Use Your Gifts

use-your-gifts-2

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

I have come to the conclusion that is is BAD…very, very BAD for us not to open and use the gifts God has given us. They are given to us so that when we USE and SHARE them, it can possibly benefit others. They are given to us so that when we USE and SHARE them, it brings glory to God! That matters, folks. More importantly, that matters to GOD!

So let me expand upon that a bit differently, Annie-style.

God has given each of  us various gifts – spiritual gifts, as well as special talents and abilities. Part of why the Lord made each of us different is because He wants us to USE those gifts to edify others and connect to others – ultimately, as a way to shine HIS light to the world and spread HIS truth and HIS love.

These last 6 months (or longer) that I have stepped away from this community and blog have been NO BUENO for this chick feelings-wise. BUT……..I had to do it to do some reflecting and such. As you know, I wrote (practically every day) for the first year or so after I created this blog…and I stinkin’ LOVED IT, yo!

Why? Because I was using those gifts and connecting to others while doing so.

AND………..

Because, like I have always said – writing out or sharing out my heart and how Jesus is working in my little life (this utterly messy and sometimes mixed-up gal), does my heart good and is a form of worship of my Savior, in my opinion. Sharing it, causes me to live more vulnerably, and also gets me to think outside of myself as I have been reflecting on the inside. It is beyond therapeutic – it is something that causes me to TRANSFORM each and every time I share something with YOU. And if it helps even just ONE PERSON, each little thing I share, that is something that makes my heart smile. Big time! And it’s ALL BECAUSE OF GOD.

So, back to the story.  I pulled away for a while to reflect. Something just wasn’t quite right in my life. I took a slight turn and started to go down a little bit of a different road – a new adventure – it’s still a work in progress. As I embarked upon this new journey, I had to give my ALL to that change and transition – learning curves aren’t fun for this girl, but necessary and if you know me at all, I had to FOCUS my ALL into learning these new things. I had to give up some of the things that mattered MOST to me as I was in such a new transition, completely foreign to me. And it was important to do that as we are called to do our work as unto the Lord.

But the absence of getting to do this for a while also gave me some time to think and reflect on it.

It gave me time to MISS YOU, friends.

It gave me time to realize it is a HUGE part of my time with God – the time I spend sharing with others.

And that is GOOD.

So, I have returned, and I have some new ideas on how I will expand the WAYS that I share my heart for Jesus, for the beauty and the ugly stuff in life, for the mundane and the intense things we walk through on this earth, and for the BEAUTIFUL HOPE THAT IS ALWAYS PRESENT as we walk through such things together in Christ. I will be sharing those on the blog very soon.

But for now, here is a little background for you on the MAIN THING I have learned during this time of reflection! Again, in Annie-style, so this will take a paragraph or two to explain…

I have been really praying and working through the concept of contentment with the Lord. There’s a LOT to it that I won’t go into detail about yet, but call it sufficient when I say, there is a DIFFERENCE between walking around not being content because we covet things that aren’t for us, and knowing….. just KNOWING that we have something inside (Holy Spirit, anyone?) creating somewhat of a HOLY discomfort.

It’s all about the PEACE, YO!

When the LATTER REASON is causing that unsettled feeling – it will grow and grow if we DO NOT LISTEN.

I know this, because it’s what has been happening to me and I’ve FINALLY been able to identify it.

You see, I always err on the side of assuming it might be the first reason – the fleshly one- and then I have to pray about it and test that out to be sure it’s not just a case of me not being obedient or that maybe I am just being spoiled, coveting, or ungrateful as I go through this unsettled feeling.

That’s what I’ve been doing this past 6 months. That, and a WHOLE LOTTA PRAYING, dudes!

I have concluded with no SHADOW OF A DOUBT that yes, I am a sinner (nothing new there), and yes, sometimes I want things that aren’t mine to have (not a news flash either), BUT, that I am NOT using my gifts God gave me to the fullest, or even TRYING to, for that matter.

Again: That = No Good, Man.

The Holy Spirit is telling me (and has been for quite some time)…that no, it really is ME telling you this and you will remain uncomfortable as HECK until you DO something about it.

So I’m going to.

This book I am reading right now nailed it: I had prayed and prayed for the Lord to lead me to understanding this inner conflict I have been going through. I had been reading and reading in Proverbs, and many other parts of the Word about all of this. I kept coming back to a passage in Romans that I will place at the end of this for you.

And then this book fell into my hands (another story in and of itself).

Here is the statement that I could never express, but that describes COMPLETELY the struggle I am talking about in just a couple of short sentences (not Annie-style, nope):

“There is a big difference between wanting what we don’t have just for the sake of wanting more and wanting to do something else because we know, deep down, it is where we are meant to be. It is often difficult to strike a balance between a healthy longing for something more and choosing peace, no matter our circumstances. After all, how are we supposed to find our sweet spot when we are stuck in a job or town or situation we don’t love? How do we remedy the tension between choosing contentment and striving for more?” Living Well Spending Less ~ Ruth Soukup

BAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can be grateful for what I have and choose to bloom where I’m at, but AT THE SAME TIME know that I am supposed to do something more. Those things CAN co-exist and I am living proof of it. I would venture to guess that many of you are as well.

It’s not always either/or.

We are CALLED if we are followers of Jesus Christ and COMMANDED to use our gifts to build up and edify the church and be light in a lost and dark world. If we leave the gifts unopened or unused, that is so utterly sad and Such. A. Waste.

No more for this girl.

As always, it’s a work in progress – finding the gifts we are called to use for the Lord’s glory, pulling them out of the dusty box if they have been hidden for a while, and getting them to work well again. We have to find our way – try new things – live them out in vulnerable and risky ways and let the Lord make them hum when He so desires.

But we gotta use them.

Remember today, dear friend, that you have gifts and you will WILT if you do not use them. There are people out there that NEED to benefit from that. There are people out there who NEED to know someone is there. It’s part of having a servant heart and being a bond servant of Christ. And if you don’t know what yours are, seek HIM and have a heart to find out. It may take a while, but He will answer!

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.Romans 12: 6-8

your-talent-is-gods-gift-to-you_what-you-do-with-it-is-your-gift-back-to-god-srqqkb

 

 

There’s always a YES

tulip-200514_960_720

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?

tulip-field-yellow

 

 

The Space in Which We are Found

girl-562548_640

“Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” Oliver Wendall Holmes

I strongly dislike the way that this quote has been taken out of context and used and abused over the years. I don’t profess to know much about the man who made it famous, but I do know this: he used it in a specific context that held value at the time and over the years it has been applied as some kind of reason to “help along” the efforts to keep followers after Christ from living with an eternal perspective in mind.

I get it ~ we need to be able to relate to others just as Jesus shows us how to do. That’s not the point that bothers me in any way, shape or form.

It’s the way that this quote has been applied like a blanket to ALL Christians whose minds are filled with Jesus ~ with listening to Him, being distracted at times from the things of this earth, and tuning in to the voice that many don’t wish to listen to.

But oh…how tempting and taunting it is to believe it about ourselves at times. That thought – that little nagging thought that maybe we are no good here if all we think about is Jesus.

Today, like many other days over the past year or two, I felt like I am probably perceived sometimes as one of the people Mr. Holmes speaks of in this quote of his.

I’ll even admit it: sometimes I even wonder if this might be sort of true at times.

But I know better. It just doesn’t feel that way at times.

Isn’t that one of the ways that the evil one works, friends? He takes a degree of truth and then perverts it. He makes it popular to twist it. He takes it out of context but never so much that the degree of truth to it disappears completely.

That’s why the mind is a battlefield, friends.

He is an ugly thing.

As I did various normal things throughout this day, I realized that I (once again) feel like I am only really half here, if even half at all. I am struck by the realness of how surreal everything seems. I see it as its happening ~ in real time ~ and it used to really freak me out.

I sat in my car and took time to breathe during my meager little lunch hour and think to myself..is this all for real? There are people dying right now…people hurting…and I am sitting here eating my Baked Lays. How can this be where you want for me to be right now, Lord?

In some ways, I feel like a character out of The Matrix ~ kinda sorta. It’s a trip.

After lunch I moved back into my work mode and talked with people all day long. I tried to help them…validate their feelings, make things work out better for them. I care, I really do. But I feel displaced…not fully connected. I know it, and I try to change it. But I just can’t shake it.

I think I’m supposed to be listening right now.

My mind and heart keep going back to what IS real, what IS fully good, listening for His voice. I think of heaven and those who went before me. I think of those who are on their final journey here on earth and about to enter in ~ to be with Him forever.

It’s the place that some think is not for real.

But it’s my real home.

Lest you think I’ve lost my ever-loving mind for good this time, let me take a moment to add, just for the record, that I am more content and peaceful about this strange reality I am walking around in than ever before.

The discontent that does remain is not made up of disturbing feelings that are laden with fear at all. It comes from an outside pulling and pressure to succumb to the “reality” that is man made.

It’s just that I am called to walk in this body, this place, and sometimes I just don’t quite know how while still setting my eyes upon Jesus.

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus!

It’s just that sly little whisper, friends ~ the one that things like the quote above likes to taunt us with ~ the one that tries to drown out the voice of peace and joy, truth and reason, love and true connection.

The one that says, you don’t appreciate the life you’ve been given here enough by longing for Jesus to come back and take you and those you love to heaven.

But it’s not working. I am so thankful that it’s not working.

I can enjoy this life and love others while I am here, yet still long for the real one ~ the best one ~ the permanent one. Sometimes I struggle ~ but that’s because of the taunting.

And I know it.

And so, the beauty of the strange continued after work as I stopped by my favorite store to pick up the new rustic log-candle-holder that I had wished for to place upon my mantle. I knew the sale was ready for me and happily moved towards the lovely place where I could find something that would be joyful to gaze upon as my family sits around the fireplace.

We are doing that more now that the kids are older ~ sitting together and hanging out as a family.

After picking up my favored log, I wandered to feast my eyes upon the other lovelies throughout the rest of the store. This is fun, I thought. No holiday shoppers, no hustle and bustle, and no squirming to try to find more, more, more to spend money on today. Just a beautiful sense of contentment that I was blessed enough to take a small portion of my earnings and purchase something special, and time to wander a bit and enjoy. Fun.

But I was still disconnected from the things going on around me in the store.

I felt like I was watching a movie again.

It’s strange how we can feel like we are walking around doing such a normal kind of thing ~we humans ~ yet know that we aren’t really and truly home. We can be immersed in the special moment we are having while still realizing that we are foreigners in an alien and temporary land.

We long for home.

The fun little log is something small that will bring a fun and light kind of joy to my household, but this house and this life is not our true and eternal home.

Am I too heavenly minded?, I asked myself as I wandered through the store and got into the car to make my way home to my beautiful little family.

“No, dear one”, I heard inside. “This is a part of it all. I am going to teach you more and more, I promise.”

There was a time that I was concerned about myself for being in a place of quite the opposite of looking forward to heaven. And oh, how much earthly good I thought I was doing back then! Ha Ha!

It is nothing more than an absolute compliment if folks start to wonder if you fit quotes such as these. The “good” we should be seeking is not merely found in this earthly life, but an eternal good and one that brings glory to Jesus Christ and His kingdom. Part of that also comes in learning how to be grateful and love the things we can do to glorify Christ while we are here.

Without caving in and living for this world.

And part of it comes from accepting the gift (and not the curse) that it is to be somewhat “spaced out” when we are truly relating with our Savior instead of thinking about our lunch.

At the end of the day, that candle holding log for the mantle will end up in a trash bin somewhere. The Baked Lays will be long gone. They will have brought fun, joy and served a decent purpose for us, but will not be coming along with us in the end.

And so it’s good ~ it’s good that they didn’t receive my full attention anyway.

But how I felt moving through that store today ~ how I felt during my little strange lunch break when I pressed into the Lord and asked Him…”how do I continue to move through this life, this superficiality, this stuff that so often tries to distract us from what IS real, what IS lasting? How Lord?  That feeling and that crying out for His guidance is what makes me know that I am truly connected to the right thing.

Maybe sometimes I am so lost in my prayers and thoughts and conversations with the Lord that I struggle or grasp for focus in regard to my earthly tasks and duties.

I’m choosing to be okay with that.

There might be times that I seem zoned out, lost, distracted, but most of those moments are ones in which I am listening intently to another voice ~ one that is more important than the task at hand.

I’m choosing to be okay with that.

I may not meet every goal or go after every accomplishment with single-minded focus and clarity and commitment any longer as my mind is elsewhere half the time.

But I’m good with that one too (although I have to fight feelings about it – a lot).

I may be “too heavenly minded” for some ~ even myself at times ~ but that is most definitely GOOD.

There are times when the world wins for a while and takes more of my focus than it should be allowed to. Those are the ones I will give my attention to, because I am done feeling guilty about days like today.

It’s the days in which I am too focused on earthly good that I am going to be concerned about (if it’s taking me away from Jesus).

Do you find yourself struggling at times with moving through the day-to-day and appreciating it, yet at the same time, feeling as though your focus is being outright forced to be split? Do you wish for times in which you could just choose one or the other to make it a bit easier? Do you know that it is a blessing to be in communion and fellowship and prayer with the Lord all day long, even when it “gets in the way” of helping you truly put your full attention into the task at hand?

See it for the gift that it is.

Choose to be okay ~ even good with that!

I think a lot of how to walk like Jesus did comes down to this, friends: I think it comes down to accepting that we are aliens here, but we are also called to love others here. We are called to work hard, be good stewards of our time and money, to focus upon loving and helping others, and to do what we say we will do.

But more than anything else, we are called to be heavenly minded. And if that gets in the way sometimes of creating earthly good, so be it.

“Set your mind on things above; not on the things that are on earth.” Col 3:2

AND…

Faithfully serve the Lord ~ continue to relate to and love upon others.

God values our faithfulness in the little things, friends. If our focus seems split or we seem distracted by something we have to do, but its because we are praying or seeking the Lord about something else, we should listen ~ listen for the Holy Spirit for guidance. He will equip us to get back to the task at hand when the time is right.

It is part of our own affliction, friends. It is also a gift from the Lord ~ this life.

Part of what is perishing as we walk through this earthly life we have been given is not just our bodies, but our focus ~ our attachment to this world ~ our connection to the earth.

There’s gonna be some struggle involved with that whole deal.

Go to that space. That space with the Lord in which you are NOT lost, but found. Choose to be good with that. Choose to embrace that space. Hold onto it with all you have. Ask for His power and strength to do it.

Most of all, take heart if this is something you struggle with, friends.  What seems like a disconnect or a movie, is actually something that is drawing you even closer to HIM.

And that is Good ~

That is earthly and heavenly GOOD.

“We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 2 Cor 4:16-17 woman-571715_640

 

 

The Light Speaks for Itself ~ Just Don’t Bury It

b1f02e1166790b463d4aa12db5907cdc 

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Today friends, I wish to share something that has been rolling around inside of my heart, my mind a LOT lately. I wish to hear back from you ~ your thoughts, your heart, your learning from the Lord about this very subject. I am intrigued and smitten by this whole thing and I crave to hear how others who follow after Christ have grappled with this very same thing.

Because I do not yet have the answer ~ (I almost never have the FULL answer)!

But I have been given some of what I think the answer is…in my own life and learning and following after Jesus. I wish to share some of that with you today.

So here is the question:

How do we ensure that when others see things in us that they think are good, that JESUS is who they see, versus OURSELVES?

Things that make you go “hmmmm.”

Sometimes I find myself dumbing down (or dimming down, I should say), the light of Jesus inside of me. I don’t want to freak people out, so I start to dim it down a little ~ bury it.

It’s not because I’m ashamed of Jesus. It’s that I find myself starting to wonder ~ are they just thinking that they see “me” here? Do they think that Annie is “all that?”

Which leads me right back to the question I wrote up above.

It’s easy to study the Word and find much about humility, servant leadership, turning over self to the Lord daily and nailing it to the cross, and real love ~ real love in the midst of ugly ~ sacrifice in order to put God first and others right next in line ~ the struggle to kill self daily and fill ourselves with more of Him, less of us. It’s easy to find guidance about this in His love letter to us.

Easy to study. But in all fairness, I must say ~ Hard to do.

But what about how others respond to us and our following after Jesus? Can we “control” what their reactions and responses are? Is it possible to make sure that they don’t walk away from interactions with us seeing the awesomeness of who they think that WE are, and instead see that we have a relationship with Jesus Christ ~ one that they can have too if they seek Him?

Can we make certain every single time that they recognize Jesus is the only good that is within us?

That is the question, friends. That is the big and burning question! Here’s what I have found as I have prayed over this so very much lately:

  • It is not always possible to make sure that people know (from our words) that all they see in us that they think is good is not about us ~ some of that is to be left to the Lord.
  • It IS our calling to make sure that the rest of our life – the stuff they see when they are not able to interact with us face-to-face – IS giving all credit/glory/honor to Jesus Christ and IS bringing glory to Him, versus ourselves.

People watch. People study us if they see something in us that intrigues them. Sometimes they walk away and think “that person is so great”, or “I want to be like him some day”, or “that person is so special, wonderful, good.”

Sometimes they walk away and then they make their own judgement about what they experienced when they interacted with us.

Do they know? Do they know by what we do and say (the rest of the time) that is is not due to us, but due to what Christ is doing in us that there is a light that they see there?

Do they know? Can we make sure that they know?

We have the privilege of not trying to pretend that we are perfect, but simultaneously giving Him all the glory and honor and praise for ALL that happens to us ~ the good, the bad, and the beauty He creates out of the ugly.

Eventually they will see Him, and not us.  But only if it is Him that they seek.

They may not know it yet ~ they may not realize that what they see is Christ living inside of this person, and not an extra-dose-of-awesome that the individual possesses.

But if they hang around long enough, and if we are honest in how He has delivered us out of darkness and continues to work in our sinful flesh, they might see.

  • They will see HIM if their hearts are open.
  • They will see if they are seeking HIM.
  • They will see someone they do not fully recognize, but they want to get to know.
  • They will see ~ they will eventually see that it is not possible for one person to be so “good” without divine intervention.

But what if they never do endeavor to seek Him? Are we then wrong to be this person ~this light~ in their lives that they might look up to, admire, think is great and/or want to be like?

Are we leading them into temptation or a false path if we are examples of how God can work within a person when they don’t want to (or even know how to) attribute any of it to Christ at all?

I think….NO.

As Jesus walked among us, He presented the good news and allowed others to choose whether to believe or not. He then moved on, but not without continuing to shine His light everywhere that He went.

A young man once tried to point out the goodness of the man He saw that Jesus was…and Jesus replied;

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.” Luke 18:19

Jesus is not saying here that He was not good. He is trying to help the man to recognize that He (Jesus) IS GOD!

He was trying to help the man to see that he should not recognize the man in Him as good, rather recognize that He IS God, and the good that He sees is because He is God!

Only God is good.

Unlike Jesus, I am not God. No Christian walking this planet is God either. But we are His children and He lives in us if we are following after Him with all our hearts and have accepted His gift of salvation.

The “good” in us (the real good) is of God, not of us.

  • Let’s remember that we are sometimes nothing but the planters of the seeds.
  • Let’s remember that God is the only One who can bring about growth.
  • Let’s never forget that just because we don’t see the full blooms that result from the seeds He allowed us to plant, that He continues to work in the garden of each and every individual.
  • Let’s remember that it may be a blessing beyond comprehension that we don’t always get to see the seeds bloom.

If we did, we might be tempted to take credit in some way for that, wouldn’t we?

What if we saw them die, or start to bloom and then get infected or filled with weeds? We might become discouraged, because we thought WE actually had something to do with the success (or failure) of how their garden grows.

And when others comment on our own beautiful gardens, what then?

If others attribute the beauty of our garden to us somehow, what about that, friends?

Tell them!

Tell them who is responsible for the beauty that they see.

Tell them!

Tell them through all the rest of what you do and say that the garden hasn’t always been pretty.

Tell them!

Tell them how you tried to be the best caretaker in the world ~ how you studied how to make things take bloom and grow ~ how you methodically tried to fully invest yourself into being the best de-weeder on the planet, but the weeds still came anyway.

Tell them!

Tell them how the beauty that they see is only because of the divine intervention and complete Lordship of the only One who can make beauty out of the ugly.

Tell the story of Jesus, friends! Tell them how His story is far more important than your story.

Tell them how His story is the One you are a part of ~ not the other way around!

And remember ~ our primary role is to love others and simply let the blooms tell His story.

The Blooms…

The Light…

And the weeds…

And the darkness…

The Joy…

And the Suffering…

And the GOOD that He has brought out in the midst of it all.

His Good.

Yes, I have the fullness of the answer that He wishes for me to have today….

We are responsible to let the light shine ~

What others “see” is up to Him.

Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:15-16

eye-reflecting-Jesus-business-card

 

 

The Perfecting and Utterly Perfect One

flower-316437_640

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:5

I’m just going to come out and say it…

We judge the effectiveness or sincerity of one’s sharing of the gospel if it doesn’t fit our idea of perfection. There.

People do use things as substitutes sometimes, but there are many times that we look at others and judge them instead of taking a hard look at ourselves. We assume they can’t possibly be for real if they aren’t doing it the way it’s always been done. We venture to guess and assess. We sift and sort and decide: Who is sharing Jesus the right way? (You know…the perfect way).

And in doing that, we are judging the validity of the sharing of Jesus based upon that ministry or that person, rather than GOD Himself. God and His work through others.

God.

Take blogging, for instance. Any of you who share about Jesus through a blog or social media will know what I am talking about here, I have no doubt. Blogging about Jesus ~  It’s seen in Christian circles as “less than” somehow. It is seen as a substitute for the “real thing.”

And that is because sometimes it IS.

But sometimes it’s NOT.

Perfection. Sheesh. Is there really such a thing, friends?

We judge. As people who struggle with sin and pointing fingers at anyone besides ourselves ~ we judge.

But only God knows the true heart of a person. And God leads that person to share the way that He leads them.

He speaks to that person’s heart.

I have, of late, seen a lot of judgement cast toward others who like to share Jesus through social media. It seems to be assumed that they are hiding behind their blog, their email, their facebook page, rather than connecting with others for real. I’m sick of it.

Again, sometimes that is true. Many people hide behind their “ministry” and struggle with turning their intentions, motivations and whole hearts over to Jesus each and every day.

Many struggle with seeing it as their ministry, instead of His.

This girl is all-too-aware of that. There are times that I step away from the blog on purpose because I can feel it grasping hold of me too tightly. That’s when it’s time to put it back into place. That’s the time that He whispers to me and tells me to remember where my treasure really is.

But sharing Jesus through social media doesn’t always mean something less than sharing face-to-face. I don’t believe it is that clear-cut all the time. Sometimes it’s nothing more than another place where the lost are searching ~ a place that the Lord has urged some of us to seek out some kind of connection and way to share Him with those who might be found there. Searching.

  • Some people are sick and cannot go to church.
  • Some are stuck somewhere, without the means to get around.
  • Some are indeed downtrodden, and not sure when they wish to venture out amongst people again after being hurt very, very badly.
  • And some are indeed hiding ~ waiting to be found.

They are watching. They are checking. They are craving connection, even if it’s not a perfect one.

I’ve spent many a night doubting and questioning and praying whether or not blogging and sharing my heart about Jesus on social media is something that is worthy of my Savior. I’ve questioned it ~ wondered about it ~ and yes, I’ve seen the holes in it, friends.

But I’ve also seen the glory it can bring to Jesus. I’ve seen more connection and heart sharing and openness here than I have anywhere else. Some may say it’s because it’s easier for people to speak freely when there is a computer screen between them and another person. That may be true. But at least they are talking. At least they are wondering.

It’s a step.

You may think that is sad ~ that our world is such a place as this. But sad or not, it’s good that we can reach one another.

It’s not perfect. Nothing is fully worthy of Him. Nothing that I do.

It’s about what HE does with it.

And aside from the way that I share Jesus with others on Social Media ~ aside from proclaiming His light and love and truth and divinity in the places where we are somewhat disconnected or in the places that are seen as substitutes for the “real thing” ~ in my physical life, I find the disconnect is still there too. (Did she just say that?)

It’s not perfect either, friends!

  • If I scream from a pulpit or in front of a group of people who are gathered together in one physical place, it is seen as a worthy ministry. It’s seen as a greater connection than writing about my Savior from deep heart places.
  • If I serve at the church or go down to the soup kitchen and help those who are less fortunate than myself, it is seen as more effective and more caring somehow than reaching out to a lonely friend through an email.
  • If I meet with someone one-on-one and hear their heart hurts and pray with them, it is seen as “better than” touching a lonely heart who can’t meet me in person, but IS able to check their facebook newsfeed today.

I’m all for the real thing, friends. But I don’t believe that sharing with others on social media is always fake and quite frankly, we like to blanket it that way because of some (a lot) of the stuff that is.

God can and does do mighty things through that which seems “less than.”

Every. Single. Day.

Yes, I have work to do friends. Always.

I have work to do in how I connect with others when I meet with them in person. I have allowed my illness to cause a roadblock to take up space. I have done it and I am aware of it. I wish to get better about it.

I want to be more engaged and more connected in all the spaces ~ the physical ones and the ones that seem….less than.

I want to do better, but I operate under no illusions that better is not perfect.

None of it is perfect.

It seems like if we can’t do it right or better, we tend to throw up our hands. We either do that, or we simply criticize that which is “bad” or “less than” in what we ARE doing. Or worse yet ~ we just do nothing at all if we can’t go ALL THE WAY.

I’m done with that.

It’s not either/or.

It’s every big or small moment that presents itself in which I am to share Jesus Christ with others.

It’s that person in need of a hug at work, or the one who seems disgruntled or sad in their FB status update today. What about the person who lives far away who I haven’t emailed in some time, or that one on the street corner who is holding up a sign.

It is ALL.

I will continue reaching out in the places where the Lord leads me to do so ~ I will continue to use the gifts He has given me as well as my weaknesses  (yep, those!)  to connect with others in the places that are seen as fake connection avenues to travel down.

I will travel those roads with Him.

Those are the places that I think Jesus would go.

But they aren’t the ONLY places.

  • Friends, the person stuck in the retirement home or soup kitchen matters.
  • The person on the other end of the planet who can’t go to church, but who CAN check a blog or facebook account (sometimes in secret) matters.
  • The person at church who needs a hug, but is busy speaking to someone else when you see them matters. They may go home later and check social media or read a few blogs to enhance their sense of connection to other believers ~ to Jesus.
  • The people in our homes need us to be engaged with them. They matter.
  • The family members who have conflicting schedules and aren’t home when you are might check facebook or email or messages and feel that’s a way they can connect with us from afar. They matter.

Something of Jesus is better than nothing of Jesus as long as the heart is where it should be and it’s not something that acts as a counterfeit of Him, friends.

That’s how seeds grow.

We are only the planters sometimes.

So, you guessed it. One of the things I wish to do in this new year is work on the connection with others ALL the way around.

I wish to connect in deeper ways with a few, just as Jesus did.

Deeper with those in my physical realm.

Deeper with those in the seemingly virtual realm.

Deeper, but still not perfect.

Never “perfect.”

That will not happen for this girl until she goes home to live with the Lord for eternity.

So yes ~ I will leave the perfecting of His truth and love up to Him. He’s the only One who does it ALL perfectly anyway.

Do you also wish to do better? Do you know that in Him and through Him you shall?

Then join me, dear friends. Join me in turning over all that is less than in us to the One and the Only who is truly perfect.

In that, we can fix our eyes upon Him ~ the One who makes beauty out of ashes. The One who works wonders through our inadequacies.

The Perfecting and Utterly Perfect One.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2

rose-278770_640

 

 

30 Days of Godly Wisdom ~ Keeping Home in Mind

For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come.heaven

    For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come. Hebrews 13:14

My Dad Fought for Freedom in More than One Way

littlebirdieblessings.blogspot.com

littlebirdieblessings.blogspot.com

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

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

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

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

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

daddy

Note: The pens in the pocket HAD to stay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are truly free.

free

 

Xanax: The Final Answer for Annie! (Hee Hee)

hero

I am laughing so hard right now, friends. It appears that those out in cyber space think that Xanax may be something I should consider. Strongly. (tee hee, I can’t stop laughing).

If you are reading this post and you take Xanax, please do not be offended. I think there is a time and a place for certain medications, and in no way am I trying to make fun of any and everyone who may need such things at this time in their life. This chick has been there – been through chemical depression and anxiety – and she undertstands that God gave us doctors and medications for a reason.

However…..

The things I write about and share on this blog are not usually those kinds of things: the kind that one might need Xanax for in order to get through their particular struggle. They are the groanings of my own heart….the celebrations of my soul and my love for Jesus in the midst of the crazy and the messy stuff we contend with day to day that tries to drag us down.

These aren’t things that any medication can take the edge off of – at all. These are spiritual things, friends.

Several of my very close friends I have met through blogging have the same approach to their writing. We write what God places in our hearts and share it – in raw form – with others here. We write as we would speak it to you. We write it the way God lays it on our heart. Even if it comes across as imperfect. (We are flawed, after all).

This is what we are feeling led by Jesus to do. This is not what every writer is led to do with their gift, and that’s okay. But for me, this is where He has me – sharing it all, the good, the bad, and the edgy and the ugly – of what it means to be a true follower after Christ in an imperfect and fallen world.

  • What it means to realize (daily) that we are His children, and that He loves us just as we are.
  • What it means to realize our need for our Savior because sin and iniquity is becoming easier to see, but harder to deal with when we fall back into self-sufficiency type behaviors.
  • What it means to keep watching for the enemy and looking to Jesus as we move through this life we have been given.

So, back to the Xanax and the part of it in relation to myself that has me laughing right now………

I rarely check my stats on my blog – this includes the “spam” comments that come through. But today, I checked them out as I was replying to some of your beautiful comments and saw that there were 52 things in the spam folder.

Guess what? About 40 of them were ads for Xanax!

I know this is because when I tag these blog posts, I often choose to tag them under encouragement, inspiration, parenthood, fitness (cause runners need encouragement too) AND under things such as grief, depression, stress, anxiety. (P.S. I’ve never once tagged any one of them under “medication”.)

I do this because out of all the tags in the world, I want to be sure that anyone who searches anything under “grief” – who may be feeling alone, lost, or in an otherwise dark place, might see what the Lord has laid on my heart to share. Maybe they won’t feel as alone as they did earlier that day. Maybe Jesus will reach out to them through me as He does to me through others so very often.

Most of all: I hope others who come across these matters of the heart will see and think upon Jesus and simultaneously realize they are NOT CRAZY.

Correction: They are not crazy in Jesus’ eyes – but they may be crazy according to what the world thinks.

Ok……so….not crazy ALONE.

Tee Hee. Hence, the Xanax ads.

Guess the world thinks I am crazy – how about you? Have you checked your spam folder lately? What is in there that might help to confirm for you that the world thinks you might need a little help right about now?

And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:17

  • I don’t need Xanax for the struggles I have with self and the flesh…
  • I don’t need Xanax for the fact that I find myself being selfish the more I try to follow after Jesus and love others the way that He loved us first.
  • I don’t need Xanax to help me realize the world wants to hear about puppy dogs and sand in your toes, bouquets of flowers and balloons and the smell of a freshly bathed toddler.

I need Jesus – and the world thinks otherwise. The world is “concerned” for our well-being, friends, if we are not happy, happy, happy all the time!

The world thinks that Xanax may help my state of mind so that my writings would be more airy, fun, feel-good and light. Is the world concerned for me? I tend to wonder just who it really is that needs  for Annie to take the Xanax…ha ha.

There’s a time and a place for fun – I’m all over it when God leads me in that direction. You’ve seen it here in many of the things that I’ve shared.  But, I didn’t have Xanax then, and I don’t need it now.

Not for this, my friends.

I am not sad. I am finding beauty in the turmoil that is caused by living for Jesus while simultaneously trying to walk in this world. It is such a twisted and hard thing to walk through – it does make me anxious at times, I admit. Sometimes I get really frustrated too. Sad, even. Bummed out, I guess you could say.

But guess what that does for me? Guess what that does in regard to my relationship with Jesus Christ?

  • It makes me never forget to remember my need to turn to HIM.

I think that is what it is all about. I think that it’s important that I be here right now.

Sometimes, when I think about the few thorns in my side I am “suffering” with, I almost don’t know whether to ask the Lord to remove them, or just allow them to stay and help me meet Him where I am at and live with them. He’s been showing me a lot through this stuff that I am contending with – I am learning more and more about Him each and every day. I don’t know if I would be able to say that if life was just a bed of pretty little roses.

I enjoy it when things are going well – just as much as the next guy. But if I am really honest with you, I would say that those times are only “good” because it feels good and I have less difficulty to contend with. They “cut me a break” for a while, and that is good. Our Father knows just when it’s time for us to have that particular blessing come about.

But if it lasts too long, I find myself leaning in less to Jesus. I find myself focusing upon sensation and perfect circumstances more than digging in to the mud and getting my hands a little dirty. My Father knows this too, and He blesses me by disciplining me, or using hard times to draw me closer to Him. It’s the blessing in the seemingly ugly stuff that really makes  you know that “what you are made of” is not enough.

Only God is enough.

Toes in the sand? Good stuff. Covered in muck and mud? Also good. Just not in the same way. Not in the feel-good way.

If you are struggling and need to take medicine right now and feel the Lord has led you to do so, please do it – please know I support you, care for you, and would love to pray for you if you wish to send me a message. I get it – not your individual and personal story – but I do get it when chemical imbalances take hold. Trust me.

But if you, like me, know you don’t need medicine for what currently seems to ail you, please look upon the attempts of this world to soothe you for what they really are.

  • They do not know what they do…..
  • They are just trying to “help”…
  • They want to try to fix you or help you fix yourself…
  • Some of it really may be coming from what they think is a pure motivation.

Friends, oh friends. The world thinks we are supposed to strive for happiness. The world thinks we are supposed to achieve balance. The world thinks that we deserve better, should take care of ourselves first and foremost, and be a positive (feel-good) person to be around.

The world thinks….”this is IT. You only get one life. Better make the best of it NOW.”

I always say this…..”It’s hip to be mellow.” The closest this chick ever got to mellow, was when she was smoking pot and dumbing down every negative or uncomfortable feeling she ever had by pouring alcohol down her throat. And even then, it was fleeting, it was fake, and it didn’t work, friends.

Dudes: None of that is going to fix us. It’s all a lie.

Pot and alcohol may be legal here in Colorado and in other places- legal in the eyes of this world – but it ain’t where I am headed. Not even close.

  • No, I will take what the world may call angst and live with it – raw.
  • I will take the frustration and the stress and press into Jesus – daily.
  • I will live in this momentary shell of discomfort with the blessed hope that it causes me to reach out for over any amount of happpy feel-good stuff this world has to offer.
  • And I will celebrate the seasons of lightness and good feelings when they come.

Truth is, the best of this world is nothing compared to what is to come. And these struggles we go through that are just a part of being a follower after Christ who is not yet home, help us to endure what we need to until such day that we leave this temporary life and begin to really live!

Xanax? Ain’t got nothing on Jesus.

cross

 

Just Write ~

sunset-174276_640

Yes, I have waited so many times for things to be just right before even making an effort at all.

I have waited and waited and waited.

The area I waited the longest in, it seems, was following after Jesus – truly and fully.

Right next in line with that, would be using the desire (again, to the fullest) that He placed inside of my heart to write what lies within it and then share it with others.

shoe-68770_640

After much prayer and years of waiting, I have finally decided that will be the topic of the book that I will finally write (unless the Lord leads me to something else, which I don’t think will be the case).

It has been on my heart for years – well, actually forever – to write a book.

But something wasn’t just right.

Now I know that the writing will never be just right, but the timing is – and that is what I have been waiting for – for it to be something that will truly glorify Jesus and it will happen in His perfect timing. The rest doesn’t have to be just right.

There is freedom in that – in oh, so many ways, there is freedom there!

The other day I realized: why not write about something that writers struggle with – why not also write about something that we all, as Christians living in this world struggle with at the same time? Why not write about how we wait for things to seem “just right” before we step – risk – grow. How when we hold back because we are waiting to be perfect first, we become stagnant. And then NOTHING actually really ever happens.

Why not write about how we often struggle with multitudes of things simply because we are waiting for them to be just right?

I’m glad Jesus doesn’t do that, aren’t you?

You, dear friends of mine are the first to get to hear of this – the first to know that I decided along with the Lord to write this book about the fact that stuff is not always going to line up to be just right for us.

It almost never does. (sing it with me now…”FREEDOM”!!!!)

We have to risk if the Lord leads us to – step first – trust in Him. Let Him make ALL THINGS NEW in and through us.

I do not wish to write a book for the sake of it. If that were so, I would have done it a long time ago.  I just want to place down what Jesus is moving me to share with others. Even if only my family and close friends read it, that is okay by me.

I will share more as things progress – please pray for me, friends. My greatest wish is to let this book develop at the pace that the Lord would choose, but that I move forward, in spite of the fact that not much of any of it is just right at this point.

~I am busier than ever and don’t know where the time will come from.

~I have health issues impacting my motivation and morale, even though I still have Jesus joy inside of me!

~I will not sacrifice this blog for any book as Jesus has placed this forum in which to write down the words that are on my heart in the forefront – it remains there to this day. There is community here – there is love and sharing here – Jesus speaks to me here. Clearly.

Here is a little excerpt of what I have written so far (in the middle of one of the chapters).

pencil-2269_640

Just as a musician could not imagine life apart from using his gift of making music, a person with a love for writing needs to do just that – write down the words, the feelings, the thoughts that fill them up, and share them, express them, even celebrate them.

When I write, it feels like something happens that is simply, yet wonderfully, an extension of who I am in Christ. I feel near to Jesus when I write.

He teaches me how to magnify Him, glorify Him, commune with Him, and worship with Him through making what is on the inside come out in a tangible way.

Most importantly, through writing, the Lord reveals more of Himself to me, and allows me to see just how much He really loves others, including myself. He motivates me to become more like Him as he shows me these things.

But for so very long, I pushed it down – stuffed it. I didn’t like the rugged edges of my writing, but I didn’t want to sacrifice truth either. So I wrote the stuff that wasn’t “just right” in my own eyes, or by the standards of the world, for that matter.

I wrote the not-just-right stuff anyway and simply hid it from the world.

No…it had to be perfect in order to be shared. It had to be “just right.” And so, for many years, it was not just right. Not at all. And because of that, it was just…..nothing. It was as though it didn’t exist. Because I hid it. I was ashamed of it.

And it was then that I realized….

This is how I was treating my Savior as well. The way I approached my writing was the same way I approached my Christian walk with Jesus. If I couldn’t do things just right, I would do it halfway, but then hide that from the world. If I couldn’t do it just right, I might even throw up my hands for a while. Talk about backsliding!

I would play this game with myself for many, many years. I still catch myself trying to do it at times without even intending to.

But now I am on the hook.

I am on the hook with Jesus. And the words He fills me with – the ones I express through writing – they help make what I try to hide – intentionally or not – come to the surface.

~ Jesus is in my writing – it is now no longer my own.

~ Just as my writing is no longer MINE, the same goes for my life.

~It all belongs to Him. And that is right. It is just right.

But make no mistake: I battle with it still – all the time. And that reminds me of how not “just right” I am without Jesus. Every. Single. Day. It may seem odd, but the full knowledge of that is what makes me feel the freedom that I have in Jesus, friends. I don’t feel bummed out, bound up by facing that I am imperfect. I don’t like it at times, but I still have the “peace that surpasses all understanding” about all of it now.

So I am just going to write about that. I’m gonna write about how glorious it is to be saved from our “not-just-rightness” by the blood of Jesus.

I am going to just write about how very “just right” that truth really is.

artwork-142877_640 (2)