Thursday, December 25, 2014

HALT the Herald Angels Sing... Or something like that?

By Anna Masten Jackson

"HALT" the herald angels sing,
"You're about to miss the King.
While you have been running wild,
You just almost missed the child.
He can't be found in gifts and lights,
He's not in the Christmas sights.
He is waiting, oh so still,
He's the whisper that you feel."
"HALT", the herald angels sing,
"Stop and praise the King of Kings."

Last night I sat in the glow of Christmas lights thinking, "No, no, no! Don't let it be over so soon!" I always feel like that on Christmas Eve. It makes me sad that the season is drawing to a close--- especially when I haven't taken time to enjoy the precious moments. As I sat listening to carols, my mind begin to hear the words to the poem above. I think it is the message the angels would bring to the shepherds of this day and age.  We rush in the spirit of the season and end up missing the whole thing. In an effort to make it all perfect we squeeze the spirit right out of it. I heard a quote that my sisters would probably say would be a perfect bumper sticker for me. It read, "The only thing that lets you down is your expectations." Yep, I am the president of that club (but I am working on it).  I build it all up in my mind and then am frustrated when it isn't just as I imagined. Lucky for me I slowed long enough to hear the angels last night (okay, they were in my head, but the message was clear--don't judge.) "HALT!"

I don't want to miss the King. I want to gaze on the sweet, chubby cheeks of my Savior. I want to imagine what his life as a child was. I want to ponder what it felt like for Mary to hold and rock him. I want to feel the pride God felt as he looked down on his son. I want to bring my proverbial gold, frankincense, and myrrh and lay it at his feet. I want to take my place beside the shepherds and marvel at the miracle of Christmas.

I didn't miss it. I have time. Sing with me:

                                                    Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
by Charles Wesley

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankfulness Isn't A Feeling

This morning I woke up. I stretched in my warm, comfy bed; looked a the bright sun streaming through my window; heard the steady breathing of my prince charming beside me; thought of the day ahead with my family and I felt thankful. Some days I just feel so grateful and blessed inside that I have to update my status just to calm myself down. "Feeling blessed!", "Feeling grateful!", "Feeling thankful"(insert emoji). But you know what, thankful isn't a feeling. Thankful is a choice.

There are times in our lives when things are going great. The job is good; the kids are well; the hubby is fine; the house isn't falling down; the bills are paid; there is food in the pantry and gas in the car; and yet, in spite of all that, we don't stop to be thankful. We are too wrapped us in the events of the day to experience a feeling a gratitude. We are busy checking off our to-do list and taxiing people to their various events. Busy trumps grateful. Thankful isn't a feeling. Thankful is a choice. Thankful means that we intentionally stop everyday and consider all of the blessings of the day, the big and the small, and choose to be thankful.

Then there are those darker days in life. The days the house floods; the doctor delivers bad news; the kids are fighting; there isn't enough money to make ends meet; the world news is frightening, and things just seem to be going wrong all around. On those days, maybe more than any others, thankful isn't a feeling; thankful is a choice. It is hard to feel thankful when things seem so hard, but I have found that thankfulness is even more important on those days. In all my struggles, I have learned that thankfulness is the path that leads out of darkness. As soon as you begin look for the blessings around you, the darkness fades a little. When you choose to be thankful, your focus shifts and the burden gets a little lighter. You may not FEEL thankful, but when you choose to BE thankful you find strength for the trial. Choose to be thankful!

I don't know where you are today. Maybe life is great today, maybe it is a struggle. Wherever you are in the journey of life, I pray that you will choose to be thankful! Let's not just be thankful on national holidays, but take time every day to choose thankfulness. Even on the bad days, God is good.

Give thanks in all circumstances.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Friday, November 7, 2014

Contract Renewed

Contract Renewed!! Isn't it great news when you know that you have received a contract renewal? Your work is good and there is more to do so your boss renews your contract ensuring you of a job, pay checks for the future, provision for your family. You have passed the evaluation and your work will go on. Whew!

Today my "contract was renewed"!!!! My CT scans show that God has done a great work! My report includes words such as " unremarkable", "no evidence of recurrence", "no new drops"--- WOOOHOOOOO!!!!!! God's work has been miraculous and He has more for me to do!!! My contract has been extended for another six months! Six months that I don't have to worry about The Nuisance; six months to live As If.

It seems so weird to think of life in terms of contract renewal, but isn't that how it is? Each day is a new start, a chance to keep working on the important projects in our lives. It is a chance to do things better than the day before, accomplish things we have yet to accomplish, and make a difference in this world. I am just downright giddy at the thought that my contract is renewed! I have another chance to be a better mom, a better wife, a better friend, a better leader, and most of all a better servant to God who has done so much for me.

You know, your contract was renewed today! You have another opportunity to live, love, and laugh! Don't waste a moment! We have a lot of work to do!!

Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement! We are eternally grateful!! God is good!!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Epiphany

What a week! The book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" has been followed up with the sequel "Anna and the Disastrous, Lousy, Calamity-filled, Very Expensive WEEK!" Here's the run down.  Saturday our toilet flooded ruining the carpet in 4 rooms and leading to 11 industrial fans and a humidifier running until Wednesday. My boys ended up sleeping in my closet to escape the noise and disarray! I never want to hear another fan!!! Monday we had to have our garage door opener fixed and my appointments for MD Anderson, that were scheduled for the week of November 12, got moved up to next week (YIKES--that's another blog post) requiring new travel arrangements (AKA higher costs) and calendar upheaval. Tuesday I was whipping into a parking place as I rushed into a meeting and I clipped a car in the parking lot. Wednesday my dog had to go to the vet to have her stitches removed from surgery and Thursday the school nurse called to say that my son was sick---AGAIN! It was just one of those weeks. If I had a dollar for every time I said "Dang it!" and "Oh CRAP" this week,  I would be rich. (And yes, a few other choice words popped into my head, but to my credit they didn't pop out of my mouth so they don't count!)

So here comes the epiphany part. Friday I was rushing to work--late. I heard the train blow its whistle as I pulled from my garage. Now in the little town I live in, the train can hold us prisoner as it blocks the only direct exits out of town. I decided I knew which direction the train was headed and I zipped out the back way certain that I would miss it, and in the long run, make up some time. Off I go speeding down the back roads and feeling pretty proud of myself-- until I approached my turn onto the highway and heard that whistle blow. I had misjudged the direction and was STILL going to be cut off by the train. I should have just waited! "DANG IT!!" And that's when it happened---the epiphany. It hit me smack in the face. When something bad happens (and I had a lot of experience this week) I (we?) tend to respond with things like dang it, darn it, crap, and other colorful language as an impulsive reaction. The long and the short of it is that we are cursing the bad situation, but what hit me was shouldn't we be blessing it? Shouldn't we be asking that whatever bad thing that is happening be blessed, not cursed. I mean after all, it already seems cursed. Wouldn't it be better if we asked for something good to be done to it? The thoughts were almost audible as they popped into my mind. It seemed like more than a suggestion, so I tried it. The train whistle blew again and I said, "Bless it!" and you know what? The train kept right on coming, but suddenly my frustration drained. In fact, I felt a little joy creep back into my day. That may sound really strange, but it is true. Somehow uttering those words re-framed things for me. I pulled into the parking lot safe and sound  and (only 3 minutes late) with a new outlook and a new challenge. Each time I am in an "Oh Crap" situation, I am going to say, "Bless me". I want you to hold me accountable. When I slip, call me on it. I am wearing a little silver beaded bracelet on my wrist. If I mess up, make me move it to the other hand. Changing habits is hard and it is a gentle reminder of what I am working on. I want a life filled with blessing even when things are going wrong, don't you? Maybe you should join me in my little challenge. Who knows how our lives will change.

In Psalm 109:17 David is talking about an enemy and he says, "He loved to pronounce a curse—may it come back on him. He found no pleasure in blessing—may it be far from him." What if all the little curses we casually mutter under our breath really came back on us? YIKES! I want to find pleasure in blessing!! 

So today I am going to be doing some packing so that painters and carpet layers can come fix my disaster zone. Bless it! My Saturday has a to-do list a mile long so I can be ready to go to MD Anderson. Bless me! I will have a lot of tests run this week to see what the Nuisance is up to. Bless me! May it be said of me that she found pleasure in blessing!!

Happy Saturday, y'all! Be blessed!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fog Advisory

It was another busy morning. In all the rushing around there was no time to stop and watch the news or weather. I grabbed my stuff for another busy day and rushed out the door. As my car left the garage,  it was immediately encased in a thick fog. Now we don't get just a whole lot of fog in Texas, but this was one of those can't-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face kinds of fogs. As I made my way to work, the visual short-sightedness was joined with the sirens as first-responders rushed to aid another who had been blindsided in the fog. I passed two wrecks on my way to work in the fog. My pace was slow as I crept through the density and then just as fast as I entered the fog, I drove into bright sunlight. It wasn't a slow subtle change. It was immediate. I went from being unable to see the car in front of me to having to blink to help my eyes adjust to bright sunlight. Oh, the life lessons in that morning drive. Here is my Fog Advisory.

Advisory Recommendation 1. Fog happens and sometimes you miss a lot of warning signs that might help you be prepared. Had I turned on my TV for a brief weather report, I would have known that my journey that morning was going to be slow. I would have realized the dangers I might be facing and reorganized my morning to allow for more time to deal with it. In life we face fog, too. We usually feel a little caught off guard by it, but often it is because we are running so fast that we miss the warning signs that trouble is coming. We rush through life and don't realize that our marriage is falling apart. We hurry from duty to duty and miss the signs that our kids are getting off track. As Christians we sometimes are so busy "doing church" that we miss the signs that our faith is being neglected. We are trying to do so good, that we miss the signs that things are getting bad. Fog Alert--Check the weather of your life. Are there warning signs you need to be heeding?

Advisory Recommendation 2.  When you can't see what lies ahead, SLOW DOWN! I must confess this one is a weakness for me. When I run into fog, a.k.a. problems, I seem to throw myself into high gear trying to find solutions. I struggle and wrestle until I have created even a greater mess. PLEASE, tell me I am not alone in this club! In our effort to get to sunlight, we speed up and run smack dab into another problem. Someone call 911. When life is a fog, slow down. Take time to get your bearings. Adjust your eyesight to your surroundings (fine-tune your faith lenses). But may I caution you against something else? Don't stop in the middle of the road!! Don't give up and stop in your tracks. That creates its own danger, too. Before you know it, you have been rear-ended and someone else is injured because you became an obstacle. It is okay to pull over for a minute and regroup, but please don't give up and stop in your path. Which leads me to Advisory Recommendation 3.

Advisory Recommendation 3. Fog is temporary. Keep driving towards the sun. When we are caught in a fog, it seems as if the whole, wide world is shrouded in gray. It is easy to feel as though things will never get better, but then one day, just like that, the fog lifts and you are once again surrounded by bright, warm sunlight. Friend, your troubles won't last forever. The fog will lift. All you have to do is keep moving towards the sunlight. I have to say that sometimes Satan whispers little lies in our ears. He says, "This will never get better. Today is just like yesterday. Next year will be just like the last. Nothing ever changes. Be afraid, be very afraid." When in fact he is the one that is afraid. He KNOWS the weather and he knows that just two minutes away the sun is shining so brightly that you will need shades. He wants to incapacitate you to keep you from moving forward and getting there. Believe the truth, and this is the truth; fog is temporary. Keep driving!!

I am no weatherman, but I know my weather advice is based on the best meteorologist ever. Want to read some fog advisory recommendations from the creator of weather?

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Psalm 30:5
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

1 Corinthians 13:12 (Msg)
We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us.

Isaiah 44:22
I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.

Isaiah 58:8
 Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.

Song of Songs 2:11
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Is It Still Called Juggling If Half the Balls Are on the Ground?!

This week was another crazy-busy week. Back to school time is always so excitingly hectic. As I sat at my desk this week frantically trying to knock things off my To-Do list, the thought crossed my mind, "Is it still called juggling if half the balls are on the ground?!"

Surely I am not the only one who felt that way this week. You are juggling work, laundry, bills, church, shopping lists, dinner, and meetings and along the way you fumble a thing or two (or three, or four). Welcome to juggling 101! Since I didn't have enough things on my list To-Do list this week, insert sarcastic laugh, I googled How to Juggle. Actually there were some tips from Wikihow that might help us in juggling our lives.

Tip One
Relax, breathe, and don't get frustrated. Juggling can be difficult and it might take days for you to be able to juggle.
Sometimes we get so frantic in juggling our lives that we forget to relax and breathe! It is a necessity to success. Not taking those breathers leads to frustration and growing frustrated only makes the task more challenging. We have got to remember to take time to relax and breathe! Our society as a whole tends to think that stopping to breathe is a bad thing. Our work ethics lead us to be a little proud if we are firing off emails at midnight or responding to them even on vacation. We are addicted (finger pointing at self) to busyness. It is causing us to be less meaningfully productive, less satisfied, and less centered. We have got to relax and breathe!

Tip Two
If you fail, do not worry. Take a break and when you are ready, try again.
We are going to fail. Sometimes we set expectations of ourselves and others so high that we leave no room for failure and yet we know failure is going to happen. We can also look at history and see that failure sometimes leads to the greatest lessons and advancements. Allow yourself, and those around you, permission to fail with the expectation that we will learn from those failures and be better for it in the future! The energy we spend worrying is much better spent in other ways! We are going to fail, but do not worry. Take a break and when you are ready, try again.

Tip Three
Avoid juggling heavy objects.
There are some tasks that are too big to be juggled. You need to set down every other item and focus completely on the one task. Juggling sometimes keeps us from focusing on the things that matter most. We get so busy that we juggle our time with our families away. We try to do too many things and end up not doing any of them well. We need to prioritize. God and family cannot be juggled. Set down your balls and focus on the things that matter. There are some objects that you do not want to drop!

Tip Four
Do not attempt to juggle fire axes. Only professionals are equipped to do this.
I love this one! I think that I may have attempted to juggle fire axes before. I have a few scars to prove it! Some things are best left to the pros! Are there some things in your life that you have been juggling that you need to let go? Are there some decisions you have been trying to make, some relationships you have been trying to mend, some changes you have been trying to handle, that you need to release to a professional? Some things I juggle belong to God and not to me. He is able and willing to handle them and He will make it look so easy! My friend, do not attempt to juggle fire axes! Leave it to the professional!

Tip Five
This one wasn't on wiki how but should be. Have fun.
Juggling balls is intended to be fun, so is juggling life. No one dies wishing they had done more work, juggled more tasks, felt more stressed, missed more chances to laugh. In the end the thing that matters most is the way we loved. So at work have fun and love those around you. At home, put down the balls and enjoy your family. At church, have fun praising the God who made you and share his love with others. As you juggle, have some fun! Life is a ball, not about juggling them!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I Want Less

I Want Less
by Anna Masten Jackson

I want less...
Less busy, more stillness.
Less worry, more peace.
Less pride, more humility.
Less desire, more satisfaction.
Less controlling, more releasing.
Less planning, more enjoying.
Less sitting, more moving.
Less complaining, more thankfulness.
Less stress, more rest.
Less judging, more grace.
Less anger, more forgiveness.
Less justification, more justice.
Less selfishness, more generosity.
Less technology, more relationship.
Less discouragement, more cheering.
Less doubt, more belief.
Less arguing, more understanding.
Less Facebook, more Bible.
Less fast food, more dinner.
Less deception, more trust.
Less silence, more communication.
Less brokenness, more healing.
Less indoors, more back porch .
Less hate, more love.
Less anxiety, more joy.
Less frustration, more patience.
Less faux, more genuine.
Less stuff, more time.
Less pity, more kindness.
Less talk, more action.
Less doubt, more hope.
Less fear, more faith.
Less negativity, more blessings.
Less talk, more listening.
Less sinfulness, more goodness.
Less abrasive, more gentleness.
Less of me, more of God.

John 3:30

Our world is all about more, more, more. As our thirst for more has increased the quality of life and happiness seems to have decreased. What if we have more when we have less? What is your list of less?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Paintings on Sandcastle Walls

I feel like I am running around hanging pictures on sandcastle walls.~ Anna

The past few weeks have been so busy!  Early mornings, late nights, and so much to do in between. It has been one of those seasons where your To Do list gets longer each day instead of shorter. Someone asked me the other day how things were going and I told them, "I feel like I am running around trying to hang pictures on sandcastle walls!" That imagery popped into my head and captures so perfectly how I feel. Just about the time I get the paintings hung and straightened I feel the sand shift and the picture has to be reworked--- if it hasn't fallen and totally shattered!

Isn't life just like that? We get things all straight and perfect and a wave comes through and knocks it catywampus! Waves like your husband dropping a coffee cup on his foot severing a tendon and requiring surgery (yes, that is one of my current waves), colliding agendas at work, schedules that are packed with activity, kids who need to be fed (and with 14 year old twin boys that is a big ole wave!), trying to squeeze the last joys of summer, and on and on. Sometimes the waves are awesomely delightful unexpected surges, sometimes they are devastating tides that knock out a whole wing of your sandcastle. Regardless of the type, all I can tell you is that the waves are going to come.

You know we all live in sandcastles. Everything is temporary and in a constant state of change. We deceive ourselves when we act as though we can really control much (and trust me, anyone who knows me will tell you I struggle with this. Hi, my name is Anna, and I am a control freak.)  So how do we keep from being frustrated when our paintings won't stay straight?  This is what I am thinking:

1. Realize this life is a sandcastle, not a fortress. Change will come. Learn to adapt.

2. Get used to a little imperfection. There is no such thing as perfect in the world of sandcastles. You cannot keep millions and millions of individual particles of sand in line. A little imperfection creates some depth and contrast. Embrace it.

3. Maybe the beauty of life is in the sandcastle and not the paintings we try to hang on it. Perhaps we focus on the wrong kind of beauty. Enjoy the sandcastle for what it is; an ever hanging structure with great opportunities for improvement!

4. Try to relax and have a little fun with your sandcastle. Have you ever seen a kid on the beach running around with a checklist, calendar and stopwatch as they build a castle? Nope, they plop down with a bucket and enjoy.  Relax! When waves come through it is a chance to get to play in the sand. Perspective my friends, it is all about perspective.

5. Building (and rebuilding)  sandcastles is a lot more fun with a friend. When waves come a long that shake the walls of your sandcastle, remember you don't have to rebuild alone. So often we try to do things in our own power and strength. God is a great builder of sandcastles. He is happy to help us build and talk about creative! Your sandcastle will be awesome!

So today, I am setting down my hammer and nails and picking up a shovel and bucket instead. I think I will stop focusing on the pictures and start focusing on the sandcastle. Wanna come play in the sand?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Stepping Stones

It is funny how life brings all kinds of "new normals" to us. Leaving your parents home after graduation, getting married, having children, getting a new job--- each of these life events take us to a new place in life where we have to reorganize and prioritize. Our routines change, our finances change, life shifts to a new normal. I realized this week that my life has found a lot of new normals. There is the new normal of a few aches and pains, reminders of surgeries past. There is the new normal of curly hair after years of bone straight. There is the new normal of vacation time being spent traveling for medical care--and I am so grateful for that care! This week we returned to MD Anderson for my check up and received great news that the spots they are watching for cancer are stable. There are no new places and the existing ones remain unchanged. We will go back in 4 months and repeat the process. If, wait-- I should say WHEN, I get to 2 years of being stable, the scans will take place every 6 months. For now I have been given 4 months that feel like freedom. 4 months of no treatment. 4 months of no surgery. 4 months that I can plan my life as much as any other human can plan theirs (although we are all foolish to think we can really plan our futures, but you now what I mean).

As I got in the car after receiving the good news, my mind was suddenly filled with this image of me on stepping stones that were scattered across a raging river. For now I am safely standing on a stone. Behind me are years of boulders I have safely used to cross rough waters-- or at least could climb back up on after I slipped. Ahead of me are who knows how many stones. Below me is a wild river. At this time the water that threatens me most is "The Nuisance", but blended in are the typical waters of life-- parenthood, marriage, finances, job security, safety.... In order to make progress in life I must leap from stone to stone. For the moment I am able to stand safely on this rock, catch my breath, enjoy the view, and take in a little sunshine. In four months (unless life throws another curve ball) it will be time to take the next leap of faith. If I become paralyzed by fear, doubt, anger, discouragement, or hopelessness then I am unable to take the leap of faith required to move forward to the next stepping stone. In fact, the stepping stone looks more like a stumbling block. If I focus on the raging rapids, I become incapacitated. The desire for safety and security can trick me into thinking I can't take that next jump. It is too far away, I might fall. The water is moving too fast, I cannot jump. I get focused on the river of fear and my footing becomes weak. Instead I must focus on the rock ahead. Psalm 18:12 says, "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." In order to jump safely, I must focus on God, my rock. When I leap to him, ignoring the fears around me, I am safe on a fortress. I am delivered. Once again I can take refuge and stand securely until it is time for the next move. God is a rock and on Him I am safe and sound.

We all have rivers of life swiftly moving around us. Maybe you have slipped and feel like you are drowning in it right now. Maybe you are in a safe place and basking in the sun. Maybe you are preparing for a big leap and working up your faith. Wherever you are, I can testify to this: God is a rock and on him you can stand!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I once read a quote that said, "Tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it by the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith." On days like today when I am on my way to MD Anderson for further tests, I become more aware of that choice than ever. As the day draws closer I have to work harder and harder to hold my thoughts captive. How easy it would be to spend today in fear of tomorrow, but what would that accomplish? The Bible he says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Worrying only robs me of today. A beautiful day.

I continue to learn lessons about fear and worry. One of the greatest is that the fears in my mind always seem to turn out to be much greater than the reality. Not that the reality isn't amazingly frightening sometimes, because I assure you it is. But God dwells in reality. He gives me strength to handle whatever lies in my reality. But fears and what ifs, that is a different story. The fears that can brew in my mind are like a mist. I see them in my mind's eye. I feel them in my heart. But when I reach out to touch them, I discover they are not tangible. I am trying to grasp something that does not, and may never, exist. In the movie After Earth, Will Smith's character says, "Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice. "  How much time do we waste on fear, and how many fears never come true? Such a sad waste of time. While that is often the case, I have also been in those moments when fear becomes reality. When the words I dreaded the most are spoken. I have to tell you that I have found a wonderful truth there as well. Each time God has been faithful and met each of my needs. What I thought I couldn't handle, God could. What I thought I couldn't bear, God did. I have to remind myself of those things on days like today.

Tomorrow has two handles. As I head towards Houston I can choose to grab it with anxiety/fear, or with faith.  My past 18 months God has proven to be faithful. He has consistently answered our prayers. He has consistently brought light to darkness. He has consistently kept his promises to me.
So "I will have no fear of bad news; my heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD." Psalm 112:7. Whatever lies ahead, God has got it!

Thank you as always for being a part of my army. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. God is good! All the time!! 

Prayer opportunities:
Wednesday 11:45.  Labs and CT scan
Thursday 1:00 Oncologist
Friday 9:00 Surgeon

Friday, July 4, 2014

God Bless America

God bless America, Land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her through the night with a light from above. 

Last week as I  traveled through a Texas town, I passed a gas station with a sign out front. At some point someone had taken the time to put up the message, "God Bless America". Unfortunately, Texas wind and sun had done some damage to the "B"  and it was faded to the point that the message was left saying, "God less America".  The damage to the letter had been a slow fade. It happened over time and the owner probably didn't even realize it. In his or her mind the sign probably read just like it was intended, but that is how it happens sometimes. Change happens slowly and we don't even notice it. That sign read like a warning for what I fear is happening in reality. I am afraid we, like the sign, are victims of slow fade. As we become more God less, we become less God blessed. The slow fade begins. We wake up one morning and the "B" is gone. We are no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. All that we have fought for, the freedoms we enjoy, the rights we so strongly argue for are gone.  The irony is that we may one day lose our independence because we have become too independent. We no longer acknowledge that everything we have is a gift from above. We take credit for our strength, our courage, our privilege. We are no longer dependent on God so we are becoming less independent as a nation. God-less America, Land that I loved...

Today we celebrate Independence Day. I am so proud to be an American and I do not take that blessing lightly. As I celebrate July 4th today, I celebrate it with worship of the God who gave us independence and prayer for our country to become dependent once again. I celebrate it with gratitude for all those that have fought for my independence throughout the years. I pray blessings for the future. I pray we will stop the slow fade and return again to place of blessing. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14.

"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. "

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Freedom Trail

It has been way too long since I have written. June has been filled with trainings and travels to trainings. This week I had the joy of traveling to Boston for training. The days were filled with intense learning at Hahvad (that is Bostonian for Harvard) and the evenings were filled with as much exploration as we could squeeze in before we fell over in exhaustion. It was an amazing week.

Among the many things we saw and learned, an afternoon spent following an old cobblestone path was one of my favorite. Google "Top 10 Things to See and Do in Boston" and without a doubt you will see The Freedom Trail. This 2.5 mile path of red cobblestones will lead you to 16 of the cities famous historical landmarks. Follow the path and you are guaranteed to see some amazing sights, veer from it and you could miss some national treasures by just passing on the wrong side of the street. As I walked the trail, I couldn't help but think about the similarities to the trail of life.

Thousands of people milled about the area with us as we walked, and yet some arrived at different destinations. You see, they were not intent on following the trail, they were just out for a walk. We looked as if we were moving towards the same destinations, yet only those who were intent on staying on course made the full excursion. Life can be like that. You have to be intentionally focused on staying on the path. It is easy to get caught up in the flow of the crowd and make the wrong turn. One wrong turn and you miss the best stuff!

The sights along the path were breathtaking; churches with unbelievable detail, markers with historical facts and stories, cemeteries with the markers of men and women who formed our country. Each turn in the path held a sight that took my breath, but you know that I could have missed it all if I hadn't been looking as I traveled. How sad that would be to be on the right path, but missing the sights because I wasn't watching for them, because I was moving too fast, because I was focused on the wrong things.

Finally, there was the irony of this tourist adventure. The walk is called the Freedom Trail and yet to fully experience it, you have to follow a narrow path. Reminds me of the Christian walk. Matthew 7:14 says, "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Some people view the Christian walk as restrictive and limiting, but it, too is a Freedom Trail leading to sights you don't want to miss. What may seem limiting is actually a guide to experiencing life to the fullest! There truly is freedom in the trail!

I hope that in my journey down the Freedom Trail of life that I am intentional about where I am going and watching for the beautiful sights as I travel and I hope that you are intentionally walking with me for this path may be narrow, but it will lead us on the greatest adventure of all!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Stuck in the Mud

This has been a crazy week. You know, a Murphy's Law kind of week. If it could go wrong it did! But today I woke up to a BEAUTIFUL sight. It was raining. We have had less than an inch of rain in our area this year. Our world has seemed bone dry; so as I got in my car and the rain came down, I delighted in the sprinkles. I thought what a perfect day it was and my heart felt happy and joyful. As I got further down the road I remembered a gift that I meant to bring to one of my friends. She has just been given the No Evidence of Disease clearance! I purchased a bracelet for her when she began chemo and have been waiting for just this day to celebrate and give it to her. I quickly made a U-turn to go back and get it. And then it happened. I got stuck in the mud. Awesome. I guess it has been dry so long that I forgot what happened to dirt when mixed with water. Genius. I grabbed my phone and called my husband. No answer. I called my dad. No answer. As people drove by (and trust me, I think half the town drove by -- no way of looking cool there) and I tried to figure out what next, there was nothing to do but laugh. I couldn't curse the mud; I loved the rain. One of the best parts of living in a small town is the goodness of people. Soon three pick-ups had stopped to help me and get me back on my way. As I drove away, I thought about Psalm 40:1-3

“I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me & heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud & mire;
he set my feet on a rock
& gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see & fear
& put their trust in the LORD”
Psalm 40:1-3

Today it was a few good men who got me out of the mud and mire, but God has done so over and over and over. Just about the time I think I am going to be stuck forever, He shows up and sets me on solid ground. He puts a song in my heart and I find joy. Like being stuck today, I have learned not to hate the mud, but to just enjoy the rain. God is good!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Candle or Kindling

It started with a warm sensation, not much more than the warmth that comes from friction, but the intensity of the heat increased until the match burst into full flame. Whatever it touched next would be forever changed. If it came in contact with a candle, it would produce light that could illuminate a room and show others the way. If it came in contact with dry kindling, it would produce a fire that had potential to become quite destructive. The same initial friction could have drastically different outcomes depending on the receiver.

I once read that "light is costly and comes at the expense of that which produces it. An unlit candle does not shine, for burning must come before the light. And we can be of little use to others without a cost to ourselves. Burning suggests suffering." (Streams in the Desert) As I reflected on that thought I could not help but think of the number of times that I have seen suffering bring destruction and not light. I thought of the times I have seen someone swallowed up and embittered by the suffering they were facing.  It was then that I felt that gentle nudging that I have felt so often in the last year and a half that whispered to my soul, "It is a choice." Just as the match can bring light or destruction, suffering can have the same impact. The deciding factor is the condition of that which it comes in contact with. Should the flame come in contact with a dry, brittle soul, combustion is sure to take place. That combustion can become all consuming and swallow completely anything it comes in contact with. However, should the match come in contact with a soul rooted in the wax of faith, it becomes a warming light. Our choice is what kind of receiver will we be? Unfortunately, the suffering is painful regardless of whether we are a candle or kindling, but the after effects determine whether it was worth it. It is a choice, but it can be a hard choice to make when you are in the heat of suffering. It can seem impossible when you feel like you are being consumed, but Lamentations 3:22 says, "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail."

Maybe you are suffering today, feeling consumed by the friction  in your life. I cannot ease your suffering, but I do want to encourage you. Be a candle and not kindling. Root yourself in faith and you become a light in spite of the challenges you face. There are so many scriptures that promise our suffering is momentary. One of my favorites is 1 Peter 5:10, "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." That verse, and so many others, promise that trials are going to pass, but I must warn you; you will be left with the aftereffects. If you become a candle during trials, then when the trials pass you continue to bring light, but if you allow the trials to make you dry, brittle kindling, you will find life difficult to rebuild after the trial by fire.

The match moved closer. It would soon come in contact. The heat of the tiny flame was growing. Contact was made. Suffering began. For a moment it felt as if the heat would be all consuming, but the fire did not spread. It did not bring disaster, for the wick was immersed in a vessel of wax. The wax, when warmed, gave off a warm, comforting aroma. A soft, soothing light radiated. Others were drawn to the glow. They found comfort there. And in the end, the suffering was worth it somehow.

Other Verses about Trials
Psalm 30:5
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

 Romans 8:18

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Today is Opposite Day

"Today is Opposite Day." Do you remember that game as a child? Once we began playing opposite day everything meant exactly the opposite of what was stated. "I hate ice cream." "I wish I could take a nap." "I don't want to play anymore." "I wish my mom would make me clean my room." Does that jog your memory?

In the last year I have played a lot of Opposite Day. I have stood amazed as bad news came to mean something good. I have been shocked as things that were meant to harm healed and things that were meant to heal harmed. I have been astounded as things that should have caused fear brought peace and things that were intended to bring death brought life. How does one explain how something that should bring despair brings hope? There is no other explanation; it must be Opposite Day.

Today is Opposite Day. We call it Good Friday, yet it wasn't a good day at all! Today is the reminder of  the day that Jesus Christ was crucified and died a terrible death. How can that be good? Regardless of who you believe Jesus Christ to be, he was a man of flesh and blood who suffered intense abuse, ridicule and ultimately death. You don't have to believe in his resurrection to agree that there is nothing good about a death like that. It is the ugliest of human nature exposed on a cross for all to see. How can that possibly be good? While you do not have to believe in Jesus Christ's resurrection to agree that a death like that is terrible, you do have to believe to understand how Christian's can call today Good Friday. We can declare it good because the story didn't end on Friday. Three days later, Jesus rose again. For you. For me. What was intended to harm healed; what should have brought death brought life; that which should have brought despair brought hope.

You see, God is the originator of Opposite Day. The bible is filled with Opposite Day examples.

 “Blessed are those who are spiritually needy.
    The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Blessed are those who are sad.
    They will be comforted.
Blessed are those who are free of pride.
    They will be given the earth.
Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for what is right.
    They will be filled.
Blessed are those who show mercy.
    They will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those whose hearts are pure.
    They will see God.
Blessed are those who make peace.
    They will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who suffer for doing what is right.
    The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
11 “Blessed are you when people make fun of you and hurt you because of me. You are also blessed when they tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me. 12 Be joyful and glad. Your reward in heaven is great." Matthew 5:3-12.
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:16.
"You planned to harm me. But God planned it for good. He planned to do what is now being done. He wanted to save many lives." Genesis 50:20

And my favorite, "It is finished." John 19:30.  It is my favorite, because when he says it is finished it really meant life was just beginning for us!

On and on there are examples of God's love for a good game of Opposite Day and I am so grateful for it! Throughout the last year and a half of trials, I have been blessed to see that He still plays! Over and over He has taken bad and turned it to good in my life. Over and over I have seen how he uses all things for our good. Today I celebrate Good Friday and I am grateful for Opposite Day. You see today is Good because God is Good! My life is Good because God is Good. Today is Opposite Day!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

I Can't Wait Syndrome

I think most of you know by now that we got great news when we went to MD Anderson last week. Scans revealed that there are no new growths, the spot on my diaphragm hasn't grown, and the spot on the left side of my chest appeared smaller! What amazing news. I cannot begin to tell you how our hearts danced when we heard that report! God is so good! We go back in July to go through the process all over again. It looks like life will be lived in chapters of waiting, so the question stands, how do we live in the periods of waiting?

I've been thinking about that and realize that we are all really playing a waiting game. We can't wait until we get out of high school, then we can't wait to get out of college. We can't wait until we get a new job and we can't wait until we get married. We can't wait to have children and we can't wait until they get out of diapers. And on and on we live, waiting for the next big life change and slowly (or sometimes way too fast) life slips through our fingers, while we "can't wait". I have to tell you my perspective on "can't wait" has been sharply twisted into "oh yes I can" this past year. I have learned to keep my eyes on today and not stay frantically focused on the things that I "can't wait" for! (My daddy would tell you that that is a pretty big lesson for this little impatient girl!)

When all of this first began, waiting an for the next doctor appointment, a week for lab results, two weeks for biopsies was brutal. I would cry and ache over the waiting, honestly feeling as though the waiting was killing me. Waiting rooms made me bounce my leg anxiously and wiggle in my chair, constantly looking at my watch and wishing they'd go ahead and call me back. I had to have answers. I couldn't wait. Then one day I looked down and realized that I had stopped wearing a watch. I didn't even notice it happen, but somewhere along the way I relaxed into the waiting. The meaning of time changed and it was no longer something I strained against, but something that I eased into with a recognition that it just is as it is so I might as well stop trying to push it. I learned that rushing it was making me lose it and time is way to precious to lose. I  learned that the moment is what matters and how we use them, but that lesson only came when I shifted my focus from my problems to my deliverer.  So now I wait on one thing, "We wait in hope for the Lord. He helps us. He is like a shield that keeps us safe. Our hearts are full of joy because of him. We trust in him, because he is holy. Lord, may your faithful love rest on us. We put our hope in you." Psalm 33:20-22 (NIRV). When we stop saying, "I can't wait until...." and start saying, "I am just waiting in hope for the LORD" we can trust he will help us. We can live lives of joy. We get to have his faithful love. How much better is that?!?

What are you missing because you can't wait? What is happening around you right this minute that you aren't noticing because you are anxiously awaiting something in the future? What anxiety are you experiencing because you are problem solving something that hasn't happened yet? I Can't Wait Syndrome may be robbing you of the joy and faithful love of today. It may be time to take off your watch.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Deep End

When I was a kid I took swimming lessons. I learned to float, hold my breath, kick my legs. I learned  to stroke through the water with my arms, and tread water. After weeks of "training" the day came to put all the practice into action. I had to jump off the diving board, but I wasn't afraid. My swimming teacher swam out to the deep end and stretched out his arms. I held my breath and ran and jumped. I survived! I was not afraid. Why? Some of you know my swimming teacher. His name is Rocky Blair. For those of you who don't know him, he is a TALL man. To me as a kid, I thought he was a giant! You know why I wasn't afraid? Because I was sure that Rocky was touching the bottom of that 10 foot pool.

I couldn't help but think of that story last night because once again I am in the deep end. I am here at MD Anderson facing round two of The Nuisance (aka Cancer). I sure didn't plan to be doing this again so soon, but the experience this time is different. Last year as I sat in this very chair in the waiting room, I was trembling with fear. Tears were threatening to flood my cheeks and I felt totally lost. It was as though I was a child who had not been taught to swim, thrown into the deep water. I was flailing, kicking, crying for help. I couldn't find my bearings. I thought at moments I would drown. But my lifeguard was quick to rescue me. He surrounded me with his love and comfort. He saw me safely to shore. As he held me on his arms I was able to find my bearings. I was able to float. I survived.

Lessons learned in the pool of The Nuisance last year have made this time easier somehow. This time I have my bearings. I know how to tread water. I know how to float when I am tired. I know I am going to go under sometimes, but I also know I am going to come back up and will be able to grab a breath. Above all else, I know that I have a strong and mighty lifeguard who is in the water with me. He stands ready to rescue me when I am going under. Although Rocky was just a giant in my mind's eye, my LIFE-guard, my God, is a giant in reality. I have no need he cannot meet. There is no water too deep, no current too strong, for him to reach me. He says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."  Isaiah 43:2. I am safe and secure--- and blessed. Oh, how I am blessed!!

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. Your cards, calls, texts, and prayers are our air. Any moment now, the nurse will step out and call my name. It will be my turn to jump off the diving board. My LIFEguard stands ready to catch me. Think I'll do a cannonball to make the biggest splash I can!!

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."Romans 8:38-39

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Life is a Symphony

Last night I had the pleasure of going to the symphony with my sweet friend Kelley. As we took our seats, the orchestra began to warm up in a noisy, chaotic fashion. Each performer tuned their individual instrument unconcerned about any other sound around them. They were highly focused on the sound coming from their own efforts. Soon everyone was in place and warmed up, the noise settled, and the conductor entered the stage. He raised his arms, the players lifted their instruments, and the most beautiful sounds began to pour out. As the music washed over us, we were swept away by the twists and turns of the musical stories. Some moments were light and celebratory, other segments were dark and ominous. I found myself feeling the emotion of the songs and began to realize that life is a symphony.

Like a symphony, our lives are filled with many players. There are moments when the players are tuned in and focused on their own lives, out of harmony with those around them, warming up for their performance. Moments like that tend to bring chaos into our lives. But then there are moments when we are in perfect synchronization with others; when we are not tuned in only to ourselves, but are loving, caring for, and working with those around us. In those times, our lives make beautiful music. Things function better and we are able to be more productive in our living. I love how 1 Peter 3:8-10 says it, "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech." The symphony called life would be so much more beautiful if we would each play our part according to those guidelines.

Like a symphony, life is filled with both the light, happy moments and the dark, threatening ones. They weave together to tell the story of our lives. It takes both types of music for the orchestra to create the musical experience. It takes both types for us to learn lessons about who we are, who others are, and who our conductor is. John 16:33 says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." That statement was a warning that dismal days will come, but they will be followed by the celebratory times because God has overcome the problems of the world. Psalm 30:5 tells us, "Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Are you stuck in the measures of life that are filled with dark and heavy tones? Stay focused on the conductor and tuned in with the people around you; don't put down your instrument. The beautiful sounds of a light melody still lie ahead.

Like a symphony, our performance is improved when it is under the leadership of a great conductor. While each player on the stage was there because of their significant talent, the combined music was only beautiful because they submitted themselves to the guidance of a conductor who had insight into when to crescendo and when to diminuendo, when to play allegro and adagio. Had any player on the stage decided, "Well, forget the conductor, I am going to play MY song." and proceeded to bust out some Rolling Stones, the experience would have been destroyed. How many times do we ruin our symphony because we want to do it our way and not follow the guidance of our conductor?  The orchestra had to trust the conductor and follow his understanding of the music in order to produce a beautiful masterpiece. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Psalm 3:5-6. Would you like your symphony to be beautiful? Keep your eyes on the conductor and trust him over your own understanding. He will use your instrument to make beautiful music.

Play on beautiful musician!

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Discouragement- the act of making something less likely to happen or making people less likely to do something; a feeling of having lost hope or confidence; something that discourages someone. Sound familiar? Discouragement is one of those common experiences that we have all faced at some time or another. It is no small threat. It has potential to make good things less likely to happen in our lives, to rob us of hope. Because it can be such a powerful force, it is so important that we recognize it and are prepared to deal with it.
There is a verse that I have always loved in Joshua 1:9. It says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." I have memorized that verse. I have sung that verse. But my focus on the verse has always been on fear and terror. I have used it to bolster my courage and confidence a thousand times over. Only recently did I notice the second part of the command. Did you see it? Do not be discouraged. God himself knew that discouragement could defeat an army. He knew that if people lost their hope, that they would be immobilized and great things would be far less likely to happen in their lives. He knew it was such a powerful foe that he commanded us not to give into it.  Discouragement leads us to giving up. It is a burden that directs all our vision onto our troubles, and distracts us from the hope ahead. I have had moments in my own life where discouragement has literally taken my breath away. You too?
So what are we to do? I think to come up with a solution, you first have to recognize the problem. It seems to me that there are four conditions that set us up for discouragement: 1) When we are tired, 2) When we are worried,  3)When we are scared, and 4)When something seems impossible. To keep those conditions from making us vulnerable, here are some things to help us fight off discouragement.
When We Are Tired:
" Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  No one is immune to fatigue, especially when we are carrying heavy burdens, but when we trust in God he will give us strength and allow us to keep moving forward. He encourages us to give our load to him, to allow us to continue on. Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
Psalm 55:22. If we aren't careful weariness can drive us to discouragement, and discouragement can stop us in our tracks; but hope allows us to continue to walk through trial. If you are tired, do not be discouraged, but allow him to carry your burden and give you rest. Don't forget the hope you have in him!
When We Are Worried:
Worry is such a great source of discouragement. I think Satan must just love to see us sit and rock our selves in our rocking chairs of worry. We put out so much effort and get absolutely nowhere! “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25-26. So we aren't to worry about life, but seriously Anna, that can be a little hard to do. How do we keep from worrying? Philippians 4:6-7 says, "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."  Let me ask you this. When you are worried about something do you spend more time talking to yourself and friends about it or God? If you are finding yourself discouraged because of worry, talk to God. I promise you he is able to bring a peace that you have never experienced if you do!

When We Are Scared:
This one is a whopper. Fear can lead to discouragement faster than a match can lead to fire! So be ready! "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10. Fear is a lie that Satan tells us to make us think that we have been abandoned; that God cannot do what He says He can do. When you are threatened with those thoughts, remember the truth. God is with you. He will strengthen and help you. Do not let fear lead you to discouragement. In the movie Point Break Patrick Swayze has a line that says, "Fear causes hesitation and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true." There is a lot of truth in that. All Satan needs is that moment of hesitation to discourage us. Don't let fear cause hesitation in your faith!

When Something Seems Impossible:
The grand finale for discouragement is when we are faced with something that seems impossible. Laws of nature or common sense may tell us that there is just no resolution for the problem we face. That is often where we throw in the towel and succumb to discouragement. There is one verse to cling to when you find yourself in the realm of the impossible. "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." Mark 10:27.  Don't underestimate the power of the God who loves you. What you are facing may seem impossible, but with God all things are possible!

Look back at our definition of discouragement: "the act of making something less likely to happen". What are you hoping to see happen in your life right now? Healing? Restoration of relationships? New opportunities? Joy? Getting out of debt? Losing weight? Quitting a habit? DISCOURAGEMENT IS MAKING THAT LESS LIKELY TO HAPPEN! If discouragement can make it less likely to happen, encouragement can have the opposite effect. So be encouraged. Everyone gets tired, but God can renew your strength. Tell God what you need and thank him for providing for you. He will give you peace that will blow your mind. Don't be afraid! He will give you strength and hold you up! Never underestimate the power of God. What you're facing may seem impossible, but with God all things are possible! 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Broken Springs

I woke up this morning to see the most BEAUTIFUL sunrise ever! (I should mention that it was on a friend's Facebook page; it is Saturday after all.) By the time I filled my coffee mug and sat down to type, warm sun was streaming through the windows and I could feel the earliest tingle of spring. (Sorry to my snowbound friends in other places who are digging out of feet of snow. Come on down, there's lots of room here!) I felt a little giddy when I got to thinking about the season changing. At times when it is cold and dreary, it seems like maybe Spring is broken. Do you ever feel like that in real life? Like maybe Spring is broken and you will be trapped in a cold, dreary season where the moments of light seem short and the darkness drags on forever? Take heart! The proverbial spring is around the corner!

Life can be a really hard thing. You or people you love may be up to their ears in a snowy, icy season, I know, I have a cabin there, too. It may not seem fair. We don't understand why we have hardships when we look around and see others happily skipping around plucking flowers in their own spring lives. We may not understand the current season we are trapped in, but we can know this for sure. Seasons do not last.

I looked up the definition of season. Webster says, "of SEASON 1a :  a time characterized by a particular circumstance or feature <in a season of religious awakening." What is your current time characterized by? Are you is a season of hardship, or of joy? Of struggle, or of peace? Are you enjoying a season of pleasure, or pain?  Whatever your season, we know as humans our circumstances are temporary. We will all face all types of seasons; from that there is no escape. But one thing I loved about this definition was the example it used in the definition. Did you catch it? "<in a season of religious awakening." I think that is where the lesson lies. You see we may not be able to control the circumstances of life that drive our "seasons", but we can choose to have awakening in any season. What I have learned (and continue to have to relearn because it is a lesson that can easily be forgotten), is that I cannot choose my circumstances, but I can choose what I focus on in that circumstance. If I get caught up focusing on the frost on the window, I cannot see outside to notice that the snow is melting and the sun is shining.

If you are in a season of winter, I want to encourage you. Don't let your focus be on your problem, as hard as that may seem. Look beyond the frost on the window pane to see your family, your friends, your provisions, your blessings. Look to God. When your focus is on Him, you can find warmth and awakening even in the harshest winter. I love 2 Corinthians 4:18 which says, "So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." I can promise you this; the struggles we face today will not last forever, but they can keep us from living with joy if we become focused on them. On the contrary, if we focus on God and keep our eyes fixed on him, we are focused on the one thing that is unchanging and able to bring joy in all seasons!

One day you are going to wake up and be able to say, "Look! The winter is past. The rains are over and gone.  Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season for singing has come. The cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig trees are producing their early fruit. The flowers on the vines are giving off their sweet smell." Song of Solomon 2:11-12. Your struggle with your current season will be over and you will discover Spring again. Hold on my sweet friend. Do not be discouraged. Spring is not broken, it is just around the corner!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Funhouse Fibs

Do you remember the old carnival funhouses? You know, back in the day before they sort of creeped you out? Moving floors, shaking walls, distorting mirrors, mazes of glass, made us giggle as we fumbled our way through the features. As we reached the end, our sides hurt from the laughter brought forth as we overcame the obstacles.

Sometimes life feels like you are in a funhouse minus the fun. The floor is shaking and the walls are moving, but it brings forth feelings of fear, anxiety, and dread; giggles are hard to find as you struggle to keep your balance. The mirrors around you begin to reflect distorted images, and you begin to lose sight of who you are. The mazes of glass begin to make you feel as if there is no end to the un-fun you are dealing with. You begin to feel as though you can't find your way out. I have to admit that I sometimes feel like I am in the UnFun House, but here are some lessons I am learning.

Lesson One: Sometimes it feels like the floor is falling out from under you; your very foundation seems shaken. In times like this you have to do two things. 1) Grab hold of something secure, and 2) Keep moving. Let's explore those ideas a little more. When selecting what you will grab hold of, you have to be very careful. If you grab onto something unstable and movable, it will be of no benefit to you. Joshua 34:8 says, "But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now." He never moves; he never changes. When you grab onto him you have a foundation to stand upon and that foundation will hold strong even though the "house" may shake. "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27. Hold tight to God, and though the floors shake, the house will stand! My second piece of advice is KEEP MOVING! The only way out of your UnFun House is forward. You can't go back in time and sitting in pity will get you no where so grab the rail (God) and get moving! You may still feel fear, you may still feel sorrow, the walls and floors may still be shaking, but you are getting closer and closer to the end of the trial! Don't stop now!

Lesson Two: The UnFun House has mirrors that reflect back images of you and your situation.  As you look around you right now, you may be judging yourself and your situation by the reflections you see in the life's mirrors. Situations seem out of balance; you appear broken and disfigured. Your scars appear exaggerated, and you may feel like no one could ever love a mess like you. Those are LIES! Remember this, those mirrors that are distorting your reflection are liars. When you are in the UnFun House, you have to see your situation and yourself as God sees you, not as the mirrors portray you. God sees the impossible as possible. He sees the broken as beautiful. You are His child and he loves you. He knows how He is going to use this rough time to do something beautiful in you and for you. Do not stand around admiring the problem in the reflection of warped mirrors. Keep your eyes on your reflection in Him and once again, KEEP MOVING!

Lesson Three: Some rooms in the UnFun House are made of glass walls. As you try to find your way out, you bump into invisible barriers that seem to hold you captive, but there is a way out. I have two pieces of advice: 1) Let God guide you and 2) you guessed it, KEEP MOVING!  The bible says,"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." I don't know about you, but I do not understand my current situation, but I can rest secure that God does. I don't know how to get out of this maze, but God does. If we are wise, we will trust him and follow. Both steps are necessary. If I trust Him, but don't follow, I am stuck. If I am moving, but not trusting Him to guide me, I am going to face plant into an invisible barrier. We have a guide that can get us out of this maze of trials. All we have to do is follow.

Lesson Four: At some point in the UnFun House you begin to feel like you are never going to find the exit, but I promise you it is up ahead. There is a season to everything. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,  a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,  a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace." Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. You and I may be in a season of struggle, but everything that starts also has to end. Don't lose hope.  KEEP MOVING!

This morning I read this verse: "I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure," Psalms 16:8-9. I immediately had this image of this UnFun House and  how the struggle can make me feel like I am at the mercy of my surroundings, but that isn't true. If my focus shifts to the floor, the mirrors, and the walls of my struggle, I will be shaken, but if I keep my eyes on the Lord, I am secure! I choose to keep my eyes on the Lord. With Him beside me I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN so I am glad and I will sing. My body is secure!!! I am going to be like Olivia Newton John in the movie Grease and put on my high heels and stomp right through this stinking UnFun House (Minus the cigarette, leather pants, and big hair!) and sing to my God, "You're the One That I Want!"   (Okay, if that last reference went right over your head you're going to just have to go watch the movie. Perhaps I dated myself with that one!)
I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, Psalms 16:8-9