The Gift Our Daughters Really Need

Whitley,Flower child

I wish I could erase this pattern that cripples women, the one that starts as a preteen and follows us through life. This unhealthy space of not liking the way we look. I blink slowly trying to remember when this started, or why it started. Was it the images on television or the porn I found in someone’s house when I was a girl trying to figure out what being a woman was all about?

I remember thinking that day when I realized that people pay money for this trash- So, this is what you think of women?

Don’t you know that I will be one soon?

This is someone’s daughter and you are someone’s dad.

Is this all you think that we are? Painted and displayed and broken.

I felt sorry for her, the girl on the front cover bare.

I am bringing up girls now and I feel the weight of this enormous task that is laid out before me.

God, please help me to do this right.

My daughter asked if it was a good time to talk. When your preteen wants to talk to you, it’s always a good time to talk. This “shut the door, tell me everything you are feeling” stuff is starting to happen. God knows how much I want to be good at it.

I want to have the answers and play it cool when something throws me off guard; I want to have the words to ease her troubled mind.

And it starts.

I feel bad about my body.

I feel bad about my mind, like I’m not smart enough.

I decided to start with the “I wish I could change my body” talk first.

I tell her about the change that is happening, that right now her mind and her body are trying to catch up. I talked to her about comparison and how she just needs to be the healthy version of herself, that there is no weight limit or jean size that can be her guide for this. The hormones are invading her space and she is growing, developing, and morphing into a young woman right before my eyes.

This stretching out place happens both in our bodies and our mind, but somehow we need to carefully walk our daughters through this. They need to know that their bodies are a gift; that they are a gift.

So, I pulled out this scripture verse knowing that it takes a lifetime to really get this, but I quoted it anyway.

“…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7 ESV)

Of course, men and women look at the outward appearance while God looks at our heart. But, all I saw sitting in front of me was a girl who looked just like me; and I wouldn’t change a single thing about her.

Something comes to me, a thought, a way that I could help her. I grab my soft middle, the part that I wish wasn’t there and say, “Is this what you notice when you look at me?”

She shakes her head and says ‘no’ softly.

“I didn’t always have this soft part of me. At times I wish it wasn’t there, but it gave me you.”

Bringing forth life changed my body, but more importantly, it changed my heart. So, I thank God for the stretchy middle and the miracle of giving birth. I thank Him for helping me when I was underweight, stressed to the max, ill, and unable to sustain a healthy pregnancy.

I knew that in moment I needed to give my daughter the gift of seeing her mother love her imperfections and show her what it looks like to honor and respect my body.

I am not measured by my soft middle, or the size of clothes that I wear. I am not my title, or the position I hold. My worth is based on the contents of my heart, that’s all.

If I can teach this to her at eleven and reinforce it over the years. If I can guard carefully the words that come out my mouth about my body image, I can make a lasting impact.  If I can do this and change the way she views womanhood, I could change a generation-the one that she will be leading.

But, I can’t do this without you doing the same thing for your girls.

Maybe if we link arms and allow our strength be larger than Kim Kardashian’s butt displayed all over the internet, we can be the women who not only teach about the power of a woman’s worth- we can be the women who live it loud enough to quiet our daughter’s insecurities.

So, as I sit here wrecked with a list of things I need to buy for my girls for Christmas, I know this is the most important gift I can give them, the gift of championing the worth of women. All the women, those on display and the ones starving and cutting themselves to dull the pain.

But I must start first with the miniature versions living in my house.

Are you with me?

Love you like crazy,

Jennifer Renee

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Give Yourself A Gift This Year

walking with my baby

My nine-year-old crawled in bed with me. Yes, she still does that and I love it. She’s the baby of the family and my little cling on. She wrapped her arms around me as I wrapped her up in my arms.

“Mom, I need you to pray for me.”

“Is something wrong?”

“I am having bad thoughts…like something bad might happen.” She whispers.

I began to pray, asking God to help her to not think those thoughts or worry and then prayed for a hedge of protection around my family. I asked God to help me with my thoughts and that I wouldn’t worry either.

Tears fall softly down my face as my daughter starts praying.

“Jesus, I just want to be the best me that I can be. Help me to do that. I want to be the best me I can be.”

She begins to tell Jesus how she falls short at this with words from a nine-year-old heart. It reminded me of how many women have basically said the same thing with bigger words laced with regret.

How many women feel like the worst version of themselves? Too many.

My tears fall on her as we say ‘amen’ while I search for words to tell her about how God sees her heart and would honor those sweet prayers of her. I find the words and remind her of the worth found deep inside of her and that maybe, just maybe, she’s being too hard on herself.

And my mind drifts to countless conversations and endless words from women I know doing the same thing, being ridiculously harsh and unkind to themselves.

I think that’s what we all want; to be the very best version of ourselves and every day we have a million opportunities to blow it. But, we press on knowing that God sees our hearts and searches all the deepest places within us.

Everyday we give our days like a gift to the God that formed us, and most days we wonder if it’s enough.

Years ago in a moment of mentoring I apologized to someone who became more like a sister and less like mentee. I told her how I wished that I had done more to help prepare her for the road ahead. She looked me in the eyes and said something that I’ll never forget.

“Jennifer, sometimes we learn more from Clark Kent than we do from Superman.”

Her words set me free; I hope they will set you free too.

In all this striving of trying to be the very best version of yourself, perhaps it’s time to look at yourself through the filter of “I am enough” and give yourself a big fat break.

Perhaps that could be your Christmas gift to yourself, to be a little nicer to the woman you look at in the mirror.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

 

Limitations & Love Letters

God is within her. Ps 46:5

We walk into a room filled with people we don’t know very well. I see this wave of anxiety rush over my oldest daughter’s face.

“Oh Mom, I don’t like walking into a room where I don’t know people.”

Baby girl, I get it.

“Baby, half of the people in this room feel just like you do.”

You can do this.

She relaxes and within minutes she is talking with a girl a few years older than her with a smile on her face.

I smile and watch her in that stretching place and know that growth is painfully awkward and wonderful at the same time.

We have all been hard wired to function a certain way, I’m not sure when it starts but eventually we start thinking that the way we were designed is wrong. We forget that our weaknesses give way to a strength we can only find in God.

We fight against our God-given abilities and try hard to function like someone else.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

Trying to be something that we are not is like wearing shoes that don’t fit, each step feels uncomfortable and eventually you aren’t walking at all. You are limping.

You were never meant to limp, you were meant to live life to the fullest. Each time we second-guess our Creator who designed us for a very special reason and role in the body of Christ, we lose some of the best parts of who we are. We minimize what God meant to showcase for His glory.

Why do we limit what God meant to illuminate?

Sometimes I wonder if all we see when we examine our lives are limitations. Maybe it’s not limitations; maybe it’s a love letter.

A love letter that says, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

A love letter that says, “In your neediness you will find Me and you will find that I am more than enough.”

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (Matt 11:28 NIV)

Everyday we are faced with things that make us uncomfortable and in that stretching place we figure out what we are made of. We learn that shy girls can overcome those first feelings of panic and end up having the time of their lives.

We learn that the over-sharing extrovert feels the need to chat constantly because the silence makes her uncomfortable. But, eventually she learns how to listen like her loved ones need her to.

We learn how to depend on God in a world that teaches us being self-sufficient is the ultimate goal.

I think we should stretch, learn, and grow knowing that our moment of weakness provides us with an opportunity to see God’s power revealed in us.

We learn that His grace is sufficient even when we feel like a hot-mess. We learn that His grace covers all of our cracked, fragile place.

Pray, stretch, grow and repeat.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

When It’s Hard To Have Faith

Whitley,Flower child

I am the girl who likes to see the preview for the next episode immediately after watching one of my favorite shows. I want that little teaser for what’s coming next so I have something to look forward to.

If I could make this happen with my life, I would opt for that. Just a little sneak peak of what is coming. But it never happens. All of us feel like God has given us specific promises and most of us remain in that tender place where we wait. The longer we have to wait, the more we lose hope and start thinking that maybe, just maybe, it was all in our heads.

I’ve been reading in Hebrews chapter 11 about faith in the unseen, that place were hope lingers and we have to go on faith, not on what is in front of our faces. For some of us this is extremely difficult because we want tangible proof, not the unlocked and unseen promise tucked in our hearts.

In this place we can only surrender to God and to the waiting and to the trusting of God’s promises. His timing is clearly not ours and so we ask for a faith that is bigger than the doubting side of us. And when that comes we begin to hope again like we did when we first received our promise. We beg God that we will not become weary in our well doing and working for Him.

Somehow the longer we pray for that one thing that we want the most, the further we walk the tightrope of doubt.

We stop expecting God to move, or change a heart, or possibly even change ours. And all of the sudden, we stop altogether hoping in the unseen.

Sometimes we even stop praying.

Or hoping.

Or waiting.

We just move on.

We are Peter sinking in the water with the cold currents about to pull us under. We are filled with doubt like Thomas asking to see the nail scars in the hands of our Savior.

We long for proof when He alone is the answer and the remedy for what makes us soul-sick.

In the past I’ve been the one to chase gifts instead of the gift-giver. I’ve looked and prayed for answers instead of seeking the One who holds my tomorrow. I’ve awakened in the night and wrestled with worry and just when I thought I couldn’t wrestle anymore, I gave my cares over to God. He always knows what to do with them.

We waste our days wishing for tomorrow and miss the blessings of today. I know with all my heart that waiting produces something profound inside of us, a tool to sharpen what we thought was important. To be stripped of all forms of self, vulnerable and bare, the neediness of who we are exposes us turning our hearts towards God.

To the woman who is wrestling to find her worth, let love wrap you up and remind you that what you do matters. I know you feel like everything looks the same and wonder how you can find the miraculous in the mundane, but it’s right there even when you can’t see it.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:18)

Purpose is unfolding inside of you each and every day.

We want so much for God to fulfill His purpose inside of us; we want the big things when the small things really are the big things. If it is done in obedience, it’s not at all small. It’s huge.

We want the desires of our heart and most of the time we are unwilling to wait on that, for that desire to be placed in our hearts by God because we have gotten our priorities all out of whack.

God has a timing that doesn’t make sense to any of us, but it is worth it. It is worth waiting for and throwing yourself down on the carpet to pray for it. Those unseen things are exactly where the plan of God and our faith collide. God is working on your behalf, even when you can’t see it.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1 KJV)

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

 

 

Death of the Phoenix

IMG_5933.JPG

the forest here is dark and deep
and He watches while I sleep
and walk upon the tangled roots
of elder trees barren of fruit

He watches as I stumble, fall
bow my head, defeated, crawl
the heavy dark upon my back 
deep and shallow gasping breath

long grows the night and colder still
as trees give way to rocky hill
and bloodied knees trod up and on
eyes blind of beauty to gaze upon

the wind! it bites and gnashes teeth
upon my barren face and feet
shivering, trembling, hopeless climb
He watches me, ever behind

fallen in defeat I lie
upon the summit of mountain high
no stars above nor warmth below
no voice, no comfort in death’s shadow

the earth, it stills, the ticking stops
and silences life and breath and thought
and there alone in hopeless lament
my soul in anguish ripped and rent

and as the breath creeps from my bones
my only wish… be not alone
I lift my eyes and meet His stare
still and silent standing there

in the dying silent cry
my fears no longer will deny
that light is gone and life is passed
and yet He stands behind, detached

nothing lies within this tomb
of grown cold heart and bloodied wounds 
the body empty, lifeless, still
He slowly approaches, stops and kneels

fingers brush what’s dead and cold 
fire errupts, body blazes whole
comsuming fire, without – within
lapping, licking, flaming skin

embers, ashes, smouldering dust
no more life, just silent hush
as mountain, rock, sky and He
gaze upon what once was me

the mountain waits with bated breath
the sky bends down to see what’s next
the rock beneath the ash is still
as He breathes onto what was killed

and reaches down with spotless hands
into the dust that was a man
but now is only useless grime
He bends low, His lips to mine

and into dust He blows and breathes
in ashes cold He beckons me
and I, though dead, awaken rise
and rousing from the darkness fly

with outstretched wings I grasp the vault
and circle higher in my assult
I soar atop the forrest deep 
and rise above the deadly sleep

upon the whisp of cloud I hear
a shout, a clap, a laughing cheer
spiraling through expanse I see
He is there! Leading me

~Keri Lynn

Letting Go Of Perfect

You can simply come wrecked and torn,

I notice her with her walls all up, trapped in a moment where she felt like she needed to pretend. She stood upright but everything about her revealed to me that she was crumbling on the inside. With each fake, plastic smile she became more exhausted with the fine art of hiding behind a façade.

I place my hands on her shoulders, “You don’t have to be okay right now. You don’t. Maybe if you give yourself a little space to fall apart, you might feel more together. A little more free.”

She wrestles; fighting inwardly and then the tears start to stream down her darling face. She melts into me and I hold her. I whisper, “I know what it’s like to go through the motions, just pretended to be okay when I really wasn’t.”

I know what it’s like to be a faker. Don’t we all?

As if one more coat of mascara is going to make our eyes sparkle again.

Like the perfect under eye concealer is going to make us look like we actually rested instead tossing and turning, the replaying of events, the things we should have said. The things we shouldn’t have.

It’s possible to be surrounded by people and feel more alone than ever. It’s possible to say ‘I love you’ every time you feel it and still feel unloved. It’s possible to have a smile splash across your face and not feel an ounce of happiness within.

It is possible to feel everything and nothing…and wonder what the heck is wrong with you.

But, I know the power of walls coming down in the acknowledgment that I am a needy girl with a God who is big enough to handle it. I know the power of literally watching words set a heart free.

It’s okay.

You don’t have to be okay when you’re not.

You don’t have to hide or fake it.

You can simply come wrecked and torn, just as you are and know that is enough. 

The rain comes, it always does, and we feel it soaking through the façade until we let go of this little thing called perfect.

It happened to me in a tiny choir loft, running a fever and losing my first baby to early miscarriage. As a lady looked over at me, fully knowing what I was going through, she asked me how I was doing. True words came rolling out, my pain unmasked.

“I’m just here.”

That’s when I stopped pushing myself so hard while my body tried to keep up with the fast pace of pretending to be perfect. Pretending that I was stronger than the grief I was feeling inside. The walls came down and it was the most freeing and purposeful pain.

I felt so small and it was okay. I asked those hard questions and even the useless one of “why.”

I let myself be small and frail. I let my mom hold me like she used when I was little.

I found God in that broken space of loss and found myself at the same time. The one with angry poetry underneath my worn out Bible, the girl who knew that faith and questions could linger together in my sadness giving way to deeper, unshakeable roots in Christ.

By admitting that I wasn’t okay I found room for real healing, the kind that takes time and can’t be rushed.

Whether your heartache has been recent or decades ago, I wish I could sit with you and hold your hand to let you know that it’s okay that you are not okay right now.

One day you will be.

You will be strong and steady, someone that others lean on. One day you might be holding chubby babies, or climbing the corporate ladder and finding joy in your “right now” moments.

I pray joy will return and God’s peace will surround you.

Much love and prayers,

Jennifer Renee

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:3)

 

 

Hidden

Show me your glory pic. Me

I remember a time of chasing shadows, running so fast as a little girl trying to outsmart the stretched out version of me. I wanted the sunshine not the shadows and even as an adult I still want that very same thing.

Last week I wrote about my very real battle with seasonal depression, I am unafraid to be vulnerable with you because I know that God unlocks places within us for a reason. My freedom journey is sweeter when I take others with me. Joy has returned to me, but my heart has turned to those who still wrestle and wonder when things will change for them. They are waiting for the dark cloud to lift.

I typically refer to depression as “the dark cloud” but this morning as I was reading scripture I felt a tug on my heart as I read these words:

“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings…”

(Psalm 17: 8 KJV)

I felt like God was whispering to my heart.

It was never a cloud, but the shadows where you were hidden and tucked away with Me.

As a child, I tried to outrun my shadow but the faster I ran; the faster my shadow followed me. An outline of my form and elongated, a shadowed version of me; I could never outrun it. I wasn’t mean to.

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Ps 91:1)

In Exodus 33, Moses meets with God and doesn’t want to leave unless the presence of God goes with them. In verse 18 he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

But, a full discovery of God would overwhelm him. So God gives Moses a way to be hidden and still experience the presence of God. He couldn’t see the face of God, but could see His back.

“When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” (Vs. 22)

Throughout scripture it talks about being hidden in the hand of God, or in the shadows of His wings. Everything about this speaks to me. He is a God who protects us and shelters us. The cloud becomes a shadow, a hiding place tucked away in the safety of God. A shield and a refuge from the storm, hidden in the One who numbers our days and knows exactly what we need and when we need it.

It’s not the dark cloud, friend. You are hidden in the shadow of the Almighty.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee