5 things I remembered this week

Multiple new folks have landed on my blog over the past couple of months and I figured it was time for an update to bring everyone up to speed on who this Ann person is.  This post is mostly about my transparent qualities that some find … how shall I say… disturbing.  But honestly my transparency is one of the things that helps me connect so deeply to others.

So here are 5 things that I remembered about myself this week:

  1. My husband can make me laugh harder than anyone else on the planet.  To the point that I snort when I laugh.  Which makes him laugh harder, and that makes me laugh harder — and we pretty much take on the characteristics of two middle school boys who laugh at completely inappropriate things, in totally inappropriate locations.
  2. I would rather put together a gas grill than cook dinner.  I can rock a drill — actually “our” drill is only “ours” because he married me.  That whole common property thing keeps me from really being able to claim it as “mine” anymore.
  3. I can’t handle the sensation of having something stuck between my teeth.  And I WILL stop to buy dental floss should such an issue arise.  And I will use it in my car until the issue is resolved.
  4. There is something very therapeutic about emptying a filled vacuum canister.  I have a great sense of accomplishment from removing a ginormous about of disgusting things from our carpet/floors/blinds … and anything else I happen to vacuum while I’m at it….. lights, fans, my shirt, chairs, the dust on the entertainment center, and … for the sake of full transparency… lampshades.
  5. I thrive in a clean environment – I don’t have OCD but I absolutely have OCD tendencies.  However, I seem to be one of the main reasons why we have stacks of random things in the kitchen.  I’m sure there’s a need for therapy in there somewhere, but whatever.  (Putting my shoes away right after I post this to appease my husband)

So there you have it.  There’s a little bit of the disturbance in the force of my mind.  So tell me something about you!  Tell me one thing you remembered about YOURSELF this week!

cape-less and content

What is “sand in my teeth” you ask?

It means that I have only set one foot on the rock of Jesus’ teachings found in the New Testament pages of the bible.  When I am put to the test I sink in the sand because both feet are not planted on the Rock.  The end result? I face-plant in the sand and it gets in my teeth.  A most unpleasant sensation surely to cause staring from others and self-evaluation in a mirror.

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”  Matthew 7:24-27

The rock:

“…let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
Matthew 5:16

The sand:
Letting my good deeds shine for all to see, so that everyone will praise me while I stand on a hilltop with my cape heroically flapping behind me.

downloadable photo from www.hdwpapers.com/
downloadable photo from http://www.hdwpapers.com/

I got massive sand in my teeth and it took years to pick out every last grain.  I had good intentions, I really did.  But my pride was more interested in winning the race and taking the gold medal.  My humility was lagging somewhere behind, it didn’t even medal. Imagine that.

Tragedy was striking left and right around me and I am a fixer, it’s what I do.  I truly believe it’s how God made me to be.  I am an encourager and a connector.  I encourage people in their times of trouble and I am able to connect people to make things happen.  But I couldn’t see that these were gifts given to me in order to bring people closer to God.  Maybe I couldn’t see that because my head was down while I ironed my cape.

I took the credit for the things I did or said or prayed.
I didn’t give God the glory.

I let all my good deeds shine on Facebook and in conversations with others.
So that I could backstroke through the bliss of the compliments.

I snapped out of it only after someone pointed out that I was reveling in the back-patting a little too much.  Then of course because God’s threads of instruction are weaved throughout our lives, I heard Matthew 7:24-27 at church.  And then I felt it…  The gritty, dry, choking sand was all up in my face.  It was in my eyes, up my nose, and worst of all…. it was in my teeth.  I realized once again that I only took HALF of the scripture to heart – oh yes people, I let my good deeds shine for all to see but I skipped out on the second half of the scripture.  And dang it if I didn’t LOVE wearing that SuperMe cape!

My prayer:
God, I totally screwed up.  I took the glory that was meant to be yours.  I used the gifts you have given me for my own personal gain.  Please forgive me and help me take the steps to change my selfish behavior!  Humble me, Lord.

The result:
It took me several years but now when I use my gifts to help someone I have zero desire to pat myself on the back. I am using God’s tools, they are His.  He gets the glory.  He gets the praise.  When someone praises me I say, “I’m just the messenger for God’s love; give Him the glory!  I’m not the hero, He is.”

And as it turns out, neither of us need capes.

Have you struggled with patting yourself on the back? Are you wearing your cape right now?

sand in my teeth

I tend to visualize things as I read them.  I recently read the portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where he discusses building on a solid rock foundation, and this is what I pictured.

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 

{visualize} standing on a rock – a HUGE rock, like a boulder, next to crashing waves.  Now picture the name “JESUS” painted so big on that rock that you can’t possibly miss the fact that Jesus is holding you up and your feet are firmly planted.

26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”  Matthew 7:24-27

{visualize} standing on the sand next to the crashing waves at the beach.  An enormous wave breaks in front of you and it knocks you off your feet, sucking you under the water and tossing you to and fro.  It’s like you’re in a front loading washing machine with salt water, fish, sea weed, and … sand.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly care for sand in my … well, everything… but particularly not in my mouth, or worse in my teeth.   It’s gritty, gross, and takes days to really get it all out.  While I had these (hopefully common, otherwise I’m just weird) visualizations it dawned on me how many “sand in my teeth” moments I have had over the years.

Photo courtesy of: http://mariannewildart.wordpress.com
Photo courtesy of: http://mariannewildart.wordpress.com

These moments occur when I screw up.  
Let’s just call it what it is.

These mishaps occur because I’m not standing on the rock that is Jesus … I’m strolling along the sand thinking it’s a solid rock, but knowing deep down I’m not really following Jesus’ instructions.  You know the feeling, right?  Like when you are judging someone and you know you shouldn’t be judging them so you tell yourself an absurd lie that somehow justifies your sin.  Yeah, like that.

Once a week, I will be sharing a “sand in my teeth” moment to show you that regular people screw up … often … but what sets us apart as Christians is that we learn from those mistakes by referencing instruction in scripture and we hopefully* don’t repeat them.

*Caution: if you’re expecting perfectionism from me, you’re reading the wrong blog.

Put your seat belts on, it’s about to get real up in here.

stuck in a grace rut

Photo courtesy of http://www.canadianfamily.ca/

The vacation cycle:

  1. Wow, vacation is close – it will be so great to just be together and enjoy each other’s company!
  2. How on earth am I going to finish all this work before vacation? Is it a problem if we pack dirty clothes instead of clean ones?
  3. I know – we are always late because I can’t juggle it all … WAIT, I forgot my phone charger!  TURN AROUND!
  4. No, we aren’t there yet.  Sure, watch another movie. Yes, I know you’re hungry … again.
  5. Oh yay!  We’ve arrived … I can’t wait to get out of this car and get some distance from you people.
  6. Oh wait, I actually AM excited to be with you people!
  7. Work?  What’s that?  Emails?  Haven’t checked them. I’m too busy laughing with my kid and having great talks with my husband.
  8. I love you guys so much!  This is the best vacation EVER!
  9. When we get home, we are going to change how we do things… no technology nights, game nights, stop saying yes to every commitment, watch our spending, make a weekly menu and stick to it, save for a king sized bed because I don’t know how we have survived marriage this long without one…
  10. Ok, we’re home … tomorrow I have to do this and this and this … guess I’ll see you in passing.

This year we broke the cycle.  Maybe it’s because the three of us didn’t drive 800 miles together on the way there or maybe it’s because we were starved for family time.  Maybe, but here’s what I think happened…

My perspective has changed.  Having a chronic illness has altered perspectives that I used to have, but the biggest one is appreciating what is right in front of me.  It’s SO EASY to get stuck in a rut of focusing on what hurts and how bad and if I need pain lotion or if I can make do without it, or calculating out what things I can/should accomplish in a day making sure I don’t over-do it to create problems for the following day.  Now I try to do the following:

  • allow myself to be honest and assess my pain throughout the day, giving MYSELF grace along the way
  • when I feel myself sliding into that rut, I recite memorized scripture to remind me that God loves me and that I am wonderfully created
  • focus on the things I CAN do and things I DO have, and thank God for those things
  • I am honest with my husband and I don’t hide my frustrations

Transparency and grace are the key components.  My husband and I have given each other permission to be honest and transparent with each other.  Neither of us know how to do this chronic pain thing (our manuals got lost in the mail). Purposefully hurtful statements are not allowed, but honest confessions of frustration are totally game.  There’s no need for anyone to be on the defensive, this isn’t a blame game, it’s a grace game.

We don’t get do-overs.  Every moment in this life counts.  This year we recognized our frustrations on vacation and communicated appropriately about them.  We gave each other space when needed.  We loved more than we bickered.  It wasn’t perfect but it was so much better than last year.  Memories are made both at home and on vacation.   I want to be stuck in a grace rut, because those are the memories I want to remember.

So what kinds of memories are you making?

moose

Ok – people have asked …

Why is your nickname Moose?

So here is the story …

Image

Back in the day, I used to watch Captain Kangaroo all. the. time.  And my favorite part was when Mister Moose made all of the ping pong balls fall on the Captain.  Somehow in the mix, my dad started calling me Annie Moose.  Later it was just shortened to Moose.  My mom used to call the chocolate ring around my mouth … you guessed it, ring-around-the-moose.

Now it has completely gotten out of hand and my nieces and my nephew call me Aunt Moose.  My son is called Mini Moose, and I even named my business The Crafty Moose.

So there you have it … I’m just a moosie mess!
(and I secretly love it — well, I suppose it isn’t a secret anymore!)

mr. potato head is in my book

I am editing some of my manuscript today and this section made me giggle… and also reminded me that my husband is amazing and I am incredibly blessed to have him by my side:

There are a million and 7 books out there about how to relate to the opposite sex, and communication is typically a pretty popular topic within those books.  I know this sounds as silly as bringing a Mr. Potato Head to your next work meeting, but maybe you should tell your husband/friend/brother that when he says, “put your big girl panties on,” it pretty much fills you with a roller coaster ride (of the throw-up variety) of emotion, none of which are love, and gratitude.  Communicate with him, dear child!

mend your wall

Today I did something that was very hard to do.

I addressed part of my wall that needed mending.
Let me explain…

For several years I have had someone in my life who I have really admired, but I didn’t always make the wise choice to respect her.  She is smart, witty, and outwardly loves God more than anyone else I had ever met in life.  And at one point in my journey, she was my boss.

Now, I don’t know what happens inside of us when we lack the discipline to keep jealousy and frustration from penetrating our hearts — but I clearly lacked it.  I started to feel attacked because she could see the vision of what we needed to do and I couldn’t.  I felt frustrated.  I lacked enthusiasm because my pride got in the way.  I hid it from her, but I wasn’t afraid to share it all with my friend because my sinful human nature needed someone “on my side.”  UGH – why do we DO that?!?! (See Psalm 64 reference below … and PS: that was totally gossip on my part which is completely uncool.)

What was happening, unbeknownst to me, was that I was slowly kicking rocks away from one section of the wall inside of me.  My “wall” is what keeps me from doing the things that I know will not bring any good to me.

“Wall” – also known as healthy boundaries, willpower, and courage.

When your wall is strong you can fend off fits of rage and jealousy.  When your wall is weakened you create a big hole, and much like a dog who knows how to masterfully sneak out of his yard, you start going to that weak spot as an outlet for your negative thoughts and feelings.  It’s like you’ve taught yourself “it’s ok to be ugly when I’m over here, because that’s what this spot is for!”  If you aren’t careful, you begin to congregate with other people who also use that weak spot in the wall to unload their negativity. I have had friendships like this in the past and it made me feel dirty after we were done gossipping about other people.  If you’re in those kinds of relationships try addressing how it makes you feel.  If that doesn’t work, it’s time to seek out other friendships.

Psalm 64 says that an evildoer is someone who plots with others to hide their snares saying “who will know? No one but us!” — uh yeah, about that.  God knows.  He sees it all.  So you aren’t fooling anyone but yourself.

It’s never ok to hang out in your weak spot because it’s comfortable there, and never ever because “your people” are there.
I’m just going to leave that hanging for you to think about…. “your people.”

So what do we do about it?

Recently in church we’ve been learning about David and how he respected Saul EVEN WHEN Saul was trying to kill him.  (1 Samuel, chapters 18-28) David had multiple opportunities to slander Saul and even to kill him, but every single time he would say, “yeah but, God anointed this dude and I respect God’s choices and God’s chosen people so I’m not going to kill him.” (obviously that’s my own interpretation – but I think the next bible translation absolutely needs the word “dude” in it)

DUDE … could I still respect someone who was trying to kill me?  Um, it’s not likely.
So why couldn’t I respect someone who cares for me and who has always wanted the best for me? Seems easy enough.

I realized I was mending my wall from the top, down.  I glossed over the real issue and made nicey-nice with myself by saying it wasn’t that big of a deal. In actuality I was avoiding attending to the foundation.   But guess what happens if you don’t have a good foundation for your structure?  Yeah, your walls come tumbling down.  So, I chose this morning to start at the bottom.  It was time to begin repairs on the wall correctly, starting with the foundation.

I called her and asked for forgiveness.  

Even though she hasn’t been my boss for some time now, it has been eating away at me.  I needed her to hear me say that I was sorry, that I was in the wrong, and that I was weak then but didn’t want to be anymore.

Was it hard?
Yes. Terrifying actually.
It’s never easy to admit you have been wrong, especially when you’ve grown so used to that weak spot that the thought of the labor required to rebuild the wall feels overwhelming.

But you know what?
It was life-giving.
It was a conversation filled with grace and forgiveness and prayer and sharing … and love.

I’m not “fixed”, but I am forgiven.

She forgave me and I prayed to the Lord my God for forgiveness as well.  And now, I have the first few stones of my foundation set in place to mend my wall.  Now I just need to keep it up and keep making wise choices.

What mending do you need to address?
What is stopping you?

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there’s a time to tear, and a time to mend.

Go mend your wall.
You won’t regret it.