I’m not afraid of the dark

http://www.diamondgallery.com/diamonds-are-forever/
source: http://www.diamondgallery.com/diamonds-are-forever/

If God granted your biggest wish right now, would it change your faith in Him forever or just sustain you temporarily until you had another wish you wanted fulfilled?

I ask this because at the depths of my angst and the heights of my chronic pain, all I wanted was to be healed.  I thought if God would just heal me, it would change everything for me.

  • My faith would be restored.
  • I could finally make a difference in His kingdom.
  • People would see me and say “wow, God still performs miracles!”
  • I could find reasons to smile again.
  • Nothing would ever hold me back again.
  • I could fill my schedule back up with pool parties, coffee visits, bible study groups, serving here and there and there and there…. if only He would heal me.

But God didn’t heal me.  In fact, I will always have fibromyalgia and arthritis.  I will probably always struggle with some form of depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.  However the journey, in and of itself, has strengthened my faith in God.  I now have some wisdom, some life experience, and some ways to connect to other people.  I never would have had these gifts if God would have healed me the first or the seventeenth time I asked.

I used to live landmark to landmark – waiting to see what was on the horizon and telling myself, “once this thing is past me, I’ll be fine.”  And, “when I get to that next thing, everything will be GREAT!”  And, “when I have a job again, we will be financially secure.”  I was scared of the pressure while I was suffering physically.  I was terrified of the life change.  I felt forgotten, isolated, segregated, removed.  The pressure of not knowing when or if I would feel good again was too much.  I was scared of being in the dark.

I didn’t know how to rely on God.

And when I lived that way (constantly waiting for the next thing), I was essentially covering my ears and rocking back and forth … and shutting out God.  He was trying to whisper to me, and sometimes He would send people to try to speak truth into me.  But I couldn’t hear them because I was too busy making my own plans.  I didn’t even see them because I was too focused on my anticipation of the next thing on the horizon.

Your life is now, not later.

Dont’ wait for the next thing, because you’re going to miss THIS thing.  And believe me when I tell you, there is a lesson to be learned in every situation.  There is joy to be found and there is sorrow to shake your soul.  Just like the Bible says in the book of Ecclesiastes, there really is a time for everything.  Don’t wish away these times like I did.  Because gems are only produced under pressure.  You are a gem to Him.  I am a gem to Him.  Don’t believe for a second that your worth is what this world tells you it is.  DO believe that you ARE a precious gem of the Lord’s.  He formed you.  He made you.  HE PICKED YOU!  You have worth and you have sparkle.

So dont’ be afraid of the dark.

God has the ultimate flashlight. He sees you and He loves you.  He has not forgotten you.  Don’t give up hope in Him.
Look for His light.
Because that’s where you’re going to sparkle.

when worry steals adventure

I can’t do it.
I’m not strong enough.
She’s faster than I am.
They eat healthier than we do.
I have fibromyalgia.
My doctor said I shouldn’t.
It’s too hot.
It’s too windy.
It’s too muggy.
It will hurt.
I don’t have time.
I don’t have anything to wear for that.
I’ll have to wash my hair again if I do that.

All of the excuses above kept me from doing a LOT of things over the past several years.  You might resonnate with some of them, and with others you might just think I’m crazy.  That’s cool.  Sometimes I think you’re crazy. (said in my best 6 year old accusatory voice, because I’m mature like that sometimes)

My husband amazes me with his ability to “Just Do It” on many levels.  He can flip a switch in his head and say “this is what I’m doing” even if he has a list of excuses like mine.  His excuses don’t dictate what he will or will not do.  If I ever decide to grow up, this is a trait I would like to refine in myself.

Today I did something amazing.  I ran.  I also walked fast, but mostly I ran.  To most, this is not a big deal.  I have crazy friends who run marathons… in Texas heat.  #insanerunners  But for ME, this is a big deal.

A year ago today, I was recovering from a night out to see fireworks.  It wasn’t strenuous to watch fireworks, but the entire process of getting myself ready, out the door, to the field, and then sitting in the heat, staying up late, and so on —- that required a day of rest afterward.  My body couldn’t handle that much activity without a large period of rest the following day.

And today I ran.

I wish I could tell you that my “mind over matter” gear is finally un-stuck, and it is … partially, but that’s not what got me running.  I have fibromyalgia and I FINALLY found something that helps me feel good ALL the time, not just for an hour here or there. #workoutpoweredbyplexus  But here’s the interesting part — those excuses are still there when it comes to working out, but now they look like this:

I don’t have time.
Even if I shower after to get to work, I’ll still be sweating.
I’m too fat for my workout clothes (I know — you can laugh at me too)
She’s faster than I am.
They eat healthier than we do.
It’s too hot.
It’s too windy.
It’s too muggy.
I don’t have time.
I’ll have to wash my hair again if I do that.

Interesting isn’t it?  I feel SO great, yet I still have a list of excuses.  This morning I read this:

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? ~ Luke 12:25

My list of excuses are worries.  All of them.  Here’s what I have to say about that:

1075

What is your list of worries?  We all have them.  I have a list for exercise, one for ministry, one for friendships, one for parenting, one for driving…  Sure, the lists can keep me from doing some stupid things – it would not have been WISE for me to run when my pain was at its worst – but I certainly didn’t even try often to go for walks.

The worry stole my adventure.  Today I created adventure and left my list at home.

7.5.14RUN

Go create your adventure today… build something, draw something, make something, call someone, meet a neighbor, exercise, pray for someone out loud. Get your adventure out of worry-jail and …

justdoit

why are you still spinning plates?

I’m 37 and I finally feel like I am DOING the things I have dreamed of doing in my life, and I feel like they are God’s dreams for me as well.  Now, I’m no Carrie Underwood, singing all across the world.  I’m no Michael Hyatt, writing and speaking all over the world.  But I’m Ann Skaehill, doing the things I’m meant to do in my little circle of the world.

In 6th grade, I remember doing some kind of “career project” wherein I had to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.  My project was about being a writer.  Now, I wasn’t exactly sure what KIND of writer I wanted to be – and honestly even through my Sophomore year in college I thought I would work for Hallmark and write witty and sentimental sayings for their greeting cards.

Because I believe God pursues us and keeps dreams alive in us, He never let my dream to write slide by the wayside.  I have had other talents pop up that I jumped on and turned into money makers for my family all while God was putting new dreams in my heart.

When I felt called to work in ministry, I laughed.  Ok really, we ALL laughed.  I was the mom with the f-bomb problem – I had no business being in ministry!  And in fact there were things He wanted me to experience and learn so that He could call me out of ministry for a season where He cultivated those things within me.  Talk about confusing!

A few months ago my husband and I went for a walk and he said (in love), “I feel like you’re all over the map!  You are basically working 4 part-time jobs right now and you’re making me crazy!  So what IS your dream?  Or do you seriously have a bazillion of them?”

Good points.  After my initial defensiveness subsided, I realized he had some exceptionally good points.  God might call us to do new things, and in fact He might keep a dream alive in us for a long long time.  When it’s time to take action and follow your dream, you have to let something else go.  My best friend always says to me:

“Everytime you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else.”  

Because I was essentially saying yes to 4 part-time jobs, I was saying no to my family and to God’s FULL calling for my life.  Again.  (I really hate it when I repeat this cycle!)

So it’s time.  I’m shutting down one of my spinning wheels.  It’s taking time to get through the work, but I have peace about it.  And as I get closer to completion, I feel my passion coming more alive in the areas of writing and ministry. Correction, I feel HIS passion coming alive in the areas of writing and ministry.  By continuing to say yes to this 4th thing, I was saying no to the big picture of how God wants to use me in these other areas.  I was doing something because I was good at it, not because I was called to it.

How do you know if you’re called to something or not?
Prayer.
Conversation.
Humility.

1. Write down EVERYTHING that you’re doing.  I mean everything.  This includes carpool, taking meals to people because they are sick, volunteering with a pet rescue place, your career… everything.  Then pray over that list.  Ask God to bring to the surface the things that He intends for you to have your hands in/on.  Ask Him to make it clear to you when it’s time to start saying no.  Don’t be “that guy” and walk into church Sunday and say “I can no longer serve because God’s not calling me to it.  Bye!”

2. Talk to your people.  I can’t shout this to you loud enough.  Your people know what you’re good at and what you clearly have no business doing.  It’s going to hurt, because you think you’re good at spinning all those plates. And frankly, you might even think you’re CALLED to spin all those plates.  Maybe you are.  But because you’re human, I’m positive you have at least one plate that needs to find a new home.

3. When you feel like God is calling you to something, you will simultaneously have this sense that it’s not about you.  Because He might even be calling you to something that you know NOTHING about.  Get your seatbelt on, because you’re in miracle territory.  He’s about to work wonders for HIS good, through you.  And when you walk away from a job well done, pride won’t be an issue because you won’t be able to stop praising GOD and all that He has done in this thing you knew nothing about.

If this three-step process isn’t enough for you, please go read Jennie Allen’s book: Restless.  She will lead you down this amazing road of self-discovery.  She will help you peel back the layers of your life so you can lay out the pieces and see your detailed map to God’s calling for your life.

Start thinking about what you need to say no to.
It’s time to stop spinning all those darn plates.

on the outside, looking in

Last weekend my little family of three went on a get-away trip to San Antonio.  We had a great time and made an effort to keep our phones put away except for a few snapshots here and there.   We didn’t even verbalize set phone-rules, we just wanted to be sure we enjoyed each other more than we enjoyed our technology.

Here are things we noticed:

  • our conversation was focused on us, not on what we saw on Facebook
  • our kiddo thrives on adventure – even if it means taking a different path than we did to get to the same place
  • we actually had productive conversations about our parenting goals and family goals
  • we laughed.  a lot.
  • we didn’t miss our phones

Here is what we noticed at other tables in restaurants:

  • the people dining hardly looked at each other
  • heads hardly ever looked up from phones when servers brought their meals
  • phones were still in one hand while eating with the other
  • often the only conversation that occurred was in reference to someone showing a picture on his/her phone
  • KIDS are glued to tablets and phones

I remember my husband saying, “I’m glad that’s not us – I’m glad we don’t have our phones out.”
And I remember thinking, “Today.  I’m glad we had the willpower to put them away today.”

 

This video impacts me every single time I watch it and it reminds me to have a healthy respect for my phone.  There is a time and a place to use your phone.  Exercise some willpower and learn the difference.

It’s hard.  It’s SO hard to create a healthy distance from technology when it’s everywhere AND when almost everyone in our circles is using it as well.  Our kids are growing up in this new environment, and it’s our responsibility to set good examples for them.

With a smartphone it’s hard NOT to:

  • answer that work email so you can show that you’re a team player
  • text a friend with something funny your kid just said instead of laughing with your family
  • look up that web address immediately after seeing it advertised
  • check the weather/traffic … over and over again
  • post the family picture you just took on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter and so on
  • play a game instead of sitting idle for 5 minutes while you wait in line
  • check Facebook. again. and again. and again. and again.
  • post a great quote on Twitter instead of really enjoying and soaking in that book

iphone

Several weeks ago, my friend Lauren posted this link on Facebook – I know, the irony of it all, but stay with me here.  It’s basically a challenge to see how long you can go without picking up your phone and here’s the gem of it all… the minutes ticking by while your phone sits idle, is rewarded to people who don’t have phones.  In fact, they don’t even have water.   Read more here, and take the challenge.

Do some good to yourself, your family, your boundaries, and to total strangers who can’t ever repay you.

right bus, wrong seat

Can you answer these two questions?

  1. Are you on the right bus?
  2. Are you on the right seat of that bus?

Our church staff read a book written by Jim Collins and I can still see multiple correlations between the ideas presented and the issues that we face in ministry (and life in general).  If you haven’t read it, it’s worth your time – but please note – if you aren’t 100% business minded, you might need a dictionary close by.

goodtogreat

One of the chapters that I loved in this book, talked about having people in the right place within your business.  If you think of your business (or ministry) as a bus, everyone on that bus is bought-in to the mission and headed in the same direction.  However, often times we have people sitting in the wrong seats and they become Debbie-Downers.  They make the ride miserable for everyone else.  

You’re probably already nodding your head because you can think of someone immediately who is the fit-throwing child within your organization.  Collins recommends that we simply help them find the right seat on the bus and boom — they turn into a Fred Flintstone, picking that bus up and RUNNING toward the goal. (Why do I think in movie lines? Forrest Gump, anyone?)

running

I was quite shocked when God first led me into ministry.  I was the mom who struggled with the f-bomb.  What in the world was I doing in ministry???  The position that I ultimately landed in was about 50% the right seat and 50% the wrong seat.  I love people, their stories, and helping them find their right seat on the bus.  But keeping up with them and refining their skills turned out to be a real deal breaker for me.  Not because I didn’t want to, but because I wasn’t made to.

I believe that God gives us talents, dreams, desires, and even Spiritual Gifts that we are meant to use to do His business here on earth.   

1 Corinthians Chapter 12 RDT (Red Neck Translation <– that’s a joke, please don’t go looking for that translation) goes into all the details of how each of us is given something different than someone else – so that – we can work together to git’r done.  The Apostle Paul even says that we can’t have ALL the gifts because that would make it pointless to need other people.

If you think about a bus again, it needs things that appear similar to do very different jobs:

  • It needs wheels and tires.
  • It needs an engine and pistons.
  • It needs oil and gas.

If we could ALL dream big, nothing would ever get done.  If NONE of us could dream big, we would never invent anything new.  Different gifts for different roles.  (Did anyone else just sing the Different Strokes theme song?)

My ministry position only nailed 50% of the gifts I was given which meant I was the teeter-totter in our group.  I was fired up half the time and the other time I was dragging the anchor and whining.  Ultimately, an illness forced me to leave my position on staff, but I finally had the courage to start having conversations on my way out about how I didn’t feel like that job was the right fit for me.  No one argued with me on that, probably because they could see it too.

Because God is gracious and He pursues us, I have been added to the church staff a second time – and THIS time my role utilizes 90% of my gifts.  10% of my job is dealing with stuff I don’t feel gifted to do, but it’s necessary and it pushes me to think outside of the box – which is a good thing!

So what, Ann.  Yay you.  You have a job you love and I hate mine so …whatever.  I’m glad you found a job you like.

No.  Not “yay Ann” — YAY GOD for being smart enough to give us specific gifts.

Do yourself a favor.  Take a Spiritual Gifts Assessment.

I like the Spiritual Assessment tool at Lifeway.com.  You can download the PDF here.  It is easy to read, understand, and answer.  It has a simple scoring tool, AND it includes descriptions of all the gifts.  This is not an end-all, be-all test that will show you the path you must take.  This is a tool to help you assess why you’re dragging anchor.  It’s meant for you to use as a brainstorming tool to figure out how God has specifically gifted YOU.

Google your gifts, talk to your co-workers about them, talk to your family about them.  Maybe it’s time for you to have a courageous conversation with your boss.  Maybe it’s time for you to lead a ministry at your church.

Maybe it’s time for you to appreciate where you are planted because you’re gifted and meant to be there.

http://www.chairmeninc.com/index.html
http://www.chairmeninc.com/index.html

So back to the beginning we go.

  1. Are you on the right bus?
  2. Are you on the right seat of that bus?

If the answer to either question is “no” — then it’s time you do something about it, because Jeremiah 29:11 says that God knows the plans He has for you and if you know you’re on the wrong bus or even the wrong seat — God hasn’t been able to use you the way He needs to.

Git’r done.

 

please like me.

Fresh out of college, I was given a killer opportunity.  I was hired by a telecom giant at 22 years old.  I had a great salary, amazing benefits, and opportunities to travel all over the United States.  But I wasn’t that great at my job and after only 2 years with the company, I was laid off.

I had a killer severance package and I told my husband that I wanted to do something fun while that severance supported me. Somewhere in those next three months I shifted from, “I am competent and smart and will do a great job” to “Please like me!”  Oh, Ann.  Yikes.

I got a job at a local craft store where I catered to and assisted a lot of people. It was clear right out of the gates that people liked me.  And DANG that felt good!  After only a month, I was promoted to a management position and I thought things were going really well for this college graduate (who was working retail to hide from the fact that she royally screwed up her opportunity of a lifetime).

But trouble started when I began to notice some inner workings that I didn’t like, and certainly didn’t agree with. But remember I wanted people to like me, so I chose not to ruffle feathers. The talk about customers behind their backs made me feel dirty.

Even more mortifying than hearing the conversations was PARTICIPATING in the conversations, which easily led to conversations about co-workers behind their backs as well. I crossed the line, just to be liked.

I drew the line when I overheard and witnessed conversation about ME.  Funny, isn’t it? It was so easy to participate in the conversation until I knew they were talking about me too.  Only THEN did I draw the line.  At about this time, social media was starting to pop up here and there (no smartphones yet thank the Lord) and I found out that I was being talked about via email and social media mostly because I stood up and said “hey – this isn’t cool – at all.” (However, I’m in my young 20’s at this point and I probably had the complete package of entitlement with a red bow of attitude to go along with my soap box speech.)  Before I knew it, my entire goal to get people to like me turned into a 911 call-to-arms to put out all the social media fires.  I was crushed.  I BAWLED over the phone to my college roommate.

But I thought they liked me!
I thought they liked me.

As the book of Joshua starts, Moses has just passed away and the leadership “torch” has been passed to Joshua.  One of the first few things he has to do is conquer Jericho.  I could have learned a lot from Joshua back in my early days of adulthood.  Joshua didn’t care what everyone else thought, even though he was about to ask them to act a little crazy.

 “Ok guys, we’re going to walk around this sucker once every day – but you can’t say a WORD.  Then on the 7th day, we will walk around this sucker SEVEN times, the priests will blow their horns and we’re going to get crazy up in here with our voices!  I mean, I want to REALLY hear you, people!  Then the walls will fall down and the Lord will make it easy for us to defeat our enemies.  Trust me on this, He personally told me this is how it will go down.” (MAJOR paraphrase of Joshua 6:1-11)

Joshua did what he knew was right, even though he was about to ask for his troops to commit to a crazy battle plan.  He didn’t care if the people didn’t like him.  There was work to be done.

It has taken me years to overcome this people-pleasing problem.  I think I’m fairly close to conquering it, and then I fail miserably again in a single conversation.  But this is what I love about scripture: I’m going to change, but scripture isn’t.  The truths within will still be applicable to me 3 years from now when I’m wondering where I went wrong… again.

Father, fill me with your spirit so that appreciation from people has no room to soak into me.  Bring me back to scripture to see how to live and how not to live.  THANK YOU for believing in me, even though I screw things up over and over again.  That kind of love is inspiring, refreshing, and so very comforting.  Remind me that I don’t need others to like me because you LOVE me more deeply than my mind can understand… and that’s all I need.   AMEN 

 

to give or not to give?

Over the years my husband and I have learned to trust God with our income and finances.  I know — that sounds “holier than thou”,  but I promise it really isn’t.  We have learned to tithe off of our income and even when times got really tight financially, we didn’t allow ourselves to pull from that 10% in order to pay for this bill or that bill.  But MAN has it been tempting!!!

History Lesson:
I’ve been reading the Chronological Bible this year and I have learned an awful lot about how tithing started.  When Moses was leading the Israelites out of captivity/horrible conditions, God identified some key families/tribes.  He designated land for each of them – EXCEPT for the tribe of Levi, also known as the Levites.  {{{technically, Joshua let the Israelites into Canaan, but Moses got the low down just before they went in}}}  The Levites were basically what we would now consider pastors/priests/preachers.  God didn’t give them anything because he wanted the other tribes to give their first fruits or the best of their flocks or the first of their gold to the Levites as sacrifices in God’s name.

In an interesting turn of events, we don’t feel like we have “checked the giving box” and we are now off the hook.  In fact, just the opposite has happened.  We feel more compassion to those who are struggling with losing their homes, struggling to find employment, caring for their elderly parents and so on.  But here’s where I get stuck — constantly:

What if they don’t use the money we give them to pay for that bill or fix their car?

Many years ago, my husband’s parents gave us a really hefty check and said, “use it however you want.”  I didn’t know what to do!  I was paralyzed with wanting to honor them and their intentions for the gift, but also there were some “fun” things that we would have loved to spend that money on — like a vacation since we struggle each summer to come up with the money for a good family trip.  I think I drove my mother in-law bat-stir-crazy by asking her over and over how she would like us to spend the money.  She was (and still is) a cheerful giver.

Be a cheerful giver.

7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:7

And now we like to be cheerful givers.  There have been times in the past when we have chosen a grocery store gift card over cash because we couldn’t trust that the cash would be used wisely.  There have been times when we did anonymous grocery drops on people’s doorsteps (and our son LOVES to participate in those!).  My husband has been known to mow yards for active service members, or I help someone with transporting their kids from here to there.  But often times we have given cash anonymously because we feel God calling us to do so… no matter how we think the recipients will spend it.

No, we don’t hear voices.  We don’t have visions.  God doesn’t hang out in our old rickety recliner.  But we feel it in our hearts that He is telling us to do something for particular people.  Sometimes if one of us feels it and the other doesn’t, we give a small gift.  But when we both feel it, we give cheerfully and freely.

Be kind, but don’t be naive.

It’s not for us to say how those folks should spend their gifts, just like my mother in-law wouldn’t direct us.  Be kind when you give, but don’t be naive.  If giving a cash gift to someone is going to feed an existing addiction or a string of selfish behavior,  get creative and think of other ways to give, because adding fuel to a hot fire isn’t going to help anyone.  Sometimes the best gift can be time.  YOUR time.  It doesn’t have to be a monetary gift.

This isn’t about me… it’s about WE.

The hubs and I are not wealthy people.  I’m not sharing this for you to say “WOW!  WAY TO GO ANN!  We have old furniture and weeds in our yard, and we wear clothes until they fall apart.  But we always have something to give, and you do too.   This isn’t about me… it’s about WE.  How are WE called to help those around us? Psst!  That includes you!  You are part of this “we.”

The best anonymous gift I ever received was when I was recovering from a really rough throat surgery.  I found flowers and a wad of cash on my front porch.  I fell onto my knees and sobbed.  It wasn’t the size of the flowers (they were grocery store flowers), and it wasn’t the amount of money (prob $150-$200), it was the idea that someone cared enough about ME to take the time to bless me.  I knew people cared.  And honestly that was all I really needed.  Life struggles can be very lonely, even for extroverts like me.  I needed to know people cared.  Period.

I would love to hear about the BEST anonymous gift you have ever given or have ever received!!!!  (and yes, you can leave your comment anonymously – wink)