Anne’s Blog

Expectations, Experiences, and Prayer

Expectations, Experiences, and Prayer

I heard a great reminder recently. It was simply that when your “experience” does not line up with your “expectation,” God is trying to reveal Himself to you.

My experiences have truly revealed God when my expectations were not met. (And I admit I am guilty of high expectations.😊)

I can say with confidence that God DOES reveal Himself through our life’s experiences.

In 1970, I was a young wife with our first baby on the way. I had not yet experienced the highs and lows of real life experiences.

My “expectation” was simply that God would reveal Himself. I had a full-blown belief that God will give me “whatever I ask, whenever I ask, according to His will.”

During that period of my life, I received many answers to prayers and witnessed many miracles.

However, my faith journey has had its ups and downs. It’s easy to be up when you pray and the answer seems to instantly be on the way. What messes with me are the prayers that seemingly go unanswered.

Now after many years, I have learned unanswered prayer simply requires surrender. The trials and troubles of my own life have given me a more patient expectation about God answering prayers.

In our humanness, we expect specific answers to the prayers we pray and when we don’t get relief through prayer and doing all the right things, many times we go to alternative methods. What we experience is temporary relief.

Eventually, the grief, tears, and pain of life take its toll on our body, soul, and spirit.

Once again, we cry out for relief.
We ask God for peace.
During the dark nights of our soul, we sigh.
We ask God to hear and answer our prayers.

What I didn’t know back in 1970 when answered prayers seemed to be “just a prayer away” was that it is necessary to know pain. It’s in our pain that we experience the nearness of God and we learn to connect with others in pain.

I know now that there are no simple answers to the complexities of life but I still pray in faith believing ALL things are possible. I pray because I believe God hears my prayers.

I’ve lived a lifetime of praying and hoping. I’m sure I’ve complicated many prayers by asking for too many things that are more about answered prayer than about knowing God. When my prayers go unanswered, I hope anyway. When my expectations are not met, I pray anyway.

My experience has proven to me that prayer may not be instantly answered but I know that when we pray God hears.

I know He is near to us…
when we grieve,
when we sigh,
when we cry,
and when we wait.

As we wait for answered prayer, we experience God and that in itself is answered prayer.

Remember, when your “experience” does not line up with your “expectation”, God is trying to reveal Himself to you. Anticipate that God will reveal Himself to you as you wait for your prayers to be answered.


This article first appeared in Anne’s Weekly newsletter! To subscribe, click here. Each week, Anne sends a short inspirational email straight to your inbox. As a subscriber, you’ll also have first access to new events, books, and more! Click to subscribe.

 

The Garden of Life

The Garden of Life

We’re in the middle of the summer season and fall is just around the corner. The fall season on the farm meant it was harvest time.

I learned at a very young age if we were to have a good harvest, planting the right seeds at the right time was a skill every farm girl needed to learn.

We planted many kinds of seeds – sweet corn, beans, carrots, red beets, spinach, squash, and more. Putting the seeds in the ground was actually the easy part of gardening.

After planting, there was plenty of work to do to ensure a good harvest.

One of the worst things about gardening was keeping the weeds under control. Weeding the garden was a daily chore we did as we waited for the sprouts to appear. Our garden was at least an acre, plus the acres of sweet corn and tomatoes we planted.

There were elements, like the weather, that was out of our control and determined how well the crops would produce. At times a storm would ravage the crops and that was a financial loss for the family.

One thing was certain, the kinds of seeds we planted produced exactly what we expected. We never had a crop of corn where we planted peas.

It was hard work but the reward of enjoying the harvest was worth it. I could hardly wait to pick a bushel of peas (my favorite) for dinner.

Reminiscing about seedtime and harvest reminds me of the importance of seed planting in relation to life and relationships.

Life is a garden. Your thoughts and deeds are the seeds. What you harvest will either be flowers or weeds. It’s up to you.

The kind of seeds we plant determines our harvest. It is within our power to have a beautiful garden filled with rich friendships, acquaintances, and deep relationships.

Planting seeds like love, kindness, forgiveness, tolerance, peace, and patience are some of the seeds you can plant. These will go a long way for the health of your own garden.

Just like planting a garden is more than hoping for a good crop, your garden of life takes more than wishing it was beautiful.

Planting your garden takes practice and intentionality.

Just like the weather or bad storms can ruin a crop, we also experience storms and hardships in life. We do not have the power to keep the storms of life from happening but we do have the power to bring sunshine to those who have experienced hardships. There’s a lot we can do to contribute to the well being of our family, friends, and strangers.

Seed planting is a task. Seeds do not plant themselves and someone has to plant them before anything can grow.

It’s the same in our lives. We need to be deliberate about planting the kinds of seeds that will produce a garden that satisfies.

Every year on the farm we started the routine of gardening all over again. The garden we planted last year didn’t automatically reproduce a new garden in the spring. (It was exhausting!)

The same happens in life. Last years successful garden doesn’t magically appear again.

So what does your garden look like?
Do you see more thistles and briars than flowers?

Sometimes we feel like we’re dormant, dead, and lifeless but start planting seeds again and you’re guaranteed new life.

Gardening is hard work and a takes a lifetime of learning.

Keep planting good seeds and you will enjoy watching your garden grow. It’s up to you what it will be.


This article first appeared in Anne’s Weekly newsletter! To subscribe, click here. Each week, Anne sends a short inspirational email straight to your inbox. As a subscriber, you’ll also have first access to new events, books, and more! Click to subscribe.

 

The Pain of Rejection

The Pain of Rejection

Let’s talk about the pain of rejection.

I call it pain because that’s what rejection is. You feel pain every time you feel rejected. Even though it’s only a feeling (which aren’t facts), it can completely stifle your emotional growth and alter who you become. It’s a feeling that hurts your heart and settles in your stomach. It makes you feel less than others and left unchecked causes you to become critical of others.

In this life, most of us experience rejection to some degree. It comes in many ways and is connected to relationships.

I’ve had my share of this negative feeling.

The more rejected I felt the more I allowed the feeling to eat away at my self-esteem and take me to places of deep despair. I felt disapproved, denied, and disallowed to be with people I loved. I was in a complete state of emotional negativity and refused to change (I didn’t know how to change) until I was on the brink of suicide.

Every human being has five basic needs.
Love. (I knew I was loved by my friends and family.)
Identity. (I knew my identity was in Christ alone.)
Recognition. (I had plenty of recognition in my community.)
Acceptance.
Security.

Acceptance and security are what I lacked. When you feel rejected its difficult to feel accepted or secure.

My husband, Jonas held the key to helping me overcome this terrible feeling of being rejected. He loved me with a kind of love that constantly challenged me. I didn’t understand how he could love me in the negative and rejected state I was in.

Jesus ultimately held the key to my freedom. He too loved me when I could not love myself. He never gave up on me because He saw who I could become.

Jesus is my role model and I love the lessons we can learn from observing his life. I believe the reason Jesus was so kind, patient, and loving toward me was because He KNEW and KNOWS what it’s like to be totally and completely rejected by those He loved most. He was deserted and despised. He understands rejection. Because he does, I was able to believe in His unending compassion, love, and grace.

It’s really quite easy to help people who suffer from rejection. Simply notice them and give them simple uplifting comments. Be interested in them and invite them to functions. Take them out to eat. Check in on them so they know you care and value them. Love them well when they feel unlovable.

Rejection can also be a good way to figure out what you need to change in your life. Figuring out what needs to change takes a humble person. It takes inner soul searching to understand why you continue to feel rejected. If you never stop long enough to reflect you will forever assume it’s someone else’s fault.

If you continue to feel rejected by those you care about, it could be an indication that you’re surrounded by the wrong people or the wrong environment. If that’s the case, it may be time to evaluate how you can help yourself break out of a life of rejection.

The bottom line is that we are all lovable. We are wonderfully made. Let’s work together to show grace and love to each other so that we can reject the pain of rejection.


This article first appeared in Anne’s Weekly newsletter! To subscribe, click here. Each week, Anne sends a short inspirational email straight to your inbox. As a subscriber, you’ll also have first access to new events, books, and more! Click to subscribe.

 

The Struggle With Criticism

The Struggle With Criticism

Have you ever struggled with criticism?

If I were to share with you my personal journey on the subject of criticism, I would have to say there was a time when I was very good at criticizing and very defensive when being criticized.

Not a great combination…

Criticism is a two-way street. Sometimes we need to receive criticism and sometimes we need to give healthy constructive criticism to others.

Criticism can be such a negative force that living with it every day causes you to become dehumanized or even possibly suffer from depression. No one is meant to live with constant criticism. When it’s given in unhealthy ways, it breaks us down, instead of helping us to see how we can become better.

When we criticize in unhealthy ways, we are simply putting our bad feelings onto someone else. Criticizing others and talking about how badly someone has failed, shifts our bad feelings onto the person listening. As we unload we might feel somewhat better, but the person we have dumped on starts to feel terrible.

I believe that before we give constructive, helpful criticism, we have to be able to receive it from others. It isn’t balanced if we only give it, and are never willing to receive it.

What can we do when we receive constructive criticism? Thank those who gave it to you. Ask what you can do to improve this? Listen to what is being said.

Being defensive is inappropriate. One of the sure marks of good character is a person’s ability to accept personal criticism without malice towards the one who gives it.

After we’ve learned how to take constructive criticism, (feedback is the breakfast of champions), then we start to help others improve by giving constructive criticism.

I believe we start by being sensitive in our approach. We all have areas we could improve. Remember that. When we give criticism, we should always take responsibility to offer assistance in making changes possible.

In the workplace and in our homes, we need to create an atmosphere where people feel free to give and receive constructive criticism. After all, feedback is how we can grow as individuals.

If we value each other, hurtful and demeaning criticism will not be a part of daily interactions.

I’ve made many mistakes in my journey to give and receive criticism. Some have cost me greatly, but my goal today is to love and respect others rather than criticize.

What about you? Where are you in your ability to give and receive healthy criticism?


This article first appeared in Anne’s Weekly newsletter! To subscribe, click here. Each week, Anne sends a short inspirational email straight to your inbox. As a subscriber, you’ll also have first access to new events, books, and more! Click to subscribe.

 

What I Learned From Stick Women

What I Learned From Stick Women

In 2013 I was invited to go on a trip to Ethiopia to speak at a women’s conference. The countryside of Ethiopia is beautiful and the people are so kind in spirit but the poverty was hard to see and evident everywhere we went.

During the trip, we were asked if we would like to go see how the “stick women” make their living. I had never heard of stick women and all of us were curious enough to make the early morning drive. I was not prepared for what I was about to see.

As we headed up the mountain, I saw women, smaller than me, wearing tattered shoes and carrying a bundle of sticks about 24 inches in diameter, eight to ten feet long and weighing 100 pounds or more. They walk up the mountainside each morning before sunrise and walk down mid-morning before it gets too hot.

They’re called stick women and they have done this for generations. It is the lowest kind of job woman in their culture can have. (They make 60 cents a day.) They are disdained in their culture.

The burdens these women carried were visible and so much more than their physical bodies were capable of. Many of them cannot have children because of the strain on their lower back and the stress on their female organs. They have a very short life expectancy.

I was struck by it all. The reason they do this is that it’s all they know and they have no knowledge of another way to live. It was evident to me their burdens were more than they could bear or carry alone and yet they do this every day for years and years.

None of us will ever carry a 100 pound bundle of sticks on our backs and yet we have heavy invisible burdens that are too much for us to carry alone.

We do it silently because we believe there is no other way. Our deep sighs cry out, “would someone please help me,” and at the same time, we hope no one will notice the strain of this burden.

Being silent is the way we carry our burdens.

Just as the stick women have gotten used to the weight they carry, we have adjusted to our burdens. We carry it alone because we too believe there is no other way. We believe this is the way life is and nothing will ever change.

The truth is, we were meant for more! SO much more! And it starts by taking full responsibility for our own action and responses.

We cannot always change our circumstances but we can change ourselves. We cannot always control what others do or say about us but we DO have choices to make on a daily basis.

It’s so much easier to blame than it is to take responsibility for our own behaviors and choices. Blaming takes no responsibility for our own actions, failures, and attitudes.

I don’t know if the stick women blame others for their hard way of life. I suspect, they are simply doing what they do best. They get up every morning and do what they’ve always done because they don’t know a better way.

We’re a lot like them, going about our daily lives never thinking there is another way, a better way. However, when we do the hard work, we begin to think differently and then we begin to change our behaviors.

In that process, our lives begin to change. If you want to change your life, begin by changing your heart.


This article first appeared in Anne’s Weekly newsletter! To subscribe, click here. Each week, Anne sends a short inspirational email straight to your inbox. As a subscriber, you’ll also have first access to new events, books, and more! Click to subscribe.

 

Dealing with Regrets

Dealing with Regrets

In my travels as a speaker and sharing my story, I have the privilege of hearing many people’s stories. One of the lines I hear a lot is “I regret that…”

Regrets can lead to sorrow and leave us a bitter person or we can rise above them by finding a better way to live. Our regrets can actually motivate us to change or cause us to freeze in time, powerless to make any choices that would give us a better future.

ALL of us have some regrets. (It’s only human.)

I remember as a kid in second grade, I thought I would be funny and hide my shoe in a clump of grass so that I could stay outside longer when recess ended and look for my shoe.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize there were clumps of grass everywhere and I forgot which clump was hiding my shoe! My teacher knew I was being a bit sneaky because I finally came into the schoolroom with only one shoe on. I regretted hiding my shoe and being embarrassed as I was late for the class. Today that seems like a silly regret with no big consequences.

As we get older, the regrets get deeper and are endless:

  • I regret not making good choices…
  • I regret being unkind to my family…
  • I regret marrying someone out of need and not love…
  • I regret not spending more time with those I love…
  • I regret exploding with anger toward my children…
  • I regret leaving my spouse…
  • I regret being a person that others cannot rely on…
  • I regret being too busy to live in the moment…
  • I regret missing out on things that really matter…

Regrets are like quicksand. They keep pulling us down into a mire of self-loathing. To live a life of self-satisfaction, we have to stop doing and saying things that we will regret.

I believe that when we do have regrets, we need to admit them. To admit regrets is simply taking responsibility for my actions instead of blaming someone else for the bad feelings I have.

I truly understand the difficulty of admitting regrets but I have learned the beauty of transparency. Confessing our regrets is a healthy way to move forward so that the regret no longer keeps you tied up in knots.

One of my greatest regrets in my life was neglecting my children emotionally because of my own grief.

There is no one on planet earth more important to me than my three daughters but the years slipped away and before I knew it they were all grown up. I had spent far too many years checked out.

Because of this, I’ve spent many years rebuilding emotional bridges. Little by little, I keep making progress.

The regret of hiding my shoe pales in comparison to the real-life regrets I’ve experienced but it IS possible to make peace with your past regrets so that you can enjoy today and actually look forward to tomorrow.

I’ve said it many times: Live your life in such a way today so that you can look back in a year, two years or ten years from now and say, “I have no regrets.”

My own regrets truly motivated me to change my future and today I am satisfied by living a “regret-free” life one day at a time.


This article first appeared in Anne’s Weekly newsletter! To subscribe, click here. Each week, Anne sends a short inspirational email straight to your inbox. As a subscriber, you’ll also have first access to new events, books, and more! Click to subscribe.

 

Doing the Little Bit

Doing the Little Bit

Do you ever feel like you can’t make a difference? Many times we see the needs around us and it feels like “too much.”

Our families, communities, churches, and society at large are overflowing with people who need to be loved and cared for. I am overwhelmed by the emotional pain of society and many times I feel if I can’t make a big difference then I can do nothing about it at all.

The truth is that we can do something if we get out of the way. We tend to be “self” centered rather than “others” centered. Our very nature is about “me first.” (Or maybe it’s just me.) But if we step outside of ourselves, we can discover the joy of doing a “little bit” on a daily basis to help others.

I was reminded of this recently while sitting at a concert. I was enjoying the music, the people and the spirit of it all. Towards the end, a lady came to the front row to take pictures of the artists.

At first, I was a little annoyed because she was invading my space. (Honest confession alert!) However, I noticed by her emotional response how much she was enjoying the music.

My friend who was beside me began conversing with this lady and in a minute she told her story.

In a whispered tone, he shared with me how this lady drove from Arizona to Tennessee for this concert. Just one month ago, she buried her 41-year-old daughter, who died in her sleep of natural causes leaving three children for this grieving grandmother to raise.

That’s all I needed to know. My heart broke and like a dam, the tears began to flow. Suddenly I had great compassion for this lady and felt the need to comfort her in a “little” way.

I sat beside her and simply put my arm on her shoulder, not saying a word. (We often try to fill the silence with unnecessary chatter.) Her tears flowed like a river as I sat by her.

I felt her deep pain at that moment and there was nothing I could say to comfort her. I was speechless. We had about 45 minutes together which is a very short time to comfort someone with such deep grief.

That’s when I remembered how bearing one another’s burdens is a “little bit” that makes a big difference.

I learned more about her story. Her only daughter had bought them tickets to this concert and they were planning a mother/daughter trip together.

After her daughter passed away, she struggled with making the trip but was encouraged by her friends and family to go.

As we finished our hugs, tears, and conversation she said to me,“Thank you for taking time to care for me. I think I came here for this moment.”

I was stunned because I hadn’t done anything except hug her but that was the “little bit” she needed. It was a much-needed reminder to me to do what we can.

The grief and strength of this woman is one I will always remember.

When you think you can’t make a difference, remember this woman and do the “little bit.”

What is the “little bit” you can do today?


This article first appeared in Anne’s Weekly newsletter! To subscribe, click here. Each week, Anne sends a short inspirational email straight to your inbox. As a subscriber, you’ll also have first access to new events, books, and more! Click to subscribe.

 

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

I recently visited my family in Arizona to attend Trinity’s, my oldest granddaughter, graduation ceremony. It was a special time that reminded me that with hard work and determination, and the support of others, we can overcome anything.

Let me explain what I mean…

I clearly remember the early school years as Trinity would want to read to me. She was so eager to read me a book but because of dyslexia, she couldn’t. Instead, she would page through a book and pretend she was reading. I would sit and listen as tears welled up in my eyes realizing she couldn’t read.

After struggling every day with learning even the basics, she was finally diagnosed in 3rd grade as being dyslexic. The teachers recognized her disability and did a very simple test that revealed her dyslexia.

I was somewhat aware of dyslexia because Jonas, my husband for those who don’t know, is also dyslexic. The difference between Jonas and Trinity is that he didn’t discover his dyslexia until the age of 32.

He suffered all those years wondering what was wrong with him. He thought he was just a “dumb Amish-man.” Which is sadly something that was he was told. As a result, he struggled with low self-esteem for many years.

Trinity’s teachers went into action and gave her the tools and educational therapy she needed to work through her dyslexia. (What a difference a teacher can make. The dedication of teachers who truly care for their students is a gift to our children. Their impact goes far beyond what we can see.)

She worked hard to overcome this disability and with the support of her teachers, the trajectory of her life changed.

Her determination, hard work, and support from her teachers were revealed her sophomore year of high school. Trinity told me she was tutoring students at her school. I was impressed 🙂

She asked me to guess who she was tutoring. I was clueless.

She was tutoring kids with reading disabilities!

Trinity was one of the 3.7 million high school graduates in 2018. But what’s more impressive, she graduated as a Salutatorian and summa cum laude!

Her graduation was meaningful because of her love of learning and working very hard. I couldn’t have been more proud as she gave a speech at her high school graduation.

My heart swelled with pride as I instantly reflected back to the time when she was pretending to read to me!

I don’t know what limitations or disabilities you may be facing but I do believe that with support and determination, you can overcome. Maybe you will never be free of it, but you can learn to manage and find ways to be successful despite it. (I often hear Jonas “talking” to his computer as it transcribes what he says. It’s one way he’s learned to overcome his dyslexia and still show up in life.)

I’ll end with the old saying many of us have probably heard: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”


This article first appeared in Anne’s Weekly newsletter! To subscribe, click here. Each week, Anne sends a short inspirational email straight to your inbox. As a subscriber, you’ll also have first access to new events, books, and more! Click to subscribe.

 

Anticipating Change

Anticipating Change

Many of us don’t get too excited about change unless we know there will be no pain and everything to gain. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “no pain, no gain”. Sometimes change can cause great pain and so we decide there will be no more changes for me.

We come into this world and we change with each passing day. It’s expected of us to change. We are encouraged by our parents, teachers and those who love us, to learn new things every day.

As a child, we anticipate and welcome change. If you’ve forgotten, just ask a four-year-old how old she is. I remember when my grandson was four years old. He was full of excitement about the changes he is making and the plans for his future were limitless. He had a clear understanding that he will need to grow in order to do all the things he wanted to do. If you asked him how old he is, he would tell you he is four and a half and very soon he will be five. He goes on to say that when he is five he will go to school and when he is six he’s gonna ride a real motor cross bike. His mind knows no boundaries!

As a child, change was necessary. As adults change is still necessary, however, we begin to think differently about change. We resist it, argue against it, and wish we could go back to the time when changing was exciting. But no matter how hard we resist it, change is inevitable. And necessary.

To live is to grow and to grow is to change.
Everything that is living is growing and no matter how old we are we should continue to explore, dream and learn. Learning is growing.

After nearly six decades on earth, I don’t get as anxious about change as I once did. I get comfortable with it very quickly. I like to change and grow. It’s exciting to learn something new. When it comes to change, I want to relax, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

When we were building our company, Auntie Anne’s, we grow rapidly in numbers and have experienced a lot of change over our fifteen years. Some of the changes were very difficult, some painful, some exciting and yet, all the changes enhanced my personal growth. I often say, “if we want to grow professionally, we must grow personally”. One without the other is lopsided and unhealthy.

We need to learn to anticipate change, which means we actually expect it, instead of fear it’s arrival. It’s a lot like an experience on an airplane. We buy our tickets, get comfortably seated, sit back and enjoy the ride. (At least most of the time.) We may unbuckle, find a comfortable position and possibly take a nap.

In order for us to get to where we want to go, we know we will have to land. We know our nap or our comfortable position is short lived. The pilot will announce the landing and the flight attendants will prepare the cabin. The anticipated change is that we will buckle up, put our seats in an upright position, our tray tables up and locked, all because there is a change ahead. As frequent fliers, we always anticipate the change for landing. It may be bumpy, windy or downright scary, but without the change, we would not be able to get to our destination.

It’s the same with life and growing as individuals. We will not be able to get to our destination without constant changes. Some of the changes may be uncomfortable, scary and even bumpy, but if we can learn to anticipate change we will have a safe landing and our destination will be exciting!

What changes can you begin to anticipate in your life?

The Release That Comes from Forgiveness

The Release That Comes from Forgiveness

There is a small painting that I have of a lion and a lamb. They are sitting together, staring off at something we can’t see. They sit side by side in a field of tall grass. Whenever I see this photo of the Loin and the Lamb, I think of forgiveness.

There is a passage in the Bible, found in Luke 6, that says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

When the Bible was translated into the English language, there were at least 16 considerations for the word forgive used in Luke 6:37.

  • Relieve
  • Let Die
  • Put Off
  • Break
  • Release
  • Pardon
  • Put
  • Away
  • Destroy
  • Dismiss
  • Let Go
  • Set at Liberty
  • Dissolve
  • Depart
  • Loose
  • Loosen
  • Melt

As you can see, this is a wide variety of words. I think if it were done today there would be a much greater choice of words and who knows where it may have landed.

As I considered these choices the word release seemed like a good fit. Release, and you will be released. This understanding of the scripture helped me to personally be able to release those that have hurt me. I’ve been able to let it go.

Going back to the photo, when I quietly view this image it speaks something to me that is hard to explain. I think about what inward characteristics have changed that gives these two animals the ability to lay down together? Whatever was hostile before is peaceful now. The appetite for one to eat the other is gone. The fear of being mutilated or slaughtered has passed. The stage is now set where both can be at peace. (Now, whether they ever do anything together would be a matter of reconciliation.)

Releasing those that hurt you empowers you to go beyond the initial hurt and lead a productive life again.

To release the men that perpetrated my family was a difficult process, but as I worked through my thoughts and feelings, with the help of my counselor, today I’m in a much better place. I didn’t forgive because I felt like he needed or deserved my forgiveness. I released him because it’s the only way to get the pain and anger out of my spirit.

What do you need to release so that you can be released yourself?

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