waiting, waiting, waiting… and worn out (Part Two): learning to be still

In the Fall of 2011, I had to wait over three months to get in to see a specialist.  A reputable one.
Notice the word “wait” — it’s a pretty important word.

In that time I had no medications available because I didn’t have a solid diagnosis.  I did a lot of research and decided to try a clean diet to see if it helped.  I ate only lean meats, vegetables, nuts, and fruits for over three months.

The end result?  No change.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  Nil.  And every other word you can think of that means the same thing.  My pain remained the same.

What did I learn in those months of waiting to see a specialist?

  1. I learned to slow the heck down.  My sister emailed me a link explaining The Spoon Theory about a year prior to my physical issues.  If you haven’t read it — you must.  It isn’t just for people with chronic illnesses, it is applicable for ALL of us.  I noticed that I couldn’t keep up with the mad raced pace of society around me and you know what?  I was TIRED of trying.  I didn’t want to go to this party and that one, to this lunch, and that girls night out.  I wanted to be home with my family!  We started playing board games with our son, taking family walks, going to the park together, and more.  The more time I spent with my family, the more I CRAVED it!  I didn’t want to crowd them out again by filling my calendar with other things.
  2. All I needed, I already had.  The biggest revelation came in the form of realizing I didn’t “NEED” people the way I thought I did.  I had a husband, a child, two sisters, parents, four nieces and a nephew with whom I hardly spent any time.  On holidays, I was more concerned about seeing my friends than I was about spending quality time with my own family.  That revelation stung quite a bit because my husband had been hinting at it for several years but I just wasn’t getting it.  I can appreciate that people don’t have family around them and their friends become their family — more power to you, seriously — but I didn’t fit in that category.  I plain and simple had a family that I was ignoring.
  3. God was (and still is) in the details.  While I was busy moving and grooving, I longed to see God in the daily things around me — but I didn’t have TIME to see God.  I had things to do, people to see, emails to write, phone calls to answer, social events to arrange and attend, blah blah blah.  The only way I would see Him in the details is when He would do things like this to get my attention:
    But once I slowed down, I started seeing him in people at the grocery store.  I saw Him in the mailman when he would bring all of our mail to the door along with a package.  I saw my husband making room for Him in his heart and mind.  I saw Him in scripture, in the abundance of food we have available to us, in the warmth of the heater, and in the clean water I took for granted.  He was (and still is) EVERYWHERE.  But I had been too busy to acknowledge Him.
  4. I needed church.  I used to be someone who would say, “but why do you HAVE to go to church?  I can worship and read the bible at home just as easily as I can in church.”  But I never followed through.  I never cracked open my bible  before I started attending church.  Pastors go through years of classes.  They read books constantly. They have knowledge that I realized I could tap into!  It was completely worth an hour of my time to listen to them pick apart scripture and to learn what certain things meant in the bible.  I NEEDED that nourishment just as much as I needed food and water.  When left to my own devices, well — that’s exactly what I would do — get on my “devices” (which is what the kids at my son’s middle school call iPhones, iPads, Kindles, and so on).  I would easily fill my time with other things, none of which were God-centered.
  5. I had become selfish. I stopped seeing my husband’s needs and my son’s needs, and even the needs of people around me because I had become completely consumed with NEEDING an answer for my physical pain. I felt odd.  I felt like I no longer fit in anywhere.  But you know what?  I did that to myself.  I was thinking about my pain 24/7 – and if you’re in pain I know what you’re thinking: “How can I possibly think of anything BUT the pain that is agonizing me all day and all night?”  Honestly?  That’s something you have to figure out on your own.  But I know it isn’t healthy for you.   I wanted so badly to give God the glory by being someone He could use, even while I was hurting — but I was so inwardly focused that He could only use me in teeny tiny ways.

So how do you slow down and not become selfish?  This is going to knock some of you off your rockers — so put your seat-belts on:

Resting, being with your family, and seeing God in the details
does not make you selfish – what you allow to consume your thoughts
and drive your motivations could be what’s making you selfish.

After reading this list – what is something that you know you need to change but you just haven’t followed through? Be Brave.  I dare you.

Advertisements

chunkin’ my flashlight like I chunked punkins’

In the past 7 years, the hardest Christian concept for me to grasp has been understanding how to give God the glory and remain humble.

I’m a do-er by nature.  I don’t sit still very well.  I’m also very transparent; I don’t have much to hide.  And the things I “hide” from people are just things that would gross them out or things I know not everyone can appreciate.

I thought being humble meant I could never talk about the cool things happening all around me and in me! I learned a hard lesson in separating the definitions of bragging and letting God have the glory… uh multiple times actually.  I think it’s perfectly biblical to help others.  And I also think it’s completely against biblical teaching to let your good deeds shine for all to see.  I think that’s bragging.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  – Matthew 5:16

“Um Ann, you just contradicted yourself.”
“Actually, no.  I didn’t.”
(pretend conversation between you and me, in case you were wondering)

Jesus says to let our LIGHT shine so that they may see our good deeds – the good deeds that are meant to glorify God, not ourselves.  I have come to understand that when Jesus is IN me, I am the light of the world.  When I am not representing Jesus and glorifying God (AKA bragging), I am like one of those cheap little flashlights that you have to smack on the side to fire up the puny little light bulb.   I admit it, sometimes I need a good smack on the side of the head.

I tried on humility like you try on 15 pairs of jeans before you find the ones that fit right.  Each time I failed and I could feel myself wanting to brag.  The desire to brag never went away.  But this weekend was different.

Our church hosts an incredibly cool fall picnic each year called Punkin’ Chunkin’, and I had the pleasure of co-leading it for the second year in a row.   The event was to be held on Sunday afternoon.  Now, if you’ve ever planned a party you know that the planning and purchasing starts months in advance.  Hosting a church picnic is no different.  The set-up we did on Sunday was like putting the last few pieces into a puzzle… it was almost complete.

And then it started to mist.  And rained.  And misted.  And it was super cloudy outside.

I couldn’t stop praying, in fact I think I might have been begging in there at some point.  “God, this picnic is for your people to celebrate all you have done, PLEASE take the rain away!  I don’t need sun or anything drastic, just no more moisture!  Please bless our efforts to spend this kingdom money wisely, bless our time spent planning so that your children can embrace joy and community for three hours today! Let people see a great example of a healthy and non-judgmental Christian community here on the land you have given to us!

One of the families that was helping us set up in the rain had a precious 7 year old girl and her prayer was this, “God, please stop the rain.”  I saw her resting her elbows on a pumpkin, praying for God to stop that rain.  And you know what?  He did.  Not a drop fell on us at our event.

So in the end, when people were congratulating us on a job well done guess what happened?  I knew it wasn’t all me, or all my co-leader, or all the volunteers… I completely felt 100% secure giving God the credit.  Through Him we had multitudes of people wanting to serve.  Through Him we had joy and safety and blessings.  It was for Him, and through Him, that the picnic was a successful event.

And yes, I let my light shine for all to see.
No, I did not let my good deed shine for all to see.

And in reference to the C.S. Lewis quote above, I was able to accept the compliments and the thanks from people for a job well done because it was indeed a lot of hard work and planning.  However, I was very quick to make sure that my thanks led to God getting the spotlight.

And guess what?
It wasn’t hard.
Because my heart is finally in the right place.
And my cheap flashlight is in the trash where it belongs.

 

punkin’ chunkin’

IMG_6018
Photo credits: Kiran Photography

For the third year in a row I get to be part of the planning team at our church for our annual Punkin’ Chunkin’ Fall Picnic.  This is my favorite event (other than baptisms!) to attend, enjoy, and see God at work in the lives of people. I love that our church lives to pray hard and PLAY hard!!!

Read my blog post here:  http://goo.gl/oBrEqT

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.

candy crush confessions

This past spring our women’s ministry studied Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and my friend asked me if I would speak on the chapter about fasting from media.

I wish you could see my cursor blinking because that’s pretty much how I reacted when she asked me.  I just blinked.  My first reaction was “absolutely NO WAY!”

I do not hide my iPhone addiction.  Many people know about it, I have spoken about it, blogged about it, and prayed about it — and I still struggle with it.  While I prepared to fast from media I used all of my Candy Crush lives and special candy powers, scrolled through as much Facebook as I could, and tried one last time to beat my sister’s high score in Bejeweled.  And then I was readyish for the fast.

I seriously went from headed toward this trajectory:

And this reality:

To this trajectory:

photo from: http://mom.me/blog

Ok not really but give me some credit — I put my phone away except for phone calls and limited texts, ya’ll!  In my head I was family member of the year!

Here were my findings:  

  1. I have addictive behavior tendencies that stem from a place of perfectionism.  I wanted to crush that candy so I could get to the next level and the next — never-mind my starving child and dirty house, there were levels to conquer!
  2. I have addictive behavior tendencies … period.  Having something as handy as an iPhone isn’t necessarily a good thing for people like me.
  3. I was teaching my kid to have addictive behavior tendencies.

Are you sensing a pattern here?  But wait, there’s more.

  1. I was ruining my marriage because I gave my phone more eye contact than I gave my husband.
  2. I wasn’t reading my bible because I had candy to crush.
  3. I wasn’t reading anything really, except the directions that proceeded each new candy crush level.

I realized all of these things in just one week of not messing around on my phone.  So guess what I did when the fast was over?

I kept fasting.  

My husband and I started talking again.  My son no longer had comebacks such as, “why do I have to get off my Xbox if you’re playing games on your phone all the time!?!” <— yes that hurt, like a punch to the stomach.  I was also back in the Word of God, learning and growing and studying my Savior.

How am I now, 4 months later?
I ended up deleted approximately 20 apps.  It was refreshing and honestly I didn’t miss them.  Things are different now thanks to Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform.  I have learned how to use Facebook and Twitter in a way that supports my dreams and goals instead of working against them.

I still struggle from time to time and my husband is great about gently reminding me when I am “doing it again” and I don’t even realize it.  Habits are so incredibly hard to break.

  • Maybe you can play Candy Crush and still be a priceless gem to your family, I couldn’t.
  • Maybe you can keep yourself from scrolling endlessly through Facebook and Instagram, I couldn’t.
  • Or maybe, just maybe, you’re like me and this candy confession was just what you needed to read.

What do you struggle with in terms of media addictions?