I’ve Got You

A few days ago we met some new friends on a play date. As I got to know this adorable, new friend our daughters played and enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine.  I guess you could say that I’m not really a country girl, but I love to enjoy every aspect that country life brings. I love the simplicity and the thought of working your land. I would like to think my girls could thrive in both worlds…the country life and the city life, the known and the unknown.

Lately I have been teaching my youngest that she can do all things through Christ who gives her strength. Not some things measured out with human limitations, but all things when God is in it.

Without hesitation I watched my little girl scale a tree for the first time. I was honestly nervous, but she climbed that tree like she had been climbing trees for years.  There was something inside of her telling her to climb and go higher. She was so high that I just needed her to know I was there and that I approved. Yet, I was right there when she wanted to get down. I politely excused myself and made my way over to the tree.

“Be careful.”

“I will, Mom.”

“Not too high, alright?”

“Ok.

I want my little girls to soar, to tackle their fears head-on. I smiled and waved, and stepped away so they could play. In a matter of minutes my oldest wanted up and now there were four adorable little girls in a tree having the time of their life. I remember tree houses and sunshine, and the smell of playing hard for hours. You can always tell just how much fun a child had by the sweaty-kid smell that lingers afterward.

When it was time to come down, I watched both of my girls panic while the other girls, being seasoned pros at tree climbing, looked at them with questions. Getting up there was easy, but coming down was a different story.  The ground seemed smaller and the tree stories higher.  I made my way to the base of the tree and looked them in the eye.

“Baby, you can do this.”

“I’m afraid of heights.”

I kept thinking, you’re not afraid of heights…you just climbed a tree! You used to be afraid of heights!

“It’s ok. I’m right here, I won’t let you fall.”

“I’m scared, I’m really scared.” She begins to cry.

“Look at me. Take my hand…I’ve got you.” She hesitates, fear swallows her, and I refuse to let it.

“Baby, I’ve got you.” Our eyes locked. She believed me.

As I removed my oldest child from the tree relief washed over both of us. I repeated the steps one through three and echoed these words as I reached for up for my baby who seems so far out of reach. A different fear reflected in her eyes, but it didn’t change her need to hear these words again as it sinks into her soul.

You can do this.

I’m right here.

I’ve got you. 

I watched fear turn to trust in their little eyes. They each responded differently to their fear, my youngest was back to normal in a matter of minutes laughing and playing while my oldest wrapped her legs around me, held on, and cried.

I don’t know what fear you are facing right now or if you are stuck somewhere far out of reach from what you deemed safe, but I know that I need to tell you this:

You can do this.

He’s right there.

He’s got you.

As your mind races with questions and you wonder how you can conquer your own fears and model that out before you children, you need to be more certain that ever that you CAN do this. He is right there. We scale the wall of our dreams and life.  It looks so daunting, an uphill battle. Sometimes we realize that we are in the wrong tree and we want down. We have a God that fashioned and formed us for greatness, but we have grown comfortable with our imprinted cushion from our backside. We’ve been sitting in the sidelines cheering for those hard in the game for too long…

You’ve forgotten how to climb.

You’ve forgotten how to play.

But, He’s got you.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor 2:9)

This is for you Former Broken Girls! You can do this!

 

Do-over?

Choice: a decision to choose one thing, person, or course of action in preference to others

Consequence: something that follows as a result

Regret: to feel sorry and sad about something previously done or said that now appears wrong, mistaken, or hurtful to others.

Do-over: a chance to redo an action

 

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Eve. About the choice she made to believe the lie of the enemy and doubt the goodness of God. About how one simple choice ushered in such overwhelming consequences. About the regret she must have felt the moment her lips tasted the bitter-sweet fruit of her decision and her eyes were opened to the truth of her choice.

I’ve been thinking about the endless consequences that followed that one bite. Instant shame and fear. Broken trust and blame from her husband. Forcibly removed from the only home she’d ever known. Giving birth through tears and much pain. Receiving news that her youngest son had been murdered. Receiving news that her oldest son was a murderer. Being blamed for every heartache, every sickness, every disaster in the history of all mankind.

I wonder how many times tears flowed down the face of the first woman? I wonder how many times she whispered “if only”. I wonder how many times she begged God for a second chance, for a do-over.

I wonder if her heart was filled with regret as she stood at the grave of her son.

I wonder if her heart was filled with guilt every day when Adam came home sweaty and calloused.

I wonder if her heart was filled with shame every month when blood flowed from her body.

I wonder if her heart was filled with remorse every time she remembered walking side by side with God.

Like Eve, I know what it’s like to be deceived, to listen to the lie and doubt the goodness of God. I know what it’s like to face consequences that you never expected. I know how regret and guilt and shame feels. Many times I’ve quietly whispered “God, can I have a do-over?”

Can I have another chance?

Can I go back and choose differently this time?

Can I undo what I have done?

And just like Eve, He answers me with a soft but firm “No.”

No we can’t have a do-over. We can’t go back in time and erase the foolish choices. We must live with the consequences of our sin.

But that doesn’t mean we live without hope. For where God says “no” to do-overs He says “yes” to redemption.

Redemption: the act of saving something or somebody from a declined, dilapidated, or corrupted state and restoring it, him, or her to a better condition

Through Eve sin entered the world. And through Christ redemption entered the world. The seed of a woman defeated sin and death once and for all. And now, because of redemption, because of the choice Jesus made to offer Himself up as payment for our foolish choices we get something better than a do-over, we get new life. We get beauty for ashes.

God doesn’t want us to live with regret. He doesn’t want us to carry guilt and shame. He doesn’t want us to live constantly aching for a do-over. He wants to redeem. He wants to restore. He wants to heal our broken hearts, and bring glory to His name.

Redemption comes at a great price. A price that has already been paid. Redemption cost Jesus His very life, which He freely gave for the joy of seeing us set free, not just free from sin, but from regret as well.

I don’t know what regret you carry. Maybe it’s harsh words spoken, an abortion, a failed marriage, or sexual sin. Maybe it’s not standing up to an abuser, years of addiction, or not doing something you should have. Maybe it’s an empty womb, an arrogant heart, or a missed opportunity. Whatever it is, can I assure you that God can redeem it. Redemption may not look like you think it should. It may not include restoring what was lost. It probably won’t erase the consequences of your choice. But it will be beautiful. You will be beautiful.

Because God makes beautiful things out of the ugly ashes of our lives.

The Cage and The Songbird

I’m not sure why exactly, but growing up I would hear these words with a gentle pat, “Be sweet.” Most of the time it meant that I said something snarky or sarcastic, probably something terribly funny and honest with a bite. Either way, a gentle reminder was needed to “be sweet.” I think you naturally see certain traits in your children, I get that now I as soak in the gifts God has placed inside of my daughters. Mom loved that I was sweet spirited (most of the time). So when I was acting outside of a trait that suited me, I needed a reminder. But, just for a few seconds…maybe minutes, would it just be okay for me to be a little sour? I would think.

Weeks ago I needed a reminder to be sweet. But, I didn’t want to feel that gentle pat when all I felt was soured disappointment. The sting of the battle wounds lingered for a few days until my tears dried up and my grieving was over. I’m not a fan of covering up things or hiding behind a mask in the hopes that people will think that I’m perfect. So, I’m honest with my emotions, even when it’s ugly. I hold it in my hands asking God, “What do you want me to do with this?”

He reminded me of picture of an ornate birdcage, lovely to look at. The iron bars weaved a beautiful home for a songbird to sit and perch, singing a song for its master. The master loved the songs and the beautiful bird. Yet everyday looked the same for the songbird. The master would come to her gently placing the fresh water and food inside. No rain would ever ruffle her feathers. She was safe in her confinement, lacking nothing except for her freedom.

In this picture, the symbolism almost knocked me over. With multiple images to be drawn to, why did this one speak the most to me? It would take a few weeks for it to really sink in.

This cage, safe and contained, steel bars that trap, yet give the illusion of protection limiting the perspective of all that waits outside the locked door. Everything handed to you easily without the need of a song that sounds more like a cry. The nourishment measured out in proportions, today you will need this and today you will have it. And over time, the songbird’s music doesn’t sound as sweet. The caged bird can’t sing a song of freedom; she’s forgotten how and what freedom looks like. What once was a sweet song is now a cry. Soon, it will utter no sound. No song. No cry. Just something pretty to look at, but broken and muffled on the inside.

The image before me was this: the door was left open, the sweet songbird found her way out, and began to sing a different song. She sang the song of freedom, and it was sweet and lovely. It made you want to listen again, lean into as you soak in the softness of a moment when the song of freedom is remembered as it echoes in your heart…this is what freedom sounds like.

What is your cage? Is it other people’s expectations? Is it your fear of failure, but even worse, your fear of success? Is it the unknown and the trappings of familiarity that encase you, yet isolated you? Is it your past, your yesterday, your if-only?

All I know is a few weeks ago; I was a songbird with a broken wing because I just needed to spread my wings inside of a cage that couldn’t contain me. The door was opened long ago, but from time to time I would fly back inside and perch for a while and take in my measured out proportion. But, God didn’t call me to live a comfortable, contained, safe yet dull life. He called me to a life of freedom, so He nurses me back to health. He mends my broken wings and whispers the words of the song of freedom telling me to sing again. And it is sweet to Him because it is for Him. It is because of Him. He is the song I want to sing, the melody that I want to pen my life to. He is not afraid of my not-so-sweet moments. When I sing a song of the sour moments of life He erases those bitter, out of tune notes creating a symphony that feels like the sweetest embrace.

What does the song of freedom sound like?

It sounds like surrender.

It sounds like holding up your paper dreams in your hand and shredding them one by one until your hands are empty.

It sounds like the steady rhythm of the ready writer who has given the pen to God saying, “Here, why don’t you re-write my story.”

He takes the pen, perhaps His eyes light up when He pens the words to your life’s story. For He already knows the beginning and your ending. Even though the lines of heartache are never erased because we live in a broken world, He still writes a chart topping song that is worthy of singing.

He writes a silver screen story for you, His leading lady.

Take it from someone who has been there and lost her song. You cannot sing a song of freedom…until you first sing the song of surrender.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)

Let God take you there and mend your broken wings. I will be writing more about surrender this week. Friends, I’m still learning to sing the song of surrender!

Much love to you all.

Jennifer

The God With Wounds

Sometimes we think that God is cruel for allowing suffering. We reason that if He is good and if He is sovereign then suffering, loss, grief, sickness or poverty should not have to exist. If He were truly good, if He were truly to be trusted then He should save us from such things.

And yet, He is the God with wounds.

He is the God who chose suffering for Himself. Who chose danger and torment for His own Son so that we could be redeemed. He chose the bitter cup of suffering so that we could taste freedom.

It didn’t have to be this way. Redemption could have come at a much smaller price. The barrier of sin could have been destroyed by a single word from Him who sits on the throne. Jesus didn’t have to come, didn’t have to suffer, didn’t have to die.

The suffering of Jesus was a choice. Knowing full well the extent of the anguish God gave the order, and the Son of God became the Son of Man.

“He was despised and rejected by others, a man of sorrow, and familiar with grief. Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was punished. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer.” Isaiah 53

We know that Jesus came to ransom us, to be the Holy, spotless sacrifice. He was the payment for our transgressions, but at what cost? We often think of the physical sufferings of Jesus, and they are overwhelming, but what of the emotional sufferings of Jesus, and of the Father?

Despised, rejected, familiar with grief, separated from His home, separated from His Father. Jesus was a man of many sorrows. And the Father? To see your child abused. To see your child cry and beg you to make it all just stop. To see Him tortured knowing that you could stop it all with just one word.

What anguish He must have felt.

Why?

Why would God allow Jesus to endure what He did? For our salvation? Yes! But I believe it’s for more…

“The spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us so that He would know, so that He would understand. When we cry out in the darkest of nights, He knows. When we stand beside graves weeping over those we love, He understands. When we look around and realize that we are all alone, He identifies. There is no suffering, no sorrow, no loss that we face that He cannot honestly say “I know just how you feel.”

He is the God of sorrows.

 Who understands your tear filled eyes.

He is the God of suffering.

Who knows how it feels to be overwhelmed with circumstances.

He is the God with wounds.

Who longs to bind up your broken heart.

I don’t know why God allows suffering. Why He allows us to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death. I do know that He doesn’t ask us to walk where He hasn’t first gone. I do know that He never leaves our side, no matter how difficult the road we travel. And I know that on the other side of the valley there is great reward!