More than Gold

I was asked to join a planning meeting about the women’s conference that our church was going to put on this Spring, and because the timing was SO tight (yes, we’re the crazies who planned a full day conference in about 10 weeks), I just thought of it as another thing adding things to my to-do list. But the topic was announced, and my head was spinning with ideas and takeaways that I wanted the women who gathered to believe. That I wanted to believe.

In the end, it was a day of women of incredible talent and wisdom coming together to share and it was special. For me, the best part was that I’d gotten the courage to ask for a spot in the day to talk from my heart, and I did. I wanted to share it with you too, and on this Good Friday because it’s why Christ died for us. Because, we are worth that much. We started with reading from Psalms 139, because so much about believing our worth is found there.

shirt design 1Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

 

When we believe this, we know that we’re worth more than gold. Because a God who knows us so well, who formed us and planned our days, who guides us with His hand wherever we are, would only do all that if our worth is beyond our understanding. Why else would He care so much?

So to believe those words in Psalms means that we know we are worth more than gold. And most of us do believe those words, right? I’m going to be honest and vulnerable with you, and the first part of that is saying- I believe it in my head, I do. But when it comes to my heart, I question it too often. And maybe you do too. But I tell others how valuable they are, and mean it. So I’m going to hold a magnifying glass up to my own life and a few people I love, because maybe you’ll see some similarities, and maybe it can help you.

My friend who is just 28, mom to a cutie pie 5 year old, newly engaged, in training to be a retail manager. Diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer last year, put into a trial for a new drug since traditional treatments were having no impact, and had new scans this week to confirm the belief that her tumors continue to grow. Does God not value her? Of course he does, and though I struggle with the right words through this for her, I do know that she is precious to Him.

The sweet woman I know who was cooking her son’s 23rd birthday dinner, waiting on him to arrive home from work 15 years ago, who still has no answers on his devastating disappearance. Who is raising her severely autistic grandson in place of her daighter. Who can’t speak about her missing son without being overcome with emotion and believes it means she is weak. I’ve seen her incredible strength and the way she quietly comforts others in similar situations. I know God uses her and values her, even in the midst of her pain.

The itty bitty 16 week old, cute as can be, smiling at everyone she meets, and learning to roll over. Whose biological grandmother overdosed and died, whose biological uncle died as a child of complications from drug related birth defects, whose mom hasn’t yet changed the cycle of brokenness, but is trying. I know God has a plan for her, and even for her mom, who I know he loves.

 

You wouldn’t disagree with me on the fact that they are worth so much, even in their pain and their brokenness. We know that God loves them, that He created them with a purpose, and that He will use them for His glory.I truly believe that.

But me? Worth more than Gold? I’m not as sure if I’m honest. I’m a mess. Most people only see a fraction of the mess, because like most of you, I put a cleaned up version of myself out there. I love God, truly and wholeheartedly. I serve because of that love. But I am broken. I suffer from anxiety that comes out in odd ways, including obsessive-compulsive behaviors that are strange. I’ve battled eating issues for much of my life, and struggle more than I ever admit with the image in the mirror. I fell in love with a guy that was a mess too, and has a chronic illness that impacts every area of our life, and man does it make him question his worth. Then, after having our first baby boy and settling into life somewhat, managing it all okay it seemed, one of our biggest life changing moments happened. My brother went missing. We’ve now spent almost 8 years without answers on where he is, 8 years of searching and praying for just confirmation of his death. 8 years of telling people, and meaning it, that God knows where he is, and for now that has to be enough. And you’d think I’d be an emotional mess sometimes. But I’m not, because I just don’t deal with it. I talk about it when necessary, participate in events and interviews when it might help. But avoid it as much as possible. We have two boys that keep me so busy that it’s easy to avoid. So I keep plugging along, working full time, volunteering here, sharing our story some, and I keep waiting. Waiting for some resolution on the circumstances in our lives. Because THEN I’ll be able to really share how God worked through it all, how he brought us out on the other side. That’s the moment where I can say that God was doing a big work in our lives. Because until then, I believe it, I know it, but sometimes my heart questions if we’ve been forgotten. I wonder if we did more or prayed more or believed more if just one of these huge things in our lives would have some resolution.

And then, instead of bringing an ending to any part of our story, 3 months ago He brought another middle to struggle through in the form on that tiny baby I mentioned before. For 9 weeks, she’s been with us more than she’s been with her mom, and we don’t know the long term plan. But if I’m going to look her in her eyes as she grows, and tell her how worthy she is, how loved by God she is, despite the circumstances of her life, even when the path isn’t clear, then I have to fully believe it myself about myself.

What God continues to teach me, especially now with Sophia in our lives, is that He’s often working through us in situations we’d never choose to be in, because He values us that much. He believes that we are so worthy, that we can be used. I can speak love and hope into otherwise dark places. Not just because I’ve been there, but because I am there.

Not bringing me out of those places isn’t a sign of being forgotten. He’s there with me. It’s not a sign of not mattering enough to spend a miracle on. It’s just that the miracle probably isn’t in the happy ending. And I’m listening and learning and opening up to sharing more of His light in that darkness. Because I do believe I’m worthy of being used by Him in big ways.

So there are 4 stories, three of people I love, who intertwine with my own. Full of mess, and pain and darkness. And full of being loved by the God who made us. And if He is loving us, and caring for us, then certainly you can also believe- not just in your head, but in your heart, that you too are worthy.

 

And here’s the ENTIRE POINT of all this to me. That when we believe that we’re worth more than Gold, that we act like it. That we serve and give, and use the fires that have shaped us to bring light into the darkness for others. That’s what it’s all about.

 

Things that Matter

I get overwhelmed with this writing thing often. A few years ago, when I started, I didn’t have any real goals but to share my heart and search for Hope with you all. I got lost in trying to find my audience and caring if you showed up and read my words and wondering where this would go and learning how to make a better site and questioning if it mattered and comparing my words to others, my story to others.

I’m not getting anywhere I want to go fast enough. Or maybe at all.

And then I get overwhelmed with all the things I want to say, all the things that need to get done, the feelings of it not mattering anyway, and so I don’t. And that’s why it’s been too long since I’ve shared here. Cause my life and my thoughts and my feelings are messy.

But I’m here.

Because it does matter. Not because I’m of any significant importance- but because we all are, and because the stories of all of us matter. And I want to keep hearing yours.

Oh, and the revelation of the day for me? (And yes, this is one of those that I think God keeps revealing to me over and over and must frustrate Him sometimes.) There is no fast enough, there is no timeline. There is today, and what I can do with that. He’s got plenty of time to use me and love me, and let me do the same for others.

Today I’ll beat myself up a bit less over my time away and release the pressure valve that says I’m not getting “there” fast enough, and just hang out with you here. Because really, there is no “there”- it’s just simply “here now.”

Do you believe any of these crazy lies, like that your voice doesn’t need to be heard? It does my friend, it does.

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A Moment to Remember

We all need more moments like these. Or at least I know I do.

Complete abandon, going down screaming with joy, one hand raised in the air in triumph, with no concern about what’s at the bottom.

Have one of those moments today.

Let’s do it.

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The Girls We Once Were

I remember us. Do you?

Young and beautiful and free.

Dancing, and jumping and twirling and laughing.

Do you remember that time we drew a circle of onlookers as we showed our skills on the makeshift stage at the roller rink?

Do you remember the time we played in the dark, hiding from the neighbor boys in a game that could have lasted all night?

Do you remember the time we rode our bikes to the drugstore and bought sodas and felt so grown up?

Do you remember the night we swam and ran on the beach at what seemed like midnight, but was really just past dark?

Do you remember when we earned those high scores after flipping and leaping and spinning till we hurt?

Do you remember when we planned snacks to share in class, with our teacher just shaking his head at us?

Do you remember when we planned for you to go to school with me in the 3rd grade and somehow pulled it off?

Do you remember when we worse sweats and ponytails because we didn’t care what anyone thought?

Do you remember when we didn’t know that friendships could end?

Do you remember when we didn’t know that our loved ones could be lost?

Do you remember when we believed we could do anything?

I remember us. Do you?

But we were told we might get hurt. We learned that scary things came in the dark. We learned that our bodies could fail us. We learned that people could hurt us. We learned that there were limits. We learned that friends moved on or away. We learned that those we love could be gone in a moment.

We learned there were limits. And we shrank back.

But only for a time.

We learned that hurt could make us stronger. We learned that we could be the light in the dark. We learned that our bodies could give life. We learned that we could love deeper than we ever thought. We learned that friendship can last years and miles. We learned that our memories can last.

We learned that the limits were meant to be broken through.

And now…

The girls we once were look so much like the women we are now.

I remember us. Do you?

 

{My post is dedicated to the beautiful girls who have become even more beautiful women who helped shape my life.}

This post is part of Story Sessions’ The Girls We Once Were linkup. I was inspired by the words there, and wanted to join. Read more of them, or add your own.

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We Live

The first day of a new year is one I typically love.  I love fresh starts and clean slates.  I love to start the year with an organized house, new plans, fresh calendars and renewed hope.

I’ve spent the last few days considering how to participate in one of the many challenges happening by authors and leaders I follow.  Do I make goals around my blog, my speaking ‘career’, family time, projects I volunteer with, health and fitness… so many choices, and so many things I’d truly like to focus on in the few spare minutes I have after the must do’s that include my job, my commute, showering, brushing teeth, etc.  (Incidentally, no one has gotten on board with me skipping some of those).  What do I make my one word of the year?

But I’m back in that stuck place, of waiting to see if Michael gets better or worse, and feeling on hold.  His sister and her family are visiting us too, which should be a great time, but isn’t what it should be since he’s not well enough to spend more than a few minutes at a time with them.

And in my holding pattern, it finally hit me.  My goal for 2014 is to not wait.  Not wait on resolutions, or timing, or feeling right.  Not to feel like I am constantly waiting on something to enjoy life.  This is the life we have.  And I love it.

There are things I’m praying will change- we ask God continuously to bring my brother home.  We ask God continuously to bring healing to Michael.  We will never stop.

But we also live.

So this year, I want to live in the moments we have, not waiting for better times.  These are the times we have.

And there are too many splendid things to keep waiting on something more.

Wishing you and your family the 2014 you hope for.

~Anita~

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The Season Of Joy- And Hurt

I rarely have the right words to say.  So I make jokes, or say inappropriate things, or say nothing.  I can come across as crass or unfeeling quite often.  Not proud of that, just fact.

But it also makes me pretty forgiving of others who don’t get the right words out.  I care way more about intent and heart than about the right words, and there are so many times that words are inadequate anyway.

So for those who are sometimes at a loss in the most difficult of times, I thought I’d give some tips.  Why now?

Because it’s the start of the season of Joy.  But also the season of great loss and sorrow.

Even those celebrating with family and finding joy throughout this season may be missing someone.  Or may be facing financial troubles that overshadow all else.  Or may be healing from heartbreak.  There’s a lot of darkness in homes this time of year.

My 10 tips for helping a hurting friend :

1.  Assume everyone is facing something and give them the benefit of the doubt when their words aren’t quite right.

2.  When you know they’re missing someone who has passed away or missing, let them talk about their loved one.  You don’t have to have the right words, you just have to ask about their traditions or past holidays and listen.  Pretending they aren’t gone won’t make it easier for them.

3.  Don’t ask if someone needs help.  If there’s a reason for you to ask, you probably already know there is a need.  They’re probably not going to tell you specifically or even say so.  Look around- maybe they need a meal, their yard taken care of, or just a coffee brought to them.  Don’t ask, just do.

4.  Give something personal and meaningful.  Small meaningful gifts that remind them they’re loved mean the most.

5.  Don’t offer religious catch phrases.  Did you know that it is not biblical that God won’t give you more than you can handle?  (Great article about that here).

6.  Invite them but don’t push them.  Depending on the situation or their place in the cycle of grief, they may not be ready.  But they also may just need to be asked and loved.

7.  Enjoy your family.  No one hurting truly wants those around them to feel the way the do.

8.  Don’t remind them that it will get better.  It doesn’t help and they probably already know that.  But imagining the time when they’ll miss their loved one less only means imagining even more time passing.

9.  Encourage.  Cards, text, voice mails, all to let them know they’re on your mind.

10.  Pray.  It works.

With two young kids and the most amazing friends, the holidays are full of joy.  But even then there are moments of sadness missing Austin and others.  And I know many for whom the grief overshadows the joy.

I hope this starts you thinking about how you can help a friend experiencing that this season.

 

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Aunt Cathy’s Dressing

After 12 years of marriage, something is happening for the first time that makes me sweat.  I’m hosting a meal for part of my husband’s family.  His sister and her family are coming to visit, and we’re really looking forward to it.  We don’t get much time with his family- with them several states away and the great difficulty we have with traveling, it’s very rare.  So spending time with them at all is special, but getting to share our home with them makes it even more so.  And did I mention it’s for Thanksgiving?  So feeling auntcathy_dressingsome pressure.

My first stop for help was my Aunt Cathy.  She’s a great cook, but in particular does the.best.dressing. every year- I asked her to send the recipe, and instead of emailing or sending a message, she took the time to hand write it and stick it in the mail, along with a recipe for gravy.  It’s in her handwriting, and something I’ll pull out and use year after year for as long as I cook.  It’s more than a recipe, more than instructions- it’s our family history.

About ten years ago, before I even realized how much our family history meant, or knew that I’d soon be missing loved ones every holiday, my Aunts and Mom knew.  We spent hours writing in recipe books, sharing our favorites with each other in our own handwriting.  I didn’t cook a lot- and still don’t honestly.  But now I pull that book out and find extended family favorites that have become our favorites too, and feel the connection.

I see my grandmother’s handwriting- sharing her potato soup, vanilla nut cookies, and surprise lemon cake.  Recipes she used with her family of 6, that she then passed on.

She’s gone now.  But the written words and legacy are an ongoing gift.

I see my mom’s recipes for things that Austin and I grew up with as favorites, and remember.  And I make them for our family now.

I’ve tucked my Aunt’s recgrandma_cakeipes into that book, and have decided to start building it again.  This year, my brother-in-law will be preparing some of their favorite things too.  And I’ll add those into our book.

I’m realizing that our traditions can continue to grow, and despite missing people at our table this year, we can celebrate those gathering at our table for the first time.

I’m thankful that there are plenty of empty pages left in the book to be filled in.  I’ll always look back to the special recipes written in my grandmother, aunts and mom’s handwriting.

But I’ll keep building new memories too, that can become my kids family history.

What are the traditions that you’ll honor this year?  What will you do new?  I can’t wait to hear!

The Help Experiment

A few weeks ago I learned about a leadership team being formed to start something BIG.  I wanted in.

The Help Experiment: We are a collective of individuals joining together to help others. We do it because we can, we do it because we should, and we do it because we think… you would too.  That was the vision of the man behind the project, Jon Levesque.  He is passionate about this, and assembled a team who is as well.

It’s the early days, but what has already happened?

People are offering help.  People are being helped.

In small ways and big.  People who thought they had nothing to offer have realized that their skills and talents are valuable and needed.  There have been offers of logo design, health and fitness coaching, baked goods, meals delivered, Christmas cards designed, Christmas gifts for kids in need, and many more.  We have seen people who needed encouragement and to believe that people care find that.  We’ve seen people who needed to realize that they have an important gift to give find those who are so grateful.

I truly believe we’ll start to see lives changed.

If you’ve read much of mine, you already know I can get on a soapbox about ‘DO SOMETHING!’ when there is a need, vs. something that makes you feel good but truly helps no one.  This is my chance to be more action than words, to not just fill a need, but to help give you, my friends, the opportunity to do something meaningful, however big or small.

Check it out- the website including stories of lives impacted will be launching soon- but amazing things are already happening on the Facebook page.  Click over, join, and look for yourself.  There’s no risk, no commitment, just come see…. I think you’ll stick around.

This month we’re reminded of how much we have to be thankful for and how much we have.  Now, it’s time to give.

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Why I love Halloween

When I was little, I wanted to be a monkey.  Not for Halloween, but all the time.  Olympic gymnast was a long time dream.  Then I hoped to be a marine biologist, then a psychologist, followed by working in sports administration, which after a long round about path through event planning, non-profit management and fundraising, has eventually led to me to work in software.  If you look at my path from what I wanted to do to where I am, it would seem that I’m off track.  But if you truly followed the steps, you’d see that each step led to another in a meaningful way that eventually led me to a something that I never knew I wanted to do but fits so well with my skills and desires.  And it took a lot of people to help me get there.

I think that’s what I love about this week.  We can all go back to the days of dreaming about what we want to be, and for one night a year, we open our doors to strangers who trick or treat and greet each other with smiles, helping the dream feel real.  We’re cautious as we drive, watching for firemen, princesses and superheros in our sights. We pretend to be braver and stronger.

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We encourage dreaming.  We reward creativity.

As we grow up, we often give up on dreaming.  We forget who we wanted to be.  We forget how to dream big and we stop believing that we can be brave and strong.

What did you dream of when you were little?

Maybe I can’t really become a monkey or reach the Olympics.  Okay, I definitely can’t.  But I can remember the dreams and find elements of myself that maybe I’d lost. I can use the help of those around me, who encourage my dreams and see the possibilities.

What are your dreams now?

Watch this week- the kids who dream of being something different, the parents who encourage the creativity, the friends who open their doors and reward all of those.

Let’s recapture that.  Dream big this week, but don’t throw the dream off at the end of the week.

Our Land

Today I have the HONOR of sharing about our life and vision of a world where we know people are trying their best, on a site I {love}, Finding Ninee.  Kristi is the writer, mom and friend extraordinaire behind the site, and the much loved ‘Our Land of Empathy and Wonder’ series.

I shared from my heart, in a way just raw enough to make me uncomfortable, but sometimes uncomfortable is good.

Please join me in ‘Our Land’  

 

And if you’re visiting from Finding Nineee, thank you and welcome!  To read a bit more about our family and journey, here are a few good places to start:

The Roller Coaster Ride

Choosing Joy

The Baseball Mom Rules

 

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