Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thankful For What?!

Monday was a beautiful day. A much-needed day of rest after a string of several challenging shifts at the hospital.

The weather was incredible. Rainy and windy and cold. I woke up to the sound of rain on the roof….lingered in bed as long as possible, soaking in the sound.

As I stirred and began my day, the wind hurled leaves and branches and made the trees sway. I could stand it no longer. I had to be out in this glorious display of God's might.

I took my hot tea, wrapped in a warm blanket, curled up on the patio and looked. Simply looked. And listened.

Up. All around. Up again.

The clouds were moving fast. The trees bending and bowing in a noisy display of splendor. The wind. Oh the wind!

He was really showing off now. The stark contrast of the blue sky with the white clouds was stunning. And the colors of fall - of all things in this world. So much color.

And so many sounds if but we would listen.

I tried - always try - to stay silent. It never lasts long. I began to mentally list things for which I'm thankful. It's an attempt to live fully. Because to not fully live is to miss what God has for me (which is one of my biggest fears). And I'm learning how to not miss it...

I've been reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts - a beautifully raw and eye-opening book about Ann's journey to gratitude through listing 1,000 things she was grateful for. Through words that resonate deeply, she expounds on the meaning of "eucharisteo" - the Greek word meaning "he gave thanks." Jesus used this word at the Last Supper, when he broke bread and gave thanks for it (Luke 22:19).

She breaks down the Greek word even more…


Charis. Grace.
Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.
Chara. Joy.

And she asks, "Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks? So then as long as thanks is possible…Joy is always possible. Whenever, meaning - now; wherever, meaning - here. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be -  unbelievably - possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now."

Recognizing His gifts. Innumerable. And unique. And deeply personal. And I miss them in a statement of sweeping gratitude. When I give voice to a general thanks for a day, or for God, or for life…am I missing the gifts? The thousands of gifts He gives - there is joy in the naming. The specifics.

She goes on, "We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks...Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace."

It's a way of not missing what He has for me. Facing the fear, embracing faith, I name the gifts.

Thank You for the sound of the wind. Thank You for meeting me here. Thank You for the way my fingers feel wrapped around this mug of steaming tea. Thank You for the blue sky. The white clouds. The colors of the leaves. Thank You for death.

Wait, what?! Death?

Did I really just thank God for death?

My head challenged my heart and questioned it's loyalty. Was this betrayal? But my heart, strengthened by truth and understanding, rebutted that it was - is - actually thankful for death.

Death of old habits. Death of expectations - of self (the hardest to let go!) and expectations of others. Death of pain and old wounds. Death of failures.

Because only in death can there be life.

He reminds us of this each autumn. As leaves change color and fall to the ground, leading to a cold dry winter…the death that brings life and beauty rich in spring.

The death of God's Son. Blood shed to cover the sin of every man. A love so grand to go to the deepest depths…death. So that we may have life…and have it to the full (John 10:10).

Oh that I would recognize what I need to let die! My stubborn will. My desire for control. My negative self-fulfilling prophecies. My ingratitude.

May I learn how to embrace this beauty of death so I can make room for the new. The new gifts He has for me.

And may I keep my eyes open to always see the beauty of His gifts as I name them, as Ann by one.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Horse (Part II): It's Up To Her

In my last post, I wrote about a fabulous scene from The Man From Snowy River where Jim and Jessica break in a wild horse.

I was reminded of this scene after a recent conversation about my job. And my desire for it to be different.

[Must note, to all my coworkers and patients, L&D nursing is an incredible job…I have amazing coworkers and have had some of the best and most meaningful experiences there. But those of us who do it day in and day out know the struggles, the things that gnaw away at our resolve to do it another day. For me, the overarching desire is to be out from under the weight, stress, and ever-increasing responsibility. I love the relational side and wish that could be the sole part of my job, but that's not the reality. Maybe it's something in my make up, maybe it's changing desires of my heart (ahem, Africa), whatever the reason, it is a constant struggle to balance the weight of charting/legalities with relationing well with my patients and their families.]

I had spent a good part of the conversation discussing why I felt this way and what I was planning to do about it.

And as I reflected about the trying days, the depressing waking moments at 5 am, the struggle to remain positive for 12 continual hours, I realized something: just like a wild horse in a corral, my spirit wants free.

This may not be inherently bad…unless I am seeking out this freedom before it's time. God may open the gate sometime. And it may be soon. But it isn't open yet. And I'm bucking and kicking my way through the day, starting with that 5 am wake up.

Now I've never broken in a horse, but I'd imagine the more bucking and rearing she does, the more rubs and sore spots she's going to have. If she chooses to surrender and submit to being broken, then those wounds won't appear.

What if this time is for me to continue being trained? I think I'm ready to barrel my way through the gate into the wild blue yonder and yet God is patiently beckoning me to calm down, listen more intently to His voice, and continue to learn the rhythms and patterns in His will.

I did some youtube research about breaking in horses and couldn't believe what I found. Check out this incredible video of famous horse trainer, Monty Roberts. It's just under 7 minutes and seriously well worth the time...

Did you catch one of the first things he said about Coronna?

It's up to her.

It completely sets the stage for his relationship with her. It's her choice to listen…or not. Strikingly like our walk with the Lord…it's up to us whether we seek Him...or not. (see the entire Old Testament and the Israelites' stubbornness that is a constant thread throughout the whole thing)

And then…

I will do it with her. I will not force her to do anything.

He doesn't leave her alone. He allows her freedom. Hmm…similar to God's promise to always be with us (Deuteronomy 31:6)…and how He pursues us even after we've run from Him (see the entire book of Hosea).


Her inside ear will find me. Outside ear listens to the rest of the world.

Coronna's hearing is trained. Similarly, we listen to His voice and know Him while we live and exist in the world (see John 10:27-30).

Smaller circle.

Coronna begins to circle closer to the one giving her direction. She seeks him as we seek the Lord, who promises to be found if we would seek Him with all our heart. (see Jeremiah 29:12-13)

Join up - get her attention, draw her to me.

Eerily similar to Jesus' invitation for us to "follow me." He demonstrates His love, His glory, His faithfulness and invites us into an abundant life with Him (see Mark 1:16-18; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:10-11; John 1:35-51, and last but not least John 10:10)

See, we have the choice to be broken in or wounded.

The horse wants to run free. We all want to run free. But if we don't know where we're going, we're likely to get wounded. If we surrender to God's leading, allowing Him to train us, to "break" us so to speak, we will be freer than ever before. He can lead us into pastures greater and grander than we can imagine.

But we have to be ready for them.

We can't go find them on our own, ill-equipped for the trials ahead.

When we allow our Trainer, our loving Father, to do a work in us, we learn to do it with Him. Turning our inner ear to Him while the noise of the world swirls around. We draw into a smaller circle with Him, allowing Him to have our attention, allowing Him to draw us to Himself.

Whether it takes 2 months or 5 years.

Letting go of the stubborn kick that rubs the saddle raw on our backs isn't always easy. And for some (me) it might take a little longer.

We can roam around forever in the great expanse, having a false sense of direction and purpose.

Or we can enter the corral, knowing it's the best plan for us.

And when that corral feels more stifling than freeing, could it be that we have taken our gaze off the One who is able to do immeasurably more than we could imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21)? Maybe it really isn't even a corral, we just see it that way because of our desire to be in a different place.

We want to be free, but we have to continually surrender, trusting in God's heart and faithfulness to bring us through what He has for us, all for His glory.

But, like Coronna, it's up to us.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Horse (Part I): Strong and Wild

Several years ago I was on a hike with my (then) roommates. We were climbing up a steep hill and one of them said, "Erin, you're like a horse."

Um. Thank you?

I'd rather go for something more petite and feminine. But a horse. They're strong, I guess, right?

And upon inquiry, I discovered that's what she meant. I had the strength of a horse to barrel through the incline and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

While I initially might have been offended at the comparison, it didn't last long because I actually love horses. There's just something about them that intrigues me…yet also scares me. They are so powerful and muscular.

Meandering in a pasture? Absolutely beautiful.

And when they're in a full on run? It's a majestic mix of fluid strength and thundering force.

But when it's unbridled, to be honest, it scares me. They can rear up and buck in a wild stubborn statement of independence.

Dangerous independence.

I am reminded of a favorite childhood movie (let's be honest, it's still a favorite as an adult…I'll admit it, no shame)…

The Man From Snowy River

Yes, it's that good that it deserves its own line. While it wasn't exactly a blockbuster hit back in the 80s, you would have thought it was in our house. Introduced by my sister, hated (yet secretly loved) by my brother, that VHS tape was plumb worn out.

It's an Australian drama telling the tale of 18-year-old Jim's search for love and significance as he struggles to earn back his family farm after his father's death. Of course it involves a beautiful young (strong-willed) woman, but also a 20-year-old family feud, secrets, lies, assumptions, and a prized stallion who winds up missing.

I know, I had you at beautiful young (strong-willed) woman.

Oh, and the soundtrack is killer. It ranks up there with The Last of the Mohicans (nothing beats driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains with those inspiring violin melodies streaming through the speakers).

What I love about soundtracks is that in addition to being stellar music, they always take me back to great parts of the movie. That is particularly true for The Man From Snowy River soundtrack.

I have two favorite tracks on it. One is "Jessica's Theme - Breaking in the Colt." Which, thanks to my sister, I heard lovingly pounded out on our piano just about every Sunday morning. :)

There's a terrifying scene at the beginning of the movie where a pack of brumbies (free-roaming wild horses) run through the woods resulting in a tragic accident.

Just watching it causes my heart to beat hard in my chest, echoing the pound of the horse hooves.

It's a significant scene for me because later in the movie - when my favorite song plays - Jim and Jessica break in a wild colt. It's an incredible scene. It's not just any horse they're breaking in. But a wild one. It snorts, it whinnies, it breathes hard and fast as its eyes go wild.

You couldn't pay me to enter the corral with that thing.

And they set out to train that wild horse's spirit to submit...surrender. My fear meets reality and begins to subside as they work with the horse, building trust, breaking down walls, and eventually she submits.

I know my roommates didn't have this vision of a horse in mind when they made the comparison. But is there a part of me that is like a brumby? Is my spirit wild and untamed?

In my next post, I'll break down the spiritual implications that literally made my jaw drop…

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Learning From a Watermelon

I just had the most wonderful (large) bowl of watermelon, thanks to…well, Walmart. But mostly my sister.

A few weeks ago I was over at her house helping prepare Sunday lunch. Cutting watermelon fell next on the to-do list and I inwardly cringed.

Not because I don't love watermelon. It's honestly one of my favorite summertime fruits.

I have memories of sitting down to supper and seeing a huge bowl of perfectly cut and de-seeded (thanks, Mom) watermelon pieces. As all the dishes were passed around the table in clockwise fashion (do families still do this? I sure hope so…), we would secretly attempt to pick out the best pieces. My brother and I still tease my sister about doing it most, but deep down we all know we did it too.

So why did I cringe when she asked me to cut it?

Because while it might be one of my favorite fruits, it is also one of the most unruly and annoying ones to cut. (For the record, mangoes rank high on both these lists too, but it's small size makes it greatly more manageable.)

After the years of having perfectly cut watermelon pieces served to me, I had to eventually cut it on my own. Just like my mom did…cutting the end off, then keeping it on its side cutting circle after circle, then each circle in half, then removing the rind and cutting the flesh into pieces.

Welp. It doesn't work for me that way. It never has.

The large humpty-dumpty rolling piece of juicy rind and flesh seems to laugh in my face at first cut. Then each cut after that turns into downright mockery the more slippery it gets.

I know it's partially due to the fact that I don't have my mom's famous watermelon knife to use. But even with the sharpest of knives, I feel like a culinary idiot cutting the dumb thing.

And no one likes to feel like an idiot. So I stopped buying them. Literally, I cannot tell you the last time I bought a watermelon. It was at least 4 addresses ago.

Until today. Because, a few short weeks ago, in my sister's kitchen, she stepped in and shared how she now cuts her watermelon in a different way. Giving me an invitation to do the same. It was one of those moments where I wanted to hold onto my pride (seriously?!) and be annoyed that my older sister was - once again :) - telling me how to do something. But I let my pride go and listened.

So after years of passing by one of the most delectable fruits around, I stopped and picked one out today. And gave myself the freedom to cut it a new way.

It was lovely. No slippery circles or chopped off fingers. I have finally admitted to myself I will never have my mom's watermelon cutting skills. But it's ok. I tried doing it a different way and now have my favorite summertime snack back.

As the juice splashed everywhere (perfect sign of a perfect watermelon), I wondered what else in my life I've been avoiding because of the way I do it.

Are there things I could simply revamp to make them more enjoyable?

I'm currently pondering making my bedtime routine technology-free. Books and writing only. No phones, computers, apps, tweets.

What isn't working for you?

Your morning routine? Your devo time with God? Your finances?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Rabbit Trail Prayer - Please Help!

I'm back. In some form or fashion. I've missed writing. And I can't tell you how many posts have popped in my head that never made it to the screen. It became so many, that getting anything on here was almost too overwhelming. 

But I sense the dam is breaking. So while there may have only been a trickling of posts so far this year, that may be changing as I begin to let it flow.

I've realized something (again) the past few months. 


Whether that be journaling, blogging, whatever. There are simply too many thoughts roaming around this little INFJ brain. It's frustrating sometimes. To have a mind of silence is an experience as foreign to me as walking into a men's restroom (although, this has admittedly happened once to me). 

Due to this constant churning inside my head, I often find it hard to stay focused. One thought will lead to another and another and another until I shake my head and retrace my steps to the initial thought that once occupied space in my brain.

It's particularly frustrating when I do this when I'm praying. Almost instantly the fishing reel has to come out and pull me back once, twice, twenty times until I surrender my weak focus at the feet of Jesus and beg for mercy.

It happens often, and I don't sense it getting better. I'd imagine others struggle with this challenge of remaining focused during prayer, too. 

The other day I was running and trying to keep focused in thought, much less prayer, and found myself running down a gagillion rabbit trails (and on really bad days, I find myself on the dreaded gerbil wheel!). I thought, wouldn't it be so cool to focus on and think about one glorious attribute of God while running? 

And then I almost laughed at the thought of me even trying. It seemed like an unholy injustice. But maybe that's how I start? 

Try and fail. Train. Repeat. Try and fail. Train. Repeat.

So, you focussed prayers you, I need your help! Please share with me your thoughts, experiences, and wisdom regarding focused prayer. I love to read, so if you know a good book, I'd be open to that too. (Does The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster talk about this? It's been so long since I've read it, I can't remember…a trillion and one thoughts have crossed the threshold of my brain since then.)

As Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

I'm in need of some serious training. I have full confidence this can be conquered (by the grace of God). 

I'd just love to know how.

Have you ever experienced rabbit trail praying?

How have you disciplined your mind to remain focused?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kenya [2 Weeks and Counting]

Man oh man, am I ever excited for this trip! Two - yes TWO - weeks from Friday I will be boarding a plane with an incredible team of servants to share the Gospel in Africa. Everyone keeps asking for an update, so thought I'd try to organize some thoughts and put them on here.

From a logistica/detail standpoint...
-Passport updated.
-Vaccines done.
-Time off work granted.
-Necessary clothing purchased (yes, I am now the proud owner of some kickin' ankle-length skirts).
-Travel gear acquired.
-For my team specifically, schools have been targeted and kids are being prayed for.
-Necessary supplies for in-country are being secured.

-The team is incredible! Our larger team is broken down into smaller ministry teams. The one I am part of, which gets the opportunity to work with 1500+ kids, is seriously wonderful. From the first time the 5 of us ladies met, it was clear God had ordained for us to be together. There is something special happening there, and we haven't even set foot on a plane. The hearts of those ladies blows me away and the love and eagerness felt is palpable. Hearing their testimonies and stories of how God called them on this trip brought me to tears multiple times and reminded me of the utter awesomeness of our God.
-Warfare is underway. Believe it or not, I am grateful. The enemy wouldn't be messing with us if there wasn't a reason to be doing so. The battle underway is a sign God is already working in our lives and the Kenyans and is preparing a way for His glory. That being said, there are real and legitimate anxieties amongst our team. We are encouraged and keep praying through.
-I have had some wonderful conversations with friends, coworkers, family, and strangers about our trip. The whys, the whos, the hows have given an opportunity for God to be talked about. I am grateful.
-Personally, prayer life is ramped up and thoughts/Scripture on orphans/widows is always on the forefront of my brain. It's definitely significant. I have a feeling that my understanding of adoption into His Kingdom by the blood of Jesus Christ is about to be blown away as I relation with these kids and widows.

-My dad and I have had so many answer God's prompt to support us for this trip. We are incredibly grateful!!! BUT, we are still lacking the full funding. My dad is in need of $1500 and I need $450. We would love for you to join in prayer for His provision and to prayerfully consider helping us finish out our goal. We would love for you to be a part of what God is doing in Kenya!

Click here to support my dad:

Click here to support me:

We trust in God's timing, in His way. We are beyond excited for this opportunity and cannot wait to share the Gospel, follow the prompts of the Spirit, and love like crazy.

Thank you to so many for continually asking about such a large part of my life. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep growing.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Round Three

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, it's that time of year again. No, not for a crazy list of resolutions. But for the third year in a row...the word.

A word that I want to embrace in the year ahead. A word I want to take meaning for me personally as I live out the next 12 months. I'm not alone in this. Several friends post their words to Facebook. Some write about them, such as this dear friend of mine. Some, as in my case, share them around a fire pit on New Year's Eve.

Last years' word (or two), hope infusion, was a unique one. Still processing all it meant to me as I learned the true definition. Some scripture that has been an answer to the seeking...

Hebrews 6:11, 19, NASB
And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end...[t]his hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us...

1 Peter 1:3-5, NASB
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Whew. Now THAT is hope.

And now, without further ado, this year's word....drum roll please......


The word first caught my eye several months ago while doing some morning reading.

Colossians 1:9-12, NASB
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

As I read and re-read these words, I noticed the use of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding together. Paul used them separately but in conjunction with each other. They occur frequently in the Bible together. They seem to have similar meanings, but clearly they don't mean the same thing, or else only one word would be used. It led me to ponder if you can have one without the other. What would it be like to have wisdom without understanding? Can you have understanding without knowledge? Which one comes first? A little browse through Webster's Dictionary doesn't really clear it up for me. And besides, that's a worldly definition. I think what I'm searching for involves a more spiritual definition. It sounds funny, but I'm searching to understand understanding.

Some research from this site, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, gave me some clarity.

As they put it...

"Knowledge - the facts (Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 18:15, Colossians 2:8, 1 Timothy 2:4)

Understanding - the ability to translate meaning from the facts (Psalm 119:130, Proverbs 3:5-7, 18:2, Philippians 1:9-10)

Wisdom - knowing what to do next, given an understanding of the facts and circumstances (Ecclesiastes 8:1, James 3:17)

Those with knowledge are able to collect, remember, and access information. But, it is possible to have knowledge and lack understanding and wisdom. Someone might have the facts, but not know what they mean or what to do next.

Those with understanding are able to extract the meaning out of information. They "see through" the facts to the dynamics of what, how, and why. Understanding is a lens which brings the facts into crisp focus and produces principles.

Those with wisdom know which principle to apply in a given context...Those with wisdom know what actions to take next. They do the right thing in the given situation. In contrast, there are many who have great knowledge and understanding but who consistently do the wrong thing." (emphasis mine)

They go on to point out, you don't always grow to encompass all three. Sometimes you need outside sources (oftentimes people) to glean the wisdom of how to apply your knowledge. Likely, understanding is gained in the process.

But it takes experience to understand. All the facts in the world, or Bible for that matter, don't mean much without application. You've gotta put them to use.

Not perfect use. Not for me anyway.

But then, mistakes lead to a deeper understanding of grace, right? Maybe I'll have to take notes from this girl, whose word for 2014 is "grace" and make it my word for next year.

But for now, I'll focus on understanding. This past year has been one of soaking in facts. Leading to a little bout of blogging silence. The whole year, in fact, produced fewer posts than any other year I've been writing. Maybe that's why I sense a pull towards understanding. The knowledge (facts) gleaned in the past year has been hard to convey because of...a need for more understanding?

As I recently wrote in my journal: "...So I can gain understanding. That's the word for this year, I think.  Moving from knowledge to understanding. Moving from head to living it out. Praying for opportunities to live out the things I'm learning. Eek, that doesn't sound as hunky-dory as I'd maybe like. But a hunky-dory life isn't one surrendered to the Lord."

So, for 2014, I'm shakily but excitedly saying goodbye to hunky-dory.

Lord, help me.