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It’s Just A Cat

January 5, 2016

She was just a cat.

That statement could receive two different reactions.  The reaction of the animal lover: Pet’s are family too!!!  And the reaction of the apathetic: Yeah, it’s really just a cat.

I carry (quite proudly) the name of “crazy cat lady”.  I love cats!  Specifically, I love my cats.  Furgie and Figaro.  My cats are just the best.  But, unless you’re a cat fanatic as well, you won’t appreciate Furgie.  She’s feisty with a “my way or the highway” attitude.  Put her around a baby, and she transforms into a baby guard-kitty!  No one’s gonna mess with her babies!

Everyone loves Figaro.  And I mean that.  Everyone.  People who are allergic to cats still like her.  Sure, she’s picked fights with all of the neighbor cats; but if you’re a human, then you love her.

Thursday, December 31st, 2015, we had to put our little Figaro down.  She had a blockage in her intestines, and all signs were pointing to cancer.  We did not continue with testing to confirm it, because whatever it was, it was a death sentence.  Perhaps the surgery we could not afford would have bought her a couple more months; but the truth was, her time with us was at an end.  And I was crushed.

As I struggled with the loss of Figaro, an old familiar dialogue struck up in my mind:

 

I hurt

It’s just a cat.

My Cat!

Suck it up, buttercup.

Don’t I have a right to be sad?

It’s not a salvation issue.  Get!  Over!  It!

 

A massive headache quickly ensues after this inner dialogue of madness.

However, it did spark a thought which inspired deeper reflection.

I don’t mourn.  Or rather, I don’t give myself permission to mourn.

Really, Janna?  You got that over a cat?

Yes.  I really did.  I began thinking back to other times I had cried so hard I wanted to throw up, and hurt so badly I just wanted to shut off to the world and everyone in it.  Most recently, that has been my two miscarriages.

The thing about miscarriages, at least with mine, is that you’re not in control of any of it.  And with the first one, I had no idea what to expect – emotionally or physically.  I knew my baby had died.  I knew I would miscarry.  I knew I had another doctor appointment scheduled to make sure everything happened as it should.  That’s what I knew.

I wept the day I found out we had lost the baby and the day I actually miscarried.  Horrible heart-cry tears of hurt, pain, and loss.  It’s unfair loosing your baby.  The doctors had no answers for me as to what happened to cause this.  It was what it was.  So I cried, and then I was done.  The day we buried her brought fresh tears, (it was very too early to know what the baby’s gender was, but we called her Dot and thought she was a girl), but I did not want to face the pain again, and after Russell prayed, I pushed the pain down.

I would not allow myself to feel as deeply as the pain cried out.  I had Christmas to plan for, a church dinner to set up, and my sister and best friend were about to have their babies.  I needed to get my head clear!  So the day I miscarried, we called our best friends and invited them over, instructing them to behave as if I had never been pregnant and all was just fine.

My second miscarriage was almost exactly a year later.  This time I knew what to expect.  It wasn’t my first rodeo after all.  I cried at the doctor’s office at the confirmation that my baby had died, told the ultrasound tech “It’s okay” because I didn’t want her to feel bad, and then rather hostilely told my sister not to touch me as she tried to comfort me on the drive home.  It was what it was, and that was that.

The day I miscarried, I looked at it and said, “I don’t have time for this.  I’ll deal with you later.”  I then proceeded to host a planning meeting for church, and never looked back.  Because like the year before, there were things that needed done.  I had my daughter’s birthday to host and I had a church dinner to plan.  There were bigger things going on than my pain. (Or that’s the line I fed myself).

I trusted God’s wisdom through those miscarriages.  I still trust His wisdom.  I know the prayers of my heart, and though perhaps not fully, I see His answers and I see His mercy.  And I am grateful.

But I hurt.  And in those moments of pain – very valid moments – that inner dialogue was there.

 

I hurt.

It’s not that bad.

I lost my baby.

You miscarried early.  People have it worse than you.  Be grateful.

Don’t I have a right to be sad?

It’s not a salvation issue.  Get!  Over!  It!

 

So I told myself that trusting God’s wisdom was the same as giving Him my pain.  I dried my tears and wiped my hands of it, shutting down my mind to emotions.

Then this phrase kept dancing around: “Lean into God.”  It’s on the radio, it’s in conversations with women at church, in conversations with women I’ve just met!  And I’ve gotta tell you, I didn’t get it.  I thought I did…I was wrong.

The revelation happened the other night when I was working on my fiction writing.  One of my strong female characters needed to rid herself of pride and allow someone else’s strength to be enough to carry her through, physically and emotionally.  She needed to lean in to the other person, literally.  Like tuck in and just be held kind of leaning.

Sometimes I think God has me write fiction so He can thunk me over the head.

I don’t lean in like that.  Not with my pain.  I desperately want His will in my life.  I desire to know His heart and hear His voice.  I know He is my strength and fortress.  And I trust Him with my life.  But when it comes to that makes you want to cry so hard that you want to throw up, and hurt so badly you just want to shut off to the world and everyone in it kind of pain…I squirm.  I don’t want to be held just so I can weep in safety and rest in His love.  I want to show God that I’m brave; that I won’t let these things break me.

I get so caught up with wanting to be a “big girl”, I forget my identity as His daughter.  I forget He wants me to lean in.  Like tuck in and just be held kind of lean.  Just so he can hold me.  Because He loves me!  Pain, tears, struggles, failures, and all.

So I’m gonna lean in.  I’m not going to be ashamed of the tears that come, and the pain that overwhelms.  And as I lean, I want to remember these things, in my heart and in my mind:

  • God is good

“O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.” {Psalm 86:5}

  • God sees my pain

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” {Psalm 34:18}

  • God blesses the mourning

“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” {Matthew 5:4}

  • God is my comfort

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.”  {2 Corinthians 1:3-5}

  • Jesus is my peace and He has overcome the world

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” {John 16:33}

  • God loves me a whole lot

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” {Romans 5:8}

 

It’s Satan who whispers those lies that tell me to take my hurt and hide it down deep where it won’t bother anyone.  And I’m done listening to the enemy.  If…when…that old familiar dialogue strikes up again, I’m just gonna tell Satan to shut up, and I’m gonna go snuggle with my Daddy.

 

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever.”

{Revelation 21:4}

 

…Yep…All that from a cat.  She was a special cat 🙂

 

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Personal

The She Speaks Adventure

September 27, 2015

First morning of the conference

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:35

It’s been over a month since the conclusion of the She Speaks 2015 conference and, well, I’d say it’s about time I write this wrap-up.  It hasn’t been intentional procrastination that has had me put off writing about it, it is simply that there is so much to be told.  But who wants to read a blog that goes on, and on, and on…and on?

I found that every time I have sat down to write something, or when I have thought back on the conference, or someone has asked me about it, it’s the people’s faces – my sisters that I finally got to meet – that flash in my mind’s eye.  As I was praying about what to write about, John 13:35 jumped into my head, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  And it hit me.

From the moment I opened the email from my pastor’s wife about the conference, I have experienced the love of others – and through them, the love of Christ – in a new way.  An amazing, powerful, and humbling way.  So I’d like to tell you about the love of my family, the family of God, introduce you to some of my sisters, and thank each of you who have loved me so well.

As I stated in my first blog, the thought of attending – and paying for – She Speaks 2015 was a mountain before me.  We all know the verse, Mark 11:23, “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”

Mountains were moved!

I cannot claim the faith that moved these mountains.  It was friends like Ashley (also my sister!), BaCall, and Cara, who took the time to read my 100,000+ word manuscript and told me they believed in what I had to write.  They were Proverbs 16:24 to my doubt-and-fear-filled-self.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

It was friends like Kati, who stepped out in faith for me, giving me the encouragement and also, yes, told me what steps I needed to take to move forward with my writing.  One thousand dollars were raised through the Gofundme site she set up for me!  Seriously?!  One-Thousand-Dollars!   

Friends like Luke and BaCall who helped me with all things technical, helping me with my blog, facebook, twitter…all of it!  And let me not forget to mention that they stayed up waaaayyy late, just a few nights before the conference, while I was in tears because I decided that my book proposal was just not good enough and helped get it looking like something I could be proud to present.

They were my Calebs & Joshuas as I faced a land of giants, reminding me that with the Lord:

“we can certainly do it.”

It was my incredibly generous mother and father-in-law who graciously gave hotel, air, and rental car points to me for this trip, totaling well-over one thousand dollars.

Friends donated money, donated items to be auctioned off, took me shopping, loaned me clothes (because this stay-at-home mama didn’t own any professional clothing!), invited me to a weekend away to write & prepare, shared my blogs, liked my Facebook page……and even more so, they prayed.  It’s amazing what God does through prayer.

This is how my She Speaks journey began, being flooded with a mighty love that God used to moved my mountain and get me to She Speaks.

Now let me introduce you to my She Speaks Sisters:

Jennae “Mimi” – “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.” {Matthew 5:8}

(In the airport, on our way to She Speaks)

Jennae (affectionately known to my daughter as “Mimi”) has been there from the very beginning.  We’ve been friends since 2004, when we served on Jr. High staff together at our church.  From there we’ve shared many adventures together, and have dreamed about even more.  When I signed up for She Speaks, I knew she needed to be there too.  You see, Jennae is one of those ladies that comes to mind when you think, Hmmm, what does being a woman of God look like?  Because it’s her!  Her life is a beautiful example of 1 Corinthians 11:1, when Paul says:

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

You’ll have to wait for her to start a blog (Jennae, hint hint!) to hear her full story, but I can tell you this.  Jennae is steadfast: in her faith, in her love, in everything she does.

Thank you, Jennae, for being my friend, for being Mimi to Faye, for your faithfulness to God, and for spurring me on in my faith as well.

Lisa & Ed – “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” {Matthew 25:40}

I wish I knew their last name!  Lisa and Ed were are guardian angels that first night in North Carolina.  We met them in the elevator down to the hotel lobby.  It was a two-minute, we’re-excited-for-the-conference, hope-to-see-you-later conversation.  The elevator doors opened, Lisa and Ed headed towards the parking lot, and Jennae and I proceeded to the front desk to inquire about restaurants within walking distance.

Our unsure evening turned into one of humbling blessings.  Ed and Lisa had lingered to ask us to join them for dinner.  At our acceptance, they gave us a tour around the NASCAR track, chauffeured us to a Mexican restaurant, paid for our meals, then took us to Walmart where they then proceeded to buy us snacks for our stay at the conference.  These people were strangers to us, and us to them, yet they saw our need and didn’t just meet it, they truly poured the love of God over us that night, making us feel loved and taken care of.

Lisa and Ed, if you find your way to reading this, let me say thank you so very much for being Jesus to us that night.

Sticky Fingers Sisters – “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” {Matthew 12:50}

Dinner at Sticky Fingers BBQ

                 Dinner at Sticky Fingers BBQ

Night Two: Girls’ Night Out, She Speaks’ Style!  I was thrown into a car with these three lovely ladies, having no idea of the sisterhood that would follow it.  Heather, Helen, and Liz are the sisters I didn’t know I had, and am so blessed to know.  Each of these ladies love Jesus so much and their hearts for Him shine through radiantly.  In three days time, we laughed together, cried together, rejoiced, worshiped, and shared meals together.  Three days was all it took for my life to be impacted forever by these women.  

Thank you ladies, for being my sisters, and for being faithful as you continue to write and speak for Jesus.  To Him be the glory!

Kenisha – “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” {Isaiah 26:3}

Have you ever met someone, and just upon meeting them, the peace that resides in them overflows to you and you are stilled?  Kenisha is that sort of soul.  I was blessed to meet Kenisha before my first meeting with a publisher.  Needless to say, I was nervous.  Shaking, slightly nauseated, nervous…though, I like to pretend I had my game-face on.  Kenisha was sitting at the table checking people in for their appointments.  She had a gentle spirit as she took my name and gave me instructions for how things would proceed, and I expected that to be it.  But no.  She took the time before my appointment to speak peace into my heart and mind.  Over the next couple days, I got to speak with her a few more times.  In the hustle and bustle of working the She Speaks Conference, and through a few bumps and bruises of her own, she brought peace to the hearts of us who were attending.  She was a fierce weapon against the attacks Satan was waging on our hearts.

Thank you, Kenisha, for protecting my heart and mind in Jesus’ truths!

Kelley – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” {2 Timothy 1:7}

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It was in our peer critique groups where I got to meet sweet-spirited-Kelley.  As my fiction writer’s group finished the session, sweet Kelley came over with paper in hand.  Kelley writes non-fiction, but had begun a novel and wanted to know if we would take a look and give her our opinions.  Let me say, WOW!  Each of us in the group loved what we read.  But it wasn’t her talent for writing that touched my heart that day.  It was her gentle courage.  It is intimidating enough to invite critiquing on something that fits in your familiar genre.  It’s flat out scary seeking it out on a project you’re just beginning.

Kelley didn’t stop there.  We ran into each other throughout the remainder of the conference and smiled and chatted, and she was just as gentle and gracious in her encouragement to others as she was in seeking feedback.  She was the vessel God used to confirm one of our lovely She Speaks Sisters, and I have no doubt it was because of her faithfulness to the calling in her life, and because of her gentleness in spirit.

Thank you, Kelley, for being brave and for your faithfulness to write and speak as God calls you!

Debbie – “Say to the nations far and wide:
    “Get ready for war!
Call out your best warriors.
    Let all your fighting men advance for the attack.” {Joel 3:9}

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And then there was Debbie.  When Jennae and I met Debbie, I walked away thinking, I just met a commander in the Lord’s army!  She arms women with the Word of God!  She speaks encouragement and truth into lives.  She pulled us into prayer for each other, she connected us with the others she met, and she carried scriptures printed onto business cards to place in our hands when we needed to hear Truth.

I think Debbie understands true reality, that life is so much more than just what we see, and that God is a real, all-powerful, loving God.  She gets it.  And she’s arming us for war – the spiritual war that’s all around us.  A war that yes, God has already won, but that we cannot sit by in as bystanders.

Thank you, Debbie, for speaking so fiercely into my life.  You showed me what strength looks like.  You are an example of relying on and knowing the Word of God.  And you literally put the sword of the Spirit into our hands.  Thank you for building us up and preparing us to fight in the Lord’s army.

There are so many other women who touched my life through this conference, who let God’s love pour through them.  Thank you, She Speaks Sisters.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for being Jesus to me.  I pray He blesses each of you as you seek to be obedient to His calling on your life to write and speak!

You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.”

{Hebrews 3:13}

 

 

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                       She Speaks

 

Early morning run

                              Early morning run

 

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                               Saying goodbyes

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                              Happy Birthday Toni!

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      Hearing from Liz Curtis Higgs

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                        Main Session

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(Table 25 Regulars)

(Table 25 Regulars)

Personal

Taking Steps

May 29, 2015

Proverbs 16:9

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

Monday I received the much-awaited email from Proverbs 31 Ministries saying that it was time to start scheduling publisher appointments!  I have to admit, I squealed, prompting my two-year-old daughter too look at me and ask, “What happened?”  It warmed my heart that she was concerned about me, and I quickly assured her that it was a happy squeal.

The email listed the publishers and agents who will be accepting appointments, along with outlining what each required for their meetings.  Some want full book proposals, some want a one-sheet, some want nothing but a conversation and will ask for more via email if they believe your idea to be worth-while.  As I went through the list, there was one section that I read with a gut-sinking reaction.  The Not Interested In section.  The first four listed were not accepting fiction!  How quickly fear got its grasp on me!  But by the time I got to the fifth company, I let out a much needed sigh of relief!

After reading through everything, I selected five people I’d like to meet with, listing them from my first choice to fifth.  The She Speaks team’s goal is to schedule everyone wishing for publisher appointments with two to three of their choices.  So that leaves me to prayerfully wait for the next email – that will arrive in the first part of July – and that will let me know which appointments I will receive.  Oh the suspense!!

I’d be lying if I said I’m not battling anxiety.  In all honesty, anxiety is doing its best to sink its claws into my heart.  I’ve repeated Philippians 4:6 to myself over and over; “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.”  Anxiety persisted.  I am in this struggle, a very familiar one to my heart, which tempts me to step back, to not act…to give up.  But too often I haven’t jumped when I thought I was supposed to.  And I didn’t just not jump, I didn’t budge!  I was too terrified that I’d step out, just to find that I wasn’t supposed to.  I become filled with doubt.  How can I really know God’s will for me?  Doubt…anxiety…fear is paralyzing.  (It brings James 1:14-15 to mind).

But how sweet and how gentle are the soothing whispers of our Lord.  I read the words of Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”  My heart heard, Daughter, do not fear.  Seek Me.  Take that step.  I’ll make sure your foot lands on the right path.  God’s Word is alive, breathing God’s truths into our hearts and souls.  It is also the Sword of the Spirit, a very real and powerful weapon against the strategies of the devil (see Ephesians 6:10-17).  Proverbs 16:9 was the strike that turned my battle against anxiety from defensive to offensive.  Verse after verse come to mind now, helping me fight this battle against anxiety as I rest in the peace of God, that peace Philippians 4:7 promises.

There’s no promise from this conference that my plans, or hopes, of getting published will at all come to fruition, but my peace lies in this: I love God and I desire His will in my life.  No matter my plans, He directs my steps; and His Word is the light upon my path (Psalm 119:105).  He is the I Am, and He “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose”.  May we, may I, invite His good into our lives, and not let doubts, fears, or anxiety steal it from us.

And I will keep taking steps…

Blog Personal

Come and Hear

May 13, 2015

Psalm 66:16

“Come and hear, all you who fear God;

let me tell you what he has done for me.”

There’s an unsettling feeling that one gets when you’re supposed to do something and you ignore it.  I had this unsettling for…well, I guess I don’t remember not having it…

I woke up one morning, about a year and a half ago, with the memory of an only-just-started dream printed on the insides of my eyelids.  I kept my eyes tightly shut, willing myself to hold onto it, to see what happened next.  Who were these characters?  Where were they going?  What brought them together?  It wasn’t the first time that my imagination demanded the details to a wisp of a story that danced through my mind.

That night I opened my computer and I quickly typed out my dream, just to get it down so I wouldn’t forget it.  It was far from a story, but it was something.  If you’re wondering, this dream was not “inspired”.  There was no divine message laced within the folds of my mind.  It honestly could have just been a compilation of the thoughts I was thinking before I went to bed.  But as I sat there staring at my computer screen, I knew there was still something in it: a decision, and the unsettling.

I think I’m supposed to write.  (Insert terrifying scream of panic!)

The step from “I think” to “I know” is a big one, and absolutely petrifying.  I’ve spent the last year and a half – and hours upon hours – writing and I’m still not bold enough to say that I know I’m supposed to write.  But I did it.  I wrote.  And I completed my first novel.  I am continuing to write.  And what’s more, that unsettling has transformed into an urging.

The reality is, I have no idea what I’m doing.  But God does.  I’ve shared this area of my life with others, doing my best to test the waters, and I have been overwhelmed by support and affirmation.  So here I go, stepping out in faith on this new adventure.

Come July, I’ll be heading to North Carolina for the She Speaks Conference.  This is a conference put on by Proverbs 31 Ministries for women who feel called by God to speak or write.  The idea of attending this conference was a mountain before me.  The idea that I’m being called is a whole range of mountains!!  Doubts and fears plague me, yet the door stands open.

So why am I blogging?

I’m writing this as my heart’s response to Psalm 66:16, “Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.”  I don’t know who would actually want to know the workings of my mind, or the stories behind what I’m writing, but many are praying for me, and have even donated to get me to the She Speaks Conference.  Their kindness and generosity has given me the courage to share.

So with this blog, I invite you to come along with me on this journey as I share how God is moving in my life and through my writing.  If He’s calling me to write, who am I to say no?  And do I dare turn from His blessings to hide in fear?  No.  I will write.  I will share.  And may He, the Author and Perfector of our own stories, be glorified.