On people pleasing...
Hello all you out there in cyberspace. I trust that it's been a wonderful start to the summer. I have a confession to make. It seems that I still have a loooot to learn when it comes to valuing the opinion of others, because God keeps dropping it into my lap.
Recently I had the wonderful opportunity of speaking to a book club about 'Running the Good Race'. It was a fantastic chance for me to be out there and to let people get to know me in a more personal manner. I'm not comfortable speaking in front of people, I'd rather sit behind my computer and pretend that I am, kind of like now. As I prepared for this event, the thought that continually went through my mind was, How can I get them to like me. Shocker, right? I became so nervous that my stomach was in a continual knot, not a very comfortable experience.
A few days before the event, which was in the town I used to live in for 22 years, I was so nervous that it began to effect everyone around me (When Mom's happy, everyone is. When she's not – watch out!). My husband and youngest son finally had enough of my fretting and asked what my problem was. I told them that I was nervous about speaking and that I wanted everyone to like me. My husband, always such a wise man, just looked at me and said, “The only one you have to please is God.”
I let that one marinate for a couple of hours. Low and behold... I started to be able to breathe easier. The stomach thing went away. On the day of the event, I consciously kept telling myself that nobody else mattered but God, and to just let that come through. I had a wonderful time, by the way. For the first time when I stood in front of people I wasn't nervous! I'm serious. No little tingles of nerves, no heart fluttering. I was excited and happy to be there. Because I finally understood that Tom was right.
God was the only one whose opinion of me mattered.
And He already approves.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Gal 2:20, 21
I am living for an audience of one!
I am beloved and beautifully made in His image.
I've always been a peacemaker, a people-pleaser. Back when I was a kid, I tried to make everyone happy. It was impossible and so I felt like a failure. All my life, I've felt like that. It's interesting how that has translated into my adult life. If my family didn't agree with each other, I felt like I had failed them. I've worked so hard to make everyone happy, to make everyone have a good life. My oldest had to be entertained... all the time! I'd fret if he didn't have anything to do to occupy himself with.
I felt like a failure if he was bored!
My beautiful daughter had trouble speaking and it was my fault! Oh yes, people. When she wasn't accepted or left out, it was my fault. Mmmmm... If my husband didn't have a good day, guess what?!? My fault!!! How can I possibly be responsible for that? Oh... my... word!
I guess I'm in the wrong business if I ever want to get rid of this. God has His ways of removing things from our lives. It takes work on our part to follow and be obedient when He brings them to our attention. And it's His job to remove it from our hearts. That's not on me.
As an author I have to care what my audience thinks. As we were discussing the book, all I could think of was, Oh, what if I made a mistake and they didn't like it. Turns out they did like it. But does that really, honestly matter? My desire to please others is quite altruistic, believe me. I want people to be happy. I want to help them. According to my devotional, a lovely book by Lucinda Secrest McDowell called Ordinary Graces, it becomes a problem “when outside affirmation guides us more than inner conviction.” (p33, 2017)
Guess what my devotion was this morning. Yep. I was on peer pleasing. (Thanks, Lord)
This peer pleasing junk is robbing me of my joy, of my enjoyment of this time. I should be resting in His grace, relying on His provisions. Instead, I'm constantly seeking more approval. Oh, how many followers do I have on Twitter now? Nobody commented on my blog or my post.
My thinking should be centered on one thing.
For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Gal 1:10
I need grace, not more followers. I need to please an audience of one. Jesus. I can never let Him down by not being good enough, pretty enough, smart enough. I hope this gives you encouragement as you go on with your day. God will shine light on our problems and will eradicate them, if we step back to let Him. I'm well on my way (hopefully) of shedding myself of this lifelong habit to please others. It's just going to take some obedience on my part to follow through.
I leave you with this thought. Real peacmakers don't seek to please people or make peace with people. They seek a relationship with Christ and the chance to bring others into it.
When will I learn?
Isn't it amazing that just one month ago, I was filled with jubilation, soaking up the Spirit of the Lord! I'm sitting here in my living room, looking out at my beautiful forest, and shaking my head. When will I learn? That is the question I seem to be asking myself a whole lot. It's been such an amazing month, so why do I feel like I hit rock bottom again?
This past month I've learned a ton of things about marketing, about putting myself out there. It's been incredibly enlightening and yet totally overwhelming. I've joined the 21st Century on Instagram, Twitter... several other fb groups about writing and authoring. All has been so exciting. I've gotten to talk to some wonderful people who have been doing this for longer than I have and who are... successful.
There it is again. That dreaded, horrible, no good, e...v...i...l word (for me).
Let me tell you about my day yesterday.
I spent it with my grand-dog, Raven, and of course Logan. It was a typical Thursday, laundry day. I love doing laundry in town. It's usually a time when I get to relax, surf the web, chill out. Raven and I had taken a lovely hike up to the top of the property, where I had my face to face time with Jesus. It's breathtaking up there and we love going, even though the hike is challenging (We live in VT after all). Once that was done, Logan and I sat down to watch a documentary of the Civil War. And then it was time to connect with the world. Now that I have a smartphone, it's so much easier. I love getting updates from my family in Germany, seeing pictures of their growing kids. But as I drove into town and the phone started binging, telling me I had new updates, I began to worry.
What was I going to post on Instagram today? Had I gained any new followers on Twitter? What if the things I wrote, the opinions I held, weren't accepted?
By the time I was in town, I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders and I was feeling stress! I knew I had a lot to do on fb. I wanted to share a few lines for the Thursday writing theme, and I stewed that nobody liked what I had written the day before. As I opened up my phone as soon as I got to the grocery store, anxiety just saturated me.
I mean, yeah – it had been a great week. 'Love the Lord...' had a record of 66 downloads, since I offered it as a gift for Mothers Day. That's unheard of for me! I had gotten 5 star reviews on the Cooper family books as well as 'Running the Good Race'. All that was amazing, adding to the high I had felt all month.
But now... I anxiously checked fb and Instagram on my phone and saw that I had one new follower on Twitter. Hurrah!!!! I shared my pictures of Raven and me on top of the mountain. What else should I do to be noticed?!?!?
Again, total anxiety.
At the laundromat, with Raven lying at my feet and Logan doing his stuff on his computer, I quickly surfed the sites and found myself disappointed. Nobody liked what I had shared the day before (literally!) and I was struggling with Twitter. Ugh, the hits on my website were down from last week! And then came the kicker. My daughter, who teaches art at a Christian school about ½ an hour away, called and begged me to bring her more cotton balls.
Irritation, frustration, anger. I felt all of those in an instant.
I had things to do! I needed to share on fb. I needed to post on Instagram. I needed... You get the point (I hope). By the way, this is going to be long post, sorry. I begrudgingly dragged the dog out the laundromat door, growled at Logan that I would be back, and cranked the engine. I stomped into Dollar General right down the street, and started hunting for the stinking cotton balls. It was warm outside and of course I had brought nothing to drink for Raven, a black, German Shepherd mix. I needed to find these dreaded cotton balls fast!!! And they were nowhere to be seen. I asked the attendant and voilá. Ten minutes later, a shopping bag full of cotton balls, I slammed the door of my car. “She had better not keep me waiting in the parking lot!” I growled to myself as I drove toward school. “How can she be so unorganized? What am I, her errand mom?” You get the annoyance that was building up in me. (Sorry Tash. I had a bad day.)
At the school my daughter came out quickly, fussed over her sweet dog several times, and thanked me over and over again for bringing me her things. I sat stewing. Whatever, kid! Next time...
Raven and I turned back toward home and my phone went off. Logan texted me something illegible (I believe he picked up the skill from his father) and I was confused and concerned. I fretted about having left him alone (he's 16 years old, for crying out loud!) I was driving down the main road, only going over the speed limit by 10 miles, when I thought that I really needed a kind word. I almost pulled into the my editor's neighborhood. But I didn't because because this thick, pit of the stomach worry about Logan being alone pushed me to go on. Right then my phone went off and I picked it up quickly, thinking it was Logan and he was being dragged away by the scruff of the neck and stuffed into an unmarked, black van. (Yes, I have a very vivid imagination, people. I write books, remember?) I'd pity the person who tries it. Logan is a solid six foot tall. Or maybe taller by now.
To my surprise, it was my oldest son who lives in CA with his lovely wife. It turns out he was having a bad day too. One thing we used to do before he moved out west, was to have massive pity parties together. Oh, they were so much fun and soooo... He suggested we have one on the phone. He told me all about his terrible day, one of his client's horses is still lame after he had shooed him, and I sat listening.
Have I lost you yet? Hang in there... there's a point to this, I promise.
Back at the laundromat, finding my youngest unharmed (yes, yes... I don't know what to say) and working on his computer, I returned to my social media. Man, it didn't take long for me to get hooked on it. The sinking feeling continued to press down on me and I fretted. I had agreed to let 'Running the Good Race' be reviewed and of course... What if it gets a lousy review? This thought continued even as I watched Raven enjoy her doggy ice cream later on. She had been such a good trouper all day long, I wanted to reward her. She appreciated it, believe me.
I found that my husband was already home and as I walked in, I just needed a hug. He gave me one right away and knew immediately that I had a bad day. We began to work through my issue (just one at a time, thank you) and I started to see the truth. My value was still found in seeking success, not in resting in what God is doing in me.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 Jn 2:15
Once again my eyes were of the things of this world. I had forgotten the sweet message and the love I had received a month ago. It had been snatched away by the cares of the world. Bummer, there's a parable about that! I had allowed my focus to slip back down to things that were temporary that – really, in the long run – didn't amount to anything. Who cares what others think of my writing? Who needs to see their name on the top best selling Christian books? (I do, right?) As Tom gently, with a ton of patience and care, unpacked my suitcase full of emotional junk, I began to see it.
When will I ever learn?
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Ro 12: 2.3
I was keeping my eyes firmly focused on the things of this world, not on Jesus. In the past I've stayed in that place for many dark and lonely days. I woke up this morning feeling slightly more lifted up. I know that in times past, I would have beaten myself up for not seeing the truth sooner. I would have imagined God's displeasure over my slip. I'm not going there. One thing is sure – God isn't disapproving of me.
He loves me, notwithstanding my many faults = Unconditional love.
Tom reminded me to be thankful. I found it hard. I picked little things that didn't matter.
But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
2 Thes 2:13
I'm thankful for the people who have read my books and who have seen beyond what is written on the page.
I'm thankful for the ability to do what I've come to love.
I'm thankful for the wonderful advise I've received, the opportunities that have opened up for me.
I. Am. Thankful.
My Lord doesn't look down upon me with a frown on His beautiful face. He may sigh, but then He'll rejoice with me as I figure it out. In the end, our relationship will be stronger than it was before and I will have learned another dimension of myself. I will have laid that on His broad shoulders.
I began to think about the apostles. Did they ever feel like they didn't measure up? Was Paul about to throw in the towel because the church at Corinth seemed to not get it? The men and women in the first century stood up to the outside pressure, ran a good race (yes, I borrowed that phrase from Paul) and made it to the finish. They didn't lose hope, and they never looked back. The drove forward to seek Christ in everything they did. It wasn't a walk in the park for them, but they did it.
In the past I would give up now. I'd chuck this whole writing, publishing thing because I'm not good enough, because I can't seem to get past this point of wanting that success (worldly success). But I have a feeling that God has something in store for me; something mind-blowing. He's already done something amazing, something spectacular.
He died for me. He loves me. HE believes in me.
I'm going to ride this wave to the end because I know it's worth it! My worth is not in books.
And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making
many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Have a blessed and wonderful day. Remember to be thankful and look up.
I'm sure we all have lost someone we love along the road. Some of you have had a terrible time for the past couple of years. If you're three years old, your parents shield you from having to face death. But once you grow up all bets are off. Death is part of life. We all respond differently to having come face to face. Recently we lost our dear dog, Chet. He was 12 years old when we put him to sleep. For Chet it was the most merciful thing we could do for him. He had suffered enough and was ready to be released.
There is no formula for expressing our grief and nobody has a right to think less about us if we don't shake it off right away. I found that Friday was the worst day for me. We brought him to the vet and had him put down in the morning, with my husband, the vet and her assistant and me petting him and telling him that he was a good dog. I'm reminded of another very unpleasant passing of another beloved pet, who was not ready to leave and fought till the end. I remember begging him to let go and to go on that we'd be okay. It was only then that he passed. It was both heart wrenching and terrible. None of that happened with Chet. He passed so peacefully that there was no doubt in anyone's mind that he had been more than ready. It was an act of mercy on our part to facilitate his passing and it was a privilege as dog owners.
The suffering came after but for the first time since we had to put down our dog Billy long, long ago, it didn't come with guilt. I expected to be full of regrets and anger and doubts that I had done the right thing. I wasn't. I knew. What helped a lot, and I didn't realize this until later, was that my amazing husband prayed for our loyal animal, thanking God for the life we had been entrusted with and thanking Him for the time we had. It was just me, Chet, and Tom, sitting in the car, dreading to go inside the vet's office to end a life. As I'm writing this, the tears start to flow again, but not out of guilt but out of remembrance and grief.
That afternoon I left my family, now that's something I feel guilty about, to go to a women's retreat. I just didn't have it in me to carry their sadness and to deal with their mourning. I was so tired – kind of like being in a fog – and so worn out that I didn't want to hear how they couldn't handle his passing. We had been preparing ourselves for this moment for a few weeks so it wasn't anything sudden. But I couldn't be there for anyone. I was struggling with my own sadness, my own feeling of unworthiness, my terrible fear of not measuring up, my knowledge that I wasn't where God wanted me. I had been struggling with these feelings, and more that are just too numerous to name, for a while.
And you might say, but Anne, you talk about conquering these things. Well, they tend to sneak back in when your eyes are turned away and your mind and heart is not connected to the One!
I found myself in that position. The last year had been a difficult one for me, personally. My wonderful husband has been ill and there was nothing I could do to help him with. It left me, since we already know it's all about me! feeling helpless and useless. I couldn't even cook for him! Ya know! And when I did cook for him it would often make him feel worse. Come on! I know my cooking isn't fist class, but still... Toward the end of the year there was a huge rush to get 2 books out in relative quick succession. Talk about mounting up stress onto my own shoulders! And there's always the question in my mind, why am I not on the New York best seller's list yet? If this is God's will, what's up, Doc? But the hardest thoughts and feelings facing me was that I wasn't where God wanted me. I had wandered off the reservation, so to speak, and was lost.
So I went to this retreat expecting to hear from my Lord and be rebuked in a huge, slap on the hand, go stand in the corner kind of way. I was sitting at the McDonalds in Brattleboro, VT, waiting for my friend to arrive so we could meet for dinner (not there, of course, but I needed to use the wifi) when I found out that my sister-in-law wasn't attending this year. Okay. My jaw kind of dropped and I remember thinking, I don't want to go! You see, the retreat is with her church in CT, and I have gone for 5 years but still... It's awkward. I may have friends among the women, but... give me a break. I can fake being outgoing and happy all day long, but knowing that she wouldn't have my back... It was an uncomfortable feeling. Plus I knew I'd need a shoulder to cry on because God was going to let me have it.
And I wasn't really looking forward to it. I needed compassion. A loving word. A pat on the shoulder.
I'm laughing because wouldn't you know... That's exactly what I received. I was restored to the Lord in a gentle, kind, loving, and grace filled manner only He could give. Me, being me, is still waiting for the other shoe to drop but in my heart I know that the Lord and I are square.
And here's the beauty. Not because of what I did! Oh sure, I tucked my tail between my legs and put on my smiley face and pretended to be happy. But all that kind of got stripped away as the weekend sped along. Our speaker was amazing and she was talking about... Refreshing the soul. Duh. I should have known it was something I needed to hear.
Now that the weekend is over, I still have that feeling of God meeting me right where I needed Him to be. One thing that really struck me was the face to face time with the Lord. If I don't have that, how can I not become tired and weary, unable to fight against the forces that pull on my spirit. How can I ever presume to walk this road alone?
Jesus never said it was going to be an easy road. He warned us of the pitfalls and the fight we would face. But the strength to face those things do not come from me. They can't because I'm not strong enough. I'm not good enough. I'm not smart enough, and I'm certainly not righteous enough.
And yet I am. Not on on my own, though. He's the one leading me through the pits and rocky paths. If I wander off the course, He stands behind me and guides me back. Not with a rough yanking of the arm and a severe scolding. Because He knows my nature to cower. If He came at me with that attitude, I'd be long gone. He knows me and He knows how to gently restore my soul and give me rest.
As I drove home I feared the attacks of the enemy to hit me as soon as possible. I expected them to slam right into me and force me back into that cowering position. They haven't come. I have the arms of my Father in heaven around me, protecting me. I expect that there will be some backlash but God will be there to pick me up if I fall and scrape my knees.
The picture that comes to mind is my husband helping our kids to master riding the bike. Our daughter was a very late bloomer with that because it required fine motor skills she hadn't mastered yet. At the age of nine, she finally was able to get on the bike and ride it without help. And when she did, she was unstoppable. One time, we were on vacation at the Cape, she had a huge, massive wipe out! I'm talking blood dripping down her knee, screaming bloody murder. We were about 3 miles from home, all of us on our bikes, with the baby of the family on his seat, and there was nothing we could do. She begged and pleaded for my husband to help her and to push her. He looked so confused and, knowing him, was torn up inside. But he couldn't just drop his bike to help her and to push her. After cleaning the gushing wound as much as he could, he gently prodded her to get back onto the bike and complete the journey to the hotel. Once there, we cleaned and bandaged the wound properly. What's the moral of this story?
Sometimes we may feel like we've been left alone, but God is right there beside us, guiding us home so He could bandage our wound and clean us up.
I like that a lot!
I don't do rules! It might be a shocker to some of you that the thought of following what someone has deemed as right or wrong makes my hackles stand up. I suppose that makes me a very bad candidate for Christianity, doesn't it?
I grew up in Germany, which is a beautiful country. I love my family there, my cousins, my aunts, my friends. I had a pretty good life, but I felt like I was in a pressure cooker all... the... time. Everything was very rigid. At least that's how it felt growing up. I'm sure other people don't have this experience, but it felt like that to me. I just felt so tense.
When we moved to Dubai I had my first taste of freedom. It was amazing! I had never in my life felt anything like it. Sure there were rules and some might call them more constricting than in Germany. But not to me. I had stepped into a place where I could start to become me. The tension I had felt growing up began to waver and slowly disappear. My life in Dubai can be described as a step into paradise. In more than one way. The weather wasn't too shabby either
Because of my time in Dubai, I was able to appreciate that burst of freedom I felt and I must have hung onto it. After my two years at boarding school in Austria, which was a time of gaining independence and finding out who I was, I went to England. And that was really where my life began after I met my husband. Anyone who knows him will confirm that he's one of those people that don't follow the rules too well either (now there's a shocker).
Since then I guess I've become even more adverse to following rules. When someone tells me that I can't do something, I usually end up doing it – just because I can. Me being told to do something turns me into a raccoon, backed into a corner. Can ya picture it? Not real pretty.
There was a period in my life when I tried to get it all right. We all know that we should follow the ten commandments, whether you're a Christian or not. It's 'written on our hearts'. So, let's start with the first commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Okay. We can do that! At that time I realized that my beloved horse, Thunder, had become an idol and I got rid of him (only to buy a new one right away, but that's a story for another day). I was honoring God, and He saw to it that Thunder went to a wonderful home. I did it because I had to! Can you feel the pressure mounting inside me?
Now let's move onto the the second one. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain... Ugh! Let's just say that this one was kind of easy to manage. Now before I turned to Jesus, I'm ashamed to say that my language was like that of a sailor. To my defense my father is a sea captain. So, I was well versed in all sorts of foul language (Sorry, Papi, but it's true). My oldest son learned a few choice words not from my gentle husband, who never ever uses a strong word, but from his mother! (He was four at the time) I'm not proud of this (although it's kind of humorous).
But I'm digressing. The swearing was easier to get rid of than I thought. I actually had learned a few things and knew that I couldn't do it on my own. I turned my potty mouth over to the Lord and He took care of it pretty much right away. I felt no pressure to keep it that way.
(Are we seeing a pattern emerging here?)
As I started to dig more into the Bible and church the pressure to conform, to do the right thing mounted. I started feeling like I was in a pressure cooker again. One day it all exploded. I had been at church and I was so agitated that I was talking to God (in my head), actually yelling at Him. I couldn't follow the rules! I had tried for years and all it got me was feeling constricted and feeling like I didn't measure up. At that point I told Him that if it was all about His (pardon me) stupid rules, He could just pack it in. We were done! I wasn't going to follow them anymore!
That was a huge turning point in my life!
A lot of people have the mistaken concept of Christianity. They believe that we are so stiff and unyielding (and we are) and that we HAVE to follow a set of ancient rules that they fail to see the beauty behind it all. There are a lot of religions out there. And they all kind of follow the same sort of pattern. If you're good enough... you can go to heaven. If you're good enough... you can be a great person and live in freedom. Do we see what's happening here? I hope so.
Once I calmed down from my ranting and raving (it took several days) I finally had this dribble of realization. It began as a trickle of truth, not at all rushing in. One day I was done with God, the next He revealed His glory and wonder to me. It's never about following rules. It's never about being good enough.
When I became aware of that, the pressure in my heart went away. I was able to breathe again. I came to realize that it's all about love. It's true!
You see, I love my family. My husband drives me crazy, but we're married for almost 30 years and I would marry him again in a heartbeat. I would do anything for my children. When they hurt, I hurt in probably more ways than possible. When they're doing well, I get to smile too. I cringe at their bad decisions and try to talk them out of making them. Last blog I spoke about God being the Father. See a connection here?
The rules are there as a training ground. They were never meant to confine us. They were meant to show us where we lack. We can't keep them. Christianity can be summed up in a few words.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son...
Nobody can replicate what Jesus did. It was an act of ultimate love. I'm selfish. I'll love but it's on my own terms. I love my husband, but I get companionship out of it. I love my children, hoping they would take care of me when I'm old (hahaha, Sean, Tasha,and Logan. Splitting up the year so you each have the pleasure of doing that.) You see?
Jesus knew it would cost him. He took my sin, which is nasty and dirty and smelly and just vile, and while he was agonizing on the cross, He became sin. Not because He had to – like I felt I had to uphold the rules. He did it because there was no other way and He accepted it. He LOVED me, you, my kids, my husband.
Now back to the rules!!
Once the love concept sank in, something changed. It was no longer about keeping the rules and letting them define me. I no longer had certain desires, like the swearing. As long as I allow myself not to focus on things of this world, keeping the laws became of no consequence. Because it wasn't about them.
It was about Jesus and His love. It was about allowing Him to rule in my heart, and not forcing it, not following others. It was about Him and me. Incidentally, isn't that what a relationship is all about.
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of
sin. Romans 7:23-25
Now, I still can't stand being forced into anything. It totally goes against my character! That raccoon thing is still inside me and it can come out if I'm put into a position where that happens. I'm usually a wreck after and during.
I won't follow the rules. I follow Jesus.
Thus you – hopefully – won't see my face on a Most Wanted poster any time soon. Christ is the one keeping me.
The Long Haul
Happy New Year
As I sit here trying to pour out wisdom I don't have onto the page, it strikes me odd that every year we fail. At the beginning of every year we make promises we don't keep, set goals that are unobtainable, make resolutions. I get so frustrated with myself when I do that, so I've chosen never to make a New Years resolution again. I guess I'm strange that way.
Just like it's very difficult for me to write a short story, or confine myself within the few lines of this blog, so I suppose I look at the long haul. Nobody knows the future (except God Himself)! Not even Christ knows when He will come back. For centuries we have speculated and theorized and caused mass panic with the idea the He's coming now. Make no mistake, we all will have to answer to Him eventually, and yes, He is coming back!
However, if our focus is on our failures, we're missing the beauty God has for us in the meantime. The long haul, so to speak. Yes, life can be cruel and hard, especially when you are going through a season of difficulties – something we all experience sooner or later. But I look out my windows and see the beautiful trees that look like they had been dipped in glass. I mean – WOW! Driving down to Connecticut for Christmas Eve with the extended family, it was absolutely gorgeous! My children drove down in the early morning and experienced a glorious sunrise.
Right now it's snowing. My fireplace downstairs is cranking out heat, and it's absolutely peaceful. Now and then I see the snow being blown off the roof and when that happens little wisps of white are carried through the air. It makes me giggle when I see it (yes, I'm strange). At other times,though not today, the whole shebang of snow slips off our metal roof with a loud boom, crashing down like an avalanche. The first time that happened, we were quite disturbed and every time it happens, the house shakes.
Am I just rambling? Possibly, but there's a point to this.
My point is to let you catch a glimpse of the beauty I see right now. When we take stock, even in the midst of our deepest sorrow, our hardest moment of doubt or fear, we get little glimpses of God. He sends us these little moments of encouragement. But we have to be open for them and acknowledge them as such. God wants us to take heart and hold on to Him through the hard times. It's not about practicing a religion - going to church on Sunday and then repeating what we've been doing. Our life should be about surrendering our hearts and minds to Christ. He's the vine and we're the branches. New Year resolutions are short term, usually, and there is such a great chance to fail. And then we give up. If you feel the twinge that you need to change, then fall to your knees and ASK for guidance and help!
Before I lose y'all in my rambling, the long haul is where God has us.
It's not about these short bursts. We are being sanctified. I love Oswald Chambers' 'My Utmost for His Highest'. He talks a lot about sanctification. We don't become a Christian one day and all our troubles and all our trials and our character flaws are wiped out. Some of us do experience a cleansing, a peace that doesn't come from us, when we come to Christ. But after a while, we are told to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. And with that, we enter back into reality and our existence becomes muddled again and mixed with all sorts of things.
The long haul.
We're in this journey called life for a reason. God didn't put us on the earth and told us, You've got it, my friend. Move along. You're all set. Here's a piece of paper that specifies that you're a Christian. When your life is over, hand it in. Good luck with life. How cruel would that be?
We have a God, who wants to be an active participant in our life, no matter how ugly and muddled we've become with the world. And sometimes that is a painful experience for us, because it requires Him to cleanse us (with supersoap, people. As the song declares). He's sanctifying us, setting us apart for His glory.
I have a father (you may now shout, Really?!?!?). I love my dad very much. Unfortunately, and I don't mean it in a negative way, he wasn't around for a lot of my life due to his career. I'm exceedingly happy for that job of his because I got to travel the world from the time I was a child. And I got to live in some pretty amazing places. On top of that, I met my exceedingly wonderful husband, something that wouldn't have happened if my father wasn't in the business he's in. He's done a great job being my dad, but he couldn't always be there for me all the time.
God, on the other hand, can and is. He's there with you when you're going through the highs of a mountaintop experience, such as getting married. The bride and groom at their wedding are totally oblivious of things going on around them during the ceremony. It's all good, no matter what. I'm talking of that kind of a feeling. Like when you're looking at the face of your first born child and notice that he's slightly blue. But it doesn't matter, because he's absolutely beautiful. God is with you.
He's there when you hold the hand of a loved one for the last time, watch them draw their last breath. He wants us to know that He doesn't leave us in the valley experiences. He's there when we don't know if we can put food on the table. Somehow, He even provides in that instance, be it through an anonymous person who feels the need to drop food off at your door, not even knowing you. I've seen that happen.
No matter where you are right now, know that the creator of the universe, the one who spoke life into existence with His Word, is with you. Let that marinate for an instant, please. Just sit there and let yourself experience it. You may never have allowed God to enter your life, you may feel that He can't possibly because of what you've done. Or you may feel that He's just too harsh. Let God speak to you right now and let Him love you. Remember that He's your Father! A father loves his child. My own earthly father loves me. But he won't let me make a mistake. He'll sit me down and speak to me, sometimes lovingly, sometimes harshly if I don't pay attention. And he'll watch over me always, no matter where I am.
God is that Father, only much more so.
As we go for the long haul of life, I pray that no matter where you are God will speak to you. Go for the long haul! It takes a lot of courage and strength to not let the valley moments keep you down. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to lift your head to cry out to God in those moments. And that is when the Father picks you up, whether you realize it or not.
Have a wonderful, happy New Year, filled with little moments of God.
As we enter the season of endless food and parties, presents and general merriness, I'm reminded that not everyone has a Norman Rockwell picture perfect family. I've written enough stories about people who have nothing to be thankful about.
Or so it would seem.
I find myself struggling with this thankfulness this season. Among others, I find myself bogged down with worry about my husband's health, struggling with finding contentment in what I've achieved this year, and worrying for the future. All the things I always struggle with are just piling up again. I know, I know. I should be past it. And I am. The struggles I face now are a fraction of what I would have say... a year ago.
When God heals a scar so deep, something beautiful happens. He doesn't magically wave a wand and it disappears. No, He also doesn't put a bandage on it, pat you on the head, and tells you to call Him in the morning. No. He does something much more beautiful. He sends you into situations you fear, and walks through your struggle with you. And you find that suddenly where things may have been so much more insurmountable, you can look at the situation and breathe. And then you may actually tell yourself that God is with you, and the situation is not really that grave. All of a sudden, the discontentment, fear, struggle aren't as insurmountable.
I find myself praying for those stuck in situations I've written about. Let's just think about that. I'm not sure those stuck in an abusive home find much to be thankful for, on the surface. For the couple separated by miles and miles, the holidays can bring only regret and loneliness. Trust me, I know. For those stuck in chains either of their own making or stuck in horrible circumstances, the holidays may just be a blur.
In most western countries, the success of the holiday is measured by how much stuff you amass. I know that if I don't get a present for Christmas, I feel slighted. But there is so much more to the holidays. If we could just find one thing we are thankful about, we might find our holiday going a little better.
There's a verse that always speaks to my heart.
Be careful for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Life is not about never having trouble, especially when you are a Christian. It's never about just skating by without being touched by the junk that goes on. It's about finding that thankfulness. Because the peace that follows doesn't come from us. It comes from a much more credible source.
So my prayer is not for everything to go perfectly this holiday (although that would be nice). My prayer for all of you, my friends and family, those who are reading my books, and those who just check in now and then, is that you will find something to be thankful about. And I pray that the peace of God, through Christ, will fill you to the overflowing.
Love and blessings to you.
I just had the privilege to travel with a team of very exceptional youths from our youth group to another church, where they ministered to the congregation. Their message was about brokenness. Even though it was the second time I heard that message, it struck me.
We are all broken in some way or another.
If we think about it, we all carry extra baggage around we really, truly don't need. Our brokenness comes from a refusal to let go, I think. Our brokenness is partly because we feel entitled to our pain, and believe me, I understand pain and I know how hard it is to look past the end of my own nose. We sometimes don't even know that we're holding on, but we do. Our fists are clenched and we have a death grip onto the hurt we carry around.
So we drown our sorrow, the difficulties of life that come our way no matter who you are. We bury ourselves in work, in drugs, in alcohol, in extramarital relationships. We numb our minds with hours of watching movies, playing games. We fill our lives with things to clutter it, to drown out that reality that we just can't deal with what is going on. We spend money, we fill our homes with useless things we don't need. Believe me, as someone who has lived in exceedingly primitive circumstances for the past 5 years (oh my goodness, has it been that long?!?!?!?), we don't need half the stuff we have in our lives.
Underneath it all, we are still busted!
No matter where you live, no matter what car you drive, your heart has a hole that won't be fixed by the next promotion. Nothing will cover your brokenness. It doesn't matter what good things you've done, although they certainly are worthy and good. But if you are honest with yourself, it's not enough. It's never, ever going to be enough.
Life, no matter what, is messy.
I was sitting outside last night, staring at the beautiful cerulean blue sky, angry at God. I just can't understand why? Why is life so painful, so difficult? I know the answers, I was just venting. It seems that every time we take a step forward, something happens and we get knocked back down! I had an exceptional week. Until...
We decided to take a detour after church with the youth to drive up Okemo. In the back of my mind, I kept on thinking, Okemo has not been very good to our cars in the past. But me being me I ignored the thought. Waiting for everyone to show up, I parked in the shade and turned off the car. And that was the end of it. It didn't turn over when we went to start it. Five guys (and I don't mean the restaurant) worked on it for about 45 minutes.
Nothing, nada, zip.
Okay, Okemo 2, Perreault cars 0. The score isn't very uplifting. My thoughts went to how we were going to get home. There were 3 of us and all the cars seemed pretty full. Just then, my daughter texted me that she was in town. We don't have cell reception at the house, so there was no way to get hold of her. Her day quickly changed when I outlined to her what she would be doing in the next forty minutes or so. Ahhh, I love family!
But I digress... Car: dead. I had it towed to the mechanics this morning.
That's a repair bill we hadn't expected.
Life is painful! We can camp out on that, or we can realize that there is so much more to this painful life than what we see. Our brokenness can only be fixed with one thing. A life surrendered to God.
Once we realize that our life is in someone else's hands, we can perhaps allow Him to fix that hole in our heart. Are we going to be exempt from the pain? HA! I wish. The pain is a reminder that we need to seek Him first, not things of this world. It is not easy, by all means, and it takes courage and humility. I've talked about humility before.
So, I can focus on how my car is busted and I now have to depend on my daughter to give me a ride everywhere. I can ignore the fact that God knew and provided for me. See, my daughter wasn't going to go into town. She was relaxing, taking it easy on her day off. But she felt the need to go in, thus enabling her to get an earlier text and allowing me to get hold of her. So, does that mean that it all worked out great? Well, I suppose. We made it home. But I'm learning, and relying so much more not on what I see, but what God is doing. God provided! He didn't take us out of this situation, He just provided a solution I didn't know I would need. Let's just face it. The more my focus is on myself, the less I see God.
Life is just a training ground. What lies beyond it is the real prize, and that can only be reached through the blood of Christ.
When I write, those are the things I focus on. Broken people with real problems. They have to work through the difficulties of life and either embrace the choice of following and surrendering to God, or continuing in the path of their own choosing. It is a choice, the most important one they have to make.
All around us we are inundated with people in pain, loosing everything they own, a hurting loved one, losing someone close to us. The news is full of stories of pain and despair. I don't watch the news. My life is complicated enough that I can't focus on what is going on around the world. It might be a bit small minded, but I can barely make it through one day. Focusing on whether America is going down the toilet – well, when it does, I'll still have to live. All these things just add to our brokenness and makes us focus on the negative, on the now. News doesn't sell if it's not sensational.
We forget that in our brokenness, there is a healer. Little by little I feel the parts of me that have been broken for my entire life become lined up and mended. If we just look at the shattered pieces of our lives, we can't see the beauty of our life. We can't see beyond this existence.
I want to encourage you to look beyond. Open up your hands and allow the Healer to make you into the masterpiece He already sees you as.
Image found on google
Whose Favor do I seek?
There's a song I really love by Daddy Weave, called The only name. The problem is that really, whose name do I seek? Secretly, I love being in the limelight. It's a bit uncomfortable at first, but then – oh, it is sweet. Having people acknowledge you and look up to you is very heady.
I was just doing a check on myself because I realize that there is still a part of me that I haven't allowed God to touch and heal. My husband and I were discussing it the other day and I got so frustrated. I really want to be whole, and I know that it's a promise. Last night at youth group, the young speaker reminded me that I am whole.
The beauty is that there was nothing I did to erase my past. I didn't have to make an arduous trip to some hard to reach temple in the mountains, I didn't have to kiss a huge stone from outer space (disgusting, by the way but whatever), I didn't have to spend years in silence or in seclusion to achieve this freedom. It's there, no matter what. It's not that I was good enough to begin with. Let me tell you about whom I looked for.
When I was a child I remember my mother taking me to school with her and on class trips. I remember being the center of attention. I was the oldest grandchild/child in my family (by the way, I still am) and thus I was adored by all around me. When I got older, getting that attention became more and more difficult. It wasn't that I wasn't loved by my family. I know I was. I still wanted that undivided attention from everyone.
I joined a dance group when I was about ten or so (I can't remember exactly how old I was but I bet my mother does). We performed in front of sometimes large crowds. And yes, it was scary, but when that applause comes – wow! what a rush. I wanted people to notice me, and yet I didn't. Eventually, I actually did things so people wouldn't notice me. I withdrew into myself a lot, all the while craving attention. Isn't it just weird of the things we do?
When I moved to Dubai and started skating, I remember feeling the rush on Friday nights when I'd step onto the ice, knowing I'd have an audience (small, but it was there) when I did my simple jumps and spins. Knowing that there was someone out there, watching what I did, was exhilarating. Even being an instructor satisfied that need to be the center of attention even if I didn't realize it.
And here I am again.
Writing books is somehow something that draws people's attention. I didn't go seeking this path, just like the past. I just ended up on it. So, what am I to do, since I now realize that I like that attention from others? I remember sitting down at a restaurant with my hubby, just relaxing and talking, when this guy walked up to me. He goes, “You're that author, Anne Perreault.” At first I was quite – well, how shall I put it – beyond shocked that he should know my name. But then I remember meeting him before. He knew my oldest son, and we had chatted before. But he addressed me as author. It was the first time anyone had ever done that. After I had recovered from my shock, I settled back feeling that rush of satisfaction. I wasn't just a nameless person on the street anymore.
I was someone.
As I'm writing this I'm coming to realize that I don't need to crave attention from people. What fills my heart this Sunday morning, as I listen to my worship music and allow it to fill my spirit, is that I have the attention of the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings. I have a Father in heaven, who is infallible (sorry, Papi, but you ain't), who loves me so completely that He died for me. Really, people, let that sink in. But the most wonderful thing is that He rose. He conquered death, sin, separation from God. And He's made that possible for me.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
(2 Cor 5:17)
Not because I'm in the limelight. Not because I'm just so good and have done wonderful things. No. He's done it because. That's it.
That's, like, outstanding. The thing is that I need to stay connected with Christ. I don't need to seek people. If I seek the Kingdom of God, He'll provide for me. He'll be enough for me. Does that seem like an easy thing to do? In a way it is. It's simple, yet requires a huge amount of determination and strength. This goes beyond my determination or my strength to be humble. I need to draw on Christ in every circumstance.
And as always, Christ directs my writing to what I'm dealing with. I just finished a story about being renewed and I used that very verse above. He's so amazing, isn't He? The thing is, if we allow Him to touch our lives, we are truly new. We are made into the image of God, people. If we realize that, nothing can stop us to do the right thing. And I don't mean the moral thing, although the line is very fine between the moral and the right thing. When we are humble and surrendered before God, we may do some really crazy things.
So now I'm rambling... Sorry.
Whose attention/approval do I seek? It would be so easy to say God's, but there's still a part of me that wants to be noticed, to be told that I'm a great friend, or that I touched them with what I wrote. Even someone telling me that my kids are amazing, is so satisfying. I have to remember that my Lord is the one watching me, no matter what. He's the one, who loves me perfectly, whose attention I crave. I have to remember to live humbly, and let's not confuse that with the worldly meaning of humble.
I am whole. I am in God's limelight. That's pretty amazing and it's all I need. Because the rest is just fluff.
I apologize for sending out another blog so quickly. And perhaps I shouldn't share... After all, I don't want every person I know to see the struggles I go through. I am, after all, supposed to be a very mature Christian, one who never ever makes a mistake, someone who has all the answers. If people know that I don't, that I have to search for answers, and struggle to understand – pray and cry... Well, that shatters the illusion, doesn't it?
And yet, God told me whatever is in my head can't stay there – it needs to go out. Gulp.
That is almost brutal, cruel!
Another Saturday has come and gone. Another day of talking and meeting wonderful people and going home feeling less than. Deep down I know my focus is wrong. Deep down I struggle with finding the perspective God wants me to have, seeing things through His eyes. I can lower my expectations, yes. For a moment that works for me, but it's just not a good fit.
Last weekend I really liked where I was at. My expectations couldn't have been lower. I went home feeling quite happy. And I knew I didn't have the answer. Something bugged me like crazy, and I tried to work through it, put it into words, share it with you. It just seemed so... shallow. I still believe that I don't have a right to expect. But here's the rub. I do. Not in the way I think.
I want to share this while it's still very fresh in my mind, while I'm still very much filled with awe.
So here it goes (I hope).
I went to set up my tent this morning only to find out that it was broken. A support had snapped last weekend when the whole thing was picked up by one of those huge gusts of wind that plagues us every Saturday from around 12:00 onward. It twisted the tent and at the time I didn't see anything broken on it. We had a lot of trouble taking it down, though. This morning I discovered why. As I said, it is broken. It works for now, but I probably need to fix it (by that I mean my wonderful and genius husband needs to fix it while I stand there encouraging him. At least that's my plan. I know it's diabolical).
I enjoyed myself today and, as I said, met some wonderful people. Talked to them, laughed. Sweated bullets, even though I wore a summer dress. You get the picture. I focused on keeping myself open, happy, no emotions involved. It worked fine until I got home. No, I wasn't grumpy, nor was I upset. I was thoughtful. And confused. A wonderful friend of mine told me once that confusion is not from the Lord. I agree.
I struggled with my perplexity all afternoon, until I had had it. I just couldn't pretend that I was not bothered, and that things didn't impact me. It just weighed upon me like a stone. So, I started talking to my wise and wonderful husband and youngest SOM (Son of mine, for those who don't know the abbreviation. You will see it often. There may even be a quiz at some point). As I was talking I just felt sad. For myself, of course.
My husband, Godly man that he is, didn't try to fix me for once. Instead, he told me to go directly to the source. God Himself. He asked me pointed questions about whether I had prayed about specific things, such as... should I really be promoting my books at market places. Of course, little me got a tad bit defensive, but over all I think I handled it very well. He also said a very important thing, one I didn't like at all.
What if all God wants me to do is sit, wait, and (dare I say it) be still?
Ugh! I wasn't all that gracious about that one. After all, I have a purpose. And he reminded me of my purpose. Again, that attitude wasn't all that great. It certainly bothered me to pieces. Because it wasn't what I envisioned.
I need to put God first in my life. Okay, I think I do that.
Then my family.
Well, excuse me! How much more do I need to spend on my family? When is it time for me?(My hands are on my hips and I have darts shooting out of my eyes at this point.)
Mmm. We see the perspective problem, yes?
Then Tom just pulled the plug on my pride by asking me what I'd do, if God told me to stop. This wasn't the first time I've been asking myself. And it probably won't be the last. I remembered when God told me to sell my beloved horse. And then my second horse. It was like ripping my heart out. I honestly don't know if I could do it again.
After a few moments or so I calmed down and began to do what I should always do. Turn toward God. I didn't expect an answer to come so swiftly or completely. And I also didn't expect it to fill me with strength I had never felt. It was certainly not as I expected (hehe, funny isn't it?). I had fully predicted for Tom to be right. That this was the moment when I was done. That I would have to give up writing, promoting, sharing. The thought bothered me for a split second, then I knew I'd be okay. I would find the strength to do it somehow.
But that wasn't what I got. The answer I received so quickly as soon as I turned to God, was an impression. It was that of my tent hanging upside down, all twisted up. And it was this thought that popped into my head.
My child, this was not from Me! This was not something I did to gain your attention. It was meant to discourage and derail you.
The thought came swiftly and my mind was flooded with all sorts of memories and emotions.
The first one was of me driving down the main street in Springfield and asking God to give me His eyes to see the people with His perspective. Not because I'm all that. But because He loves them so. And then there was my tent again, this time with the impression of the depravity that is all around us. Spiritually, morally, physically. The tent was all twisted, flapping around in the wind like so many people. And, sadly, that includes many of us Christians.
But then that little voice went on to whisper something into my heart. I have His eyes. I see people the way He wants me to see them and He wants me to speak. He wants His church to be visible. Most people wouldn't set foot into a church building. And He's put me right into the middle of a place where the name of Christ is greatly scorned. I'm supposed to be His hands (not my own), His voice (not my own), His mind (not mine).
It is never about me!
It is always about Christ our Lord, our Savior, our King, and the Father. When it becomes about me, myself, and I – about how I can reach the people, my perspective and my expectations are on me. No matter how hard I try to rationalize things. When I can't see His love for those around me, I have become just another author peddling my ware. There are a ton of people out there doing that.
It's never about me!
Phew. Lesson learned? I kind of hope so. Now, how to put it into practice? First step: prayer. And then...
Be still and know I am God.
I'm set apart to do His bidding. He brought me up here for a purpose. Part of it was for my oldest SOM (who now lives very comfortably in a lovely climate of between 50 and 80 degrees all year long), for my DOM (daughter of mine) and for my youngest. I've also been put into the Farmers Market to do His bidding.
I AM His voice. I AM His hands. I HAVE His mind.
Image by ConnectionPoint Church
It seems that I still haven't learned what God wants me to learn. Huff. Sigh.
Here we go again!
We all have expectations, don't we? I know I certainly do! My goodness, if you knew what I expected, you'd shake your head. I mean, I shudder at my own expectations. But remember? I'm a closet perfectionist. The reason I call myself a closet perfectionist is because all my good intentions never come out the way I expect them to. Gee (am I dating myself now with that word?).
As a closet perfectionist these last couple of months have been really difficult. Need I tell you that things haven't gone as I expected? Not even in my family life. As a mother and a wife I want everyone to be healthy and happy. When one person experiences health issues, I get a little worried and all out of sorts. My husband has always had a finicky stomach. Recently, he's suffered even more with terrible stomach cramps and lethargy. In the end, we've come up that he has a gluten allergy. Before we came to this conclusion, which is easily treated in this day and age, I pictured him with all sorts of diseases and it scared the living daylight out of me. After all, I kind of like having him around and my plan is for him to get to a crispy old age. But we never know what God has in store for us. Thus... I worried (a whole lot!!!).
I eventually had enough of the worry because it was driving me crazy. My thought finally went to lowering my expectations. Now, usually that has a negative feel to it. But then again, do I have a right to expect anything? Hmmm. Let's just examine this for a moment. Really, in the grand scheme of things, I don't. God supplies everything. And by that I mean... everything. He supplies my daily needs. Everything I have is His anyway. He gives me above and beyond what I deserve.
Ohhh, that word. I deserve something.
I deserve being separated eternally – which is a really, really long time – from Him, but Christ kind of took that away and gave me a vacation at Club Med instead.
He saw it fit to give me beyond what I need. All I have to do is to step out of His way.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock,
and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh
findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he
give him a stone?
Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your
children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give
good things to them that ask him? (Mt 7:7-11)
So really, if my expectations aren't centered on what I'll get out of the deal, but waiting expectantly on what He will supply, what will that do to me? Will I just become a doormat without any goals? Nope! I have put this principal into practice this last week. So far it's been excruciatingly difficult.
It's not that I have nothing to look forward to. It's just that I don't expect to be served. Does that make sense? It kind of made sense in my head as I thought about this over and over again. When I come home from a Market day in Springfield without having sold a book, will everyone in my family know it? Or do I walk around with my head held high, knowing that my Lord supplied everything I needed that day?
As I said, I've been trying this principle out this week. I have to tell you, it's kind of nice. I no longer feel so bound up in what I'm doing! I can relax, enjoy myself. I just have to determine to remember how the pressure is off me. It's not even on God, either, because He's God. He'll do what is good and right and perfect for me.
My attitude is a lot better, by the way. I had a wonderful day on Saturday. I talked to some nice people. I didn't expect anything. When I came home, everyone was sort of walking on egg shells. I could tell, because lately, Saturdays make me quite depressed. I exhaled, cracked a joke and enjoyed my family, independently from whether or not I sold a book. My daughter even commented on my good mood.
Yeah! I like that!!!! My expectations are... whatever God as in store for me.
If you came up to me and asked what I do, I'd have to tell you that I'm a wife, mother and teacher. A writer? you ask. Wow. Now that is something I never thought I'd be. But through God, all things are possible.