About the Author

Ann Voskamp is a farmer's wife, the home-educating mama to a half-dozen exuberant kids, and author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, a New York Times 60 week bestseller. Named by Christianity Today as one of 50 women most shaping culture and the...

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  1. Ann,
    I’m all signed up and ready to go! I love the bench necklace…and the goal of building benches where we can sit and others can come and sit with us…in our joy and in our brokenness. The place I’m being brave is face to face with people (friends and strangers) I come in contact with everyday. I’m trying to live with intention. I’m also daring to be real in my blog and I am finding that we truly do need each others stories. God does not intend for us to heal a broken heart alone and so I offer a bench for however long someone needs to stay. Thanks for a beautiful post and invitation to (in)RL!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • Beautiful, Bev!

      Yes, God never intended for us to heal a broken heart alone… and the brave comes in being real and honest…. and one step more: in being a listener and a carrier for another broken heart, a gentle cupping for one other person’s fractured heart.

      Every day to keep asking: Who’s my person that I’m helping to carry today?

      LOVE your heart after His, Bev!
      All’s grace,
      Ann

  2. The bench that I gather around with my people has become a life-line on hard days and a place of celebration when it’s called for. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the community God has blesse me with. Any struggle, the long wait before we each found each other, it was all worth it to now have what we have. Jesus is the bench we gather around–He is the place we come to, together, in good and bad moods, good hair days and bad, He sits among us and we are better for having Him as our core. I can’t imagine my life without my girls–my friends who hold me, who dream with me, who speak life to me.

    Always grateful to read your beautiful words, Ann.

    Xo sister-friend. Love you.

  3. It’s funny, when I think of sitting on the bench, I think of sitting on the sidelines of a game. Resting, and waiting for my turn on the field. Actually, I think that’s where God has me right now. He has brought me to a place of rest and restart. I am slowly putting things back in to my life and I’ve found in courage to be a much needed place of safe interaction. Thank you. I think sitting on the bench…even if it does seem like the sidelines…is a very good place to be. But, sometimes it’s hard. It’s hard to think that I’m not really living to the fullest because my life doesn’t measure up to someone else. No kids. No career. Just a simple everyday boring life with my husband and my dog.

  4. I LOVE this post. And it’s so where I am at. There is pain and there is wanting to walk away and there is KNOWING that that is not the best. It is better to let pain be pain and sit on a bench and heal, with God and others. Sometimes we just need God on the bench with us, sometimes we need others to come along side. So sad I can’t make (in)courage…

  5. Somewhere along the way I started believing that it was safer to keep people at arms length. Sure, I wanted people in my life, but I’m not sure I cared to much for them to be IN my LIFE. I’m coming around to a place where I long for community. The armor protecting my heart is getting heavy. So, I am praying for strength to take the small steps toward true community.

    • Ah, Jennifer — you are so right – the armor does get heavy, friend. Thank you for being brave and sharing here with us. Quietly bowed and praying with you in this, that today you feel wrapped in the love of Christ and you feel His strength in your bones, gently reviving your heart. You are so loved. Reaching over with a hug just now.

    • If it’s any consolation it does get easier. God brings people to the bench that makes it feel ok to drop a piece of the armor a little at a time. Praying you see glimpses of that freedom today.

  6. I’m having to rebuild my bench…starting over in a new job, a new city, a new church. God is providing slowly and sometimes I feel lonely sitting on my bench by myself! But just this week God opened the door for authentic sharing with another woman and my bench has one less empty seat. I’m prayerful that our (in)RL gathering will help others build and open their benches to others.

    • Holly — new everything, friend? Quietly praying with you right now…remembering with you that He is always there. For this alone, we give thanks. Smiling that your bench has one less empty seat. Be soul encouraged! 🙂

  7. That we would always leave a spot open on our benches.
    That we would never circle them in too tightly.
    That we would remember that Christ always made room for more,
    and more,
    and yet one more.

    (And He demonstrates His love in this: That He leaves the 99, to go after the one.)

    Love you, Ann. Love these words you’ve penned here. So much.

  8. So excited for (in)RL, for hosting this year! I’m praying our home will be a welcome “bench” for the lovely ladies who will be coming over. I love scooting over on my bench to make room for someone new, and yet it’s a little frightening —- will they join me again and be comfortable sharing my bench with me, or will they pass my invitation up? I know God is faithful to provide just the right bench-mates for me, when I need them.

    • Oh, Amy. This choked me up. God just shining through everything…He IS faithful, yes, yes. *Thank you* for loving like Jesus, friend…

    • Trust is hard, isn’t it Elizabeth? So hard! Trusting people especially, because they so often wound and reject. I am finding that as I trust God more and more….it is (a little) easier to let others in. Have so far to go on that road, but having Him walk with me makes it easier.

      Hugs from a Sister in Christ

  9. Benches hurt when no one asks you to join them. Benches heal when you are invited or invite others for fellowship. Show love. Our “bench” of the week is an inflatable bubble ball…kids roll inside this giant beach ball! It is a source of community…sharing…joy.

  10. In the last few weeks God has shown me the bravery of sitting down on the bench next to sisters even when my heart is hurting. Not so long ago my response to a disappointment, to something not quite going as I had dreamed or planned, would be to hide and put on the face of bravado. Bravado is not the same as brave. Bravado builds walls, brave builds hope.

    So I curled up next to friends on the bench and wept my disappointment because you know what…? A bench built on the love of Christ, it’s big enough for our hurts too.

    Love reading your words friend… {hugging you from afar}

    • Tonya — This. is. profound.
      “Bravado is not the same as brave. Bravado builds walls, brave builds hope.”
      I am going to let that one seep deep down into broken places. *Thank you* for the way you minister to all your sisters here on the bench.

      • It takes bravery to lean into someone Tonya. Good for you! The last time I leaned in…I was told to suck it up and stop whining. That, from my mother. So, I’ve been hiding again, avoiding again. Not wanting to share, and not being very brave.

        Looking forward to my first InRL to find maybe a space on a bench.

  11. Walking, well . . . crawling really brave into a new church body. We’ve been through some difficult and nasty stuff. With hemorrhaging heart, I have been tempted to smear the church with “always” and “never”. The church always . . . or the church never . . .

    But then something happened. Our children came to us one day and told us they were trusting us find another church, a community. Um, wow, there were no words, only tears that day. At the same time, our gracious Lord brought me to Psalm 27:13 (I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living). I have seen His goodness, and when I search my heart beyond the hurts, I’ve know I’ve seen His goodness through the body of Christ. I choose to continue to count His goodnesses to us as we persevere in faith.

  12. This “Bench” message has resonated with me for quite some time now and I love how I see benches (inrl – as in, actual benches!) every where I go now!

    I am hosting an inrl meet up again this year and as much as I am the only real ‘online’ person in the group – they are getting used to me and this part of my life! I invited them last year, and most of the same ladies cmae for my local If:Gathering meet up and again… they are planning on showing up and sharing a bench with me in just two weeks! I can. not. wait.

    And this: “The Brave are the ones who trace the inside of their everyday wounds and don’t grow hard.” One of the best descriptions of Brave ever. (Well – this, and Tonya’s comment above! “Brave builds hope.” Amen, sister!)

  13. This truly touched my heart! Doing the brave thing today… Showing up… By His Grace…
    God bless you for sitting on the bench today!

  14. This bench post is amazing timing! We have a bench under a tree in our front yard, on a fairly busy street. We just moved in six months ago and I’ve never liked the bench. Nobody uses it and it’s ugly. Yesterday I noticed a lady with a grocery bag walk up and sit on the bench! To my shame, my first reaction was not nice…I mean that bench is in MY yard. But God has been changing me, because, Ann Voskamp, of your Joy Dare. I’ve been writing down gifts and God has been giving me glimpses of His grace in inexplicable ways. Yesterday, after the fleeting indignance of having some sit on my bench in my yard, my heart completely softened…completely pliant! I saw this woman with God’s eyes and felt…here it is, just like Jesus did…felt compassion for her. I raced to the kitchen to get her a glass of water, the whole time afraid she’d leave before I could get the ice out of the tray. Because a glass of water without ice just wouldn’t do for this woman. She was tired, and warm from walking. I nearly ran out into the yard with this glass of water…all the while it’s turning into living water right in my hand! I handed it to her in Jesus name, sat next to her and visited for a while. The smile never left my face the whole day! I love that bench now!

    • I love this story Dawn!! Seems as if it were a moment made just by God for you, preparing just this moment with the bench many months ago, and in His timing He blessed both you and the Lady who sat down. Then this post from Ann! God’s timing….yea, it’s pretty awesome!!!

  15. Until InCourage, until your book, Ann, 1000 Gifts, until Holly’s book, “Yoru Already Ok.. Until, until, I as far back as I can remember, there was a deep notion,
    I didn’t fit in, there were scratches on my heart, oozing!! I think I kept hearing the same lie over & over, there is room but you have to qualify. Many times a few sat on my bench, but that one lie kept me at bay! I tucked away my heart.. That way I
    was safe. Oh I still sought out a marriage,
    Wonderful children, a college career, a corporate job, but along the way, divorce,
    another scratch on my heart, a new relationship I fell in love, a sweethearted man, but that was hiding me once again
    I bought a home, I built it up, I lost it eventually, it was the garden of my life,
    Jesus was there, I couldn’t let go of the
    sweethearted man, who claimed to love me, even though he was not available..
    I am have been a born again Christian.
    So, as God removed that lie, I have to be
    more, until I began to fit pieces of reality
    along with this Bench” along with other real life Christian women with real stories,
    I then saw that I am Redeemed, my heart has been stitched up! I no longer saw the bench as empty! Thank you, All for providing a Seat among real gals who care. I think too, what I discovered is
    there are so many empty benches places in other gals – the mask that rides their
    face, tends to ride heavy so no one sees
    their hurt. So, i’v begun to share, to trust,
    but, I need to be diligent, I need to not give away “what God has shown me”
    To protect and proceed, His Word along with that, there are Angels of Christ who ride among – be still my heart.

  16. Oh how I long for….ache for…just ONE Sister to sit on a bench with me. Just one. Sometimes my alone-ness gets to me and I feel the pit rising up again. Your words: “Sometimes the bravest thing is showing up for your life every day”….these gave me strength for this moment. Thank you Ann.

    I registered…waiting to see what God does. <3

    • Dear Margo,
      Remember you are never alone God is right by your side, he will see you through the ache and the alone-ness.
      Blessings!
      A sister in Christ

    • Praying that you’ll be encouraged through the stories shared at (in)RL – and that even if you watch by yourself (which really just means more cupcakes for you!) you’ll share a sweet time with God as He affirms that you really, truly, are not alone 🙂

  17. I cannot possibly convey how apropos this message was for me today. Just yesterday I found the courage to sit on a bench I’d been avoiding for years. The healing I found there was profound and almost instantaneous. As one intimately acquainted with the bravery it sometimes takes just to face the day, this message just further validated and solidified the peace that has begun to work its way through my mind. Hoping to see more women come together for the (in)RL meetups in my area. We were created to need each other, and in today’s crazy world it’s easy to forget just how much we really do need to be there for our sisters in Christ.

  18. RT Q4… {What were questions 1-3 again?} Ha, THIS is exactly why I loved Emily’s post about The Bench. It’s a place to stop, breathe, listen, and be yourself. I want a bench; we all need this bench. This is what {in}RL means to me – a place where community exists. I love my online community with my {in}RL group, and I need and am praying for a real live friend and community close. Thanks for the post – Ann’s words are like icing to my vanilla cake day.

  19. Ann,

    You know I’m a huge fan. But why did you bait me like that? I get to the end of the article and find out that this is all just leading up to an event that us hairy legged guys are excluded from! 🙂

    We need a male version of Ann. And guess who God keeps telling me that male version is? Yes, I shaved him this morning……on second thought no I didn’t, but I needed to. 🙂

    Thanks for all you do!
    Kurt

    • Ha! Beneath the humor in your comment, Kurt, is a deep need that I can’t wait to see God meet 🙂 Our brothers need encouragement, too!

      • Thank you Crystal. You’re right. I believe the need for men to be encouraged is the biggest need in all of the Christian world right now. We’ve really taken a beating by culture over the last 30-40 years. One reason I’m drawn to Ann’s writing is because there is very little if any of it’s kind for men!

  20. This is a beautiful invitation to what I see as more a need in my own life right now than anything…sisterhood. True. Real. Raw. Unbiased. Sisterhood. And I’m finding this in the new world of blogging and twitter parties and writing groups. It’s about coming together because we really are all fighting the same battles in different places. We are all part of the same story even though our stories may be different. You know? I am registered and can’t wait to hear the stories. And learn from them. And grow from them. I can’t attend a meet-up this year, but will make every attempt to do so next time. And in the meantime, I’ll keep letting God speak to me through you and all the others He’s putting in my life. To give me life. And pull me through one more day of life. On the other end of the bench. Love that analogy. So. Much. Truth. Thank you for your words, as always. xoxo- your farming-sister friend, Meredith

    • Sometimes that one-on-one time with Jesus while we watch the videos is precious and just what our hearts need 🙂 So grateful for this bench that is big enough to hold us all!

  21. Ann, it’s so amazing, I started walking, again, exercising my body& my heart
    Praising Jesus every step of the way.. On my walks there is a park, a bench,where i
    began to sit. it’s tne sweetest place, mom’s with their babies, a park small but
    wide open air space – my apartment holds
    my belongings, it’s been a place God provided to heal -to renew I’ll never see a bench again that is empty: Jesus was there all the time.. On my list are new thoughts, a home again, a bench on my front porch. Even a breakthrough sooner
    than I think. A new church family. Isnt Jesus amazing.. I loved your visit to Paris,
    It brought the beginning of renewal awareness Jesus is real, He never stops
    showing up!!

  22. So Loving your site! It gives me such Hope, and encouragement. I would Love to be on a bench right now. If I don’t win a necklace can I purchase one ? I just Love the meaning of it. I can share my story

  23. Thanks for reminding me about the bench story. We have benches all over our church. What a great way to advertise and decorate. Thanks!

  24. Wow, besides loving that necklace, it is really what I needed to hear today. I recently shared my story at a MOPS group, and I am just very encouraged! Thank you!

  25. Is there a way to order that necklace without attending anything? I love the symbolism! Thank you!

  26. This is such a wonderful reminder of our communities and how imperative it is to be a part of a community. I struggle with being vulnerable and open. I’m learning that I need to be open with my past, and the heartache I’ve lived through. Depression and thoughts of suicide have been my constant companions throughout this life. But God is showing me how I am a light that shines, regardless of my past. He uses me to reach others that are hurting and lost, and I am so grateful at the chance He is giving me to reach others.
    I love the idea of a bench being a connection. To sit, and talk about life and the truth God brings to those who wait.
    Sometimes we just need a bench to wait for God to show up, and take us on a journey that is like no other!!
    Thank you, Ann, for your sweet self! God has used you in wonderful ways, and I know He will continue to do just that!

  27. Brennan Manning said, “What you will not acknowlegde cannot be healed.” God wants us to admit we hurt and we NEED HIM and each other. HE does so much with that!! BE REAL! Thanks so much. Can’t wait till the event. Ready for the Breathing Bench! Mine is by the seawall in Florida where the ocean waves APPLAUD the GLORY OF GOD 24/7!

  28. Hi Ann,
    This is such a wonderful word. About 2 yrs. ago I had a very difficult situation with a friend and the wounds went deep. I could feel myself pulling into my turtle shell not letting anyone near, so I couldn’t be hurt this way again. The Holy Spirit whispered into my heart one morning as I was spending time with him, “the enemy wants you to stop loving others, but I want you to love MORE!!” Wow!! I decided then and there, by His amazing grace to not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good, to love all the more, reach out to more people, invite more people into my life etc. what the enemy had meant for harm by God’s grace I would use for good and to advance His Kingdom. And you know what, I believe that was one of the best decisions of my life!! I have not regretted it for one minute.

  29. Hi Ann,
    My bench is my office chair, where my co-workers come and share their hearts and hurts with me day in and day out during every week. I have learned over the course of the years of working in the Real World, that so many people have no one in their “other lives” that they can share with, so I let them know that I love them and that my ears are open and my heart is ready to share their burdens. We talk, and cry and then I usually ask if I can pray for them – and almost always, they hold out their hands and say “yes, please”. I feel so very blessed to have this chance to share in these lives that I have come to love over the years of working with them. It is wonderful to watch God work in their hearts and in my own as we share our lives together.

  30. Dear Ann,

    Thank you for the way that you are an extension of the Lord. I read your blog, have read both of your books and have been deeply encouraged by you. Deeply encouraged.

    How can I get a hold of your son, Caleb? I am leaving a comment here because I don’t know how to reach him…. My husband and I placed an order with Joy Wares. PayPal took our payment several weeks ago, but we have not received the items. We’ve tried e-mailing and calling and leave messages, but we don’t know if they are making it to Caleb. Can you help us connect with him?

    Thank you,
    Jodeen

    jodeen@optimum.net

  31. Hi! I signed up. There wasn’t meet ups in my area, I have to travel far to join an Inrl meet up. I can’t afford that travel, and I am not sure whether I’m ready to be a host yet. Which brings me to what’s keeping me from The Bench right now…

    I have been struggling with anxiety basically my whole live. Jesus has done so much in my life, but sometimes I still let myself be held back because of the anxiety. It’s a process, where sometimes I need to challenge myself, and sometimes I need to accept where I am at, and let Jesus heal what I can’t heal myself. These days I am also struggling a little with no energy at all, which keeps me away from school and work. It’s not easy to know which day I am capable of things I sometimes can’t do that day. Which is why it’s also scary to hosting an inrl meet up. What if when that day comes and I can barely get out of bed(like some days are for me right now). This is what’s holding me back, but also what is learning me about my own limitations– where I can push my limits and where I need to listen to my body.

    Lately I’ve starting being more brave when it comes to sharing Jesus with people. I think it is really scary because I have met a bush of people who is not interested at all, and get angry. I have let these experiences stop me, but now I am getting back out there with my focus on Jesus. I’ve made it a habit to seek Him before meetings I know of.
    Thank you for this beautiful, encouraging post. Bless you
    – Ava Sopie

    • Will be praying for you Ava, that God would meet you right where you are! We’ve heard such beautiful stories from women who have watched the (in)RL videos and spent time on their own, just their hearts & God’s sweet presence, without hosting or attending a meetup 🙂

      • Thank you for prayer and encouragement! Looking forward to watch the (in)RL videos! It is so wonderful that God always meet us where we are, no matter the conditions :0)

  32. Ah, Ann, another post hits home. I have been living dead for so many years. Now my heart aches for my children. I feer what damage I have done. The past few months I have been working on feeling again, becoming alive again. Not only for myself but for my children too. Love the bench analogy. Now I need ti get one! 😉 I love your blog and photos too. Thanks for sharing another heart warming post.

  33. Ann, how did you know? about the hairline fractures, jagged chasms waiting to happen. About the struggle to show up every morning for my life. Not that I think I am the only one. But somehow when you are going through the dark valley, you can’t see anyone else. You feel like you are all alone. I know God is with me, he will never forsake me. But sometimes he seems so very far away. And I don’t know if I am doing the right thing, and I am constantly questioning myself and him. and yes, I know I am not supposed to, but I am planning to run away. It’s been too many years of unlove. It’s now my children too. so I say enough, and am ready to cast us out on the waters, trusting only that He will work even this hard thing to our good. That he will forgive our disobedience, our running away from the unlove, in the hope that somehow we might find love and peace again. If we are away from the unlove, perhaps we will learn to love each other again. Unlove is an infectious disease, it prevents the sun from shining, and all it spawns is bitter roots. No matter how we appeal, plead, beg, it has not changed. It lies, deceives for a time only, enough to enmesh us once more, then it’s back to squeezing the life and light out. I have said enough. God help me.

  34. Dear Ann,
    God has used used you to speak to me in so many ways over the past year. Today is one of those times. Been sitting on the bench by myself after being wounded by other sisters and not wanting to let anyone join me. Having a meeting with one of those sisters this week. Your post has given me the peace to keep sitting on the bench and be open to inviting others again instead of sequestering myself in a cave! Thank you dear sister!

  35. Oh to leave a bench open & available for friends, neighbors, my husband, my sons. Busyness and doing so often tips that bench right over. Thank you for this today.

  36. I got to sit on a bench with 2 other wonderful sisters. We were each there for different reasons, but we got to share the same space and the journey! It refreshed me!

  37. “The way you find the threads to suture up the fractures of your heart — is to let your frayed places be tied to someone else’s frayed places. Don’t think for a minute that anyone heals a broken heart alone.”

    This post blessed me so much. Thank you for sharing.

  38. Ann, sister, you are brave every time you sit down and let the words spill out…then click publish to share with us. THANK YOU. The internet feels big and impersonal at times, but if we were sitting on one of our farms together, we’d get right down to the depths in a New York minute! I feel led to be brave and tell you that God gave me a new name recently: BRAVEHEARTED BEAUTY. Right smack dab in the middle of a winter depression, he called me Bravehearted Beauty. And like Gideon, who wasn’t a Might Warrior when God said he was, I didn’t feel brave and beautiful. But God says so, and therefore, I AM. I’m walking through some painful places in my story right now, but God gave me this name so that I can face them. And out of that new name, I have closed my 4 1/2 year old blog {LLH Designs} and started writing as Bravehearted Beauty. The Lord has not only called me a Bravehearted Beauty, but he’s called me to call it out in others. And Ann, I see you as a Bravehearted Beauty for SURE! I’ll definitely be linking to this very post, and will probably quote you on this: “The Brave are the ones who trace the inside of their everyday wounds and don’t grow hard.” I knew we’d be kindred spirits when I read your writing for the first time years ago, but I really think so now…because my capacity for depth and sorrow and joy and vulnerability has increased dramatically through my suffering. Thankful. And thank YOU again for being brave enough to share your heart day after day. Hugs…from one farmgirl to another!

  39. Hi Ann,
    April 10, 2014: Gift #863: Ann’s words of invitation. Healing balm…a hand extended to the hurting. Thank you for 1,000 gifts….it changed my life!

    I’m blessed to have “benches” in my life….dear friends I can sit with, put my feet up, and be real with …a rare treasure, I know, after years of solitary misery. (19 years in Christian 12 step broke down the brick walls, barbed wire barricade, & deep moat I’d erected around my heart, thinking I’d be safe from the childhood wounds of ridicule for crooked teeth, shame of sexual abuse as a tiny girl, verbal and physical beatings and abuse, growing up with an often violent father and a mother who was detached and emotionally unavailable. When I cried out to the Lord “Why didn’t you put me in a loving Christian home????” I heard: “It was your dysfunction which brought you to Me.”……oh…. So those were gifts in black wrappings, meant to draw me to the Heart of Hearts, for which I’m now very grateful! the were “Weights that gave me wings!”

    A difficult marriage has also been a gift…once I got past praying to die and planning suicide for many years. The gift is that the years have been my “school master” in learning to heal, deal, set boundaries, grow up, speak up and reach out, and to love and extend grace and mercy toward my wounded “warrior”, who worked to provide for the family all those years while I had the privilege and time to sit on the bench with sisters who were all healing from broken hearts, and who in turn brought the compassion and understanding to heal mine…as we healed each others.

    Like some, my family has suffered greatly in “the church” but “church” also has some wonderful, safe “benches”….it’s been a matter of seeking them out, and learning to trust again…both to extend grace and to receive solace and love in whatever measure it is extended. To learn to forgive those in whom Satan found “a place” from which to falsely accuse, humiliate, ignore, and his other evil work.

    When evicted from our home after our business failed (yes, the sheriff came to make sure we were gone at 6:30 a.m) I cried: Lord, we’re homeless! I heard “The Son of man had no place to lay His head”….oh…it hadn’t registered that You were homeless! “But I feel like a criminal…the neighbors all saw the sheriff come, though we were already gone.” I heard “I died the death of a criminal between two thieves”. On and on it went, until I realized that not only is Jesus the Friend who sticks closer than a brother, there is NOTHING I will ever encounter that He has not gone before and experienced, able to lead me safely through with the promise “I’m holding you with my Righteous Right Hand….there is nothing to fear.”

    I’m looking forward to April 25/26 with joy to listen in to the stories of healing, hope, faith, and renewal.

  40. I am very careful about who I “allow” to sit on my Bench. I’m not as trusting as I would like to be and I have a fear of being judged for my story, so I don’t tell too many people my story. I don’t think anyone knows my whole story. Right now I am trying to be brave as a daughter who is estranged from her mother…it hurts some days more than I can express. I try and be grown up about it and act like I’ve got it under control. After all I’m a wife, a mom, a grandma but most days I feel like a little girl inside who just wants her mommy to love her. Right now this is where I am in my story and I am so thankful that even though my mom may forsake me, Father God will never leave me or forsake. Thank you Ann for your wonderful words of wisdom and encouragement. In His Grace, Joyce

  41. I could have used a park bench last night, instead I sat on the hard steps outside my apartment and let the wind blow across my tear streaked face wishing for a “neighbor” to sit with me.

  42. My little boy asked me last night when we were having our bedtime cuddle, if I was being brave, brave for the baby. This choked my throat, I then asked him if he was brave for the baby? He nodded with big eyes. We are both being brave for our little pregnant baby, after a painful miscarriage a week before Christmas last year, and surprisingly, miraculously falling pregnant again. It has not been an easy journey as I’ve been on bedrest for most of the past number of months. I am raising my children in a country on the other side of the world away from my roots, my people that I haven’t seen in over six years. This takes courage daily. I can do with some time on a bench with a kind friend or just a shoulder to rest my weary head. Saying that, it is always so encouraging to share our joys too. Be reminded that our God is Good and Generous and ever present even on our most depleted days. So will save some space on my bench for our Constant Companion.

  43. Dear Ann,

    Although I have been reading your blog for over a year, I made the commitment to the Lord, and myself to begin to count ” A thousand Gifts”. I know God has called me to this, because so many circumstances in our life are huge mountains, and He knows I have to look elsewhere while He is working it out hence looking for blessings.
    I have been working hard today at counting and thanking but while doing the dishes, the heaviness overcame me along with the questions to Heaven, “does what I do really mean anything, day after day, small faithful things in hope that one day He will turn the tide. I climbed the stairs to read your blog..written for me too, and found a place to sit on your bench. and find some comfort for my weary heart.
    The road seems so long and I needed somewhere to rest..He knew.
    Thank you for writing your blog The Holy Experiece..it helps and heals.

    In His love, Sunny

  44. Wow needed this tonight. My heart is crushed into one thousand little pieces right now. My heart is so broken only God can put the pieces back together. Thank you Ann always for your word of encouragement.

    • Julie
      I know that when your heart feels so broken ;your body feels weak and your mind so overwhelmed that it is difficult(sometimes impossible) to speak the words,any words ..I was there 6 yrs ago when my husband died and I found that bench “online” with a phenomenal group of widows and widowers from all over the world..We “spoke” all hours day and night ..The encouragement and empathy was so tremendous that the floodgates of our hearts were opened and healing was made possible..I think God helps us put the pieces back together by setting someone or something in our path and this “bench” is just that..You may find it on a phone line or a website or an email or a church group or even an art/music group..and then,at the right time,you will find that the pieces that came together made your heart grow so big that you need to share that with someone(s) else needing a bench..I believe that is what Ann is starting here..
      I think you need a hug tonight Julie and so do I,so here it is,,BIG HUG
      Arleen

  45. Anne,

    How wonderful your Thousand Gifts, and other writings.
    I send on to many friends your Holy Experience.

    praying for all those who need someone to sit on their bench with them,
    and from my experience of my husband dying 27 years ago,
    when our son was 11 years old,
    I can truly say God has been there every second of the way.
    love in JESUS,
    Alaine

  46. Sometimes you have to journey to prison to share the bench with the one you love. Then you know you have to start bringing your kids to this bench that no one else would pick, but God hand picked for you and them. When we give all our hurt, all our pain, all our bitterness to God we find the freedom to love with our whole hearts. I wouldn’t give up my bench for any else’s because this is where God restored our family. Thank you, Ann. You will never know how much your words have helped me these past few years.

  47. I am searching for a bench on which to rest. In a world that has been torn apart by those who seek to destroy and having to live in the aftermath of that destruction – personal, deep, and wounded. A heart that is broken wide open longs for a place to rest, to heal, and to help heal others. Bravery in the face of devastation sometimes becomes almost unbearable. Brave I must be, but in weakness I am made strong through Him who loves me more than I sometimes realize or imagine. Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand. I am tired, I am weary, I am worn. Through the storm and the dark hour of my soul, the bench can be my resting place as I wait the dawn of a new day.

  48. Ann, oh so true we get so busy with life and hide everything in when we are struggling and hurting. When there is some dear sister feels the same way and needs encouragement. I want to be a bench sitter. Thank you for the wisdom that God gives you to share with us
    Lisa Burt

  49. Trying hard to stay open on my end of the bench and be both real with others and welcoming, safe, encouraging to others. Unfortunately, too many of those who should be sisters are picking sides, gossiping, sniping, and tearing each other’s hearts to shreds. Hard, hard to be brave and do the right thing while keeping watch over my own heart. Gossip and factions are tragically contagious. Sometimes my best “bench” is my cell phone, reaching across miles for the encouragement to keep reaching out close to home.

  50. Wow. I’m registered and so blessed by the women I will be with inRL. I cried when I saw this necklace. Im writing my story and just thank God for the little ways He encourages me. Especially through those precious souls on the bench.

  51. This sounds wonderful..I have been needing something like this and wondering what and when it might come..I have recently been transplanted from California to Alabama for family reasons but taken away from work I felt important and feeling losses too many to state here..
    I’ve shared a bench or 2 in my life,sometimes just the end of a bed or a telephone line and I know how much that means all around..I have followed your writings Ann for quite some time and I know you know this bench very well..Tonight reading some of the other messages here,I know there is someone ready to sit with me and I with them..Oh God,Your timing is sooo great !!!!!

  52. I have been struggling with chronic sciatic pain and feel like God has me on the “bench” . I cant do all the things I’d like, taking long walks,some household duties I need more help from my kids. I want to learn all that God has for me on this bench. Looking inward at the broken places and finding a ‘sister to’ share this wounded heart with. Learning to offer a sacrafice of praise for this. Physical pain is hard, emotional wounds harder but easy to ignore for only a time. Replacing how I feel with the Truth of what Jesus says.He is my Maker, Healer, Provider,and King. A holy Experience is always an encouragement and helps me get refocused about what is truly important. Thank you Ann. I am working on thankfulness as I sit on the “bench”……Looking to Him instead of self-sufficiency is all good.

  53. Because losing can mean finding and weakness can show strength, I bring authenticity to my bench. The past year has brought me to my knees mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. After a 3 month battle with breast cancer and a “good” prognosis, my mom died. Then there was the baby that grew quiet in my womb, a due date but never a birthdate. And so my story continues to be all grace. Hurt, pain, and loss are real, but there is comfort. “For we do not grieve as one without hope.” We do grieve. We do hope.

  54. Wow what a unbelievable message. I totally felt this was for me. I’ve had a lot of heartache, and have been even more hurt and discouraged by the lack of loyalty in friends. I feel all I’ve endured has been alone, but try to focus on God and look ahead. Thank you Ann for this message.

  55. I have tried so many benches…I love getting to know people, and I’m always afraid that I will miss someting valuable if I pass up a bench…so I sit…until I get kicked off and then I go to another bench, believing that I will find something els valuable there…and I sit until I get kicked off.
    And as painful as it has been, I kept trying…struggling to figure out what god must be trying to teach me through each of those devastating situations…and at the end of the day, knowing that I could return to my own bench…the one where I am valuable.
    Then I discovered broken vows and realized that a bench where I am valuable does not exist…and I have forced myself to pass up the benches.

    • Muchalone, I understand you completely. My bench is small, but you are welcome on it, if only because we have this in common; that we have not yet found the bench for us, where we are considered valuable. Where broken vows have devastated what we once knew. Where acceptance is only temporary. I can only say that there is peace to be found in Christ, who accepts us and loves us as we are, unconditionally. But we still have to live in this world, and feel the hurts from it. And it’s often hard.

  56. Muchalone, this is the first time I have ever heard of the bench, but I’ll sit here with you and listen and share my heart with you even if you have to stand at first and you don’t want to sit and trust the bench. You are a beautiful creation loved by God. Please know there is one who will never leave you or forsake you. It is he we raise our hearts to sing our thanks to open our hearts to. Apart from Gods grace given through Jesus we too would be unable to share benches and trust each other. You are in my prayers, my sweet bench friend, I pray you find healing and hope here.

  57. I’ve been thinking a lot about what keeps me back from engaging with my real community right around me. And it’s time. It’s time to take a deep breath, step forward, open the door, and let them in. It’s time to show them that they aren’t alone and to remind myself that I am not either.

    (and the last sentence of your post; you mean for it to say that “they ARE NOT ordinary…”) 🙂

  58. I have a good friend who I know I can call and talk about anything–and I mean anything! We talk and pray for each other. She is my lifeline when life gets crazy or just doesn’t go my way!!

    At work I have another good friend and we talk and encourage each other daily! We can sense when the other is down and pray for each other or just say a kind work and lend a helping hand.

    It’s hard for me to make and have a lot of friends even truly good ones. I guess it’s time constraint, locale-living out In country, and my introverted personality. But thanks to the internet and cell phones I can usually call or email people and get uplifted quickly!

    Blessings 🙂

  59. Help! I tried to register 5 times and each time it is telling me I enetered the wronr reCaptcha code to go back and try again. However, there is no code showing up to enter. Is anyone else having this issue?

  60. This was a great article but I am going to be honest and up front, I have a very hard time with women. I have tried to be friendly and for some reason I keep hitting walls and getting hurt. I am not sure how more I can take of the real life stuff. All I have longed for a true friend that accepts you for you are and do not judge you. Thank you for your encouraging article you write.
    Sharon

  61. I am struggling with my sudden need for help. I have always been the strong one. Others count on me, but now I am broken. As an abandoned child I learned early to take care of myself not to count on anyone else. I have overcome so much only to find myself at the end of myself. God has brought me through many trials and I felt stronger in my faith after each one, but this is different. My 22 yr old son and 19 ur old daughter are both addicts, my son is in 3rd stay at rehab but my daughter just got arrested for 2nd time and refuses help. She doesn’t want to admit she has a problem. Our dreams for our children never involved all that we have endured. My hope is fading and I am retreating away from people. No one knows the depths of my pain right now. I feel so powerless watching my beloved children destroy themselves. I need a bench and someone who can relate.

    • Deborah,
      I too have always been the strong one, the counselor, and the one who holds the hurting. As a wife and mother in a God centered home with a close knit family, I suddenly find myself in crisis. My 21 year old daughter moved in with a 30 year old man that has 3 children and has been married twice already. She has pretty much cut her father and I out of her life since we don’t approve and had asked her not to leave. She plans to marry him in June. My 18 year old daughter that has cystic fibrosis told us that she was pregnant on Wednesday and on Thursday called me at 9:15 to invite me to the 10:00 ceremony where she was marrying her fiancé. While I can’t imagine the kind of pain that you are going through or what you have already endured, I can certainly understand your mothers heart and the searing pain that won’t seem to subside with the hopelessness you feel. I am so sorry. I cry with you, even now, and will cry out to God for peace and deliverance. He is big enough. He is strong enough. As much as we care for our babies.. we have to remember that He cares so much more. Releasing these precious babies that God gave us back to Him is the hardest thing that I am having to do. They are my precious, beautiful babies that I love so so much…. give them back to the One that gave them to me?? I hurts more that I can bare. They were His before they were mine. Remind yourself daily how He cares for you. He cares for them so much more that you ever could. Know that it’s His desire to see them both delivered and set free. Know that He has not forgotten you. Know that there are benches of hurting mamas that offer to pray with you, cry with you, scream with you, and sit quietly with you. You are loved.

  62. For many years, in many places, I’ve had big benches where others were welcomed to sit with open hearts. I’ve even jumped up from the benches to holler an invitation for others to join me. I know how life-giving a full bench can be. But after a move almost 8 (long) years ago, there are so many people “in” my life, but not “on” my bench. I feel my heart shrinking and I don’t know if it’s out of fear or anger or loneliness. Ezekiel 36:26 is one of my life verses, and you’ve given enough encouragement for me to claw my way back to believing He can make my heart fleshy again, even on an empty bench.

  63. Thank you Laura. I will pray for your situation too. It is so hard to talk to people here when all their kids are graduating college or getting jobs and living normal lives and mine is full of chaos and police and overdoses. My bench is not a comfortable one to share. I press on and count it all joy, one day at a time.

    • I completely understand. You’re bench is strong and will be a resting and healing place for others that will go through the same thing one day. For now, we will share a bench and hold it up together. Prayers for you, your heart, and your precious babies that need rescue. He is able. Much love.

  64. So need this. I have a habit of locking myself in, in life. So many hurts, so many broken places, and even in the church, so many places not right. Home is safe. Home is a place where you can’t hurt me, and then I can’t be angry because Im hurt. I can’t do big groups. Don’t like them. I don’t feel like I belong. I feel outcast. It’s what my life has taught me.

    I echo the words of one of the sisters here…I know God loves me, and He is always with me…but He often seems so far away…

    I need a bench with one or two, no more, that I can shed this messiness of life with, and laugh…and find healing…So grateful for this post…

  65. Have you heard of a buddy bench? Our elementary school just purchased one. It is a place for a child who needs a friend/someone to play with. They sit there and when another child sees another student on the bench they run over and ask them to join with them! Kids are so great that way!

  66. So beautiful: this necklace, the words, this community. I’m so grateful for this space and these women who read and write and live here. There is so much God-blessed goodness that has been created and sustained here. Can’t wait for the conference to connect and go deeper into our stories.

  67. Wanting to slide over on my bench to make space, but afraid that my disdain for the small talk and my passion for the life stories, and the deepness of soul that draws me will frighten away others. I’m trying to be brave, and keep going.

  68. I am encouraged by the friends who have sat on my friend ‘bench’ through the in’s and out’s of life. I am in process of growing more community in my life, and the women at church that I go to lunch with after Bible study every week have brought joy to my life. LOVE this necklace!

  69. I forgot how much I loved sitting on the bench at the park. I want a bench at
    my home. Just stopping to think. Thank you for this fantastic reminder.

  70. Hi, Ann,

    I appreciate all you do and write about. It hits a deep chord within me. I wish I could begin a “meet up,” but I have NO CLUE what I’m doing. I’m extremely limited physically by rheumatoid arthritis symptoms from the late stage, chronic Lyme I’ve had for about 26 years. If it’s not R.A., it’s nerve pain. I’d love to tell my story in order to encourage other women to trust God in the middle of pain and disappointment and lack of … (whatever in human terms), but I’d need to depend on my immediate family to help, and they’re all very introverted (the thought of having a bunch of unknown women in our house terrifies them).
    The one thing I can DO is pray. It is my go-to activitiy these days as I constantly re-adjust my “doing” mentality to my higher levels of pain in my hands, wrists and elbows, as well as the muscles that are affected by the nerve pain. So I’ll be praying for all of the groups that are meeting up all over the country – that God would be in those groups and minister to the hurting, beaten down women that attend!
    Thank the Lord for His ministry through you!