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Tag Archives: Annie F. Downs
Staring Back at Me
Little did I know that when I began this blog, that this space would become exactly my mirror staring back at me. In this space, I have written about being a daughter of someone who daily struggles with a mental illness. I have written about the joy I find in playing and spending time with children. I have written about my deepest desires asking “How long, Lord? Oh how long Lord?” I have written about friendships that only God can orchestrate. I have written about who and whose I am!
An excerpt from Praying on the Prairie originally posted on October 31, 2015:
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope”–Thomas Merton
“Saying yes to the situations that stretch you and scare you and ask you to be a better you than you think you can be”–Annie Downs; Lets All Be Brave; P. 107
I am reminded of a word “eucharisto.” It is a word that my colleague shared with me a year ago in his sermon on the day I shared with the congregation that I was leaving and had accepted a new call. In that sermon, my colleague talked about listing our blessings and thanking God for all the things God gives us. He later told us that the word in the text for ‘thanksgiving’ is translated ‘Eucharisto.’ As I sat there and listened to his sermon, I found myself reflecting on that word. And today I find myself clinging to that word again.
As I sit here this morning and reflect on the last 31 days, I find myself once again clinging to that word ‘eucharisto.’ This write31 days community has blessed me in more ways than I can count or even imagine! Today I am so very thankful for each and every one of you; for you who shared your stories with me, for you who told me how my story blessed you, and for each of who ventured to participate in this challenge. So today I am uttering these words back to you my dear friends, ‘Eucharisto!’
And as I give thanks for each of you, I am also very thankful for my momma. She has been through so much. Yet she is one of the most beautiful faith-filled women that I know. Our story of mental illness will always be a part of who my mom is and who my family is. I hope that through these 31 days, I have been able to let so many know they are not alone. I also hope that I have been able to share our story, and shatter, at least, some of the stigma associated with mental illness. Thank you for reading my story and walking with us through these 31 days because I am a daughter; a daughter of someone who daily lives and struggles with a mental illness. And the truth is I will always be that daughter.
I am and always will be that daughter. This summer was a great summer, but it also was crummy too. While I was in Colorado, Mom ended up in the hospital. The doctor diagnosed her with a urinary tract infection. She was released from the hospital and seemed to be doing well. Only a few days after I returned from Colorado, I got a call saying she had gone to the doctor again. They said it was still the UTI and after time, she would be fine again. Then on our way back from the National Youth Gathering, I got a call from the nursing home yet again. Mom was adamantly asking to move (which made no sense because she loves it there) This was a side of Mom that we had not seen. No answers…and only more and more confusion. While my sister and I were on our sister’s trip, we got a call asking to move her. We were adamant about her not moving, yet there seemed to be no solution. With much hesitation, we gave permission to move her to a new facility. She seems happy there, but still is not the Mom we have known and loved. I only have more and more questions and no answers. My prayer is that soon Mom will return to her old self and will be able to move back closer to me. (Instead of 45 minutes from me, she is now like 4 hours away).
Like our story continues to ebb and flow, I am realizing how healing it is for me to share our story. I sit her with my cup of tea, talking to you like an old friend. And I take comfort in knowing that this old friend knows me and our story. (I also have dear friends that I can do this with in real life too!) And as you listen, I find myself leaning in to tell you more of my story.
In telling my story, I find that it is also important to play. I love holding infants. There is something so holy about holding that little life in my hands. On Monday, I made a pit stop to see a dear friend and her new baby. It was just exactly what the doctor ordered. This weekend, I was able to spend time with my family. I helped my aunt put up veggies from my Grandma’s garden. I sat and broke bread with my dad and sister at the cafe downtown. My sister and I laughed and smiled as we learned how to use our new selfie sticks.
But, the most joy was playing with our brand new farm puppy Kotee. Kotee loved all the attention my sister and I gave him. He was a little wound up by the time our aunt and uncle headed back to the farm. (Sorry P and T!) The best was seeing how much grandma enjoyed Kotee. Recovering from surgery, Kotee brought joy and peace to Grandma. He was the best medicine for her! And seeing that reminded me, reminded all of us of the importance of remembering to play.
As we remember to play, I am reminded of how life too ebbs and flows. It has its ups and its downs. It has its moments of ordinariness and extra-ordinariness.
“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.’–LR Knost
Breaking the Silence (A Five Minute Friday Post)
I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Break.” Write for five minutes; unedited.
My Lighthouse by Rend Collective Experiment has become one of my all-time favorite songs. I love the image of the lighthouse in the distance breaking through and providing that light that we need. Or, I think, of a candle which in a blackout provides just enough light; just enough light breaks through and shows us what we need to see.
Sometimes what we need to see is right in front of us. This week I have been finishing (I only have a chapter left) of Annie Downs’ book “Let’s All Be Brave.” That book has opened me up in ways I never thought possible. It has help me break through and be more brave than I ever thought possible. My friend Colleen at Blessed are the Feet reminded me of that today in this post she wrote Go Ahead and Tell Your Story.
God wants us to tell our WHOLE stories; even the bloody messy pieces of our stories. My story is filled with much joy but it also is filled with much pain and sorrow too. My Mom had a nervous breakdown right after my sister was born. (She is three years younger than me) She has lived with a mental illness pretty much my whole life. And I have learned the power of sharing my story; our story. There are so many in this world whose hearts are breaking because they haven’t been able to share their whole stories.
I also believe that when we share our stories, God finds a way for the light to break through in the midst of the deep darkness. In sharing our stories, we break the silence about the so many things that I believe God weeps along with us with in this world. And by sharing my story and the story of all those who daily struggle with a mental illness, I am able to hopefully break the silence.
**Since I referenced this video, I decided to add this video for your enjoyment, friends. Maybe you could break dance to this? (Just Kidding!)
Radical Hope and Unmet Expectations
I’ll be honest. I really don’t want to write this blog post AT ALL. But after continuing to read through Annie Down’s book and reading her very own chapter on being single, I hear a resounding “me too.”
I always feel guilty for writing about being single and God not yet fulfilling the prayers that I have continually asked for. As Annie reminded me, it’s not simply about being at home alone, or in bed alone but rather is about a God who can do something about those unanswered prayers but doesn’t. That is perhaps one of the hardest things for me especially when I watch as prayers are answered around me. My heart knows that God will answer those prayers in God’s ways when the timing is right, but my head is irrational and wants those prayers answered RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!
I must admit that I sometimes think that I overshare on this topic and that is not my intent at all. I don’t want to scare any of you away. But last night as I read Annie’s chapter on being single, I thought if Annie can be vulnerable and write what is on her heart, I too can muster up the courage to do the same; to put down my fears and share what is on my heart.
I am a thirty seven year old woman who deeply yearns to be a Mom and a wife. Ever since I was a little girl, I would play house with my sister and dream of meeting my Mr. Right and having a family. Yet I am still……….waiting!! And in the midst of that waiting, I know that God has a beautiful plan in store for me but some days; ok must days, it is easier said than done to trust in that plan for my life. It is like taking a giant leap of faith not knowing where the floor is underneath me. But in the book of Jeremiah I am reminded, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you; plans to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
A future with hope…YES! That is exactly what I cling to and hope in. These words from Annie’s book were a giant exclamation point for me. She writes, “We walk through seasons that are filled with unmet expectations and potential for radical hope (Lets All Be Brave; Annie F Downs; P. 163).” I read those words over and over again. Then in the margins of the book, I wrote YES in huge letters next to that quote.
That is the truth, my friend, like the seasons change around us, the seasons change in our lives too. And sometimes those seasons can be confused in their own time and space. I am chuckling as I write this as it is snowing big fluffy snowflakes at the moment, yet the calendar says it is Spring. We indeed all walk through unmet expectations and potential for radical hope; a radical hope that is grounded in the promise of the Resurrection.
That radical hope and those unmet expectations are so evident in my life when I sit at home on a Friday night by myself. That radical hope and those unmet expectations are evident when another friend announces a pregnancy or an engagement. That radical hope and those unmet expectations are there as the tears quietly and silently fall from my face in the privacy of my home. Yet the truth is, that in the midst of that radical hope and those unmet expectations, that God still promises to never leave me or forsake me.
“Don’t panic, I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”–Isaiah 41:10 (The Message Translation) Oh how those words grab a hold of me and speak to every fiber of my being. God has a firm hold on you friends! God has a firm hold on me! And yes, somedays I wish that God would loosen that grip. But I also need to be brave and hold on to that grip knowing that God does indeed have a plan for me. We are never alone. Jesus says to each of us, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
“To be brave here is to know that, no matter what your marital status is, male or female, always single or happily married, or every spot in between, you are never alone.” (Let’s All Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P. 164)
As you know, I have been working my way through Annie Down’s book “Let’s All Brave. And I cannot put it down. It also has made me realize how many amazingly brave people I have in my life.
Brave is…taking that leap of faith when you are not sure where that leap of faith is going to lead.
Brave is…sharing about an infant loss when it is the last thing you want to do and when
the tears are still wet upon your face.
Brave is…taking a trip to a place you feel called to serve God.
Brave is…hearing the call to ministry and following through with that call.
Brave is…moving on from a relationship.
Brave is…saying yes rather no.
Brave is…also sometimes saying no when you would rather say yes.
Brave is…being authentic and sharing the real you.
Brave is…opening your heart to a child and bringing that child home to be a part of your family.
Brave is…breaking the silence and sharing your authentic self and your own battles with depression and/or a mental illness.
Brave is…sharing your faith story to a huge crowd when it scares you to death.
What is brave to you my friends?
Let’s Be Real! (Five Minute Friday)
I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Real” Write for five minutes; unedited.
Yesterday I wrote a post about how there is a book currently wrecking my soul…in a fantastic way. That book is Annie F Down’s book “Let’s All Be Brave.” I cannot stop highlighting in the book and cannot put it down. I think it is wrecking my soul, my friends, because it is reminding me to be “real” with the world around me, with my friends, but most especially with myself.
So I am choosing to be even more real with you tonight, my friends. Anyone who reads this here blog knows my deep desire to be a mom and a wife. But I have come to the realization that God may have a different plan for me. God knows what that plan is. Maybe I am suppose to be a mom by venturing into being a foster mom or adopting a child.
Yep, my friends, I just said it. There is a real part of me especially now as I read Annie’s book that thinks that my bravery might indeed include being a mom through foster care or adoption. A quote spoke to me the other day on Facebook. It said, “Adoption is the visible Gospel.” Wow! What incredible words! God has a real plan for me!
Let’s be real friends! I don’t know exactly where this journey will lead me. But I do know that God is with me on this journey. And God has given me the real strength to be brave.
And God has given you each that real strength too!
The Book That is Wrecking My Soul
Have you ever had a book totally wreck your soul in a totally utterly fantastic way? There is a book that is doing that for me right NOW! That book is the book “Let’s All Be Brave” by Annie F. Downs. Several friends recommended her book to me and I finally was able to pick it up at Barnes and Noble on Sunday. It is one of those books that I cannot put down. It also is a book that I am continually underlining in because there is so much of this book that is already speaking to me.
My #oneword365 for this year is “brave.” And oh how I want to be brave. And sometimes you just need that little shove; that push that calls you to be brave.
“I’m here to ask you to please do that thing in your heart that scares you to death. To make that move or leap or step or sound you wouldn’t have made a week ago. There is no formula and there are no rules. There is the Bible, our guidebook for all things, but other than that, being brave is organic and spiritual and a unique journey for each person.” (Let’s All Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P.16)
Annie’s words remind me that God DOES indeed have a perfect plan for me. God knows that plan. And a lot of days it is so hard for me to trust in that plan. But then I am reminded that God knows my heart; knows every desire of my heart and indeed has a specific perfect plan for me.
“You aren’t headed out to find courage. It’s in you, it is blooming, and it is with you as you travel and say yes to things that seem scary. Remember, it’s not only the X that matters; it’s getting there .” (Let’s All Be Brave; Annie F Downs; P.23)
The truth, my friends, is that I have the courage to be brave. It is in me. Like a flower blooming, that courage is blooming and growing into a beautiful flower. And as that flower is blooming, I am reminded of how many times in the Bible we hear the words “Do not be afraid.” God promises to walk with us no matter what the journey brings us. And when we trust God has a way of showing up in surprising ways.
“That the moments of my greatest fears–those times when I was sure I was going to wimp out under the pressure of it all–have also been the open doors to the greatest changes in my life. So I step out, full of fear, but trusting that God is on the other side in new and wonderful ways. And so far? He always is.” (Learning to Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P.31)
“And that though I am flawed, God is loving me and refining me and reminding me that God in me is where I can place my trust. And that is the place where I find my courage.” (Learning to Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P.37)
See what I mean! As I read Annie’s words, I find myself realizing how I have everything I need to be brave. I can do anything I set my mind too. Sometimes it means just simply say the words “yes!” It means trusting in God who made me. I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I am not one hundred percent sure where this journey of bravery might take me, but each day I find myself clinging to and finding a little bit of that bravery that is already in me…that bravery that God is calling me to hold onto.
“You are one of a kind, made on purpose, deeply loved, and called to be courageous.” (Learning to Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P.45)
Fallon, Kidman, and Clooney
Earlier this past week, Jimmy Fallon had Nicole Kidman as a guest on his show. The whole piece was about how he blew a chance to date her. If you haven’t watched this, you must watch THIS! (So funny! It totally is worth it to watch the full nine minutes)
And then later this week, a friend introduced me to a piece by Annie Downs. Annie’s post was totally a post that touched my heart. (Thanks for leading me to it KA!) Annie talks about how God hears us. God sees us. You can read Annie’s post here: What I Learned about God from Nicole and Jimmy
Then tonight another celebrity reminded me that it’s never too late. George Clooney got up to accept his Cecille B DeMille Lifetime achievement award. He was talking about how everyone in the room is a winner. But then he got kind of teary eyed and talked about how incredible it is to find someone to love. He then proceeded to say “especially when you have waited 53 years for that someone to love.” George’s words reminded me that God does hear our every desire and our every word. Yet that is so easy to forget sometimes especially when you ache and yearn for something SO DEEPLY!!!
And this week it was three celebrities who reminded me again that God DOES hear me. God DOES know every desire of my heart. And sometimes God needs to send simple reminders through people I see every day but also sometimes through simple conversations from people who I love to watch on the big screen.
Thank you to George, Jimmy, and Nicole for reminding me that life is a roller coaster and sometimes you miss the opportunity if you don’t get on the ride. But most of all for reminding me that it is never to late to find that special someone to love. So I am continuing to choose to be brave and to trust in this one who indeed HEARS me!