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I am so incredibly excited tonight to have the privilege of sharing with all of you, an incredible new friend, an amazing woman, and an inspiring author.

A few months ago, Shannon and I had a mutual friend going through the unimaginable pain of losing her dad. We met on facebook while praying and pleading for God to carry our friend through this time of life. There is something about sharing grief and pain that binds people together and so through this experience Shannon and I ‘met’ and became a bit bound together. From there, we started reading each other’s blogs and encouraging one another. Now I consider her my friend – not just my friend’s friend.

So it is with honor and goosebumps that I introduce all of you to Shannon and her story. Tonight she will share with you a bit of the backstory that led to her book: ‘How to Pray – when you can’t sit still’. It was just released this week and it is wonderful!

I will do a more in depth review of the book next week but let me say that it is a very inspiring look at how you can deepen your prayer life in creative and new ways.

Or as Shannon put it in her book:

“Whether you have a nagging feeling that talking to God should come more naturally or a deep longing for life-changing communication with your Creator, the book you are holding was written with you in mind.”

Without further ado here is ‘the rest of the story…’ by Shannon:

My husband and I met in our late twenties. He was stunningly handsome, and our personalities quickly clicked. We had both traveled and had experienced some personal success, and we both had pretty intense, goal-centered personalities.

He quickly fanned the flames of my interest by showering me with attention, sending roses, and calling me -just to chat- several times a day. As we got to know each other better, I noticed he had some annoying habits like: frequently being late, forgetting important appointments, and drifting off in the middle of a conversation.

But I wasn’t perfect either, and like most young people in love, we dove into marriage headfirst. But during that first year together, the little things I’d noticed while dating became major conflicts. We experienced so many ups and downs that I began to feel the person I’d dated and the man I married were different people.

Two things held us together- our mutual stubbornness and the fact that we had nowhere else to go. Neither of us wanted to live with our parents and neither of us wanted to be the “quitter”. Our strategy was to make the other person so miserable that they would be the first to leave. Not a very fun way to live.

But things weren’t always tough and we managed to have fun moments together, despite the stream of tension that lay just beneath the surface. Kids came along, and for quite awhile our relationship floated on the excitement and adventure of being parents.

As our kids grew and became more self-sufficient however, the spotlight returned to our rocky marriage. We looked for advice and relationship help in the latest books, seminars, and I even turned to friends for guidance, which took a lot of courage.

The strategies that worked so well for others ended in one failure after another for us. We had the best intentions and would set out to change, but my husband would usually forget to follow up on the new plan and his forgetfulness would send me into a downward spiral of bitterness, anger, and defeat. While we loved each other very much, there seemed to be a mysterious part of our life together that kept us constantly at odds.

Fifteen years into the marriage, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I began to pray like I had never prayed before. Honest, raw, angry prayers to a God I was pretty sure had given up on me. The “church girl” façade I’d worn so long wasn’t working anymore, and I dared God to love the real me; the me who had absolutely nothing left to give Him.

We kept attending church, mainly for the benefit of our kids. I usually hid out in the bookstore between services as a convenient way to avoid probing conversations from well-meaning friends. One Sunday, I happened upon a very interesting book titled, ADD: Welcome to Our World. Leafing through the book, I immediately felt the author had read my mail. It took about three Sundays before I gathered the courage to buy the book, but when I did take it home and read it, I felt like someone had turned the lights on in a very dark room.

In the book, author Cynthia Calvert-Phillips describes her husband’s struggle with Attention Deficit, or AD/HD, and her journey to find answers. She explains the physiology of Attention Deficit and why communication can be so challenging in marriages where one or both partners have this diagnosis. For the first time in years, I had hope for our marriage.

I continued praying, but now, instead of ranting at God, I found myself quietly listening for answers. For the first time, I learned what it meant just to sit in the presence of God without an agenda or list of requests. He began to show me the role my husband’s Attention Deficit played in our marriage and He also began gently revealing where I had work to do.

One day at a time, God led me to resources and tools that gave us practical help. He also helped me realize that my husband’s Attention Deficit was often magnified by fears and insecurities from my past. One action from him could trigger an avalanche of unfinished business from me.

We are, most definitely, in process. We still have bad days together- sometimes several in a row! The difference is that now, even when things get tough, we attack the problem instead of attacking each other.

My marriage was saved by prayer; my past is being healed by prayer. I have watched God use prayer to give answers when there was no way out and to bring wholeness when situations were beyond repair.

Whatever struggle or question you are dealing with today, I encourage you to talk with God about it, whatever form that may take. The power behind prayer is not in using a new method or idea, but in awakening a dialog with your Creator. Here’s His idea of prayer: an invitation to join in the most honest conversation you’ve ever had. He’ll pick it up from there.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him. And he will eat with me.”
Revelation 3:20

You can read more of Shannon’s incredible story and be inspired in your spiritual journey by following her blog, Distracted by Prayer, here:

Distracted By Prayer

Please click the links below to get a copy of Shannon’s awesome book:
‘How to Pray – when you can’t sit still’

Barnes & Noble Nook

Amazon Kindle

If you don’t use a nook or a kindle device – you can still get a copy from Shannon’s blog to download and read on real old school paper – from a tree!

Just click here for a link to the PDF download: PDF

I have a few sticky topics that I want to write about – politics and abortion and poverty and aids. Heavy stuff. I’m not going to write about them tonight though.

Tonight I went to the river to write – I normally go to Panera Bread. All I can say is, “Location, location, location.”

Something about sitting out here in the ‘silence’ of nature, listening to the breeze, has tempered my desire to write heavy.

I got to spend a few days with dad – he stayed at our house. We got good news at the doctor – no progression of his breathing issues over the last year.

Greg, Grace, Elijah and I went to dinner with my brother and his wife and oldest son. I think Grace has a crush on him – did you ever have a cousin that you just looked up to so much? It’s fun watching them together. She simply adores him.

Grace has started praying at dinner and she always says, “Thank you for Grace and Elijah playing together.” “Yes, thank you,” I say.

Elijah’s laugh. His energy – his very spirit. It takes my breath away.

I’m struggling right now in life. I am facing a bit of burn out – something about being forty and having these kids and all this desire to create – writing, photography, art. Something about that is moving in me. To what end I do not know. But I want to live an authentic life for both the sake of the Spirit within me and for my children.

I am very happy it is picture season at the Austin’s – I have several faithful clients each fall and I love getting to take their photo’s – and now we have our twins added in!

I feel both overwhelmed by the possibilities and underwhelmed by reality. I don’t think we should have to work. Yes, yes, that isn’t reasonable…I know.

Do you think that all this acknowledgement of the Spirit of God that is with me in each moment of each and every day – has all this acknowledgement made something come alive inside me? How cool would that be?

My Father in Heaven,
Lead me deep into your will.
Relieve me of all that is tired and old and unnecessary.
Create in me a holy heart, worthy and true,
Reveal to me a path that leads to a centered life.
Lead me to a place of value and meaning.
Love me with tender passion that draws out my very best self,
Quiet my mind so that I can hear your whispers.
Father, Abba…

and a breeze picks up and it’s time to stop writing and look up.

Lately (read the last 20 years), I’ve been just a tad preoccupied with others.

I’ve found myself reading something that I loved and instead of just loving it, I decided to roll it up into a bat and beat myself about the head with it. I’ll take a swing like,”You can’t write like this so why do you bother writing at all. She writes the way you only hope to write and she is funny and original.” And then I’ll rare back and hit it out of the park, “Everyone wonders why you even bother.” And then I’ll think, “Ouch. At least I have my photography.” I’ll go searching for some good photography for inspiration and rather than be inspired, the photographs become little bullets I load into my gun of self abuse and start playing Russion roulette. “You couldn’t take a picture that good if you were given all the time in the world.” It hurts – this campaign I launch against myself.

Why do we do this? Why do we think that because someone else is good it means we are bad? What if everyone stopped creating just because they appreciated someone else’s creativity? What a limited world that would be.

So today, this evening, I’ve decided to tackle this. I’m going to sneak up on it and tackle it to the ground.

I write because within me is a burning desire to write. I write because the world makes more sense when it comes out of my head, through my hands and on a piece of paper. I share my writing because I love reading what other people write. I feel connected to humanity through writing. I feel known and understood and challenged – all through the written word. That is powerful and amazing stuff and God created me to be a part of it. I was made to write. I surely was. Now if only God would have seen fit to also make me love grammar and the rules of the english language, what a powerful combo that would be! Alas, we are stuck with my oddly placed comma’s and bone jarring grammatical errors until that lovely day when an editor in a publishing company can stand it no longer and gives me a great book deal.

This attacking of ourselves – it is evil – it is evil people. Seriously. What better way to stifle love than to shut down creativity and expression?

Take Courage, My Friend.

Life requires fearlessness, don’t you think? I would love to remember this, “Be fearless.” Not the kind of fearlessness that lands you in a full body cast. Not the kind that results in rehab. But the kind of fearlessness that sets you free.

Be free of concerning yourself with what others think. Be free to follow the promptings of the Spirit within you. Be free to pursue your passions and interests regardless of whether or not that’s how you make your money.

I don’t know if we are ever truly free while on earth though. Even now – there is so much I long to write about, but I don’t, out of fear.

I love that my relationship with God is such that I am comfortable with Him knowing all the details of my missteps and mistakes. I love that my marriage is a reflection of that – I trust Greg with everything. I find trusting others much more difficult. That’s a block for me in writing. Writing + Trust Issues = Frequent writers block.

But it’s more than that isn’t it? Don’t you have areas of your life that are just lived out in your interior space? Things you want to scream out loud and you really really want the world to know, but instead the words just bounce around inside your head? Why are we like that?

The Spirit is leading to be more honest and more open and so, needless to say, I’m (even now) in a perpetual arm wrestling match with the Holy Spirit. I’ll keep you posted on the results.

To those of you who leave me little notes of encouragement – THANK YOU. I am a total freak about needing affirmation and praise. It’s revolting really – a tiny little nugget of encouragement can keep me going for days. I would totally admit to not needing raises if I get enough praises. I would admit that if I didn’t know that my manager sometimes stumbles across my blog. (While I might live on praise alone, my children do need to be fed…so, so, so very often.)

There is some statistic out there that only like 3% of readers comment – that means, based on my comments to date, there are NINE of you out there…I know you are there!

So, obviously, my most grating personality trait on display for the moment is groveling for affirmation – how uncool is that. At least I have finally admitted it – first step and all to resolution. God is helping me in this. I’m learning.

I recently read a post from a favorite blogger about the abundance in the world and the need for us women to be more kind to one another. It stuck with me for days and then my mom also read it and posted it on facebook and I said, “Ok God, I hear you.”

Hears a little excerpt:

“A few years ago I got a little overwhelmed and consumed by jealousy so I decided to try believing in abundance. I decided, with the help of my long suffering and eternally patient tutor, Jesus, to quit believing in half empty or half full, and start believing in completely full….
…On my stable days, I even understand that not only can I allow other people to keep their good stuff…I can even give my own good stuff away because when I do, more will always be made available to me.”

momastery.com (She is all I ever hope to be in a writer – authentic, honest, funny – go read her stuff!)

It’s a beautiful idea – and one I am faithfully trying to emulate. The other message God has been giving me is that it is His affirmation that I am to seek with my whole heart. It is that peace that surpasses comprehension that I feel in my soul when I am writing what He has laid on my heart. That is more than enough – that is brimming over. The more I listen for it, the clearer I can hear.

One more truth that God gave me with so much love as I left my house this evening: I write for those of you who were not made to write but also long to be known. I write because, although sometimes I feel like the only freak at the white tie affair, I know some of you well enough to know that you totally borrowed that gown! I am in this with you. I am needy and self conscious. I am inept and silly and just ridiculous…often. And I won’t tell anyone about the gown.

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