Saturday, August 30, 2014

Is It Still Called Juggling If Half the Balls Are on the Ground?!

This week was another crazy-busy week. Back to school time is always so excitingly hectic. As I sat at my desk this week frantically trying to knock things off my To-Do list, the thought crossed my mind, "Is it still called juggling if half the balls are on the ground?!"

Surely I am not the only one who felt that way this week. You are juggling work, laundry, bills, church, shopping lists, dinner, and meetings and along the way you fumble a thing or two (or three, or four). Welcome to juggling 101! Since I didn't have enough things on my list To-Do list this week, insert sarcastic laugh, I googled How to Juggle. Actually there were some tips from Wikihow that might help us in juggling our lives.

Tip One
Relax, breathe, and don't get frustrated. Juggling can be difficult and it might take days for you to be able to juggle.
Sometimes we get so frantic in juggling our lives that we forget to relax and breathe! It is a necessity to success. Not taking those breathers leads to frustration and growing frustrated only makes the task more challenging. We have got to remember to take time to relax and breathe! Our society as a whole tends to think that stopping to breathe is a bad thing. Our work ethics lead us to be a little proud if we are firing off emails at midnight or responding to them even on vacation. We are addicted (finger pointing at self) to busyness. It is causing us to be less meaningfully productive, less satisfied, and less centered. We have got to relax and breathe!

Tip Two
If you fail, do not worry. Take a break and when you are ready, try again.
We are going to fail. Sometimes we set expectations of ourselves and others so high that we leave no room for failure and yet we know failure is going to happen. We can also look at history and see that failure sometimes leads to the greatest lessons and advancements. Allow yourself, and those around you, permission to fail with the expectation that we will learn from those failures and be better for it in the future! The energy we spend worrying is much better spent in other ways! We are going to fail, but do not worry. Take a break and when you are ready, try again.

Tip Three
Avoid juggling heavy objects.
There are some tasks that are too big to be juggled. You need to set down every other item and focus completely on the one task. Juggling sometimes keeps us from focusing on the things that matter most. We get so busy that we juggle our time with our families away. We try to do too many things and end up not doing any of them well. We need to prioritize. God and family cannot be juggled. Set down your balls and focus on the things that matter. There are some objects that you do not want to drop!

Tip Four
Do not attempt to juggle fire axes. Only professionals are equipped to do this.
I love this one! I think that I may have attempted to juggle fire axes before. I have a few scars to prove it! Some things are best left to the pros! Are there some things in your life that you have been juggling that you need to let go? Are there some decisions you have been trying to make, some relationships you have been trying to mend, some changes you have been trying to handle, that you need to release to a professional? Some things I juggle belong to God and not to me. He is able and willing to handle them and He will make it look so easy! My friend, do not attempt to juggle fire axes! Leave it to the professional!

Tip Five
This one wasn't on wiki how but should be. Have fun.
Juggling balls is intended to be fun, so is juggling life. No one dies wishing they had done more work, juggled more tasks, felt more stressed, missed more chances to laugh. In the end the thing that matters most is the way we loved. So at work have fun and love those around you. At home, put down the balls and enjoy your family. At church, have fun praising the God who made you and share his love with others. As you juggle, have some fun! Life is a ball, not about juggling them!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I Want Less

I Want Less
by Anna Masten Jackson

I want less...
Less busy, more stillness.
Less worry, more peace.
Less pride, more humility.
Less desire, more satisfaction.
Less controlling, more releasing.
Less planning, more enjoying.
Less sitting, more moving.
Less complaining, more thankfulness.
Less stress, more rest.
Less judging, more grace.
Less anger, more forgiveness.
Less justification, more justice.
Less selfishness, more generosity.
Less technology, more relationship.
Less discouragement, more cheering.
Less doubt, more belief.
Less arguing, more understanding.
Less Facebook, more Bible.
Less fast food, more dinner.
Less deception, more trust.
Less silence, more communication.
Less brokenness, more healing.
Less indoors, more back porch .
Less hate, more love.
Less anxiety, more joy.
Less frustration, more patience.
Less faux, more genuine.
Less stuff, more time.
Less pity, more kindness.
Less talk, more action.
Less doubt, more hope.
Less fear, more faith.
Less negativity, more blessings.
Less talk, more listening.
Less sinfulness, more goodness.
Less abrasive, more gentleness.
Less of me, more of God.

John 3:30

Our world is all about more, more, more. As our thirst for more has increased the quality of life and happiness seems to have decreased. What if we have more when we have less? What is your list of less?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Paintings on Sandcastle Walls

I feel like I am running around hanging pictures on sandcastle walls.~ Anna

The past few weeks have been so busy!  Early mornings, late nights, and so much to do in between. It has been one of those seasons where your To Do list gets longer each day instead of shorter. Someone asked me the other day how things were going and I told them, "I feel like I am running around trying to hang pictures on sandcastle walls!" That imagery popped into my head and captures so perfectly how I feel. Just about the time I get the paintings hung and straightened I feel the sand shift and the picture has to be reworked--- if it hasn't fallen and totally shattered!

Isn't life just like that? We get things all straight and perfect and a wave comes through and knocks it catywampus! Waves like your husband dropping a coffee cup on his foot severing a tendon and requiring surgery (yes, that is one of my current waves), colliding agendas at work, schedules that are packed with activity, kids who need to be fed (and with 14 year old twin boys that is a big ole wave!), trying to squeeze the last joys of summer, and on and on. Sometimes the waves are awesomely delightful unexpected surges, sometimes they are devastating tides that knock out a whole wing of your sandcastle. Regardless of the type, all I can tell you is that the waves are going to come.

You know we all live in sandcastles. Everything is temporary and in a constant state of change. We deceive ourselves when we act as though we can really control much (and trust me, anyone who knows me will tell you I struggle with this. Hi, my name is Anna, and I am a control freak.)  So how do we keep from being frustrated when our paintings won't stay straight?  This is what I am thinking:

1. Realize this life is a sandcastle, not a fortress. Change will come. Learn to adapt.

2. Get used to a little imperfection. There is no such thing as perfect in the world of sandcastles. You cannot keep millions and millions of individual particles of sand in line. A little imperfection creates some depth and contrast. Embrace it.

3. Maybe the beauty of life is in the sandcastle and not the paintings we try to hang on it. Perhaps we focus on the wrong kind of beauty. Enjoy the sandcastle for what it is; an ever hanging structure with great opportunities for improvement!

4. Try to relax and have a little fun with your sandcastle. Have you ever seen a kid on the beach running around with a checklist, calendar and stopwatch as they build a castle? Nope, they plop down with a bucket and enjoy.  Relax! When waves come through it is a chance to get to play in the sand. Perspective my friends, it is all about perspective.

5. Building (and rebuilding)  sandcastles is a lot more fun with a friend. When waves come a long that shake the walls of your sandcastle, remember you don't have to rebuild alone. So often we try to do things in our own power and strength. God is a great builder of sandcastles. He is happy to help us build and talk about creative! Your sandcastle will be awesome!

So today, I am setting down my hammer and nails and picking up a shovel and bucket instead. I think I will stop focusing on the pictures and start focusing on the sandcastle. Wanna come play in the sand?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Stepping Stones

It is funny how life brings all kinds of "new normals" to us. Leaving your parents home after graduation, getting married, having children, getting a new job--- each of these life events take us to a new place in life where we have to reorganize and prioritize. Our routines change, our finances change, life shifts to a new normal. I realized this week that my life has found a lot of new normals. There is the new normal of a few aches and pains, reminders of surgeries past. There is the new normal of curly hair after years of bone straight. There is the new normal of vacation time being spent traveling for medical care--and I am so grateful for that care! This week we returned to MD Anderson for my check up and received great news that the spots they are watching for cancer are stable. There are no new places and the existing ones remain unchanged. We will go back in 4 months and repeat the process. If, wait-- I should say WHEN, I get to 2 years of being stable, the scans will take place every 6 months. For now I have been given 4 months that feel like freedom. 4 months of no treatment. 4 months of no surgery. 4 months that I can plan my life as much as any other human can plan theirs (although we are all foolish to think we can really plan our futures, but you now what I mean).

As I got in the car after receiving the good news, my mind was suddenly filled with this image of me on stepping stones that were scattered across a raging river. For now I am safely standing on a stone. Behind me are years of boulders I have safely used to cross rough waters-- or at least could climb back up on after I slipped. Ahead of me are who knows how many stones. Below me is a wild river. At this time the water that threatens me most is "The Nuisance", but blended in are the typical waters of life-- parenthood, marriage, finances, job security, safety.... In order to make progress in life I must leap from stone to stone. For the moment I am able to stand safely on this rock, catch my breath, enjoy the view, and take in a little sunshine. In four months (unless life throws another curve ball) it will be time to take the next leap of faith. If I become paralyzed by fear, doubt, anger, discouragement, or hopelessness then I am unable to take the leap of faith required to move forward to the next stepping stone. In fact, the stepping stone looks more like a stumbling block. If I focus on the raging rapids, I become incapacitated. The desire for safety and security can trick me into thinking I can't take that next jump. It is too far away, I might fall. The water is moving too fast, I cannot jump. I get focused on the river of fear and my footing becomes weak. Instead I must focus on the rock ahead. Psalm 18:12 says, "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." In order to jump safely, I must focus on God, my rock. When I leap to him, ignoring the fears around me, I am safe on a fortress. I am delivered. Once again I can take refuge and stand securely until it is time for the next move. God is a rock and on Him I am safe and sound.

We all have rivers of life swiftly moving around us. Maybe you have slipped and feel like you are drowning in it right now. Maybe you are in a safe place and basking in the sun. Maybe you are preparing for a big leap and working up your faith. Wherever you are, I can testify to this: God is a rock and on him you can stand!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I once read a quote that said, "Tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it by the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith." On days like today when I am on my way to MD Anderson for further tests, I become more aware of that choice than ever. As the day draws closer I have to work harder and harder to hold my thoughts captive. How easy it would be to spend today in fear of tomorrow, but what would that accomplish? The Bible he says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Worrying only robs me of today. A beautiful day.

I continue to learn lessons about fear and worry. One of the greatest is that the fears in my mind always seem to turn out to be much greater than the reality. Not that the reality isn't amazingly frightening sometimes, because I assure you it is. But God dwells in reality. He gives me strength to handle whatever lies in my reality. But fears and what ifs, that is a different story. The fears that can brew in my mind are like a mist. I see them in my mind's eye. I feel them in my heart. But when I reach out to touch them, I discover they are not tangible. I am trying to grasp something that does not, and may never, exist. In the movie After Earth, Will Smith's character says, "Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice. "  How much time do we waste on fear, and how many fears never come true? Such a sad waste of time. While that is often the case, I have also been in those moments when fear becomes reality. When the words I dreaded the most are spoken. I have to tell you that I have found a wonderful truth there as well. Each time God has been faithful and met each of my needs. What I thought I couldn't handle, God could. What I thought I couldn't bear, God did. I have to remind myself of those things on days like today.

Tomorrow has two handles. As I head towards Houston I can choose to grab it with anxiety/fear, or with faith.  My past 18 months God has proven to be faithful. He has consistently answered our prayers. He has consistently brought light to darkness. He has consistently kept his promises to me.
So "I will have no fear of bad news; my heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD." Psalm 112:7. Whatever lies ahead, God has got it!

Thank you as always for being a part of my army. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. God is good! All the time!! 

Prayer opportunities:
Wednesday 11:45.  Labs and CT scan
Thursday 1:00 Oncologist
Friday 9:00 Surgeon

Friday, July 4, 2014

God Bless America

God bless America, Land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her through the night with a light from above. 

Last week as I  traveled through a Texas town, I passed a gas station with a sign out front. At some point someone had taken the time to put up the message, "God Bless America". Unfortunately, Texas wind and sun had done some damage to the "B"  and it was faded to the point that the message was left saying, "God less America".  The damage to the letter had been a slow fade. It happened over time and the owner probably didn't even realize it. In his or her mind the sign probably read just like it was intended, but that is how it happens sometimes. Change happens slowly and we don't even notice it. That sign read like a warning for what I fear is happening in reality. I am afraid we, like the sign, are victims of slow fade. As we become more God less, we become less God blessed. The slow fade begins. We wake up one morning and the "B" is gone. We are no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. All that we have fought for, the freedoms we enjoy, the rights we so strongly argue for are gone.  The irony is that we may one day lose our independence because we have become too independent. We no longer acknowledge that everything we have is a gift from above. We take credit for our strength, our courage, our privilege. We are no longer dependent on God so we are becoming less independent as a nation. God-less America, Land that I loved...

Today we celebrate Independence Day. I am so proud to be an American and I do not take that blessing lightly. As I celebrate July 4th today, I celebrate it with worship of the God who gave us independence and prayer for our country to become dependent once again. I celebrate it with gratitude for all those that have fought for my independence throughout the years. I pray blessings for the future. I pray we will stop the slow fade and return again to place of blessing. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14.

"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. "

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Freedom Trail

It has been way too long since I have written. June has been filled with trainings and travels to trainings. This week I had the joy of traveling to Boston for training. The days were filled with intense learning at Hahvad (that is Bostonian for Harvard) and the evenings were filled with as much exploration as we could squeeze in before we fell over in exhaustion. It was an amazing week.

Among the many things we saw and learned, an afternoon spent following an old cobblestone path was one of my favorite. Google "Top 10 Things to See and Do in Boston" and without a doubt you will see The Freedom Trail. This 2.5 mile path of red cobblestones will lead you to 16 of the cities famous historical landmarks. Follow the path and you are guaranteed to see some amazing sights, veer from it and you could miss some national treasures by just passing on the wrong side of the street. As I walked the trail, I couldn't help but think about the similarities to the trail of life.

Thousands of people milled about the area with us as we walked, and yet some arrived at different destinations. You see, they were not intent on following the trail, they were just out for a walk. We looked as if we were moving towards the same destinations, yet only those who were intent on staying on course made the full excursion. Life can be like that. You have to be intentionally focused on staying on the path. It is easy to get caught up in the flow of the crowd and make the wrong turn. One wrong turn and you miss the best stuff!

The sights along the path were breathtaking; churches with unbelievable detail, markers with historical facts and stories, cemeteries with the markers of men and women who formed our country. Each turn in the path held a sight that took my breath, but you know that I could have missed it all if I hadn't been looking as I traveled. How sad that would be to be on the right path, but missing the sights because I wasn't watching for them, because I was moving too fast, because I was focused on the wrong things.

Finally, there was the irony of this tourist adventure. The walk is called the Freedom Trail and yet to fully experience it, you have to follow a narrow path. Reminds me of the Christian walk. Matthew 7:14 says, "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Some people view the Christian walk as restrictive and limiting, but it, too is a Freedom Trail leading to sights you don't want to miss. What may seem limiting is actually a guide to experiencing life to the fullest! There truly is freedom in the trail!

I hope that in my journey down the Freedom Trail of life that I am intentional about where I am going and watching for the beautiful sights as I travel and I hope that you are intentionally walking with me for this path may be narrow, but it will lead us on the greatest adventure of all!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Stuck in the Mud


This has been a crazy week. You know, a Murphy's Law kind of week. If it could go wrong it did! But today I woke up to a BEAUTIFUL sight. It was raining. We have had less than an inch of rain in our area this year. Our world has seemed bone dry; so as I got in my car and the rain came down, I delighted in the sprinkles. I thought what a perfect day it was and my heart felt happy and joyful. As I got further down the road I remembered a gift that I meant to bring to one of my friends. She has just been given the No Evidence of Disease clearance! I purchased a bracelet for her when she began chemo and have been waiting for just this day to celebrate and give it to her. I quickly made a U-turn to go back and get it. And then it happened. I got stuck in the mud. Awesome. I guess it has been dry so long that I forgot what happened to dirt when mixed with water. Genius. I grabbed my phone and called my husband. No answer. I called my dad. No answer. As people drove by (and trust me, I think half the town drove by -- no way of looking cool there) and I tried to figure out what next, there was nothing to do but laugh. I couldn't curse the mud; I loved the rain. One of the best parts of living in a small town is the goodness of people. Soon three pick-ups had stopped to help me and get me back on my way. As I drove away, I thought about Psalm 40:1-3

“I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me & heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud & mire;
he set my feet on a rock
& gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see & fear
& put their trust in the LORD”
Psalm 40:1-3

Today it was a few good men who got me out of the mud and mire, but God has done so over and over and over. Just about the time I think I am going to be stuck forever, He shows up and sets me on solid ground. He puts a song in my heart and I find joy. Like being stuck today, I have learned not to hate the mud, but to just enjoy the rain. God is good!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Candle or Kindling


It started with a warm sensation, not much more than the warmth that comes from friction, but the intensity of the heat increased until the match burst into full flame. Whatever it touched next would be forever changed. If it came in contact with a candle, it would produce light that could illuminate a room and show others the way. If it came in contact with dry kindling, it would produce a fire that had potential to become quite destructive. The same initial friction could have drastically different outcomes depending on the receiver.

I once read that "light is costly and comes at the expense of that which produces it. An unlit candle does not shine, for burning must come before the light. And we can be of little use to others without a cost to ourselves. Burning suggests suffering." (Streams in the Desert) As I reflected on that thought I could not help but think of the number of times that I have seen suffering bring destruction and not light. I thought of the times I have seen someone swallowed up and embittered by the suffering they were facing.  It was then that I felt that gentle nudging that I have felt so often in the last year and a half that whispered to my soul, "It is a choice." Just as the match can bring light or destruction, suffering can have the same impact. The deciding factor is the condition of that which it comes in contact with. Should the flame come in contact with a dry, brittle soul, combustion is sure to take place. That combustion can become all consuming and swallow completely anything it comes in contact with. However, should the match come in contact with a soul rooted in the wax of faith, it becomes a warming light. Our choice is what kind of receiver will we be? Unfortunately, the suffering is painful regardless of whether we are a candle or kindling, but the after effects determine whether it was worth it. It is a choice, but it can be a hard choice to make when you are in the heat of suffering. It can seem impossible when you feel like you are being consumed, but Lamentations 3:22 says, "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail."

Maybe you are suffering today, feeling consumed by the friction  in your life. I cannot ease your suffering, but I do want to encourage you. Be a candle and not kindling. Root yourself in faith and you become a light in spite of the challenges you face. There are so many scriptures that promise our suffering is momentary. One of my favorites is 1 Peter 5:10, "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." That verse, and so many others, promise that trials are going to pass, but I must warn you; you will be left with the aftereffects. If you become a candle during trials, then when the trials pass you continue to bring light, but if you allow the trials to make you dry, brittle kindling, you will find life difficult to rebuild after the trial by fire.

The match moved closer. It would soon come in contact. The heat of the tiny flame was growing. Contact was made. Suffering began. For a moment it felt as if the heat would be all consuming, but the fire did not spread. It did not bring disaster, for the wick was immersed in a vessel of wax. The wax, when warmed, gave off a warm, comforting aroma. A soft, soothing light radiated. Others were drawn to the glow. They found comfort there. And in the end, the suffering was worth it somehow.


Other Verses about Trials


Psalm 30:5
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

 Romans 8:18

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Today is Opposite Day

"Today is Opposite Day." Do you remember that game as a child? Once we began playing opposite day everything meant exactly the opposite of what was stated. "I hate ice cream." "I wish I could take a nap." "I don't want to play anymore." "I wish my mom would make me clean my room." Does that jog your memory?

In the last year I have played a lot of Opposite Day. I have stood amazed as bad news came to mean something good. I have been shocked as things that were meant to harm healed and things that were meant to heal harmed. I have been astounded as things that should have caused fear brought peace and things that were intended to bring death brought life. How does one explain how something that should bring despair brings hope? There is no other explanation; it must be Opposite Day.

Today is Opposite Day. We call it Good Friday, yet it wasn't a good day at all! Today is the reminder of  the day that Jesus Christ was crucified and died a terrible death. How can that be good? Regardless of who you believe Jesus Christ to be, he was a man of flesh and blood who suffered intense abuse, ridicule and ultimately death. You don't have to believe in his resurrection to agree that there is nothing good about a death like that. It is the ugliest of human nature exposed on a cross for all to see. How can that possibly be good? While you do not have to believe in Jesus Christ's resurrection to agree that a death like that is terrible, you do have to believe to understand how Christian's can call today Good Friday. We can declare it good because the story didn't end on Friday. Three days later, Jesus rose again. For you. For me. What was intended to harm healed; what should have brought death brought life; that which should have brought despair brought hope.

You see, God is the originator of Opposite Day. The bible is filled with Opposite Day examples.

 “Blessed are those who are spiritually needy.
    The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Blessed are those who are sad.
    They will be comforted.
Blessed are those who are free of pride.
    They will be given the earth.
Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for what is right.
    They will be filled.
Blessed are those who show mercy.
    They will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those whose hearts are pure.
    They will see God.
Blessed are those who make peace.
    They will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who suffer for doing what is right.
    The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
11 “Blessed are you when people make fun of you and hurt you because of me. You are also blessed when they tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me. 12 Be joyful and glad. Your reward in heaven is great." Matthew 5:3-12.
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:16.
"You planned to harm me. But God planned it for good. He planned to do what is now being done. He wanted to save many lives." Genesis 50:20

And my favorite, "It is finished." John 19:30.  It is my favorite, because when he says it is finished it really meant life was just beginning for us!

On and on there are examples of God's love for a good game of Opposite Day and I am so grateful for it! Throughout the last year and a half of trials, I have been blessed to see that He still plays! Over and over He has taken bad and turned it to good in my life. Over and over I have seen how he uses all things for our good. Today I celebrate Good Friday and I am grateful for Opposite Day. You see today is Good because God is Good! My life is Good because God is Good. Today is Opposite Day!