perspective. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, already!”

There are starving children in so many parts of the world – they don’t even have a roof over their heads – and here you are crying in  your cheerios about YOUR situation!”

I could go on and on and on, but it wouldn’t be helpful. You get the picture. And if YOU have ever experienced your own kind of suffering that doesn’t fit into the category of a terminal illness, being totally abused, living in poverty, amongst other more horrid things than what you are experiencing, you T-O-T-A-L-L-Y feel like my soul mate right now, I would bet!

Dig this: We CAN remember that others are suffering things far worse than we are, yet still feel badly about what we are going through ourselves all at the same time. Big epiphany, I know!

The enemy wants to  make us feel like we are brats or that the worse things that others go through in the world are lost on us. The enemy wants to keep us small, TOTALLY self absorbed and wants us to HIDE the fact that we are suffering out of guilt, or…whatever.

But if we look at Jesus and the time He spent here on earth, He did not discriminate when it came to sufferings. He didn’t ask people to hide it, either. He displayed that we should bear one another’s burdens and be honest with each other about such things. Not just sin, but hardships!

  • He understood what it meant that a leper or a blind man could not be a part of society – their physical ailments – the pain – the limitations –  the full ramifications of that.
  • He understood that a woman scorned was suffering just as much – just in a very different way.
  • He understood and did not minimize the fact that sin caused suffering too – Peter and his pride, Noah and his drinking, David and his lust, and Martha who had many “control  issues” and was a  chronic worrier.

He came to save the lost and the broken from their sin and all forms of suffering. And He asks us not only to rejoice with those who rejoice, but to also weep with those who weep! But none of this can happen if we don’t acknowledge our NEED for Him – our brokenness.

So, yes – sin causes suffering, but so do iniquities and things that we cannot control. Both entered the world when Adam and Eve made the choice to eat from where they were told not to. It’s part of the human condition – sin and suffering. And it’s why we need our Savior, Jesus Christ.

When we suffer, if we don’t see the need for surrender, we are even more lost, and more suffering gets layered on top of the mess we already are dealing with. Even if we don’t have a specific circumstance or season marked by what we might describe as suffering, surrender is still necessary to walk with Jesus. Why? Because we really are ALWAYS in a place of needing our Savior to comfort us and make us more and more like Him. We have not arrived!

When we are walking around in a season of health and ease, we are more likely to forget our brokenness – to forget our need. For me, that is when I have forgotten that I am utterly broken.

But at the same time, seasons of suffering – although they cause us to press in more and seek the Lord’s face more, also can be marked by a self-centered condition that I can’t even put into words. Hence, the darts and arrows flying through our minds and hearts that come from that ugly enemy.

Getting outside of oneself when suffering with something that is SO ALL-CONSUMING you cannot ever, EVER avoid thinking about it is a challenge, to say the least. There are things we can do to distract ourselves, but I find they only help for so long. All the self help in the world, doctor’s advice, pills or potions can’t hold a candle to this formidable enemy of focus on self.

You don’t have to be acting “selfish” to be totally consumed with self. If you have ever suffered from a chronic illness, pain, grief, or depression or anxiety, you already know that.

  • But you FEEL selfish.
  • You FEEL like you “should be able to” rise above it all.
  • You FEEL like if you could just think more of others, maybe you could be more giving and self sacrificial in spite of what you are contending with.

Feelings suck sometimes. Just sayin’.

I don’t have the answers to any of it…but Jesus does. The only thing that I know is that I have to practice surrender over and over and over every single day.

  • Spiritual surrender
  • Physical surrender
  • Mental surrender
  • Surrender of perceptions, work ethic, timelines, schedules.
  • Surrender of things I love and things I struggle with and need to remove from my life.
  • Surrender of the ugly and yes….some surrender even of the beauty. That last part is the part that makes me want to scream like a child and throw a tantrum. Not fun!

But in that surrender, there is such beauty – as we empty out, even of those things which aren’t “bad things”, it leaves a space. A big space.

Jesus is meant to fill that space. Only Jesus.

On the days I don’t seek Him with all that I  have, that space causes MORE SUFFERING. It causes a black hole, that ends up becoming like a cancer-of-sorts. But on the days that I do realize – “hey, I am empty now, I need to seek HIM and I NEED Him to fill me with HIMSELF“….those days are SO VERY GOOD in spite of the pain that I may still be contending with.

  • We aren’t meant to do this by ourselves.
  • We aren’t meant to think we are “less than” if we are suffering.
  • We aren’t meant to walk in guilt and condemnation.
  • We aren’t meant to dump stuff out and leave the black hole alone.

And now, I will get to the crux of it, friend. These verses speak to me about purpose in suffering and fill my heart with joy!

IF we are seeking Jesus in the midst of our sufferings, and IF we are asking Him to change us, He WILL use that for good and bringing forth His will. He WILL use that to spread the gospel – the hope that we can have only in Christ! No matter what the circumstances are.

He will use it to get us outside of ourselves. Even if we can only do so in teeny tiny ways. God is God and can use even the smallest of things to do BIG STUFF!

So, what is the purpose in suffering, then? Well, first off – we can become more like Jesus if only we ask Him to teach us through it all. And secondly, it is (the suffering) there SO THAT we can offer comfort to others that we never could before.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”  2 Corinthians 1: 3-7

Paul goes on to say that much of what happened to them in Asia caused them to despair, even to the point of seeing it as almost a death sentence. But he shares that he sees in retrospect that it all happened SO THAT they would not rely on themselves, but on God, who raises the dead!

There is a purpose, friends. God can do anything! It may not be what we would have chosen for ourselves, but it is part of the human experience and part of His will in our lives to walk through hard stuff with HIM by our side.

And how better to rid ourselves of the mindset of self, self, self, than to let Him fill that black hole and pour Himself out to others in need of His comfort?

Nothing is done without purpose when it comes to our Lord working out His will in our lives and the lives of others. There is always a SO THAT.

So that.

So that.

So that.

ca1139a7f56302559efd9c29452ba79a