When God Gives You a Miracle

Even if God has given me a miracle only for today, it is a miracle nonetheless.

Image Credit: Godaya Komen

I’ve always struggled with faith.

Not my belief in God (though sometimes, I have).

But my belief in what God can do.

And more specifically, what God can do in and through me.

I’m a pragmatist, even as emotional as I can be. I’m rational. I’m realistic.

In regard to healing, I’ve seen God heal others of much, and me of much.

I’ve also seen Him not heal, at least in the way people prayed. (True, they were “healed the other side of heaven,” but sometimes things just don’t make sense on this side.)

For twenty years, I’ve battled a painful fight with endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. It sounds weird, but essentially once a month, this tissue causes much inflammation, lesions, bleeding, and curl-up-in-a-ball-and-cry kinds of pain. It affects fertility and when it’s happening, I’m essentially useless for two or three days. It hurts to walk. To eat. To watch TV.

I’ve had surgery to have it removed, but as long as there are hormones in my body, it will always come back. The only true “cure” is a radical hysterectomy, removing all reproductive parts, and staying off estrogen therapy, which causes early, surgical menopause – a much faster, more intense process than the normal “change of life.”

It would also mean ending any chance Tim and I have of biologically conceiving our own baby, without going to extreme measures.

Sunday night and into Monday, it felt like a fire was ripping through my abdomen, down my legs, up to my shoulders, into my knees. Tim and I were supposed to go to a movie premiere for a movie about healing, Holy Ghost Reborn​, but thought it would be best if I stayed home instead and he went.

I started looking for an OBGYN in Iowa to discuss options, including a radical hysterectomy. I fell asleep. I woke up and asked Tim if they had started praying after the movie yet, and if not, if he could go up there to pray with someone about this.

As my text made it through to him, he was already on his way for prayer.

A woman named Anne (yep), met him in the front and asked what she could pray for. He explained our situation.

The other Anne also suffered from endometriosis.

The other Anne said my faith has made me well (important to note: this was also the passage we studied at church on Sunday, which I shouldn’t have heard because I was supposed to work in the nursery, but someone else really wanted to work in there instead, so I was able to be in the service).

The other Anne said we’d have many kids (I’m hoping not any more fur babies; two dogs are enough, thanks).

And when I received the texts from Tim telling me this, I began weeping in bed, still grieving the miscarriages from this year, afraid that it could be true, that I could be healed, afraid that it wasn’t true, that I could not be healed.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 11.48.17 AM

Because God doesn’t always heal people like we think.

Tim got home, told me to put my jeans back on and believe the T-shirt I was wearing. “What t-shirt?” I had dressed for bed in the dark. I looked down and was wearing the “Jesus Loves You” t-shirt Tim’s friend made. We were going to go back to the movie theatre and get more prayer.

A few minutes later, we pulled in.

Nobody was there.

My Doubting Thomas said, “See? see? This healing isn’t for you!”

Tim calls our pastor, Dan.

“Can you guys pray over Anne?”

Ten minutes later, late at night, we arrived at Dan’s house. I waddled in, hunched over in pain, still crying, still confused, still angry, still grieving, and still hopeful. I was honest. I said I don’t believe God always heals, so I should have no right to expect it. I don’t want to get my hopes up and be let down. My faith is already so small.

Dan and his wife Sarah prayed over us. My body felt numb and I didn’t know why. Pain meds? All the crying and emotions and it was late? An hour later we walked out, exhausted. I went straight to bed when we got home, my eyes swollen and painful from crying.

I slept through the night, only rising when a dog kicked me in the ribs. My eyes were still sore, but I wandered into the kitchen for some water. Looking out the window, over the bluffs and allowing my eyes adjust to the new light of day, I realized something.

I felt…different.

I wasn’t in pain.

If you know anything about endometriosis, the pain doesn’t just suddenly stop, especially in the middle of an episode. It may lessen or come and go, but it doesn’t stop.

But more than the lack of pain, something in my heart–that hole that was left by knowing how broken my insides are–the grief that has been weighing on me for most of this year…it was gone.

It was removed.

I tiptoed around the apartment getting ready to run to the grocery store, afraid if I made too much noise, somehow the pain, both the physical and emotional pain, would wake up and come back.

But it didn’t.

I told friends who were praying for me, fighting for me, waging war in the heavens for me, what happened. I confessed to Sarah my fear that it was surreal, and reality would set in soon. She wrote back:

“There was an old African village lady God healed in the movie, a witch doctor, but she did not smile. The guy explained that the older generation always had a saying…’don’t smile today because tomorrow you will cry.’

The pastor that healed her (who had a crazy story) said, ‘I smile today because I don’t care about tomorrow!’ Meaning he was thankful for the miracles today held, and he fully trusted God for whatever tomorrow held. Eventually they got this old lady who had been healed to smile and even dance. It was precious. Enjoy your miracle today!”

Do I know what will happen tomorrow? At this time next month? In a year? Will I have a baby, or a radical hysterectomy? Will I be sidelined with pain or dancing in new healing?

I don’t.

But as my friend Sarah says, I will enjoy my miracle today.

After I returned from the grocery store, Tim asked how I felt. Being a non-verbal processor, I wasn’t quite sure how to put into words what happened. Honestly? A part of me was afraid to say, “I think I’m healed.” But the words slowly made it out of my mouth.

He sat in the orange chair across from the sectional, ADD getting the best of him, and while celebrating with me, noticed a weird reflection on our ceiling.

“What’s that reflection coming from?” I looked up and saw some red.

“Oh, it’s probably that red bottle on the window sill.”

He moved it, the reflection didn’t change.

“Are you kidding me? Look how big it is!” A full array of colors, a rainbow, displayed over me on the ceiling. Tim looked out the window and noticed the sunrise was shining on a No Parking sign down on the street, five floors down.

The sign was reflecting that rainbow all the way into our apartment window, directly over me, at that very moment.

“It’s God’s promise to you.” Tim said.

This does not feel normal to me. It does not feel comfortable. The devil and the angel on my shoulders are still playing a game of tug-of-war. But I have been surrounded by prayer, covered in promises, and so I will walk in faith. I will take up my mat and tell, I will sing, I will dance, and I will smile about what God has done.

Even if God has given me a miracle only for today, it is a miracle nonetheless.

And to Him be the glory for the things He has done.

To All The Mothers Who Will Never Hold Their Babies on Mother’s Day

mothers-day-for-childless-anne-marie-miller

mothers-day-for-childless-anne-marie-miller

It’s really quite odd and blessed, the duality of joy and grief.

A few weeks ago, Tim and I experienced a new type of happiness for us…a new kind of joy. I woke up early on a Wednesday morning with the strong urge to take a pregnancy test, even though I wasn’t late for my cycle.

Five pregnancy tests later (I may be a little compulsive), we learned we were going to be parents.

Everything seemed complete and right. We fell in love with the poppy-seed-sized clump of baby whose DNA was being written with each passing day. We celebrated with our friends, our family, our students.

We met with our fertility doctor and some test results came back uncertain, but not concerning. I needed to start incorporating hormone therapy and that would increase my progesterone, giving the poppy seed a nice home in which to start growing. Within a few days, those levels went up to exactly what they needed to be. My HCG, however, wasn’t climbing as quickly as it should. We were told to watch for pain or symptoms that would indicate we needed to pay closer attention during these very sensitive first months.

The following Friday night around midnight, I awoke to pain. The pain that says, “Something isn’t right.” Being a classic hypochondriac (and at this moment, by the grace of God, a fairly reasonable one), I forced myself back to sleep telling myself, “It’s probably indigestion. Don’t worry. If you still feel this way in the morning, you can always get it checked out then.” I fell back asleep.

Saturday morning, the pain was worse. Tim said we needed to go to the hospital, and at this point, I knew something was wrong. However, I procrastinated. I told him, “The longer I just lie here in bed, everything is normal. The moment we get to the hospital, it could all be over.”

I wasn’t willing to accept this.

We arrived to the emergency room and said exactly what our fertility doctor said to say. A few blood tests later and the ER doctor walks in, sits down next to me, holds my hand and says, “At this point, it’s clear you have an ectopic pregnancy and you’re starting to miscarry. I’m sorry.”

He left, and Tim came over and reached around the bed rail, holding me. We both wept at the life inside me that was on its way to being born inside of heaven. We would not get to hold this baby in our arms or put this child to sleep in his or her crib. There would be no diaper blow outs, no baby showers, no ringing in the new year as a family of three.

The faith that came so easily was hard to grasp hold of as it floated away with our dream.

We went home, exhausted, making tearful calls to family and a few friends as we were unsure of the next steps. Hours later, our fertility doctor calls and says we need to meet her at the hospital at 7 pm. She needed to remove my left fallopian tube and the 200ccs of blood that drained into my abdomen from my tube’s slow rupture.

Returning to the emergency room, we saw familiar faces dressed in blue scrubs from that morning, each knowing what happened. With hugs and condolences from strangers, I was given some pain medication and wheeled back to the surgical holding area. Nobody else was having surgery Saturday night (they were probably eating and drinking and being merry), so it was only a matter of minutes before the anesthesiologists and nurses prepared me for my second reproductive surgery in the last year.

I drifted off into an hour-long sleep, waking up to kind words from a smiling nurse. Tim came in shortly after speaking to our doctor, confirming everything she suspected: the baby implanted in my left fallopian tube, caused it to start rupturing, and our doctor was able to safely remove my tube, and the blood, and I would be fine.

But define the word, “fine”… would you?

I stayed in the hospital overnight with Tim next to me. A first-rate medical team insured I was physically comfortable, and messages from friends and family helped ease the emotional pain.

In some drug-induced blur, I recalled how strange it was that I even took a pregnancy test that Wednesday morning. I had no reason to. I wasn’t late and I didn’t feel “pregnant” (whatever that means). However, if I wouldn’t have taken those tests and seen our fertility doctor, I likely would have written off the cramps I felt as normal cramps and the bleeding I had as a normal cycle.

I didn’t realize the severity of my symptoms and likely wouldn’t have until I lost so much blood I passed out. But because of that urge to take that first pregnancy test and the relationship we established with our fertility doctor, I was safe and healthy.

Even though our baby passed away and woke up on the other side of eternity, that doesn’t change the fact that Tim and I are still parents. Before the world was made, God knew this baby would exist. Somehow everything worked together perfectly and this baby formed.

We were able to be a mom and a dad to this little human for only a few weeks, and life is life, even when it finds itself removed from this earth.

The peace that wrapped us up before we knew anything was wrong still holds us, in spite of the grief we feel from the loss. Knowing that God knew this child since the beginning of time and knows each of us and has gone before us and sees the plan He has created for us gives us great cause to rejoice as we mourn.

It’s natural to feel as if two seemingly opposing forces can’t co-exist, like joyfulness and grief. But because they can, and they do, we know it is only because of His grace that miracles like this happen and we experience both joy and grief in their entirety, in chorus.

I never realized the tension of Mother’s Day when you’ve lost a child; I always heard it, but I didn’t understand. Now, in a poppy-seed-sized way, I do. So, if you are missing your own child, regardless of how or when he or she departed, know you are not alone, and I wish you the most honest of Mother’s Days. Nothing will ever change the fact that you are a mother.

Dear Sexual Abuse Survivor

marydemuth-headshot-squareToday, I am so thrilled to share a guest post from my friend Mary DeMuth. Mary and I met when I worked at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas. People knew I was writing and thought it’d be cool for me to meet a real author, so Mary came in and we chatted. She sent me a copy of her book and told me one day, maybe I’d have my book contract. Two years later, I did.

Beyond writing, Mary and I share a common thread that’s a little more faded, a little thinner. We were both sexually abused. Though our stories differ, our hearts beat the same for helping others know there is hope beyond abuse. We have survived, and you can too.

Here’s a letter from her to you. Or maybe to someone you know.

Love, Anne

(Get Mary’s Book Not Marked as an eBook here and a paperback here.).

***

Dear Sexual Abuse Survivor,

I don’t really like the word victim. Even survivor has a strange connotation. And I’m not too keen on victor. None of those words encapsulate what happened to you, the devastation sexual abuse enacted on your heart. But we’re strangled by language sometimes–even writers can’t adequately express horror.

I much like the word BRAVE. Because it’s so darn brave to walk away from something like that. It’s brave to forgive. Brave to live your life in the wake of sexual trauma. Brave to hold your head high.

First let me say I am sorry. I’m so terribly sad that sexual abuse is part of your story. It’s not right. Someone chose to take something from you–your volition and your body. That person (or people) violated you. They used their power and bully persuasion to overwhelm you with their sinful desires. And now you’re the one left feeling dirty and used–while so many perpetrators walk this earth free. 

It’s not fair.

Some of you feel shame and guilt in gigantic measure, heaped upon you. Some of you feel that you invited the abuse. The way you dressed. The hole in your heart that longed for attention. The equating of sex with love and affection. You feel you wooed the perpetrator somehow. Let me say this: A person who adores and loves you would NEVER EVER violate you. Never. Instead of violation, they would protect. They would pray for you. They would honor your boundaries.

Someone’s selfish gratification is not your fault. Don’t own that. Dare to believe your worth, and allow yourself the feel the grace that God grants you. Forgive yourself. Let yourself off the hook. You were abused. You didn’t want it. Someone took from you–like a thief. They may have used slick words, threatened you, persuaded you that you wanted it, but it’s not true. Thieves are often liars.

In sexual abuse’s aftermath, you’ve possibly thought of suicide. You’ve cut your skin until the blood came. You over-ate. You spent years hard as rock, bitter as horseradish, always vigilant–ready to fight. You’ve protected your heart with ironclad resolve. No one will EVER hurt you that way again. Not on your watch.

All these coping strategies had good purpose a long time ago. They protected you. But now they’re strangling the life out of you. I only say that because I’ve walked the path of isolation and withdrawal. Actually, I spent about a decade of my life keeping the sexual abuse secret. And once I let the secret out, I decided I’d been healed, so I tucked it back away for another decade and lived inside myself–not daring to deeply engage my heart.

An untold story never heals, friend. Isolation only masks the problem.

That’s not living. It’s existing. It’s pushing stuff down that you hope stays submerged forever.

Unfortunately, our stories have a way of coming out–almost always in our actions. We end up hurting those we love. Some people become perpetrators because they never deal with getting better.

I know there are questions. I have them too. 

  • Why did God allow this to happen?
  • Why didn’t He step in and rescue?
  • Why do I have to suffer seemingly forever for something someone else did to me?
  • Why can’t I ever feel normal?
  • Will I ever be able to enjoy sex?
  • Why does my spouse have to suffer for something someone else did to me?
  • What’s wrong with me that I kept being violated?
  • Was I put on this earth to be stolen from?
  • Why am I here?
  • What was it about me that perpetrators found irresistible?
  • Why do other people keep telling me it was a long time ago and I should be over this?

I want to assure you that these questions are entirely, utterly normal. And you should ask them. You should wrestle with them. Some of them will not be answered this side of eternity.

When I feel overwhelmed by the whys and the whats, I stop a moment and consider Jesus. This may not resonate with you because you might be mad at Him. That’s okay. I hear you. But there is comfort in knowing Jesus understands.

He took on the sins of everyone, including sexual sin, upon His holy, undeserving shoulders. He suffered for everyone’s wicked crookedness. And when He hung on a cross, He did so naked. Exposed. Shamed. Humiliated. Bleeding.

NOT MARKED - FOR AMAZON 3DThat’s why, when I write about sexual abuse recovery, I have to involve Jesus. He has been the single best healer in my journey. He understands. He comes alongside. He “gets” violation.

Sexual abuse is devastating. It pulls the rug out from under your worth. It keeps you scared. It infiltrates nearly every area of your life, consciously and subconsciously.

But I am here to let you know there is hope. Though the healing journey is long, it is possible. When I tell my story now, it feels like I’m sharing about another person’s sexual abuse. I’ve experienced profound healing. It didn’t happen passively or quickly. I had to WANT it, pursue it. I had to stop shoving it down and bringing my story into the light–with praying friends, with counselors, with my husband.

Today I enjoy sex. I can share my story without getting that vomit-y feeling in my stomach. The flashbacks are less and less. I still have moments, of course. But I am so much farther along than I had been.

I want to end this letter with this truth: You are amazing. You survived something traumatic and horrific. You are reading this letter blessedly alive, connected to others. Your story absolutely matters. Don’t let the trauma steal your story of hope today.

Joyfully free,

Mary

***

I’m humbled and grateful to be here today. A huge thank you to Anne for allowing me to share my heart. A little background. I’ve shared my sexual abuse story in the last few years, but I haven’t always been so open. Initially I kept it silent for a decade, then over-shared, then went silent another decade. The healing journey hasn’t been easy, but it has been good.

About a year ago, I sensed God wanted me to be bold in sharing about sexual abuse. I wrote “The Sexy Wife I Cannot Be” on Deeper Story, which went crazy (so many comments), followed by “I’m Sick of Hearing About Your Smoking Hot Wife” on Christianity Today. The overwhelming response to those two posts prompted me to write Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing after Sexual Abuse.

The book proved too risky for publishers, so I decided to crowdfund it, which turned out to be an amazing success. I cannot believe that now I can hold Not Marked in my hands, and also offer it to you. What’s unique about it: It’s written from the perspective of a survivor. It doesn’t offer cliche answers. It’s honest. And my husband shared his unique journey of how to walk a loved one through their sexual abuse.

 

Beating Burnout Interview with Dr. Thom Rainer #5: Preventing Burnout

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little video series with Dr. Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway. This is our fifth and final interview (and keep in mind, there was only supposed to be one video that emerged from our conference room chat…his insight is just so good and his heart is full of compassion, I’m so pleased we got five!)

In this one, we discuss the root of burnout and how to prevent it spiritually, emotionally and physically.

If you’ve missed any of the previous videos (which range from 3-6 minutes long), you can watch them:

1) Beginnings of Burnout

2) The Roles of Millennials and Mentoring in Stopping Burnout

3) When Do You Quit?

4) Symptoms of Burnout

5) Preventing Burnout

This is also the last week you can get Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health on Amazon for 2.99 WITH a free audio book (after you email your receipt to me). You can also preorder the paperback over here! (If Amazon takes care of business, they’ll go out  next week!)

***

Praying you guys have a healthy weekend,

Anne

For When You Feel Overwhelmed and For When You Feel Small

First let me begin by saying, wow, you guys. The flu is a terrible, terrible thing.

I thought I caught the flu the day after New Years. I was sick a few days, then I was okay for a couple.

Then sick a few more days, and fine for the next four.

Last Sunday night, my body hurt so terribly and I felt just so awful, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I set up a doctor’s appointment. I was running a low fever and my flu test was negative. My doctor said I had pneumonia. My chest rattled when I breathed and I couldn’t stop coughing. Antibiotics, make-me-loopy cough syrup, good to go.

I woke up Tuesday afternoon and could not stop shaking. Not shivering. Shaking. I took my temperature. 101. 30 minutes later, I felt even worse. I took my temperature again. 103.3. I was on Advil and my temperature was still 103.3? A phone call later, I was on my way to the ER where I learned I didn’t have pneumonia, but I did have the flu.

This is really me at the ER. Super awesome mask!

This is really me at the ER. Super awesome mask!

I don’t remember much of last week, but I think I’m on the mend.

I’ve never had the flu before (and I will be getting flu shots from now on) so I had no idea something could make me stay still the way it did. I didn’t touch my computer all week. All I could do was think.

Thinking for a week is not necessarily a good thing for me. I tend to get wrapped up in layers of self-doubt, self-pity, and even some bitterness and jealousy. Even if I try to refocus my thoughts on what’s good, my tendency to reflect in everything I’ve done wrong or that I’m not doing as well as I’d like takes over.

I was tired enough because of the flu, and with my mental defenses destroyed, I found myself in a big puddle of giving up.

I wanted to give up.

No, I want to give up.

I still do.

One thing you don’t want to do while sweating through all of your clothing because of a fever is go online. If you do, and if you’re like me, you’ll end up feeling like everyone has their life put together. They hustle and you don’t want to even get up to get a Powerade, much less do any work. They post about the great people they wine and dine with, and you forget to find gratitude for the friends who rushed to the hospital to pray with you, who brought you meals and medicine.

You feel so overwhelmed and you feel so small all at the same time.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I tend to have so much to do…I try and prove myself or reinvent myself or tell myself that if I do this or that maybe-just-maybe I’ll feel like I’ve made a difference, that I’m worth something to someone, that I’m contributing whatever it is that God gave me to contribute to this world. I preach a message that tells people about the beauty of simply being, about rest and about health, yet if I think about my to-do list, I feel sick to my stomach. I feel small and overwhelmed and because I’m not as popular as this person or because some other person who has an important title doesn’t email me back, that somehow I’m a failure.

THAT IS JUST NOT TRUE.

Maybe you’re like me (I can empathize). You work so hard to write, to share, to be a mom or a dad or a wife or a husband or a good friend and your heart burns with such fury to do just one thing that makes a difference. All the while every message you take in from the outside world, from the voices you respect (and maybe the ones people tell you that you should respect) tells you it’s not enough. If it was enough, you’d have that viral blog post, that book deal, or just one single comment or message about that super-important thing you shared with the world. You feel small and overwhelmed.

This – by all industry standards – is not a good blog post to write. I have no answers for you. No three-steps to finding peace in chaos or security where you feel frail.

This is just me saying (to the both of us):

YOU are NOT alone in this.

The chaos you feel is a lie from Satan that wants to draw you away from your identity in Christ.

It is not your job to save the world.

It is not your job to even save one single person.

It is your job to delight and worship your creator.

To walk the path he set for you, even if it’s not glamorous, or exciting, or what you expected.

Rejoice in Him.

Cry out to Him.

Strangely, as we become more desperate for God, that sense of desperateness leads us to great peace.

Is Burnout Beating You?

I’ve been in the process of adding some helpful stuff to the 5th Anniversary Expanded Edition of my first book, Mad Church Disease which launches next month (woot!)

In that journey, I realized people were needing something NOW. Something to help NOW.

The emails I get daily show me that burnout is still epidemic in ministry and in the church world and if anything has become more taboo in the last five years, which breaks my heart.

Over Christmas, I sat down and wrote Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health that covers

  • rest
  • spiritual health
  • emotional health
  • relational health
  • physical health
  • and prayer.

Rinse and repeat for five weeks and you’ve got yourself a 70-something page book.

Beating Burnout Mad Church Disease Anne Marie Miller

Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health releases as an eBook this week! (The print will follow shortly!)

Each day has

  • scripture
  • a short and meaningful reflection
  • and a section for practical application and a page for notes.

It reads fast because I know you don’t have much time, but I pray it takes you directly to the heart of our Father with no fluff, only grace, and gives you enough action when, after thirty days are over, you find yourself in a healthier and more intentional place than you are now.

Can you do me a favor?

If this book sounds like something you need, can you give me your email address so I can ping you when it comes out? I won’t bother you for anything else. And, if you’d like to spread the word ahead of time, I’ve made some tweets to help you do that!

You can sign up for the email notification here!

Share about it below!

[Tweet “Burned out? THIS > @girlnamedanne’s “Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope & Health” #BeatingBurnout”]

[Tweet “Had enough? > @girlnamedanne’s”Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope & Health” #BeatingBurnout”]

[Tweet “2014 = HEALTH! @girlnamedanne’s “Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope & Health” #BeatingBurnout”]

I am SO GRATEFUL for your support and I truly pray this devotional can help you find hope and health!

 

Four Ways to Keep the Christmas Season from Ruining Christmas

The holidays are stressful. Shopping. Parties. Family. Finances. Weather. As I finish up the manuscript for my book Mad Church Disease: Healing from Church BurnoutI am reminded how much difference a little intentionality makes as we journey across the days of December.

christmas

These four things help me to daily the postures I’ll take this season and in doing so, maybe make things a lot less stressful in the process.

  1. Friends: Engage your friends. People travel, everyone seems busy, but reaching out to your friends during the holidays isn’t just good for you, it’s good for them. Even a simple text message to say hi and ask how someone is doing can be the only light someone sees on a really cloudy day.
  2. Rest: Rest is my favorite thing to do. After I stressed myself out so terribly eight years ago (so much that I was hospitalized for a week), resting is priority for me and my family. Even if this means emails, phone calls and texts go unanswered for a day or two, rest. In the Christmas season, it’s hard to have a Sabbath day, but do it anyway. And rest in the fact that you’re being obedient in the process. [Tweet “So much more gets done when we’re resting in the fact God has already done everything.”]
  3. Pray: It’s an obvious discipline, but one that can fall to the wayside in my life when I’m busy. Even though it may feel rote, commit to certain times to pray every day. For Tim and me, we pray before every meal and then we have an intercessory time before we go to bed. Every single day. One sentence prayers are also a big thing: “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”…”God, change me!” ….”Lord, help…” Meditating on scripture in the stillness of our own mind keeps us constantly in touch with what God might have for us to do.
  4. Be Thankful: It can’t be said enough: Keeping an attitude of thankfulness takes the focus off our circumstances and places it back on the God who gave us His son. In light of the coming of Christ to save us for our sins, long check out lines, annoying family members, even the bigger things like finances and health disappear into the shadows. What if you wrote down one thing you’re thankful for every day? And what if you shared it with a friend? I have a feeling the hope and joy would spill out and encourage both of you.

It is so very much in my DNA to desire health and peace and joy for those who minister either by profession or in everyday life. We are all called to it and there’s nothing more Satan would like to do than to distract us from celebrating and sharing this miraculous and sacred time of the year.

Advent Wreath

I would like to help you stay encouraged from now until the new year. I woke up this morning and felt compelled to start something that could encourage you daily, so I logged into my email account and made a new list for surviving Christmas.

By signing up, starting tomorrow, each day I’ll send you a very short note of encouragement, tips to stay healthy, some scripture and prayer…something new each day. I’ll also include a link to a talk (either video or audio – your choice) I recently gave on choosing joy this advent season that goes further into these four ideas.

It doesn’t cost you anything and I won’t try to sell you anything. But if you’d like to sign up, you can do so using the form below.  If your browser doesn’t show a form or you have problems, just click this link to sign up.

Do you have any tips on how to stay healthy and proactive during the Christmas season?



Fighting for Our Men: A Challenge to Any Woman for Any Man

Imagine five women: two married (one with kids), and three single gals. All around thirty, give or take. We’re at the Opryland Hotel, piled on a hotel bed and various spots on the floor, one with legs draped over the side of an ivory recliner. It’s close to midnight. And we’re talking..about guys, of course.

Recently, it’s been encouraging. Instead of hearing the “There are no REAL men to date. Just boys. Boys without jobs. Boys who play too much Call of Duty. Boys with too many other girls who are friends. Boys who live at home. Boys who don’t open doors,” we had a totally different conversation.

“Do you think that sometimes guys feel like they can’t be men because we’re always telling them that they’re boys?” asked my friend sitting next to me on the bed.

Yes, yes, a million times yes.

Man waterfall

It is easy to look around and see a world where men are tethered to their jobs, their phones, their parents…whatever gives them a sense of security and identity. Please don’t misread: women are as equally tethered to the things we find our value in. Somehow, we’ve found away, in spite of our competitive and comparative nature, to still champion one another – or at least help each other know we aren’t alone. From my very limited conversations with men, my husband included (who bleeds the desire to connect and grow with other men), it doesn’t happen so easily for them.

Generally speaking, women wired to nurture. Men are wired to protect. And because so many of us have experienced a man letting us down in our life (a father, a pastor, a priest, a spouse…), we have stepped into the role of protector so that we may feel nurtured. Safe. Free from being let down again.

If you’ve ever taken a sociology or human behaviors class, you know that once a group of people or culture changes a behavior, in time, that change has a profound effect on future human behavior. Just take a look at gender roles and how they shift with each passing decade. When the women of a culture tell men (by showing them) we don’t need them, it’s completely natural for the men to adapt to not being needed.

Instead of thinking the men of whatever generation are not men, maybe we can change our beliefs about them. By changing the way we think, I believe it will have a profound effect on how we act toward them – directly and indirectly. 

Man / Forest

I know in many situations, I’ve not always believed the best about my husband, Tim…even when one of the (many!) reasons he was able to break into my heart and steal it is because of his strong leadership and desire to protect and care for me.

We were one month into our marriage and finalizing details for our move to Nashville. We drove from Iowa to Tennessee and stayed with friends as we looked at renting and buying and where we should live. The cost of living in Nashville is about three times as much as it is in the Quad Cities area, so the sticker shock was a lot to take in.

I really (really, really) wanted to live in one area close to my friends and the community I’m used to living in. We had a little bit of debt to pay off, but we had the money to make the move happen without it stretching us too far financially. I thought it was a done deal until Tim proposed the idea of waiting three more months so that the debt could be paid and we could head into it without the guillotine of interest rates hanging over our heads.

In the living room of our friends’ home, with them present, I started crying/getting angry/being stubborn/wanting my way/and was pretty much on the border of a temper tantrum.

“Why don’t you want me to move back and live with my friends?!”

In one (loving) sentence, he shut my selfishness and my assumptions on his motivation down.

“The reason I want to wait three months is so I can give you this; so we can do this together, easier, and so you can have what your heart desires most.”

I see the power of my words, my passive responses to him, and the false beliefs I project on him and how they tear away at his innate desires to care for me and love me. When I show a lack of respect for him or my unwillingness to believe he has my best interest at heart fires away at him with 45-caliber force, I’m telling him I’m strong enough on my own. I can protect myself.

These things that hurt men, whether we’re married to them or not.

My friend that asked if sometimes men act like boys because of the way culture tells them to wrapped up our estrogen-filled talk time with a generous and love-filled thought:

“Whoever my future husband is, I pray he has women around him who are showing him he’s strong, he’s capable, and who are praying for him and encouraging him along the way, no matter where he is in his journey.”

May we all take on that countenance with the men in our lives: our fathers, our brothers, our husbands, our friends. May our thoughts, words and actions only build them up so they have one less voice telling them they’ll never be man enough.