Magnified

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Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 2 Corinthians 5:7

This is a hard thing to write about – it’s truly difficult for me to put it into words, so I’m just going to try!

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationship lately. Relationships, the way that we tend to perceive them, are based a LOT around feelings. As humans, we experience them, right?

Feelings are part of our  make-up. But often, we rely upon them way too much. We can allow them to define us and/or define our relationships. And feelings are so fickle! So if you ask me, they shouldn’t be the foundation of all that we call relationship. No sir!

Much of the time I find myself thinking that the type of relationship we have with God is really the only one that is all the way right. It has crossed my mind so often, because, as you know, I don’t get out and about a whole lot.

The world likes to say that if we aren’t seeing, feeling, touching, hearing, smelling – EXPERIENCING –  well, then we aren’t in real relationship with others. That can be partially true, but it isn’t always the whole truth. Be careful about that and listen to the Lord!

My relationship with God DEFIES human boundaries! I know this because I have experienced it first hand now that all the other stuff has been stripped away during this weird and hard season in my life. And it’s caused me to take a hard and deep look at the fact that maybe – just MAYBE – we rely too much upon what we can see and experience- all the tangible stuff- to define true relationship.

In some ways, that reliance upon all that is within our grasp can trick us, man. And God can break the mold any time He wants to if we allow Him to do so.

I used to be surrounded by people. I was in the mix of it all. I’m not bashing that – man, alive! If you can get out among people, please do it! Jesus and the disciples did that very thing and it is important! Being alone is not good for us, so whenever it is possible to spend time with other people, it is GOOD.

But in some ways, being alone a lot causes a person to really dig for the true gold amidst the intangibles. And that too, is very, very good ~ IF we are digging in all the right places.

It all depends upon what we do with the season in life that is before us. Do we wallow around and feel sorry for ourselves most of the time, or do we look for the treasure we have when we are in relationship with Jesus?

  • The Jesus treasure!
  • The real relationship we have and find in prayer and study of His Word – His love letter to us!
  • The crying out we do in the bathtub when we are feeling sorry for ourselves!
  • The dancing and singing in our hearts to praise Him for every little thing that we used to dismiss as not important!
  • The new understanding of His character in the midst of our “suffering” that we may never have had revealed to us before without having been placed in this season!

Make no mistake about it – our relationship with Jesus involves feelings too! But for me, I have found that it is characterized more about what I know about Him than all of that other stuff. It takes a lot of me out of the picture – although that is always still a struggle. It causes me to focus in on Him a little more.

We can’t “see” Him yet. We can’t touch him tangibly yet. We can’t hear Him in the same way (with our ears) or smell Him just yet. But does that make the relationship we have with our Savior less-than in some way? No!

It defies the boundaries we mere little human beings place around our ability to have “relationship.” It transcends feelings and tangible feel-good stuff. AND, no matter whether we are surrounded by 1000 other people or walking much of our season in life alone, HE IS WITH US.

How rad is that?!

Not being able to rely upon the things we can grasp,  hold, squeeze, cling to – well, it all causes us to rely upon HIM and the fact that HE is unchanging. It causes us to try to know Him, rather than rely upon all that other stuff to convince ourselves there is something there. It inspires us to dig – to listen – to be in His Word in order to “hear” HIS VOICE. It is an experience – our relationship with our Savior.

But I won’t lie. It certainly makes it harder in some ways, right? The ideal is to be able to press in deeper in our relationship with Jesus AND nurture our many other relationships with people in real and tangible ways. But sometimes, we are in a season like Job was when he was ailing (to put it mildly) or like Paul was when he was in prison – and conditions are not “ideal.”

And isn’t that something that might actually be to our benefit? Again – is it possible that when we can’t rely upon the tangible things, we seek Him all the more? 

I would venture to say that digging in with regard to our relationship with Christ is a bit harder when we are not in a season of spending a lot of time alone. Why can I say that? Because I have been in both places. I had a relationship with Jesus before, but I was distracted a lot, too. Maybe, in some ways, He has given me a gift through this season of chronic illness. I know that sounds weird, but it’s how I’m coming to see it all.

And I share this with you today because if YOU are in a season that is causing you to be alone a lot of the time, I know you will be tempted to allow the world or, worse yet, the enemy cause you to think you can’t have a FULL relationship with Jesus Christ in the midst of that. That is a lie! Be encouraged, dear friend!

I have grown closer in my relationship with Jesus than ever before because I have been able to use this time in this season in my life to get back to my first love – something I should have done before anyway.  I desire to seek Him more diligently but have to ask Him daily to help me to cut through all the feelings I have about my chronic illness, including the physical and emotional ones, so as to focus in on HIM. It is a daily battle in which I am asked to surrender my attitude and outlook and change it from thinking about all that is missing to all that I can still have in HIM! And to enjoy and appreciate every single thing He has provided for me on this earth too – like my family, my church family, my sweet puppy dog, and having a nice home to sleep in and live in until I go to my forever home.

I am not really alone. You aren’t either if you don’t want to be.

I often find myself longing to hear Him or feel Him hugging me in spite of the fact that I know He is already here with me. That’s the human being inside that longs for the tangible stuff. But I am not missing anything this side of heaven in having a real and awesome relationship with Jesus.

And one day ~ one GLORIOUS DAY – we will meet our Lord and Savior and get our glorified bodies.  It’s going to happen soon and very soon!  And THEN! I can’t even imagine what He has in store for us, dear friends!

In the meantime, we can cry out to Him to draw near – and He does, friends, HE DOES! We can use this time to ask Him to show us through what seem like dark or lonely seasons or like loss or missing out on things, that we actually have more than we could ever ask for in our relationship with Him! We can learn more about HIS attributes and who HE is in spite of the fact that the only thing we feel we can grasp is our relationship with our Savior and His Word.

The only thing? That thing is HUGE. Don’t allow the enemy to diminish that. Allow God to magnify it!

And He and His word lives on forever, whether it is clutched in our mere little hands or not. It is living and everlasting and deeply embedded in our hearts and our souls. He can never be stripped away from us. No, not ever!

He is always with us, friends. He is faithful and true.

Jesus Christ is all about relationship. But never forget – He KNOWS HOW to break the mold. And in what seems like a time marked by having to squint so we can see, He can magnify Himself in our lives. He can!

Let us embrace that.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 5:7

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Squint if We Have To

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I’ve been reading and studying 1 Peter this week and it is full of beautiful golden nuggets of Christ’s truth. All of the Word is, friends ~ but I find that every time I return to this section of scripture, there is just SO MUCH to absorb. I’m still learning and digging into this beautiful book of God’s word, but I have some observations that I thought I’d like to share with you.

Although the entire context of the whole of the book of 1 Peter (and the entire Bible for that matter) is crucial for us to understand, I thought I would break down what these particular verses (taken in context) have meant to me lately, and that I’d do so in a different format than I usually would.

Maybe some of you are contending with the same things, and maybe they speak to you and your life and  Christian walk in a different way, depending upon the season you are in and what the Lord is guiding you to do right now in your own life.

But here are my own observations for now.

Chapter 2, verse 2…..“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation”

  • This is one of the things that I feel that the Lord has been calling me to absorb and grow in for so long – I often find that I get caught up in many other things in life and put my time spent in the word second, or third, or even further down the line. It needs to be my GREATEST priority. I find that the more consistent I am about it the more it becomes a DESIRE versus a thing that I need to do. Babies need milk – they crave it. It feeds them, grows them, nourishes them. We can’t allow ourselves to go on a fast when we are but babes in need of our life-giving Savior.

Chapter 2, verses 9 -12…“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

  • Man, there is a lot of meat here to digest. I will pick a couple of things that the Lord is using in my own life and walk with Him right now – First, I often find that I am encouraged by others to remember that I am royalty as a true Christian and to “walk in that” with my head held high. Although I think it is important to remember this promise that we are his royal heirs, and we can remember to remind each other about it as a source of brotherly encouragement, I find that this is so emphasized that it can become twisted – tainted by man – and in those times, for me, a struggle ensues.
  • The piece that stands out to me here is what it says right after that in verse 9 – “so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you”.…In other words, we must remember we are his royal heirs FOR HIS GLORY AND HIS ALONE.
  • We can’t allow the enemy to distort this for us, friends. We can wear the crown with our own human pride if we aren’t careful. When we find ourselves doing this, it becomes about self versus the Lord. When we need encouragement, let us remember we are his royal children – but always because we are thankful that He has sacrificed for us so that we can be a part of His royal family. We receive His mercy – not what we deserve. It’s about HIM.

Chapter 2 verses 18-20 Servants be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”

  • This is on my mind so much lately – and God is working in my heart a lot in regard to this very thing. Yep – this political season we are in as Christians in America right now – it will challenge us to remember these verses. It’s beyond difficult. We can stand for truth and what we think is right – and we should. But no matter what happens, we must bear up under the authority that ends up being chosen for us. We don’t have to agree with the things they ask us to do that are not biblical, but it doesn’t mean we don’t still have to find a way to glorify God under the authority of rulers that may not be good ones. We do. Jesus had to do it too.
  • If we go to other sections of scripture and study what Jesus did under the wicked rulers of his time on earth, we see that it was not an either/or approach that He took. He spoke the truth and never stopped – even to the point that it led him to the cross. He tore up tables in the temple where the Pharisees were. But he also stood and accepted the sentencing of Pilot. It is hard to do both/and in these situations. The world tries to make us feel like we can’t be good little Christians and submit to authority over us while at the same time standing up for the truth. But it can be done. We have only to look to Jesus and follow in His footsteps. And it will bring about pain. If any of you has this figured out yet, please send me a note! 🙂

This leads us straight into the next section of 1 Peter which reinforces that we have Jesus Christ as an example….a beautiful and perfect example!

Verses 21-23….”For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

  • God is our judge, not man. Satan, through others, will try his best to make us feel judged by man – to make us feel that we are in the wrong to stand for Christ’s truth and love in an increasingly dark world. But we must remember who the real judge is, and that we are to please and honor HIM above all.

The second half of 1 Peter is the section I am studying right now –

  • It is about serving the Lord willingly, especially when it is hard.
  • It is about remaining zealous and fervent in our love for Him and sharing in the sufferings of Christ.
  • It is about Godly living in a world that stretches us and pulls us and tries to twist it all up.
  • It is about loving one another and seeking peace without starting to live for this world and pleasing man.
  • Jesus experienced the very same temptations and struggles and obstacles in his time on earth. He overcame all of that and so much more. For us.

So I will leave you with some thoughts about the introduction into that part of 1 Peter and some of the things that God is growing my own heart about it as we speak. I am sure I will learn much from Him over the coming week as I delve further into this. How about you? Do any of these sections in scripture encourage your own heart or mind?

Chapter 3 verses 8-17 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” 

  • “Harmonious” here does not mean blending in or going with the flow of the world. It means being free from destructive and consistent disagreements, to the point of broken relationships and allowing discord to rule our lives ~ and, in particular, among fellow believers it means forming a consistent whole. Christ is the foundation that holds us together, and the moment we go off and do our own thing, we are separating from the whole.
  • Sometimes, part of seeking and pursuing peace as Christians gets mixed up and distorted in our world. The world likes to redefine what love is – what joy is – and yes, what peace is. We are to seek true peace, (the peace of GOD not man) even if it means we have to suffer. We will be intimidated and even worse. It will feel troubling, but we can always remember to turn those tough feelings over the Christ, friends.
  • We want to be comfortable Christians sometimes, because our flesh screams for it and also because we get tripped up in our minds by the enemy (at least I do). In our endeavor to be kind and not sow discord, we can sometimes water down the truth. That is not love.
  • Going with the flow for the sake of the world’s definition of harmony and getting along is not real love. I, for one, am in deep prayer about how to be loving, yet not venture into the abyss of watering down God’s truth for the sake of getting along by the world’s definitions of it. How to be zealous for Christ’s truth AND love, and how to know when to remain quiet and always gentle in my approach to such things versus when to speak up and do so loudly (but without malice or bitterness) is an inner struggle I am facing as a Christian right now. It. Is. Hard. But I am seeking Him – and I am seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to show me the way. That’s the only way it can ever happen. I can’t figure this one out, and I think that’s the whole point – we are to rely upon the LORD and fill ourselves with HIM (milk for the baby) so it will flow out of us. #bigstruggleforthiscontrolfreakofagirl
  • He tells us to “be ready to make a defense for anyone who asks us to “give an account for the hope that is in you”. To me, that doesn’t mean to be “on the defensive” as Christians. Yes, we must be sober minded. Yes, we will be attacked much. But we can stand for His truth and His love with a gentle spirit – relying upon the Holy Spirit to give us the words and the nudges as to when we should remain silent, or when we should speak up. Have I ever told you that I desire a gentle spirit? I so want to know what that looks like! This Italian/Irish girl struggles with this, friends. Will you pray for me? I need Jesus!

This has been what the Lord has been challenging me to learn more about lately – and I keep coming back to one thing:

Jesus is the source of all of it. Period.  

His word is the nourishing milk that leads us to know more of Him, to learn to love Him better, to make HIM be the only One we turn to for guidance in navigating these confusing and difficult times.

I don’t have this down or mastered, in case you haven’t guessed that one yet. I’m just walking along the road with Him by my side. There is so much I don’t see or understand about it all. There are so many shiny objects all around that distract me. There are darts and arrows coming our way – some of which are disguised as loving little zaps of happiness, false peace, or “good and right Christian behavior.” I often think that I am my own worst enemy at times – but I know better. It’s a conspiracy. We must know who our real enemy is. God reveals much about that for us in his word as well. We do well to study it, as He provided His word as well as the Holy Spirit to us for good reason.

But although I don’t trust myself, I DO trust in Him. One day at a time, sometimes moment by moment, He is with me to teach me and  help me see when I am being deceived. He removes the real enemy and the layers of trickery and deceit blocking my vision when I plead with Him to open my eyes and reveal where I am going astray. He sometimes teaches me through correction for mistakes I am making. Sometimes, He steps in before I screw up royally and spares me from impending heartache and pain.

But always, he saves me. He most often does so by helping me to cut through the muck and simply focus my gaze upon HIS beautiful face. Him and Him alone.

I love Jesus! I just wish I could love Him better, more, and as much as He is deserving of – and I fail, friends. It pains me, but I fail so utterly so often. Thankfully, he knows. Just like when my own children were little toddlers and were self-absorbed and throwing tantrums, never as a parent, did I feel “they just don’t love me.” We must remember that, because He is our Abba Father and He knows.

He knows.

He has already drilled holes through the conspiracy and its shoddy foundation. He has already made a place for us where we will no longer go through these experiences and where our fleshly desires and our humanity will stop getting in the way of loving Him best and eternally and wonderfully and beautifully.

May the Lord continue to teach us and guide us – so that we can truly shine His abundant light in the darkness. Sometimes we can go to such dark places….be surrounded by so much darkness, or be so aware of the darkness that resides in our own sinful little hearts, that our eyes start to adjust to the black. It becomes comfortable eventually, that dark place.

But it’s not supposed to be that way.

It can hurt when the light starts to pour back in. But we must open our eyes – we must pursue the light! It has to be done – even if we have to squint at first.

Let’s continue to ask Him to help us. Let’s continue to be the light. Yes…..

Even when it hurts.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:5

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The Biggest Conspiracy of All: It’s Way Deeper than “Politics”

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If you haven’t read it – or if you haven’t revisited it lately, I would urge you, my friends,  to read C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.  Lewis’ work  paints a crisp portrait of how the enemy likes to work out his evil plans- and most importantly, it emphasizes for us the fact that the enemy (satan) is truly the author of confusion and the great divider.

Yes. The enemy wants to confuse us….in order to empty us. And he is waiting in the wings to provide his own evil and twisted refill services….

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
The enemy also wants to paralyze us – trap us in an intricate web and prison of his preference. He elevates feelings and sensations and makes our flesh scream. This is a key tactic in trapping the heart, the mind and the soul. Make us elevate how we feel to a level in which we become incapacitated, and in turn, we can no longer truly feel much of anything.
Apathy and Passivity is loved by the enemy….
“The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

He wants to distort the truth of God and force us into thinking “it’s all relative” when it comes to being true followers of Jesus Christ’s love AND truth. He wants to play with us and cause us to be “moderate” in regard to our love for Christ and our desire to seek after Jesus with all our “heart, mind and soul.” (Luke 10:27)

He is giddy when  he gets to do such things as this….

“A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

He uses our flaws that seem insignificant or not worthy of our full attention just as much, maybe even more sometimes, as when he uses those that have a firm grip on us to move us away from Christ and towards self (so he can pounce). 

He will stop at nothing, but is genius-level smart when it comes to choosing which way to play us.

The goal is to keep us on the road to hell and/or darkness and apart from the Lord and His light.  The favored tactic he employs to do so is to weave it around us very subtly sometimes, without us ever waking up to the fact that we are on a very dark walk….

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Lewis said that he had to go to a very dark place to write the Screwtape Letters, but he felt it important to paint a picture of just how satan really weaves  his web of deceit. Many Christians are not called to do something like that – but some of us are. To me, it is just one way that Lewis “took up his own cross” to promote the gospel of Jesus – because for some of us (many), we are often misled by the circus of sin, temptation, and confusion that the enemy likes to use as his primary weapon to keep our focus off of Jesus.

I will admit it – I am no longer nervous or concerned to say it out loud:

I DO believe there’s a major conspiracy going on that is the foundation for all of the evil and corruption we see in the world. I don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe this.

The Bible tells us so – through and through.

And the enemy knows that some of us are on to him – so he has woven all other kinds of conspiracies into the picture so as to confuse us and layer a bunch of muck on top of the real and very ugly truth that lies beneath it all.

Recently, I have found that much runs through my head as I try to remember to not lose sight of who my enemy really is. We have to know our enemy. The one that is underneath all of the junk and pulling all the strings.

Know. Our. Enemy.

If we aren’t watchful, as Jesus admonishes us to be ~ if we dig our heads in the sand and forget to remember WHO THE ENEMY REALLY IS ~ he can and WILL sneak up on us. He will pull us down in the quicksand and attempt to bury us. He will attack. Make no mistake about it. And the more in love with Jesus we are, the harder he will try to defeat us.

Staying focused on Jesus is number one and of the utmost importance in the face of it all.

We have to know our Savior.

Know. Our. Savior.

Someone once said ” be careful what you pray for.” It has been one of my greatest and most consistent prayers in my pleadings with the Lord that He help me keep focused on HIM, but also help me to keep watchful and maintain a clear head about who the real enemy is.

It’s getting confusing out there, friends. Jesus told us it would. We can’t bury our heads in the sand to avoid it. The enemy is formidable and will TAKE US OUT if we do it.

But I for one, must remember that I am no match for the devil. I can not fight that part of the battle alone or for myself. This is where I get tripped up so often, because I feel such a strong responsibility to keep my eyes peeled that I can fall into a mode of self-reliance.

God’s got this. I have to take an active role in remaining watchful, but turn it over to HIM.

You see, Jesus is not a “match” for the wits of the enemy – HE IS FAR SUPERIOR! In every way you can imagine.

It is the truth. 

So much is thrown at us – each and every single day. The enemy is the true author of confusion. The enemy is the twister of truth and the mutilator of love. The enemy is a master at taking our eye off the ball – enticing us with a VERY GOOD counterfeit of the truth – and turning us against one another, and taking our eyes off of Jesus.

The hope is to divide us, and make us think that we are one another’s enemy. The work done to make this happen is carried out efficiently, masterfully, and diligently.

Relentlessly.

Maliciously.

And beyond gleefully.

After all, this is about life or death. Both for us, as well as for the enemy. And he knows he will be on the losing end of things at the end of it all – but he wants to take as many down with him as he possibly can.

You see, the enemy knows this and knows it all-too-well: This time we have in this earthly life is fleeting. The enemy knows that it will all pass away. He knows we will spend eternity somewhere, and he doesn’t want us to be with God.

The enemy wants us. And he won’t stop until Jesus finally puts it all to rest. It will happen, friends! And although Jesus has already won, our earthly and spiritual battle continues until such time that the Lord decides it’s time to be done.

We MUST NOT let down our guard!

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

But just as important as it is to know our enemy, it is even more important that we focus on Jesus. I find myself often going to one end of the spectrum or the other when it comes to this stuff, friends. It’s part of what the enemy likes to do to me to get me to move off base.

I either focus so much on seeing the enemy for who he truly is and what he is doing, that I forget my first love and forsake some of my time spent in relationship with my Savior, or I focus only on my comforting devotional and prayer time so as to avoid the ugly truth of what is happening all around and within me and get side swept by a land mine the enemy planted underfoot when I wasn’t looking.

Again I tend to think: It is not either/or. It is both/and.

  • We must put our time with Jesus first in our lives.
  • We must focus on Jesus and the truth and the promise that He has already conquered this.
  • We can’t throw caution to the wind either though, just as Jesus warns us about.
  • We ARE still living in this world and the enemy is the “prince of the air.”
  • We cannot fight the enemy without asking God to go in front of us.
  • God is faithful and true and will fight for and with us if we ask.

My prayer is that as we seek to place our focus intently on Jesus, we can know Him even better. The more close we are in relationship with our Savior, the easier it becomes to see sin for what it is in our lives and all around us. The more we focus on Jesus Christ, the easier it is to discern truth and that includes knowing who our real enemy is and being on guard.

  • We study our enemy not to know him better and have relationship with him, but to be “of sober mind.”
  • We are ACTIVE participants in working out our salvation every single day….our Christian walk.
  • And just as a soldier has to focus on the truth of why he is fighting for freedom in the first place, he can’t hide from the raw truth of the bullets and grenades that are being launched at him in the process.

Thanks be to God, that although our earthly fight and battle is not done, Christ has truly has already given us victory in that we can have eternal life if we trust in Him as our Lord and Savior.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57

If we can remember that, then I believe that ultimately the confusion the enemy throws our way will not fully penetrate our hearts and minds.

  • We can trust in God to help us to remember the promises outweigh the heartaches of this temporary battle we are in. We can trust in Him that he will not forsake us.He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber. Psalm 121: 3
  • We can trust in Him to help us when we feel downtrodden by looking the enemy in the face.“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” John 14:1
  • We can trust that the Holy Spirit, as we seek the Lord’s will and remain in communion with Him, will caution us as to when to run into battle full throttle or retreat and regroup. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17

And above all….

  • May we strive to know our Savior better than we know anyone or anything else! And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22: 37

I personally, would covet your prayers as I endeavor toward this and fail so very often. I would ask for prayer that I can remain of sober mind, but not let the enemy cause me to focus upon him more than I focus upon Jesus Christ. And know that if you are reading this and you are struggling with either one of these things – knowing who the true enemy really is when things are getting confusing or challenging, and keeping your eyes focused upon Jesus Christ in the midst of it all – that  I am thinking of you also as I write this today. My prayers go out to you. My deepest prayers.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” Ephesians 6:11

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

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What If?

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What If?

…..We remembered that we are royalty because of Jesus AND we have many friends that are as well?

What If?
…..We wore our crowns every single day, not to be prideful in or about ourselves, but to celebrate – and to invite others who don’t know that they are even invited, man!
(Yes, we shall boast in Christ.)
What If?
…..We remembered – that when the enemy tries to confuse us and fool us, when that ugly one tries to drag us down and condemn us – simply to LOOK UP – and help others to do the same.
What If?
…..We remember that when we or others around us are so downtrodden, they may not be able to GET UP, but we can come alongside them, sit right down next to them, and help them to lift their eyes to Jesus.
What If?
…..Someone’s crown has fallen off – and we can see it. Are we going to pick it back up? Are we going to show up for that person, crown in hand – and help them to remember?
What If?
What If?
What If?
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
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I’m Tired of Being an Over-Achiever ~ And God’s More than Okay with That

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

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

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

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

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

And I’m paying for it now.

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

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

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

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

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

Geeesh.

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

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

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

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

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

And He loves me anyway. #beyondgrateful

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

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

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

And I believe that.

I have the fullest of faith in Him.

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

He just wants for me to hand it over.

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

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

But this crazy girl does need your prayers. #thanksinadvance

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

You are not alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here it goes….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was the Power Punch. 

And it didn’t even have to be spiked.

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

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10 Things Not To Say to Someone With an Invisible Illness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I must say ~ This battle is enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thorns Have to be Pulled Out if We Want to Heal

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

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

It’s about Mercy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is mercy.

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

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

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

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

Showing true mercy can truly hurt.

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

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

We shall not fear.

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

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

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

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

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

But He is faithful.

He is merciful.

And He will deliver.

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

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

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

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

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More than 24 More

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

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

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

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

She gave up.

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

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

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

So she did.

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

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

But he wasn’t THE GUY.

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

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

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

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

#morethan24more #whoohoo #eternitywithChrist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here’s to more than 24 more!

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

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Hello. Is it You I’m Looking For???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every single time.

Jesus Sees

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

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

You may simply just not be seeing it then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humility is precious, yo.

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

This is grace.

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

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

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

Jesus proves it.

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

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

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

JESUS SEES.

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

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The Itch I Cannot Scratch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I laugh.

And I cry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In His timing, of course.

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

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

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

Until we finally give up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it is all for HIS glory anyway. 

And oh, yah….

It’s not even about me.

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

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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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Are You Homesick?

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Do you ever feel like you are homesick, but you can’t quite place your finger on just why that is? Do you, like me, forget sometimes that the pining away for that sense of home is kind of always right there with you even if you are with your earthly family, surrounded by loved ones, and nested in your little nook of the world that you reside in daily?

Are you lonely for home, dear friend?

Do you forget to remember why you are a little homesick, friend? Do you forget to remember, albeit momentarily, that this is not your true home and the reason you are having that feeling is because in your heart and your soul, you know this all too well?

  • You may be thankful for your earthly family and never want to leave them, yet feel conflicted because heaven just sounds so much better right about now. You kind of feel like you want to cut and run. Fast.
  • You may realize what your mission on this earth really is and embrace it with a disposition of gratefulness and even see it as a privilege, yet….you know in your heart it’s just not the good part of the deal. Jesus gets it.
  • You may know that you are still, in a way, just a child inside ~ a child of God who simply feels like they just want to go home and be reunited with their Father. You feel lost. But He is with you.
  • You might be the kid who feels like he has been invited to the party (party? really?) who really just doesn’t feel like attending and wants to stomp their feet, cry and yell, and scream “take me home NOW”. (It often seems like kind of a stinky party anyway). Parties are overrated.

Most certainly in these times, our eternal home sounds a whole lot better ~ and with good reason.

With good reason.

You see, although life is a gift, this earthly place in which we temporarily reside was never meant to be party-ville for any of us anyway. Yes, it’s filled with blessings and beauty, but also with heartache, grief beyond belief, and a consistent and relentless slinging of darts and arrows. It’s a mixed up stew of good and bad, of beauty and ugly, of elation and confusion and it’s hard to know at times what the baseline was that started the cooking process in the first place.

The stew can be comforting but confusing at the same time.

Yes, life is a gift, but not in the way we like it to be sometimes. We like bows and ribbons. We like pretty wrapping paper. We like fun and laughter and happiness. We don’t like it when a spoiled brat comes to OUR party and ruins it for us. Oh yah…but I’m that spoiled brat at the party sometimes. (You’d think then that I’d be a little bit more understanding.)

Jesus was when He walked the earth.

Jesus still IS.

It’s not our time to open all of our little presents, friends. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. The real and lasting gift comes from accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and allowing Him to live in and through us. That’s the only gift we really need anyway. The great news is that we don’t have to wait to open that one and it stays with us forever and ever!

We just don’t get all the other great stuff that will be part of our daily living once we enter our eternal home right now. That is reserved for when we step into eternity. And there are mansions and feasts awaiting us there. Whoo Hoo!!!

But there are other gifts to be thankful for in the meantime:

  • There’s the gift that comes in the sharing of the gospel and good news of Jesus Christ being spread throughout the world so that when the real party gets started ~ so that when the best present of all is opened ~ so that when we all sit down to celebrate and feast with Christ ~ we will have many permanent family members and fellow good party attendees alongside us as well! Now that’s a party!
  • There’s the gift of our family, our friends, our loved ones and the fact that the Lord lent them to us so that we aren’t quite as lonely while we wait to go home. We get to see them go through joyful times and comfort them through grief as well. We get to live out Jesus with them during all of these times. We get to do this life with them. We are in good company.
  • There’s even the gift of knowing Jesus better through our suffering, our trials, and our grief.  When He heals us ~ when He comforts us ~ when He lifts us up ~ these gifts just keep on giving. Because of the first gift that we got to open right away, we are filled up with Him. He never forsakes us.

I don’t know about you, dear fellow Christian friends, but for this girl, it’s easier to come to terms a bit more with my longing for my true home if I just fully embrace it in those moments that I am so very heartsick and quite simply, reach for Jesus.

If I fully wrap my heart, mind, feelings, thoughts, my very SOUL around the fact that this is an ongoing grief process, (we are dying to self daily) but there is still cause for celebration ~ well, then the grief starts to dissipate into a million little pieces.

Because of Him.

In these moments ~ these moments in which we long for our forever home with Jesus, these moments in which we find ourselves feeling so alien and out-of-place, so very sick down to the molecular level of being in a foreign land, so desiring with every fiber of our being to finally arrive at our eternal home and stay ~ forever ~ in these very moments, we can taste our true home inside our very hearts….because He is there.

Yes. It is in these precious seconds that we find ourselves actually being filled with the sense of home we need. It is when we are on our knees and telling our Savior that we want more of Him, that we want to be in His presence more, that we miss those who have gone home already without us ~ well, in those moment we have truly come as close to home as possible ~ until such day that we take our last breath and depart this earth.

It is in these very moments that we find and know our Jesus in new and special ways. It is then that we are not quite as lonely for home anymore. He lives in us.

Are you lonely for home today? Do you long for Jesus to come back and take us home with Him and allow us to leave this temporary life behind? Do you find yourself loving parts of this life here, but knowing it is all temporary and struggling to wrap your mind around how to live here when eternity will be so very much better? Cry out to Jesus, won’t you dear friend? Ask Him to fill you with His peace and joy, His comfort and wisdom. Remember His will is being done in and through you, even when many things that surround you feel like a party that’s just gone bad.

For now, our loving Savior has taken up residence in our hearts to help us as our physical bodies walk through a foster home of sorts. And He has prepared a place for us that we get to look forward to. Yet He has not left us alone in the meantime.

How great is our God!!!!

In the meantime, let’s allow Him to live in and through us every second of every day. Let’s be okay with longing for our true home but making the most of the time we have here so that our feast in heaven will be filled with many other beautiful children just like us. It’s what Jesus wants, you know.

He wants all of His children to join Him in eternity!

Let us cry out to our Savior in our loneliness.

Let us ask Him to heal our hearts when we are homesick and look to Him.

And let’s be filled with the wonder of home that Jesus brings to us right where we are at in spite of our earthly limitations.

He can do that, you know.

He will do that.

He has promised.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23

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A White Christian Woman’s Apology for being Privileged yet truly Poor

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But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

I was born privileged.

I was born into a caucasian family, of middle-class social “status”, if you will.

My father was in the US military and I was able to travel and receive “special” status for being part of a military family that served a great nation. Wherever I went, I was accepted. And I milked that for all it seemed worth at the time.

  • I have never gone to bed hungry…
  • I have never gone without clothing….
  • I have always been cared for, loved, and had all of my basic needs and then some met to the fullest.

Yet I complained ~ a lot.

You see, I always wanted more than what I had. I wanted everything that I wanted and then some. Wasn’t I entitled to it, after all?

  • I wanted acceptance.
  • I wanted the kind of love that I thought worked best for ME.
  • I had holes in my heart and nothing I tried to fill them with worked for very long.
  • It was all about me and I had to do whatever it took to make my life how I wanted it to be.

The grass was always greener and I sought my special sunshine spot in the meadow ~ relentlessly.

  • I didn’t really care what it would take as long as I got what I wanted.
  • I didn’t think much outside of myself.
  • I knew poverty and hopelessness existed all around me, but my own little life ruled everything.

I thought somehow that I was entitled, and even secretly “cast the first stone” at others for their own inadequacies or sins, all the while, sinning in my own special way and then justifying it.

I cared a little about others ~ but in reality, my own self preservation was the driving force behind all that I did.

Yes….I was born privileged. And I was born poor as well.

I wasn’t concerned with how people of other races or financial classes might feel when others made them feel out-of-place, not accepted, or even persecuted.

I took care of a few people who were needy – giving a bit of money and care here and there when it worked out for me and was overall convenient.

I proclaimed to follow Jesus Christ, but didn’t really give my whole life over to Him. Sure, I would accept “salvation”, but not make Him the King of my life and allow Him to make all the decisions.

I could still do that myself.

I told you: I was also born poor. I just didn’t know it yet.

So today I wish to say I’m sorry for the things that I have done in the past and the thoughtlessness that I portrayed all those years.

I’m sorry to all those who I could have cared for, loved and  helped, but I chose not to.

I’m sorry to God for turning from Him for decades and ignoring those that he loves.

I am sorry for being born white, but not taking extra care to be grateful for what I have and take even more steps toward helping others who struggle because of their race.

I am sorry for being born into a middle-class family, who never really struggled to make ends meet, yet I turned a blind eye to the poverty right in front of me.

I am sorry for being a fake Christian all of those years and allowing legalism to rule, judgement to reign, and love to take a back seat to everything.

I am sorry for being truly poor and lacking love in my heart.

I can’t help how I was born – that I am white, that I was allowed to be educated, that I was able to travel and have all the comforts and needs that I took for granted to be met. But I could have helped how I saw it all. I could have shared more. I could have appreciated things so very much that I simply wanted to just give it away.

But I didn’t. Because I was truly poor.

I am now a very flawed work in progress and always will be until I go home to live with Jesus.

But I get it now.

  • I understand that to follow Christ is to allow Him to live in and through us and that it’s not MY life.
  • I understand that I am not able to turn a blind eye to others in need and it is my privilege and responsibility to help them.
  • I understand that I am to discern the truth and stand firm in that truth, but always speak it or show it in love – REAL love.
  • I understand that I was born rich by the world’s standards, but was truly poor without God.
  • I understand that I can love others even when I disagree with them or their choices, because God loves me that same way.

I understand.

And now I am truly rich.

I won’t make apologies for being a Christian and I won’t make apologies for standing for God’s truth in love. I won’t make apologies for not conforming to this world and its definitions of just what truth and love are ~ because I only follow the truth of Jesus.

Period.

But I do apologize for my lack of giving and lack of love and care at times.

I do apologize for turning a blind eye.

I do apologize for pretending to be rich, but really being poor in my heart.

So if you find yourself privileged but knowing in reality that you are poor, dear friend?

Turn to Jesus, won’t you?

If you find yourself under-privileged, but truly rich because Christ lives within you:

Celebrate and praise Him with me, won’t you?

If you feel lost, misunderstood, persecuted, terrorized, because of race, social disagreements, spiritual arguments, bickering and fighting, or for any reason under the sun…

Won’t you turn to the One who understands it all? Jesus Christ!

We all must seek to find true salvation, understanding and love through Jesus Christ and Him alone.

Then we truly have something wonderful to share with others. Then we are truly rich.

We can’t make everyone feel understood or loved all the time in spite of all of our own sins ~ only He can do that. But maybe, just maybe, He can do some of it in and through us.

We can’t live by truth and do so in love without Christ.

We can pretend ~ just like I pretended to be privileged and rich when I was so very bankrupt inside.

But it won’t last.

All the other stuff is temporary and doesn’t really mean we are rich anyway.

But in Christ, we are both privileged and we are rich.

Let us go forth and share that with others!

‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:39-40

...that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.…Colossians 2:2-3

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The American Dream was one of my False Idols

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It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Psalm 118:8

The American Dream ~ the chance to live life to the fullest, in freedom, peace, and strive for happiness and prosperity. The ability to work hard, take responsibility, and make something out of yourself, your life; in the face of obstacles and barriers.

All because of supposed “freedom” and “opportunity.”

And it’s a lie. I guess it has sort of always been a lie.

Here is a more formal “definition” of it. (I say definition loosely, because it could be re-defined at any given moment, just so ya know)….

The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.

There’s no question about it; we have more outward freedoms here in this country than we might have elsewhere. I’m not bashing that, although there might be room to think about that a little more in another post some day.

  • We can wear the clothing that we wish (most of the time).
  • We can decide where we wish to go grocery shopping.
  • We get to vote and actually think we sorta have a say in who will be elected to office.
  • We can attend church without hiding.

But is that really freedom?

I’ve come to see over the last several years that the American Dream was really, for me, just something of a nightmare that was in diguise all along.

And oh, what a beautiful nightmare it was for a while.

Several years ago, I stopped placing my trust in this country because I saw that Jesus is the only One in whom I should fully trust. I saw that the things we say we stand for aren’t really more than talk a lot of the time. They are, in fact, not indicative of what we stand for at all.

And I saw that we live in a bubble and the bubble, also is a lie a lot of the time.

I saw that I had still been placing some of my trust and hope in MAN.

No country, no set of ideals, no illusion of freedom is what makes us truly free.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners Isaiah 61:1

And friends ~ I didn’t fully understand just how brainwashed I really was. I didn’t truly get it – that loving and supporting my country and buying into this nightmare of a dream was a false idol of sorts all along.

It really had me duped. I was bought in all the way.

By the way ~ in the face of this realization, it does NOT mean that I don’t support our military. It does NOT mean that I am not grateful for the blessings I reap by living here. It just means what it means ~ that those things are nice, but they aren’t what I am supposed to be living for.

They are not what make me free. The truth is. And Christ alone is that truth.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:21-23

The enemy is the father of all lies; the master of deceit. He makes that which is ugly look sparkly and pretty. He distorts something from its true or original meaning and parades it all around and gives it new meaning – his, not God’s.

Just look at how the rainbow is being used right about now, friends. I’m sorry, but I have to point it out.

The rainbow is a symbol of God’s covenant with the earth. We’ve decided to use it to represent something to fit our own agenda. We’ve decided to use it to further what we like to call freedom and humanity and love. We’ve used our re-definition of what the rainbow symbolizes to fit our new definitions of all else we decided works better for ourselves.

And the cycle continues to pick up speed.

We can distort anything if we put our minds to it. And we can tie it up into a pretty little bow while we’re at it.

So although this is harsh, I’m not bashing everything about this entire country ~ I’m simply pointing out the truth about the state of man’s heart, particularly my own. It can be a dark place if we put on the sunglasses and drink the kool aid for momentary and fleeting satisfaction and false comfort.

It’s hard when we realize we have moved from appreciating something we have to believing in or buying into what it pretends to stand for – allowing it to be a fake substitute for the real thing.

We love our illusions.

I’m not happy about things that have been happening in our country for quite some time now. I’m not pretending they are new, either, although things seem to be happening at a higher rate of speed now and we are waving it around in an in-your-face kind of way. And that makes me sad.

But I am still thankful.

  • I am still grateful that God can use these things to open my eyes even more.
  • I am thankful that God can and does use all things for His perfect will and our good.
  • God can help me see just how blinded I was and even continue to be sometimes.
  • God can help me focus more through these harsh eye-opening realities.
  • God can help me dig deeper into my own little heart and realize where my idols are still taking up residence.
  • God can help me remember that people still need Jesus and regardless of how the enemy tries to take our eye off the ball, we CAN be light in a dark and needy world.

Oh, it’s painful to take the blinders off. If you’ve been in the dark about anything for a while, the light can hurt more than a little bit as your eyes adjust.

But light is a good thing. As long as it’s not the fake stuff.

Thank you, dear Jesus for helping me see what is really just a dream, what is truly real, and what nightmares parade around pretending to be beautiful dreams or fake realities.

Thank you for exposing the dark crevices inside of my own heart (again) and the falsities that I have been filling it with in place of YOU.(again)

Help me to remember, dear Jesus: Help me to remember we are still walking around in a bubble and there are real people in this world – here and elsewhere – living out their own antagonizing and terrorizing nightmares on a daily basis. Their nightmares are very real, quite tangible, and aren’t always wrapped up in bows to lull them to sleep. They are fighting just to survive.

All kinds of nightmares. All kinds of darkness. Your light, dear Jesus ~ You can save us from it all if we place our faith and trust in YOU.

Only YOU can save us.

  • Wake us up.
  • Take the fake pretend comforts away.
  • Startle us!
  • Help us to see what is real, even if it’s ugly.
  • Help us and fill us with YOUR strength, YOUR love.
  • Help us to DO something about it.
  • May Your light shine all the brighter through us in dark days.
  • And most of all ~ Help our eyes to focus on YOU.

YOU, dear Jesus. You are not a dream. You are our reality and you don’t re-define things to suit the flavor of the day.You love us just the same today as you did yesterday.

You, and only You reign SUPREME!!!!

And You hold us in your mighty hands and comfort us as we awaken from the nightmares.The nightmares do not hold us prisoner.

You give us true freedom. You give us Your peace. We belong to You.

Thank you for using all things to keep us awake and focused upon You.

May the idols come down and may we stand firm and tall in the love and truth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

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About the Time that I Died

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All the times that I not only didn’t appreciate my parents, but I treated them with disrespect, disdain, detachment.

All the times that I went against what I knew to be GOOD, true, lovely, noble, GOOD…. and did the opposite of it all ~

On purpose.  😦

  • The giving away of my one true love, my Jesus.
  • The substitutes that I tried to allow to take His place.
  • The tossing aside of Him – the One, the ONLY One who matters most.

Yes ~ those things.

Those mean, dark and ugly things that lurk in the corners of my memory banks. The ones that try to “come alive” again and threaten to steal peace.

You see, I was dead once.

I was a part of the ever-so-popular group of the walking dead. I kind of even knew it as it was happening too. But I didn’t know how to get out of the quicksand.

But now?

I am ALIVE.

When you were dead in your sins and in the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. Colossians 2:13

All the things that happened, to me and because of me – the ones that aren’t pretty;  the ones that are hurtful; they didn’t make me who I am today.

They don’t define me.

I am not a “better person” for having experienced those things. I am not better for having perpetrated those things.

I learned who I do not want to be from what HE did to bring me out of it all!

I don’t have those ugly experiences to thank for it.

I have HIM.

  • The premarital sex ~ it didn’t develop my character.
  • The dabbling in drugs ~ they didn’t broaden my thinking, or make me wiser.
  • The drinking for all those years ~ it didn’t make me stronger.
  • The aimless wandering, the not knowing who to fit in with and who to live for…none of it gave me purpose.

But God.

I am a new creation in Christ. And if anything, it is what God does even through the ugly that makes the old die, and the new come alive.

He brought me back from the dead.

Yes ~ He makes ALL things new!

Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

My memory is failing me in some ways with my chronic illness. But in the most ironic way, at times, it seems sharp in regard to the dark things of the past. The dark cloud under which I took my self-seeking shelter is almost palpable when I recall it.

And I’m working on that.

  • I’m working on forgetting the old.
  • I’m working on reveling in the new.
  • I’m working on being present in the beautiful moment of today.
  • I’m working on the true kind of shelter.

The one in which I get to step out, hand in hand with Jesus, and look to the skies whilst seeking His face and bask in the fact that….

HE IS ALIVE!!!!

And because of Him….

So am I.

There will be rough terrain to conquer. There will be dry times in which my lips are parched and I am not sure when I shall reach a place of reprieve. But I will walk this with THE Savior of the world right there with me. He may even have to carry me sometimes.

He will make a way and keep me whole. 

No. Matter. What.

This I know.

Do you know it, friend? Do you know that you are no longer dead if you are living in Christ Jesus? Do you know it? You CAN look ahead, even when it looks bleak outside. You will not die, but have eternal life. You will never be alone – even now, while you navigate that which seems desolate or dark. In this, each day is made NEW.

In Jesus, we are truly ALIVE.

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19

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Free the Monkeys!

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I’m a silly little monkey sometimes. How about you?

I have been thinking so much lately about my chronic condition – Fibromyalgia. I have been thinking about the fact that although on the surface, it may seem like suffering, I really haven’t quite been looking at it that way.

Instead, I have been struggling, friends.

Let me explain further by sharing this with you:

Suffering ~ The state of undergoing pain, hardship or distress. Anguish, adversity, torment, martyrdom. Opposite: Pleasure, or happiness.

Struggling ~ Making forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction. Having difficulty coping with or handling. Fight, grapple, wrestle, brawl, spar. Opposite: Surrender, giving in, peace

Suffering seems in our culture to have a nicer ring to it, no? Well, not in the sense that anyone wants to suffer, but the person “undergoing” the suffering is, well ~ thought well-of, I would say.

Struggling is more of an action – it’s seen as something not happening to a person, but a thing that person is actively doing. Often struggling is seen as somehow sad, or less than. Other times, people place admiration upon the person who “fights for their rights.”

I don’t care what the world really thinks in the big picture of it all, friends. But I will say that sometimes I do get caught up, in the midst of my “condition” (no one really wants to call it an illness yet) in wondering why people treat folks with invisible illnesses as though maybe, just maybe, it’s all in their  head.

I can tell you – without question – this stuff is not all in my head. I’m not even convinced that this label of “Fibromyalgia” is quite all the way accurate. There may be something bigger going on than what meets the eye. I can say most definitively that the spiritual struggle is by far been more pervasive than even the widespread pain can be.

So back to the struggling and suffering stuff. Friends, I may suffer sometimes in the clinical and dictionary definition way with regard to this problem I have. But I must tell you, I don’t feel like it’s true suffering at all.

There are people in the world that can attest to what true suffering really is. I am not one of them.

This version of “suffering” that I am experiencing doesn’t take away my happiness. It doesn’t completely steal my peace (most days). It tries to ~ I’ll give you that. Sometimes I have to fight, and by fight I mean surrender a lot of stuff to the Lord. My human weaknesses, my sin, my selfishness, my desire to have it all, is really the way that I suffer as I walk this earth. It is far more crippling of a condition than this chronic pain syndrome is.

So in reality, it is me that “tries to” steal my own peace. It is me who I have to fight against every single day. It is me and the elevation of self that tries to put up a fight.

I am not a martyr.

I am not deserving of recognition for how I handle my pain.

I have a lot of things that afflict me that are far greater than Fibromyalgia.

But I am saved by Jesus Christ ~ and that makes me special.

That and that alone.

Him and Him alone.

Friends, the struggling aspect of things is what assails me more, by far. I am a little control freak who has “struggled” her whole life to achieve balance and peace.

It ain’t gonna happen.

I find myself struggling and getting all jumbled up some days about the stuff that I simply cannot control – and when that happens, I’m pretty much wasting my time. I find I end up having to surrender it all anyway at the end of the day. The only thing about that that holds any value whatsoever, is that it teaches me even more about surrendering it all to Christ.

Other times, struggle can be good. We have to struggle and fight to not get sucked down into the mire ~ into the “I gotta fight for my right to party” mentality. We have to fight and grapple and grasp for the outstretched hand of Jesus sometimes. This is a good kind of struggle. And thankfully, my stubborn self helps me out a little with this kind of thing.

But ultimately, I can offer nothing in the fight against worldly thought processes and mentalities. I have nothing to bring to the table that will help me fight against those things which are seen or unseen that threaten to attack. Nothing of Annie will help here, friends.

But I have Jesus.

My Lord and Savior saves me from more than I know – all the time.

My Lord and Savior can give meaning to even seemingly “bad” things like suffering and struggling.

My Lord and Savior takes all that is bad and creates good and brings about His will.

Nothing will stop Him.

And there is great peace to be had in the full-on knowledge of that fact.

Are you suffering today, dear friend? Are you struggling to fight for your rights or grappling for the Lord’s peace because something, some outside force is trying to take you further down into the pit of despair. Fear not. The Lord God is with you, friend! Bring it all to Him, won’t you? Leave it at his feet. Simply accept that today this is how it is, but know WITHOUT QUESTION that He can change it all at any moment.

And even through the ugly – the very, very ugly – He will shine His beautiful face upon you.

In that, we can rejoice!

In that, we are made free!

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5\

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Just Enter In ~ Even when You are Limping!

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And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

Tonight I got to attend church for the first time in several weeks. Friends, it was a blessing that I find hard to put into words.

You see, my family and I attend the Saturday night service, and for whatever crazy reason, Colorado has been having rainy weather ~ storms brewing on the last few weekends especially.  Well, those storms and that back and forth “weather” is something that wreaks havoc with regard to my pain level. And quite frankly, I haven’t been able to muster up the strength to show up until tonight.

Pain. Deeper than the “normal” Fibromyalgia pain I have and walk around with every day.

Pain. The kind that goes to a whole new level – making my joints feel like they are being squeezed in a vice – restriction of range of motion.

Pain. The sticky, slashing layers of it – striking me over and over again.

Underneath is the all-over tightness and dull ache I always have. But layer upon layer of acute and sharp stuff starts to ensue ~ tacking on to the one beneath it and compounding and building something….awful. Until ~ well, you guessed it: I am down for the count or full on struggling and even limping.

But today I was able to do it, friends. Today, I was able to get to church (and even able to somewhat disguise that limping for a while).

It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fluffy and feel-good stuff. No way, no how! But I wasn’t agonizing to the point that I couldn’t smile. I wasn’t so completely focused on my pain that I couldn’t pause to worship my Lord and Savior. I wasn’t disabled to the level of not being able to talk a bit with a couple of lovies of mine, hug a few sweet peeps, and let someone know how very proud of them I am.

I was laughing through the limping. I was loving through the limping. I was able to enter in and engage, broken body and all.

And this was good.

I even got to see a double rainbow driving home with my daughter while we laughed and listened to the Spanish radio station (that always makes you happy by the way- you must try it sometime).

My point is this: If you can scrape yourself together enough to just show up and hang with some fellow believers – even if only for a short time – it’s a good thing.

It’s good to get there and be there – to just enter in – even if our bodies are falling apart.

It’s good to rest too if we just can’t do it ~ but when we can, we almost never regret it.

It’s good because there’s no better place to be while limping than with others who can lift you up and just need to see your smile. Yes. Even your wincing-type smiles.

I’m thankful today friends – I’m so very grateful that I got to enter in to my church home. I am glad I got to see those fellow lovers of Jesus who are hurting in their own individual ways, yet seeking Him through fellowship with one another.

Some of us may be limping ~ it’s true. But the best kind of  healing comes when two or more gather in His name. Because when that happens? Well, HE is there.

And HE is never limping. HE conquered the grave. HE saves us from everything, friends and gives us eternal life and fellowship with HIM and those who are part of HIS family.

That is cause for constant celebration. That is the most good of all!

Limping or not ~ I’m up for that kind of party. I shall sing His praises. And yes ~ I shall dance.

Even if only in my heart.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

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