A Significant Speck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HE IS.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, here we go:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all worth it.

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

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So that, Yo. So THAT.

 

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

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

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

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

Any of these sound familiar, friend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feelings suck sometimes. Just sayin’.

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

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

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

Jesus is meant to fill that space. Only Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that.

So that.

So that.

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

Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S. USE YOUR GIFTS!!

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

There’s always a YES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Now!

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

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

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

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

My YES to HIM never left.

My Jesus YES.

My only YES that I NEED.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drop the Nets!

Leave your homes!

You’ll know why later!

I’ve got it under control!

Just do it!

Don’t worry about those details!

Follow ME.

NOW.

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

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

“YES, Jesus ~ YES!”

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

Who am I to dilly dally?

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Encourage Radically

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People are just simply not gifted by God in all of the same ways; otherwise we’d be boring little robots. To some of us, it may come easy to be a “lifter-upper”, a cheerleader or an encouraging coach and motivator for others. While for others, offering encouragement can seem like rocket science or be an experience akin to pulling teeth without Novocain.

Like I said ~ we all have different gifts and talents ~ and every single one of them is important.

At the same time, we are all admonished (quite clearly) in scripture to find ways to be encouraging to others! Whether it seems to come “naturally” to us or not, this is something that the Lord asks of each and every one of us.

We all have the capacity to encourage ~ especially when we are seeking God in this worthy endeavor.

A step in the right direction can be small, but powerful ~ we can strive to at least try to not be the opposite of uplifting toward others.  It’s too easy to discourage, critique, or point out the negative side in things before we even think about our approach and the person who may be receiving it. And we certainly don’t have a lack of discouragement hitting us from every which way we turn on a pretty much daily basis.

I think that in order to combat the negative forces that bombard us all the time, and to be more like Jesus in how we treat one another, we must be seek Him and ask Him to help us to encourage others and be relentless about it! It’s a radical thought, I know.

R-A-D-I-C-A-L.

But it’s kind of a big deal. God’s word tells us so.

For those to whom it comes easy ~ being encouraging ~ sometimes we struggle with being active about it. We can get lazy, or seem at a loss about purposefully pursuing new ways to continue to lift others up. We can worry or do it for the wrong reasons; to please people only, rather than God. We can forget about striving to truly seek out what makes another person feel valued and cared for and loved, (while keeping it in line with scripture at the same time) rather than just sticking with what’s always worked for us or only offering up easy-to-use platitudes and blanket statements.

I’m guilty.

Radical encouragement isn’t marked by laziness or selfishness. It’s marked by seeking God’s heart and is NOT always within our comfort zone.

BUT! We are to encourage and love one another, friends – radical Jesus love – and this means to do so even when it’s hard.

And it will be hard sometimes.

This does not only apply to how we love and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, friends – but to everyone with whom we interact.

Everyone.

For those who “just aren’t empathetic” or don’t feel they are “built that way” – well, part of showing the Lord’s love and truth is to seek out ways to smile, share a kind word, offer our time, and treat others better than we even treat ourselves.

A huge part of what the Christian life really is, is going AGAINST much our “nature” to become more like Jesus. I can attest to this because I have been forced, as I seek His will, to go way out of my comfort zone more times than I can possibly count. Also, because I am in a constant spiritual battle in which I have to fall to my knees over and over again and ask Him to help me to slay all about self and fill me up with….More. Of. Him.

Yes, encouraging others is a serious thing. It is serious and important enough for the Lord to make mention of it in His word over and over again! It’s a major vehicle through which His love and truth can be channeled. We do best not to neglect this important truth and privilege of encouraging others in God’s truth and love.

I have found recently that I have – neglected this in some ways. I slipped back into the easy kind of encouragement that seems to come “naturally” to ME – rather than becoming the radical kind of encourager that truly brings glory to GOD and shines His love and His light radiantly without question.

That’s the kind that matters. I’m so glad that He gently reminded me.

We all have our own way that we can go about being encouraging in how we interact with people and friends and family and passers-by. People can encourage in multitudes of ways and with different styles – and that’s important.

God is creative and awesome like that! He made us different and did so in His mysterious and glorious ways.

None of us has ever perfected any of it anyway ~ a perfected process would again run the risk of being mundane, not radically Christ-like. No one is perfect except for Jesus Christ Himself.

Most of us have also failed at least once in our life with regard to this – this girl has failed time and time again, I can tell you! There’s just no doubt about that.

But with God’s  help – if we ask Him to make it the desire of our hearts to be an encouraging rather than a discouraging presence in the lives of those around us, He will give us HIS grace, HIS wisdom, HIS power, HIS truth and HIS love – He will give us a thirst for being encouraging and loving and motivating like we may have never had before.

He can quench that thirst better than we ever could for ourselves.

Let us seek to be encouraging rather than discouraging forces in others’ lives. Let us ask the Lord daily to show us how, provide the opportunities and not discount anything, big or small, or shove it aside when the chance to radically uplift someone is there!

It truly is a blessing to offer up a shoulder to cry on, flash a shared smile and a clap for someone,  participate in or incite a resounding “rah-rah” for a person’s joyful news, or make an investment of time in another that will never be forgotten.

It really is all-too-easy to be discouraging to another. The ugly and the dark drags people down day in and day out. It is much harder to be an encouraging witness of Jesus Christ and His love. But with God’s help and a true and fervent seeking-after-Him-and-abiding-in-Him-daily heart, He will spill right out of us and lift others up toward HIM.

It’s all for HIS glory, friends. And of late, He is pointing out to me, through my very own disappointments (large and small) and discouraging times, the very ways that I myself have forgotten or failed to love others well.

I am thankful ~ so very thankful ~ that each and every day He teaches me even more about what it means to be truly encouraging of other people and how this is an even greater witness of His love, His power, and His grace!

And yes – I’m even grateful for the fact that He often has to convict me and motivate me through my own let-downs or mistakes.

Hard lessons can be utterly precious treasures if we allow the Lord to use them for His glory. 🙂

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

“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” Romans 15:12

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Home Sweet Home

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

BUT….

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

Bless the Lord, oh my soul!

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

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

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

With GOD.

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

Home Sweet Home

He gets to run ~He gets to jump

He gets to dance and sing.

He gets to see ~ His shining face

And all the light He brings.

He gets to laugh ~ He gets to hug

And tears? He’ll never cry!

He now has wings ~ And gets to soar

Throughout the heavenly skies.

He gets to kneel ~ He gets to bow

He gets to worship in praise.

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

For eternity ~ all of the days.

He gets to live ~ his real life now

Days of adoration, joy and love.

His Almighty Lord ~ His Risen Savior

He meets Him, up above.

He gets to live ~ he gets to abide

Next to God and all His saints.

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

Only praise, devoid of complaints.

He gets to do this ~ ’cause of mercy

From our Jesus, he is now there.

He loves His precious ones ~ all His children

He’s counted each and every hair.

And he is one  ~ he is God’s child

And His Father called unto him…

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

Into the light, where there’s no sin.

He gets to shed it ~ that broken body

And fly home, as it should be.

No longer encumbered ~ no longer trapped

God’s face now, he’ll always see.

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

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

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

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

Psalm 116:8-15

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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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God sees right through the Bubble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the burning questions on my mind lately.

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

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

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

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

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

And this little boy is telling on us.

GOOD FOR HIM!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of it.

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

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

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

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

You have to look out for number 1.

You must stay positive above all else.

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

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

Self matters. 

Self matters.

SELF MATTERS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So today I am reminded:

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

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

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

BUT…………

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

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

We will remember and we will know.

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

We can tell it all to God.

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

He has NOT forgotten us.

And our real home is with Him.

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

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

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

And he’s telling it all to God!

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

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

Thanks be to God. No more need for bubbles.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

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

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Out of the Brown Box

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Sometimes ( a lot) the enemy attacks me inside for being completely honest with you, dear readers. I have things run through my head that I know are from the ugly enemy all the time – things like “no one wants to hear that stuff, you need to talk about the more beautiful things of life and help uplift others, Annie. You’re doing it wrong.”

And I know what that is: It’s the master of deceit’s attempt to get me to think of this little blog as something I do only for others and that I should tailor it to the things people might want to hear. The enemy tries to whisper that I should write only about that which makes me come across as strong and together and that I got it all going on just perfectly because I got Jesus. He says that something like this should not be something I do to bring about my own personal growth (spiritually) as I work through things with God – because that is….Just.So.Selfish.

The enemy tries to tell lots of pretty little lies, friends.

But I do write in order to work things out with the Lord, friends. I do, because He is the ONE and ONLY who can make us whole through the messy stuff in life. Writing this stuff out actually makes it more real and takes away the foothold the enemy likes to take advantage of when we keep it all inside. But he just keeps on whispering – that ugly minion. The enemy whispers that I should portray things as only being all glittery and shiny – like a beautiful treasure chest full of jewels – you can’t wait to open it to see what you will be rewarded with next.

But in so doing, I know that I would create a false prison of sorts. I know that I would be lying. The fact is that the Christian life is messy and ugly and beautiful and intentional all at the same time. So I write the way that I write for that reason. I share the way that I share for that reason. I share it ALL because it’s the TRUTH.

This blog was started as a form of worship of the Lord. Some people worship through music, or art. Some do it by serving in person at the church and expressing their love for Jesus in that way. I write. I write out my feelings and struggles and joy and everything I go through as a Christian far better than I speak it. I am a pretty sensitive person when it comes to things like the body language of others, tone of voice, etc. And I screw up all the time when it comes to my own peripheral forms of communication, so I know that by writing things out, the LORD knows my heart and He reveals things to me in that process. I know that by writing things out that He is working on within me, it takes power away from the enemy and enables me to have more clarity to see things that I need to turn over to the One who holds me tightly, in His mighty hands.

Not everyone who may read it does understand where I’m coming from. And that’s okay. Because another reason I share this stuff out here in cyber space is because I know that there are others who feel alone in their messy stuff right now. There are others who DO feel sort of the same way at times, and need to know they have company. There are many of you, dear friends who read this stuff from time to time who are isolated, and the only form of “fellowship” you may be able to have with other believers is through things like this.

So, I don’t have to share only the happy and shiny stuff here, friends. Because I truly believe that if the Lord would have something I write about help another person, He is God, and He will convey to that person what they might need from it. He will make it work together for our good. He will make it beautiful, in the midst of the messy. If He wants to use anything that I write in someone else’s life, then so be it. Whether it be to encourage, uplift, or just shine light on the fact that sometimes our less than pretty junk is part of the Christian life.

We are NOT perfect. Far from it.  But HE is.

So….I will continue to write the way that He has led me to. As mucky and weird as it may seem at times, I will continue. And it can be unpleasant stuff sometimes, I know.

I write a lot about angst – I write a lot about struggle – the struggles that come from sin, iniquities, and walking as imperfect beings who may have accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord, yet still sin. I am tempted at times not to write about such things. Yes, I am tempted beyond belief.

I am tempted at times to share only the joy-filled, awesome and feel-good stuff that convinces others that I am filled with the joy of Jesus Christ. There is always that pull, no matter who we are or where we are at in life as a Christian, to pretend that everything’s okay. There’s something in there that the enemy has lodged quite deeply – waaaay deep down – that whispers…

“but you must be a good example of how GREAT it is to be a Christian, you little complainer! You are leading people astray by sharing all this hard stuff. You are coming across as a martyr or something. You are __________, __________, and _____.”

But I know. I know what led me to start this blog and I know that Jesus only gave me the ability to express the things He is doing inside of my own heart and mind as a form of worship, and a way of speaking His truth AND love.

Love doesn’t always look pretty. Neither does truth. But the result of Jesus’ love and truth is always B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.

So I hold firm to the promise I made to the Lord – I will not cover up (as I write and I share) the ugly stuff.  We are still  imperfect humans –  And we still struggle – sometimes even more than we did before we were true followers of Christ. But HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness.

I write about such things because they are the reality that most of us (we Christians) truly do grapple with, but are afraid to admit at times, for whatever reason. I write about such things because I feel the Lord calls me to do so – He calls me and it is loud and clear.

Share it, Annie. Share it. Share the stuff that everyone thinks or goes through but maybe feel they can’t say. Share the stuff that is ugly and twisted and messed up, so others may see that they are not the only Christian out there still struggling. Share the stuff Annie, so that through it all, others will be comforted and know that I, Your Mighty King, have the power to help you all overcome these struggles.

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Yet He also whispers that I am to share the good stuff too. He tells me through my prayer and devotion time that what He really wants is to have others see that truly, beyond truly, He works all things together for our good.

  • He brings correction when there has been disobedience.
  • He brings restoration when everything seems to have been shattered.
  • He gives us peace during the most angst-riddled of circumstances or situation.
  • He grows our love when we feel like we’ve lost every last ounce of that loving feeling.

So as contradictory as it may seem, these things of beauty do come out of the ugly if we allow Christ to work in us. He is the Creator, the Great Physician, The Almighty and All-Powerful Lord and King. He can and does do it all.

So I shall also write about peace – peace that comes only from Jesus in the midst of these struggles, trials and temptations we face sometimes. And I shall write of love. The love of Jesus that is always there for us, trying to dominate our own hearts and spill forth in spite of the ugly stuff that tries to infiltrate. Most of all, I will share how God works through my own personal struggles and the lack of such things as joy, love and peace in my own little heart to draw me closer to Him and help me be more and more like Jesus through it all.

So often, the reason I can even see the need for greater love in my heart – the reason I see the need for more patience to be developed in my character- the reason I see the need to allow Him to correct me and grow me and help me change direction and take my hands BACK OFF THE WHEEL, is due to the absence of them. He shows me through writing things down that my heart and at times, my mind still need much work. He shows me how very much I struggle putting into practice what I know to be true under duress. He shows me that I am His child and that He loves me too much to leave me the way that I am.

He shows me my need for Him. More of Him.

He must become greater; I must become less.” 1 John 3:18

I hate how much of ME there still is. I want to be nailed to the cross once and for all, like Jesus was. But I struggle with signing up for stuff that’s painful. I don’t have the same kind of love that Jesus does, friends. I care about my own comfort too much. And that pains me in its own way….because I know this so well about myself. And it is hard not to walk in condemnation in the face of that.

That mirror is one I want to shatter sometimes.

But there’s good news in the face of all of that! It’s wonderful how the Lord knows each one of His children so well. He’s aware of every little nuance and quirk about me as a person. He knows what works with me and what doesn’t. He knows just how to get through to me.

He tailors His approach to me in a way that will work to pierce my ungrateful little heart. But He never changes His truth in order to do so.

He never stops loving me while administering the exact and perfect dose of truth that I need in order to stop being sick and return to good health.

One of the ways that He does this with me, in particular, is He has made me very aware when there is some form of toxic darkness in my own heart. I may hold on to it for a while, or I may try to trick myself into thinking it’s not there or denying its existence, and sometimes I have to regroup for a while to discern where it’s coming from, but after sitting still for a time, if I search after Him to reveal it to me, He does.

Every. Single. Time.

This is never a fun process, and I wonder ~ does the Lord ever get sick and tired of  having to discipline me for the same repeat offenses? Does He ever wonder, “will she ever learn?”

But He is my Father, and He knows this is how I operate. He knows that I try to continue moving forward in spite of the weed that is starting to grow in the garden of my heart. I get tired of pulling weeds, so sometimes I just pretend they aren’t there. Or I try to pull them, but if it proves too difficult for me, I just get exasperated and give up after a while.

I do this because I hate conflict that can’t seem to be resolved within reason. I do this because when things seem unreasonable or insurmountable, sometimes I want to flee. I do this because I still put how I think hard stuff should be handled in a little box of my own making.

And Jesus wants to blow out the box. Time for an explosion. The solace and protection we find under the Mighty wing of Jesus is far greater than a fake brown box of our own making. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. We like the cocoon-like feeling of our own boxes and like our security blankets of our own choosing. But God knows.

So at the same time that I hate that I finally go and try to hide from the thorns in life, or can’t tell the difference between surrender and resignation, the Lord uses that escape artist tendency for good. He uses that time that I retreat from the ugly to shine a light on the part of the ugly that is in my own heart. He helps me to purge that crud right out of there. But oh, is it a process.

And here it comes – the need for yet another fruit of the spirit to grow stronger in my life….

Patience.

I struggle with patience, but the lack of it manifests itself inside of me in such deceptive ways. I believe there are times we must walk away and regroup with the Lord, but at the same time, I want the work He does during those times to move at MY PACE.

I realize now how very much I do the either/or thing in my own life. This holds true especially in regard to conflict. I get so worked up emotionally in the face of conflict that stretches out over a period of time, that I lose all clarity – to the point that I have to retreat completely and let God bring about some sense to it all.

Do you do any of this, friends? Let me give you a short list of examples of what I am talking about here.

  • Suck it up and let it go. You just have to worry about your own actions here. (this breeds bitterness over time).
  • Attack the ugly stuff with kindness in spite of the fact that you know there is still a big thorn growing larger all the time that you have to pluck out. Just ignore it since all of your attempts in the past to eradicate it failed. (not gonna work – it’s still growing)
  • Work on yourself and ignore the stuff that is wrong with others involved. You’re only responsible for you. (not loving – real love confronts)
  • Give up – you have been defeated. There’s nothing more that you can do. Build a wall. Build a TALL wall! (still giving the power away to the enemy – still a fake brown box)

For now, I am in a place of being still, even though it may have come about because of my “flee and withdraw” tendency. And God is using it for His glory.

I  have confidence that He will show me what He needs for me to see, and shatter the box. He is already doing it and it has only been a short while now.

I am struggling in these days of remaining still and allowing myself to face the reality (look in the ugly mirror) of what He wants to have me discard out of my heart and mind. I am going through turmoil as to what is to be surrendered, and what is to be held on to tightly.

But our God reveals.

Our God refines.

Our God restores.

And I trust in Him.

If you are struggling today because you are in a place in which you know God is working to help you tear down a wall or shatter a cocoon you have created for peace and comfort, will you let Him bring about the heart work and move you closer toward Him? If, on the other hand, God has asked you to surrender something and retreat for a while to spend time with Him alone, will you obey and let things move in His timing? If you realize you are inside of one, will you allow the Lord to help you venture out of the brown box when He says it is time and move underneath His protective wing instead? If you are having a hard time stepping, ask Him to carry you for a while, because He will. You may even be called to quite a treacherous journey, similar to the walk Christ made to calvary….bloody, even. But He will be with you every step of the way.

He is a loving parent, and our mighty protector. He will help us to walk in what seems like exposed vulnerability, with His protective hand around us the whole time. He knows you, His child. He knows how to make us better. 

We have only to open our mouths and allow the medicine to do its work. We have only to turn the burden over to Him. And we must listen when He tells us to pick up the cross. He will give us the ability and the power to carry it.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

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All the Way Yes

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If you knew that by being the way that you are ~ a deep thinker, someone who is highly empathetic, someone who cares to the point that sometimes they cross the line into worry or anxiety, would you have changed those things about yourself if you could have?

If by changing all of that you could have prevented this ugly illness (or depression, or whatever “consequence” you wish to list) from manifesting and taking tentacle-like root in your body would you have done it?

  • If given the chance to go back in time would you have made that trade?
  • Would you have become someone different if you’d been given the ability to do so to avoid the ugly that might ensue as a result of being the way that you are?
  • Would you  compromise who God made you to be inside to dodge the darts and arrows that would result from being that person?
  • Would you trade the growth, the refining, the deeper knowledge of God and who He is that came from being who He made you to be and turning yourself over to Him for daily molding to live a life of greater comfort, ease, and vitality?

This is the burning question that keeps showing up in the ticky tape of my thoughts ~ over and over again, of late. I can almost hear the sound of it (am I hearing voices now?) in the background pretty much with me ~ all the time.

“Should I have changed the way that I am early on…as a young child… so I wouldn’t be dealing this this Fibromyalgia right now? Is this somehow my own fault?”

And I think that’s because I NEED to be constantly reminded of this question and the answer which is…………………

Yes and No.

There are times that if you were to ask me this question ~ last night was most definitely one of those times ~ I would be VERY tempted to say flat-out yes. But it is really yes and no. Yes, I should have lost the parts of myself a long time ago that did not serve God, but self. But NO WAY would I change the good stuff that God made in me in order to avoid the consequences those things bring about.

Honestly, it’s just that sometimes I am soooo sick that I find myself wishing I could be someone who could say a full-on yes to that. But I know in my heart that I don’t truly mean it. I know in my heart that the thought of that is quite laughable.

It’s just so much harder to have it be yes and no. It would be so much easier to just have it be all the way yes, or all the way no!

I know in my heart that I am filled with things that God made in me, and yes…..some of those things may have contributed to my Fibromyalgia (amongst whatever all else is going on with my body) to rear its ugly head in a major way in my life eventually.

  • Being there for people in death and heartache – consistently – no matter how much it might hurt.That didn’t help my fight or flight issues.
  • Showing up each and every day for a child who struggles with special needs and all the emotion that goes along with that. That’s gonna take a toll on a highly empathetic individual.
  • Engaging the deep thinking and the soul searching and placing of self and ugly in the heart on the chopping block daily that comes as a result of searching to know God in a deeper and more meaningful way. Yah…that’s some intense stuff, folks.
  • And just the way my brain and heart flat-out work ~ let’s not forget about those little contributors to all of this.

The world will tell us a version of the truth that can be distorted, you know. It’s not very often the WHOLE truth. But some of what we are told is true as long as we don’t lose sight of God in the midst of it all.

That little list I made above? That stuff came out of the bad stuff. That is the beautiful stuff that God made out of the selfish stuff that has been there from the beginning. He truly does work all things together for our good if we allow Him to be our God.

Yes. That list is what God did as He chopped up the parts of me that weren’t supposed to be ruling and reigning in my life in order to make me more like Him.

Self-reliance is maybe the biggest thing about myself I WOULD change if I could that contributed greatly to this monster that has shown up in my life.

But God DID change that for me through all of this! God is STILL changing my tendency toward self-reliance. And it IS making me more like Him every single day. Maybe that war that I have been waging all my life – the one we are all taking part in – the war between self and surrender to the Almighty One – maybe it’s that war that has taken the greatest toll but that holds the greatest reward for us all at the same time.

I do believe in making changes that line up with what God has for us, friends.

I do believe we should try to take care of ourselves – because our body is His temple. We can try to eat more healthy food, avoid the stressors and things that bring about no good especially when we contend with an illness like I might have, and change the things about ourselves that do more harm than good in our lives.

I do believe there are times we continue to show up for others, but times where dusting off our feet and moving on is called for as well. And I believe the Holy Spirit can and will guide us when we encounter such times as those.

I do believe in utilizing the tools and resources that we have been provided with to help ourselves get through the hard stuff – the safe ones – The heating pad, the essential oils, some Tylenol, etc.

But ultimately, this illness has caused me to press in deeper to God’s bosom – to take shelter firmly beneath His wing. I find myself crying out for His comfort, His mercy, His companionship, His authority, and His truth and love in a more raw way now, if you will.

  • Nothing replaces that feeling of knowing that only HE can truly help us through something.
  • Nothing comes close to be able to describe what it’s like to meet Him in the midst of our suffering.
  • Nothing comes near to what we experience and how much richer we are when He shows up for us in a new way and reveals something magnificent about Himself that we never could see before.

Asking Him to tell us what to change about ourselves – and what to keep – well, that is something that we can do, you know. We are meant to be who God made us to be and the stuff that has crept in and tried to pretend it’s been there from the beginning is the stuff we have to allow Him to cut out and discard.

That’s what makes us more like Him – being pliable. Submitting. Being the clay.

Being more like Him doesn’t mean comfort, but it sure does mean blessings! Think about how Jesus was when He took His last breath on this earth. It wasn’t pretty and void of suffering by any stretch of the imagination.

But He didn’t leave this earth that way. He rose again after three days. He ascended to be with His Father in heaven. He lives! And He lives inside of us and is with us now.

Suffering does make us see Him in a new light, friends. And one day – one glorious day, all that suffering goes right out the window. Forevermore.

As we close our eyes to the pain and the ugly that our ailments, afflictions and sufferings reveal to us ~ we open them to our One True God.

The Almighty and Great Physician.

The Great I Am.

The Shepherd of our Souls.

He is the Potter Who is shaping our clay into a beautiful vessel!!!

So if you feel like a big lump of clay that has no form or purpose right about now – if you feel like you have lost direction, shape or meaning – if you feel like you have been ground up and left in the dust – turn it over to the One who promises to make it beautiful and right again.

Turn the lumps over. Let Him decide what to keep as part of his masterpiece and what to discard. Grieve if you need to for the discarded pieces – but turn to Him and allow Him to help you see the beauty of the creation He is making out of you.

And then…..you can give Him the answer to the real question ~ the one that really matters:

“if I could have allowed GOD to change me and mold me all along to be able to embrace any suffering that comes my way but be more like Him through it all, would I have done it?”

If your answer is “Yes, but it’s never too late”– well, then you are in a very good place, my friend.

It might hurt a little. But the rewards and the blessings that come as a result of it far outweigh any of that ugly stuff.

He has us in His mighty hands. Let us submit and allow God to be God. Let us say Yes day in and day out. Not yes and no, but simply….YES!

He most certainly has said “yes” all the way to us.

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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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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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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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Evil Pretends to be King

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Each day, we check the news and something more shocking seems to have happened.

  • Something that grieves our hearts…
  • Something that rocks a family, a community, a country to the core…
  • Something that makes us stand in awe, jaws dropped to the floor, wondering…”how can this possibly be happening?”
  • Something….. more.

Something more evil than we can even wrap our minds around.

  • It breaks our hearts and tries to steal our peace, our love.
  • It incites fear, fighting, and tries to take our eye off the ball.

Evil, and the one behind it all prides itself on being a great magician ~ a master of deception.

And it has always been here.

Evil tries to masquerade as many things ~ anything but the pure dark and sick and twisted thing that it is. It doesn’t want you to see who the driving force behind it really is.

  • It tries to fake us out.
  • It tries to put us into fight or flight and keep us there.
  • Evil feeds on FEAR.

And fear breeds lots of even uglier things. It is a catalyst for all kinds of ugly..

But evil can NOT be allowed to be the winner.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

WE can not allow evil to take center stage, friends. Sure, it’s impossible to deny that it is here ~ I am certainly not talking about doing that. (That ~ causing us to simply look the other way ~ well, that’s another tricky tactic that is often used to cause apathy or compromising of our values ~ of love).

Yes. LOVE through the power of Jesus Christ is the true, most powerful thing we have in our arsenal against evil.

But even more importantly, we MUST remember Who is the One, True King!

He has not only always been here ~ He has always been and is!!!

HE IS.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The ONE TRUE KING!

Don’t blame God for “allowing” evil to be present on this earth, friend. Cry out to him instead.

Remember to assign blame where it is due. Then ask the Lord to fill you up with more of Him and His love, His comfort, His peace.

There’s a prince of this earth and his sad little name is “Satan.”

But over ALL the earth, over ALL the universe, over ALL eternity, there is only ONE TRUE KING.

He is coming back for us soon…

Soon and very soon!

And there shall be no more evil. There shall be no more tears. Every single knee shall bow to the One True King!

For those of us who have accepted Christ as our One true love and our One true King, we know this.

So yes….

  • Evil hurts us.
  • Evil causes grief, pain, and absolute outcry.
  • Evil takes temporary victories and tries to fake us into believing that it’s time to throw in the towel and surrender to it.

But let us remember the love of Christ. Let us remember who the King really is.

Let us remember we are royalty ~ Christ’s children.

And most of all: let us remember just Who has already won.

We are not the captives of evil. We have been captured by Jesus Christ, our Lord. And thanks be to HIM!

AMEN.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

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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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