Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lessons from a Former Broken Girl & The Sweetest Gift



It doesn’t end. I wish that I could tell you that one day you will be over it. Whatever it is. Abuse. Neglect. Abandonment. Death. Loss. Scars that no one else sees. The heart doesn’t forget. But, a wise woman told me not too long ago…He removes the sting. She could see the sting all over me and she was right. It doesn’t sting anymore.

When the hurt runs deep there are layers upon layers that only Christ can break through. Broken pieces that look like you, words that cut, everything placed before you and you take it because you think you have to, but you don’t. Let it shatter, your yesterday, your broken life, and watch what God does with it. One day it will be a masterpiece, I pinkie promise. God doesn’t take our pain without offering something sweeter in return.

He takes your pain for you with a love that your mind cannot fathom because He is love. He bore your sorrows in the shape of cross and bloody stripes on His back that can heal the hurt that no man sees. He carries your pain. And just in case this hasn’t been modeled out before you, our Daddy God is the perfect gentleman. Perfect, no air of superiority or fist waved above you. God is not like that. He will not pry the hurt from your hand or order you to let it go. You have to give it to Him. It’s your gift of surrender as you rip off your victim label, resigning your unofficial title of the walking wounded. Hurt can make you bitter, or it can sweeten you to love Him like none other. Can I tell you? Can I beg you to choose the latter?

This is not a holly, jolly topic but there are those who can’t sing the choir songs or deck the halls because they are hurting. They grieve and go through the motions hoping that someone will take notice with something actually worthwhile to say. They are numb and distracted standing on shaky legs because they no longer walk in strength because they walk the walk of wannabe survivor trying to keep their heads above water. Can I beg you to choose your words carefully to the fragile, or say nothing at all?

“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” (James 3:8-12)

To the mother that just gave her baby up for adoption with ache and longing running through her bones and empty arms… you gave life and you gave a gift that the barren woman rejoices over. It’s okay to hurt and dream of a day when you are ready to mother for good. You are still a mother, you will always be. But sweet girl, you gave life and you gave a gift. So I say thank you on behalf the child that will grow up happy because you gave life.

To the mother that buried her beloved; your tears do not go unnoticed. God sees you and holds the hand of the one you lost…but don’t’ forget He’s holding your hand too. Squeeze it. Close your eyes and remember the hope of heaven because it’s real and waiting for you.

To the woman abandoned and left behind. Breathe deeply and grieve deeply, joy will come again in the morning for the Lord is near to the brokenhearted. He pours in the oil and wine, bandages your gaping wounds, and whispers the sweetest love song that sounds like this, “I am your husband. I see your worth and your beauty so find your safety in me. My soul provision will blow your mind because I am not capable of failing you.”

The sweetest gift you may give someone this Christmas is persistent, liquid prayers.
The sweetest gift you can give yourself with clinched fists is the release that comes from knowing God fights the battles for you as you let go of your “right” to be angry. Shake your fist at the enemy of your soul, not at man, for God will grant you victory. Fight the good fight.

Hurting people hurt people. If you can see through that and their lies…it hurts a little less. But, it still hurts so let God take it. Today, right now, choose salty tears over a root of bitterness that grows deep. Choose a spring of life yielded to the heart of God…not salt water that stings.

Today I choose joy. Today I choose fresh water over salty. Today I choose a heart that doesn't sting. I embrace the sweetest gift, my Savior came wrapped in flesh...and that my friends, is real reason to be jolly.

Much love to you from a Former Broken Girl,
Jennifer

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Grownup Christmas List & Coveting



She must have known. The tears begin to fall softly and I'm grateful. Let them come, because I know the power of liquid prayers. As I sift through the emotions and glance at the time. I know I should be sleeping and bear-hugging a pillow instead of staring at my husbands dated laptop. I smile, it's the best of both worlds: the dated laptop and my iMac in the room where he sleeps peacefully. The state of gratitude that I feel and the war of frustration I feel when I think about want verses need. I don't want to get it, because she raised me better than that.

Sometimes Mother really does know best.

I can honestly say I don't know what it's like to be truly hungry, but I know for certain that in my childhood we had less, although dirt-poor could not be an accurate description. I didn't walk uphill in the snow both ways to school. I had nice things and clothes; clean long hair while my sister sported the girl mullet. (It was the 80's and apparently that was in.) Honestly, if we flipped through some old family photographs my sisters horribly wrong hair cut would be the only indicator that we were “poor.”

I had nice things because I had a mother that sacrificed so much. What she couldn't give me in material things, she taught me by telling me the classic one-liner. Money doesn't grown on trees. Heaven help me, I'll probably say the same thing to my daughters as I teach them not to covet and do my best to instill the fine art of being thankful for what they have.

I'm trying to make my grown-up Christmas list and I'm wrecked. This once impulsive buyer looks at things through different eyes and it clicks.

She knew.

God was faithful to speak to my mother's heart and whisper words that would help her let go of a little girl who was called to a different life. Mom told me when I was in Junior High that she knew I was called into ministry. I was ironing; I hate ironing. I was frustrated, trying to communicate what she already knew…that I was different. Somehow I hoped that my future wouldn’t include a domestic, tied to the kitchen life. I was trying to explain to her that I didn't want a normal life; I wanted to be in ministry full-time. No one enters ministry thinking that they are going to be rich, unless they are crazy. So, thanks Mom. Somehow I don't think either of us imaged the call of God would look quite like this.

What I didn't know then was that the call of God looks like so many things. It looks like a stay-at-home mom. It looks like a working single mom trying to juggle life and kids, wants verses need. It looks like a missionary in the heart of Africa with battle scars and a love that makes him release his grip on comforts for souls and empty eyes that light up when they hear the good news. The call of God takes on many shapes, chiseled by different seasons of life. We do the same things with callings, titles, and positions of authority. We covet, looking down our noses at the role that God has blessed us with, counting talents, burying them, wasting them.

Want verses need. Gratitude verses covetousness. My grownup Christmas list? I might give you a few hints later, maybe a teaser, but brace yourself…it’s not normal.

Much love,
Jennifer

Monday, November 14, 2011

Surrendered Soul, Abundant Harvest



For days my thoughts have turned to the farmer in Africa, here in the states, and abroad sowing seeds while his family suffers from hunger, sobbing from the nothingness that fills their bellies. They have nothing and so they cry.

I think of the single mom who measures out her children’s portions giving herself less so that they can have more. They have next to nothing and she feels the weight of it, crying herself to sleep at night.

I cannot understand or wrap my mind around suffering, yet I know their tears are not wasted and unnoticed. For God is there, with the broken and contrite heart as the tears run down their faces. He is the same Jesus moved in his gut with compassion while the widow grieves the passing of her only son.

He is moved deep within, churning with action as He raises her only hope for provision, the one she used to cradle and comfort. It seems so delayed, but it’s not. Not for one second is our God not thinking of His loved children.

A spirit of brokenness while sowing seeds brings about a harvest of results leaving them with joy uncontainable- but not for the present, no, it’s the gift and the promise of tomorrow. Today you will cry, fearful that you cannot provide. But your harvest is coming so you throw out what you would rather cling to. There is not another choice.

They wept and planted, in their diligence they pressed on longing to remember the taste of joy. Brokenness within personal famine leads us to a breakthrough like none other. Delayed gratification that lingers with empty ache while the Lord sees, deeming their diligence as pleasing.

“When, the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream.” (Ps 126:1)

The picture of Zion is symbolic of safety. Our sweetest dreams are best entertained when we feel certain of our provision, not with barren soul and soil. The dream drains out, salty tears and scattered seed on rocky soil. But, when freedom from captivity comes, freeing us from the things that hold us back, it releases chained humanity bringing with it our joy. The dream that refuses to die…the little girl who dreams loud as she twirls filling up her now grownup shoes as she gathers up her abundance, carrying in the sheaves. God never wastes our pain.

“He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Ps 127:6)

We sow seeds of surrender by releasing what we hold dear. We wait and watch as God waters the soil with our tears and when the tears no longer spill out, we feel the sunlight again. Bursting forth, our harvest comes in abundance.

We will never taste anything sweeter than the fruit of surrender.

Perhaps you are holding onto the seeds, something of value- a relationship, a friendship that you want to work out, a job, your children. Afraid to scatter in surrender, you hold it tight-fisted and red faced.

You feel like you are about to be swallowed up by your situation, but a seed cannot grow in a cupped hand.

Plant with the hope of an abundant harvest, surrendered souls; you will not taste anything sweeter than the fruit of surrender. Doubtless, your joy will return releasing something far greater than a scattered heart. Safety and surety awaits you, giving way to that dormant dream that God hasn’t forgotten.

Much love to you,
Jennifer

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Beautiful Surrender


Have you ever noticed that the leaves on the trees are more breathtakingly beautiful right before they surrender? Their colors and hues make me weep as I stand in awe of a world that God set into motion through His spoken words. He breathes in and says, “Let it be” and it is. And it's glorious.

The weather affects the autumn colors. A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seem to bring about the most amazing colors. The amount of moisture that seeps into the soil enhances the colors. The leaves are beginning to sprinkle the ground and yet some still remain on the tall branches in a display that is captivating. But, soon enough the wind will turn colder encouraging them to let go as they fall to the ground signaling another season passed.

I feel like the leaves ready to surrender, a new level and layer of letting go. Perhaps we surrender in layers just like we heal. Our Master Gardener peels back layer by layer, going deeper into a place that is familiar with pain. He shakes off the clumps of dirt and rearranges me so that I can flourish where He plants me come spring. I am no longer afraid of winter and things stripped bare.

Shake off the dust and soil. And graft me in, Master Gardener. I wither without You, fading without purpose.

Winter may come, but warmth still remains because I am hopeful, more respecting of even the seasons that chill me to the bone. In the past, my seasons of spiritual winter
left me wanting, feeling barren and cracked, and unproductive. But each season in our spiritual lives give way to something greater, a new level of letting go and deeper surrender.

So, I let go even if the color drains out of me.

I let go even though I would rather remain in higher places.

I let go of the familiar to step into the unknown that I know God is calling me to; beautiful surrender, more of Christ and less of messiness of me.

The leaves may fall to the ground much like our tears, but they are not wasted. They decompose and restock the soil with much needed nutrients. Our wintered soul cries the tears of surrender until what once was calloused and cracked runs smooth. The winter is coming bringing bare trees, but not barren trees. They will still be strong and tall without the decorations of color that I much prefer.

“In spiritual winters, our fullness is thinned out so that, undistracted by our giftings, we can focus upon our character. In the absence of anything to measure, we are left with nothing to stare at except for our foundation.” ~ Alicia Britt Chole (anonymous)

Prayer:

Let it be in me just as it is in the leaves right before they release their grip on the strong tree that fed them and held them in place for so long. Let me be a display of your splendor, a woman who lives in surrender. Seasons change, but You remain the same. A God of wonder, a God I seek after, a God who is still speaking me into motion and making something beautiful out of the mess of me. I’m not afraid to let go anymore! Amen

Who needs the colors of autumn when God longs to decorate us with a crown of beauty instead of ashes? Joy instead of mourning, a garment decked out in praise instead of a withering spirit of despair. We will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. (Is 61)

It’s time to embrace beautiful surrender!

Much love to you,

Jennifer

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I've Got You


A few days ago we met some new friends on a play date. As I got to know this adorable, new friend our daughters played and enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine. I guess you could say that I’m not really a country girl, but I love to enjoy every aspect that country life brings. I love the simplicity and the thought of working your land. I would like to think my girls could thrive in both worlds…the country life and the city life, the known and the unknown.

Lately I have been teaching my youngest that she can do all things through Christ who gives her strength. Not some things measured out with human limitations, but all things when God is in it.

Without hesitation I watched my little girl scale a tree for the first time. I was honestly nervous, but she climbed that tree like she had been climbing trees for years. There was something inside of her telling her to climb and go higher. She was so high that I just needed her to know I was there and that I approved. Yet, I was right there when she wanted to get down. I politely excused myself and made my way over to the tree.

“Be careful.”

“I will, Mom.”

“Not too high, alright?”

“Ok.”

I want my little girls to soar, to tackle their fears head-on. I smiled and waved, and stepped away so they could play. In a matter of minutes my oldest wanted up and now there were four adorable little girls in a tree having the time of their life. I remember tree houses and sunshine, and the smell of playing hard for hours. You can always tell just how much fun a child had by the sweaty-kid smell that lingers afterward.

When it was time to come down, I watched both of my girls panic while the other girls, being seasoned pros at tree climbing, looked at them with questions. Getting up there was easy, but coming down was a different story. The ground seemed smaller and the tree stories higher. I made my way to the base of the tree and looked them in the eye.

“Baby, you can do this.”

“I’m afraid of heights.”

I kept thinking, you’re not afraid of heights…you just climbed a tree! You used to be afraid of heights!

“It’s ok. I’m right here, I won’t let you fall.”

“I’m scared, I’m really scared.” She begins to cry.

“Look at me. Take my hand…I’ve got you.” She hesitates, fear swallows her, and I refuse to let it.

“Baby, I’ve got you.” Our eyes locked. She believed me.

As I removed my oldest child from the tree relief washed over both of us. I repeated the steps one through three and echoed these words as I reached for up for my baby who seems so far out of reach. A different fear reflected in her eyes, but it didn’t change her need to hear these words again as it sinks into her soul.

You can do this.

I’m right here.

I’ve got you.

I watched fear turn to trust in their little eyes. They each responded differently to their fear, my youngest was back to normal in a matter of minutes laughing and playing while my oldest wrapped her legs around me, held on, and cried.

I don’t know what fear you are facing right now or if you are stuck somewhere far out of reach from what you deemed safe, but I know that I need to tell you this:

You can do this.

He’s right there.

He’s got you.

As your mind races with questions and you wonder how you can conquer your own fears and model that out before you children, you need to be more certain that ever that you CAN do this. He is right there. We scale the wall of our dreams and life. It looks so daunting, an uphill battle. Sometimes we realize that we are in the wrong tree and we want down. We have a God that fashioned and formed us for greatness, but we have grown comfortable with our imprinted cushion from our backside. We’ve been sitting in the sidelines cheering for those hard in the game for too long…

You’ve forgotten how to climb.

You’ve forgotten how to play.

But, He’s got you.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor 2:9)


Friday, September 30, 2011

Unpacking for the Weekend...

Hi Everyone!

We just posted our FIRST video blog on Broken Girl about unpacking our baggage. I would love for you to stop by and check out our website.

Much love,

Jennifer

Friday, September 23, 2011

From Baggage to Royalty



Years ago when my daughters were so much smaller I started this little game. We could hear my husband pull into the garage and the minute that garage door started to open we would make a mad-dash to find a place to hide. Most of the time the three of us ended up in the same dark places, with smiles so big you could hear them with little traces of giggles and hushes to be quiet. I’ll never forget their faces as I placed them into that very first hiding place behind an oversized chair. Excitement lingered in the air.

Come and find us. We want to be found by you.

It’s the game of hide and seek that we play as children and later in life we play it as adults without even knowing why.

We hide longing to be found and sometimes we hide longing to remain invisible out of fear. We hide behind a fa├žade, a plastic smile; we hide out in the baggage that we have picked up over the years. Our baggage becomes our identity and safety net, it weighs us down and encumbers.

In 1 Samuel 10 we find an appointed king, appointed and set a part for God’s service.

“Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it over Saul’s head. He kissed him and said, I am doing this because the Lord has appointed you to be the ruler over Israel, his special possession.”

As the oil runs down his face he might have wondered why. “Why, among all the people, would the God of all creation choose me?” But, the oil runs down his face, not the person he deemed more suited for the job.

Samuel gives him instructions:

“At that time the Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you and you will prophesy with them. You will be changed into a different person.” (1 Sam 10:6)

And it happened, just as Samuel had said. He did prophesy as the people watched in amazement.

“God gave him a new heart.” (Vs. 9)

God placed a new heart within him; time to turn the page on what once was to walk in a path of destiny. It was time for this to become public knowledge as God reveals to his people that Saul was His choice for king. And as Saul was chosen to be king, he disappeared. The one who had received a new heart, the one who had prophesied for the first time, and the one who could still feel the oil running down his head, hid.

“…But, when they looked for him, he had disappeared.” (Vs. 21)

“So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?” And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.” (Vs. 22)

Why do we do that? Why do we run and hide when God is asking us to come out and lead His “special possession.”

Why do we pull the covers over our heads and hide in piles of baggage that should be thrown out?

It’s because we are afraid and we don’t have to be afraid. When we open our mouths, we pray first that God would fill it. We put on the full armor of God, not a plastic bag that easily falls apart.

With the many God given symbols of who God had created Saul to be, he still hid… among baggage. This tall man meant to tower, cowered. And I have to ask you this:

Are you doing the same thing?

Saul stood head and shoulders above everyone else. (Vs 23) He looked the part, but inside he didn’t feel like the rightful king. And even though he hid, scriptures record that, “This is the man the Lord has chosen as your king. No one in all Israel is like him!” (Vs. 24)

I have been guilty of hiding among the baggage when I’ve heard the voice of God clearly telling me that I was meant for more. You were meant for more. We don’t have to hide out in the beat up baggage claims any longer. The God that fashioned you is asking you to come out from hiding and assume the position that He assigned to you with a new heart and a new anointing. Your circumstances might look more like baggage, but the destiny God has in mind for you will blow your mind!

"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Cor 2:9)

He is asking you to come out from among the baggage.

Do you want to be found by Him?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Baggage and Wildflowers



I travel much lighter these days. A decade ago, I was the girl with enormous baggage tattered and torn with insecurities too many to number. How could I have possibly known that my baggage would become the platform that I would stand tall on? I hid behind a mask that I thought I had to wear, a made-up display of having it all together instead of embracing the mess. God turned my battle scars into beauty and showed me the power of a testimony covered by grace.




It was all grace, hurt that made me cry out to a God that was always there. The perfect picture of a loving Daddy that I had never laid eyes on, invisible yet real. Grace that lovingly restored the mess of me, painting a picture in hues that heal as His word became the lamp lighting my path.

You see, we could continue to put on airs and do our best to fake normalcy. But, in my humble opinion, I find that normal is way overrated when daily I experience a God that delights in my abnormal. Piece by piece that beat-up baggage that used to weigh me down and hinder me from viewing myself as one that God formed had to go. I had carried it for far too long. His truth was to set me free, not somewhat free or partially free.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

We could continue to hold on to our baggage with a death-grip, but we won’t get very far. We could continue to let it define us, or we could kick it to the curb and let God give us something far greater, like wildflowers and a whirling dance.

“You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance, You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about you. God my God, I can’t thank you enough.” (Ps 30:11-12 MSG)




May God take your baggage and turn it into a platform of grace. I pray that as you let some things go, God will give you a song and a whirling dance as He restores what was stolen.

Much love,

Jennifer

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pavement and Pain



Tonight as my family took a walk together, the girls on scooters, and us by foot. We strolled and laughed as I remembered former walks down this same path with much smaller girls. Memories of sidewalk chalk and popsicles in summertime air and being bundled up with frosty breath in the winter lingered in my mind of our mileage down our favorite path. And just as my oldest became more confident on the scooter she fell. I watched the entire accident wishing that I had fallen instead. I wanted to break her fall, not bandage her wounds because that is what love does. Love makes you want to take the pain so they don’t have to hurt, bleed, and cry. Love makes you want to be the cushion and not the pavement. Love makes you want to lessen the blow by rushing out to buy the perfect size band-aid.

I think about wounds far worse.

“He was wounded for our transgressions.”

“He was bruised for our iniquity.” (Is 53:5 KJV)

As I ponder shades of blue that run deep with a sinless life.

I whisper, “This is what love does… for me.”

Love wrapped Himself up in death so that I might live. Deep within me I know that there are moments that I am not living life in the abundance that Christ purchased for me. Why not? It’s paid for in full, it’s a done deal. How could I not walk in prosperity of soul when I have this assurance; the God of all creation sent His perfect son to buy my pardon and He has scars to prove it.

Jesus has scars.

And by His stripes we are healed.

The inner scars that no one else sees, He cradles it in His hands as He longs to be the cushion instead of the pavement that painfully took our breath away. Sometimes we see the fall coming and there is nothing that we can do except brace ourselves knowing that God will be there to kiss our wounds.

Your marriage might be your pavement right now with cracks and potholes so big that you feel like you can no longer travel down it. Your grownup children making poor decisions might be your pavement, you might feel like you are watching them fall in slow motion and there is nothing that you can do but call on the name of Jesus.

So, I say to your pavement scars, with scars of my own, that by His stripes we are healed. Only He can make your mess a masterpiece. I can’t tell you how He does it; I just know that He does.

"I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)

Lord,
I don't want to waste any more time on pavement, I want to live that abundant life that you have purchased for me. Heal my wounds and turn my eyes off of the payment and fix them on You!

Amen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

When God Wrestles & Storms



When life seems cloudy and the storm rages, you whisper to yourself, “I’m still broken.” Confronted by fear and loneliness, maybe even shame. Face-to-face with your stormy past, and all you can wrap your mind around is the replay of events telling you just how much you have fallen short. You’re tossed about like the wind from years of trying to fake it and cover it up with another layer of makeup and a plastic smile. You figured out how to look the part, while on the inside you were torn apart. The scars that you thought had healed feel exposed and tender and they whisper louder, “Why haven’t you taken care of me long before now?”

When hurt runs deep, run to the refuge.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled. Though the mountains shake with its swelling.
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved…

The Lord of host is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Ps 46:1-7 NKJV)

The God of Jacob is our refuge! The God of the one who wrestled and walked with a limp to prove it, that same God is our refuge from the storm. Perhaps you have been wrestling with God, desperately seeking to hold onto something that does not belong in your hands.

Your future, your destiny, and your hopes are wrapped up in something besides the perfect will of God and so you wrestle.

You wrestle wanting blessings.

You wrestle wanting peace.

But, after you wrestle, do you walk with a limp?

A changed name?

A changed character?

“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the break of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with Him.” (Gen 32:24)

Let me go.

Not until you bless me.

When Jacob got up worn out from wrestling he walked with a limp. This symbolizes a character transformation that required a death of ego, a death of pride. Sometimes we wrestle because change has to take place deep within. We have to go there, let hurt run deep with sorrowful repentance, and say to the God of Jacob, “When this storm passes…I want to walk differently.”

Like Jacob, you have a birthright that is not rightfully yours. Your birthright has been brokenness. But, friend, you are worth so much more than that. Sometimes we wrestle with God more than we wrestle with our flesh and our pride. Let Him speak to your heart, run to the refuge. Let Him change the way you walk…let Him change your birthright of brokenness to wholeness!

I am praying for you!

Love,
Jennifer

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wilderness Places and Lack



We all have our wilderness places carved out by time and heartache that remind us that we are lacking. Most of us are completely oblivious to what we are truly lacking, yet we feel it gnawing at us. That empty place that we assumed we could fill up with things that could never truly satisfy. Everywhere we turn we are painfully aware that we don’t belong here in a place called Lacking.

Lacking: missing, absent, not there, wanting, deficient.

The wilderness place reveals what is tucked away deep inside, it spills to the surface in the form of salty tears. Going around in circles with spinning memories that we have been here before in the land of “there has to be more.” We are not the only ones who wander. In Deuteronomy 8 God wanted to remind his people how He led the Israelites for forty years in the desert.

“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna…to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (v. 3)

I don’t want to wander around in circles when I know that God wants to lead me to better places, a place in Christ where I lack nothing because I know exactly who sustains me.

“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land- a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills, a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing…” (v. 7-9)

After years of feeding on the same thing, God was listing off things that would prove that there would be no shortage. No lack. Springs flowing. Nothing but promise, yet He wanted His people to remember Him, to serve Him wholly.

We serve a God who longs to lavish blessings upon us taking us past our unpleasant dwelling place of lacking to a place of fullness.

Fullness: filled to capacity, with much or many, greatest in extent, with nothing missing.

“Oh fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. Young lions lack and suffer hunger. But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” (Ps 34:9-10)

If you find yourself in a wilderness place called lacking today, I want you to know that God longs to lead you out. Look up, cry out, and seek the face of God. It’s time to stop walking around in circles; it’s time to start gaining ground. We were not meant to live a defeated life when God has already paid the price for our victory! There is no lack to those who seek Him. What is God trying to teach you in this wilderness place?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No More Chains



The word of God is not chained…Paul penned these words in 2 Timothy 2:9 while he suffered for Christ, wrapped up in chains and in the midst of persecution his words spilled out to Timothy, his beloved son. His words spill out for you and me…the word of God is not chained. It works. It is our lifeline when we wrestle with things we cannot see in the natural. As we war and feel wrapped up in our own invisible chains, Paul offers us hope.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7)

The word of God is not chained by fear or our circumstances. No, it’s powerful and active and alive! We don’t have to fear our invisible chains, because we have a God who makes those chains look like a rubber bands. It’s nothing to Him. He is bigger than the things you are facing right now.

Paul instructs young Timothy of a promise of power and love and sound mind instead of fear. He also tells him to “hold fast to a pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 1:13)

The enemy of our soul wants to rob us from a sound mind and replace our sound words with lies. If we are going to win this battlefield of the mind we have to fight with the word of God and trust in it to work and show us the victory.

For weeks now I have felt like I lost my words and had nothing to say. That’s a scary place to be for a writer who longs to reach out with my words. My source of strength has been the word of God, I have dug deep in His word to wash my mind with His promises and I have found Him faithful…day after day. He is life to me and He wants us to live an unchained life free with our hands lifted high in praise!

He is a God who fights our battles!

His word is not chained and we don’t have to remain in our chains, wrapped up, weak, and heavy with burden.

Ladies,
It’s time to take back our rightful place as daughters, clothed with dignity and strength! Walking in power and love and with sound minds. His word is not chained. This trial that you are facing right now will pass and you will be left standing in a strength that only God can grant you!

I am praying for you!

Much love,
Jennifer

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dwelling Place




“The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwelling places, and in quiet resting places.” (Is 32:17-18)

I feel quiet right now, not unsettled, just quiet. As if I am waiting for something to unfold right before me, so I wait. I rest in the God who wants me to dwell in secure places, safely tucked away in the center of Gods will.

Our dwelling place is insecure and empty when we base our worth and our value on the ones around us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, not a waste basket filled to overflowing with the trash, the wasted words that tried to define you…the petty persons jealousy of you or the one you love desperately that doesn’t get you.

Our dwelling place needs to be free from voices and opinions that do not reflect the heart of God towards us. A secure dwelling place cannot contain all of the beauty of God and remnants of trash from a life of dumpster diving.

His dwelling place is lovely-
Giving us beauty for ashes
Joy instead of mourning
Dressing us up in praise,
Instead of a heaviness of spirit

Isaiah 61 tells us that we will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.

Oh, how deep our roots must go in Christ to find the nourishment of soul to grow big and strong. I want to be the display of His splendor. I want to dwell in peaceful places with the full assurance that God is the one who holds my hand. I don’t want to be like the wind. I want to be planted, grounded in Christ.

If you feel like you are standing on shaky ground right now, I encourage you to wrap yourself up in these words. With God we trade up every time…beauty for ashes. Joy instead of mourning. Praise instead of heaviness.

Spend some time at His feet!

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!” (Ps 84:1)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Daughters of Destiny



I wish I could take you on a little journey to see a broken girl who liked to hide, terribly insecure and timid, unable to look you in the eye. When she measured herself she only saw someone who didn’t measure up, someone who wasn’t smart enough or good enough. But, oh how the King longed to make her a daughter, a child of promise as He turned ashes and heartache into beauty and a melody that made her heart sing.

When life left a mark, He erased the sting. When life left her breathless, He breathed new life and filled her lungs with promise and destiny. When the world whispered, “You are worthless.” He whispered, “You are worth it.”

It’s hard to believe that child was me. And when I revisit my past, God reminds me of my future.

The Father wraps us in robes of righteousness and garments of salvation (Is 61:10) as He makes us heirs and joint heirs with Christ. He takes away our symbol of shame and lowly status and sets us in a God-given position of authority. He brings warm embraces and women of valor to remind us that we are daughters of the King, speaking words of wisdom straight from the heart of God.

You have been placed on this earth for such a time as this.

You are worth it.

The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. (Prov 45:11)

Daughters of destiny, it is time for us to start believing that God has an unbelievable inheritance for us!


“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us-an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard time with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” (Romans 8:15-17 The Message)

I'm with you asking, "What's next, Papa?"

Much love,
Jennifer

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Broken Wings and Broken Things


It’s amazing how God takes the broken things around me to speak to me. It’s a language I understand, the language of the broken girl trying to cover up her brokenness with another layer of makeup, a cute outfit, and a plastic smile. Going through motions with the false appearance of having it all together while on the inside you crumble wondering if anyone sees it.

Weeks ago, my daughters released Painted Lady butterflies right outside our front door. My daughters turned their attention away from the butterflies that flew without hesitation to scoop up the two butterflies with broken wings with such compassion and gentleness that it made me want to cry while the others took to the wind without hesitation because it was what they were created to do. I remembered when I felt just like the butterflies with broken and tattered wings to wounded to know what freedom and soaring above it all felt like.

Imagine that wing, tattered and malformed, is a fist. The deeper it hurts the tighter you clench it, hold it up in the air and shake it. Inside your palm are fragments of the past that you can’t forgive. Things that seems worth holding onto, tiny enough to be unnoticeable. But it grows roots and claws that wrap around you, trapping you and choking out the life…the beauty…the fullness that God has in store.

Anger and the inability to forgive cripple a heart that longs to soar above it all. A crippled heart limps through life and even though you think no one else can see, God sees it and says, “Do you want to be made well?”

I don’t know who has wounded you crippling your heart so that a wall encases what God meant to showcase. But, when you let go, choose to forgive, the fist relaxes and the vines that entangled you are uprooted setting you free.

Healing comes when you admit that you are the walking wounded.

Healing comes when you learn to forgive yourself and others.

Healing comes when you release it, unclenched and unhindered. Then what once was tattered becomes stronger than ever, something useful as you soar on wings like eagles.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” (Is40: 29-31 NIV)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Irreplaceable, A Crayon Card for Mom




Can I confess to you that I'm a stay-at-home mom who loathes housework? I can assure you that when I colored my picture in grade school of what I wanted to be when I grow up it did not have someone scrubbing toilets and conquering mounds of laundry. It probably had a picturing of a girl with a huge smile on her face wearing a tiara prancing around her castle feeling treasured. But, today my castle is much smaller with dishes in the sink and tiny shoes belonging to little princesses that haven't learned how to pick up after themselves yet. There are days when being a mom is a thankless job and then there are days that I can't hold back the tears because I'm grateful that I get the privilege of hearing “Mommy” a million times. Yes, there are days where I want to pull my hair out, lock myself in the bathroom and never come out. We all have those days where we feel replaceable, invisible, and under-valued.

Saturday night I heard my little girls whispering something to their daddy. I tried not to listen, but I have super powers and “Mom ears” that hear just about everything.

“Can we give it to her now?”

He knows that they get the trait of being unable to wait from me and gives them the go ahead.

They came into the room with the sweetest smiles and their hands behind their backs, “Here Mommy.”

I opened the cards they made and began to sob as I wrapped them up in my arms. I didn't see that coming.

“I love you, Mom. I could never replace you.”

My response took them by surprise. To be honest with you, it took me by surprise too. Spilling out from within me was the awareness that I am not replaceable. I am not invisible. I am loved as the flawed mother that I am.

As I wept my oldest smiled as I whispered, “It's happy tears.”

She ran into the other room to tell Daddy that the cards were a huge success while my baby wiped my tears and held me. She kissed my wet face and said the words she couldn't write on the card in crayon.

“No one could be gooder than you.”

Forget Mother-of-Year, perfection does not live in my home. Love does.

Moms, you are not replaceable. You are not invisible. You are treasured. You are loved. No one could do it better than you do. Set aside your need to make everyone think you have it all together, let a few things pile up, let love fill your home as you aspire to be the Proverbs 31 woman.

You are irreplaceable.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Prov 31: 28-29

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Resurrection & Crumbs


My husband walked in Wednesday night from church with a book in his hands.

I stayed home with my sick baby, trying to get a fever of 103 down. Needless to say, I was trying not to panic knowing he had to leave for church. He tested the cold bath water and assured me it would bring her fever down. And it did as I acknowledged my blessing of having a healthy sick child that is recovering.

“By your stripes we are healed.”

His word is true, active, and alive. In my humanity I acknowledge that healing looks differently through our eyes. Sometimes healing comes complete as the eyes shut and the final breath is inhaled. Sometimes our miracle is received and celebrated, and we cradle it knowing that gift didn’t come from the medical world, it came from God.

My husband handed me the children’s book, “The Story of Easter,” and smiled. I opened it and written on the first page was this:

‘To Whitley and Elise who are the resurrection and reality of Mom and Dad’s “special” dreams.’

It couldn’t have been more beautifully stated. They are living proof that God is the healer. He restored my broken body that wasn’t supposed to bring life and gave me the miracle of feeling life growing within instead of miscarried life and dreams.

As I write this now my heart hurts because heaven just welcomed a child home my daughter’s age, Johnny Teis. My mother’s heart aches because a woman with the most beautiful faith watched her child fade as she prayed daily for God to heal and restore. Even knowing the end was near, never once did she feel a release to stop praying for earthly healing. Faith like that is stunning and beautiful.

After miscarrying for the second time I held my hands up in the air in surrender and worship to God. I had teenagers in our Youth Group at the time ask me how I could love God so much while I experienced death within. But, God is stronger than death and a grieving heart that loves God purely is stunning and perhaps even confusing for those who can’t get past the question…why?

The lady who made petitions for her daughters healing by saying, “Even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table…” was stunning; it was a faith that made Jesus stare in amazement.

“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” (Matt 15:28 NKJV)

She was saying to Jesus, “I don’t need the full course meal, but let me have just a tiny crumb of what you have to offer because that tiny crumb falling from the master’s table is more than enough for me. I’ll take it God; I’ll take the crumbs from Your table.”

Her daughter was healed that very hour and yet so many others receive their healing when they enter heaven. I don’t understand why others receive their healing here on this earth while others wait, but I trust the God who resurrected my dreams and reality.

Yesterday I celebrated my risen Savior, the resurrection of God’s dream for all of us. For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son. He loves us even when we turn up our noses at the crumbs falling from His table. He loves us when we are full of faith and He loves us when we are wrestling with Him in rebellion, kicking against the form that wants to lead us safely.

Just a few hours after church and Easter lunch with treasured family we received a phone call telling us that one of the most beautiful girls that ever walked this earth, Sheree Hohn, was killed in a tragic car accident Sunday morning. She was headed to church to celebrate with her beautiful family and she never showed up. We were so blessed to have her in our youth group when we were Youth Pastor’s. If I could describe her in just one sentence it would be this…Sheree Hohn was the sweetest sunshine with a heart for God that was stunning.

I wish I could utter some words like, “One day we will all understand why heartbreak happens on this earth to the most incredible, God-loving people.” But, all I can think about is this mother and father saying goodbye to their thirty-year-old sunshine. All I can think of is her sister, Angela, who was her other half and best friend. They didn’t even have time to ask for crumbs, but they grieve with hope knowing they will see her again. But, it still hurts with waves of shock pulsation through those left behind.


To My Jesus who is the Resurrection and the life,

Kiss the faces of those who weep and whisper the songs of heaven as we wait for Your return. I don’t understand this, I’m not sure I want to. But, I ask this one thing…give us a faith that is stunning. I’m satisfied with crumbs or the full course meal; faith in You is what sustains me.

Amen

In Loving Memory of Sheree Hohn

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Rock, The Waters, & The Spirit of Mary


I have this little place that I love, sometimes I find myself driving there without even thinking about it. I love being outdoors in the sunshine and I love water. I retreat to my favorite place by the waters to think and exercise. But, today my “power walking” was aggressive and agitated. I figured today was a day for rougher terrain, rocky soil, and grass. A path trampled by my feet and so many others who walk that trail. Instead of finding my way by the smooth and quiet waters I hiked my way quickly to the waterfall and found my way onto my favorite rock. I grabbed my phone to take notes. Surely God would speak, but He just said,"Put it down." Turn off your iPod. Lay down your distractions. Just be still. Don’t write. Don’t say a word. Just listen.

Tears began to spill out covered by my oversized sunglasses as I felt the heaviness of transition and change. Oversized expectations cloud my vision; wanting so much to please everyone but I’m so weary from trying. Mascara runs down my face and I give way to the floodgates knowing that I need it. I need to cry. I need to be overwhelmed. And yet God doesn’t leave me there to wallow, the end result has to be peace. Right? I ask an honest question to the God that fashioned me, “Can I just have the heart of Mary?” Because trying to keep up with the lists and the “Martha Method” of productivity wears me out. (Luke 10:38-41)

Balance is good, list making is good, and schedules are good. I’m good with all that but something is out of balance when my world is too distracted and I cave to the Martha Method that only leads to frustration. Mary likes to cuddle, she likes to sit at the feet of Jesus and just be. And Jesus doesn’t scold her and tell her that she should learn to manage her time better or download another app to help her better organize her life. At His feet is always the better option. It cannot be taken away from us unless we opt for earthly priorities and measuring up to crazy expectations over our quiet time. Which for me quiet time equals sanity and a life without prescription medication.

He whispers ‘look’ and so I do. And I see something that is not supposed to be there, something that someone placed there to get to the other side of where they wanted to go.


I have no idea who placed the board there, but I will tell you that it’s not stable enough for someone to walk on and actually make it to the other side…it only took one step for me to realize that someone’s bright idea wasn’t that bright.


The “board” is my need to please others and my earthly agenda. It takes me nowhere and leaves me unstable. He is the lover of your soul and mine. He refreshes me like this water refreshes a thirsty earth.


“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.

Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” (Song of Solomon 8: 6-7)

Why should we give away the wealth of our time when God longs to rearrange our priorities?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New Blog...New Book

This has been one AMAZING weekend…. a new book and a new look for my blog! I’m thrilled with my blog! Kelly at ‘fabulous k creative’ is amazingly talented and wonderful to work with!

Talk about dream fulfillment, I can’t wait to share it with you! Yesterday I held a copy of the book in my hands for the first time. I was giddy…can you tell? I wish I had a picture of Keri with the book too since this is our book, dream, and journey… but, she refused and blamed it on her “bad hair.” I was too excited to boss her around…this time. Just so you know, this was a "bad hair" day for me too. Wink, wink.

I’ll let you know when the book is available to order online!

Much love,

Jennifer

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Cage and The Songbird


I'm not sure why exactly, but growing up I would hear these words with a gentle pat, “Be sweet.” Most of the time it meant that I said something snarky or sarcastic, probably something terribly funny and honest with a bite. Either way, a gentle reminder was needed to “be sweet”. I think you naturally see certain traits in your children, I get that now I as soak in the gifts God has placed inside of my daughters. Mom loved that I was sweet spirited…most of the time. That was my natural bend. So when I was acting outside of a trait that suited me, I needed a reminder. But, just for a few seconds...maybe minutes, would it just be okay for me to be a little sour? I would think.

Weeks ago I needed a reminder to be sweet. But, I didn't want to feel that gentle pat when all I felt was soured disappointment. The sting of the battle wounds lingered for a few days until my tears dried up and my grieving was over. I'm not a fan of covering up things or hiding behind a mask in the hopes that people will think that I'm perfect. So, I'm honest with my emotions, even when it's ugly. I hold it in my hands asking God, "What do you want me to do with this?"

He reminded me of picture of an ornate birdcage, lovely to look at. The iron bars weaved a beautiful home for a songbird to sit and perch, singing a song for its master. The master loved the songs and the beautiful bird. Yet everyday looked the same for the songbird. The master would come to her gently placing the fresh water and food inside. No rain would ever ruffle her feathers. She was safe in her confinement, lacking nothing except for her freedom.

In this picture, the symbolism almost knocked me over. With multiple images to be drawn to, why did this one speak the most to me? It would take a few weeks for it to really sink in.

This cage, safe and contained, steel bars that trap, yet give the illusion of protection limiting the perspective of all that waits outside the locked door. Everything handed to you easily without the need of a song that sounds more like a cry. The nourishment measured out in proportions, today you will need this and today you will have it. And over time, the songbird's music doesn't sound as sweet. The caged bird can't sing a song of freedom; she's forgotten how and what freedom looks like. What once was a sweet song is now a cry. Soon, it will utter no sound. No song. No cry. Just something pretty to look at, but broken and muffled on the inside.

The image before me was this: the door was left open, the sweet songbird found her way out, and began to sing a different song. She sang the song of freedom, and it was sweet and lovely. It made you want to listen again, lean into as you soak in the softness of a moment when the song of freedom is remembered as it echoes in your heart...this is what freedom sounds like.

What is your cage? Is it other people’s expectations? Is it your fear of failure, but even worse, your fear of success? Is it the unknown and the trappings of familiarity that encase you, yet isolated you? Is it your past, your yesterday, your if-only?

All I know is a few weeks ago; I was a songbird with a broken wing because I just needed to spread my wings inside of a cage that couldn't contain me. The door was opened long ago, but from time to time I would fly back inside and perch for a while and take in my measured out proportion. But, God didn't call me to live a comfortable, contained, safe yet dull life. He called me to a life of freedom, so He nurses me back to health. He mends my broken wings and whispers the words of the song of freedom telling me to sing again. And it is sweet to Him because it is for Him. It is because of Him. He is the song I want to sing, the melody that I want to pen my life to. He is not afraid of my not-so-sweet moments. When I sing a song of the sour moments of life He erases those bitter, out of tune notes creating a symphony that feels like the sweetest embrace.

What does the song of freedom sound like?

It sounds like surrender.

It sounds like holding up your paper dreams in your hand and shredding them one by one until your hands are empty.

It sounds like the steady rhythm of the ready writer who has given the pen to God saying, “Here, why don't you re-write my story.”

He takes the pen, perhaps His eyes light up when He pens the words to your life's story. For He already knows the beginning and your ending. Even though the lines of heartache are never erased because we live in a broken world, He still writes a chart topping song that is worthy of singing.

He writes a silver screen story for you, His leading lady.

Take it from someone who has been there and lost her song. You cannot sing a song of freedom...until you first sing the song of surrender.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Gal 5:1)

Let God take you there and mend your broken wings.

Much love to you all.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Letter to My Younger Self


Last night I met a young lady and saw a glimpse of my younger self, wide-eyed and hopeful, ready to take on hell with a water pistol. A woman marked by the call of God, waiting to blossom into all the things God the Father has created her to be.

This young lady, just barely twenty-three, is connected to a family in our church whom I simply adore. I immediately had to make my way to her, there is just something about her that makes you stop in amazement. She's just beautiful, but it goes so much deeper than her outer beauty. It reaches into the depths of who she was created to be, a woman called by God- a gift her Father longs to use.

I hugged her; I couldn’t help myself. She beamed as her happiness spilled out...

“I'm engaged.” She said with the brightest smile as she flashed her engagement ring. Her happiness was as stunning as her ring, the symbol of his love.

“I'm marrying a pastor.”

My husband chimed in, “Well, Jennifer could tell you all the things you might need to know about that.”

I felt his heaviness from that statement, like he was just waiting for me to say, “Run like the wind, girl. Make sure you are marrying just a man and not an entire congregation.”

She searched my face and I smiled as she said, “Oh...don't worry, I went to Bible College...I'm prepared.”

I thought, how adorable.

I patted my husband’s hand, and then I released his hand to squeeze hers and said, “Just look at you. You are beautiful and so happy!”

Flashbacks over the past twelve years of my life and the past few weeks entered my mind. Truth be told, I could have been one of “those” wives. The ones who are dried up and bitter, and yet not an ounce of that surfaced inside of my heart. I can assure you that I am flawed with moments of ugliness that sting, times when I feel rejected, cast aside, times when I feel like I'm not a gift. If bitterness would have surfaced, it would have been right then when my hurt was fresh. But, only God could do such a thing so beautiful in me.

Spilling out from within was this, “It's wonderful when that is what God has called you to do, you will be great at it. And you just call me if your Bible college experience left anything out.”

We chatted for a little while and then I found my place next to my husband and held on tight.

I forgot to tell her one thing...

Sweet thing, you are a gift.

You have unique gifts; I can see them all over your face. You will enhance that man that God has called you to, not distract or take away from the things God has called him to do. Don't ever forget, when the critics misunderstand your youthful zeal, that God alone is your seal of approval, marking you for greatness.

Your journey will not be easy, but you are soft and sweet. Don't let the disappointments of life creep in and rob you of that. You will walk out this journey; you will be stronger, not harder.

You are a gift.

With aching in my heart, wanting you to get this, I say to you...you are a gift.

As I penned these words, my thoughts have turned towards you and the ones who have taken the time to read this. Do you realize that you are a gift? Have the sorrows of this world caused you to forget the God-given worth and value within?

We offer ourselves to the world around us, we hold our hearts in our hands and say, “Take it if you want, it's yours.”

Carefully cupping our fragile state. We hold it; we release it, and after it's beaten down and trampled on, the thing that we now hold in our hands is bruised, swollen with disappointments from lessons learned. What once was the picture of health, beating freely with the hope of things unknown, is now a broken cadence, a murmur, a heart that skips a beat as you hold your breath because the pulsating hurt runs too deep.

And He whispers, “My child, I hold your heart in my hands. This is your safest place. You are my gift, can I take what was stolen from you; the things you carelessly gave away, and offer you something sweeter in return?”

Gifts are to be given, not taken. We give ourselves; we do not spend ourselves. We do not throw away our worth or our confidence, or believe the lies spoken over us that say we are worthless and have nothing to offer. The words that say we are not good enough, the words that say we are not a true gift, that we are merely wrapping paper, a waste meant for shredding, and cast aside.

No, we cast aside our pride by choice and with the help of our Maker.

We throw off the things that so easily entangle us.

And we run the race free without weights of this world, or our former brokenness. We dance the undignified dance of a king in training that delights in the God who knows the heart of the dancer. We sing the lonely songs of a Shepherd boy by fireside and it is sweet to Him. We embrace the spirit of David, running to the cave of comfort in Christ. We say to God, “Only you set us in the seat we belong in. My position in life is because you say so; I don't have to fight for it. You will open the door for me, so I don't have to kick it down with my three-inch heels.”

You are a gift, what you have to offer...God wants. The pain in your heart; God sees it and longs to bring back the softness and sweetness that comes from refusing to carry around baggage from your broken past any longer.

Sweet friends, you are a gift.

“…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29 NIV)

You are royalty wrapped in the finest garments God has to offer. You are not a mistake, nor are you misunderstood. He gets you. He delights in you, smiling down on you saying...

“That's my girl.”

“That one is mine, see my stamp of approval on her heart?”

“Just wait, till you see what she does next week...as all of heaven applauds.”

You are a gift; don't ever forget that.

“A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” (Prov 18:16 NIV)

Much love,

Jennifer

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Southern Charm




When I think of my mom’s side of the family, I think of one show…Designing Women. They are smart, they are beautiful, and they are Southern perfection, or at least the closest thing to it. But, imagine if you can, adding to the mix a huge helping of heartbreak, restoration, and finding God’s favor. And there you have a picture of my mother and her sisters.

Before I had my first run in with big hair and training bras, I faithfully watched Designing Women. Being a southern gal, naturally I adored the southern charm, big hair, and overdone makeup. I loved all the characters, but my absolute favorite was Julia Sugarbaker. I loved her confidence and her wit. But, what I loved the most was her gift for verbal sparring. Julia stood up for what she believed in, and heaven help the man or woman that stood in her way. She was a force to be reckoned with, and if provoked, she could give a verbal spanking and look good while doing it.

Of course, there were other sweeter, softer characters that I identified with as well, perhaps because it seemed proper and safe. But, I think the reason why I love Julia so much is because she reminds me of my mom. And when I am provoked or pushed, I sound much like that. I feel a strength inside that I didn’t know I had. There is no need to cry, or act that a three-year-old when you can use your words. Not to rip a person to shreds, but to stand up for something that you believe in so deeply.

I’m a passionate person, when I love something it runs deep. When I love someone, it’s till death. And when I’m wrong I can admit it, correct it, and grow from it. It’s the joy of becoming better and knowing that when I lay my head down at night, I am right with God. I am following His lead, and that is the only thing I hang my confidence on.

Today I got a call from someone that I adore, she had the rare treat of watching me deal with a difficult situation. To be perfectly candid with you, I was nervous that perhaps I was a little too feisty in front of this lady who is the picture of sugary sweetness. Needless to say, when words were hurled at me…I held my ground. I amazed myself; I kind of felt like Julia. It was delightfully shocking. My dear friend and I laughed about a not-so-funny moment and assured one another that we were not the train-wreck we were made to feel like. And then she offered me the sweetest of gift of telling me how proud she was of me as she quoted her favorite one-liners from our meeting, which I dare not repeat...

This big haired, Southern girl who used to pick up her skirt and run at the first sight of conflict just tackled something huge. It didn’t turn out how I had hoped, but I’m fairly confident that I walked away with something much better than getting my way. I walked away with a greater understanding that I have no right to lay claim to a title, position, or mark my territory like a yellow, yard dog. I’m clothed with dignity and strength, and you better believe that I can laugh at the days to come. Everyday is a gift that I offer up to God, even the bad ones. The days where you let go of a dream, to gain the understanding that the promise land is headed right for you. And it is way better than what you thought you had always wanted. So, you watch with wide-eyed wonder and never give up.

Tonight I would like to pay tribute to one of my favorites by quoting Miss Julia Sugarbaker.

“Yes, you can give him a message. You do take shorthand, don't you? Good, we take it in the South, too. Anyway, just tell him that I have been a Southerner all my life, and I can vouch for the fact the we do eat a lot of things down here ... and we've certainly all had our share of grits and biscuits and gravy, and I myself have probably eaten enough fried chicken to feed a Third World country -- not to mention barbecue, cornbread, watermelon, fried pies, okra, and, yes, if I were being perfectly candid, I would have to admit we have also eaten our share of crow. And for all I know, during the darkest, leanest years of the Civil War, some of us may have had a Yankee or two for breakfast. But ... speaking for myself and hundreds of thousands of my Southern ancestors who have evolved through many decades of poverty, strife and turmoil, I would like for Mr. Weaks to know that we have surely eaten many things in the past, and we will surely eat many things in the future, but -- God as my witness -- we have never, I repeat, never eaten dirt!”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Sisterhood and Hearts Like Magnets


In moments of quiet reflection today, I steal away time in the midst of chaos and having everything removed from its rightful place. I stop. I surrender. It matters not what I look like, with paint on my clothes from a project that has to be finished. I leave the wet paint to dry on shelves designed to bring order with everything in its place. A systematic design by a logical man trying to make this wife and mother happy, I roll the paint without direction or plan. And I know that I was never meant to fit a mold designed by man or worldly expectations.

The dishes are piled up, everywhere I look I am reminded that there is a long list to do, but only one thing matters. For just a few hours I need to runaway from home to my favorite place by the waters. The waterfall moves swiftly, much like my life right now. It crashes down over rocks worn smooth and polished from waters that carved its indention over time. Spilling over, making a rushing sound that commands silence, God speaks. These waters will not overtake you because you are not alone. So I walk away from the swift waters that polish and smooth out the blemishes and imperfections of jagged rocks and I know God is doing that in me. I find my way back to the lake that holds the still waters and I know He leads me there too. I'm still not alone.

On days where I feel misunderstood and unable to make rational decisions, I runaway from home with a blessing and blank stare from man who knows that this moment is reserved for the sisterhood. He knows that in a few hours I will return stronger. And just when I thought I needed to be alone, the phone rings and it's the sisterhood calling, texting, and checking in. And I don't have to fake a normal conversation or cover up my needy humanity. Or pretend that little Miss independent didn't pick up the phone to call her Mom and cry just hours prior. I surrender to my need for the sisterhood and it all makes perfect sense.

Beautifully captured in a moment between sisters, God illustrates the glory of His beloved through my daughters. For the past two nights they have gravitated towards one another, tiptoeing out of their rooms to find their way to one another. Like a magnet being pulled together out of the basic need for togetherness.

One is sick, one is the picture of health. I have kept them apart for as long as I could wanting to kept my little one healthy, but she knows. She knows her big sister is sick and doesn't like to be alone at night. So she goes to her, and she is wanted and welcome.

Just as peace settles in, the coughing begins. So I rush to her. I hover over her like mothers do, I kiss her forehead and check for fever. She wipes her eyes knowing that I'm there and gives me a smile and falls back to sleep. Her sister and shadow throws her leg over her and she whispers her name. She knows her sister is there with her too, snuggled up close just to let her know she's there. I wonder if they need to be separated, but instead scooping up her shadow and placing her in the bed that belongs to her I whisper, “Do you want me to move Sissy to her bed?”

And she answers softly, “No.”

Tonight she wants her sister. Tonight she wants her shadow to hover close by, to snuggle up close just so she will know that she is not alone. She embraces the sisterhood as I think about what God is calling His daughters to do.


To hold each others hands up when we grow weary from battle.

To whisper words of comfort and tell them that they can do all things through Christ.

To cheer the loudest when God is using them as they spread their wings to find their God-ordained calling.

To remind them that they are the gift, and the pearl of great price, echoing Gods words that they are of great worth and value.

They are the valuable coin and you are the woman who searches the house, sweeping up the dirt of this world and their past, brushing past the filth to find the goldmine clothed in flesh. And it is beautiful and it is not tainted by stains of sin or wounds from rebellion. You tell them Gods waters washed it all away, they will be smooth and polished. A sight to behold.

You gently nudge, sometimes push them, telling them all the reasons why they “can” instead of all the reasons they “can't.”

We need the sisterhood, to be unashamed to tell our hidden hurts so that we might find healing, to let the runny mascara flow and do the ugly cry even though they are watching. We need our sisters, those woven together with familiarity and bloodlines, the adopted sisters brought together by Gods leading. Those lifetime friendships you carry with you from carefree college days, to life with babies replacing a youthful figure for stretch marks and deeper character that comes from becoming comfortable in stretched out skin, laugh lines, and life that grows sweeter with age and the knowledge that we never really “arrive.” We simple press on towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God. (Phil 3:14)

We press on with broken nails from learning to let go of the fear of rejection or the fear of needing too much. And we open our hearts to the beauty, releasing a lovely fragrance that God is love, and He is the perfect love that casts out all fear. (1 John 4: 18) And in that moment we relax into the realization that sometimes love comes so easily, but accepting that love in return and embracing the need for the sisterhood is nourishment for thirsty hearts with built in magnets that draw and knit us together with great purpose.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Love to Grow Old With and other Mushy Stuff





I’m sitting here at the table waiting for you at one of our favorite places. You’re late and worried, but I’m not rushed or mad in the slightest that you took the long way to get here. I’m just in love and I’m yours. And I’m here.

When I walked into the restaurant it wasn’t the young lovers that I noticed, with all the newness and excitement. It was the couple with gray hair and laugh lines still holding hands that caught my eye and made me smile.

I made a list when I was nineteen of all the things I wanted in a man, you are all those things and more. You are constant, if not predictable, and I always felt so safe with you. I still do. I fell in love with my best friend, you were not at all what I imagined, but you were everything that I needed.

I still have the list written by a young girl who knew what she wanted, a list offered up to a God who granted me every single one of those sixteen things in you. At times I have wished that I could go back and add a few more things like…loves to clean up after himself or loves to give hour long back rubs. But, none of those petty things matter when I have a man like you. I’m crazy about you.

I thought you might like to see my list:

1. Man of God
2. Totally consumed by God
3. Virgin
4. Stable financially (I meant stable, not tight. But, whatever. Wink.)
5. Spiritual vision
6. Goals (BIG)
7. Soul winner
8. Funny
9. Wise
10. Attractive to me (This one makes me laugh a little.)
11. Tall (I wanted our children to not be so vertically challenged like me.)
12. Good with people
13. Challenging (Yep, you nail this one baby.)
14. Spiritual leader
15. Someone who loves everything about me and will support me and help me fulfill my call.
16. Someone who will love me to pieces.


I’m grateful for all that you bring into my world, we’ve grown up together. You are my love to grow old with. I love you.


Happy Valentines Day!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Three-inch Heels & Leadership


I stayed up late last night, no I wasn’t weeping over the Super Bowl loss or the fact that the Peas butchered “I Had the Time of My Life.” Although, I can assure you they both caused me some lamenting. Poor Peas, within minutes of their performance they were being ripped to shreds and I’m thinking they need to sing, “Where is the Love” one more time for all the haters.

...My mind was replaying the events of the day, like a pause and rewind button working together to show me the things locked away in my heart. A question of knowing if I held the remote button in my hands long enough with my finger on the pause button…would I like what I see?

Yesterday was a great day for me, church with the people that I love like family, a jam session with the most talented set of musicians, then a football game with the best food, decorations, and the best friends a girl could ask for. I could cry counting my blessings and believe me, I often do.

So, with all my warm, fuzzy feelings and sugary sweet thoughts…why would I waste my time thinking about mid-day yesterday, and the pressure that comes when everyone has opinions and expectations, yet no one really knows what is expected of them? The end result of meetings and coming together to make something better was positive. But, I was troubled and trying to find my place in leadership, the gentle balance of knowing when to lead and when to follow. And if I am to step up and lead, can I lead freely and seamlessly without the expectations and chains wrapped around me by other peoples expectations? Does talent and expertise trump anointing? I don’t think so. Both are vital. And yet everything we offer up to God in service is just water until He turns it into wine. My talent is mere ashes until God breathes life into it.

When growth happens in leadership it doesn’t come without pains. And I’m feeling some pain and stretching. It’s not a bad thing, but I have been brought up to be the “Christian nice girl." Don’t get me wrong, I like being the Christian nice girl, and yet I know the power of a nice, Southern gal who is ticked off. All of those feelings, even the not-so-nice ones, show me that something is off; something needs to be confronted and dealt with. And sometimes that means, staring deeply into a mirror and not forgetting what I look like.

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it- they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:22-25)

Every good story has a beginning, middle, and an end. I’m living life in my “middle” thriving in my thirties, laughing at my twenties at the sweet little Christian girl who tried to be all things to all people until her health and loss revealed a better way to live. I thrive because I crave the hand of my Maker in my life, I thrive because I have a small network of incredible women pouring into me as I pour out my life in ministry. And I cringe because I’m a woman in the middle who still has so much to learn with a string of watching “daughters” wondering what it looks like to walk out our Christianity, our femininity, with the call of God on our lives.

Oh, Lord, let me walk worthy of the call you have placed on my life whether I’m in my three-inch heels or in my stretchy pants and mom-clothes. Your daughters are watching and they crave godly leadership and a nurturing touch. May they know their worth and value-that they are not just a pretty face or a pretty voice, you desire to lead them into truth.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Dynamic Exchange of Letting Go & Holding On


I love to water ski; I’m extremely determined and always get up the first time out for the summer. The driver and the boat work together. I just hold on to the rope, strive for balance, and stand up at just the right time. It seems simple enough, but I’ve been skiing since I was a little girl with pretty white and pink skis with a rope that tied the two skis together so I would learn how exactly to hold my skis in the water. Aligned to perfection, the rope with the perfect amount of space between the two skis training me how it feels to stand on water. And now in my thirties, no rope needed just the invisible one in my mind.

As I glide across the water, I stay behind the wake. I like it there because it feels safe on rougher water. I hold on until I can’t anymore and then I let go. I throw my hands in the air and I sink gradually into the water with confident ease because I know exactly how to let go and when to let go. No bad fall or choking from lake water up my nose; over the years you learn how to give it your best go, hang on for the ride, and then let go.

I think about skis etched in my mind simple and lovely, I think about the rope, the wind in my wet hair and the feeling of being fearless. I couldn’t walk on water, but my tiny frame could hold its own gliding across it as I would give my signals “Slow down daddy. Go faster daddy,” or simply give a quick, goofy wave with a smile as if to say, “Hi daddy, I’m having fun.”

“Wise women know what to hold fast to and what to release, while foolish women hold on fast to what would kill them and release what would bring them life.

Knowing when to let go…and when to hold on. Wisdom is always found in this dynamic exchange.” (Lisa Bevere- Fight Like a Girl)

I feel so fortunate to have wise women of all ages around me; I learn from them and glean from their wisdom. I’ve seen the struggles a mother faces learning to let go of her only son who is know old enough to tread his own path. I see her cringe as she counts the cost for him shedding tears in the altars asking God for help to let go, and as she releases her grip she begs God to hold on to her precious love. If I let go God, will you please hold on? Often enough, this process becomes repetitious as she labors for surrender, praying without ceasing until her prayers are answered.

I’ve watched the barren women wrestling in the altars weeping while a mother nurses her little one in the nursery. I’ve watched the barren woman become a joyful mother of children trying to juggle her new life.

I’ve watched the strong woman who never thought she would be divorced cry with her daughter in the altar who just can’t understand why her Dad left. She holds herself together for her teenagers, but at night she cries herself to sleep.

I’ve watched the couple married for over fifty years that have been together for so long that they resemble one another. They fit with one another in such a way that when the other fades and makes his eternal home without her…she is left wondering what life is supposed to look like without him. I kiss her cheek and think, I miss him too and wonder how you let go of the only love you’ve ever known?

There is not an easy answer to letting go, no simple equation or formula, but I know that it begins and ends with placing our trust in a God who knows best and yet is so hard to fathom sometimes. If only it could be as simple as letting go of a rope and sinking into warm waters with flickers of sunlight illuminating the water with the smell of summertime and laughter in the air.

Even still He whispers hope in the ears of those who weep promising that He will never leave us or forsake us even when earthly fathers and mothers walk out on their children leaving question marks that last a lifetime, even when cancer strikes a child who is only eight draining his body from life and his childhood, even when your only son becomes a prodigal. A mother’s prayers still go up touching the heart of God and a widow’s tears are never unnoticed when heaven comes early for the love of their life.

This dynamic exchange of knowing when to let go and when to hold on is difficult, I can’t tell you what exactly that you need to let go of in your life, but I will tell you what you can hold onto.

You can hold on to God.

You can trust in God.


(If you would please take the time to pray for the Teis Family, Johnny is eight and was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor last May. The doctor’s have given him six months to live and our hearts are broken for this family, yet inspired by their amazing faith in God.)