i’ve been robbed

This week my doctor told me she wanted to me to rest.  Seems simple enough… so why do I struggle to do that?

Maybe if my room looked like this I would actually rest in it:

Yes, I totally pulled that off the web — and the website knows it’s a great looking room so much that I had the pleasure of embedding their advertisement as well as their photo — that’s fair I suppose.

Why do we struggle to rest?  I know I’m not the only one.  Maybe you work.  Maybe you’re a stay at home parent (which is also work, by the way), maybe you volunteer in multiple areas and your phone never stops ringing, maybe you teach and people are counting on you to show up, maybe you don’t have any sick time left, maybe you struggle with depression and when you rest it makes your depression worse, maybe your sheets are dirty (just keeping it real)…. there are so many maybes.

So what’s MY problem?  I have a feeling my chronic illness buddies can relate.

I feel robbed.
There.  I said it.

Already I have changed so much of my lifestyle and I have set really healthy boundaries for myself.  I limit my activity level so that I don’t run my body down — and when I say activity level this is what used to consume my life:

  • volunteering at my son’s school
  • volunteering and working for our church
  • running errands for my family
  • doing the laundry / sheets / towels
  • making sure dinner was prepared each night so we weren’t eating out often
  • having lunch with friends / hanging out with friends / running errands with friends / having coffee with friends
  • crafting / scrapbooking
  • bike riding and going for 4 mile walks
  • working in our yard and tending to the beautiful flowers and plants my mother-in-law helped me plant
  • going to and leading a bible study group
  • going to potlucks and cookouts with neighbors and friends
  • setting up Care Calendars for families who were going through rough times
  • attending all the fun things up at our son’s school / and our church

These are not BAD things, right?  So when I had to become incredibly strategic in knowing how many spoons I realistically had available each day, it was clear I didn’t have enough spoons for all of these things anymore.  I like to describe it as my life pie.  I pretty much cut that sucker down the middle and had to “get rid of” half of my life pie.

So here I am with my remaining half.  And I feel pretty good about this remaining half most of the time, because I know it’s healthy for me and I don’t feel nearly as run down and ill as I used to.  Until I got this crazy virus last week.

I.
Cannot.
Sleep.
… because all I do is cough, and blow my nose, and cough, and take medications, and drink water, and go to the bathroom, and cough.

But my doctor wants me to rest.  And all I can think about is that half-pie life of mine that’s just sitting there.  I’m not sewing and making any money to help with the things that are falling apart in our house.  I’m not figuring out dinners.  I’m not able to go to the grocery store.  I barely make it through the carpool line each day.  I’m not raking the leaves in the yard.  I’m not doing the laundry.  I had to bail out of a theology class that I REALLY wanted to take.  I’ve missed three weeks of church and serving at church.

I want it all.
But if I can’t have it all, GIVE ME BACK MY HALF!
I’m bitter.

God sprinkled my bitterness with some of His sweet sugar this morning when in the midst of my bitter-party I opened my bible app to find this verse of the day:

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.  Colossians 3:17 NLT

Dude.  I was NOT representin’ today.  And I certainly wasn’t giving thanks today either.

Here’s my prayer for me — and for you — on the days that I have to shelve my half-pie life because it’s important in the moment:

God, thank you for knowing in advance that giving me everything I want just isn’t good for me.  Just like I don’t give my child everything he wants, you protect me in the same way.  I am so sorry that I haven’t been thankful for the generous serving of life that you have given me.  Please forgive my selfish behavior. I don’t like feeling bitter, Lord.  Thank you for showing me the verse from Colossians this morning, it reminded me that peace really can be found in your Word.  Please help me turn off the scrolling to-do list in my head and appreciate the opportunity to be still and rest, even if my sheets are dirty.  I want to be your representative here on earth, and I can’t do that when I am spewing bitterness left and right.  Doing your will doesn’t require a cup of bitter along with a pound of love.  Thank you for loving me and for helping me set my mind and heart back on You.

Amen.

 

waiting, waiting, waiting… and worn out

Waiting… we do it all the time:

  • We wait for our turn at the doctor’s office
  • We wait for the green light at the busy intersection on the way to work
  • We wait for our toddlers to calm down from their temper tantrums (or fall asleep)

So why then is it so hard for us to wait for things like these:

  • Waiting for Mr. Right to come along
  • Waiting for the right job with the right pay and the right location
  • Waiting for the medical tests to come back

Ugh — I know.  This bible verse is a lot to take in.  And some of you are rolling your eyes.  I “get that” because I’ve been there.  A little over two years ago I was sitting in my car wailing because the doctor who I put all my trust in showed me that he hadn’t heard a word of my outcry in his office.  I was crushed.  I felt so alone and confused and … well, that no one could possibly understand what I was feeling.  I shut myself off from everyone because I couldn’t handle the weight of the defeat.

God?
No, I didn’t seek Him out — I was too wrapped up in my angst to cry out to God.

People said things like this to me:

This is all part of God’s plan.
God is teaching you patience.
God is showing you that doctor wasn’t the right one.

Really?  He is teaching me patience by torturing me with pain?  His plan includes me not being able to open doors with my own hands?  God waited to tell me the doctor wasn’t right for me AFTER I had so many medications in my system that I couldn’t even remember what all I was taking?

That day was my rock bottom.  I was worn out. You could’ve told me I had cancer and was going to die in two days and my wailing wouldn’t have sounded any different.

But on that day, I surrendered.  All my cards were on the table.  I was out of ideas, and I was tired of listening to people and their theories of what God was trying to tell me or teach me.

I realized that people couldn’t fill the hole that was inside of me.  I cried out to God.  But it was different this time.  I needed Him.  I finally figured out He was the only thing that would fill the void.  It felt like putting the last piece of a puzzle into place — He fit perfectly.  I wanted His will because I was exhausted from trying to figure it out on my own.  I sought out prayer from people who would actually pray for me – right that second.  I blew the dust off my bible and started reading through the Psalms.

Little by little, I could feel myself crawling out of the pit.  I surrendered when I realized my own plans were failing me.  I sought out wise input from others who had been down this road before me and found a doctor who came highly recommended.  The only problem was it took three months to get in to see her.

I had to wait for three months.

In the wait, here is what I was finally starting to grasp – but please note, it did NOT happen all at once and some of these lessons I will probably keep having to relearn over and over again:

  1. Trusting in the Lord isn’t a “flip of the switch” choice.  It takes effort, and time, and a willingness to let go… over and over again.
  2. When we depend on our own understanding we become pompous and arrogant.  We start to think that we “deserve” certain things because of our past or current situations.
  3. When God shows me which path to take, it doesn’t appear as a flashing sign with an arrow.  For me, God’s direction shows up as peace within me.  The anxiety about a choice disappears, or sometimes what was once a really big deal just simply — isn’t — anymore.
  4. When I am impressed with my own wisdom I am putting a lid on God’s abilities.  I’m shutting Him out and effectively saying, “WOW – look at me and how much I know!  Who needs God when I’m as smart as I am!”
  5. When you surrender your ways, your know-how, and your “deserving” attitude — THAT is when miracles happen….

In a few days, I will post the second half of this blog post and share what I learned in the wait.  In the meantime, I would love to pray for my readers.  Please share in the comment section what you’re waiting on — and one emotion that accurately describes how you feel while you’re waiting.  Are you worn?

alittleTOOMUCH

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often times I feel like I have too much going on in my life — too many hurts, too many stressors, too many things on my list that need to get done, too many errands to run, too many people to call, too many emails to respond to — it all feels like too much.  

And then your typical Christian would tell you to pick up your bible and read God’s Word, or go to church, or a typical Catholic would tell you to pray through the rosary.  And for crying out loud, don’t let anyone see that you’re struggling because — you’re a Christian and you’re supposed to have it all together!  Slap a Christian fish on the back of your car and make us look good!

Really?
Because if that’s the case, then maybe this “Christian” gig isn’t for me.
I NEVER have it all together!

We hear people say things like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” – but I disagree with that.  I think LIFE will give us a ton more than we can handle, and God is just waiting waiting waiting for us to run to Him and say “Take this!!!! ALL of this!  Calm me down, God because I’m about to completely FREAK OUT over here!”  I don’t believe that God is sitting in the heavens like someone who is getting cream poured into his coffee just waiting to say “woah” when it’s just the right amount.

I think it’s our responsibility to notice when it’s too much for us – and then do something about it.  You know what your too much feels like. Maybe you’re feeling it right now and you’re “escaping” from your too much by scrolling through Twitter or Facebook.  You’re going to the wrong place – I know because I do it too.  (but feel free to finish reading before you close your browser tab!)

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

The Bible overwhelms me – I don’t know where to start on my own.  So instead I go to some of my favorite Christian blogs or read my favorite devotional, or even read another chapter in a book that is helping me grow through some of my personal issues.  (see a list of my favorite resources at the bottom of this post)  When one of those resources touches on a passage in scripture that hits me right between the eyes, THEN I go to my bible and I dig deeper.  I read the footnotes.  I read the correlating passages that are written in the margins.  And then I close my eyes and pray.  

My prayers aren’t going to sound like your prayers.
My faith isn’t going to move and breathe like your faith.

My learning isn’t going to mirror your learning.

In the passage from Matthew listed above, Jesus talks about His yoke being easy.  I learned from Jen Hatmaker at the #reckless2013 conference that “yoke” is a term that means “specific ways or methods.”  The religious leaders were all bent out of shape about praying this way or that way, don’t hang out with the sinful people, do this, don’t do that. When disciples of rabbi’s literally followed and mirrored the rabbi, the specific things that rabbi did were called his yoke.  Hello!!!!  TOO MUCH!  It’s like trying to learn a complicated line dance for someone with no rhythm… it’s just too much.

Jesus says, “my yoke is easy” — oh thank God… literally.
“…and my burden is light” — good because I have enough burdens already!

The bottom line is that it’s your responsibility to go to God.  He is there waiting for you.  The way you go to God doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s way, or sound like everyone else’s sounds.  And following Jesus isn’t complicated. No training is required, you can just jump right in.  Following Jesus isn’t too much, it’s the RELIEF from the too much that you have everywhere else in your life.

And for the record, a Christian fish on the back of the car tells me that person knows he is a sinner and that he isn’t perfect. He knows he has to RUN to Jesus because that’s where the burden is light and I’m totally down with that way of thinking.  

Give me all your burdens… um, GO FISH!
Go Fish or Go Home!
I once saw an ichthys bumper sticker THIS BIG!

… I know …. too much.

Ann’s favorite resources:

  1. Devotionals:
    1. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
    2. UpWords by Max Lucado
    3. Verse of the Day at biblegateway.com
  2. Blogs:
    1. P31 Ministries
    2. Jen Hatmaker
    3. God Dots by Anne Watson
    4. Chronic Illness & Pain
  3. Books:
    1. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
    2. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
    3. Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado
    4. The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg
    5. The Book of God by Walter Wangerin

but I can barely remember my own name!

My husband is a history buff.  He knows names, dates, places, and all the carnage that ensued from wars.  He knows heroes, villains, and the colors of their capes.  He remembers things he read and he remembers how to get to someone’s house without having to look it up each time.

I can barely remember my name.  No seriously, I’ve been married for 13 1/2 years and I still sign with my maiden name … often.  I can’t remember phone numbers.  I certainly can’t remember historical dates (don’t try to charm me with your catchy little tunes because I will still mess up the dates).  I can’t remember what I’m supposed to get at the grocery store, or which day is crazy hat day at school.  Oh my gosh, I’m HORRIBLE at remembering birthdays – except for my sister’s because it’s the day after mine.  Thank you God for planning that out so nicely for me!

So why on EARTH would I try to memorize scripture????
I’m literally giggling out loud as I type this — because it really does seem like a waste of time for someone who can’t commit things to memory very easily, right?

My friend Anne pretty much told me straight up that I was going to memorize scripture this year.  And she had good reason for being so pushy (in love of course).  When scripture is committed to memory it changes things.  It changes our perspective.  It changes our prayer life.  It changes the depth of understanding that we have in regards to who God is and how to see Him in our lives.  And one of my favorite things is that it changes the way we help others.

I’ve been known to say stupid things to people who are brokenhearted or going through awful things.  Yes, some of that is human nature, but a lot of that stemmed from the fact that I didn’t have scripture on the tip of my tongue so I floundered like a fish out of water when I was asked things such as, “Why did God make this happen?”

But just yesterday a friend of mine was struggling through a high stress situation and guess what I was able to do immediately?  I was able to text this to her:

Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

I didn’t have to fumble through typing and erasing and typing again and wondering if what I was saying would be in alignment with what scripture teaches.  And I didn’t have to Google “stress, scripture” to find just the right verse.  I KNEW that I knew that I knew that God cares for her and that she could make the choice to give her anxiety to God.

So how does a Forgetful Frances go about memorizing scripture?  Well of course I have an app for that.  Yes it cost me money, and yes it was worth every penny.  As you know I struggle with spending far too much time playing on my phone.  You’ll be happy to hear that I am doing VERY well when it comes to games – I’m down to 1 game and I hardly ever play it anymore.

Instead of keeping zombies from eating my brain, when I get the urge to reach for my phone I open my Scripture Typewriter app instead of my Plants vs Zombies app. #dontjudge  I have learned about 22 scripture passages this year.  I know this isn’t mind blowing and people have probably memorized entire books of the bible in the time it took me to learn 22 passages —- HOWEVER, since Betty isn’t invited to this party I am pleased to share that I am very proud of myself!

If I can do it, I’m pretty sure anyone can.

Do you memorize scripture?  What motivates you and how do you commit passages to memory?

where I saw Jesus

I went to a Women’s Conference this weekend and I experienced something I have never ever experienced before.  I saw Jesus.

There were 12,000 women all singing praises to the Lord, and I closed my eyes and suddenly it was as though it was just me and the band in the room.  Just us.  Alone.  I wasn’t aware of any other voices around me.  No one else breathing or clapping or stomping or anything.

MercyMe was the band.
They were singing “Hurt and the Healer” which happens to be my #1 go-to song on the days that my pain is eating through my patience with teeth like piranhas.  And then we got to the lyrics that make me reach for Jesus every… single… time.

“Breathe.
Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do.
With pain so deep that I can hardly move.
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on you.
Lord take hold and pull me through.”

And that’s where I met Jesus.  And then the following happened within my soul.  It was so real and so close that I could barely breathe – but not in a bad way…. does that even make sense?

I wish I could draw this for you — I’m going to reach out to a friend of mine who is an amazing artist and see if I can describe to her what I saw.  Until then, I pray my words help you realize that He is reaching for YOU too.

__________________________________________________

Jesus is reaching for me
I can see His face
His hair covers his right eye
Sweat drips from his brow
His right arm reaches over the edge of the heavens
He is reaching for ME!

His muscles are tensed up
He wants me so bad
Yet He only whispers
He never yells

Everything is in black and white
The colors of heaven must be too great
for the limitations of my imagination

I am standing up on my toes
I am jumping up and down
I reach until the tendons in my arms hurt
and I have tears running down my face

I want you too, Jesus!

He is looking right at me.
He wants me. Me!
He doesn’t care about my past.
It’s all forgiven.
Redeemed.
Wiped clean.
White as snow.

I see you, Jesus!
I hear you whispering my name!
I will never stop trying to reach you!

“You already have me.” He whispers.
“But you often forget
that I am with you.
I’m alive … In you.

“Never stop looking for Me
Acknowledge Me.
Call my Name.
Reach for me.
Always.”

My tears drip down my chin.
They stain my shirt.

“Always, Jesus.
I will always reach for you!
Thank you for being there,
even when I forget to look for you.”

don’t be a copycat…foo!

photo (13)

If Mr. T could sum up this bible verse, this is how I think he would say it,

“Don’t be a copycat, yo! I pitty the foo who doesn’t use what God gave ‘um!  Don’t be lookin’ at whut yo neighbor’s got – look at what YOU got!”

If Mr. T ever returns my calls, I’ll let you know for sure how he interprets this scripture passage.  But since he has like 27 body guards and a pit bull, I’m guessing he isn’t interested in chillaxin with me.  It’s cool.  I don’t need Mr. T, I already have peeps! (this is another perfect example of my sweet husband shaking his head and wondering if he should laugh… or run.)

When I read this verse is makes me cringe — which typically means there’s something I’m doing wrong or there’s something that I know I could be doing better.  Here are the top 3 ways I interpret this verse and see myself screwing it up:

1. BUY IT: Ads are everywhere.  Even on people’s clothes.  Buy this!  Feel GREAT about yourself and buy yourself this new pair of jeans … because you’re worth it!  This technology will make your life so much better!  Don’t miss this show, everyone is talking about it!  Buy your kids this expensive brand of athletic clothes – even Pro Athletes are wearing this stuff!

    • “Don’t copy the customs and behaviors of this world…” —> riiiiiiiight.  So, don’t buy a new car when mine starts to smell like a tween boy (and all of this little friends too)?  Don’t go get those jeans with the bling on the pockets so I look like every other cute mom in town?  Don’t get my TEN year old son an iPhone even though his entire middle school is filled with kids who have iPhones, iPads and everything else?  Sigh.  But…… I don’t want to be WEIRD!
    • Are you a Christian?  Yeah – you’re going to be weird not simply because of what you believe, but because of how your beliefs are telling you to live.  Tithe 10% of your income.  Give until it hurts, and then keep giving.  Feed the hungry.  Serve the poor.  Love your neighbor (yeah, the weird dude with tats and a Mohawk).
    • So are you doing these things or are you copying the customs and behaviors of this world?  I know… I have work to do too.

2. EVERYONE thinks this way!: I am completely disappointed in myself because I am about to do exactly what I said I would NEVER do when I was 13.  I’m about to quote my mother.  Can we have a moment of silence please?……  Thank you.  My mom used to say, “Why would you ever want to be like everyone else?”  Dangit.  She’s right.  Clearly with this demented sense of humor, God never created me to be like everyone else anyway.  Do all your friends say, “I’ll pray for you” but they probably never do?  Do they judge the moms who aren’t blinged out and talk trash about them behind their backs?  Do they talk about “that kid” and shelter their kids from her instead of being the weird one and trying to reach out to her parents?

    • “Let God transform you by changing the way you think…” —> But I like how I think.  It has worked for me for all these years, so why change now?  Has it?  Really?  You never feel guilty after you gossip?  You never wonder what the frumpy mom is really like?  You’re proud of teaching your kids that they are better than everyone else because they “never” have behavior issues?
    • Are you a Christian? We already discovered that you’re going to be weird – so deal with it so we can move on.  I’m waiting….. DEAL!   Ok, I can see it’s going to take awhile for that to sink in so let’s just keep going.  When you change the way you think, and what you deem important in your heart, your behavior will instinctively follow.  If you’re a Christian you should be constantly picking apart the things that Jesus said … why?  Because you’re a FOLLOWER of Jesus Christ!  If you follow Katy Perry, you know everything about her —- right?!?!  So why don’t you give Jesus that same amount of attention???  He tells us how to live by God’s life rules, but it’s up to us to let those rules change the way we think.

3. If only I could see God’s plans!:  I’m so sick of everything going wrong!  What is God up to?  Why is this happening?  Why can’t my husband find a job?  Why does my kid have ADHD?  Why…. why…. WHY?!?!?!

    • “Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” —> FINALLY, I can know God’s will for me!  It’s about time.  Wait, what?  I don’t get to see the whole plan? Well that’s not very good, or pleasing — and it’s far from perfect.
    • Are you a Christian? Reading the bible and going to church aren’t going to solve all your problems… but here’s what will happen.  The way you think is going to change.  You won’t be able to help it.  Jesus will be seeping into your soul like a gentle rain over dry, cracked soil.  And here’s where the good happens — you feel His presence.  And then the pleasing happens —- you learn to shush it up so you can hear when He whispers to you.  And then the perfect happens — you obey and find that He loves you so much that you can hardly believe how much He loves you.

And then … all the customs of this world?  They don’t matter to you anymore. The blingy jeans?  You could care less.  That frumpy mom?  You hear God calling you to talk to her and find out what’s happening in her life.

It’s not about what you wear, what you have, where you live or what you drive…  it’s about who you know and who you follow and who you are striving to become.

I know Jesus.
And that’s who I choose to follow.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess – a review

7

From Jen Hatmaker’s website:

7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. In the spirit of a fast, they pursued a deeply reduced life in order to find a greatly increased God.

I don’t LOVE to read.  My husband can read a book in an entire day, and that’s soooo not me.  I can read a sentence and then think about what I need at the grocery store, check the fridge for milk, see the coupon on the fridge for that cake place downtown, look it up online to see when they close, notice I have 2 new emails, remember I need to make that change in the database at church….  I think you can see where I’m going here.  I hear there is medication for people like me but that’s a different blog post entirely.

When I read Jen Hatmaker’s book, I forgot that I even have a family, that food and water are required to survive, and that school gets out at 3pm.  I seriously could not put this book down.  But there’s a major warning I must give before you read this book… ok, two warnings.

  1. IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
  2. If you’re Catholic, you will feel guilt— wait — even if you aren’t Catholic, you will feel guilt and then IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

Jen and her family go through 7 major areas of their lives and figure out how to make changes that will last.  We live in the United States, the land of the free, home of the excessive purchasing plague.  You know what I’m talking about.  If you have ever stepped foot in Target, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Amazon?  They have everything you would ever need, and hey since you’ve already attained the free shipping you might as well get those other three things on your wishlist too.  Yeah – I think you know what I mean.

(Dear Catholic readers, it’s ok —- embrace the guilt.)

What areas do Jen and her family tackle:

  1. Food
  2. Clothes
  3. Posessions
  4. Media
  5. Waste
  6. Spending
  7. Stress

If you’ve read any of my blog posts before – you can already fWiEgEuKr4e out with which week I had the most trouble.  But instead of telling you how each of these chapters effected me, let me tell you that I didn’t test drive with the experiment the way Jen did.  I read this book and the accompanying Member Book  with a women’s group at my church.  We were all nervous and excited to read it, and we only did each experiment for a week instead of for an entire month like Jen did.

She doesn’t sugar-coat things in her book, y’all.  And you know what?  Good for her!  I think we have grown too accustomed to  everyone trying to play nicey-nice with each other that sometimes we don’t stick to biblical truths or God’s standards for our lives because we don’t want to seem weird or offend anyone.  (and this is where I felt the most guilt)

Jen tackles each section with honesty, HILARITY, and donchaknow, scriptural references.  Yup.  God’s rules and guidelines. Dude… just … dude.  This book rocked my world and helped me realize how petty and selfish I can be in regards to several of these 7 areas.  I didn’t have too hard of a time with the food section – tho I am a foodie and I love food (all the WRONG foods – just for the record), and the clothing section was eye opening for me but didn’t necessarily rock my world because I don’t typically buy a lot of clothes and shoes.  The possessions chapter beat me over the head as I looked around my house and through closets and gasped, shut doors and stood in front of them so no would else could see my excess.

But the media chapter — ouch.  You can read more about that here.

My conclusion is this… every family who has labeled itself as a Christian home can benefit from reading this book.  I guarantee there is a sweaty armpit chapter in there for everyone; there will be a chapter that makes you uncomfortable and nervous because she’s pretty much describing YOU in her chapter!  I love the biblical references and her call to action – that things must change in us, in our personal walks with Christ and what He calls each of us to do in our lives, and for the reputation of those who call themselves Christians.  To believe in Jesus is pretty cool, but to LIVE IT OUT is stinking inspiring and leads others to want to know what your secret sauce is!

I would love to read this book again but together as a family this time.  I am eager to know how my 10 year old son would interpret Jen’s words, and what kinds of life change would result from those interpretations.

Have you read 7?  What section left a bruise between your eyes?