Monday, December 28, 2009

Breathe Deep & Let it All Go

We hold onto the pain like a badge of honor, scars on our heart that fade, but that are not easily forgotten. Words spoken, abuse, neglect, I’ll let you fill in the blank. We all have issues asking out loud, “Do you see me?”
And if by chance we allow our pain to be visible to others and if we want our pain to be acknowledged in a way that makes us feel justified…would we cease in crying about it? Probably not, not until we are ready to let go of the hurt we hold inside, whether self-imposed or inflicted by others. Even now I feel a pain in my chest as I remember, as I long to let go, as I pray once again to forgive.
With God there is that clean slate, a prayer of forgiveness and then He remembers it no more. How sweet a thought! But, we are not God. We sometimes have to forgive, remember that we are in fact forgiven, and then repeat as often as necessary. The truth is we many never forget certain things, but God help us to change our thinking at the way we look at hurt from up close when the wounds are no longer fresh. So I breathe in, I still remember, God help me to let go. We are not victims of yesterday, we are victors today because we choose to let go of the pain to embrace a brighter future.
“For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper and not to harm.” (Jeremiah 1:9)
When I look back over my life, I feel certain that I spent a majority of my life trying to be something that I wasn’t. Perfect. I wasted countless hours fretting over what others may think of me and if I might have said something to offend the looking eyes fixed on me. I am a natural born pleaser always seeking to make others happy. A few traumatic experiences, heartache, and the loss of two babies caused me to take a deeper look inside as the voice of God hovered over me saying, “Even I am not calling you to this idea of perfection.” It is completely unnecessary for God himself delights in using the foolish things of this of this world to confound the wise.

I long only to please an audience of One. Only Him, everything else will fall beautifully in place.

God didn’t create me for perfection; He created me to have a relationship with Him. That I would learn the true nature of my Abba Father by spending time with Him, sitting at His feet to drink Him in instead of chasing after the ridiculous ideas of being the perfect wife and pastor’s wife. (Gag.) Something that I would never, ever attain; how incredibly dull a life. It is no longer the life I seek after; I like the quirky side of me that takes a greater joy in being the one my friends need to make them laugh.

Martha, Martha, why do you trouble yourself with things that do not matter? Take a piece of carpet space right next to the Master’s feet and learn what it really means to be the ideal Proverbs 31 woman.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Imagine Me

I should be packing and doing so many other things, but I just wanted to take the time to say Merry Christmas. I pray that you whisper the name of Jesus throughout your celebrations and count your blessings like I am right now. I’m so thankful for my first love, my Jesus. I found Him as a child and my love deepens with each day that passes. I have no idea why He called me as a teen into fulltime ministry, but I treasure that calling and feel so honored and humbled to serve Him with every fiber of who I am. I am far from perfect. I’m a slight drama queen with ADD tendencies that make for a very enjoyable life of laughter and chaos. My prayer throughout the years has been, O Lord, keep me soft before You.

Right now I am working with the youth in our Fine Arts program preparing to compete in March. Every week God shows up and gives me the words and prayers to pray over these kids that I love so dearly. Coming from a broken home and seeing addiction from the eyes of a child did something to me. It pointed my eyes towards my Daddy God and caused me to seek His face instead of following hard after the ways of this world. I was broken for this very reason, the scars of my yesterday look so much like their scars today. My past enables me to minister to this brokenhearted, fatherless generation. Every week the youth I work with bring something painful to my attention and I wish I could shelter them from the heartache they are dealing with right now. But, I can’t. I just know that the God of my broken childhood will be the God of their brokenness now and He alone will piece them back together with greater purpose to know what it really means to be a follower of Christ.

One of the songs we are doing this year is ‘Imagine Me’ by Kirk Franklin. I played the song to them again on Sunday and asked them to really listen to the words. As the song played we sat in a circle. One by one our kids began to sob as I told them, “This is how I imagine you, I imagine you set free…just like me.”
Here is part of the song:

Imagine me

Loving what I see when the mirror looks at me cause I imagine me

In a place with no insecurities and I’m finally happy cause I imagine me

Letting go of all of the ones that hurt me cause they never did deserve me

Can you imagine me?

Over what my mama said and healed from what my daddy did and I wanna live and not read that page again...

Jesus Christ came wrapped in flesh, as a tiny baby so that you could be free and He that the Son sets free is free indeed!I imagine you strong. I imagine you whole and set free, and most of all I imagine you this Christmas season surrendering the hurts of yesterday to embrace the God who holds your future in his nail scarred hands.
I love you!

Merry Christmas!
Jennifer Renee

Saturday, December 19, 2009

For I Know the Plans I have for YOU!!

Who can fully understand the plans God has in store for us? And if you knew how those plans would unfold step by step, like a clever how to manual, would you choose to accept those plans? Would that make life easier? I guess we have all come to the understanding that God doesn’t work like that and neither do we. You see, I believe that God sets us apart for something amazing, dreams that He alone places in our hearts for a very specific reason…getting there is the hardest part of the journey especially when you try to force the hand of God.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back from captivity.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

God alone has a plan for our lives, most of the time we can’t see the big picture of what God is doing in our lives. You can’t appreciate a masterpiece of artwork when your face is two inches from the canvas. You have to step back to appreciate the full picture and take the time to really see it for what it is. Our lives are much the same, step back and let the Masterful Artist do His work. He’s not finished with you, my dear friend, He is just getting started!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sweet and as a Preacher's Wife

My other posts have been sweeter in nature and I feel badly that I am about to drop the bomb and show you the sassy side of me. In my premarital counseling session eleven years ago Jonathan was asked to describe me in two words. These were his words: sweet & spicy. Thanks baby, I try not to disappoint.

There are certain demands and ideals of false perfection on PW’s (Preacher’s Wives). I try to keep a tight lip, but seriously every week I get another laughable example of why ministry doesn’t pay near enough. Not that it’s about the money because no one in their right mind pursues ministry thinking “I’m going to be loaded!” Here’s what happened to me just a few Sunday’s ago.

I walk into the church. My children are happy and ready for staff pictures sporting their matching dresses, bows, and boots. They have curls and smiles on their adorable faces. I purposely decided to skip Sunday school since I was exhausted after my travels back from Deeper Still that weekend. The minute I walked through the doors of the church, I was greeted with the sweetest smile from an older man in our church that I adore.

“You are very late for Sunday school.” He smiled with a twinkle in his eyes.

Busted. I immediately went into why I “purposely skipped.”

Just so you know, I will never ever call you or comment when you skip church or Sunday school. It’s not an immediate ticket to flames and gnashing of teeth. I’m just sayin. Later that evening, we had the privilege of hearing our youth pastor speak. I got to sit with my man during church with his arms wrapped around me. I loved it.

The message came to a conclusion as our youth pastor lead us to the altars where a large, trash receptacle was. We were to write something on a small piece of paper that we needed to hand over to God, something between us and God as a symbolic sign of surrender. I love a good illustrative sermon and I was proud of our little youth pastor for bringing a dumpster into the main sanctuary and making our deacons nervous.

As I prayed over my piece of paper, one thing came to mind. I needed to hand over my idea of a normal life to God. As Erma Bombeck so brilliantly put it, “Normal is just a setting on a dryer.”
As I placed my paper into the dump and went to pray one of our deacons, who shall remain nameless, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I’m just curious about what you wrote.”

You’ve got to be kidding me? I assumed that he was, smiled politely and sat down to pray.
He slid in beside me, “No, I’m serious. I want to know what you wrote down.”

I had a decision to make. I could either be sweet or spicy. I chose the latter. Spicy won and he had no idea what was about to come out of my mouth.

“Well, I sacrifice a lot to be in the ministry.” (Like my stinkin privacy.) And then I gave examples. I was honest and it immediately put him on the defensive as he tried to tell me how good we had it at our church. And we do, but I was annoyed.

Some people lack the proper filters. We all say things we shouldn’t and I assure you this man probably won’t ever ask me personal questions again.

I sat down besides my husband later that evening and said this, “Here’s what went down tonight, I’m really sorry if you hear about it at your next board meeting.”
Thankfully, he laughed and said, “Good for you.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Baby that Changed Everything

It started with a song I couldn’t get out of my head. A song I played over and over while the words and the meaning soaked into my heart. As the music played my little girls listened. And although Whitley’s little mind couldn’t quite comprehend the meaning written in the lyrics she still heard the words… “A baby changes everything.” She was listening, they are always listening.
A baby does change everything. For me they added color and flavor to my world, laughter and music, giggles and kisses, and so much more. A love so deep it hurt because as hard as I try I can’t stop them from experiencing pain in this world. As I held Whitley one night I whispered in her ear like I often do, “You’re my baby. You and Sissy are the greatest gifts God has ever given me.” She smiled, always accepting of loving words, and said as she snuggled in close to me, “A baby changes everything.”
Her words caught me by surprise. Our children hear so much of what is spoken and see far more than we give them credit for. I pulled myself together and said, “Yes they do, but do you know which baby that song is talking about?” It was the story of a birth of a baby to a young mother, a savior who started out much too small helplessly cradled in the arms of someone special. At Christmas we picture the baby in the manger. At Easter time we picture a man hanging on a cross and an empty tomb. We ponder his humble beginnings, his heartbreaking crucifixion, and triumphant resurrection that gives us hope of an eternal home in heaven.
That evening I wanted the emphasis to be on heaven, no more tears, angels singing- happy thoughts for her little mind to drift off to sleep with, happy thoughts for her mommy as I tucked her in and prayed for a good report from the doctor’s office. The next day we received the news, no heart murmur. Her little heart is perfectly healthy!
That was a year ago. This year Whitley and I have a new song in our hearts. “We are the Reason.” Last week coming home from Whitley’s 1st grade musical she asked me to keep playing “We are the Reason” sang by Avalon. It’s her favorite Christmas song. I heard her little voice in the backseat begin to sob.
“Mommy, can we please listen to it again? It just touches my heart and makes me cry.”
“Yes, sweetie we can.” At this point, I’m sobbing as I watch her in the rear-view mirror so moved that my little girl is having a moment in the car with the Most High.
“He died for our sins, so we wouldn’t have to.” Whitley said still crying.
Yes, He did baby girl. You are the reason that He gave His life; you are the reason He suffered and died. Thank you, God for making yourself known to my baby girl. My heart is wrapped up in your perfect gift!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I am convinced that life is all about a perpetual state of letting go. It happened the minute my daughter came into the world. I looked at her and said, “She’s mine.” I waited for her. I suffered through losing my two babies. I’m the one who cried myself to sleep for years as I longed to bring my Whitley Jane and Elise Claire home. “She’s mine, God.”

I knew that God alone caused my miracles to take place, but somehow I couldn’t release my ownership of them. He guided every decision we made as I fought hard to keep my sanity through the entire process. “They are mine, God.” Please don’t take this away.

As much as I love them with every fiber of who I am, I serve a God who loves them more. So, with my hands held high in the truest sense of surrender I whisper my salty words to God, “They are yours.” Your ways are so much higher than my own. I trust you as my mother’s heart walks around outside my chest in the shape of two precious little girls. The sting of surrender causes me to lose my breath.

I have felt the very same thing towards some of our dearest friends and staff members, the Bellmore’s. Jonathan hand-picked Paul before Jonathan was even a lead pastor. He saw something in Paul and Natalie that made him want to develop a friendship with them so that maybe someday they could be a part of our team. What I never saw coming was that they would become so much more than that. They became family and our “life support.”

Unfortunate things happen in the “church world” and in life in general that break your heart into a million pieces. And as you gather up pieces that cut like shards of glass, you learn further what it really means to trust God. To let go and keep breathing in and out without harboring ill feelings towards the things in life you cannot quite fathom. Learning more about the true content of a person’s character by how they weather the storm as God becomes so big in a person’s life that you release your tight grip. And then you learn the fine art of placing the ones you love in the hands of God by saying, “They are yours, take good care of them God.”

Sweet friends, you have far exceeded my expectations and have impressed me as your heart for God, even in the midst of pain, has cause my eyes to see you as more than just true friends and family…I see an amazing pastoral team that is going to do amazing, unconventional things to reach the lost and I’m proud.

My life, His masterpiece

A few years ago after experiencing some heartache, God gave me a thought and I haven’t been able to let go of it. We can look back on our life and lock eyes with our past heartaches and only see broken shards of glass that leave us bleeding and broken. But, when we step back and look at what seemed like only broken pieces of our past and take a fresh look…what we really see is a beautiful mosaic of God carefully placing those broken pieces of our lives back together with greater purpose. The end result is a life that brings the Greatest Artist glory. He is the potter, so mold me and make something useful out of me. If I am the canvas, let every brush stroke take me past the point of looking more like myself and more of a reflection of His Glory. What used to be a beautiful vase placed upon a shelf to look at, is now the messy mosaic of me and ex-perfectionist.