Ask Big, Beth Johnson’s Broken Girl Story

I asked my friend, Beth Johnson, to share her story with us. I have watched Beth go through devastating circumstances and her strength and faith have moved me in so many ways. I love Beth…and I know you will too! 

~Jennifer

Beth's family

This past Sunday was unusually cool for early September, and we were unable to attend church due to my recovering from eye surgery and my son with a stomach virus. When I felt the inviting cool air I mentioned to my husband I would like to take a walk, and with a silent but understanding current passing between us he encouraged me to do so. So with nearly blind eyes, all covered with protective goggles and topped with awkward sunglasses he helped me find worship music on Pandora on my phone and I set out to walk our circle drive for some alone time.

Time alone or “me time” is very rare, and as my soul began to absorb the worship, and my skin the much needed sunshine, my tears began to fall. How had I sunk so far into depression so quickly? I have struggled with it on and off for years and of course I knew the answer for this latest episode and anyone that knows me would know the answer as well. But this year of all years I should be full of thankfulness and abundant joy. And thankful I truly am, but somehow I find myself completely empty, void of joy and to the point I was fearful for where I felt mentally and physically.

To make a long story short and one that I will save for another time, my eight-year-old son underwent lifesaving brain surgery this past April 1st, 2014. For years we had watched him decline, and then for two long weeks we watched not knowing if we would ever be able to take him home, or if God would call him to his eternal home. But God miraculously saved him and he is thriving.

I am sobbing by now, “Please feel my thankfulness.” I pray to my heavenly father. Even though I am empty I am so thankful. I will never forget what a miraculous healing God is doing in my son. I am humbled that he heard this mother’s cries for her son’s life. Months of much needed tears burst forth and in my currently near blind state and my gift for coordination I stumbled on a rock and nearly fell. Not a pretty picture I assure you. I had to laugh through my tears and was thankful we live out in the country where no one could see my current condition. Hot pink t-shirt, yoga shorts, layers of protective eye gear and hair that had not been touched for days. And then the symbolism hits me, just as the rock I nearly fell on. How had I come to this dark place so quickly? Surrender and Trusting. If there has been one thing I feel God has been trying to change in me for the past 9 years of my life, it would be surrender and trust. I am a Blood Type A, OCD, and schedule everything. But it is the only way I can keep up with the demands life has given me. But in this, I know I have to lean on him, surrender my will and ideals, and trust that with his strength I can carry the loads I have been given. And foremost to trust he still loves me and sees where I am and what I need. I continued to cry and prayed for forgiveness for continuously plunging ahead thinking I could work full time, take care of a recovering disabled child, keep up with a teenage daughter and be an attentive wife as well as keep up with laundry and meals, all without his help. All without taking the needed time alone with him and for time I need for me. I’ve been a Christian since childhood, I know how to answer well-meaning people who say “I don’t know how you do it” to which I smile and say “All with God’s help,” but it’s so easy to say and yet I have never learned to surrender and truly accept that help. Especially when that “help” might mean stopping and doing nothing or taking time for myself.

“Bless the Lord Oh My Soul” came on Pandora and I tried to sing through my abundance of tears, entering into deep worship before the throne of God. And as my heart surrenders I tell my heavenly father, “I am done, I am empty, and I can’t see hope. I can’t keep going like this.” I had scared my husband and myself with the words I had spoken just the day before, “The week after surgery when I was all drugged up on pain pills and slept for a week was like heaven to me.” I had prepared ahead easy menus, my sweet and helpful mother-in-law was helping with the kids, and all I had to do was sleep. And as I had to come off all that medication and got back to life, the terrifying realization hit me; I didn’t want to do anything but sleep, to hide, to not have to feel or take care of anyone.

Now that sounds like a strong Christian woman whose son had been miraculously healed only five months earlier doesn’t it? But the truth is, although God is healing my son’s seizures, unless God has other plans and more intense healings Zane will always be disabled and have Hemi Plegia Cerebral Palsy. The daily struggles of feedings, behavior issues, health issues, lack of sleep, school nightmares all while having to play these many roles was not going to change. And please do not get me wrong, I love my children, my son is a rare gift God chose to bless me with, I child I begged God for and prayed into this world. But unless you have a child with special needs, there is no way you can possibly realize the work, the extreme stress and tears that go into raising these precious gifts. So I continue to pray and cry out for help as I walk and look around at my dream home and lovely yard my husband built for me seven years ago. Seven years ago that I jumped ahead of God’s will and talked my husband into building this house that we would struggle to keep for years to come. More tears come as I again repent of my charging ahead and being led by my emotions. God had revealed to me years back as I prayed through a financial struggle that I had used the building of this beloved house to try and comfort and heal the pain and disappointment of having a disabled child. I am not proud of the huge mistakes I make, but I know he has forgiven me. But regardless, when you get out of God’s will or rush it too soon; there will be consequences. My consequence is to work full time. This all happened before I knew Zane would face such terrible health issues and I would struggle to work and keep up physically and mentally. But God knew what was to come, and I often wonder how changed life might be if I had not blindly jumped and had waited for His timing.

In my praying I began to plead for help. “Give me more energy, strength, healing to my body so I can get out of bed every day and be a good wife and mother knowing the struggles I will face.” Just then the song “Mighty to Save” came on and the specific line, “Savior he can move the mountains, my God is mighty to save” came on. And almost audibly the Lord spoke to me, “Beth ask big!” And I just stopped and wept the deepest, most healing tears. Again he whispered, “Ask big Beth.” And the most beautiful peace came over me. This God, my heavenly father who loves me though I jump ahead of his plans more than naught, was urging me to ask him for bigger things. I nearly dropped to my knees. “How can I ask you for more than I already have? I have a beautiful home you have provided for us to keep, a loving husband, beautiful daughter and you are healing my son and restoring him to me. I do not dare ask for more.” My heart whispers in return. What an unworthy child I felt like, getting in over my head and then crying for help and waiting until I could go no more until I surrendered all to him. The word “Trust” pressed on my heart strongly. So I began to worship, walking with vigor, in humble awe that my savior could love me so much and want to give me more than I could even think of asking for. And so in trusting him, I did, I asked. I asked “Big”.

When I came back inside the house with red swollen eyes my husband said, “Your better!” And I smiled, “Yes, I am.”

Ephesians 3:20 (KJV) says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his purpose that is at work ,within us.”

I encourage you, do not let your feelings of inadequacy keep you from feeling like you are a child of the ALL MIGHTY GOD, and I encourage you to ASK BIG!

With Love,

Beth Johnson

Restored, Michelle Bollom’s Broken Girl Story

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To fully understand my story, you have to know my history with brokenness. I was a broken girl from as far back as I can remember. My first fracturing came when my parents divorced when I was too young to even remember my parents together. My dad got custody of my two sisters and me while my two brothers went to live with my mom. Little did I know, we would not see our mother again for several years. My dad was broken. My mom was broken. My whole family was broken.

All the years of fighting and the tug of war of divorce left a vulnerable child without adequate protection who became an easy target for others. The next fracturing came from sexual abuse from not just one, but also numerous people who were in my life from the age of seven to around twelve. From that abuse I became good at self-blame and began my search for love in all the wrong places. As I grew up I attracted broken people myself. I lived most of my life trying to pretend I was not broken. I was out of balance in almost all areas of my life. I was a person that carried those secrets for far too many years. I learned to operate in a false self, burying my secrets deep. Smiling on the outside to cope with those feelings of guilt and shame from my buried secrets, I tried to medicate with alcohol, drugs, shopping, and sex. There is no balance in brokenness.

I married a wonderful man in 1996 that did not know of my brokenness. When I became a mother three years later to twins, I was fractured by post-partum depression and then medically-induced menopause after a total hysterectomy. With my emotions now out of control I became a workaholic to try and escape the despair I felt, as I became a broken mother. I ran my family into credit card debt three different times from buying things to compensate for my guilt of being an absent mother.  I also bought things to fill all the aching voids I felt inside.

My next fracturing was the one that almost shattered me. In the spring of 2006, my brother died suddenly. He had lost his battle with addiction. By this time I had learned to hide my brokenness in the church pews practicing religious rituals. However, because of his death, I became very angry at God. I wanted nothing to do with Him. That summer, I found The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It was a life-changing book for me. I made a barter with God that if He was all that people claimed He was, I would follow Him…if He would deliver me from my smoking addiction. He was faithful and took that addiction away from me in 2007. I began finding comfort for my brokenness in God and His word, but still I did not fully trust God enough to surrender all my secrets to Him. In 2008, at age 38, I was fractured by a stroke that later uncovered diabetes. Right after came another fracture from my Dad’s sudden death later that same year. The months following my stroke led to an overload of doctors and diagnoses. Looking back now, I realize that all my health issues were a manifestation of trying to keep my secrets buried and turning to everything for comfort except God, The Greatest Comforter. I had revealed my secrets to my husband and a few others over the years, but it wasn’t until I released my secrets to God and became obedient to Him to let Him use them, as He wanted to that He could finally do some of His best restorative and transforming work in my life. It is true, “We are only as sick as our secrets.”

My secrets of abuse, addiction, and debt were bad, but my biggest brokenness was from a secret I had buried for over 20 years. Abortion. Abortion affects 1.3 million women each year. It is the one topic that gets people really fired up. I have been in churches where pastors went on and on about the Sanctity of Life and many so-called Christians got so riled up over the subject that they came across as condemning. Condemnation from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ only tends to make the isolation and shame worse for many wounded women.  I saw no one offering to help restore lives after the effects of abortion or reaching out to these women to offer them Hope.

When I saw all my brokenness that was weighing me down by the shame and guilt I was carrying from my secrets, I cried out to God. He knew all my brokenness all along. He was waiting for me to release all of it to Him so that He could use it for His Glory. I wrestled with God for two years before I let go of the fear and let God strengthen me to the point of sharing my secrets with the world.

I clung to this verse in some of my darkest moments:  

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10 AMP).

God did strengthen and settle me, but I was desperate to overcome my brokenness. Then one day I saw: “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the words of their testimony;” (Revelations 12:11)

That was it! God was confirming to me that we only overcome by sharing our “Broken Girl Stories.” Sharing how God has restored us. There are far too many Broken Girls not operating in the best that God has for them. Whether that secret be abortion, abuse, unplanned pregnancy, not finishing school or college, yelling at your kids, anger at your spouse, vanity, a critical or judgmental spirit, cursing like a sailor, having an affair, getting a divorce, self-hate, turning to pills, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, work, volunteering, or food for escape or comfort. It doesn’t matter what it is, God can use it all to create something beautiful out of our brokenness. Vulnerability is not weakness; it is courage! We can’t repair our stories until we share our stories. The broken, the ugly, and the messy. Real Wholeness from our brokenness begins when we release ALL the broken pieces, all our (secrets, sins, struggles) to God. Only when we release it are we able to obtain real emotional deliverance.

My hope is that everyone will begin to Live R.E.S.T.O.R.E.D.

~XXOO Michelle Bollom                                Michelle Bollom is Founder of Restored Ministries, http://www.restoredministries.org    Michelle's profile pic

Happily married to Joe for 18 years and mom to twins Connor and Curran. Michelle resides in the North West Suburbs of Houston, TX.  She is a Lover of Jesus, words, and enjoys encouraging others.

 

 

The Story Without Ending, Julia Miller’s Broken Girl Story

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Sometimes God places you somewhere and you have no idea why, but later it all comes together and you realize that you didn’t just sit down at a table with a few women you’ve never met…you were placed there to help someone cry a little and know that they are not alone. I met Julia Miller this summer at She Speaks and instantly loved her and felt like her story needed to be told here on Broken Girl. I know you will love Julia as much as I do. ~Jennifer Renee

Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  In my fifth grade classroom, I teach my students this very simple reading strategy.  

“Look for the conflict, then tell me the plot events that lead to the resolution,” I say.  

We learn at an early age that a story must have an ending, and in most cases, it is a happily-ever-after ending.  

However, when asked to share my story, my first thought was one of self-doubt.

“I can’t share my story.  I don’t have any answers yet.  It won’t help anyone because so much has been left unresolved.”  

I can share the conflict, and the beginning plot events.  I can weave hope into the story, however I can’t yet share an ending.  

Once upon a time….last October, after a summer of invasive and time consuming fertility-based testing, and two rounds of a fertility drug that had frighteningly strong emotional side effects, my regular ob-gyn told me that he could no longer help me, and referred me to a fertility clinic.  

That was on a Tuesday.  

I called the fertility clinic, scheduled the first available appointment, and stomped around the house for the rest of the week.  I cried and I yelled and felt very lonely.  Fertility struggles are often private, and isolating.  Everyone around me had beautiful, healthy babies, and I was on the deserted island of reproductively challenged women.  I was angry that my journey to become a mother was going to be a difficult one, and I was furious that my body was “broken”.

This news was heartbreaking.  I had no idea…

The following Sunday morning, as my husband and I were getting ready to go to church, my father rang our doorbell.

I toasted us English muffins, poured orange juice and coffee, and we sat together at the dining room table.  After I finished my breakfast, my dad reached across the table and took my hand.  

He very softly said, “There is no easy way to say this.  Your little brother has gone to be with the Lord.”  

My beautiful, 27-year-old, talented, smart, funny, beloved baby brother Matt lost his struggle to addiction on October 18th, that previous Friday night.  My mom and dad found out on Saturday.  My sister and I were told on Sunday morning.  

My world came crashing down.  I know that sounds cliche, but that is how October of 2013 felt to me.    

I wish that my continued “plot events” would be that my family is healing in our grief gracefully and easily, and that we have been blessed with a baby to bring new life and joy back to our lives.  

It has not been such a neatly written story.  My mom still cries every, single day.  My dad bought them a new house because the memories of our childhood home are often too painful to bear.  My sister grieves quietly, not always sharing her pain.  I know she breaks down when she is alone.  I fell apart in the grocery store last Saturday, when I saw Matt’s favorite yellow-smiley face bakery cookies.  I had to leave the church foyer on Sunday, when two women with beautiful baby girls were standing in front of me as I walked out of the sanctuary.  I lost my first pregnancy in May.  That little life went straight to Heaven and is with Uncle Matt.   

Here is the thread of hope in my story…

The despair will fade.  Just as stars break through the dark night sky, joy will begin to intersperse itself through the pain.

Did I also laugh on the day that I broke down over cookies?  Yes.  Am I persevering in my journey to become a mother, and praying fervently along the way?  Absolutely.  Is my family coming together tonight to eat dinner on the back porch, catch up, and love one another?  With God’s healing hand guiding us, we will never stop gathering together.

God brings healing slowly but surely.  The pain is not so acute, and the fear for the future is slowly dissipating.  We will always miss Matt.  I will never give up on trying to become a mother.  And while many hours still are painful, I can honestly say that they are less painful.  Nothing can be as awful as last October.  And while many days are still uncertain, they are less uncertain.  I know that I will be a mom, in the time and way that God has planned for me.     

I would rather become a mother in a time that is ordained by God than myself.  I wish I could hear Matt laugh, see his smile, wrap my arms around him and hold him close, call him to tell him that he is going to be an uncle…but not at the expense of him being sick and in pain.  

God has a perfect plan, to keep us safe, to protect us, and guide us.  I hold fast to this verse, in my times of weakness and fear of the ending to my story:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

When it is time for my “resolution”, I will happily go to meet Jesus and hug my brother.  For now, I am excited to witness the story that God has written for my life.  

 ~Julia Miller

Julia Miller's family

Matt, me, my husband Jeremiah, and sister Colleen.  We were so happy together, but we will be even happier someday in Heaven.

Julia Miller is a Chicago girl living in the suburbs who loves the Lord, her husband, her family and friends. Julia writes in an attempt to heal, share hope, and maybe even a little bit of humor. You can read more of Julia’s writing over here.Julia's bio pic

Updates

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Hi friend!

We’re so thankful for each one of you and this community here at Broken Girl.

As Jennifer told you last week, we’ve received some good advice from friends, mentors, and professionals who are all encouraging us to create our own sites with our own content. To say we’ve drug our feet about that is an understatement. We simply love this space here, and we love doing ministry together.

Here’s the good news, none of that is going to change! We’ll still be here on a regular basis unpacking what makes us Broken Girls tick and discovering together how God wants to mend all of our broken places. If you’d like to be a part of that, we’d love to hear your Broken Girl Story. You can submit that here.

In addition to Broken Girl, you now have access to Jennifer and I in another location, and we’d love to connect with you there as well! You can find Jennifer at her new lovely home here, and I (Keri) will be posting when I get the chance over here.

Would you do us a favor? We’d love to get your input on our new blogs. Can you stop by and take a tour and let us know what you think? While you’re there we’d be so honored if you’d consider subscribing and if you’d like to share with your friends we’d be overjoyed.

If you’d like to see what we’ve been up to this week here’s a sneak peak:

Years ago a classy lady that I absolutely adore walked up to me and grabbed my hands. I knew a moment was coming. As we held each other’s hands I waited on her to find words to say to me.

Words can linger in lonely moments and be a reminder of connected hearts and moments shared. With one carefully crafted sentence you could set a heart free and be the catalyst for a life-altering change. I want my words to be a lifeline, not a vast ocean for others to drown in.

During that season of life when I felt like I was sinking, I held onto her sweet hands and listened.

“You have such an amazing life. You really do. The things that you are doing, the open doors, and the ministry that you do weekly…you really lead such an amazing life.”

In my heart I asked a question, “Then why don’t I love it more?”

Read the rest of “Unnecessary Baggage” here… 

 

“I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don’t know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness.” ― Anaïs Nin

“This makes me mad!” She had emailed me a link to another article from another Christian organization with the same tired points about why singles should be joyful and uncomplaining in their current season.

There was nothing wrong with the article. It made the exact same (good) points that every other article addressed to single Christians made. It was just one little line that set her off. Just nine little words; “there should be no lonely people in our churches.”

If you’ll allow me, I’m going to beg to differ.

Read the rest of “The Lonely Soul” here… 

We truly do love you ladies and pray for you often. Thanks for supporting us and each other.

With love~

Keri

P.S. Later this week we’ll be sharing a crazy awesome Broken Girl story with you. I can’t tell you more now… you’ll just have to wait!

Photo by Lign Nguyen Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Dry Bones, Hope for Disappointed Hearts

 

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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…

angrygirl

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?

memories

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.