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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Fifty Shades of Confusion

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The first thing you notice about Jasmine is a smile that lights up a room and soft, welcoming eyes. But, sit down with her for just a few minutes and you’ll be surprised by the road she’s traveled. I was surprised to learn that this beautiful, put-together mom spent six years of her life trapped in the sex industry where she was beaten, abused and turned to drugs to cope with the reality of a life she never agreed to.

~

She slid the heavy packet of papers across the table to me; I could tell that her heart was even heavier. I started thumbing through the documents as she started talking. “These girls… they’re right here in our community and they have nowhere to go. I want to open a safe home for them. A place for them to go and recover from the hell they’ve been ensnared in. Human trafficking shouldn’t exist here, not in our neighborhood. How do we help them?”

~

She could barely talk through her tears, “Our marriage is falling apart. He pays more attention to those girls on his computer screen than he does to me. I’ll never measure up; I’ll never be enough for him. I hate myself and can’t do this anymore.”

~

I fasten my seat belt and pull a new book out of my bag as the plane makes its way down the runway. Through the author’s words I’m instantly transported from my safe seat on the airplane to a shipping container filled with 59 women. Women who were deceived into thinking that new life and new opportunities awaited them on a distant shore, but discovered too late they would be joining the 27 million enslaved in human trafficking around the world.

~

I log onto Facebook after being off line for a few days and find my news feed filled with posts from women who are “so excited” and “can’t wait to see” a new movie coming out in a few months. The movie? Fifty Shade of Grey. 

Can I be honest? I am so confused.

I’m confused by the message we are sending our daughters. We’ve fought for decades and generations to be treated as equals. We’ve fought to be seen as people and not as objects. We’ve fought for our right to say no to unwanted sexual advances. Why would we, through reading this book and watching this movie (and others like it), risk confusing our daughters with the message we are sending them?

I’m confused by the message we are sending our sons. We’ve declare that no one has the right to sexualize us or enslave us. We’ve fought for stricter punishments for domestic violence and date rape. We teach our sons to honor and protect women. What message do we send them when we tell Hollywood that the brutalization of women isn’t just okay but it’s what we want them to make movies about?

When women say yes to Fifty Shades I wonder if we confuse the men who buy little girls for their own selfish pleasure. I wonder about the message we are sending to husbands and sons who are wrapped up and consumed by their addiction to pornography. I wonder what message we are sending to businessmen who travel internationally and are offered their choice of women to satisfy any desire they have. What message are we sending to men who have been taught that no means no when we send a book to the New York Times bestseller list that says our no means yes?

We can’t say no to human trafficking and yes to erotic novels.

We can’t say no to date rape and yes to Anastasia Steel.

We can’t say no to pornography and yes to Fifty Shades of Grey.

We can’t say no to the victimization of women and hand Hollywood millions of dollars when they produce movies like this for our entertainment.

We can’t pretend that us reading a sexually explicit book and a 12 year old girl’s body being sold a dozen times a day aren’t connected because they are. We either stand up for the rights of women or we don’t.

My friend asked me an interesting question the other day. “How on earth are so many girls trapped in the sex industry if we all have mothers?” It’s a valid question. What mother wouldn’t fight with every ounce of strength in her body to rescue her daughter from a predator? Yet, as women, as mothers, we are not fighting. We are not raising our voices and saying “no more”. We are not going into the darkness and rescuing the daughters. We are sitting poolside with our worn paperbacks and in dark movie theatres with buttered popcorn and we’ve forgotten this war we are in. And, ladies, we are in a war. When we allow ourselves to be entertained by movies like this the enemy wins.

Contrary to what E L James might say, there is no grey here.

~Keri

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. – Ephesians 4:19

Join the fight against Human Trafficking. Learn about how you can help through A21, Project Rescue, or other ministries rescuing daughters around the world.

Photo by Cedric Lange. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Scary Beauty of Becoming

Whitley,Flower child

My tribe fist-pumps the air and says, “Go chase those dreams, girl.” They cheer via text and instant messages telling me that they see me and want this for me and for my daughters. They want this for all of us. The women juggling motherhood and life in our tiny village as we wrestle with mom-guilt and trying to have it all together for our families while falling completely apart…because it’s hard.

I’m just trying to do all the things and remember where I put all the things. And let me just say, the ‘things’ are falling through some really big cracks right now like appointments, event planning, social calendars, and church life. Right now I’m so tired that I think a real Sabbath is somewhere absent of people, lists of things I need to be doing, and such. My Sabbath is coming…it’s called a vacation and I can’t wait.

I never miss appointments. But, I do now. I rarely miss church. But, I do now. And you know what? God is not mad, because I go to church all the time because I love Jesus and our ministry and the people. My tribe is not mad. What we do makes them tired as they shake their heads wondering what it’s like to be on call all of the time. My husband/preacher man is not mad, you know why? Because he sees me doing the really hard, diligent work of faith, family, work, and then all the other really important things that I love. My family and my tribe sees that I am still the woman that keeps showing up for life, while checking out when needed, because I am the only one in charge of taking care of my body and heart. I know what it needs, this body and heart of mine, and I have to be smart enough to pull back and say ‘no’ without feeling horrible about it.

God whispers to all of us…

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28 NIV)

He gives us rest, not lists.

And I just keep coming wrecked, tired, and somehow so unbelievably happy because I know I’m doing what He has called me to do. Even if my fuse is shorter and my days seem longer, He loves me just as I am. He is enough even when my two, really hardworking hands aren’t. Even when my mommy-brain is full and on the verge of shorting out, His grace is sufficient and enough for the ‘not enough’ in me.

I have at least ten thank you cards to fill out and sign, and I really want to send those this year before the moment passes and before I completely forget what I am thanking them for. I have all these lists and none of them say: Rest. Slow down, honey child, you don’t have to do all of this yourself.

But, it should.

Our list should say:

Mark as much as you can off.

The things you can’t get done; make those tiny people that look like you do some of them. It won’t kill them. You did chores and it didn’t kill you. Write their names next to some of the things they should be doing themselves. Like now.

I know you are a big girl and all, but let yourself cry when you hear your Momma’s voice. It helps. You’ll feel better by simply feeling small again, and like a train-wreck who still needs her Momma because she gets you. She’s been watching you freak out about things that matter to you for a really long time. So, it’s okay. She’ll tell you she’s praying, then pause to say, “I’ll take your kids while you are away? Will that help?”

And you’ll say, “Yes…just yes, that is what we all need. Please take these little people away and spoil them. That will make me feel better.”

The truth is ladies, you who dream big dreams; our vision is always bigger than us because it’s not just about you. It’s about all the tiny ones hanging on your leg and asking you for juice. It’s about that man who loves you so much and is just a tiny bit afraid of you right now. It’s about those cheering and texting and loving you in the ways they know how. A hug. A meal. A backrub. A kiss and a prayer and a slap on the tired, Momma booty saying, ‘Go get ‘em!’

This passion inside of us has always been there, that calling that happened before we said ‘I do’.

My call happened before motherhood and crying in the floor because I was pretty sure that nursing a hungry 9 lb. 14 oz. newborn baby was going to happen every hour-and-a-half for the rest of eternity, but it didn’t. I blinked and she was a year old eating stale Cheerios off the floor. And now she’s nine and you would never know she was ever that hungry. All. The. Time.

I blinked and my firstborn is eleven and in a training bra, but we don’t really know what she’s training for. And we are super freaked out because once they get, you know, boobs it is really, really awkward. And they start crying again. All. The. Time.

And all of a sudden you’re the Mom she wants to tell all the awkward things and cry to because you know her inside and out. You’ll be the one telling her how to do all the things and hug her when she doesn’t even know why she’s crying.

In that moment, all the chasing of dreams happens in a purple bedroom with dirty, preteen clothes on the floor and artwork and journals scattered about just like it was when you were eleven, awkward, and becoming something that you were so afraid of…a little lady who dreams scary, big dreams.

I really don’t want a list today, but I still have to make one. I really don’t even mind that I need rest and a long nap. I just want a day with these tiny ladies and messages from my posse reminding me that I can do life called and set apart and sometimes torn apart.

I can do all things through Christ, but sometimes I can’t remember all the things and that’s okay too. I have waited on the timing of God and the timing of life and motherhood. Waiting has been hard. Going for it is harder. Sometimes I’m killing it and on bad days, it’s killing me. But, to stop the pursuing of really big dreams would just be crazy. I’ve already lived in the land were people perish and dreams are silly to some and just a chasing and grasping for wind. I’ve been the girl with a blank stare and dormant heart, but when dreams wake up on purpose, for such a time as this, don’t you dare let anything stop you…especially not yourself. 

If your dream doesn’t scare you, be unafraid to ask God to breathe again into the depths of your heart. Let him teach you how to wait and how to be diligent…and how to go get em’ when it’s time. Don’t be afraid of the vision that is bigger than you, because it’s not just about you…it’s about all of the ones who get to ride along with you on the crazy ride.

I’ll be here cheering for you every step of the way!

Love you like crazy,

Jennifer Renee

Photo cred: The darling, Kylie Swank

 

It’s Supposed to be Hard

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Remember the movie from the early 90’s A League of Their Own? It’s about two sisters who join an all-female baseball league during World War II. The older sister, played by Geena Davis, is by far the better player and soon becomes the star of the league. Her team is doing well and makes it to the league’s first World Series. Days before the series begins, her husband returns home from Germany after being wounded in the foot. By this time it is apparent that she loves baseball and is passionate about the game. When her husband returns home she decides to quit the league and return home without playing in the World Series. Her manager, played by Tom Hanks, tries to talk her into staying. He tells her that it’s obvious that she loves baseball and if she quits now she will live with a lifetime of regret. She answers, “It just got too hard.” At that moment he gets very serious and leans in closer and says, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

It’s supposed to be hard.

We live in a culture that says it’s supposed to be easy.

Grey hair? Nice ‘n Easy

Sagging skin? Two minute facial mask

Hungry? Hit the drive through

In a hurry? On-line banking

Tough boss? Get a new job

Failing marriage? Get a new spouse

Browse through the Sunday adds and over and over you’ll see it: Quick! Easy! Time saving! Oven ready! Just add water! Instant! Fully cooked!

Everything around us tells us life should be easy. Except the Word of God.

God’s Word tells us it’s supposed to be hard.

Wait. Pray. Seek. Persevere. Press.
Trust. Follow. Deny. Fight. Run.
Turn from sin. Crucify your flesh. Carry your cross.
Turn the other cheek. Give to the poor.
Love your enemies. Speak the truth.

According to the Bible life is hard. And I’ve noticed that the more you trust God, the bigger risks you take in following Him, the harder it gets.

I’ve been praying a simple prayer lately, “Lord, help me to do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.” Everywhere I look He is showing me examples of the hard, but good, way to live.

This weekend I watched two movies, Jobs and The Help. Both of them were stories of people who were trying to accomplish something while facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges along the way. Then I spent some time on Saturday with a group of people who are choosing hard every day; brave families who have opened their homes as safe places for any child to come and find love and security. That kind of love is hard to give.

God is asking us to step out of our comfort zones and into hard places. He’s asking us to be brave in the big and small moments of life. To risk loving, to risk giving, to risk speaking… to say yes to the hard, when we know it is good.
Is it scary? Yes

Is it safe? Absolutely not

Is it worth it? Yes. Yes! A thousand times yes!

Why? Because it’s the hard that makes us lean on Jesus. It’s the hard that makes us bow our knee in surrender. It’s the hard that makes others pay attention. It’s the hard that brings forth fruit. It’s the hard that brings glory to Christ.

It’s the HARD that makes it GREAT!!!!

If my choice in life is easy and average or hard and great…. Lord, LET ME CHOSE HARD!!

~Keri

Photo by Ron Zanoni. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Girls, I Don’t Think You’re A Problem: You’re A Beautiful Solution

God is within her. Ps 46:5

As women we feel the pressing noose of comparison until we allow God to set us free. Sometimes we are the ones who tighten the noose and make it so tight we feel our breath leave us and our voice trails off into silence.

For about ten years I have removed the noose. As in, placed my hands on the jagged rope and loosened it until I could safely slip it off and trash it.

The only way we can correct a lie is with truth. I did word-searches in the Bible and studies on certain things, or wrong thoughts, that were tripping me up. I cried. I prayed. I wrote feverishly into my journal about things that ticked me off, things that inspired me, and prayers on paper. My freedom cry happened on bended knee and paper dreams. But, the journey was never meant for only me.

When we start a freedom journey to wholeness we give others permission to do the same thing. We miss out on really awesome things if we say things like, “I’m too much of a mess to make a difference.”

Your mess has a very powerful message; so don’t be afraid to use your best words and sometimes your worst words until you figure out how to tell your brave, messed up story.

I talked for hours with friends and heard phrases like, “Me too” and “What can we do to help women be free from this?”

We spilled out our thoughts across the table, shared a meal, and found our message. The freedom journey is sweeter when we take others with along for the wild, beautiful ride. Our connective thread that brings us girls together in those sacred moments of wrestling is this:

God is within us and will work through us.

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” (Ps 46:5 NIV)

And, we are stronger together than we ever were standing scared and alone.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecc 4:9-12 NIV)

In many ways this is where big girls learn to hold hands again like they did when they were little.

If there is one thing I know about myself it’s this, I get girls. I just do. I have sisters, one of them my flesh and blood and is kind of like my other half. We are day and night different and yet somehow our mannerisms are so much alike. I adore her, am amazed by her, and I still love to dig in her closet all these years later. Together we are better and sometimes double the trouble. And even in our late thirties, we still say things like, “Don’t tell Mom.”

We were always compared. I hated it then. I still hate it now because day and night are equally glorious in my mind. You can’t have one without the other. When day runs out of sunlight and trees cast long shadows, we know the bright moon will show us its face and bring a beauty in our darkness. And isn’t it magical, these different kinds of light?

As a mother of two “day and night” daughters, I find myself holding my breath as people compare them. Like one is better than the other and I can’t see it because my love is unconditional for both of them. I only see two very different, world changers that light my world on fire and bring me such joy and sometimes madness. Because where there are little girls you will find a little bit of drama or a lot depending on the moment.

But sorry, I just don’t believe that girls are a problem and only capable of drama. I think that in time and as they grow they will be beautiful solutions and nurturers to those around them. Right now is the hard, figuring it out part. That’s called parenting and it’s the hardest, best thing I’ll ever do.

I kiss those girls when they start to cry.

I sternly correct them when it’s needed and I see something that needs to be addressed. I lovingly guide them and fiercely protect them because I know what a true gift I have in my day and night girls…and I wouldn’t change who they are for anything or who they are becoming. Even when it’s stinking hard and I want to pull my hair out.

I will always be the mom asking them to dance to a different beat if they want to. And when they write a messy song with misspelled words, I’ll ask them to sing it for me because I see how deep a nine-year-old drama queen can be. And I figure she’ll be taking me on trips one day if we are still on a ministry salary…

I see how diligent an eleven-year-old firstborn can be, how she craves the constant and needs a play-by-play of what our day might look like. I take her hand and say, “Make room for the spontaneous, you don’t have to always know what is coming next.” But, I’ll never ask her to not plan and make lists, because it’s apart of her and I love that.

I see the spark and passion in my tiny one and I rebuff the idea of “breaking her spirit” or asking her to be more “in-the-box” and easier to contain because I believe with all my heart that loving parenting, discipline with great fear and trembling, and bringing her up in knowledge of God will be exactly what she needs most.

By all means, baby girl, don’t you dare try to be like everyone else. How dull this world would be if we only had a one-size-fits-all mentality.

Shine the way and teach us how to be brave and small at the same time.

When you walk up to a complete stranger with compassion in your heart and ask them if you can pray with them…I ask God to show all the big girls how to be small again and give way to the miraculous inside of us. Hearts like that inherit the Kingdom, so don’t you dare forget that little girls say simple, powerful prayers and make a wounded stranger know they are loved and seen by God and by the smallest, unpredictable lady in training.

By all means, predictable firstborn, plan and schedule away…if that is what makes you feel comfortable in your changing skin. I’ll always have planners and paper for you, I think you will change the world and organize it later. I love the wheels that constantly turn and how you want to do so much, but have no idea where to start. But, don’t you dare for one-second doubt you can’t handle the change that is coming because I’ve watched you in amazement for eleven, short years and I know you can do all things through Christ, baby girl. And you’ll need to learn how to hustle…because sixth grade is brutal and you’ll be late to everything if you have to show up perfect.

You might always be picked last for the sportsy games at recess, I’m sorry about that. You get that from me.

You might pee in your pants sitting on second base like I did in the first grade and figure out that cheering for others is what you do best. So cheer. Be the girl that celebrates what you cannot do and clap till your hands hurt and the dusty pee stain dries. You’ll laugh about it later, I pinkie promise.

And when the jealousy comes, and trust me it will, cheer louder until you can’t hear it telling you that you’re supposed to be better at something you hate doing anyways.

You will have a lifetime to figure out what you love and what you want. Try it all if you want, even if it scares you a little. Or makes you pee in your pants. It happens.

There will be days you wished you were like your little sister.

Or like your big sister.

Or like an airbrushed star on the cover of a magazine. Lord, I hope not.

Oh, what you will miss out on in life trying to be something that you are not…when who you are becoming is your greatest gift to God, to me, and to the world.

Maybe you’ll be an overachiever. Maybe you won’t care what others think at all. Maybe you’ll make messy art and wreck every surface and tabletop in our house.

Make art anyways.

Make a mess.

Be a mess.

Clean up your mess.

And I’m going to be there to help you make art and figure out how to lead and how to follow…and that some boys are punks. Don’t even get me started.

And sweet Jesus, I’m going to need some help with the preteen, and in between, and the fifty shades of awkward that just invaded our tiny cottage.

I flashback to the moments of watching you walk up to the unknown little girls at parks and poolside and hearing you say this…

“Hi. Do you want to be friends?”

An introduction and an invitation, then blank stares from wanting to belong turn to smiles as you would take each others hand and rush off to play with sweet sunshine and summertime on your faces.

Sweet, grownup girls,

Don’t let your blank stares from wanting to belong and quick default of comparison be the noose around beautiful necks. Reject the idea that different from you is wrong, or that your gloriously differentness is a mistake or doesn’t fit.

Let’s skip and trip and be beautifully awkward together because hand-in- hand we are always better.

Much love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Cave Road

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My car was packed and loaded with teenagers, suitcases, snacks, and one mom who was so beyond ready to get out of town and head to a cabin in the woods for a few days. We were making good time with the cruise control set on 65 and gorgeous scenery rolling by outside of the windows. In just a few short hours we would be at the cabin where there would be no work, no agenda, no schedule. Just days filled with fun.

Then we turned down Peter Cave Road.

Y’all, never in my life have I experience a road like this one, and I grew up in the country. I’ve seen my fair share of treacherous dirt roads, but none of them had prepared me for this. I should have known we were in for a ride when I saw the sign on the side of the road “dangerous road ahead, 4 wheel drive recommended”. I hesitated when I saw the sign, but my GPS told me to turn left, so I did.

I had no idea what we were getting into.

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Five miles. Five miles of dirt road stood between us and the cabin. I know dirt roads well enough to know that five miles might take about 20 minutes, but not this dirt road. This road and these five miles took us over an hour. Several times we came to a complete stop before proceeding. Once we had to get out and move a tree limb out of our way. Every muscle in my body was tense as we headed uphill and then downhill with hairpin turns, steep drop offs, and pot holes like you’ve never seen before.

My daughter was holding my phone and counting down the tenths of a mile as we climbed our way up the mountain. Every tenth of a mile was celebrated as if we’d traveled a hundred miles. I began to wonder if we would ever make it.

road

Over an hour later we did. When we pulled into the drive way and saw the cabin the car erupted in celebration. I’ve never wanted to kiss the ground before, but I did in that moment. We had done it, we survived.

The next morning I woke up early and quietly left the cabin to go sit on the porch and watch the sun rise over the Buffalo River. I kept thinking about that car ride and our harrowing adventure. The worst part was; we didn’t have to spend an hour of our lives on Peter Cave Road. My GPS chose for us to go down a road we didn’t have to. If we had only traveled a few miles further down the highway there was another road that would have brought us to the cabin without all the drama.

Isn’t life like that sometimes?

Sometimes we find ourselves traveling down a road we never would have chosen for ourselves. A road so long and treacherous that we wonder if it will ever end. A road that keeps us tense, single minded, and desperate. A road that is so slow going and unending that we begin to question everything. “How much longer?” “Will this ever end?” “Are we lost?” “Should we go back?” “Will we survive this?” “How did we get here?”

I learned a few things driving up Peter Cave Road that I think might be important to remember when life leads us down a dangerous road.

Sometimes experiencing Peter Cave Road is not your fault. The good news about our adventure is that it wasn’t my fault. I’ve made a lot of wrong turns in my life (both in the car and in my choices) but this wasn’t one of them. This time I was following directions. Peter Cave Road was chosen for me by my GPS. I don’t know why God sometimes choses for us to take the long, hard way to arrive at our destination, but He often does. It’s not because we did something wrong, it’s not because we are being punished, it’s not because we are too stupid to read a map, it’s because that’s the road He put us on. Is there a reason? Sure. Will we know the reason before the road ends? Maybe, maybe not. Sorry. I could lie and tell you some deep spiritual thing will only happen to you on that road. That might be true. But we also might wind up standing in His presence one day asking Him; “So, Peter Cave Road. What was that all about?”

Time and distance is relative. We started our road trip on Interstate 49 and ended it on Peter Cave Road. Our trip started with the cruise control set and us covering about 65 miles an hour. It ended with me riding the brake and us going 2-5 miles per hour. A mile is a mile, but road conditions very much affect how long that mile takes to travel. The harder the road, the longer it takes. Slow going is still going. Even when it feels like you’re getting nowhere, you are.

Don’t abandon ship. Multiple times during our adventure on Peter Cave road someone would pipe up with “It would be faster to get out and walk.” It sure felt like that was true. As tempting as it was to abandon ship and head out on our own I knew that as slow as the car was it was still a better option to stay in it. I know my own strength; I can’t walk 5 miles carrying all of our luggage up Peter Cave Road. Well, maybe I could, but I promise I wouldn’t have arrived at the cabin before dark, and being in those woods after dark doesn’t sound like much fun. As slow as the car was, it was our only hope. Colossians 3 says we are hiding with Christ in God. When the road is hard, stay hidden in God. Yes, it’s tempting to throw in the towel and go it alone, but we won’t get very far on our own strength.

Eyes forward. Peter Cave Road isn’t a smooth road. Bumpy would be a drastic understatement. Then there were the pot holes, washed out culverts, muddy holes, tree limbs, big rocks, and many other obstacles. Off the road there was beauty. Lush trees, mountain views, wildflowers, pretty birds, but I didn’t see any of it. I simply couldn’t pay attention to the things around me because I was so focused on the things in front of me. In life, when we are in a season of traveling a hard road it often comes with guilt. We want to focus on other stuff, we want to talk about other stuff, we want to see the beauty, but sometimes we just can’t. Sometimes all we can do is keep our eyes forward. That’s okay.

The best way out is always through. Any chance I can get to quote Robert Frost I’m going to take it, but on Peter Cave Road and in life he’s right. Stuck on the dirt road we kept looking for options; is there another road we can take? Would it be better to turn around and go back the way we came? Is there a quicker, easier route? I wanted to avoid the road, but we couldn’t. We had to keep going (as slow as it was) forward. Sometimes hard roads and the pain they bring can’t be avoided, when we have to travel one the best way out is always through.

Adventure comes at the end. On the way home from our time in the woods (using the alternate, safer route) I asked the kids what their favorite parts of the trip was. Every one of them said Peter Cave Road. They went on and on about how awesome our car was to get us up that big hill, and how scary it was when we had to drive through the river (seriously y’all it was an epic adventure) and how narrow it was in that one place where the trees were pressing in on both sides and how dark it was it the woods even though it was the middle of the day and how we made it out alive! It was an adventure. One we will talk about for years to come; the story of Peter Cave Road and how we made it out alive. There is something in us that loves to celebrate stories of survival; our Feast of Purim. The Jewish celebration of the Feast of Purim was a joyous celebration commemorating a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved by Queen Ester of extermination. They survived, the lived to tell about it, and they remembered and celebrated God’s deliverance. We need to tell our adventure stories and celebrate God’s faithfulness through the hardest roads.

At the beginning of our trip one of the kids was in the backseat singing “Life is a highway…” That’s not true. Life is not a highway. Life is a long road. Yes, parts of it are smooth and straight and sunny and fun, but other parts are bumpy and uphill and dark and dangerous. Whatever road God asks us to travel one thing remains the same; He can be trusted to get us to our destination.

Hang on for the ride!

~Keri

Undivided Heart: The Summer I Embraced The Sloppy Perfectionist

BeachPic-Give Me An Undivided heart

I have spent the year writing about how to deal with baggage while in leadership. My Southern Belle Momma taught me so many valuable lessons in life like… “A lady never airs her dirty laundry in public.” Sorry Mom, I think I just used my gigantic Mom-Spanx as a welcome mat. 

We all have it, this mother-load of baggage from our past, but I’ve learned that we only carry around the things we can’t stand to part with. Our identity is not our baggage, it’s our freedom journey that started with a battle cry and ended with empty hands in surrender and traveling lighter. I wish I could say it’s been all butterflies and rainbows, but it’s been really painful and freeing at the same time. I’ve done all the work to be unhindered.

Sometimes going forward in life means that we have to go back and deal with things that we have tried to ignore. To revisit a memory doesn’t mean that you dwell in that broken place where life left you breathless. You simply acknowledge it happened and you ask God to help you deal with whatever emotions surface in your heart.

If you need to forgive, do it. Don’t let the root of bitterness rot your beautiful bones.

If you need grace and forgiveness, ask for it. If the person you wronged can’t extend grace and forgiveness to you, just know you did your bravest act of humility, then move on and pray for them.

If you need a break, take one. Send out an SOS text and ask for help. Humble yourself and take off that Superwoman cape. We were never meant to do difficult things alone.

I whisper these words over you, a quote from a woman in ministry spoken over me when I was recovering from surgery seven years ago this summer, “Sometimes you learn more from Clark Kent than you do from Superman.”

In my wrecked weakness, her words set me free. She didn’t need me to be the perfect mentor and friend; she just needed to see me. No cape required, no need to mask the painfully awkward recovery I was in. I was scared, trying to heal and love others…and I was a hot-mess sometimes.

I remember crying to my husband weeks after the surgery, “I feel like I’m screaming, but no one can hear me.”

I needed to recover in a peaceful place where I could truly find rest in body and spirit without pushing myself to do things that would set me back physically. It’s the same way for our hearts. We need moments where we are “off duty” without feeling bad about letting someone step in to help.

Maybe you are not recovering from surgery, but chances are you are trying to recover from something.

So, what do you need for soul-recovery?

It could be as simple as a nap or coffee with a friend. It might involve you scheduling an appointment for counseling and walking in ready to unleash the hurts you’ve carried longer than you care to admit.

Maybe you need to start a prayer and soul-recovery journal and make a coffee date with Jesus before your children wake up.  If you aren’t exercising, start with adding twenty minutes of walking and commit to taking care of your temple. It’s the only one you have, be nice to it.

That summer in recovery I learned to embrace the sloppy perfectionist inside of me. I really can’t do all things well and I don’t even care to anymore. I just want to do what God has asked of me and lean on Him to make something of it. I’m nothing if He doesn’t show up every time I speak, write, or reach out to the needs around me.

The week before my surgery. Things are less scary on the beach.

The week before my surgery. Things are less scary on the beach.

This well-balanced thing sounds like a good idea, but what if you were meant to do five really noble things and you are too distracted by trying for ten? Take your five really noble things and watch God multiple the beauty and the impact of those things. He alone gives that kind of increase. Focus on the five things that are in your sphere of influence, start inside of your home and work your way out from there.

If we can’t be satisfied with our five noble things, or two or three based on the season of life we are in, how on earth will we ever be fulfilled in our meaningless chasing of the ten?

Let’s not do these difficult things alone, call for backup.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

Maybe your heart and focus is all over the map, I’m finding clarity from these scriptures by making them my prayer.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86:11 NIV)

I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. (Jer 32:39 NIV)

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NIV)

Linking up with sweet Holley at Coffee For Your Heart. Join us for words that encourage & lift you up!

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