what the heck are we doing?

 

I should be more like ____, because she is obviously making a difference in people’s lives.

Ever thought that to yourself?
It’s hard NOT to when we have some impressive Christian women opening our eyes to MAJOR world issues and PS: it’s all over Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s what I know about myself:

  • The ministry role I am in at our church is EXACTLY where I’m supposed to be and I am crazy under-qualified (is that a word?) for this role.
  • I’m spending time with my family and making memories.
  • I’m stretching myself with theology books that are WAY over my head.
  • I have scheduled exercise days so that the week doesn’t fly by without some sweat (I mean on-purpose sweat … not Texas sweat) and often times I am out for a bike ride with my husband, talking while we sweat.
  • My son is DIGGING his role on the kids worship team at church.
  • I’m quilting when I can squeeze it in.

My list sucks compared to _______’s list.
Why do we feel like we need a “next big thing” when clearly God is at work with some pretty big things already.  Why do we compare ourselves to others who are called to DIFFERENT things than we are?  Have I gotten so used to rushing from one thing to the next that I have forgotten how to find joy in all the things I AM ACTUALLY DOING?

God has called me to:

  1. Be a wife … check, doing that and screwing it up sometimes with my mouth… and apparently I have a “face” that I make. Crap, I just made the face while I thought about the face.
  2. Be a mom … check, doing that and watching my kid grow out of one stage and dance his way into another (literally — if I could attach a video from Instagram here, I would)
  3. Be in ministry... check, doing that and I cannot believe He would choose me to serve in this way – WOAH Nelly.
  4. GROW in my faith … check, doing that through a summer class that continues to kick me around while I’m on the ground with my dictionary and a flashlight moaning “I have no idea what that word means!!!!”
  5. Be creative … check, doing that through quilting both alone and with my mom.
  6. Treat my body well … check, doing that except for when my coworkers tell me there is amazing CAKE in the fridge at church.  (You know who you are and I know where you live) 
  7. Laugh/Love… check, doing that so often that I’m aging my face with laugh lines.
  8. Pray… check, can’t STOP doing this!
  9. Worship… check, my favorite place to be.  I would listen to all three services if I had the time and if it wouldn’t make my family make “the face.”
  10. Experience hardship … check, not my favorite thing by far but I am constantly learning from the things in my not-so-distant-past that either I screwed up or were outside my control.

So what the heck am I doing?

  • I’m not on a plane to Africa.
  • I’m not opening my home to people who can’t get their feet under themselves.
  • I’m not handing out my lunch to the homeless each day.
  • I’m not doing all these “amazing” things you hear about on Facebook.

But don’t be mistaken, just because I’m not on a place to Africa it doesn’t mean He hasn’t called me to do things that are BIG, to do things I don’t understand, and ask me to walk in faith to follow Him.  And for the record, I also have a list of things I feel Him calling me to – and I’m trying to find the courage to JUMP into His will through faith in Him alone.  But that’s a whole other blog post.

(PS: I’m secretly terrified that He will call me to Uganda, because holy-hand-sanitizer I have first world OCD issues.)

I am doing the AMAZING and TERRIFYING things He has called me to do. I don’t have to be like _______.  I was never meant to be like her anyway.  I was given my own scavenger hunt, my own terrifying task list that require 100% faith and 100% obedience.

You weren’t meant to be like her either.  You were wonderfully and beautifully made in God’s image.  Noah and Abraham were called to two VERY different things.  Mary and Eve?  Different things.  You and me?  Different things.

Be happy for _______ for following God’s prompting in her life.
And get fired up about the things He has called YOU to do!

THAT…. THAT is what we are doing.
Startiiiiing….. now.

 

 

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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.

10 Steps to becoming a cool TechNO-mom

Tomorrow I am speaking to a group of moms about the dangers and joys of technology in our lives.  I’ve shared my Candy Crush addiction issues before, and I’ve shared my pledge not to text and drive.  Today I have to be honest and say, “I’ve screwed up.  Again.”

Dude.  It’s HARD to keep good boundaries with technology.  It. Is. Everywhere.  I can’t even go buy toilet paper at Wal-Mart without a screen waking up and sharing a commercial about how much softer the new blah blah blah brand is and if I wave my hand below the screen I will receive a coupon for $1.00 off.  SHHHHHH!  I’m ON THE PHONE while I’m shopping.   Sorry, is that annoying?

I’m also on the phone while I’m cooking.  I’m checking Facebook while I’m waiting for my meeting.  My phone alerts me that my troops are ready for battle while I’m IN the meeting —- well, I just let the cat out of the bag with that one.

My husband and I are trying out a unique and probably frowned upon method of hovering in a less helicopter fashion.  We both play Clash of Clans now, and so does our son.  And we have our own clan.  No, you can’t join it unless we know you in person and we have had an actual conversation with you.  See what we did there?  We are giving our son the freedom to have this game that has group messaging capabilities but we are IN the game with him.  So if something fishy is goin’ down, we’ll be the first to smell it.

Our son is 11 and he doesn’t fully understand how big and scary the world can be within these “fake” micro-worlds of online games.  But we do.  So we go there with him.  He gave out too much information in the first clan we were in and mom and dad might have gone a little ape….schmidt.  We deleted the game on all devices, we panicked, we had conversations, we fretted… and then we realized — WAIT — this isn’t teaching him anything helpful!  So we all got back in the game, but it’s different this time.

What are we to do as moms and dads to keep this whole technology thing under control?  We have smart phones, ipads, tablets, computers, laptops, netflix, dvd’s, cable TV, DVR, XBox, PlayStation, Wii, and who knows what else….   How do we find a balance? It doesn’t matter how “smart” the device is, it’s only as intelligent as the user.

Step 1: Let your kids have screen time in moderation.

I recently read an article written by a doctor who said that NO kids under the age of 12 should have any screen time.  None.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Kill me now, just go ahead and torture me.  If I told my 11 year old son that I was taking away ALL screens for the next year until he turns 12 it would be an all out war zone in our house.  And honestly, the very next thing he would say (after the moaning, wailing, and tearing of the “sackcloth”) is — “But we use screens ALL THE TIME at school!”

You got it kid.  You sure do.

This is the world in which our kids are growing up.  This is their new norm.  It was NOT the norm for us as kids, and some (like me) still struggle to figure out how to use it wisely.  But if I don’t figure it out soon, I’m setting my son up for failure.

I’m going to give him screen time.  Period.  Some days I will totally use it as a baby sitter – which is wrong and horrible and you can leave me nasty comments if you want to — but I’m being honest.   But for the most part, screen time will be in moderation.

We tried setting up a hard and fast “one hour a day” rule.  That didn’t work out so well because if I got busy cooking dinner or on a work phone call or whatever, the hour turned into 70 minutes… and then 90… and then why are we even keeping track anymore?

Then we tried saying “you can either play on screens before dinner or after dinner – but not both.”  And that didn’t work out so well either because some days were basketball days, some days we were at the grocery store, some we didn’t even eat until 7:30 and so on.

So now, our rule is “yes, you can go play on screens until I say it’s time to turn them off.”  Doesn’t that sound silly?  Guess what?  For OUR family, this method has worked the best.  And there is no longer any danger of tearing of the sackcloth.

Start the conversation with your spouse and your kids.  What does “moderation” look like in your house?  How will you implement that?  Just note that “family time” does not consist of your entire family being on their screens in the same room at the same time.

I would love to know what is and what is NOT working at your house — be honest — judging isn’t my department so you don’t have to worry about that!

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

bitter betty strikes again

Well… it happened again.
The bitter-Betty in me came out.

I know, we’ve had this discussion before.  And yes, I know better.  And I know God created us all different.  And I know that I don’t have to look like someone else to be valued and to feel good about myself.  AND, I know that I could make better food choices.  And I know that I am wonderfully made … and I know that I could … blah blah blah.

So if I know all of this, why does Betty still come visit?  She’s never invited, she just shows up!  She typically shows up when I’m struggling through some pain and know it’s time to sit my rear down to rest.  I feel guilty sitting down, and she knows that.  I don’t want to sit down, and Betty knows that too.

I want to volunteer at my son’s school and go have lunch with him.  I want to make cute things off Pinterest for my front door or trim up my flowers and bushes around the house.  I want to make my house look nice and work on curtains for another room.  I want to go for a run.  I want to go out and have lunch with friends.  I want to go to all of the birthday parties and baby showers and dinners we are invited to.  I want to go meet at the park with other parents so our kids can run around and play.

But I know that I should be resting.
So I “rest.”
And stew.
And feel bitter.

Enter Betty, stage right:  Betty points out all the people who take for granted all of those things that I WANT to do.  She will show me who is skinny.  She will show me who can run marathons.  She will remind me who the “cool moms” are.  She will want me to look at Facebook so that I can compare all of my shortcomings to other people’s strengths, and she will want me to zoom in on all of the pictures from parties or lunches that I couldn’t attend.  Her favorite thing to do is remind me that I don’t get invited to many things anymore.  Ooooo, she loves that one!  It’s a real zinger and she knows it.

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.  Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.  Proverbs 3:7-8 NLT

  • My own wisdom: all the things I know
  • Turn away from evil: stewing and bitterness – and for crying out loud, turn away from BETTY!
  • Healing for my body: stop stewing = true resting = healing for my body
  • Strength for my bones: my bones are my framework, if my framework is stronger I’m less likely to crumble under pressure

My darling husband recently reminded me that it was much much harder for me to have to say “no” to the lunches, and showers, and parties, and ladies nights out than it is for me to not be invited to many anymore.  Because the truth is, packing my schedule full of all of those things isn’t healthy for me.  It will run me into the ground and my immune system will tank.  And I know this.  (reference wisdom bullet point above)

I have some spectacular friends who remind me gently to take some things off my schedule.  And I am so appreciative of that.  Because they help me do something that I sometimes struggle to do on my own.

I struggle to make the right choice.

It’s time to start choosing the path on which Betty is NOT standing with her coffee cup in-hand, eager to gossip and compare me to other people in my life.  Betty isn’t healthy for me.  And she isn’t healthy for you either.

Take a hike, Betty.  You wear me out.

pain is lonely

Photo from: http://inspiyr.com/chronic-pain-and-anxiety/
Photo from: http://inspiyr.com/chronic-pain-and-anxiety/

Pain sucks.  It just does.  Today was one of those days — and it’s still going.  I tried medication.  I tried stretching.  I tried a neck massage and a back massage.  I tried a nap.  I tried a detox bath.  I tried sticky pain lotion.  I tried more medication.  I tried drinking a ton of water.  I tried moist heat.  And finally I just gave in and accepted the fact that my pain wasn’t going to budge.

Here are some things that make me roll my eyes when I’m in pain.  Some of them might be TMI, but just whatever…. I have nothing to hide:

  • I can’t even bend over to sit on the toilet without my head throbbing or my feet cramping up from holding my weight.
  • It’s hard to connect the eye-hooks on my bra without my fingers cramping up.
  • I clench my teeth in an effort to not frown, which has led to new problems in my jaw… awesome.
  • I’m nauseated but I have to eat to take medications that should help me.
  • My family is loud.  The clock is loud.  The air conditioner is loud.  The fan is loud.  It’s all TOO LOUD!
  • Facebook posts make me roll my eyes.  I’m happy for people and the fun they are having — just not at that particular moment.  (just keepin it real)

Can you relate?

It’s after 9pm and I am starting to feel some relief.  For all you non-chronic pain people, when I say “I feel some relief” it doesn’t mean I’m ready to take a lap around the block.  It means I can walk across the room and get my own glass of water instead of asking for assistance.  There is no miracle drug or therapy or food regimen for me (although being in the mountains seems to cure 95% of my ailments!).  But do you know what gave me joy and was more calming and helpful than any of the things I tried today?

My husband said, “I’m so sorry you’re hurting like this today, honey.”

When he said that, I melted.  In that instant, all of the following things went through my head — and again, if you’re a non-chronic pain person you might not understand where I’m coming from here, but hear me out:

  • Thank GOD, he doesn’t think I’m faking this or think that I’m just lazy!
  • He loves me and he cares about me.
  • He can’t fix this, but it’s ok because I don’t expect him to.

If someone close to you is hurting from a chronic ailment PLEASE do not ignore her pain.  I pray away Satan when I am in pain because he LOVES to whisper lies about me in hopes that I will believe him.  He whispers things like:

  • You’re so lazy, just get UP already and do something!  You’re wasting the entire day!
  • Why do you even bother trying to work?  You aren’t reliable.
  • You’re crabby all the time – you’re going to drive your husband away.

Satan isn’t creative, folks.  He just hits my weak spots and digs right in.  So stand in front of your loved one and don’t let Satan creep in.  Crowd him out.  Don’t attempt to fix everything, just tell her that you see her and you acknowledge that her pain is real.  She knows you can’t fix her pain.  She knows.

Pain is lonely. So don’t let her feel like she’s alone.
All you have to do is acknowledge her pain.
That’s it.

jen hatmaker is my best friend

You know how we read the news online and gasp at the ridiculous things people do to either meet a celebrity or try to convince a celebrity that they are marriage material or whatever?  Psh, THOSE people are nuts.

I like nuts.  Pecans are my favorite.

I’m a special kind of nut in that I am pretty convinced that Jen Hatmaker and I would be excellent friends.  We’re both transparent, I’m hilarious and she’s not so bad herself, and we both love to write.  Now granted she has WAY more energy than I do and she could run circles around me in the ways that she gives and serves and just … DOES… but I think we would still make great friends.  Did I mention we both love to write?

photo from jenhatmaker.com
photo from jenhatmaker.com

She totally tweeted me yesterday…
(but only after I told her I would be traveling to her house to watch her new show since we don’t have cable)

And she’s coming to my church in Frisco, TX to see me…
(and about 749 other women who will just happen to be there as well)

I’ve read one of her books, and loved it…
(although she has written 9 others that I haven’t read)

And our hair is very similar – so there’s that.

I would love for you to come listen to her speak at Preston Trail on October 25th and 26th, but you should know that she will be VERY busy talking to me…
(from the stage and 749 other women will be rudely listening in on our private conversation)

You think I should buy us friendship rings or those cool heart pendants from the 80’s that say “Be Fri” and “st ends”?