Walk with me… let’s be free.

There are so many things spinning like a carousel in my head as my fingers hit the keyboard. Forgive me if this post seems like some crazed randomness of too many words that don’t make sense. Try to hang in there with me…

I’ll start by sharing my “one word” for this new year: Live.

1Live verb \ˈliv\
: to be alive                                                                                                                                                                                     : to continue to be alive

I’ve felt this word strongly in my spirit for several months now , and just could not shake it when I was praying about a word to carry out as 2015 approached. However, I don’t believe this word was placed in my heart simply to just “be alive”. This year, I want to live… really, truly LIVE! I want to live uninhibited, bravelyconfidently, loudly, freely and beautifully. I want to squeeze every ounce of juice out of that word this year…. I want to wear that word so strongly that LIFE gleams from my fingertips. I. Want. To. Live.

Of course we all want “life to the fullest”…. we know that our “days are numbered”, and that we need to “embrace the present”, and “make every moment matter”. YEP, we. know. We believe it… or want to anyways. We get reminded of this and kick ourselves as we lay in bed at night if we happened to fail at “fully living” that day. Some days (or weeks, or years), embracing that in every moment is just HARD!

I’ve been on somewhat of a journey for the last two years. Life never throws us curve balls when we expect them, am I right?! I wrote a post in September of 2014, that I never published. It was a very rough draft, on a very rough day.

Can I be real with you? I’m human. Yes, my husband and I are in ministry. Guess what? We’re still human. To quote my boss and mentor, author Suzie Eller, “… sometimes, especially when you are in ministry, you might pretend that you always have it together and that night I had NOTHING together.” The following was written on one of those nights

I’m broken. In so many stinking ways. Physically, mentally, emotionally… broken.

I feel like I don’t even know where to begin. For the past two years, I’ve been battling an undiagnosed physical illness. I’ve been leery of bringing the subject up, for a multitude of reasons. I guess I’ve been living each day to live each month to find out “what’s wrong with me.” Maybe I thought I’d save the post until I was given a diagnosis, so that the words would be there. And yet, here I sit, two years after this all began, and I’m no closer to “finding out” than I was the day it manifested itself. My “diagnosis”, is officially “an undiagnosed auto-immune disease”.

I’ve asked myself along the way, “What if I never find out?” Well, since that thought flat out scares the stuff out of me, I try to shift from it quickly. So then I pray that God would just remove my desire to know. Maybe I will never know what’s going on with my body. That happens, right?! And, I need to be able to function and LIVE life, even if… right?!

YES!

So, here I am, a wanderer. I’ve been in this desert before. Actually, I live here. And I’ve lived here for some time. I’m a long time resident in this desert… this wilderness. I refuse to call myself a permanent resident, because I don’t plan on staying here forever. I’ve come close to packing it all up and leaving, heading for higher ground. But every time that I seem to get close to the mountain, real life takes me on a little detour and pulls me back down. And so I continue to wander here, waiting for my moment to climb the mountain. This perpetual mountain… I don’t just want to move it… I want to climb it, with everything I’ve got, so that I can reach it’s peak…. because God will be waiting there for me with hugs and high fives (and maybe a bottle of water). It is there that I will catch a glimpse of what I’ve been missing by planting my feet into the cracks of this stupid desert. There, on that peak, is where I will move forward, and never. look. back.

The thing is, no one is keeping me here, but me. I like to think of myself as this strong woman, who completely trusts God and puts everything in His hands and just rolls through life on a pretty little cloud of trust and joy. But let’s be real, I’m obviously not there. Not all of the time, anyways.

So, what’s it going to take? I know that God has had me on a journey of patience and trust for the last… um… several years. And very seriously for the last year or so. Oh, my Lord, I so badly want to hop over this fence and get outta dodge, but I keep letting life bring me back down.

You guys, I wrote this in September… mere months ago. It makes me cringe a bit. I’ll be honest, there were days that I thought I’d go crazy. Who am I kidding… I was. At the time I wrote that, I was just coming off of an almost nine month “episode” in my illness. Monthly primary doctor visits, specialist visits, test after test after test, blood work, and still no answers, had finally won. I caved. I felt further from God than I had in a long time. And yet, at the same time, I felt like I could hear Him louder than ever. What?! I know! 

God had been speaking to me in detail since the day my symptoms began. He had always been there. He still is. I don’t believe that God gave me this illness for a reason, but do believe that He has a plan for me as I walk this journey. And yet, as the days went by, I began to allow ME to become louder than HE. I fell into myself. Me. Of course, I was convinced that I didn’t feel sorry for myself, because there were others going through much more than I was. And yet, it happened. Inch by inch, day by day, I allowed the Enemy to entangle me in his wicked little web of “Me”.  

I’ll save the details of my health for another day. But for now, I’m curious: how many of you are wandering through each day, looking for answers? Aren’t we all in one way or another? Maybe you need answers in your marriage, in your finances, in your career path, in parenting. Maybe you are looking for deeper answers to theological questions. Maybe it is a health matter, physical or mental, and you need answers today. Maybe you’re questioning life in general. I know many of you reading this are walking through a life much harder than I am. When I really put things into perspective, I am well aware of the magnitude at which many of you are suffering. And I’m so sorry, for whatever it is that has you looking begging for answers. Jesus, be near. 

Sometimes, it scares the crud out of me… this “illness.” I tend to let fear creep in, even when the “Me’s” aren’t all up in my face. And I worry about my kids, my husband, their lives, our life. Anyone else been there? And oooooh, how the crazy circus monkeys LOVE to have fun with fear, right?! They dance around with it in your head and make you lose it. Lose it…  everything… but also: Focus. Surrender. Faith.

But, when I focus my eyes on Jesus, the “Me’s” fly away, along with the crazy monkeys. And yet, how quickly we tend to forget. It really is every. single. day. that I must die to self…. to ME.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NLT) 

So, yeah, my earthly body may be failing me. But I will live in this earthly body by TRUSTING IN THE SON OF GOD! If that doesn’t pull you out of your sticky “Me” web, right?! And I love that gentle whisper that reminds me of the truth, that when I am weak, He is STRONG! His power is made perfect in my weakness!

I want to LIVE! I’m so far from perfect, people, that it’s not even funny. The crazy train circus is not always rainbows and lollipops trust me! But that truth! Oh, the freedom that offers!

I’ll probably have to read this blog post every other day to remind myself of this all over again. When I take my eyes off of the things of this cray-zaaaay world, off of ME, and turn to The One who lives IN me, then I am free to LIVE! Free to love and to serve others… which is what I am called to do… and free to be me, rather than be focused on me. Free to be the Me that HE created… even if along with that, comes an illness. Never diagnosed. And until He decides to take me Home, I will LIVE with all I’ve got.

Are you walking in His freedom today? Really living? I know, it’s hard. But here’s something else I know: there is strength in numbers. And sometimes, all we need is a whisper, a nudge (or a slap across the face) from a friend, to remind us to keep going. To persevere. To LIVE. Even when God is ever present, for some reason, when people walk alongside one another, it feels less chaotic. There is comfort in solidarity… in knowing we are not alone.

I adore this quote that was shared by Patsy Clairmont:

WalkWithMe

I don’t know about you, but I want to savor every last drop of this journey, before He calls me Home. And I can’t do it alone.

Will you walk with me?

My dear friend and mentor, Suzie Eller, is talking about living free on her blog today, and every Thursday. Suzie’s post today gave me courage.

On Suzie’s #livefree Thursdays, she’s using the strength in numbers concept and linking up with other writers, to give you a mega dose of encouragement to #LIVEFREE! I’m so excited for this! Go read her post (and follow her blog… for real), and check out the linked-up posts from friends…. they’re all so. very. good. Find Suzie’s page here:

http://tsuzanneeller.com/2015/01/08/not-all-about-me/#more-8568

#LIVEFREE

Live today… really… LIVE!

-Crystal Sunshine

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fAiLuRe

Have you ever failed in life? Felt like a complete failure?

I have, more times than I can even count. Some failures landed on a grander scale than others…. those can be hard to come back from.

Like the times that I habitually lied to my husband regarding money… for a few years…. years. I justified it because I was “protecting” him from needing to know just how broke we were. He would find out, I would beg forgiveness, and then a couple of months later, the cycle would start up again. Day in and day out, I was sick over the lies that I carried. I’m shocked it wasn’t written in ash all over my face. It felt that way. I don’t like living in guilt. No one does.

Or like the years that I spent allowing personal guilt to eat me from the inside out over not having been a virgin on my wedding night. My husband was my only partner, but the fact that we hadn’t waited until marriage literally caused great turmoil for me…. for several years. After all, I’d once had a True Love Waits ring… I’d gone through the ceremony… I’d vowed in front of my parents, grandparents, and a church full of proud christians. Though I’d begged God for forgiveness, grace was a stranger to me. And, even when I became an acquaintance of His grace, I didn’t allow it to fully cover me…. I just couldn’t forgive myself. “I can’t be a pastor’s wife…. I’m so… unclean… how will I tell my children one day… “

And this doesn’t even scratch the surface, people. But guess what? I’m human. And God’s grace is beautiful.

Suzie Eller’s blog post today is SPOT. ON. regarding failure. It’s impossible to pick one quote from this post that is my favorite, because there are so. stinking. many. good. ones! Go read it. Share it. Someone out there needs this.

I’ll leave you with this one: “Failure doesn’t mean that God’s plan has gone away. Your mistakes aren’t bigger than God’s fingerprints on your life.” -Suzie Eller

http://tsuzanneeller.com/

Ummmm…

Pretttttty certain that today is January 1st…. unless that cranberry juice I drank last night was something different…. why is the post I literally just published showing that it was published on January 2, 2015?! I checked the date on my computer and it’s right. See?! This is one reason the blog has been put off… wordpress isn’t a good friend of mine…. KINKS!!!! I need technical help. Any takers?

2015… really?!

Insane that we are in the year 2015, right?! Happy New Year to you and yours!

I’m working out some kinks still with the blog and hoping to upgrade soon. For now, this is what we get.

I don’t really do the whole resolution thing, but I do plan and set goals and challenges for the new year. One of the challenges I set for myself was to contribute to the blog… daily.

I’ll talk later about why I’ve been so wishy-washy about writing here, and it really all boils down to the other F-word: Fear.

But for today, I want to leave you with a picture that helped set this personal challenge. Though God obviously did not literally place this piece of paper into my hands, one of His servants did, and I know that he was 100% led by God.

Our dear friends, Sean & Joni came to visit last Memorial Day. A visit with them is always long overdue and highly anticipated. I become deliriously giddy in the hours that lead up to them pulling into our driveway. The weekend is never long enough, as we try to jam six months worth of activities into 24-48 hours. There is hysterical laughter, catching up, venting, food, shopping (for the boys), naps (yep, I said naps… you haven’t seen a nap until you’ve seen four adults laid out in one living area snoozing it up together like a litter of puppies, while our six combined children run the joint). And then there are precious Jesus moments, where we share what God has done, is doing, and what He’s spoken to us since our last pow-wow. Both couples being in youth ministry zaps our time, and these hours together are literal vomits of the last several months. (Our weekly texts are typically short and sweet “I-miss-you-terribly-lets-run-away-together” jargon. And for the record, naps only happen in a minimum 48-hr visit, nothing shorter… but they. are. lovely.).

Night one included a late night backyard tear-filled Jesus Fest. The boys were in one corner of the porch, and Joni and I in another. We agreed to talk collectively about all of it before the weekend was over. Sean mentioned at one time the following day that he felt like it was my time to be writing. He’d interrogated me a bit as to why I wasn’t currently working on anything, and we moved past that.

On Sunday morning, Sean & Joni attended church with us, and sat in on my sunday school class. I don’t even remember what the lesson I’d given was, but Sean said that during that class, he’d felt God ask him to write down a specific word. He wrote it on a piece of paper, and stuck it back in his Bible. After service we went out for lunch before our sad see-ya-later’s.

The Jesus Fest continued, and God was in my face the entire lunch. Words that were thrown around, scripture that was brought up for entirely different reasons, all were pointing arrows right at me. I think I cried more than I ate. As I sat bawling into my napkin at one point, Sean asked me this, “If you felt like there was one place God really wanted you to start… one place that would be the best jumping point for you… one area that you really needed to improve in order to set things in order… where would it be?” I sat for a moment, begging God to give me an answer, and He quickly placed onto my tongue this word, that I then blurted out, “Blog.”

Sean stared at me, looked at Joni, smiled, started laughing, and then said we all needed to go outside to their vehicle… immediately. Being the good parents that we are, we left our kids at the restaurant table and followed Sean outside. He told me of how he’d felt God had asked him to write a word down during sunday school, and he had absolutely no idea what it meant. He’d thought it was something for him, but said that it turned out, it was for me. He pulled this piece of paper out of his Bible.

IMG_7157

Blog.

God, you crazy cool. And I like it. 

So, there ya have it. The story that you probably could care less about, but that means a whole lot to me. I obviously stewed on that word for a bit. Person after person confirmed that word from God for me, unbeknownst to them, in the last few months. And here we are. 2015. Promise to work hard on my challenge, God.

I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” -Brian Tracy