I’m not afraid of the dark

http://www.diamondgallery.com/diamonds-are-forever/
source: http://www.diamondgallery.com/diamonds-are-forever/

If God granted your biggest wish right now, would it change your faith in Him forever or just sustain you temporarily until you had another wish you wanted fulfilled?

I ask this because at the depths of my angst and the heights of my chronic pain, all I wanted was to be healed.  I thought if God would just heal me, it would change everything for me.

  • My faith would be restored.
  • I could finally make a difference in His kingdom.
  • People would see me and say “wow, God still performs miracles!”
  • I could find reasons to smile again.
  • Nothing would ever hold me back again.
  • I could fill my schedule back up with pool parties, coffee visits, bible study groups, serving here and there and there and there…. if only He would heal me.

But God didn’t heal me.  In fact, I will always have fibromyalgia and arthritis.  I will probably always struggle with some form of depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.  However the journey, in and of itself, has strengthened my faith in God.  I now have some wisdom, some life experience, and some ways to connect to other people.  I never would have had these gifts if God would have healed me the first or the seventeenth time I asked.

I used to live landmark to landmark – waiting to see what was on the horizon and telling myself, “once this thing is past me, I’ll be fine.”  And, “when I get to that next thing, everything will be GREAT!”  And, “when I have a job again, we will be financially secure.”  I was scared of the pressure while I was suffering physically.  I was terrified of the life change.  I felt forgotten, isolated, segregated, removed.  The pressure of not knowing when or if I would feel good again was too much.  I was scared of being in the dark.

I didn’t know how to rely on God.

And when I lived that way (constantly waiting for the next thing), I was essentially covering my ears and rocking back and forth … and shutting out God.  He was trying to whisper to me, and sometimes He would send people to try to speak truth into me.  But I couldn’t hear them because I was too busy making my own plans.  I didn’t even see them because I was too focused on my anticipation of the next thing on the horizon.

Your life is now, not later.

Dont’ wait for the next thing, because you’re going to miss THIS thing.  And believe me when I tell you, there is a lesson to be learned in every situation.  There is joy to be found and there is sorrow to shake your soul.  Just like the Bible says in the book of Ecclesiastes, there really is a time for everything.  Don’t wish away these times like I did.  Because gems are only produced under pressure.  You are a gem to Him.  I am a gem to Him.  Don’t believe for a second that your worth is what this world tells you it is.  DO believe that you ARE a precious gem of the Lord’s.  He formed you.  He made you.  HE PICKED YOU!  You have worth and you have sparkle.

So dont’ be afraid of the dark.

God has the ultimate flashlight. He sees you and He loves you.  He has not forgotten you.  Don’t give up hope in Him.
Look for His light.
Because that’s where you’re going to sparkle.

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)

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.”

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?

write your name here ____________

I use to go to church alone with my 4 year old son.
I didn’t really know many people.
I started serving in the kids area because it looked fun.
But I still didn’t really KNOW anyone.

It reminds me of being a kid and seeing all those cool key-chains with names on them but I could never find my own name.  Or seeing a cool board like this with names all over it, but I still can’t find my name:

photo from: http://www.jodywissing.com
photo from: http://www.jodywissing.com

I was terrified to get into a bible study because then people might see how messed up I really was.  What if they found out I struggled with lying?  What if they found out I used the f-bomb sometimes?  What if they found out that my husband wasn’t a believer?  What if they found out that I sometimes yelled at my kid because he got on my every last nerve?  What if they found out that I didn’t know much about the bible at all?

I finally took the plunge after waiting a year to get signed up.  

The first day I went I was terrified to walk into the worship center.  I didn’t even know what my leaders looked like.  What if I was the idiot walking around reading all the table signs and still couldn’t find my group?  I would just leave, that’s what I would do — if I made one round and couldn’t find my table, I would just leave and use my handy bucket of lies to make up some fabulous excuse about why I couldn’t stay.

As “luck” (read: God’s grace) would have it, my table was the second one I saw when I walked in.  The ladies quickly and eagerly welcomed me to their table.  They all knew each other, and I knew none of them.  We filled out that little “getting to know me” sheet and I made sure to make it look polished so the leaders wouldn’t have any inkling that by my standards, I was a fake Christian.

After the announcements were over, the leader let out a huge sigh and said something along the lines of, “Girls, I can’t tell you how glad I am that bible study has started up again – I thought I was going to lose my ever living mind being at home with my children this summer!  I NEED you guys!”

(huh, maybe this group thing won’t be so bad after all)

As the weeks went by I learned that EVERYONE at the table had issues and that it wasn’t just me.  (Thank you Jesus, I’m not the only one who is a mess!)  My biggest awakening came when I finally learned what “the veil was torn” meant in one of my favorite songs and they celebrated with me!  They didn’t say, “REALLY?!?!?!  You didn’t know that?!?!?!”

I haven’t missed a semester since.  I have been ill through several semesters but I did my very best to make it every time I was physically able.  I carved out my Tuesdays to make sure nothing ever got in the way of my morning group time.  Now I see familiar faces when I walk through the church and Lord have mercy that comforts me and brings me such peace!  It slowly became my second home.

My church.

I will never stop being in groups.  (Even though I have been known to pray that one would be canceled when I am overwhelmed with life — come on, you know you have too.)  Processing scripture, God’s promises, and the grime of life with other REAL women (the ones who aren’t afraid to show up with no makeup and in flip flops — LOVE those girls!), is life changing.

Quit making excuses.
Sign up.
Because if you’re standing there looking at everyone else’s names on the board like they just belong there, but you can’t find your own … it’s because you haven’t written it yet.  Get some chalk, I’ll wait….

If you’re in the Frisco/McKinney/Plano/Little Elm/Allen areas, come give Preston Trail a try.  Our groups are FREE this semester!  All you pay for is your book and childcare.