More than 24 More

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

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

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

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

She gave up.

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

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

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

So she did.

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

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

But he wasn’t THE GUY.

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

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

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

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

#morethan24more #whoohoo #eternitywithChrist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here’s to more than 24 more!

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

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Party Rockin’ in the House Tonight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He will even meet the uglies.

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

I can’t wait for that one!

Yep. His Grace is Enough.

Even if my flaws try to pretend otherwise.

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

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The Scars of Love

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

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

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

Here are just a few of mine…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two words: Jesus did.

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

It’s just icing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But guess what else? It’s okay. 

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

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

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

It also takes time.

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

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

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

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

Jesus understands.

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

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

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

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Dear Discouragement: Thank You for Reminding Me

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Sometimes I get discouraged.

  • I get discouraged trying to make peace.
  • I get discouraged as I try to encourage others when there is brutal opposition to such things growing day-by-day, minute-by-minute.
  • I get discouraged as I try to love others, when what they actually want is not real love.

Yea. Sometimes I get discouraged.

Tonight as I ponder and pray over the most recent discouraging and blue mood that I am now in, I ask….”what discourages me the most about this, Lord? Will You help me and dig down into my heart and my mind? May I have the answer, please?”

  • It’s not the expectation of getting a specific result.
  • It’s not the need to be recognized for being some great cheerleader and lover of people.
  • It’s not even the desire to see people actually CRAVE and WANT to be lifted up in fellowship with one another and draw closer to Jesus ~ the One, True King!

It’s not those things that got to me today. It’s my heart. (I know, I know….big surprise).

My heart is just not as it should be. “Will it ever be, Lord”? Will I ever feel better about the state of my heart toward others when they are rude, mean, or even malicious when I try to do nothing but encourage them? Will it ever stop being distorted from something selfless into a selfish focus upon myself?”

I must admit – God has helped me learn to dust off my feet a lot more than I used to be able to ~ it’s just that every once in a while, I don’t think I quite dust them all the way off. I get tricked into thinking that I did, but in reality, I let it build up down there.

It gets muddy. It gets heavier and heavier to pick up my feet and put one foot in front of the other. That’s when I know I am carrying the dirt around with me. That’s when I know that I haven’t turned it all over to Him.

Isn’t it funny (sad and twisted, actually) that just when I have figured out my boots are dirty, that’s the very time that someone is standing there – right around the corner – waiting and needing a person to come along and encourage them? (I strongly dislike the enemy, don’t you?)

Ug. So yes, friends. Yes, I am venting tonight about my discouragement. Please don’t feel that I am trying to be some martyr asking for your pity! I am just sharing my heart when I know that it needs help from the Lord. I want for you to see that I do not have it all together, because that is the truth!

No way!

I am crying right now because I feel down. But I know the truth – these are just my feelings. This will strengthen my faith as I move from this blog post to the Word of the Lord and time in His presence and prayer.

I will cry out to Jesus tonight, friends.

  • I will cry out and tell Him the truth about my discouragement and moody blues.
  • I will cry out and tell Him I feel sorry for myself. That what started out as me feeling sorry for others has turned to sinful self-pity.
  • I will cry out – I will tell the truth about the boots that I have been walking in and that I forgot to ask Him to carry me when it got heavy.
  • I will ask Him for forgiveness. I will ask Him to purify my heart. I will ask Him to clear my mind and make my feelings go to the place that they should be.
  • Most of all, I will ask for Him to reveal to me where I went wrong – when did I start trying to encourage in my own strength? That’s where it went awry, I just know it!

I may stay in the place of feeling discouraged for a while – this I know. But it won’t be done alone.

This tear ~ the one coming out of my eye and streaming down my face right now ~ it’s a good thing. It’s the thing that reminded me I need to seek Jesus and His comfort in a different way tonight.

Sometimes I get discouraged. I get discouraged that I wasn’t able to encourage others and love others today as I wanted, or as they seemed to “need” for me to do it.

But take heart.

If you, dear friend, like me are discouraged….take heart!

And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:17-19

And that is what making peace really is ~

  • It is found in crying out.
  • It is found in the presence of our Savior.
  • It is not found in being the best at dusting off our feet, sifting all of our feelings, compartmentalizing all our thoughts.

It is found only in HIM ~ because He loves us. Because He sacrificed it all for us.

So thank you discouragement. Thank you for reminding me.

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My Dad Fought for Freedom in More than One Way

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Lt. Col. James Michael Basile – Air Force Pilot – Wonderful Father and Husband – Follower after Jesus Christ.

Lt. Col. James Michael Basile – Hilarious dude – Intelligent beyond description – Lover of His One True King

Lt. Col. James Michael Basile – Dedicated to Holding Value of Country, Family, and Hard Work dear – Value of following Jesus held closest to the heart.

Lt. Col James Michael Basile – Lived to the fullest – died for his country – born again and living forever in eternity with Jesus.

This photo…this is how I remember my dad best. The military, clean-cut man who had the most hilarious side to him! Here, he is wearing my fabulous eighties-style hair clips!

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Note: The pens in the pocket HAD to stay.

Oh, how I loved my dad. Oh, how I laugh when I think of all the things he did that made up “Jimmy.” Oh, how I sometimes slip back into feeling his life got cut short when he died in a helicopter rescue mission in El Salvador…just shy of 20 years of dediated service to his country.

He missed his family. We got to see him in Panama for a bit before he returned and then passed away. We got to write a Father’s Day letter to him and found and confirmed that he had actually opened it and read it before he died.

But you know….it’s so comforting to know that this man not only fought for his country, but he also fought to raise his children along with my mother, with good values – and to act upon them every single day.

More than this – more than contributing to the gift of freedom we have in the United States of America – this man fought for true freeom – the kind we only find in Jesus Christ.

I am so glad I will get to see him again one day! That day, that blessed day, when I will leave this life and go to heaven with Jesus – with dad – with mom.

That day when we will live out true freedom with no distractions, temptations, or limitations!

I am so thankful that this man and my mother introduced me to true freedom – introduced me to my Savior – and showed us what it is to love Him with all “their heart, mind and soul.”

It wasn’t easy – fighting for freedom. I’m sure Jim had to withstand a lot of backlash as he fought to do what was right for Jesus at the same time he fought for this country and our freedoms here.

But in the end – I know he would say….”It is worth it. Jesus is worth it ALL.”

I don’t know what he felt in those last moments. But I do know that Jim knew where he would be going when he left this earth.

I miss him – many people that I love miss him too. But because of that freedom we have accepted in Jesus Christ – because of accepting His gift of salvation – we will see him again.

We are truly free.

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Love is not Lost on YOU

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Was someone rude or mean to you today?

Don’t forget to remember.

Was it an all-around stressful day, and maybe you didn’t handle everything just right?

Don’t forget to remember.

Did you feel like you were left out of something, lost or alone?

Don’t forget to remember.

Feeling misunderstood, laughed at, ridiculed, or picked on?

Don’t forget to remember.

Think you’re not lovable, too far gone for redemption, or just a fish out of water?

Don’t forget to remember.

Out of place, no where to go, wondering if you really have a “home?”

Don’t forget to remember.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1

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It’s Where He Lives

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If I can’t jump with my legs and spring from my feet…

I shall jump with all of my heart.

If I can’t run the hills, trails, and all through the street…

I’ll run to Jesus with all of my heart.

If I can’t smile with my mouth when things just aren’t right…

I’ll smile with joy from inside of my heart.

If I can’t calm because I don’t have all the power and might…

I’ll pray for peace to flow from my heart.

If I can’t rest and relax or take a vacation…

I’ll find rest with Jesus, inside of my heart.

If I can’t plan in the midst of ever-changing situations…

I find stability, deep down in my heart.

If I can’t fix a problem that just keep growing, keeps going…

I find surrender, inside of my heart.

If I am looking for energy but it’s only diminishing…

I find vibrancy down there, in my heart.

If I can’t love through my own human sin; imperfections…

Love is there; to pull deep from my heart.

If I choose to forget that it’s not about self-direction…

I’ll find widsom embedded there, in my heart.

If I’m lost or I’m wandering, when I’m losing touch…

There’s His comfort; inside of my heart.

If I’m wondering where home is, looking outside of Jesus…

It’s with HIM – where HE lives – in my heart.

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Concrete Feet

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I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Oh how I miss jogging.

I was a jogger – a very dedicated one, too. Not a fast one, mind you, but one who loved to run…practically every day. I appreciated it for what it was and all it could do in my life, that’s for sure. And I acted upon that – Big time.

There was a lot of freedom to be found through jogging.

I loved the feel of being able to just go and go and breathe in the air. I loved the feeling of lightness after the muscles warmed up and I hit my stride. I loved just the very action of pounding it all out…step by step…over and over and over again.

It’s funny too: I am not one who likes to remain in place. I like growth. I don’t really like change for the sake of change, but I wouldn’t have ever guessed in a million years that I would be someone who would like something that has so much…”same-ness” to it. I like the methodical nature of it all. I think it helped me feel grounded in the face of an ever-changing world.

I knew true balance and security came from Jesus, but jogging was nice too.

Yes, I loved jogging, friends. I just absolutely loved it. The balance thing was cool, but also the endorphins brought about from it were pretty great as well. The results from it don’t match anything I have ever experienced with any other kind of exercise. EVER.

** Matching your breathing to the movement of your feet
** Getting into a groove; a zone and staying there…
** Letting your eyes focus on a point just ahead for an hour straight…
** Allowing your mind to dump…thinking, then not thinking at all.
** Praying whilst enjoying the act of what entails so much movement, but seems almost like floating all at the same time.

Jogging was a beautiful thing in my life.

I worked hard and prayed hard not to allow jogging to become my god. Another false idol? NO way was this girl having it! But as diligent as I was in my prayer life about this, it also entailed that sinking feeling inside – the knowledge that even if I didn’t let it become a false idol in my life, one day, it might be removed. Sometimes that happens – and God has a plan.

God knows what He is doing, and He does things His way and in His timing if we are truly seeking after Him. We have to listen and give up or move toward something else if He nudges us. All things that He allows can be “worked together for our good” by HIM.

I asked God in my prayers many, many times something like the following:

“Oh God, you know I love this jogging. You know how grateful I am to you that you not only allow me release through this activity, but even for the many little things you have brought about as a result of allowing me to incorporate it so consistently into my life. I have lost weight and maintained those strides, I have more clarity of thought and can listen better in my prayer life with You, and many people have come to me for ideas, motivation, support as a result of this having happened in my life. I also know you may allow me to go through seasons in which I can’t do this any more – please help me to enjoy this while it lasts – and if You decide I can keep it, I will be very happy about that. If not, please help me to accept it – because I know you are always working in me to do mighty and wonderful things.”

You guessed it ~ this physical stuff has finally stopped me pretty much in my tracks when it comes to my beloved jogging. I hung on for quite a while, even when the pain had been around for quite some time. But now, I can see that when I try to do it (barely above a walking pace even) I am hurting worse than before.

  • I have gained 30 pounds – some from menopause (probably half), the rest from no jogging
  • I feel gross – polluted – but every time I jog I am hurting far worse with the arthritis than before
  • I am fuzzy – feel bottled up – but I still have freedom in Jesus. Just miss the physical release.

I have had trouble truly embracing this, but I have accepted it, I guess. As much as I know how, although the Lord continues to surprise me in many areas as to just how much more I can surrender.

Because, you see – I also was praying for something even greater at the same time I prayed about getting to keep jogging. I was praying to draw even closer to Jesus – to know Him better, and to be used to do His will, His way. And a big part of that is surrender – even of the “good” things in life. Sometimes it’s a permanent thing, and other times, it’s not. Don’t know which way it will go with this jogging thing.

But I do know which way it will go with Jesus. He’s sticking around. For an eternity.

Aside from not getting to job, I am doing other things, so that is good. But just as I said before – nothing compares, exercise-wise. Quite frankly, lately it seems even those things are too much, but I am trying. I am trying stretching and yoga exercises, some stepping up and down on a step, walking stairs, although that one is pretty tough on the pain stuff, and may try some elliptical when I can. But friends – I got JESUS!

Will you pray for me friends? Will you pray that I use this time to press in to Jesus, appreciate where I am at, and maybe, just maybe one day I will get to jog consistently again? Will  you pray that if I am never able to really jog again, that the Lord would help me to find a form of exercise that gets me into shape, helps to heal my pain, and draws me even closer to Him? Most of all, will you continue to pray that I can accept whatever happens as long as it’s HIS will?

And where I’m at now: I shall make the most of what I can. God is gracious and good. He meets us where we are and lifts us up from that place to heights we never thought we’d reach before. He takes us down paths we never even knew existed. He has already blessed me so very much. I am His child. I need to remember that every day.

No amount of exploration through jogging trails would ever bring about divine encounters such as those that I have with my Jesus, my Savior.

I’m running to Jesus, friends – even if my feet can’t carry me. No amount of concrete can stop me. He cuts through every single thing that tries to stand in our way.

And Jesus is freedom.

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The Little Big Things

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You know, over time I have found that if I don’t act upon something right away, small as it may seem, I just won’t act upon it at all.

And if we carry on that way, well…

It adds up to a big ZERO.

Zilch. Nada. Emptiness.

You’ve heard it said many ways and many times, I’m sure: The little things make all the difference in the world.

It’s said a lot because it is TRUE.

A whole bunch of little things – little or small acts of kindness – yield the great stuff of life.

The BIG stuff that’s really, really awesome? It’s made up of a bunch of little things that have all added up over time to actually mean something.

A relationship nurtured little by little over time….

A thought that crosses your mind – and is turned into action – to do a small thing to make another’s day….

Time spent with someone that ends up making all the difference in their outlook…

A hug, a kind word, taking the last seat, opening that door…

Big and awesome things are good, but a bunch of little things can be GREAT.

Those seemingly insignificant things – or the things that only seem cool for a moment – they can make the impression of Jesus and His kind of love upon a person’s life.

Guess what else? A whole bunch of those little things delivered consistently every time and over a long period of time? Those are actually very, very BIG.

Those are BIG life-changers.

Those are BIG impressions made in another’s experience, life, heart.

Those are BIG testimonies of the truth that a heart filled with the love of Jesus – one that follows through – one that is there every single possible time, time and time again.

Those are the ones that make it count. They count for something.

They count a lot.

They matter a lot.

These little things – well, they just plain make BIG.

BIG is good if it’s something that is made up of little bits of love and truth every step of the way.

Big is good if it is the end result of walking in gentleness, truth, self-sacrifice, and most of all love.

The little things of Jesus and His ways? They aren’t small, my friends. They are packed with mighty molecules of Jesus, who He really is, His character, His love, His – ALL.

If you, like me, sometimes grow weary or start feeling helpless when you are only able to do one thing that just seems…well, “small” or insignificant – please, please remember not to stop. Don’t let the devil make you think it’s not worth it. Every single thing we do with the desire to please Jesus and share His love matters.

It matters BIG.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves  has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know  God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

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Give it Away, Give it Away, Give it Away Now!

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Sometimes we get weary.

We are tired, worn down, or even sad and grumpy.

It’s as though the mere thought of smiling might cause our faces to crack into a million little pieces if we even dared to do it.

But on the days that I am not the weary one, I can forget to give away my own smile. It’s all too easy to forget to remember.

If you aren’t overwhelmed today, won’t you join me in giving your smiles away? I bet that if we joined together in prayer, the Lord will provide plenty of them to go around.

It makes a difference. Maybe not right away, but it does make a difference.

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Sister Love

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I didn’t grow up with sisters. My brothers are AWESOME dudes and I love them! Yet a part of me still always wondered what it would be like to have a sister.

Then, I found all the things to hang on to that were great about not having one. I didn’t have to share my clothes and makeup. There weren’t two hormonal teenage girls in the house simultaneously. And, I found that I kind of enjoyed being the only girl.

However, as life progressed, I found that I didn’t always get along with women very well. Now, I am not blaming that on the fact that I didn’t have sisters – I think there were many reasons for it. But not knowing how to relate with a girl, live with a girl for years at a time didn’t really help me a whole lot in that area.

Only recently, I have found myself wanting to make closer female friends. God has placed that desire in my heart (and I’m only 47!). Decades ago I figured out how to get along with women, but I still found I couldn’t be close to very many of them. The relationships were just topical, you know? I didn’t know where to start. But God paved the way and it’s just….happened.

Well, I have a couple of women in my life now that I am getting closer and closer to, and I am blessed in new ways by these deeper friendships than I ever thought possible! Truly, these women are my sisters and I am so very grateful for them. What a blessing from the Lord!

One of these very special women is my dear Heather. I have mentioned her before, and I will definitely mention her again. She has enriched my life so very, very much!

I truly feel like God cut us from the same cloth. I always joke that we were supposed to be twins, but God put us in different places for some special reason. We aren’t really twins, but we are very, very similar in heart!

I love my new sister, Heather. You will love her too.  Please go check out her blog and facebook page and see how wonderful she is. Maybe you will get to know her the way I am getting to. If so, I have been a small part of making your life better and that makes me smile!

That Heather – that sister of mine? She is amazing. Here’s a link to get you started on your journey of knowing her better:

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Happy Valentines Day to my dear Sister, Heather. May you know how very much you bless me just by being the beautiful child of God and sister that you are! I thank God for you. You make me know more and more each day of what it is to love like Jesus loves. You help me to feel loved the way that Jesus loves me. I am so glad we get to do this life, and the eternal one together with Jesus!

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

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Thrive

THRIVE not survive

On the days that I slip back, health-wise, I fight it, but still seem to move backward spiritually. emotionally and mentally too. It always causes me to realize (again) that I have forgotten to remember how Great our God really and truly is.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God…..

I struggle. I drown in self-pity. I cry and wonder “why me?” I want to thrive, Lord. I want to be full of energy and verve and move and walk with joy and enthusiasm among your people. It hurts to smile when I feel this way. What is wrong with my body? Did you make a mistake? Can’t you fix me? I feel like you either don’t understand or you simply don’t care about this seemingly minor, yet so very pervasive problem I am dealing with here.

…Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable…

I am doing everything I am supposed to do. I even tried not doing anything and just turning it all over to You, Lord. Why am I so weak and weary? I just want to enjoy life. I am scared. Just when I think I am growing stronger physically, I am set back and seem to be worse off than when I started. I want to trust in You – that You will heal me, Lord. But if that’s not your will, I just plead with You – please help me to surrender and know what to do. I feel I have no strength left in my body and don’t know what You want for me to do, God!

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.

I supposed this may be about patience, huh? Okay then – I get that, God. BUT….how am I supposed to do life this way? How can I take care of my family and other responsibilities when I am like this? What can I do? I can’t just stop life, can I? I  mean, I would, but don’t I have to keep going? I can’t just lay down and stay in bed until You  heal me, now can I? Can’t You just tell me how to handle things in the meantime?

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength….

Clearly, I don’t have the answers. I know that You do. I supposed I haven’t truly learned what You really mean by “waiting.” I am tired, God. I am so very tired. My heart is alive, and so is my mind. My faith is in You, but I still have a degree of unbelief You need to deal with in me. I still put too much stock in myself and my own capabilities. Is that what You might be doing here? Asking me to lay down and be still so that you can make me soar the way You always intended? Not of my own might or power or strength, but in Yours – that Divine and Supernatural God-Kind?

…they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary…  

I’m going to stop trying so hard, God. I submit this temple to You. I pray You decide to heal it. And as long as You equip me to do so, I will continue to walk. I hope to run one day. I hope to soar and fly. But only with YOU.  Help me to endure the pain, God. Help me to keep my heart and mind clean while the physical junk keeps dragging me down. Help me to love in ways I never loved before. Help me not only to keep going, but to walk strong with You, love with You, fly with You and…oh my God…THRIVE with YOU.

….they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

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The Husband From The God Who Answers

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Today my husband is 48 years old. I sit here pondering the fact that I met him 35 years ago. He was thirteen and I was twelve. I started thinking of all the things I may wish to write about today to honor him and help to make his birthday special, but nothing seemed just right.

So I prayed.

“God, I want to honor my husband today and write something special for him and share it with my friends. Would you lead me as to what you would have me share today?”

And God answered…..

I think that I was made for Mark and Mark was made for me. Not too long after we were married I did the math in my head: “Wow…Mark was born in the beginning of ’66 and I was born about 9 months later the same year. That’s kind of cool.”  So in a way, Mark’s birthday is my own birthday as well.

Around the age of 12-13, we met at school. During Junior High and the beginning of High School, I had Snoopy spiral notebooks in which I wrote my name as Mrs. Anne  Birkelo, or “I love Mark.” I will never forget that.

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But what I think about the most when I think about Mark and his birthday today is how thankful I am that I am married to a man who truly understands that every single day, we are living out a born-again life in Christ Jesus!

Every single day that we walk this earth is a gift from God. Every day, we are faced with challenges, obstacles, battles of the flesh, heart and mind. And each day, we have to make choices about those things. Every day we must choose, “am I going to follow Jesus and cry out to Him or go my own way?”

Mark chooses to follow Jesus. And not just on his “birthday.”

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Today I’d like to share some attributes (and there are many more, I can assure you) that I truly appreciate about my husband. Because of all of these wonderful things that are Mark, I have a leader in my life that I can follow after and who helps me to draw all-the-closer to my One true King, Jesus Christ. I also get to celebrate who Jesus is in and through this wonderful man.

To say I’m blessed by my husband is an understatement. I can’t believe that I get to open the gift of him every day – even on his own birthday!

Boo: Thanks for making every single birthday of yours a reminder of the many blessings the Lord  has bestowed upon me and our children because of having you in our life. Thank you for having birthdays and displaying fully and clearly what it is to walk in Christ on a daily basis; drawing closer to Jesus every single day.

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DEVOTED: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Mark it utterly devoted to His relationship with His Savior and all of his priorities from there fall right into place. He holds true, faithful and strong to keeping God first in his life, and then his commitment to me and our three children is right next in line. Mark will give his all to every single thing he is committed to in life. I know I am blessed because of his devotion to his Savior, our marriage and family. The fact that I can stand and say that I know this man would never leave me for another love is beyond a blessing.

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HARD-WORKING/PERSEVERING: Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

This man amazes me in this regard. I really do stand in awe at how hard he works. He puts his everything into his work, sticks with it when the going gets beyond rough, and has stamina I don’t think I have ever seen in anyone else my whole life! He used to work too much, but he was able to see that and change his work hours and lifestyle so that he could still work to capacity, but keep his priorities straight. Anyone that has Mark on their team, whether in the workplace, serving at church, or just helping someone move or get things done, has the bulk of the workforce that they need on their side. If there is one trait I wish I had of Mark’s it would probably be the perseverance piece of things. It’s the way that he perseveres through things that I admire. This is the dude who back in the day of the disciples, would have left everything and done anything Jesus asks regardless of physical boundaries. He lives that today. He’s been gifted with an amazing ability to plow through and remain effective, efficient, and committed, with minimal or no complaint along the way. Whoa! To be made of that stuff! I can’t fathom it. He has to work at this, sure. But there’s something in his makeup – something God gifted him with in this that I cannot explain. It’s unreal to me. And oh, how I appreciate this about Mark.

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

There may be occasional times that Mark loses  his patience, but let me assure you, it’s not after  having displayed more of it than I’ll possess in my lifetime! This man puts up with a wife who needs to vent… A LOT. He and I balance each other out so well, but to do that, he has to have this never-ending reserve of patience. See, he’s not built that way (like me) at all. He doesn’t need to vent out his thoughts, feelings or angst in order to not “get toxic”. I don’t know how the dude does it, but he just gets that stuff out in some other way or sucks it up without becoming a beast. In turn, while dealing with his own stuff, he patiently listens to me during the times I need to discuss the same issue for the 100th time. I can’t even do this one justice….just take my word for it. The dude is beyond patient!

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GENTLE AND MELLOW: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

As hard working and persevering as Mark is, he has an uncanny knack for being very go-with-the-flow about certain things. His overall day-to-day demeanor is very laid back and mellow. I don’t know how a person lives both traits simultaneously – being so hard working and tenacious, yet being laid-back at the same time. The only thing I can say is it truly must be of God. By gentle, I mean he has a pretty gentle spirit. He is certainly not meek and mild (wimpy) by the world’s standards and definitions. But he is quietly under control. “Meek” by the Lord’s definition; that’s Mark. That strength under control? It. Is. Powerful. It makes me feel safe. Yet I know that he will be chill most of the time, rather than exert that power and strength in ways that are demoralizing to us. He lives a lot of the time in the day in and day out moment by moment. I love this about him so very much.

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CONFIDENCE/SELF CONTROL: In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. Proverbs 14:26

Spinning off of that, is his inner confidence in who he is in Christ Jesus and out of that comes self-control. I can’t say the man never gets angry or loses his temper – he’s not perfect. But I can say that he is certain of who he is in Christ Jesus and he has such confidence about it that it alone is a testimony to others he encounters. Overall, he has far more self-control than most people I have ever met. I think that has to do with the fact that he is patient and the perseverance piece of things. But the bottom line, is that again, these are things I believe God gifted him with – no man gets the real stuff, the God-given stuff that has to do with these traits on his own. Mark is obedient to the Lord, and the fruit of that shows. Clearly.

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SERVANT: If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. John 12:26

Mark has a servant’s heart and lives a servant life. I believe he has been given the spiritual gift of giving. The dude will sign up for worthy things, even when he doesn’t want to. I don’t hardly ever see him rest or do things for himself. I do think he needs to recharge more often, but it’s possible it’s not that season in his life (to need that or be less effective without it) just yet. Mark doesn’t sign up for every little thing just to do the whole “I am involved in this and that” stuff. He truly serves. He finds the things that others don’t want to do and he signs up to do that stuff. On top of that, the dude remains faithful to that task. When he feels like he is tired, he still goes. When he wishes he could just stay home, he goes. When no one else wants to show up, he’s there. And here’s the kicker: He does it with joy and without complaint. Unbelievable!

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RESPECTFUL:  Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the  emperor.  1 Peter 2:17

I can’t quite put into words how rare this trait is these days, especially from a husband to his wife. But Mark is beyond respectful. He truly understands and appreciates what he has in his relationships and life and gives that the respect that it deserves. He respects and loves me for the person that I am in Jesus and the things that make us different. He treats me with kindness and care even when I am not easy to get along with sometimes. He would never say a bad thing about me, his wife, to anyone! And he would not disrespect me or our relationship by acting in impure ways at all. The man is faithful, and to me, that is the ultimate show of respect aside from honoring the person you are with for who Jesus made them to be.

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STRONG: The God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. Psalm 18:32-34

This may seem silly, but Mark is probably the strongest man physically that I have ever met. He doesn’t look like a body builder, isn’t 6 feet tall, and doesn’t seem like one of those football players out there at the superbowl, but after having lived with him all these years, I can tell you that man is built for hard work. I have no fear that if anyone ever approached me or our children with the intent to harm us, that Mark could take them down if necessary. Again, I think it’s that power and strength-under-control thing that gives rise to this physical-strength-thing. Truly, I know I am guessing here, but I think Mark is built a lot like Jesus in the flesh might have been. He’s got that calm and gentle spirit, but he is filled with a power that is harnessed perfectly and kept under strict control.

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HUMOR: A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones. Proverbs 17:22

This one is my favorite. To me, part of having good humor is being able to understand other people’s sense of humor. It’s being strong enough to laugh along with others and be slow to be offended. It’s about being able to let go and have some fun in life. Mark lets me play with him and be silly and understands my strange sense of humor. He plays along. He is funny all by himself and doesn’t even know it. I swear, if God hadn’t given me a husband who had this trait, I’d possibly be dead. Sometimes Mark does or says things that he doesn’t even think are funny, but when I crack up about them, he goes along with me for the ride. As serious and hard working as Mark can be, he fully understands there needs to be fun in life. I think God gave Mark this trait so that we would stay married, and do so happily! Ha Ha!

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PRAYER: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

Mark has a TRUE gift regarding prayer! I have watched it emerge and it just continues to blossom. I don’t understand it fully, because it’s not my gift. I pray, but the way Mark prays brings a peace over the room that I can’t explain. Truly, the Holy Spirit just flows out of him when he is praying. I don’t think many folks fully understand what a gift this is. The Lord tells us of the power of prayer and what happens when two or three are gathered together in worship and praying in His name. I never experienced it or understood that until Mark began to be asked to lead prayer in groups a lot. It amazes me. I have been praying about how to write about what I see when this happens, but words so far just fail me. I am so beyond thankful that the Lord has blessed my husband with this gift.

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Will you help me to celebrate my husband and his special day today? Would you, dear reader, say a prayer thanking God today for Mark and the way that he lives Jesus out in this world for others to see? Will you pray that he continue to grow and flourish and have great effect on bringing others closer to Christ? This man prays for so many others and does so in such a selfless manner. It is my greatest hope that the best gift of all I could give to Mark this year is to get others to pray for Christ to continue to shine brightly through him.

Happy Birthday to my wonderful and Christ-like Husband, Mark!  I love you the MOST!

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Flower Fade Not

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If you love a flower, don’t let it fade away.
It needs a little light and a little care every day.
With this nourishment, its beauty will stay true;
And a loving, eternal reflection, will shine all over you.

A flower’s beauty loves, but it too, needs love back…
Without this mutuality, its petals begin to crack.
The stem then, isn’t so strong; with nothing there to show,
But leaves and dirt beneath it;  petals that lost their glow.

Yet that can never happen, with some attention every day
‘Cause it will plant new seeds, and won’t just whither away.
Those seeds will keep on growing, with you, your love, your care;
With that you will be showing that you truly want it there.

You say you love your flower? Then know it’s not perfection.
Without a place to grow, it loses all direction.
It’s not completely helpless; it can stand on its own…
But serves all of us better if your heart can be its home.

Let your flower give to you, all it wants to give..
But remember that it needs nurturing to truly bloom and live!
The flower is love and truth, me and you and you and me;
I don’t think it should die – I think we should just see…

That together we’re the caretakers; we can clip it, trim it, mold it…
We can form all shapes and sizes; we can do this bit by bit.
And with a little work – if we just put a little time in,
Our flower will grow and grow, and soon we’ll have a garden.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. Romans 15:5

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Pleasing God or Pleasing Man?

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This is a groaning-of-the-heart post. It’s not well-written. It’s not meant to be. I typically share from the  heart, but it comes across more coherent than today’s musings will do. But that’s the point. The Lord is asking me to share the raw stuff that I can’t fully do justice with mere words today. So, if it strikes you as you listen with your heart – as you think of the times you prayed and couldn’t even utter the words, but had to let the Holy Spirit just read your heart, please understand that you are hearing me as I do the same thing. I am typing it as I am praying this way today. Words do not suffice, but I hope you will still be blessed in some way by what I share as you read on.

Is it possible that sometimes we Christians hide behind the whole “you only have to please God” stuff in order to bypass our responsibility to honor and fully love one another? In not doing so, we aren’t pleasing Him anyway, are we?

This is what has been on my heart lately, and it’s been squeezed to the point of feeling it quite literally, friends.

Today, driving home from work, God gave me some clear revelations. This is that big thing that I think He was trying to tell me that I shared was “on my heart” about a month ago. I didn’t know what it was and it’s been driving me nutso!!!

But it was worth waiting upon the Lord to come to this place, which is still a strange place to be in, but wonderful too. Quite frankly, I didn’t expect to get this revelation at all driving home today. But God’s timing is interesting and always perfect, is it not?

I think we are often quite well-intentioned about this, so don’t get me wrong on this one. Sometimes though, we can get duped into thinking that if all we do is focus on God and pleasing Him and Him alone, that is enough. It may be enough for salvation, but it certainly isn’t enough to bear the fruit of it to the fullest.

We then do the exact opposite of living for Him and bringing Him joy when we focus on not needing to honor and please others because we start thinking we are in some kind of special relationship with God where we don’t have to answer to others IN FULL.

We stop placing value on the needs of others and the attributes that He asks us to live out.

We stop living like Jesus lives.

I have been so focused upon loving others well, that I forgot about some of the things that are equally as important.

Things like total and complete loyalty when it’s hard or doesn’t make sense.

Things like being okay with wanting to please others, especially when it comes from a heart of love and letting Jesus shine through that endeavor.

Things like being all right with wanting to know I am adding value to the lives of others, and to know it from them as well as from the Lord.

See, I don’t necessarily know that I need it from others – but it’s good to want it from others and I am starting to make peace with that again in my life. Telling ourselves that it’s not important is a lie from the enemy. As long as the intentions and motivations are right, then I believe God is telling us that it is part, and  a good and important part, of the greater purpose of edifying and loving one another.

In focusing upon pleasing God and only answering to others out of obedience, my heart started to leave the building in many places and situations.

Oh my aching heart. No wonder He was squeezing it for me!

Yes! We are to do all that we do for God’s glory, not to please everyone around us for the sake of pleasing man and fitting in with this world. That wasn’t my problem. I get the whole  “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23) I buy into that and want to live that out fully.

And, Yes! We ultimately answer to God and get our true value, worth and identity through Him, and who we are in Him, not this world or the men in it or all the stuff that we do or don’t do. I get that one too.

BUT……

This is just all the more reason to remember how very important it is to look at scripture as a whole.

God also tells us to…..

aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.” 2 Corinthians 8:21

Oh, and this too…

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31

Integrity: Doing the right thing even (especially) when it’s hard or may not make sense.

By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.”Psalm 41: 11-12

Honor:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these thingsPhilippians 4:8

Upright:
But hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” Titus 1:8

Pure:
So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” Acts 24:16

Faithfulness and Loyalty:
“A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 28:20

We are to “love others as Christ loved us.” That means to answer to Him and always remember HE alone is our God.

But at the same time, it means to love and  honor and cherish His bride in EVERY way possible.

His bride is part of HIM. A very, very big and important part!

Guess what? For now, my heart is resting. I still don’t have all the answers, but God does. I know that it’s okay to want to do right by others. Especially when it’s hard.

Are we bondservants of Christ or not? Take a moment and look up the definition in full of bondservant. And I shall leave you with this last word from the Lord:

“Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” Colossians 3:22

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Joe Self

Photo Credit via tumblr.com

Photo Credit via tumblr.com

Everywhere you look,  you’ll see something about “just being and loving yourself.” You won’t just see it once. No, not even twice. You will see it everywhere, all the day long!

Truly, I stand in awe of that. At the same time, it resonates. I have that inner longing too. That longing to be loved. That desire to be accepted. At the very least, the ability to feel comfortable in my own skin when I express what is inside.

Why do you think we hear this so very much? Why is it such a pervasive thing? It’s almost like there’s an utter desperation out there to find and be your self!

Here’s my take on it:

I think we have things twisted up (again).

I think the enemy has taken the degree of truth that there is to this matter and messed the whole thing up. Again.

I thought a lot about this today (yes…again). The reason is because it’s where I was at a couple of times today.

“Why do so few people understand me?”

I” don’t think people realize when I am joking around or being serious.”

“Am I going to have to keep restraining myself on a daily basis depending upon the situation I happen to be in? I just wanna be me. Is that so bad?”

Then the other side or other voice  (I know, I know, I have issues):

“Ah…who cares. Just be Joe Self!”

Can you spell J-O-E-S-E-L-F-I-S-H? Yeah.

I have concluded that it’s true: We DO need to find out how to be ourselves, but not the way that the world is trying to tell us to do it.

What brought this to mind today is the fact that I continue to struggle in my own life with this (clearly). Now that I am seeking after and following after Jesus with everything I’ve got, I have become more and more uncomfortable being myself.

I get it. It’s not about me.

It’s about less of Annie, and more of Jesus. I get that too. (although I screw up all the time).

It’s about who I am in Christ Jesus – The vessel that I am for Him. The follower. And one of the ones who needs to seek to understand far more often than I seek to be understood.

If you feel misunderstood, you may be “doing it right.”

I’m starting to get to know that person, (the more-like-Jesus-Annie-self) and sometimes I get confused. Sometimes I forget that only the parts that aren’t Annie at all are the ones that matter.

I forget that it needs to be all about who Annie is in Christ.

I forget to remember that part is ALL that matters.

THAT part – the Jesus part? Well, it needs to be the WHOLE.

Here’s the thing, friends: We have trouble being okay with who we are for basically one of two reasons:

Either we are not the person Christ intends for us to be – we are living in sin or for self.

Or we ARE starting to become who we are intended to be in Jesus, but the world is not comfortable with that – at all.

Hmmm? Remind you of how someone else felt the entire time He walked this earth? Just a little?

So, does this mean we are in for a lose-lose situation here? I don’t know. I guess it depends upon how we define victory, now doesn’t it?

Yes…I will continue to struggle with not feeling comfortable with who I am.

Yes…I will continue to even feel persecuted for it.

But maybe, just maybe, most days those of us feeling this way who are followers after Christ, uncomfortable as our flesh may be, we will judge joy by the peace that we know by letting Him live through us, instead of the “feeling” of fitting in, being accepted, or even just merely being “allowed” to be how we are in Him.

He warned us….

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law:’They hated me without reason.” John 15: 18-25

But He also consoles us. We can remain in HIM, not in our “selves.” It has a far greater reward, and is what will last far beyond the confines of this little world in which we temporarily reside.

And that? Well, that’s Joe Awesome, if you ask me!

 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! John 15: 5-11

Remember today, if you are discouraged, dear friends, Joe Joy comes from Jesus, not from Joe Self.

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No Matter What – Joy Series Part 1

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Psalm 98:4 ESV
No matter what…..shout to the Lord with joy when you want to.

Praise Him even when you don’t want to – especially then.

No matter what….let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

No matter what…keep crawling back and trying again, and again, and again.

No matter what.

Snoopy gets it. I want to be like him when I grow up.

Some Really Groovin’ Peeps

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A friend loves at all times, and a  brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a  good fire?”
C. S. Lewis

Just when I think it will be hard to make new friends, the Lord, in His grace, mercy and love decides to surprise me anew. Don’t you just love it how He does such things?

Is it a sign of old age that we start to think that we already have met our quota regarding our ability to meet new people and be open and honest with them fairly quickly? Or is it the fact that as time goes on, we find oursleves struggling with this more than we used to because we have forgotten that we can still choose to approach friendship just like a child does.

You know…. TRANSPARENCY?

You know… RISK?

You know… EXPECTATION?

Maybe we get stuck in our ways and get into our little comfort zones and stop looking for the best in those we don’t already know or we meet along the way.

Worse yet…maybe we get a bit jaded as time goes on and on and on – and we decide to close off – to shut down – to stop trying to meet new friends.

We stop opening up.

We stop walking right up to people like little children do and saying “Hi – my name is Annie and I want to know more about you. Let me tell you something about me so you feel you can talk to me a little bit. Then maybe we can be friends. Do you want to play?”

I am being so blessed and meeting so many new friends lately in so many unexpected places.

Here in the blogging community…

At my church…

At my job too.

But today I want to say how beyond grateful to Jesus I am that He decided to place me in a training class at work that truly is made up of exceptionally awesome people.  If you were my husband, you would say that they are “groovin’.”

And they are.

Our trainer is one of the best teachers I have ever had or met in my life – no joke. She is not only knowlegeable, but funny, compassionate, and FULL of grace! I couldn’t hand pick a better person to learn from, that’s for sure. This woman is someone I could connect with on so many levels immediately. She is a spiritual mentor, and someone who definitely taps right into the essence of a person. Such insight. Such love. She loves us for all that we are, all that we aren’t (yet), and shows us that she expects that we will  be GREAT. In some ways, she is seeing us (well, at least me) not at our best. You know, when you are in a learning curve – fears come out – nervous stuff – whining – even tears can come. Frustration. The list goes on and on. But she still loves us. She inspired a recent one of my posts – loving one another even on bad hair days – remember? Yes…that was because of HER. That was because of Jesus in  her. No matter how I do in this new job, I am a better person for having met her. What an absolute blessing.

Then there are my classmates, who will be my new co-workers, and who are already becoming good friends in my life. We are all so different in so many ways, but the beauty in that strikes me time and time again!

I. LOVE. THAT.

The fact that we are all in the same boat, but struggle with different things – the fact that we all have different strengths and challenges (uh-hem, mostly me on the “challenges”) – the fact that we begin this part of our work journey together. There’s something that is definitely spiritual in that bond, even if you aren’t working at a Christian organization.

That’s so cool. That is groovin’ too.

One gal is smart as a whip and just doesn’t miss a beat. She reminds me so very much of my best friend I had in high school, who is still my friend to this day. In so many ways, we appear to be different (as far as how we approach people or mushy-type stuff), but she continues to surprise and amaze me in how compassionate and tender she is. You know how people can stereotype others – sometimes we can think a really intelligent and together person would not be warm. Quite the contrary with this young lady. In fact, she has such a sensual (should I use that word?) side. I don’t mean in the bad kind of way – I mean she likes dance, she clearly likes fine things – art, has the coolest earrings and style. I just really love her! She is so balanced, but real. She is rock solid – but she’s a gem and a treasure for certain. Treasure is the word – it’s like you find something different in the treasure box every time you interact with her. And I love to live vicariously through her fast-working brain. She is definitely someone I would work well with as a work partner – her focus and drive and ability to catch on so quickly would keep me a bit more grounded.

The other young lady in my class is also over-the-top intelligent and efficient, and has a great, sly sense of humor (which is probably the part about her particular witty brain that I love and appreciate the most)! She is one of those lovely girls – inside and out. She is soft-looking and kind and gentle in demeanor, yet never misses an opportunity to appropriately and wryly joke around. She surprises you with that all the time, because (again the stereotyping we do) when one first meets her, one thinks she may be reserved or shy…but she is not at all. She is extremely approachable and kind and FUNNY! She is full of information, but never comes across as a know it all. She has an appreciation for the big things in life as well as the small (such as fashion, and awesome videos that are fun to watch, my brothers and sisters – which is super important)! This chick is also very balance and full of grace. She too, likes fine things, I think, but never comes off as a snob at all! She has such a zest for life and all things new and hip and I love the fact that she will truly keep me in the know – I know I can always go to her if I need help and she will always be open to me. She is a young married gal and would be the BEST wedding planner in the world – something I could really see her doing one day. I love this gal too and think she’s just another really groovin’ girl.

Then there’s the male presence and I just can’t say enough about this guy and what a great sport he is. This gentleman just slays me with his dry humor – which is one of my absolute FAVORITE kinds of humor in the whole wide world! At first, I just thought he was a mellow dude – which he is, most definitely. But I have to admit, I didn’t get the humor (I’m kind of dense that way when I am first getting to know someone as to whether or not they are joking). Now I find myself literally cracking up OUT LOUD at more than half of what he says. Of course, it’s always a delayed reaction on my part which just makes it even funnier. I even had a dream that he was eating lunch with Bob Newhart outside of our workplace like the first week I worked with him – ha ha! He will say something and my analytical brain will be busy processing it, and then about a minute later I am laughing (I really am the queen of delayed reactions)! This man is also a wealth of information and is so graciously helpful and approachable too. He continues to surprise me and bless me with how supportive and encouraging he is. He’s smart, funny and laid back in the grooviest way. Yep – ANOTHER blessing to us all!

I think aside from the utter and total grace these new friends of mine display and the light of Jesus that shines so clearly through each of them in such unique and special ways, I appreciate the humor and the way I think that we will compliment one another at work, and maybe in life overall, the most. It is uncanny to see a group of people who can truly buckle down and work really hard, but know just when to lighten up the mood with some good laughs.

Different as we all are, we have that in common.

Guess what makes it the absolute MOST groovin’ of all – these blessings I have found in my new friends? It’s that we have JESUS in common. Nothing could top that. Just nothing.

Thank you Lord Jesus for my new friends! You knew – yet again – just who to place me with as I move onward through this new adventure. You knew just how to mix us up so we could put our best foot forward in our new roles at our jobs when some days (let’s just face it) we are on top of the world and others we are filled with doubts. It’s just like the picture I chose to put in this post above – we are all jumping off what may seem like a cliff – (the unknown as to how we will perform after training, etc.) but we get to do it together. Jesus isn’t going to let us drown, and we aren’t going to let it happen to one another either. That’s why I chose that image instead of a roller coaster. (By the way, Annie on the roller coaster might make enemies out of those new friends of mine really, really quickly, let me just tell you that right now).

Yes, no matter what, we are bonded by the common thread of YOU – the Mighty One – Savior and King and Lord! I can’t say it enough – thank you, dear Jesus!

And thanks to all of you – my groovin’ blogging friends. I feel your friendship minute by minute every single day across the miles! When I speak to others about you – my wonderful friends I have met through this blogging community – I am, ironically, almost at a loss for words.

In a sense, we are all jumping off cliffs all the time together as we move through this life and share our triumphs, struggles, and “stuff.” But isn’t it awesome to know that Jesus is there waiting for us the whole time? We may feel like we are free falling a lot,  but He has us just where He wants us. We just have to stick together. He emphasizes the importance of that fellowship so very much.

We have to work hard.

We have to ask for help.

We have to make and be friends.

Just like the little children do.

Go out today, my wonderful friends – especially if you feel alone – and make some friends or nurture those bonds that you already do have with others. If trying to make new friends,  either online, or on the phone, or through your work – really, just ANY where – simply use your own words, ask someone to come out and play – and ask someone to be your friend!

We can start by being wiling to be their friend first – then make the decision to be the most groovin’ kind of friend there is – the one who loves their friends at ALL times.

Jesus thinks it’s important. I’d venture to say He might even say it’s “groovin.”

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WWJD?

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A. Establish Dominance

B. Fail to give benefit of the doubt to others

C. By-pass the importance of dignity

D. Ditto with regard to respect

E. Knock you down a size so you know your place

F. Act pretentious

G. Make sure to show reserve in most situations

H. Take the fun out of work and life

I. Force you to fit a certain mold to gain His approval or love

J. Withhold said approval and love

K. Keep track of wrongs

L. Make you prove yourself over and over again

M. Focus on rules more than love

N. Fail to be approachable

O. Command instead of Communicate

P. Fail to give praise

Q. Refuse to edify others

R. Exert instead of convert

S. Tell instead of teach

T. Minimize the importance of inspiration

U. Overemphasize performance

V. Accept only the “acceptable.”

W. Rule versus lead and love

X. Fail to see and encourage humor

Y. Never Rest

Z. Steal Your Joy

Answer? None of the Above!

It’s really not a question of what would Jesus do…it’s about what He did and does do. There is no question at all that first and foremost, we are to be servants to others – especially those under our care.

If you are a leader of some kind, whether a pastor of a church, a volunteer for a youth group, a big boss at work, or even a parent or a friend/mentor, Jesus expects nothing less that servant leadership from you.

It’s not  hard to find the ways to go about this – scripture is absolutely full of the ways Jesus models this for us. But it does start with the heart.

WDJD? What does Jesus do? For me? For you?

Once we wrap our minds and hearts around that, and fail to forget it, we then can do the same for others.

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not
because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not
greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to
you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you
will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 1 Peter 5: 2-4

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Reigning in the Rain

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I love to jog in the rain.

Let me be specific: Not the POURING and PELTING rain, but the constant drizzle that I got to run in for an hour after work today.

It soothes me – such drizzly, soft, droplets of water.

It cools me as I sweat and pant and push onward.

It is truly a gift from God – to be able to jog – to be able to run in the soft rain.

Running in the rain as I did today reminds me of the fact that our God truly does reign through any and every circumstance.

As I trudged up the hills that only a year ago (pre-cartwheel injury and pre-menopausal weight gain) had been quite easy for me to master, I was reminded, (yet again) of the fact that it is not me who rules or reigns over anything in this life.

It is He.

He reigns in the sunshine…

He reigns in the brain fog of my current hormonal situation that seems to be taking over my life piece by piece day by day.

He reigns when I am a minimal body fat runner who can pretty much run as long as I want with as little difficulty I ever could have imagined…

And yes…He reigns even when I am a crazy-feeling woman who is carrying around a couple of bowling balls worth of weight and another year of age on her shaky frame and isn’t sure if she will ever “get back” to where she was before (in more ways than one).

Thank God that HE – Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord – doesn’t change. Thank HIM that He reigns in our times of triumph and our times of challenge and weakness or frailty.

Today I ran in the rain and throughout that hour I found myself wondering “why me?” And our reigning Lord gently and kindly whispered to me – EVERY. SINGLE. LAST. LOVING. TIME – “I gave you the ability to do this with my help today – be grateful – for I reign.”

I am going to continue to run – rain or shine – jiggle or no jiggle – brain fog or clear minded.

But most of all, I am going to revel in the company I share while on these jaunty journeys.

It’s all part of unleashing His power in my life – allowing Him true reign as I endeavor to NEVER try to “rein” that awesome stuff in.

Maybe that’s what that jiggle symbolizes? (Just kidding)

Enjoy your King today and every day. And may the “Son” shine upon you – especially if it’s raining.

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Revelation 19:6

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