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

When Sunday Morning Doesn’t Come

“I agree that marriage it hard, and a good marriage is worth it.  However, the hardest thing I’ve ever done isn’t marriage….the hardest thing I’ve ever done was a long, ugly, extremely messy divorce and the unhealthy, dysfunctional co-parenting relationship I have with their dad.”

I was sitting in the studio interviewing relationship experts Jeff and Debbie McElroy about the goodness of marriage when my phone buzzed with this message from a friend who was listening. She knew she could contact me, because we have walked the same journey of “long, ugly, messy divorce”.

As I sat in the studio with Jeff and Debbie I was encouraged. Encouraged to see two people so deeply committed to each other and so obviously in love. As Jeff described the “why” of marriage I found myself nodding along, “yes, this is what marriage is for! It’s for showing the gospel!” Jeff and Debbie continued painting the picture of how marriage models the gospel for us, how it shows us redemption in tangible ways. How in each marriage God wants to enter into every hopeless and dead place and bring resurrection. As Jeff says “Every marriage has a Sunday Morning coming.”

After they left the studio I needed to be alone for a few minutes. I needed to sit with the reality that the “Sunday Morning” of my marriage will never come. I needed space to grieve that fact, to take that truth to Jesus and sit with Him in the pain of it.

lily

Last week we received a message from someone who was hurting. He had heard a story of how God had healed a man’s wife of cancer, but his wife died. The same God who allowed cancer to take his wife’s life allowed another man’s wife to have more years with her husband and kids. His “Sunday Morning” of cancer-free-life will never come. And, I imagine, the reality of that truth hurts daily.

What do we do when the reality of our situation is that for us here in this moment Sunday Morning isn’t coming?

Today I’ve been thinking about Job and all that he lost. I saw him sitting there in sackcloth and ashes with dust literally pouring from his head and I was jealous. Not of all that Job had gone through, but of the time Job took to sit and mourn his loss. I was jealous of Job’s ashes. Ashes that told everyone who saw him and everyone who came in contact with him that this was a man in mourning.

I sometimes wish we had something to wear to let others know that our season of mourning hasn’t past yet and that we are still filled with grief.

I think we do a pretty lousy job in our American culture of grieving that which is important. We wear black to funerals and the next morning wake up and put on whatever color suits us. As quickly as the flowers from the funeral spray shrivel up, die, and are thrown in the trash, society tells us to move on. We’re not allowed to sit and blankly stare, or to talk about our loss, or cry. Our employers give us a day, maybe two, off of work to attend the funeral and say our goodbyes and then we’re expected to return to work and the task at hand.

But grief isn’t an occasion that comes and passes, it comes and stays, lingering at the door of our heart. It sneaks up on you unexpectantly in the strangest places. When you’re going through your day as normal and all of a sudden you catch the scent of something that reminds you of them. When those day’s come when time slows and memories seem to wrap your mind like a blanket and grief is stirred back up again. And you have to leave the room and lock yourself in the bathroom to mourn in private, because it’s unacceptable to mourn in public.

We live in a society that is afraid of emotion. We don’t know how to express it and we don’t know how to comfort others that do. We’ve been trained to not grieve and mourn, we’ve been trained to get over it, or at least pretend that we have.

But God is not afraid of our grief, or our anger, or questioning, or fear. He is not caught off guard or intimidated when we come to Him with shaking fists and tear stained cheeks and beg for the pain to go away. He doesn’t mind when our eyes fill up with tears at the most awkward moments. He doesn’t turn His back to us when we come with questions and fears and ask “why”.

Jesus was a man acquainted with grief. He wept and was sorrowful. Jesus mourned. And He shed tears, unashamedly.

He welcomed the broken woman who literally washed His feet with her tears and He did not push her away or tell her to pull herself together. He welcomed her to His feet to pour out every single bit of grief that she had carried for so many years. He did not dismiss her tears. Yet, we feel as if we can’t bring our emotions into the throne room of grace because we feel like we can’t bring our emotions into our modern day churches or workplaces or homes. But if there is one place that grief is welcome, it is in the presence of God.

I hear people talk often about how in Heaven we’ll never cry again, but I’m not sure that’s true. Revelation 21:4 says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes”. To me the picture of Jesus wiping tears from our eyes is not the picture of bride who never cries, but a picture of a husband who lets her, and who comforts her when she does.

Tears are precious to God. He collects them, He doesn’t dismiss them. We are welcomed into the presence of God when our hearts are filled with grief and sorrow.

I find it interesting that in biblical times ashes were a symbol of grief. When someone they loved died or a tragedy happened they would literally take ashes and throw them on their heads. They would cover themselves in filth to represent the darkness of heart they felt.

“To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isa. 61:3

Jesus offers us a holy exchange. He invites us to come to Him, ash covered and tear stained. He bends down into our sorrow and He wipes the tears from our eyes and pours oil over our heads. And as that oil runs rivets down our face and our shoulders and our hands and feet, it washes away the ashes of our mourning.

But we have to come.

We have to come to Him and bring every bit of sorrow. We have to come and sit with Him in the pain. Only when we come can He reveal the true beauty there.

~Keri

Photo by jmtimages Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Where The Sad Girls Go, How to love someone who is depressed

fall leaves

“You don’t look pregnant anymore.”

I began to cry as we walk out of the doctor’s office.

“I’m so mad I could cuss.” I say, standing in the parking lot looking less pregnant.

“Do it.” My husband says, giving me permission.

“I can’t.”

“Then I’ll do it for you.”

And then he swears for me. I stand there in utter shock and then I double over laughing through the tears and say something snarky like, “You are going to split hell wide-open.”

We laugh through aching hearts and somehow I know that everything is going to be okay. We are going to be okay.

I think that is when I wrestled with my first encounter with real depression. Every fall it comes back and I wrestle trying to find words and look much like a Cymbalta commercial minus petting a cat and gazing out the widow.

I figured out where the sad girls go because at that broken moment, I was one of them.

I’m not sure if it’s connected to that time loss during multiple miscarriages, or just seasonal, but each year just as the leaves turn beautiful shades of orange and red and then finally let go giving way to winter. I become like the barren tree stripped of leaves and life, but it is still me, just the quieter version of me.

And in my head I go, that’s where the sad girls go.

Each year it becomes less of an issue, but I still go off–grid and have a hard time finding words. Even writing becomes difficult and I miss the more vibrant, spunky side of me. I stop making calls because I feel like I have nothing to say worth hearing.

The sad girls drift off inside of their headspace and dream of brighter days. I feel so thankful that each year it becomes less of thing, but it’s still a thing. It’s real. But, I’m not sad. I feel hope rising to the surface of my heart because I know this will pass. It always does.

I’ve battled depression on and off for years and I remember thinking that my husband was strong enough to lift the dark cloud off of me. But, he couldn’t. Somewhere in my headspace, my winter months of darkness and bareness of joy, I wrestled with prayer and with God and stopped wrestling with others. My hands were up in surrender with the white flag raised, “God, If you can save me, throw me a lifeline. I’m desperate, I’ll take crumbs I don’t even need a full meal. I just need something.”

And God always came to my rescue. Sometimes it seemed like the sadness lasted for much too long, but it eventually left and my color returned. Laughter filled my lungs and a song spilled out from a renewed heart. When I couldn’t pray, I asked others to pray for me and had trusted friends to hold my hand on the journey. I never asked them to jump in my pit of despair with me, just maybe take me out for chips and salsa and give me a reason to change out of my yoga pants. And after the conversation became lighter and tears stopped, we would have a cake-date afterwards. Sometimes you just need to celebrate the small victories because if we can’t, our expectations might be a little too Hollywood, airbrushed fakeness, and not based on reality.

I’ve learned that letting others see my ugly and broken moments is receiving love when I’m the furthest thing from perfect. In the past, I wanted others to only see me when I was happy and living life to the fullest, but God has given me the truest friends and family that have been unwilling to leave my side at dark, broken moments. They love me just because, no strings-attached, no need to jump through hoops or fake anything. I just get to show up and that’s enough. Man, that’s nice. 

So, how do we love someone in depression crisis and soul funk?

Realize that it’s bigger than you. Ask really good questions about feelings and what they need from you.

Realize that if you are doing all the things that they “need” and it’s still not enough, take breaks for your heart and do whatever you can to not go into crisis-mode with them. Someone has to be the strong one; Lord knows it doesn’t feel fair. But someone has to be the voice of reason and hear the voice of God if the other person’s judgment is murky.

If you feel yourself fighting so hard, fighting with your loved one as you walk on edge through the crappy minefield and look them in the eyes and say, “We are treating each other like the enemy when we are allies.” And join forces again. Keep reminding yourself that this is not who they are, but as they wrestle with change in their hearts, minds, hormones, and brain chemistry, everything is pretty much based on fear and a lie. The things that used to make them happy don’t anymore and they don’t even know why. That’s brutal.

Get help! You might need personal therapy, it’s so brave and should be celebrated, not an embarrassment. It doesn’t mean you are failing, it means you care enough to not give up. You need a friend that is sticking as close as a soul sister possibly can. Prayer journal, angry journal, or verbally barf on someone you can trust. Someone who can drop a truth-bomb like, “What is coming out of your mouth doesn’t line up with the Word.” Don’t let what you feel rule what you know to be true. Like, this too shall pass like a kidney stone with spikes the size of Texas, but it will pass. So, let me speak truth wrapped up in love and hold you while you cry. 

Figure out your default setting. For me shutting down emotionally is what I do. I’m working on it. When you feel yourself shutting down, ask yourself why. For me, my broken girl syndrome might emerge instead of the confident, godly woman that I have become. Anytime I felt backed into a corner, trapped, or embarrassed publicly, I would just check out and put up a wall to protect my heart. Or I would come out swinging. My default is flight, not fight. I hate conflict, but boundaries need to happen if someone is crossing lines and just expecting you to deal with it and be the nice one. Communicating is essential if you want to have something that lasts. Period. If you stop the lines of communication, you might as well stamp an expiration date on your healthy relationship.

When you love someone, you do whatever it takes to protect the one you love. A person in crisis no longer knows how to protect and cultivate your tender heart; they are focused on what they are feeling and what they need. So, it feels very personal and selfish. Try to focus on what you love about them, remember the better days and pray for better days to be restored.

Figure out their default setting. Harsh truth, anyone who is depressed doesn’t even know what their default setting is.So…there’s that. But, they do have a love language and things that fill up their tank.

Stop doing the same things. You need something to look forward to. Try to break away from your normal routine and do something fun.

Find a reason to hope and dream again, take your “wounded one” with you and live a little. No lists, agendas, or jumping through the hoops, just being together and chasing after joy and each other until hope returns.

Just because they are depressed doesn’t mean you have to be too. When I was going through my seasons of depression, I didn’t need my man, or friends, to join me and set up camp there. It was my depression and because I love them, I just needed them to understand, love me, and pray for me. Not push me or tell me I’m wrong for feeling that way. I never expected them to fix me, so it would be stupid for me to feel like I am the Junior Holy Spirit and able to fix someone else’s depression.

Guard your heart and mind and take your thoughts captive, it’s the only thing you are accountable for right now. I’m so grateful for a God that loves me just because I’m His and I’m enough for Him, even when I’m at my worst.

You are not alone. You might not feel Him, but God hasn’t left you.

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands, Your walls are continually before Me.” (Is 49:16)

I get it, I know what it is like to wrestle with this and win. Don’t go through this alone; let someone walk you through this!

Much love and prayers,

Jennifer Renee

Photo Credit: Melissa