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 

 

This is probably TMI, but…

image (3)

My friends know that I am pretty much an open book.  There isn’t a whole lot that I am too embrassed to share about myself.  I think that comes from years and years and years of medical issues.  I have been programmed to give the details.  All of the details.  So that nothing gets missed.  But sometimes I go too far and by the time the information is out of my mouth, it’s too late to take it back!

3 Signs You’re Sharing Too Much Information

1. You don’t want anyone to meet your spouse.  Or your brother.  Or your boss.

Early in our marriage, I had to learn to do a lot of things on my own due to my husband’s work shifts.  I learned to fix things around the house, I learned which line to stand in at the tax office, and I even learned which car repair place was honest (and unfortunately also learned which ones to avoid).  We struggled early in our marriage because we didn’t know how to grow together instead of further apart.  Since he wasn’t around for me to talk to, I talked to friends.  After our son was born I was tired with a capital TEE-EYE-AR-EEE-DEE and he was still only home one night a week.  I created a horrible pattern of dissing my husband to my friends and family because deep down I wanted people on “my side.”

Now, I was never actually in a courtroom battle with my husband, nor did anyone stand us face to face and ask to hear my side versus his side – but alas, I felt the need to gather an army of troops.  Let me skip ahead and tell you how that worked out for me in the end.  It didn’t.  It just didn’t work out.  I noticed I would get nervous when people I worked with would meet him because I wasn’t sure what they would say – and vice versa, I got nervous when he would meet people I worked with …. are you sensing a pattern here?

RESOLUTION FOR SIGN #1: Just go talk to the person who is driving you nuts.  You don’t need an army.  Period.  If you can’t work it out, then seek wisdom and guidance from one or two people AFTER you have prayed about your sitation.

2. You start a conversation with, “this is probabaly TMI, but ….”

Again, I admit that there are things I have discussed with people that are just awkward and … weird.  Like bowel movements for example.  ( I know, I’m not heeding my own advice very well!) But I have to tell you, once you find out who your IBS friends are, you know you can share great tips that you just can’t seek out from anyone in your contacts list!  But let’s just say you’re walking through the grocery store and you run into a neighbor you haven’t seen in awhile and she says, “HEY!  How ARE you?!?!”

Warning: This is not the moment you’ve been waiting for you share the intimate details of the unidentifiable rash on your son’s rear end.  It just isn’t.  The chances are that this type of in-passing conversation would be grounds for concise yet honest information.  If you are really going through some hard stuff – just be honest and say, “You know – I’m not the greatest I’ve ever been but this isn’t the best place for me to go into details.  I would love to catch up with you over coffee, though!”  If they bite and set up a coffee date, then great — let’s talk about how you’ve diagnosed your son with a disease that will maim him in 3 weeks thanks to Dr. Google.  If they don’t bite – don’t be offended.  This is probably not the friendship in which you want to share deep details of your life anyway.  And that’s OK!  Really, it is.

RESOLUTION FOR SIGN #2: When in doubt (or in a public place), keep it simple and always keep it honest.  There’s no reason to lie and say “I’m GREAT!” if you really aren’t great. However, going into the details of your Aunt’s mental illness in the office at the elementary school isn’t really a splendid idea either.  Keep it simple, honest, and concise.

3. You are more comfortable talking to your friend than you are talking to God.

Can I just out myself here and tell you that I’m guilty?  Because I’m guilty.  One of my favorite friends to talk to about big issues almost ALWAYS responds with, “have you prayed about this yet, Ann?”  Ok kids — take note: THIS IS THE BEST KIND OF FRIEND TO HAVE!  She listens, and she always turns me right back to God which is where I should have started in the first place.  Talking to God is prayer.  Prayer is talking to God.  It’s a relationship.  When you met (insert name of a great friend here) you didn’t start in with “so I have this weird bump on my arm” – you had to build the relationship first before you could start sharing TMI types of tidbits.  It’s the same with God on OUR end – but not on His end.  He is already there.  He’s warmed up and ready to go.  And guess what? Nothing will surprise Him so you can share every TMI thought you’ve ever had with Him.

RESOLUTION FOR SIGN #3: If you don’t have a friend who reminds you to talk to God — starting BEING that friend.  Start asking your pals if they have talked to God about the things they are sharing with you.  If you set the stage, you’ll start attracting the same types of encouragement from others.  And just start talking to God… He is aching to sit and have coffee with you.

5 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.  James 1:5 (The Message)

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.

 

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.

{human barometer}

One of the most annoying things about chronic pain is that it’s incredibly difficult to find joy in the changing of the weather.  It doesn’t matter what kind of front is moving in because they all cause pain.  When that barometer moves, oh baby, I feel it.

Recently I was sitting around a table with some women from church as we worked on some assembly line packaging for an upcoming event.  We soon realized we were the chronic pain table.  Apparently we gravitate toward each other!  There was a woman who has already survived cancer, (only to have it again), a woman who had to have a crazy/intense jaw reconstruction, a woman who had back surgery to fuse part of her spine and REMOVE her coccyx, and me.  Before you have pity on us, it was actually refreshing to be around a group of ladies who “get it.”  They live it in my world (and so do their families).

After we joked about all of our medications, someone said, “have you been in pain since Saturday?”  Without a break in discussion, everyone pipped in about how awful their Saturday had been, myself included.  Another lady said, “my husband thinks I am crazy because I can tell when the weather is about to change.  He even looks at the weather online and tries to argue with me about the impending doom.”

So it isn’t just me.
We are all human barometers!

Even the local news did a piece on if people can truly feel the weather changes that are coming – and the “experts” agreed that yes, people with all sorts of medical issues or old injuries can literally feel something before a front moves through.

I don’t know if this helps you understand someone in your life who struggles with chronic pain, but I do hope it helps you realize that Aunt Margaret isn’t crazy – and she hasn’t been all these years.  She really does feel the weather change in her knees!

We don’t mean to be irritating meteorologists, I promise.  And we don’t mean to talk about our “flair” all the time either.  When we constantly have physical aches and pains it’s like sitting down in a chair at a Metallica concert and trying to talk about the rose bushes you planted yesterday.   Some days our pain is just too loud to focus on other things and we would LOVE your help to remind us that just because we are human barometers, we don’t have to talk about it all day long.

Please have patience with us.  Remember that our head-banging pain concert is stuck on repeat and sometimes the best distraction is quiet conversation, a funny movie, or even a nice drive together in the country.  When the pain concert is loud, it’s not the time to recommend they put their big girl panties on and go for a walk.

We know you mean well.
We know you want to help.
We know that exercise is good for us.

But please have patience with us.

Is there someone in your life who is a human barometer?  What frustrates you the most?

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.