Friday, May 13, 2011

Breathing Deep

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.  That takes all of the strength I have in my body right now. 
Deep breath...forge ahead.  I haven’t blogged for a few weeks now.  It is not because I haven’t had the time or haven’t had anything to say.  It is because I have been having a great big pity party for myself the last several weeks and I don’t want to invite anyone else to the party… ‘cause who wants to go to a party where no one is having any fun.
Just breathe. But breathing hurts right now and I am afraid if I breathe too deeply it may break loose the dam holding back the tears that I am a fighting to keep control of…only releasing a few at a time.  In fact I woke up this morning with my eyes so incredibly swollen.  My eyelids are so puffy they look as though they were injected with saline.  Before today the only time my eyes ever have looked like this was after a violent cry…but not this time.  No, I think this time my eyes swelled up with the tears I have been holding back, the tears I fear I will drown in and will keep me from ever finding my breath again.  
Be thankful for each breath…that what I would like to do.  Because turning 42 next week might mean the end of my dream of giving birth to a child, but there are still so many other wishes that have the chance of coming true…and so many reasons to have hope.
“Breathe in His Word."  That is all the advice, all the words of wisdom, all the encouragement I can handle right now.  Because right now hope eludes me.  There are no words that can comfort me…only time and tears and God will heal my broken heart.  So I will just keep breathing and trusting that the future will one day look brighter…and I won’t have to think about breathing.
Tomorrow…  Inhale. Exhale.  Breathing easier.

***This 5 minute Friday post was inspired by the phrase "Deep Breath".

Friday, April 15, 2011

Love That Goes The Distance

The first thing that comes to mind when I ponder the word distance is loss.  I think of the distance between me and the people I love who are no longer with me.  My Grandma Laila, who died when I was nineteen, was the person who taught me what unconditional love looks like.  I never disappointed her.  She always looked at me with her love goggles on, which filtered out any imperfections.  My Aunt Diane, who was a spiritual mother to me, died of ALS almost eight years ago.  She understood me in a way that no one else ever has.  I often long to sit with her and talk for hours like we use to do, so I can glean her words of wisdom, joy and hope.

I also think of the distance between me and long sought after dreams…dreams of a husband and children and a home to call my own.  Those dreams seem so far away.  Sometimes I feel like I have caught a glimpse of them but then, for some reason or another, those hopes are dashed, and like a mirage in the desert the dreams disappear from view again.
Then I consider the idea of “going the distance”, which just sounds like a lot of work.  It makes me think of the trials I have faced and will face in the future.  And if I am quite honest I can say that rarely has going the distance felt worth it…it has just felt like I am being stretched and pulled in uncomfortable directions.  The stretching and pulling has resulted in growing, but I always wish that growth could come in an easier fashion.  But that is just not reality, growth always requires struggle.
So can distance ever be a good thing?  Oh, yes it can! And in the most important way possible!
There can be security in distance when the distance is between you and something repulsive or menacing.   
 “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”  Psalm 103:12
Now that is a distance for which I am grateful!  Jesus loves us so much that He willing accepted a brutal death on a cross.  His sacrifice so far removed our sins from us that they can no longer be seen, and therefore they can no longer be counted against us.  Because Jesus gave up his life for us, we can rest in the knowledge our overwhelming debt for the sins we have each perpetrated has been absolved the moment we choose to accept His love and decide to have a relationship with Him.   Once we accept His love, Jesus puts on His very own pair of love goggles, obscuring our flaws and failings so there is no longer any distance between us and the promises of Heaven.
Hugs & Smooches,
Lisa Ann

***This 5 minute Friday post was inspired by the word Distance and honestly I am sure I wrote for more than five minutes but I was on a roll and I did resist the urge to edit...for the most part. ;)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fur & Sparkles

If you met me you would probably find me covered in both fur and sparkles…which doesn’t sound so strange if you are aware that I am both a dog trainer and a jewelry junkie, formally known as an independent jewelry consultant for Touchstone Crystal.

The fur to sparkle ratio is directly related to whether I am hanging out with four-legged friends or two-legged friends.  To be quite honest, the majority of my two-legged friends would be quite shocked to see me in my “dog time” attire, for I don’t let them see me without makeup applied, hair done, clothes pressed and shoes shined.  You see, I am confident that dogs will love me know matter what I look like.  I wish I trusted “the world” would love me even when I am sans lip gloss & mascara, having a bad hair day and smudged with muddy puppy paws.  Can you relate?
Hugs & Smooches,
Lisa Ann

***This 5 minute Friday post was inspired by the phrase: "If you met me..."

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Tarnished Teapot Longing to Shine

The challenge?

My story in six words.

My answer?

A tarnished teapot longing to shine.

Want to win a scholarship to She Speaks?

Take up the challenge.

To better understand my feelings about teapots check out my post:

Hugs & Smooches,
Lisa Ann

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Unrequited Love

At the sight of his tears I tore out of the crowded conference room like I was suddenly hit with the realization that I was naked. I had to escape. For he would not let me comfort him in the way I longed to and I knew he would be confused and overwhelmed at the sight of the tears welling up in my eyes caused by the sight of his. And heaven forbid that I should have to explain my tears to anyone else. I couldn’t bear the thought of being that pathetic …for I already wondered if I was.

Upon fleeing, I found an empty room in the lodge and curled up in a ball on a sofa. I felt like the thoughts swimming in my head were going to overtake me and if I wasn’t able to come up for air soon I was going to drown. Then, suddenly the dam broke—the words frantically gushed out onto the yellow lined paper as if the words were water, and the paper was dying of thirst and desperately needed to drink in order to survive…

Does he know that when he cries it rips me apart inside and all I want to do is take away the pain?
Does he know that I admire him far beyond what he thinks he is worthy of or deserves?
Does he know that he deserves to have someone who loves for exactly who he is?
Does he know that when he smiles my heart burst with a joy I didn’t know existed before him?
Does he know that when he shares his heart with me, even in the smallest way, he steals my heart?
Does he know that when he is not with me I am counting the seconds till I see him again?
Does he know that the sound of his voice is music to my ears?
Does he know that his weaknesses and areas of brokenness only make me love him more?
Does he know that in my eyes he is perfect exactly as he is, and I don’t feel the need to change anything about him?
Does he know that I could just gaze at him for hours?
Does he know that I want so much to walk alongside him and support him as he grows into the man he was destine to be?
Does he know I can see through him, and past the masks he sometimes wears?
Does he know that I love him simply because of who he is and not because of anything he has done for me?
Does he know that his laugh warms me to the tips of my toes?
Does he know I delight in seeing him strive to be a better man each day?
Does he know that my one desire is to hold him in my arms forever and never let him go?
Does he know I love him more than anyone else on the planet ever could?

Though much time has passed since I wrote those words, recalling it quickly brings me right back to that place and time. I was deeply, achingly in love with a man who didn’t feel the same way about me. I had his friendship and respect and he honestly cared about me, but he wasn’t willing to give his heart to me. I couldn’t share these words with him and I had hit the point when the words urgently needed to get out and breathe because they were going to rob me of all of my air and suffocate me. And once I was emptied of all of the words it was then that I heard a quiet, confident voice, “That is how I feel about you.” “Lord, is that you?”, I replied. “Yes, my love, that is how I feel about you.”, the voice repeated. “Lord, really? Do you really ache at the thought of not being with me? Could you possible yearn for me that desperately? How can you possibly love me when you can clearly see all of my brokenness?”, I asked. The voice replied, “Yes, my love, I long to spend all of my time with you. I wish you could understand how deep my love is for you. I want so much for you to believe that you could trust your heart to me. I dream of you giving me and trusting me with your whole being. I wish you knew that taking that chance would be worth the risk and bring you unimaginable joy.” Ironically, that was exactly how I felt about this man I loved. I felt that if he could just have a glimpse at how much I loved him it would change his life. To even consider that God loved me that wholly, with that much emotion and passion seemed inconceivable.

I still remember how flooded my heart felt the day those words poured forth. And I still find myself wondering how much would it change my life if I could just have the slightest understanding of how deeply God loves me, for it is still so difficult to envision God could love me that intensely. But my prayer is that each day I take the risk of trusting God with more and more of my heart. And I pray the same for you.

Do you know that He loves you? Because He does…far beyond your imagination.


A confession:
Although I would be honored to have God use this post to bless others with a new understanding of how much He loves them, I debated whether or not to share this with the "world".  One of my greatest fears in life is looking foolish, and I can think of few things make you feel as foolish as falling in love with someone who doesn't love you back.  I felt encouraged to take the risk of sharing this chapter of my life story in part because I want so much to win a scholarship to She Speaks – a conference for women who feel a call to write, or speak, or minister to the heart of other women.  If you haven't heard about it you can click on the She Speaks button on the top left of this page for more details.  I have never been to the event, but it sounds I'm praying a scholarship will come through so I can attend.  Check out if you would be interested in possibly winning a scholarship to the conference.

Oh...and if you wouldn't mind letting me know if this post has touched your heart in some small way; I would love to hear from you. For it would be further proof "that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose". Roman 8:28 NLT

Hugs & Smooches,
Lisa Ann

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Gift of Being Naive

I have the gift of being naïve.  Now I realize that naiveté is not featured as a spiritual gift in Scripture, but I would argue that it is a gift from God none the less, for He has used that gift in enormous ways in my life. 
This most vividly came into play about ten years ago.  I had always wanted to be a school teacher.  In fact, my mother had kept a journal of my school years and in it she wrote “what Lisa wants to be when she grows up” and except for the year in which I said I wanted to be an ice skater (after seeing Dorothy Hamill win the Olympics) I was committed to that goal. But it was not meant to be, and at age 29, I finally accepted and mourned the fact that God was not going to send me down my desired career path.  At that point, I decided to go to San Jose Christian College.  I applied to the school without much thought or investigation.   One day I just decided that I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree at a Christian school, and it was driving distance from home, and they offered night time classes, and I could have it done in two years, and the overall program sounded interesting.  Most importantly, I applied and was accepted just days before the start of the next semester.  So it seemed God was finally throwing open a door wide for me.
My lack of inquiry into the program requirements was actually a blessing.  I would have run for the hills, so to speak, had I bothered to find out which classes were mandatory.  But ignorance is bliss, so it wasn’t until six months into the program I was informed that I would need to do a “Teaching and Preaching” class and a one year internship.  In high school, I had failed more than one assignment that required giving a speech; being painfully shy talking in public felt like I might as well be standing in front of the class naked.   My college professor, witnessing how difficult this was for me, very mercifully and graciously gave me a passing grade…though I am still not sure it was deserved.
But that wasn’t the most astonishing part.  It was the internship that would change my life.  My internship only required that I work 4 hours a week with a Christian organization of any kind.  Just a few months earlier I had started attending a new church, so I went to the Senior Pastor of the 125-member congregation and introduced myself and asked if there was anything I could do in the church office that would be helpful.  He said he would pray about it and get back to me.  So imagine my surprise when he met with me a few days later and asked me to be the Director of Children’s Ministries.  He had heard from his wife that a few weeks before I had volunteered to help out in Vacation Bible School working with the kids in a very minor role, but I never worked with her…so this was crazy!!!  It was beyond my imagination the pastor would ask me to do such a thing!  But I was also overwhelmed with the realization that God was in the midst of this request…I wasn’t going to be an elementary school teacher teaching the ABCs and 123s, but I was going to be teaching the Bible instead!  I had to wonder if every experience of disappointment before was all part of His master plan.  Shocked, I explained to them why this was such an incredible request and then accepted, not having a clue what it would entail.
God grew me in so many ways through that experience.  Little did I know I would have to get over my fear of speaking in public, for speaking in front of the congregation on a regular basis was a necessary part of the job.  I learned how to lead volunteers and found joy in finding just the right role for them.   The highlight was at the end of my internship when I had the privilege of creating a totally new concept for Vacation Bible School.  Utilizing the many church buildings and rooms we created a small town with characters in full costumes where for one week the children daily traveled through the town visiting places like the police station—where they heard a gospel message woven into a mystery to be solved, the snack shack—where they made snacks not for themselves but for other children, the gym—where they learned a memory verse with hand & body movements...and a post office, a toy store, a city hall…and more.  I had no idea when I first present this idea to the elder board that they were convinced there was no way to pull this off, but I was so excited they didn’t have the heart to tell me.  They were certain I would never get enough volunteers to get it all accomplished.  But thankfully I didn’t know it was an impossible task…so I just blissfully and enthusiastically told everyone about it and mentioned how their skills were exactly what I needed.   In the end, attendance in VBS was higher than ever before and the attendance increased each day because kids told there friend about it.  Historically, attendance always decreased each day.  In addition, 80% of the church body volunteered in some form.  Apparently that is unheard of, but I didn’t know that until the week was over and my pastor pull me aside at the celebration dinner and total me about what the elders “knew”—that there was no way it could be done.  So my naiveté along with my love of service has been and continues to be a gift from God.  For anything is possible when God wants it to happen… and if you go along for the ride He just might let you be a part of it.
And just as a side note, while any spiritual gift has pros, there are also cons.  My life the last few days is a testament to that!  Naively, I volunteered to make housing and carpooling arrangements for 36 singles from my church.  We are going to the snow in Tahoe this weekend.  The number of hours and phone calls and emails were beyond my imagination.  Had I known what I was getting myself unto I definitely would have reconsidered taking this on.  But it got done…I think.  We leave in the morning.  Pray for us!

Hugs & Smooches,
Lisa Ann

Friday, March 11, 2011

She Speaks with a Sparkle Attitude

What does a woman with a sparkle attitude look like?  How does a girl who glitters for God behave?  Well, she definitely has a voice.
She Speaks…with faith that God will put the right words in her mouth.
She Speaks...honestly about her weaknesses, as well as her strengths.
She Speaks...with hope during life's ups and downs.
She Speaks…words of encouragement to others for their benefit.
She Speaks…prayers in order to draw closer to God, not just with a “To Do” list for Him.
She Speaks…truth tempered with wisdom, compassion and empathy.
She Speaks…up for others who cannot speak for themselves.
She Speaks…words of love to those who have known condemnation.
She Speaks…with joy that comes from believing in the unending, incomprehensible love of God.
She Speaks…with patience; resisting the temptation to have her voice heard above others.
She Speaks…as a light in the darkness, even when light is unwelcome.
She Speaks…with vulnerability and the ability to laugh at herself.
She Speaks…praise to her Heavenly Father even when the rollercoaster that is life is on a downward slope.

She Speaks…in order to connect with others rather than with selfish motives.
She Speaks…with an authenticity and genuineness congruent with who she is when no one is watching.
She Speaks…with respect, keeping in mind that others may have different viewpoints.
She Speaks…of God’s faithfulness to her and acceptance of her despite her brokenness.
She Speaks…with humor without ridiculing others.
She Speaks… giving honor to God when and where is it due.
She Speaks...but her actions speak louder.

She Speaks…but she also knows when to be silent and just listen.

A girl with a sparkle attitude also appreciates the chance to make friends with and learn from others who speak, write and minister to women...and places like the She Speaks Conference sponsored by Proverbs 31 ministries are built for exactly that purpose.  A girl who yearns to glitter for God hopes He will confirm she has something worth saying by blessing her with the means to go to North Carolina and attend.  So that girl will take the chance she might win a scholarship simply by posting a few words on her blog.

Living her entire life in the San Francisco Bay Area, a very unchurched land, has conditioned her to camouflage her faith.  But recent experiences, which she will share with you at another time, have challenged her to live her faith out loud.  Connecting with other women from all over the country at the She Speaks Conference could be exactly the encouragement she needs.
Hugs & Smooches, Lisa Ann

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wanted: A Devoted Husband and a Perfect Bra

As I was reading the blog of my new cyber friend Carol today, I found words that resonated with me.  She shared from the heart about how the dreams of her past had been dashed and left her unwilling to risk dreaming again.

Being a 41-year-old single girl who would love nothing more than to be married to a fabulous, devoted husband, there is one question that strikes a nerve every time it is presented to me.  No, it is not “How come a wonderful woman like you hasn’t been snatched up?” …or some variation of that question.  The inquiry I hate above all others is, “Where do you see yourself in x number of years?”  I’ve made a habit out of spinning my answer so it sounds as if my inability to answer the question is the direct result of my faith in God.  I respond with phrases like “Only God knows” or “I’m open to wherever God leads me”.  In reality, my answer oozes of pessimism and resignation that hope is just a set up for disappointment.  This outlook is the result of years of repeated disappointments that I won’t bother to unpack for you at this time.  But certainly a major factor has been hearing over and over and over and then over again for nearly 20 years that my husband is sure to be waiting for me just around the corner and that I was destine to be a mother; and yet that reality still appears to be as elusive as finding a four leaf clover… or finding a comfortable and pretty, yet structurally sound bra.

I adopted the word “courage” as my motto for 2011, but it wasn’t until reading Carol’s post that it dawned on me…being courageous is a spiritual discipline.
By reaching for the dreams I have put out to pasture, I can practice resting in God and trusting He loves me and wants good things for me.   By taking risks I can exercise acceptance that my failures and/or the things I lack do not determine my value.   For I believe in the God of the Bible who has told me my worth come from the fact that I am a daughter of the King and His unending love is what I need to feel whole.  So I am going to take chances and celebrate each risk I take in the coming year with the hope of growing closer to God in mind.  Whether I succeed or fall short I am positioning myself to take flight on wings of faith.
May I truly come to know and rest in the truth that "God has not given [me] a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." 2 Tim 1:7 NLT

Hugs & Smooches,
Lisa Ann

Friday, February 4, 2011

Finding Love With An Acupuncturist

Last night I had a dream about falling in love with a gorgeous, charming acupuncturist who swept me right off my feet.  Why on earth I was going to see an acupuncturist I have no idea, because although I am curious about and believe in the possible benefits of acupuncture I have never taken part in the practice.  It just looks and sounds too…creepy.  I have heard repeatedly that you barely feel the needles, but I have never volunteered to have a needle jabbed into my skin and find it difficult to imagine ever doing so.

Upon waking up from this dream I felt certain God was trying to tell me something.  I just wasn’t sure what…and I am still not certain, but after pondering it for awhile I got to thinking how many things in my life I understand could result in a positive outcome but I am just unwilling to take the risk of taking part.

I’m not and never have been a risk taker.  I live in a family of non-risk takers.  Since birth the messages came through loud and clear that choices should be made wisely.  For example, I grew up wanting very much to be a first-grade school teacher.  I loved each and every one of my elementary school teachers and can still name and tell you stories about each one.  Now, one would think that my family, which greatly values education, would be thrilled and even cheering about my chosen career path…but alas that was not the case.  For my family was convinced I would be forever struggling financially if I became a school teacher.  For my benefit, they “encouraged” me frequently over the years to select a different profession.  This was quite frustrating for me, for it was also communicated that I could do anything I set my mind to.  “Do you want to be an astronaut?  Then go for it!  There is nothing that can hold you back if you put your mind to it!”  Well I wanted to be a teacher, but the messages from my family had held me back, and by the time I got to college they had successfully changed my mind and I majored in social work…without consulting my family about it.  Now you don’t need to explain to me that social workers don’t make any more money than teachers do, because I did finally come to that realization.  And I didn’t actually get my MSW, for a number of reasons.  But what I had learned in the school of life is to play it safe.  Make choices that will ensure an easier, more secure, more predictable future.  And, for the most part, that is how I operate even to this day.

I will acknowledge there have been times when my “play it safe” nature has really saved my tush.  (Just ask Donna, one of my best friend since high school, about “the night that could have changed our lives” as we refer to it.  Yes, there were boys involved.)  But I have missed out on so much more because of my fear of taking risks. Which is why I adopted the word “Courage” as my motto for 2011.  And maybe…just maybe, that dream about finding love with an acupuncturist was a reminder that taking chances will open up my world and bring unknown blessings.

Hugs and Smooches,
Lisa Ann

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

May I Never Be Shiny

It may be an odd thing to admit, but fancy, shiny teapots frighten me. Their mere presence can make me uncomfortable and trigger feelings of unworthiness and insignificance. Their gleam beckons me to stare at them, but their apparent perfection warns me to stay away, be careful not to get to close…and touching is out of the question!

I find tarnished teapots more relatable. Don’t you? A tarnished teapot can beg me to come and visit from across a crowded room, for I wonder about its story - where it came from, what it has seen and done, who it has spent time with, how it has gotten to where it is now…and when it last shined.

I find I relate to people in a similar way, for I find shiny people cause me the same kind of anxiety as a shiny teapots do. I am referring to people who walk into rooms and immediately have all eyes on them. They have perfect smiles and wonderful laughs without a wrinkle as a witness. Their clothes are always fashionable and are never in need of an iron, and their hair looks like it was professionally done just minutes ago. There is no evidence of flaws to be seen by the naked eye. The shinier they are the more intimidated I am by them. I wouldn’t dream of approaching a shiny person without receiving a figurative engraved invitation of some sort…which would probably send me into a tizzy.

On the other hand, the people I am drawn to are the ones that have a indescribable beauty that glows from the inside, unrelated to their outward appearance. They have a twinkle in their eye, a warmth in their voice, an authenticity in their demeanor, and an unassuming joy that lights up the space around them. When I recognize those people I long to be friends with them, to have deep meaningful conversations with them, and learn about their story so I can figure out what makes them sparkle.

That is why I am proud to be a kin to a tarnished teapot. I’m curvy and even bit round presently, frequently blemished, often smudged…definitely far from flawless. But I have plenty of beauty to share even in my imperfect state. And ironically, yet thankfully, my tarnish might be the welcome sign that leads someone into a deep and meaningful conversation with me about why I shine in spite of, and even because of, my tarnished condition. For even though I am not a shiny person I have a light that sparkles in me, which longs for the freedom to spread out and be a light in the world. So I hope you will join me as I embark on the journey to expose my sparkle and share it with others. May I never be shiny, but may I learn to let my light shine.

Hugs & Smooches, Lisa Ann