All The Way

surrender (2)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:1-7

You know what I see that we do a lot when we don’t want to truly change for the better, eradicate a besetting sin out of our lives, or make a heart change that is a real indicator of true repentance (the all the way kind)?

We take, and maybe even apply the parts of what we feel halfway comfortable with, in order to “allow for change”,  yet we discard much of the rest of what is truly required to allow the Lord to do the job completely.

When we do this, we are still in a state of resistance, not surrender.  And we can become very, very good at telling ourselves that is not what we are doing!

  • We tell ourselves little lies and walk in the halfway kind of ownership and surrender that is required to truly allow the Lord to “make all things new”, conform us to His likeness, and “work all things together for our good.”
  • We pick and choose what we will face up to and then reserve the right to customize just how we will go about dealing with that problem.
  • We find ways to make excuses for how this or that is not “working for us” and even go so far as to blame shift and hide beneath scripture we take out of context to justify ourselves in continuing to run.

We do that because we have not TRULY surrendered. And when we do this, we don’t see real change.

You see – most of the time, true surrender is a grueling process. Believe you me, this gal fully understands that because she is the QUEEN of not having mastered surrender!

But, so much of the time, if we really take a long, sustained, hard look, with a REAL desire to face the REAL AND WHOLE truth, we will see that we hang on and we grip very tightly to at least some form of control all the way to “the end.”

We like to do surrender halfway, man. Because it isn’t stinkin’ comfortable.

  • We want comfortable change.
  • We want comfortable accountability.
  • We want comfortable love, comfortable submission and comfortable truth in our lives.
  • We tell ourselves and others we want surrender, but the truth of the matter is sometimes, we just want it to be as comfortable as possible. Or at the very least, we want for it to be less UNCOMFORTABLE.

And sometimes – if we continue to walk in that for too very long, we then start to become people who profess our total commitment to Jesus, but are teetering on the edge of really just walking in a comfortable form of Christianity. And being a follower after Jesus Christ is not comfortable!

When we come to a place where we realize we are still reserving some form of control over our situation and not fully submitting, displacing ownership, blame shifting, and being the victim instead of submitting to the Lord, then we finally reach the place where we are in a state of surrender and the Lord CAN AND WILL WORK.

  • This place understands that the full truth and full self confrontation is nothing to try to run from – because God sees it all anyway.
  • This place understands that forgiveness is freely given, but restoration is conditional and requires full submission.
  • This place stops shifting blame and hanging on to control and looking at everyone else, and starts owning the truth.
  • This is the place that allows us to FINALLY START TO WALK in a struggle that is REAL, but one in which we are truly not alone and have the Lord fully on our side!

Why?

Because we open the door and let Him in. All the way in. He could knock it down- but in my life- He hasn’t. He waits for me to say “yes – come in and come ALL the way in.

We’ve all been through a war like I just described above – I venture to guess we will all go through one again. What I find interesting, is that those habits and tendencies die hard. Each new challenge or trial that I face causes me to see that I am still struggling anew with true surrender.

But thankfully, I am on to myself now. I know I can tend to want to go  halfway when it comes to surrender. I am aware of the fact that I tend to reserve some form of control over matters when it is necessary to fully let go. And I realize that letting go doesn’t mean that I stop doing my part – sometimes, letting go means discontinuing doing the part I decide to do for myself, and STARTING to do the parts that I wasn’t doing that God WANTS for me to do.

We don’t get to just say we have surrendered and not do anything. We have to walk in it. Really WALK.

So the process often isn’t as long and drawn out now when I see that there’s a new need for surrender again. But it will always be a struggle.

It just will.

And this whole constant cycle is indicative of just how much our flesh and our minds fight and war against facing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Facing the truth and displaying a true willingness to do whatever it takes to allow the Lord to change things, is necessary for true repentance. Facing that truth – all of it – (yes, even when it’s ugly), and truly submitting ourselves to the Lord, (all of our selves, sin and all) allows God to work through our imperfections and shortcomings SO THAT we can become more like Christ.

I’m here to share this with my friends today as clearly as I possibly can – In my own little life, I have seen – God doesn’t do His best work in us when we are only willing to  surrender halfway. But He WILL be there for us all the way through things- EVEN WHEN we haven’t fully surrendered yet.

He is patient. But He truly doesn’t want to see us wrestle with this over and over again. I’m sure He often wonders “why are you making this so hard on yourself?” But the process is important, otherwise, He probably wouldn’t allow it in the first place.

You see….. Jesus LOVES us even while we are still sinners. Jesus went to the CROSS for us because of His love for us. But until we truly accept not only the free gift of salvation because of all that He did on that cross for us, but also desire to truly walk in a submitted and surrendered manner with Him, we really aren’t allowing Him to be the center of our lives. The truth is, when we don’t fully submit to Him, we are still in the driver’s seat. And we will probably never experience the FULLNESS of the joy, love, peace and freedom He so desires for us NOW until we reach that place.

That place is a place of UNCOMFORTABLE AND TOTAL surrender. But it is a beautiful place to be.

He will still love us when we are not going all the way and when we are lying to ourselves and not truly submitting. He will still love us, warts and all. But we will never be in the kind of relationship with Him that He intends for us if we continue to hold on to our sin and the lies we tell ourselves and continue to fool ourselves with all this comfortable Christianity, comfortable submission, and comfortable surrender.

Halfway just doesn’t cut it if we want real and intimate relationship. He wants all of us. He truly wants the whole deal. Meeting Him halfway is not abiding – not truly. And it causes a separation in our relationship with Christ. We can’t just hang out on the vine and pretend we are connected and tell ourselves that we can actually bear fruit that way.

We have to cling to the vine. And often, we wanna go our own way when it suits us, but continue to profess that we never left. It’s just what we do sometimes. And fruit eventually stops growing even when we part way separate ourselves from the vine. It’s just the facts, jack.

Even if and when we DO attempt to die to our flesh and the war that goes on within our hearts AND our minds, we will struggle, make no mistake about it! But we can stop layering our own extra crud – I like to call it the “crud of resistance” (LOL!) all over the top of that innate struggle, and it will help matters. We have to realize and stop only going halfway with this type of stuff. We add to the battle when we do this, and it makes the “process” oh-so-much- harder.

  • It prevents surrender.
  • It prevents true change.
  • It results in halfway relationships – ones that aren’t truth.
  • And that includes our relationship with our very own Savior.

If we meet Him where we are at – and come to Him in FULL honesty, He will realize we at least want to submit, but that we are struggling and we need HIS HELP.  He knows the truth anyway. So why would we try to hide it?

We can cry out to the Lord and tell Him we want to fully surrender, but we realize we are struggling and still clinging to our own form of control. We can ask Him to do whatever it takes to break that down within us. It’s a  hard prayer to submit to the Lord, even. But if we truly mean it in our hearts, He will deliver.

It may be hard…

It probably won’t be comfortable…

But in the end, it will be SO VERY worth it.

Surrender your heart to God,
    turn to him in prayer,
and give up your sins—
    even those you do in secret.
Then you won’t be ashamed;
you will be confident
    and fearless.  Job 11: 13-15

surrender

 

 

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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.

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A Significant Speck

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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

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

 

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Reaching Out Every Way That We Can ~ ‘Cause God Says So!!!

Friends!

I will still be writing from time to time on this lovely blog – because I LOVE to write, yo! It’s a form of worship to me – of my loving Savior, Jesus!

But I have felt CALLED for quite some time to connect with others and spread His love, His joy, His peace, His EVERYTHING in every avenue possible. So, I will be creating an extension of the blog on a YouTube Channel.

I would LOVE, LOVE LOVE IT if you’d follow me over there. Like I said, the blog will still be here, but I will most likely post on the YouTube Channel more frequently for a while. Please feel free to share it with others!

I welcome feedback through the comments under each Vlog….but keep in mind, like the blog, this is a work in progress. Just like US!

We will see where the Lord takes it and how HE decides to refine it and grow it over time.

Here is the introductory link. Please watch this video and click to subscribe on YouTube. Give it a thumbs up if you enjoy it (there are two videos on there right now) and shout out any ideas or suggestions you’d like to see in the comments below each video!

I look forward to seeing all that God has for ALL OF US as we continue to share His love in a dark world!

P.S. USE YOUR GIFTS!!

On the bottom of the video, to the right, you can click “watch on YouTube”. You will see a button then on the YouTube page that allows you to “SUBSCRIBE” to the channel. Love you, freinds!!

There’s always a YES

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A long, looonnnnnng season of NO has ended for me, dear friends. As of four weeks ago today, things changed in my life dramatically! My energy level went up 70 percent and my pain level dropped about 50 percent! This came after a long hard program I have been on with my doctor and we were NOT sure if it was going to help me or not. It DID.

Beautiful little sprouts of green have popped up through the frost melt. Some are even starting to bud and bloom! I feel Spring coming on, even though we are entering Autumn in our physical and earthly world. And I will water those buds with the truth, power and love that only Jesus can bring! FAITHFULLY.

It’s a long and sweet story, but after working with a VERY special Naturopath that I truly KNOW the Lord brought into my life (another awesome story) for 12 weeks now, I am HEALING. Healing, do ya hear me?!? Praise the Lord!!!!!! Whoo Hoo!

Annie, the way GOD made her to be is back! I can use my gifts of encouragement and high energy without fear of being bed ridden the very next day. I can spread God’s love and saving grace more radically now – because I went through this long and dark season of pain and no and frustration and ups and downs and loneliness and exasperation and …..suffering!

And guess what? He used that season of NO, NO, NO to make Annie a little less like “herself” and more like HIM. This, and growing closer in my relationship with Christ is what I am MOST grateful for! That is the greatest YES of all!

God can do anything through us in any season, and He always knows EXACTLY what He wants to do. He taught me so much in my personal season of No. He showed me so much more about Himself – who Jesus is, especially in how it relates to suffering and the loss that comes with something like that. He showed me that no matter what, the season of No will always end with the greatest Yes of all – eternity spent with Christ! So that loss we find in our hard seasons is truly all gain for those of us in Christ Jesus – no matter what the outcome!

Many of you know this – It is a long and hard road – being in a season of complete and utter NO – but we always must remember that for every 1000 no’s we have to say to things we used to love and enjoy doing in this earthly life, we can and DO continue to receive the GIFT of saying Yes to Him. Always. If we only draw near TO HIM through it ALL.

He never left me. He never will. He’ll never leave you. He never will.

And Now!

The Lord has brought Yes back to so many things in my life – new and old. Things I used to enjoy and love – attending church regularly – meeting a friend for coffee – having people over to my home – pouring encouragement into others more consistently and RADICALLY!!! These Yes’s I get to say are all back but now are more enjoyable than ever before!

And there are new ones too! Exciting ones! Ones I never imagined I would ever get to be a part of and that Jesus can and ALREADY IS going to use for His glory. I’m so excited I can’t stand it!

I knew He had plans for me no matter what the season – I just wasn’t sure if they included a new season of YES on this earth or not. I’m so thankful that it does! God is SO GOOD – in our seasons of darkness, His light is still right there with us. It may not be easy – but without Him, I could not have withstood it. No question!

Several months ago, as I realized I had hit the 3 year mark of this Fibromyalgia onset – God brought to fruition many, many things for me. He showed me that for every no that Fibromyalgia brought into my life, my YES to Him was still always there.

My YES to HIM never left.

My Jesus YES.

My only YES that I NEED.

Last week, I was able to share some of my story with some other beautiful people in a group setting. As I prayed the day before, God really urged me and led me to share the suffering part. You see, He immediately had opened up a door for me to walk through about 1 week after we knew I was healing – and I went right on through. I had prayed over this for over two years, but knew I couldn’t go through that door quite yet. Now that I can, He has opened up a whole world to me of not only more Yes answers for my family or for me, but OTHERS! Every single day, He is giving me new chances with new people to share His love and what He can do through the things in our lives that hurt. He did it during my season of No too – but it’s more FUN in this new season of Yes! Yay!

He has released me from my holding cell and given me wings with which to fly – and share HIS peace, HIS joy, and HIS love and truth with others – in the most unexpected way I ever really imagined. It is crazy-insane the avenues and vessels through which Jesus chooses to have us pour out His loveliness and His testimonies. God truly does work in the most mysterious ways!

I am so grateful. I am thankful for my season of suffering and what God has revealed to me and how He’s drawn me closer to Him than ever before. I am thankful and giddy like a child on Christmas morning at all the presents I get to open and play with in my new season of Yes. I am most thankful that I get to shout from the rooftops in ANY season I am in, the utter magnificence and GREATNESS OF OUR GOD!

I have spent the last month not only in awe of what God has shown me through a long and dark and difficult period, but flat out amazed at the fact that he is NOT choosing to bring me into the fullness of this Yes Season slowly or easily! It  has been a fast-moving, earth shaking, GOD-sized last few weeks! And I love it!

Our God is a patient God, but when He’s ready to usher in another part of His will, He is RADICAL!

So, although it can seem like sometimes God works slowly and methodically in one season of our lives (usually the ugly ones for this girl),  He is working on us all the same. Then, when He decides it is time for a new one, if we are truly following HIM, we had better be ready! We’d better drop everything – jump off the boat – walk into the water or the sea before the waters even look like they will part – and move with faith and trust toward Him.

Drop the Nets!

Leave your homes!

You’ll know why later!

I’ve got it under control!

Just do it!

Don’t worry about those details!

Follow ME.

NOW.

If you are in a season of No, ask the Lord for help in showing you your big YES to Him! You are still following Him even if it feels like you are going nowhere or are…stuck. You CAN still say Yes to Jesus in the midst of the paralyzing darkness or the cave you feel you are trapped inside of. And never give up! Submit to His will and be willing to accept the answer – but if he decides that you will now embark upon a new season of Yes while you are still on this earth, start praying NOW that He will help you have a spirit of readiness to jump as high as He asks you to when the time comes. It may not be EASY, but Jesus doesn’t often do things that way, now does  He?

It is ALWAYS worth saying YES to whatever Christ asks of us – following HIM no matter what the season is the greatest gift of all!

“YES, Jesus ~ YES!”

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men. And immediately they left their nets and followed him.Mark 1: 16-18

Who am I to dilly dally?

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In Spite of the Thickets and the Thorns

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking HIM. Looking to HIM.

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

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

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

But it’s not easy.

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

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

In the Garden of Gethsemane…

In the dark….

Surrounded by trees and very, very alone.

Knowing. Knowing what is about to come…

And He still looked up.

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

And I think of my Jesus upon that cross…

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

And He still looked up.

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

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

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

So can we.

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

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

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

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

For us.

Jesus looked up for us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gethsemane

 

Stormtrooper

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A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

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

But the body fights – it fights for its rights.

All to no avail.

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

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

He will meet me here. He will draw near.

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

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

But THIS.

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

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

Ha Ha. Silly little girl.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

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

But then there’s this one too…..

Attacks from the ugly enemy.

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

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

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

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

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

But what about ME!!!!

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

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

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

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

A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

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

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

And a peace –

And a joy –

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

The Great Physician.

My Almighty Savior.

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

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

And through this, I shall know Him better.

Through this ugly, His glory shall be made manifest.

This I know.

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

And I know that YOU see me.

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

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

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10 Things Not To Say to Someone With an Invisible Illness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I must say ~ This battle is enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fibromyalgia, Menopause, and Weight Gain ~ Oh My!

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Yesterday morning I had a moment…a moment of I don’t know what!

It happened first thing upon waking when I stepped on the scale for the first time in two weeks.

It happened after two weeks of frustrating pain and constant prayer for the discipline to try, try again to drop some weight so as to improve my health related issues.

I wasn’t asking for much. But I sure was hoping to see at least ONE DANG POUND drop after not allowing myself one miniscule eentsy teensy BIT of leeway in the realm of sugar or starch for two weeks straight!

I thought for sure the scale might tip in my favor – just a little bit.

But NO.

I don’t know what to label this snapshot in time as, and for the first time in a while, I feel like I’m at a loss for the right words to describe the state I am in currently. All I can say is that all of me (including the couple of pounds I have even gained) felt suspended in time when I stepped on that scale.

Suspended in an ugly moment in time….I guess that’s one way to feel lighter ~ albeit a sad substitute for true weight loss ~ (smirking to the max right about now).

I couldn’t believe my ever-loving eyes. The discouragement I felt was palpable.

“No. This can not be.”

SO…………

I shall just foam at the mouth for a bit, I guess. Maybe the words will capture this moment I had and maybe they won’t.

But I have to try.

First, let me give you some background. Coming right up, is a by-no-mean-exhaustive list of what all I have done, tried, been open to, over the past two years to contend with my “problem.”

  • My Fibromyalgia problem.
  • My ensuing weight gain problem.
  • My weight gain because of Fibro and then worsening of the Fibro problem.
  • My problem of learning how to live  for this moment and be content, yet not fall into a resignation-of-sorts about the desire to just. give. up. problem!
  • My problem regarding the need to keep on trying – (at least TRY for crying out loud!!!) – to not get sucked all the way down by this beast.

Yeh ~ THAT problem. Bleck!

Chiropractic, Massage, Cognitive Therapy, Myofacial Release, Physical Therapy, Thyroid Meds, Gluten Free eating, strictly juicing, no sugar, no starch, calorie counting, dry body brushing, low inflammation diet, shots of lemon, vinegar and baking soda, accupuncture, essential oils, book reading and research galore, supplements unending under the supervision of a Fibro specialty doctor, support groups, sleeping in all organic materials, changing all my clothing and toiletries, sleeping with a fan at just the right setting and on my face, melatonin, lunesta, 5htp, Sam-e, vitamins I never knew existed, purified water, alkaline water, sugar free cranberry juice concoction all day long, Reflexology, Cupping, Yoga, Walking, Exercising when I can, Not exercising when I can’t, seminar watching, Youtube searching, book reading, rest, stretching, ergo changes galore, epsom salt bathing, sun soaking for melatonin, light therapy, aromatherapy…

….and the list goes on and on.

It’s time to breathe, yo.

The by-no-means-exhaustive list is only part of what I have done in the physical realm. This does not include all the prayer, all the crying out to the Lord, or any of the other stuff that is IN FRONT OF all of these things, dudes.

Not at all. Not at all exhaustive.

But this girl’s still simply……exhausted.

And so yet another ugly moment came yesterday morning – where I felt I had exhausted everything I haven’t drawn a line in the sand over – my last ditch effort  to lose weight but still be able to maintain a semblance of pain control over the Fibro -…it was made clear: that yet again…I had failed.

EPIC FAIL, YO!

In fact, I gained almost two pounds. (Can I cry now?)

I. will. not. cave. in.

I will not cross the line into the realm that the Lord has made clear to me that I am not to enter into by any means.

  • No one is gonna be hypnotizing me.
  • No one is performing some kind of surgery on me to help me lose weight (although that is something I am not against for certain peeps and certain situations).
  • I will not visualize my higher self through meditation or yoga.
  • I will not tap into the “power of me”.

Yet I want more. I want more for my life than this ugly Fibro monster. I want more for my life than this small woman trapped inside a bunch of blubber. I am thankful others can’t really see it – that I “carry it well.” But I know the truth. And this moment of truth stinks.

I don’t so much begrudge the fact that I have Fibromyalgia. I see the good God has brought out of an affliction and I am not even asking that it be removed. He will do that if He wants to some day – my faith is strong and I know that He knows what is best.

I just want to be able to cope with it and learn from it. I don’t want it to drag me down into a pit of despair.

I don’t care that I am not supermodel material anymore and that I am pushing 50 and the lines on my face are deeper and my skin is not so supple any more.

I just want to be able to smile and shine the love of Jesus through it all. 

I don’t care that I am not the perfect, ideal weight and cannot run for ten miles (although I miss that).

I just want to be healthy and not “overweight”, because being overweight makes all the rest of it worsen.

I just want!

I just want!

I. JUST. WANT.

Uber Important Side Note: Do you think that when God says for us to come like a child unto Him, that means toddler behavior is acceptable as well? Just sayin’.

I want to stop feeling like I halfway relate to Job in the Bible. (I don’t have a CLUE of the hard that man suffered, yet I, in my simple little way, sorta-kinda feel I can relate to the guy ~ ‘cept I’m not as absolutely GOOD as he was – no way, no how).

Yet I do know that I am better for the hard stuff and the trials. I do know that God works ALL things together for our good. I do know that suffering and affliction draws us into a place in our relationship with Jesus that we don’t necessarily experience without it.

I know.

But in spite of what I do know, I was still just hoping for a little victory yesterday morning. And again, I was looking in the wrong place for that.

(Duh! Ya think?)

So yesterday morning – this moment in the morning time yesterday in which I stepped on that dreaded scale, it felt like all of my hard work just. meant. nothing.

It even felt like all of my hard work actually HURT me, friends.

Maybe it did.

And I find myself at the ugly and horrible place again today – teetering on the line. Knowing I won’t cross the lines that have been drawn for me, yet hanging on by a thread to the ever-present tightrope that is suspended between surrender and full-on giving up.

It’s a fine one – that line is. And I don’t mean fine in the positive sense of the word.

When the truth hits you full on in the face and isn’t softened by anything else in that same moment, it’s hard to absorb.

It’s hard to stomach the fact that I may remain overweight for the rest of my life. I may gain even more weight. And all of this hurts my Fibromyalgia and chances of reversing it immensely.

  • It’s hard not to wallow.
  • It’s hard not to despair.
  • It’s hard not to want to roll up into a fat little ball and just cry, cry cry.
  • Sometimes I just want to jump.

I am a lover of truth most of the time. But sometimes, the truth is hard to accept. I keep hearing myself saying “it can’t be true!”

“This CAN’T be right?”

“This CAN’T be how it’s supposed to be, right?”

But maybe it is.

Maybe there’s a good reason my body needs forty extra pounds on it. I always have thought of that as a bad thing, but is it possible it’s meant for my good?

Is it possible?

And if so, can I accept it? Can this girl accept being forty or more pounds overweight for her frame?

I don’t know. I really do not know.

But I know this: For now, I have to take a break from all the trying. I also have to keep on going and be open to what the Lord brings my way. I’m there, friends. I will try something else if He so leads, but I will stay status quo as well if that’s what is in the near future too.

No matter what happens or doesn’t happen, I am HIS child.

For now, I have to stop doing what seems like wheel spinning, because frankly, it’s wearing me out. And I covet your prayers.

There has to be some kind of beauty to be found in this moment of truth. Either that, or it’s not a moment of truth at all – instead it may be a moment of a counterfeit kind of truth (a nice way of saying it very well could be a BIG FAT LIE).

I don’t know which it is yet, but it’s either one or the other.

And this girl? Well, that’s what I am going to seek to find out as I draw near to the Lord and cry, cry cry for the next couple of weeks.

I won’t have to get on any stupid scale to determine the outcome or the success of that one, either.

  • He will tell me what I need to know.
  • It may not be pleasant. But it will be the real truth because it is HIS.
  • And that can never be overrated.

My hope is in Him. Not for weight loss alone, not for healing alone from the Fibro beast of a whatever-thing-it is. But for every last bit of it.

He is my only Hope for anything.

Cause the truth – the real and honest truth of the matter is this: In sickness or in health, skinny or overweight, toddler-tantrum-throwing-like or baby-angelic-cooing child-like, I am His.

And that’s the only truth I should cling to at all anyway.

  • His truth is beautiful.
  • His truth is lasting.
  • His truth brings true health.
  • He loves me no matter what.

And although certain moments of truth smell ugly and can be overrated, His moments ~ HIS moments in which He comes closer and says “it’s okay, trust in me” ~ well, those always smell beautiful every single time I get a good whiff. Thanks be to God!

The scale will not deliver me from everything, friends. Only Jesus Christ can do that. I will keep on trying – because He tells me not to wallow in despair and to run a good race. But I will only look to Him as a measure of success. I will only look to Him for deliverance and sanctification. I will only look to Him for the real truth, even when it’s not pleasant.

Because it’s always freeing. He frees me.

Jesus’ truth is always going to set us FREE. Even if we are trapped inside of bodies that have turned against us, we know the reality.

So today, I will pull myself out of this pit and jump. Yes, I WILL jump – for the joy that I have in Jesus.

Even if I AM two pounds heavier.

Because in Him, I can.

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

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Glitter-Mud and Secrets

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Yesterday I shared how my heart is learning much about the asking we must do as we are truly seeking Jesus about a difficulty or a trial that we are burdened with in our lives. His will in our lives ~ wisdom and direction ~ patience and perseverance ~ many, many things require that we humble ourselves enough to ask of Him and then listen for His answers as to what the next step should be.

Even if it means we might be crawling, if we are seeking Him, dignity can be embraced upon our knees.

Dignity in Christ.

We ask everything according to His will, but we also ask that He grow our faith in the process of the waiting. We ask that He help us to remember when we fail to cry out to Him or don’t even bother to do any asking. We ask that He slice and dice our own will and make His clear and give us the power to obey Him.

But as I said yesterday, it’s not only about the asking. There’s so much for us to learn about the listening too, friends.

The listening and the obeying.

I also mentioned a bit about what happens along the way when we find ourselves asking, seeking, listening, and waiting upon the Lord regarding decisions we know we must make.

What are we to do in the midst of the waiting?

We embrace the beautiful parts intermingled with the ugly ones.

We seek to find things ~ be intentional about looking for grace, receiving it, and doling it out as well.

We look for the glitter that is sprinkled throughout the mud that we feel we are trudging through, friends.

Because it’s there.

Today my pain level was not much better than it was before. But my glitter-seeking antennae were up and running before my feet hit the ground. They were working better today ~ far more receptive ~ far more tuned in than they were yesterday or the day before.

They were ready to look for it, recognize it, and snap it up and hold it tightly.

I had to do things that were hard for me in the midst of the already hard stuff.

But I found the glitter. In Him, and in the grace poured out by others.

I stand in awe at the beautiful relationships and hearts that I saw around me yesterday and today. They have been there before ~ this is most certainly not the first time these people that I call friends have showered me in such lavish grace and care. But today and yesterday ~ well, I was hit with an avalanche of glittery grace that brightened up the quicksand my pain has been making me feel trapped inside of for a couple of months now.

It didn’t take away all of the mud, but it glitterize’d it for sure, my friends.

And it was less heavy.

And I know that God sent them to me, these friends. I know these are grace gifts that He orchestrated to come my way.

What are we to do along the way?

I thought of Jesus and the agonizing trek he had to make that led to His crucifixion ~ the day that His battered physical body could no longer carry His cross completely alone during part of the journey.

He allowed someone to help Him carry that burden for a while, friends.

He received the grace and the help.

And as dark as things looked, I believe it to be a beautiful example of humility, love and grace when the Savior of the world allowed a man to help him to carry the cross that He would be crucified on later that day.

Only Jesus could bear the burden of all our sin on that cross and save us. He chose to go willingly. He also chose not to walk alone.

We are to bear one another’s burdens. We are to give our grace and love freely, but called to receive it as well. It’s part of humility, dear friends. It’s part of listening. It’s part of obedience to embrace the glittery grace that others offer to us in the midst of our pain or difficulty.

It’s a gift for the receiver as well as the giver of the glittery grace.

It puts the mud to shame, even if it won’t completely relent.

It redecorates the space that we are in so that more glitter can breed and spread and eventually light overtakes the dark.

It invites others to share in our most vulnerable and intimate spaces and make them a part of it all.

This is relationship.

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We can give some of our own out too, you know. Even when we are on our knees and still partly submerged in the quicksand, we can reach into our glittery pockets. Even if we have to throw it up in the air behind us and hope our aim is halfway decent.

Part of the way that we can be givers of grace comes from being the ones at times who are receiving of it.

If you are stuck in the mud and all is ugly and sticky and dark and heavy, would you look for the glitter that’s around you too, dear friend? If you cannot see it, cry out to the Lord and ask others for help. Are you willing to submit your pleas for help? Are you ready to receive it as a child would?

We need to allow others the gift of being there for us, just as we wish to be there for them in times of need. Instead of seeing ourselves as helpless animals stuck in the mud, let’s look upon it the way we would if the roles were reversed! Would we want to help a friend in need if they were stuck? Would we want to do everything we could to help them along the way? And if so, would we want for them to receive it graciously?

It’s part of what we must do along the way ~ open ourselves up to be the receivers of mercy and grace.

No one should set themselves apart from giving or receiving such grace.

No true giver of grace is someone who refuses to receive it when it’s their turn.

Jesus didn’t.

I am grateful for the glitter in the mud today. I am grateful the Lord gave me the eyes and the heart to see it and celebrate it. I am grateful for the grace givers and the ones who have received some of what the Lord provided to me to dole out to them at one time.

I am grateful. I am a muddy, glittery, mixed-up, probably frustrating, but ever-so grateful gal.

And as I get ready to rest for the night, I find myself being grateful for just one more tiny little thing.

That although I might be muddy ~ there’s glitter stuck all over me.

Maybe someday I will be able to testify that I have become better at living out the entirety of this little secret:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Philippians 4: 12-14

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Always Looking Up

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I always knew what the mountain top looked like – felt  like. Even when I wasn’t there, it was ingrained in my memory banks. I knew it when I stood upon it, and I was grateful for the view from there when I had the chance to savor it and revel in it. And I remember it oh, so sweetly when I am in the valley…wishing I were not down below….gazing upward and waiting, waiting for  my time to be on the mountain top again..

I have to be honest ~ I don’t really like the valley so much. I enjoy the freedom that comes from being on top of the world. I like the panoramic views…the sense of being weightless. I like the feeling of power.
 
But it has been less tempting to look to myself and revel in that “power” from the valley. I’ve been in the valley for a while, friends. These past couple of weeks I am  feeling better – much better. Kinda like I might be turning a corner in regard to these health issues I have been facing and fighting. And I see the mountain top as a place I may be again one day soon.What will happen then?
 
Yes, I can see the mountaintop again and am climbing it as we speak. I will be on top of it looking around again – soon. Very soon. 
 
Lord…will I remember that even when I get to receive this new season of being on the top of the world, that there’s still plenty of need to look up?  Or will  I forget…forget to give you the glory, the honor, the gratitude for all the seasons I have been in throughout my life? I have learned so much in the valley. I have known you in new ways I never could have known about if I stayed on the mountain top all along. You met me here – in this valley. You told me you understood the suffering to a degree that I cannot express in words, but know now that you revealed yourself to me in this way. Do I have cause to be afraid? Shall I fear falling into the hands of the devil if I move out of the needy valley and  up onto the top of the world?
 
No…I will not fear climbing the mountain. I will not fear that I will lose this intimacy with you once I move upward. I will not be afraid of goodness, health, happiness, and seasons of prosperity, or absence  of trouble.
 
Trouble has not become my idol. Success and coming through the other side of those challenges  will not be  either. If I fall into self-sufficiency you are faithful…you are as faithful to rein us in during our needy valley experiences as well as when our heads and hearts get too full of self. You are faithful in all seasons. 
 
I plan to enjoy the view from wherever I may be. Always looking up. But if for any reason my eyes get too full of the grandeur of living to the fullest during times of health and prosperity, I trust my Jesus to show me. 
 
Climbing is hard. But at least I am moving. Moving is so much better than being stagnant. And I know just which way to go…..
 
Straight Up.
 
“So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. “You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess. Deuteronomy 10:12-13
 
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Because He Already IS.

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I dreamed I met my Jesus – face to face. He came toward me and the light that came out of Him extended all the way through me as he approached. When He arrived, it was as though I disappeared into Him, but in the best way imaginable. I had become a part of  Him.

I guess that’s how it really already is now, isn’t it? He lives inside of me. I just don’t get the sensation all the time of being filled with light ~ pure and holy light ~  from the inside out.

Life likes to get in the way. Fleshly sensations and distractions; all the going and the busy. All the sin and the selfishness ~ it all gets in the way. It’s because I let it.

Today I shall focus – truly focus on the light of my Jesus that already lives inside of me ~ and I shall be thankful. Thankful that He is stronger than the layers of dark that try to crush and surround and sabotage. Thankful that He is stronger.

Thankful that I am His child ~ that He lives in me and I am already a part of Him. He is my Jesus. He is my one true love.

He IS ~ The Great and Mighty I AM.

“Jesus said, ‘Remain in me, and I will remain in you.'” (John 15:4)

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Wringing It Out Hurts

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And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

Have you ever found yourself hating how much it hurts to wring something out that doesn’t belong inside of you? I’m talking about all the stuff that comes at us and then “fills” us in ways that make us feel polluted, tainted, and just plain…changed.

Yes, it’s the stuff that comes from the outside in, but tries to fake us out ~ trick us into believing it is what we are really made of. It takes up residence inside of us and makes us feel it is who we really are inside. It wants to become us. It declares dictatorship and “convert or die.” It’s gotten in – on the inside – and it seems to be taking over. It makes itself comfortable, and creates a panic of sorts about the prospect of the wringing it would take to eradicate it completely.

But this is all a lie.

I’ve experienced this in many ways and on many levels, friends. I’m sure you have too. Every time it happens, I find myself buying in somewhat to the false truth it portends. I find myself thinking “this is what makes me up as a person” or “this is just who I am, I guess” even though I know that it is false. I find myself fearing the wringing process that will be necessary if I wish to continue to fight – to live in truth and love, and all of the discomfort that entails.

  • Sickness or poor health ravaging our bodies – taking over and wreaking havoc from what seems to be the inside out.
  • Sin – bitterness, lack of love, self-reliance, idols – filling up the crevices of our hearts and minds and threatening to spread and take over. Sneaking in – stealing – enveloping and overtaking.
  • The Busy ~ the movement through this life, all the errands, responsibilities, things to check off our list (even when done so under the guise of good intentions and motivations). The busy which threatens to make up the whole, or the majority of our existence.  Severing time to soak up grace, love, time spent with Jesus and others – our loved ones – our dears – becoming us instead of being an outpouring of what God has laid in front of us this day and this day alone.
  • Weariness- the constant uphill battle it seems to be in order to just “make it” through the hardship parts this life involves.

Getting inside. Taking up space. Making its best effort to define us, to own us. From the inside out. And it breeds when  left alone. It breeds.

There’s no room for that, friends. There’s no room to allow darkness to take up residence and take over. This is because Jesus lives there.  Jesus lives inside. Jesus fills us with His light, His love, His truth, His compassion, grace, and mercy. He is the inside. And sometimes, He must wring out the darkness and the ugly and the evil.

Yes, wringing hurts, but it’s necessary at times. Even with the divine molding and twisting that our Savior lovingly performs in our lives (when we move out of the way and brace ourselves for the pain that is good for us), some residue of dark can still remain – especially if it’s due to sickness. But the more wringing we allow Him to do, the more we are reminded that He is what defines us. He is cleaning the crevices for us on a daily basis if we come to Him and ask Him to do His work inside.

He defines us on the inside, even when what’s coming from the outside threatens us. He reigns, friends. He reigns!

Moving the ugly to the outside – daily – well, it hurts. But it’s necessary as long as we walk in these fleshly bodies.  It’s necessary as long as the enemy tries to sabotage us.  It’s necessary if we wish to grow, be pruned, yield fruit. The cup of ugly and pain may not be removed from us, but there is triumph there, nonetheless, if we live and walk in the light of Christ Jesus. HE IS OUR KING!

Wringing: It’s a necessary grace that’s painful to receive, but rewarding beyond what we could ever imagine.

I want to be a beautiful vine filled with lush and lovely fruit that screams Jesus! I’m all-too-aware that doesn’t come easy, friends. The worms try to come inside. The toxins try to pollute. But I always have to remind myself: They are coming from the outside in. And they will meet a formidable enemy upon entry. The light and endless and glorious power of the Lord Jesus Christ!

  • He says: “She is mine.”
  • He says: “You don’t belong here and you will not be keeping her.”
  • He says: “She knows the truth, and I am that truth – not you.”
  • He declares: “Your “power” is temporary, and just an illusion – I will make certain she knows this without question.”

And when the worms and the poison threaten to take up residence permanently, our Jesus will wring us out in His own divine and all-knowing way. One day He will decide it’s the time that we go home to live with Him forever – outside of this cocoon that has become polluted. It will be the day that the wringing has become enough. It will be the day that HE decides it is time  for us to break out…truly break out of the cocoon that we have struggled to protect and wring out – struggled to make last for so very long.

That day ~ it will be the day that our Savior deems to be the day of all days for us ~ the day in which it is finally time to fly. It is the day that this vessel has been deemed to no longer be fit for a King.

Oh what a day! But until then, the wringing – the glorious and pain-filled wringing – it must continue.

There is a beauty I can’t even put into words to be found in the grace that Jesus bestows upon us as He wrings out the ugly trying to come inside and define us. There is a mercy that is severe and seemingly twisted, yet a gift to be treasured all at the same time. He knows our plight – He knows our suffering. And He will make all things work together (truly, He will) for our GOOD.

Thanks be to HIM. The hurt is well worth it.

In this I trust. Completely.

Romans 12:2   Allow God to transform you. He will mold you and renew your mind as He changes your way of thinking. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Then you will always be able to decide what God’s will for you which is good, pleasing, and perfect.

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Fibromyalgia: Accepting while still Fighting

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How does a person accept something that is beyond difficult to live with without just giving up all at the same time? How does one walk right up to the line that spells acceptance, without dipping their toe over or crossing completely to the other side of that line? The other side of that line, to me, is resignation. That spells giving up in my little mind. And quite frankly folks, I’m having trouble wrapping that puny mind of mine around that idea.

To clarify, I will quote Michael J. Fox here:

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.”

I’m having trouble with where my toes should be planted – firmly. I don’t yet know how to accept, yet still fight. Will I ever understand this? Maybe that’s part of the whole thing. I’m asking God to show me. He’s revealed many things to me, yet I feel there’s something I am not seeing or hearing yet. I need to be a better listener.

For months and months now, I have been pretty certain that what is ravaging my body is Fibromyalgia, but we had to be sure and rule other things out before concluding that (the doctors and me). Now we are quite certain that I do have this F Beast along with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and, like so many other things in my life over the past several  years, I am struggling with the line mentioned above (again).

I have a black and white mind when it comes to fight or flight…and that may be yet another reason Fibromyalgia has been able to run a marathon within my body. Make no mistake, there are clear cut physiological reasons why this happens to people, but working on the mind, stress, and a multitude of other things will only serve to help people who suffer from it.

Working at something usually spells “fight” to me, not “flight.”

Sometimes though, I think I am wrong about that. In fact, I’m sure I am often wrong about it. Sometimes, you gotta just let go. I have always equated that to giving up, but surrender is a form of fighting/battling all its own, it seems.

I seem to need a very good lesson in that arena.

Here’s the kicker: This Fibro/Fatigue stuff is not clear-cut… as in, you figure it out and how to manage it and you’re all good as long as you stay on track. Fibromyalgia is a BEAST of an illness to live with, manage, or even just merely endure. And this girl doesn’t want to simply cope, either. I could write a book or a volume of them about this illness, and maybe I will one day, but for now, it’s about that stupid line thing I mentioned earlier. (have I told you I hate the line yet?)

So….I have come to the conclusion that I need to accept this “diagnosis”, this illness. Let’s just call it what it is: ILLNESS. Ug.

And I am bummed out tonight friends, because I just don’t know how. I truly mean it when I say that I am certain I just have to pray for it ~ this acceptance. Acceptance of this illness that has no cure. Acceptance that there are more bad days than good ones. Acceptance that I have a butt load of work in store for myself just to be able to manage. Acceptance that I will probably never be the same again. Acceptance of day to day, and minute by minute change. (Have I told you I hate change unless I choose it for myself?)

Acceptance, acceptance, acceptance of things that my entire being screams against and wants to conquer, crush, obliterate, and fight to the end over!

But I know it’s key…this acceptance thing. I just know it. Somehow, fighting (not giving up) is a key player too. But I have to tell you a secret about that: They don’t get along. They don’t like to be on the same team. At least, not in this chick’s head.

And that’s gotta change.

So back to my question: How does one accept something, yet fight (which you HAVE to do with this illness if you want to have any quality of life at all) at the same time? If you have the answer, oh please, dear one….please share.

I know people who had or have cancer or other illnesses- received their diagnoses, course of treatment, and fought the good fight. They had to accept they had cancer, MS, RA, Lupus. They had the choice to fight or not to fight. They had the choice (hard one, as it was or is) to accept or become bitter and stubborn. Some were cured, and some weren’t, but all that I know personally fought. ALL.

So why do I feel so badly when there is honestly a part of me that doesn’t want to fight? I know that part of the answer is that somehow, I feel guilty because my illness isn’t “as bad” as some of the other ones out there, yet I want to give up.

I think also, that some of my own struggle is that there’s nothing that seems concrete to fight this thing with – one has to approach it holistically and hope for the best. But I guess that’s pretty much how it is with anything of this nature, isn’t it? Fibromyalgia may be more obtuse than other things, but it’s apparently not going to take my life.

Or is it?

See, you don’t die from Fibromyalgia. But it does eat away at your body, your mind and your soul. Chronic pain wears you down, yo. It’s literally a full time job to manage it. Just manage it. I already have a full time job, and a family to support. How can I keep this up? It’s wearing me down and I must admit, I just want to go to bed sometimes and not have to get up and keep going.

And I find myself still hoping – still hoping I will somehow come out the other side of this thing even though pretty much the one thing that IS conclusive about it, is that there is no cure.

God can do anything and I know it. But I’m just not of those kids who tells their Father to give them everything they want. I believe He will heal me fully if it is His will. He knows I believe it. And yes I do pray about it. But mostly, I pray that unless or until he does remove this from me, He show me more of Himself while teaching me how to live in the process and the part of this story I’m in right now.

So in a way, that part I have accepted ~ and that’s big. I have accepted that God’s will is going to be done, no matter what I do or don’t do.

It’s the physical limitations I am struggling with badly. And the full time job(s).

See, when you have this problem, no one tells you:

  • Hey, you can do exactly this much and you’ll be better (or able to cope)
  • You can walk but not run.
  • You can do situps but not weights.
  • You can eat only veggies or you can be overall healthy with your diet.

It’s all just a mushy mixed bag of “try this, try that” and maybe it will or won’t help you.

The whole thing is so confusing it can drive you nuts, which then puts the sympathetic nerves into even more overdrive, if that’s possible. And if you have the F Beast,  it’s probably possible, believe me.

I don’t know the answers, but I do know there are positive things about this too. I have mentioned them in previous blog posts, but I have more empathy for others than I had before. I have a greater understanding of chronic pain now. I just don’t get to do a lot about it, because I don’t have the energy – ha ha. (Is that funny? I don’t know – kinda a half joke, I guess).

So is it really just about learning about that stupid line of M Fox’s….the line between acceptance and resignation? The line upon which I stand and accept something crappy, yet decide daily to fight according to what lies right in front of me. Some days it’s about fighting really hard, and other days, the fight shows up in resting, surrender, and doing nothing – just coping. I guess that will have to be “what it is” for now.

But I know the answer to that ~ it’s not about just that line, friends. That line does not define me or offer a magic answer that if only I find it, will solve all of my problems. Only God can do that.

Lines can be erased. But God is my Rock.

There is someone who knows even more about suffering than all of us put together – who knows everything about it, really. Someone who understands, who cares, and who has the answer about that dumb old line and then some! Someone who offers a far greater hope for us than figuring out this riddle and simultaneously being able to do two opposite-type things. Someone who is far greater and far more vast than any disease, limitation, sorrow or syndrome.

That someone tells us:

I AM.

I am the Bread of Life….

I am the Light of the World…

I am the Gate….

I am the Good Shepherd…

I am the Resurrection and the Life…

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life….

I am the Vine…

I am from Above…

I AM.

I can accept that fully. Him ~ Jesus ~ The Great I AM.

I can and I do.

And I can fight for that fully. Him ~ Jesus….

I can and I do.

Yah….I’m moving past the line, but not into a place of resignation. The Rock just took its place instead.

They may not be pretty, but my feet feel better already.

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Grace Conquers Grief

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I thought grief was something I’d have a reprieve from after mama died about four years ago. I knew it would come back in new and even more twisted ways as life went onward, but I thought what I thought anyway.

I knew the grief of losing mama was not something to be dealt with and that it would then be over for once and for all. God made me fully aware of this fact when I experienced it with my father’s death decades ago.

So WHAT IS IT that I did NOT know that has thrown me for such a loop over the last year or two? A lot, friends. A whole lot. I was mistaken in thinking I had experienced “my share” of grief.

Grief shows up in so many ways that we don’t expect – new ways we aren’t familiar with and in times we may not expect it to darken our doorstep at all. When that happens, what we thought we understood or knew about grief goes right out the window and splats into a million pieces down below.

Since mama died, more deaths have occurred, more friends and family have gone through trials and sorrows that I can count, more heart-wrenching changes that, even in the midst of them, we knew God would work together for our good, have happened too. (Plus, have you noticed? The world is a mess!!!)

But presently  – this now that I am in – grief wants to take me,friends. The shards down below the window it splatted and catapulted out of have morphed and grown into something bigger, scarier, and more seemingly powerful than I had thought I’d experience at this time in my life.

Grief wants to own me, put its name upon me and seal it that way forever. Grief wants to make grace become second fiddle without question. Grief wants to define me, torment me, smash me and then overtake me.

Grief wants to eat me alive.

Guess what else I am learning that I hadn’t recognized about this greedy grief before? It’s that it has many friends. It’s many little minion-like friends do a tortuous form of damage all on their own. They serve multiple purposes, not the least of which, is to compound the master that they serve – this is how grief breeds and grows.

  • Guilt.
  • Negative mind chatter (why can’t you just look at the bright side?)
  • Pain.
  • Depression.
  • Bitterness.
  • Anger.
  • Sorrow.
  • Anxiety.
  • Self Pity.
  • Relational Strife and Conflict.

The list goes on and on, but I can’t write it all out because I’m already crying at this point. (Sorry, but I am).

Here’s the thing friends: I know what I know what I know.  I just don’t feel it sometimes. That hurts and it hurts a lot (hence, more grief).

  • I know that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.
  • I know that the present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
  • I know we have been crucified in Christ and it is no longer “I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.”

Yes, this list goes on and on too – and it comforts me so greatly that it does. It’s found in His Word – His truth – His promises to us. And for that, I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am.

But I don’t always feel good about it. Sad to say, but true. I am a mere little human whose flesh tries to take her eye off of God’s promises.

So today my heart grieves, even though my head knows the truth of His grace. Today, I struggle to find how to let the grace that He promises me weigh more than the feelings I am experiencing and meet me in the midst of it. Writing these things down today after a time of prayer is my way of reveling in His grace in the midst of the grief. God put it in my heart that maybe some of you feel this way too today.

Yes, until now, I was minimizing grace today and allowing grief to be magnified instead. And I HATE that.

How do you allow yourself to embrace the “bad” feelings that you may have and not beat yourself up about it?

Did you hear what I said? Not “live by” or “focus solely upon” but acknowledge and embrace and move through them!

How do you allow yourself to rest in His grace, but not pretend that grief isn’t present as well? (Instead of sucking it up, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, thinking of others instead and pretending your are just fine?)

How do you reach a point where you press into God and His strength and His comfort, (while in the midst of suffering), but not feel badly that you are sad in the first place?

Here’s what I do all the time on days like this – this is a snippet of my crappy mind chatter that I have to cry out to God about – ask Him to remove – obliterate – conquer.

  • “You can’t possibly be focusing upon the negative of this fibromyalgia again, can you? There are people out there way worse off than you. You need to focus upon all that you DO have.”
  • “You are dragging other people down with the vibes  you give off on these (more often than not) heavy pain days. Even when you don’t talk about it, they sense it. You need to have a different mindset and think more of others around you.”
  • “You know that people think you are making this up, right? You realize that people are starting to see you as someone who either is pretending they have this illness to get attention or get out of doing for others.”

I know this is negative, friends. But I have something positive to share with you about all of it. You can’t see the positive in full and give it the credit it deserves if you don’t journey through the ugly first. At least, that’s what I’ve found. You can pretend, but it doesn’t really work that way.

Did you hear what I just said? THAT is the positive in this. Not just this blog post, but this journey we are on if we are experiencing chronic illness, suffering, sorrow or trial of any kind. It’s part of how the Lord reveals Himself and His power in ways to us we never “knew” before.

By allowing the season of sorrow to be magnified – overtaking us almost (seemingly), if we are searching for Him and His grace, we “feel” what we “know” about Him in a way we never could before.

This I know. This I cling to.

Him.

In the midst of my new and unexpected season of grief.

What’s my grief about today? I miss who I once was – vibrant, energetic, enthusiastic, healthy, optimistic, driven, rested. Happy. This is what I thought was the essence of me. I am learning that means just what it means…

It. Was. Still. ME.

What’s His grace about today? In the sorrow and the suffering, a part of “self” is being crucified and WILL be filled with HIM in ways it never could be before!

You gotta empty the WHOLE vessel before you can fill it with ALL good stuff.

That means…. dump time. All that seems to be “good” has to be dumped out along with the “bad”.

We cling, friends. I admit to you today, I am clinging to the parts of Annie I wanted to keep. The beautiful parts I didn’t want dumped out with the ugly. But I know that these are the parts, that if I did keep them, would have been residing in the crevices of the potter’s jar and taking up space that He wants to fill with Himself.

I wanted to keep them.

But I know something awesome – (because He tells me it’s so). Those good parts of Annie I am clinging to and grieving over today? They are CRUD compared to what He is going to replace them with.

Absolute DIRT.

So yes, there’s a time to grieve. But there’s a time also to know in the midst of the grief that His grace is already here, and that He is doing something magnificent right now, and that He understands that it hurts a bit. Maybe even more than a bit.

No matter what the season, the one thing that never has to change, is that HE IS ALWAYS HERE.

I am being reborn in Him every single day. How about you? Some days it’s harder than others. Do you feel that too in your own life?

Do you know that birth is a wonderful event, yet a traumatic one as well? We like to focus upon all the feel-good stuff when it comes to a new birth, but we so often forget about what happened in the journey and the adjustment periods. All you have to do is really think about it for a moment – a newborn baby – the birth process – the sleepless nights – the terrible twos – it’s not something that is always a pretty picture.

But one thing’s for sure: No matter how fussy a baby is, or how fitful a toddler might be, it always seems to help when they surrender fully and allow their parent to soothe them.

Soothing in every season – surrender in every season – for me, that’s where it has to be. Won’t you join me if you feel the same way today? Join me in the lap of our Almighty Father. The parent of all parents. The One who never changes.

The One whose grace WILL conquer our grief.

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Ecclesiastes 3

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

 

Pain Saga ~ Vitality in the Midst of Mediocrity

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I talk a lot on my blog about the chronic pain stuff that many of us are experiencing for different reasons and how the Lord can use all of it for growth. I share my thoughts and the things He is teaching me as an individual as I trust in Him through the pain, physical or emotional, that I am going through at the time.

Some of you have shared that this resonates with you quite strongly. I am so very grateful that the Lord uses us to help one another~ because it brings glory to God and what He can do in us, doesn’t it?

I think one of the greatest blessings in my life has been getting to see how others in our community here are willing to divulge the vulnerable stuff, how they are growing in Jesus because of it, and help celebrate our triumphs in Christ all at the same time. I believe it is one of the best ways we can love God and one another the way Jesus teaches us to do. It truly is a gift.

I believe every word I have shared about how God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Every word.It comes straight from the bible, after all. So it’s easy for me to be confident in the truth that it holds.

You know it’s one of my favorites…

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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

At the same time, anyone dealing with chronic pain or even a sudden difficulty or heartache in life will understand this:

We may know without a shadow of a doubt that His strength is magnified perfectly through our wekaness, yet we cry out all the same. That is, if we allow ourselves to.

  • We cry out at the same time we know God is working all things together for our own good.
  • We cry out even though we know we are probably where we are supposed to be right now.
  • We cry out because it is HARD ~ hard to deal with the in-between feeling – the waiting…or worse yet….the knowledge this may not be something we end up coming out the other side of any time soon. (Maybe not until we go home even).
  • We cry out because our weakness is a reminder of death to self – and we are kinda attached to self.

I miss not only being healthy (i.e. “not sick with fibromyalgia amongst a multitude of other physical ailments”), but even more than that, I miss vitality.

VITALITY, I say!

This came to me after praying over my lunch hour today. I have been trying to yield to the Lord and His will in my daily physical and spiritual, emotional, and just all kinds of weakness. I have been praying for Him to help me to accept whatever His will might be as far as whether or not I will be healed physically any time soon. I have begged Him to help me get through this with His help and be the person He wants me to be through the process.

I keep thinking…”if only I had more energy.” (see the self part in there again?)

But I felt this whisper as I was praying. It seemed to be saying something like this: “It is good that you are coming to me every day and praying for me to do my work within you during this hard time you are having physically. But what is it you want that you aren’t sharing with me?”

Does this whisper indicate God wants me to tell Him what I want for my health situation because He doesn’t know or is just waiting for me to ask? Nope. Does it even mean He will give me what I ask for right away if I say “I want physical vitality, God?” Nope.

It means (and I know this)…..He wants to hear me cry out to Him. Not because God is  wanting us to grovel, though. Because it is part of a near and dear relationship of trust. Vulnerability.

See, the enemy tries to tell us things like this: “You shouldn’t cry out and ask for healing. You need to be happy with where you are at, you selfish child.” So we don’t cry out when that happens, do we? Then we have a mediocre type of sharing with our own personal Savior on our end of things – not a type that’s filled with everything – all of it – the whole thing.

VITALITY.

God knows. He knows what I want. But He also knows all of my other desires too.

He knows I want not only to be healed, but I would love to have vitality again. I don’t only want mediocre physical “health.” I want my old Annie (the way God made me) energy back. I want vitality.

Yet at the same time, I want to need Jesus. I want to know and see my need for my Savior. I believe this ailment is here to remind me of this right now in life. I want a vital spiritual life far more than a physical one. Maybe one day I will be able to see both things in my life at the same time. Has that happened to you yet?

  • Have I learned enough yet, Jesus, to be able to remember to rely upon you fully without a trial of suffering going on all the time?
  • Am I so weak and distant that I need this constant reminder or I will go astray or drift from you in some way?
  • Am I not stepping into the fullness of what You have for me ~ am I sharing everything with you?
  • Am I depending on some aspect of my own strength instead of looking to You for that?
  •  Worse yet….Am I relying upon my own weakness to feel strong in You?
  • Or is this really just here because You aren’t done with it yet?

These are the things I still don’t have the answers for, friends. These are the things this child of God needs and covets your prayers over daily. I never want to “suffer” out of disobedience or stubbornness. I want to move forward and “walk on the water” all the way to Jesus without sinking if He calls me to do so.

Is it time yet, Lord? Have you asked me to walk across the stormy seas with confident faith that you will empower me to do so, or are you asking me to remain in the boat a while longer? I know you are with me, wherever I may be. I just want to be obedient.

Oh Jesus, help us to make it all about you. Help us to walk in Your love, Your power, Your light, whether we are facing things that seem medicore or less than best when we measure it against fleshly standards. Eradicate those standards, Jesus. Help us to live to the fullest in the face of real life – life in YOU – looking towards eternity, not this earthly existence. Help us move through this earthly journey according to Your plan. When it’s hard to step, due to physical or other ailments, fill us with Your supernatural power. Carry us. Move us from where we are to where you are at, or meet us where we already are if you want for us to stop a moment. It really is just a blink of a moment in the face of eternity anyway. Even when it seems like a long and drawn out lifetime right now, remind us, Lord. Remind us of what we have to look forward to. Help us to never forget to live this moment for You. Because this moment is not all there is. It’s all about our blessed hope – not this story…not this earth…not this journey. Help us to live to glorify You and You alone.

Physical Vitality. Health. Various types of Suffering. Mediocrity of all kinds. Earthly pleasures.

None of them are really what we should put our faith in our hang our hopes on at all.

It is Jesus. Him and Him alone.

It is He who brings about something that goes beyond the mediocre and transcends what we might call vitality in this limited, earthly realm.

He’s the One.

The One who will meet us where we are at.

Jesus.

The One who will nudge us to move if we are remaining stagnant.

Jesus.

The One who will slam the door if we try to enter prematurely.

Jesus.

The One who will call us out into the water to meet Him in His timing, and in His power.

Only Jesus, friends.

Only He knows. He knows what’s best. He knows vitality. He knows and Is Love.

We have only to cry out.

And that  ~ that is not mediocre or halfway done.

Not EVER.

And that flies right in the face of mediocrity.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. Romans 8:18

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