Dry Bones, Hope for Disappointed Hearts

 

Beautiful Hope:creative commons

My daughter is sick this morning, so I’m having church on my back porch and I know this is the very kind of church I need. The one with me wearing shorts and messy hair while I fade in and out of caring for my girl while letting God take care of the girl inside of me. The wind rushes in through the screen and the sunlight dances on sun-scorched trees. And somewhere a farmer might be praying for rain while I ask God for the dryness from disappointment to subside inside of me. I ask for fresh wind, an awakening of thirst for new life, and redeemed redirection instead of what the past few days have held for me.

 

All I really need is to not carry the dryness that disappointment brings with me. To simply feel it and welcome the pain it brings, while allowing it to reveal something bigger that God can use. For some crazy reason I believe that in this thirsty place dry bones will come to life inside of all of us like they did when the prophet spoke in Ezekiel 37 as the Lord commanded.

 

I look around at the people I love both up-close and long-distance and I see a valley of dry bones begging for new life and repurposed dreams. So I do what nerdy, Jesus girls do…I dig in the Word of God and study dry bones and a priest brave enough to listen.

 

The Valley of Dry Bones

 

37 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

 

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

 

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

 

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

 

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

 

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

 

Maybe you are stuck in the letting go part. The part where you are clinging to what was with a death-grip refusing to let go. I get it, I really do.

 

Sometimes empty hands, with nothing to hold onto, make more useful tools. Clenched fists in the air stirs up bitterness and questions, those are just distractions and tools of the enemy. It’s the same old trick he always uses against the discouraged people of God. But, we have a choice about the things that we hold in our hands. Tools of regret or empty hands in surrender waiting to be filled up.

 

Clarity often comes after the tears and fit-throwing stop. My ears seem eager to listen to the One my soul loves with every ounce of me. Friday I clenched my fists and cried tears that hurt. On Saturday I let it all go and decided that I needed it to be the last day I cried about something I wasn’t meant to have anyway. And on Sunday, God breathed beautiful new life inside of me as I had church alone on my porch.

 

Soul surrender and empty hands are the best place to begin again. My fresh start cannot be an angry start. It just can’t. My anger and hurt can only be a brief stopping point to signal redirection and prayerful requests for fresh purpose. Ezekiel spoke when God commanded and said what the Lord told him to say not his flawed, empty words, but the powerful word of God that makes dead things will to live.

 

The name Ezekiel means God Strengthens. When I think about all the things our names could mean, I would like to think that somehow my name is: Jennifer, the one God Strengthens. Perhaps, that is your new name, too. Verse 14 says that the Spirit will dwell in us, and we will live. That God will place us in our own land so that we will know that He alone gets the credit. He spoke it. He performed it. He did it. Not us.

 

God’s placement is better than where man might displace us.  His placement is better than where we think we are supposed to be. That closed door that just slammed in my face, that I completely lost it over, gives way to something better. I am growing increasingly tired of trying to place myself somewhere and then feeling the weight of disappointment from rushing when I’m supposed to wait and listen. I am not desperate for an open door; I’m desperate for God’s perfect will in my life. And when I am still enough to listen to my unsettled heart and hear the wind of the Spirit telling me to take one obedient step after another, my dry bones stop the aching rattle and I trust in the God who has ordered every wobbly step that I’ve taken so far. My heart longs for the Spirit of God and something fresh and not entirely spelled out for me right now.

 

Maybe that’s what God can use the most, the thing that I don’t get credit for. For the step I never saw myself taking.

 

In verse 10, Ezekiel spoke when the Lord commanded him and “breath entered; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”

 

Breath in Hebrew is ruah, which can be translated breathwind, or spirit. Verse 12 the word graves figuratively describes the conditions of the people. I don’t know about you, but I see a tired army who needs fresh vision and hope. I wish I could tell you I’ve had a sunny disposition about this whole thing, but I’ve been a hot-mess in high-heels and my attitude has been less than stellar.

 

Maybe it’s time to ask this question, the same question God asked Ezekiel,“Daughter of God, can these dry bones inside of you live?”

 

I pray your answer is yes. Dry bones can will to live and God alone can speak to your scattered heart and make sense of the graveyard of disappointment you are facing now.

 

My prayer for us today:

 

Lord,

 

Dry bones came together in your Holy Word and so will your plans come together for me and for my sisters. For only You can breathe life into dry bones and cover them with flesh and new life. Do it again, Lord, bring dry bones back to life. Then we will all know dead dreams can come back to life with greater potential and life-giving force. Let us be women who speak only when you tell us to, that we would be brave enough to walk uncertain steps that make us more like you and a little less like us. My heart is a mess, but you are the God who calms the storm inside of me.

 

We really don’t need credit or validation; we just need your unmerited and undeserved favor. Breathe life into our dry bones and stop the rattling of confusion and self-doubt. Let me be a light today and help me know that I am the girl You strengthen.

 

Amen

 

Much love to you,

 

Jennifer Renee

p.s. After much prayer and seeking godly counsel from other writer-friends, and my BFF Keri who started Broken Girl with me… I’ve decided to follow wise advice to launch my website. Keri and I know this is the next step for both of us and we are not leaving our baby, Broken Girl, we are asking you go with us! I would LOVE for you to click on the link and signup for my blog. 

 

 

 

Photo Credit by: trs125

 

 

 

Hey mama, don’t take it personal: A Guest Post from Suzie Eller

Every once in a while you meet someone and you instantly “click”. That happened for me recently when I met Suzie Eller. She’s a former Broken Girl whose life reflects the beauty that is available to us all when we allow God to mend our hearts and walk us through forgiveness. 

Growing up in a dysfunctional home doesn’t set us up to be naturally good parents (if such a thing exists) but Suzie’s life proves that even broken girls can be great mamas!

Welcome our dear friend Suzie…

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When your memories as a child were painful, you can become super sensitive to the words from your own children. After all, you want better for your children.

So when you try hard and they still throw a tantrum, or say “I hate you,” or embarrass you in the grocery store, you might want to take it personal.

Hey, don’t you know how much I love you!

Why are you embarrassing me?

Don’t you see what I do for you?

But this is the scoop:

Your child is a work in progress.

She has no idea of your past pain and that’s a gift. You’ve given her innocence and a childhood.

He isn’t big enough or wise enough to make your hopes for a good family come true. It’s not his job, and his shoulders aren’t big enough to carry that burden.

So, what do you do?

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Mama, we take personalization out of the equation.

It’s not about you.

Your child is a little warm body with a brain that is still developing (and will be until their early twenties), and you and I have the most amazing responsibility and gift of teaching and loving and shaping them.

So, when they throw a fit in WalMart, forget the people around you. Don’t worry about what they are saying, and focus on your child.  Stay calm. Be the adult.

Because this is a defining moment.

Your child has what you did not. . .  a calm, reasonable, loving parent who is willing to tough it out through the bad moments.

A mama who knows that parenting is wonderful and hard.

A mama who sees this as a teachable moment so that her child can grow into the amazing adult he or she will one day be.

A mama who teaches rather than loses it.

When we don’t take it personal, we shape our children’s memories, instead of our old memories shaping our child.

Suzie

I hope this will be a helpful resource: The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past      to Give Your Kids a Great Future.

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Suzie is an International Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and author, former radio co-host, and Bible Gateway blogger.

She’s a woman who believes that our past shapes us, but does not limit us! (Read Suzie’s story)

She is an author of articles, columns, and seven books including her most recent books:

The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness and The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places.

Most important, she’s a mom, wife, and “Gaga” to five beautiful babies.

Suzie lives in NW Arkansas and when she’s not writing or speaking, she’s with her family, or hiking, or filling the kitchen with smells of her love language of cooking.

Rebuilding and Reclaiming: A New Generation of Ruth & Naomi’s

Elise & Mom

My prince

My pint-size, just passing through, prince

I was thirty-one and recovering from a hysterectomy that I didn’t want to have and my husband was in Africa just two weeks after my surgery. (Sorry, this is a blog for women. I have no problem talking about mammograms and the fact that I don’t have a uterus.)

The reoccurring nightmares that I had been having finally stopped, the ones with a faceless man standing in the doorway leading into my room trying to hurt me.

I stopped fighting in my dreams. I stopped writing and hiding behind fiction because I was too afraid of the faceless man. I started the brave act of telling my truth and writing about the jacked-up, messy side of healing from years of emotional baggage and dragging deadweight from yesterday.

I was ready for whatever. But I had no idea what that would look like.

I was on my knees crying in surrender, terrified of the unknown and what was next for us as a family. I just knew in my heart that my husband would come home and that we would be on the mission-field next with my miracle babies, ages three and one. I would be in a tiny hut with no Wi-Fi trying to speak Francais Afrique and have to bake my own bread. And let me just add that my accent is strong and southern…and I would need language school for years just to help me change my bad habit of chewing on words and adding extra syllables that are unnecessary. Sometimes I talk like Reba McEntire sings and I don’t think it’s cute when it comes out of my mouth. But, she’s cuter, smarter, and can pull it off and make a lot of money from it.

My overactive imagination was playing tricks on me. I was a hot-mess trying to surrender to the unknown while on pain meds and trying to figure out which part of my surrender was Jesus…or maybe I was just high.

I felt like crying and reading my Bible would be the sane thing to do, so I turned to this passage and God whispered words to my mending heart.

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27 NKJV)

My husband was building an orphanage in Africa while God was rebuilding my heart.

When we are in recovery, both physically and spiritually, the ugly rises to the surface of our hearts and it looks a lot like fear and trying to control the unknown. Which is not possible, in case you haven’t figured that out.

In that moment it wasn’t about finding ways to control my life, it was about finding a way to lose it. It was about the laying down of my selfishness to find a life worth writing about and living. It was about the crucifying of this flesh and learning what dreams were worth entertaining and which ones that were selfish pursuits and vanity-induced ambition.

I cried and asked God, “What does this scripture really mean?

And answered, “…Of course my answer is yes to whatever you are asking of me. Even if it scares me silly and is messy.”

In my heart I felt like God was saying this…

“If you take care of and tend to the orphans and widows…and all those in between, I will take care of you.”

So, you want me to take care of the messy middle girls?

God did not spell out my next step. At all. He just told me to leave the light on at the door of my heart and make room for the wounded wanderer and all those who might come to me for a little while. And so I did. I focused on the widow and opened my home and my heart for a little pint-size prince that I didn’t get to keep.

And late at night I would write for my messy middle girls and found my tribe and my un-muted voice. I allowed my heart to gravitate to the strong women in leadership, kicking against transition, and I knew my job was to hold her hand and let her know that she was my kind of crazy and that eventually, she would be okay too. I knew that if she could be brave enough to surrender to living life upside down, counter cultural, and set apart…she would be free and happy and fulfilled for the first time in her life.

I am the Ruth to a bunch of Naomi’s wrestling with bitterness and finding the courage to go back home changed and softer, not just used up and mangled on the inside.

I was the woman with her hand outstretched reaching for the hem of His garment; reaching so hard I knew that in time I would have it some kind of healing.

Days unfold and we feel ourselves at the stretching place where we wait and hope in things unseen. We want to become better at the waiting and allow room for hope in the unseen. And then think we are crazy for actually thinking that it will rise from the dusty ashes of having what we thought we wanted taken from us. We are a little spoiled and a little too calculated. And we are definitely way too comfortable, we sit on padded pews and we never have to wonder where we will sleep or if we will have three square meals and all the snacks in between.

We want safe and easy. A, B, and then C.

We want plan A and stomp our foot telling God what plan B should look like.

As if we know better.

We wrestle with people instead of wrestling to be an un-muted voice for those waiting for us to get our crap together and realize that life was never meant to be all about us.

We ask for red flags and warning signs and sometimes we see them waving and know that God calls us to a messy kind of love that hurts and costs us something, if only our need for control.

What God does not need is another controlling woman. He needs a Spirit-controlled woman with an untamed fire inside of her that spurs her to action and getting her hands dirty.

Our bodies fail us, our minds find less space for trivial things like where you put that long list you needed to make to help you stay on track and the even larger task of being all things to all the people becomes less important. Your “people group” becomes smaller even if the number of people that you have been called to serve enlarges.

If we can’t remove some distractions from our life…He will love us enough to remove them for us. And sometimes breaking up with our former life is exactly what we need to usher in change that sets us all the way free.

Lately I have been wrapped up in this passage in Isaiah 61: 3-7 (NKJV) for weeks and these words are impacting me:

He has sent Me:

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall rebuild ruined cities…instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.”

Maybe all you see in your life is ruins and ruined cities…but God is rebuilding something inside of all of us right now. We trade up with God every time. Instead of shame, double the honor. Instead of confusion we find ourselves rejoicing. Everlasting joy is ours because He wins and we win with Him. Don’t go by what you see, God is in the rebuilding business. Stop fighting with people and start fighting for them. Be the Ruth. Go find the next Ruth. Be the Naomi who refuses to have her named changed to “Bitter”…and give birth to sometime new from what you thought was dried up and in ruins.

Much love to you.

Jennifer

Photo cred: Chelsea Rustad, my incredibly gifted friend with a heart for adooption.

Will you pray for our Ruth and her family waiting for her to come home? Click on the link to find out more about Ruth’s unfolding story. She has a Mom, Dad, and siblings that ache for her to be home. It’s been a long wait and they need you to bombard heaven for them. Let’s fight for our girls.

 

For Those Who Are Asking What’s Next & How Can I help?

What's NEXT?

My heart is continually in shreds over something or someone and for this past year I have gone through an awakening of sorts and it’s been the most devastatingly beautiful heartbreak I have ever known. The compassion that God stirs in our hearts is supposed to hurt. But, we are so quick to turn it off. We have endless distractions and a thousand mind-numbing ways to move past our discomfort because change and pain require action, not sedation.

Yet we pray for a numbing agent and turn our heads.

Pain causes us to pray differently. Whether it’s physical or emotionally pain, it reminds us that we are needy people dependent upon a God who never slumbers and is not taken back by the needs in our hearts, homes, and our world.

This year I’ve purposed in my heart to leave nothing unsaid that will uplift and encourage…and to hold my tongue if it will only wreck someone.

What this world does not need is one more controlling woman; it needs a Spirit controlled woman. One that has a fire shut up inside of them, who is compelled to do more than just sit pretty and wait for someone else to step in and get their hands dirty.

What if we refused to turn our heads this time? To be the voice for those who have forgotten how to cry and for those who have no more words left, only tears and creases in their faces from worry.

What if we let the ache seep into every facet of who we are and ask God to show us what to do with all of that soul-crushing pain? 

To be unafraid of the motivational ache and just let it hurt.

To let it hurt and then ask God what to do with it.

The best way I know how to deal with an aching soul is to tend to someone else’s cavernous wounds that they are too afraid to talk about, yet begging you to notice.

We serve this Jesus who went out of His way to reach the hurting and I’m afraid that sometimes we do the exact opposite when we turn our heads and think that one voice isn’t enough to shake the heavens or mend a hurting heart. Jesus taught in parables and stories hoping that somehow His compassion would become our mission. That the whole of what He was asking us to do was simple. Love God with every fiber of who we are and to love others without limits or expiration dates. That we would be “the crossing over to the other side of the road” type of people moved with compassion and conviction; that His love would compel us to go to where the wounded wait and do something.

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37 NIV) 

The law of love requires action. Most likely this Samaritan was a stranger just passing through on a treacherous road that he didn’t belong on and he definitely was not considered a neighbor, or even a friend.

So many needs. So many people left for dead and passed by.

The news horrifies me. The lack of media attention to the slaying of children and innocent families sickens me. And I pray with groans not words because I have nothing but a guttural whisper “help” and “make it stop” and “How long, O God, will this last?”

We are living in a world where the wounded wait and everywhere I turn I see people in transition. Many of my godly friends who work harder than any person should are being “phased out” of service and they trust God and always have. But, they are still hurting and feel passed by with a fearful stirring of “What’s next?”

I think we are all asking that right now. But, I keep going back to Luke 10:25 where the expert in the law was asking how he could inherit eternal life. He already knew the answer, but he still didn’t get it. He wanted the definition of “neighbor” to be a little more manageable and a little less messy. Don’t we all?

I’ve been fasting, praying, and loosing some sleep and still I feel very few words spilling out of my heart. And that’s okay. He gets my guttural groans in the same ways He knows what your wordless tears are saying.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26 NIV)

I know how scary “What’s next?” can be and I also know how powerful my wordless groans have become.

What if these last days were meant for you to do something tucked away in your heart, buried so deep like a seed of promise, and God had to completely uproot you for your new assignment?

I have wasted too much time trying to kick down the doors of opportunity with my three-inch heels, so now I am the girl that will go to wherever the Broken Girls are. And they are everywhere.

Your God-job is waiting.

You are the “crossing over to the other side of the road, take action kind of girls”…Go to the side where you are needed most and get your hands gloriously messy.

If where you are now is a little too safe and calculated, then maybe that is the very last place you are supposed to be. Just go ahead, go over and see what is waiting for you on the other side of the road. It might be the messiest thing you have ever done, but you might just be happier and more fulfilled than ever.

Much love to you,

Jennifer Renee

Photo by Crystl Licensed by CC 2.0

When it’s Time to Fight

Can I be honest?

It’s been a rough week. One of those “seriously if one more thing…” kind of weeks. It started out pretty subtle. A minor annoyance here, an unwanted thought there, but has continued to escalate to the point of a full out break-down with an ugly cry last night.

Then all the pieces fell together. Last night in the dark I asked Jesus to show me what was going on and He did.

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A week ago I apparently opened a can of worms with a little blog post. I’m not sure what happened but it went a bit more viral then I ever expected it would.

Almost two weeks ago I attended a conference with 800 women in ministry. Friday night Christine Cain started her powerful talk to us with this statement “Our enemy has always hated women, and women with a voice he has always detested.”

I agree with Christine. Satan puts a lot of effort behind silencing us from speaking truth. And when we choose to speak up, when we choose to bravely stand for truth; it seems to tick him off.

Last week I spoke up about something that was heavy on my heart. This week my family has been tormented at every turn. I can’t help but think the two things are connected.

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As soon as I made the connection I got mad. My tears dried up and I was ready to fight. I learned a long time ago how to fight the good fight of faith. I meet a lot of women who think it’s wrong to fight, but it’s not. I believe we are invited by God to fight. The problem is when we forget who we’re fighting for and who we’re fighting against.

For: in favor of; in support of: to advocate, to be on one’s side, to champion, encourage, esteem, to hold with honor, root for, support, value

Against: in opposition to; contrary to; adverse or hostile to; in resistance to or defense from, counter to, facing, in opposition to, opposed to, conflicting, incompatible

It’s time to fight! Time to fight for our kids, our friends, and our families. To fight for love, for truth, for justice. To fight against our enemy (not man, but Satan and the powers of darkness), to fight against sin and oppression and injustice.

God invites us into the battle. He asks us to take up our sword and wield it boldly against the enemy. He equips us for the fight. He is our shield and ever present help in time of trouble. He is our strength and our protection. He fights for us and against our enemy. And when we join Him in the battle we get a front row view of His power and might.

It’s okay to get mad. It is okay to raise our voice and shake our fist and call out our enemy on his sneaky schemes.

We have a real enemy. And sometimes he rears his ugly head and messes with our lives in a very obvious way. He is single-mindedly focused on our destruction. He wants to shake our faith and keep us silent. But… greater is He that is within you and me than he that is in the world.

Yes, it’s been a rough week. Yes, I’ve been attacked on every side. But I am not discouraged. I am equipped for the fight. I’m standing beside the ultimate Warrior, and I am not afraid.

~Keri

Are you in a battle this week? How can we fight for you in prayer? 

Photo by Wili_Hybrid Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by hmmlargeart. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Brave, Unearthed Hearts

Female Statue istockDo you ever feel like you have wasted countless moments in the pursuit of the American, white picket fence dream? I find it suffocating, this keeping up business. Sometimes more is just more and vast rooms decorated with the finest can’t satisfy an empty heart trying to find another thing to make the unhappiness disappear. Sure, I would love some more space in my tiny cottage but I refuse to trade things for time when all I really want is for my time to count.

Didn’t Peter say, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you…in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)

Money is spent and pockets are sometimes empty, but a bold prayer is never wasted on hearts willing to give up and walk.

If I had more money I would place it in your hand and cup your hand in mine…and wonder if it’s enough. Perhaps in that moment I could just love on you and pray like a beggar in the streets with an empty cup knowing that is the kind of desperate prayer that will shake the heavens and truly change things for the better.

I wonder if we’ve stopped walking in a place where our shadows could actually heal people, a place where we say that we will pray for others and then we don’t because our hearts have been hollowed out by a grownup, mass production of getting things done quicker.

Could we both give of our time and our money and beg for God to do the miraculous in and through us?

I have to believe that we can and that we must.

No one should waste these last days, this unfolding of time where the news rocks us to our core and reminds us that maybe, just maybe, the end is closer that we think.

Maybe God wants to unsettle our comfortable Christianity where we trade things and “more” for being someone we are proud of. A legacy of loving each other more than we love ourselves while we walk this dusty minefield of life. I just want to be so good at being the least of these that I don’t even know how to walk to the front of the line. I want to be the girl who is fine with being last because I don’t want to miss one single thing that God has in store for me waiting in the back of the serving line. Hollowed out hearts with their hands out their eyes ask a question, “Do you see me?”

“If there is a God, I need you to show Him to me.”

And sometimes we walk on by and try to avoid eye contact because it’s less messy and we don’t have to exercise uncomfortable, walking on water faith.

To say God has been dealing with my heart about this would be an understatement. He is in the business of rearranging my space and stopping me in my tracks…and I feel awakened and like my heart is being excavated. And it hurts.

She asked me if I was busy and if I had the time.

I looked around like, “Who, me?”

Our eyes met and I noticed her desperation, her car filled front-to-back with plastic bags and everything she owned in one, broken down car. It’s summertime so sweat happens, but she was covered in sweat and had swollen ankles.

“Yes, I have time. How can I help?”

She needed gas to get her to the next place; I knew I could help her and that I was supposed to make the time. So I did. I told her I would follow her to the gas station and pump her gas for her. Somehow she knew that I would follow her and make good on my word. I called my baby sister and asked her to pray. We’ve been doing crazy things like this for a long time. We come from a long line of givers; our Grandpa would have given you the shirt off his back. Sometimes I feel like he’s still with me when I lavishly give what I can.

It was still daylight when I pumped her gas and we talked for a little while as she shared her story. And I wanted to fix it and her, I wanted to take out all her plastic bags and figure out a better place to put them. I wanted to find her a place where her feet could rest and the swelling could subside while the sweat dried and her heart was truly tended to.

She looked at me as I finished pumping her gas and said, “You’re really brave.”

I nodded almost choking on my words, “I am brave.”

And crazy.

We smiled a slow, sad smile. She said something about Christian love and I don’t even remember what I said as we parted ways, but I cried all the way home with the cool air blowing in my face and my trunk full of groceries and a few things I didn’t need.

Why on earth would she look at me, all five-foot-four of me in my cute outfit pumping her gas, and see a brave girl inside of me?

I can’t for the life of me remember the words we shared, all I can remember is how her words wrecked me and how her brown eyes pierced through mine as she called me by my new name. Brave.

I want to be that kind of brave everyday, because time is short and I don’t know what tomorrow holds. So maybe if we take ahold of one brave moment at a time and be the girl that has the time to care…maybe we could change the world and live a life that matters.

No more safe picket fences.

No more wasting of time.

No more avoiding eye contact because the pain seems like more than we can handle. 

No more, I’m sorry…I just don’t have the time.

Just you and me with our wrecked, brave hearts grasping for unearthed miracles waiting as God excavates our hearts to make room a life that is set apart to be His hands and feet.

Be brave with me, will you? I can’t do this without you.

Much love,

Jennifer

 

 

My Unfolding, When Love Runs Towards You

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Almost seventeen years ago I told him to run and that loving me would be a little too messy for a pastor’s kid like him. He couldn’t help what his heart felt, love ran towards me instead of away. Sometimes messy, complicated love is what a structured renegade really wants.

He told me he would wait because he knew I was what he wanted. He stirred his hot tea and I felt sorry for my new best friend who made me feel safe. We were so different that everyone tried to keep us apart. My friends, his friends, my inner circle, his folks and even my mom had their doubts.

But love doesn’t run away from you, it runs towards you. We sure tried to listen to everyone, but we ran towards each other anyway.

Like the father ran towards the prodigal son, like a safe preacher’s son with a lovesick heart, he ran so hard towards me that love had to teach me how to run towards him.

God’s love stays the course even when the ride is bumpy and blinding and brutal. Even when loving messy, insecure hearts is baffling. Love still stays because it’s crazy-stubborn like that.

I still run sometimes, especially when I’m hurting or sick. I tried to run this weekend at a big conference reverting back to my ‘broken girl syndrome’ because I assume I’m only loved when I’m nice. Sweet. Annoyingly forgiving. Gah, that’s exhausting. I had nothing to give, but I gave anyways and God blew my mind, gave me new hearts to love, and open doors.

My heart knew who I could run to when I was sick, my Broken Girl BFF and soul sister, Keri. She took care of me, truth be told, she’s never witnessed me that ill or messed up.

She spoke truth into my heart like true friends do and she knew exactly what to do when my blood sugar level dropped so low I almost passed out. Later, she called me the equivalent of a spiritual lapdog who feels the need to stay by the side of someone who is hurting. She’s right. I run towards the hurting, but run away when I’m hurting and frail.

My heart gravitates towards certain people, our stories unfold and soon I understand why. Inside of our beating hearts is a gravitational pull, our hearts are like magnets. Together we are better and less twisted because in our brokenness we are the very same messy, complicated kind. The kind that lets us know we are not alone.

I still run, but this time I know who I can run to. Most of the time I just run to God like a rag doll and let him do His cutting surgery within. I’m so honest with Him, I always have been because His love pierces through me and sees every wrecked place. His love fixes me, His mercy is stronger than the frailty in me. His love makes me run toward Him and He runs to meet me.

I’m not the same girl my husband married sixteen years ago. I’m more confident and I’m less insecure. But sometimes when I’m weak and the furthest thing from the nice Southern girl who learned to turn the other cheek…I wonder if I’m still worth it. So I run away to my tender place with my first love, my Savior, and I’m reminded why He loves my fragile, complicated heart. And in that flailing moment, I know for certain I’m definitely worth it simply because I’m His girl and always will be.

Man, I wish I could be normal for like fifteen minutes…and then those fifteen minutes are up and I realize that those minutes were the most wasted, boring fifteen minutes of my life.

I can’t wait to share the rest of this Unfolding journey and the book I’ve been writing this year with you. I can’t wait for you to read more of Keri’s work…because it’s amazing and will help you. I’m her lapdog.

We are still Broken Girls, but this time it’s for a different reason, it’s for you and for the unfinished, unfolding story inside of you.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

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