Showing Fear the Door

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I’m such an quiet observer, you can call it “people watching.” But it goes much deeper than watching as I take pictures in my mind of moments and words spoken. I love words and the meaning behind them. Some words I despise like “fear” a four letter words that cripples leaving lasting effects when we walk in fear wrestling with the knowledge that we need to relax and simply trust God.

Some people are watching how we walk and how we live, without us even knowing it. Our children, both young and grown-up, watch us and later on realize their “walk” looks just like ours. They learned it from us.

“I want to be just like you.”

And it strikes us to the core because we want to bottle that up, that moment when love runs so unconditional and pure. We want to bottle up that moment of pride swallowing hard because we know we fall short sometimes and always will. That little person wants to be like us?

Some worthy traits we pass down to our children as we celebrate and cheer because our hard work has paid off. Other traits are cringe-worthy as we whisper, “I take it back, please unlearn that.”

The grace of God can cover it all as we tread cautiously the tightrope of faith verses fear.

I had so much faith laying on that table as they prepped me for an emergency Caesarean section. I was so tired and waiting to hear her cry. The cord was wrapped around her neck three times and when she breathed and let out a cry after the doctors worked on her, never have I heard such a beautiful sound. But weeks later as I looked through a hospital bill listing the charges, one right after another, I saw a dollar sign next to the words: Newborn Resuscitation. Those two words knocked the breath out of me. I sat in an empty house starring at her tiny face feeling a love so deep it hurt as fear walked in. I could have lost her.

I made a lot of promises to that tiny face, ones she never heard but God did.

Promises to love and lead her and later promises to let her go and grow and learn. Each bruise and heartbreak I felt too as she would run to me on wobbly knees and I would do my best to kiss the hurt away.

I have walked in fear-based anxiety and depression before, sometimes seasonally as the weather turns bitter sending us inside for warmth and shelter from harsh winds. It’s something that I’m unafraid to talk about because of the faces I see and minister to. They need to see the face of someone who walked and wrestled and limped their way to glorious victory.

A decade ago when fear walked in…I had to show fear the door. And when it surfaces trying to inch its way back in to cripple a heart that God set free, I point to the door and tell it where it can go.

The God we have invited into our hearts is far bigger than the fear and doubt that tries to creep its way in.

A while back, I watched a wise person wrestle wondering why they hadn’t passed on the trait of fear onto their grown-up, mirror-image offspring and my heart soaked up the moment knowing that each day our children have the choice to walk like us or chart their own path. Yet the goal is for our children to follow hard after God, not our flawed humanity or the world.

So today as my miracle daughter smiled at me as I played with her in the pool and said, “Mom, I’m just like you..I’ve never liked cold water.” I smiled back and said, “Baby girl, some traits that you get from me you are going to love…but later on, some might drive you crazy. But, I hope most of them help shape you into the woman God designed you to be.” And then we twirled in the pool, her ten-year-old frame much larger than the chubby, perfect infant I twirled in the pool years gone by.

Lord, knows I’m not a perfect parent walking the tightrope of faith verses fear. If I could shelter my children from harm and heartbreak I would. But, I can’t. They belong to God given to me on special loan till they build a new nest of their own. I hold them tight then let them go, and repeat these steps daily as I watch them transform into young ladies.

Today it’s time to show fear the door and tell it has no place in our lives, marriages or singleness, parenting, or our calling. Before we can ever tackle hurdles in our personal lives and details that concern us, we first have to deal with the issue of fear.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 NIV)

I love how this passage of scripture is translated in The Message:

“To Love, to Be Loved”

17-18 God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (1 John 4:18 The Message)

Let love have “the run of the house.” Show fear the door, dear friends.

Praying for you on this journey,

Because of You

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel with a group of single moms to the Survive and Thrive Conference. My head is still spinning with information and encouragement and heartbreak from the weekend. I feel like I need a week in solitude with my journal to process all that I experienced in those few days. But one thing from the weekend just won’t seem to go away. It’s begging to be processed first, and I think it must.

First can I ask you to watch a video? One of the sessions I went to was titled Filling the Daddy Gap and the facilitator showed this video. I sat in a room with 80 or so single moms wiping tears from their eyes as they saw their own pain and their children’s pain being portrayed in video and song and my heart thought of you.

We all carry pain. We all have been hurt. Damaged. And we can all cry out right alongside Kelly Clarkson and say “Because of you…”

Blame isn’t new. It’s a natural reaction to pain and consequences. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. We all want to justify our behavior by reminding others why it is we behave the way we do. And most of the time our blame is justified. We truly were wronged. We truly were hurt or abused or abandoned or betrayed. So we blame. And we justify. And we stay trapped in our pain, repeating the cycle of suffering.

We rightly cry out “Because of you…” Mom, dad, childhood bully, ex-husband, rapist, abuser, drunk, coach, teacher, pastor, friend. Because of you I’m afraid. Because of you I can’t trust. Because of you I lost my way. Because of you I’m angry. Because of you I’m bitter. Because of you I’m broken. Because of you.

It’s easy to get caught in the cycle of “because of you”. Easy to let it take over our thoughts and emotions. But it’s a dangerous place to live. It’s a place of perpetual pain. It’s a trap that our enemy loves and God despises. Yes, God hates the sin that hurt us. But He also hates the cycle of blame that we continue to live in.

So how do we move forward? How to we break the cycle of blame? The same way, with the same words.

Because of You!

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy set before him endured the cross,

scorning its shame,

and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Heb. 12:2

When we take our eyes off of our circumstances and look to Jesus and say “Because of You, Jesus!” everything changes. Because of You, I am free. Because of You, I am healed. Because of You I am not afraid. Because of You I have found hope and trust and joy! Because of You.

It’s time to turn. Away from our pain and towards the cross. It’s only when we fix our eyes on Jesus, only when we see His love for us, demonstrated by the suffering He endured so that we could be forgiven, and that we can truly be free.

When we’re tempted to point a finger and dish out blame, instead let’s look to the cross and say, “Because of You…”

The Porcelain Doll & The Perfect You

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My oldest walks into the room carrying porcelain doll that was given to her, I’m a mile into my treadmill workout and have sweat dripping off of me. I take out my earphones so I can hear her little voice, a tad frustrated that she’s taken the doll out of the glass case that was up in the very top of her closet and pushed towards the back, out of reach. The thought of that case falling on her scared me, but it didn’t.

“Mom, I’ve decided that she looks prettier outside of the box.” She’s slightly smiling and pleased with herself.

Without even thinking I say, “But she was meant for the box.”

I immediately feel shock running through me, that statement goes against everything I feel inside of me. It’s just a doll and that is my girl, my real life doll baby standing there completely oblivious to the tug-of-war going on inside of me.

She was meant for the box? No. She was on display.

It was like saying all women belong in the kitchen. (I gag.)

I’ve always been the girl that didn’t really fit inside the box. In my twenties I wanted to fit the mold and be that perfect hostess for my in-laws, crying when my husband called me “a sucky cook”.  I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to be good enough. Yet, when my “enough” was never good enough, how could that even be possible? I laugh about it now that I’ve mastered about five meals well. I laugh about a lot of things now. It all came from a sincere and sweet place inside of me. But, I was the Mary listening to the nagging Martha in my head.

Sometimes trying too hard is the very thing that will drive a wedge between the woman you want to be and the woman God created you to be. It drives a wedge between relationships, rushing to clean things up instead of sitting down and taking the time to really see the people you are trying to “feed”.

I wanted to be that perfectly put together pastor’s wife ready to pour into others without ever feeling like I was all dried up inside and needy. Now I’m much more suited to let you see me, all of me. The times when I’m scattered because I have so much to do. The moments when I’m silly and playful, the moments that I’m moody or simply quiet. The moments where God steps in and carries me through a time of spotlight ministry where it’s visibly clear that I am just a woman, clay in the potters hands, only seeking to fit the mold Jesus left for me in His word, nothing more, nothing less.

I look at this little mirror image of myself, “Baby, she looks beautiful outside of the box. Do whatever you want with her.”

Just enjoy her.

The doll was given to us in a glass case to protect her and keep her lovely, yet she was far out of reach. This breakable beauty that honestly wasn’t even enjoyed, just forgotten upon a shelf and dusty, was just there. Much like the image in your head of the perfect “you” that lets you know that you are failing.

You’re not failing.

I’m wondering if perhaps it’s time for you to get your porcelain image down from it’s lofty place and really look at her and see her and love her up-close instead of from a far away place.

This image you have wrapped up in comparison and measuring up and fitting in, it’s the glass cage suffocating you. Locked away in the protective shell around your heart, easily shattered each time you put yourself down and listen to the lies of the enemy, is a heart that needs to be set free. I know what freedom looks like now, because I was the girl in the glass cage.

Darling one, you were not meant for the box. Break the dang thing. The One who formed you…created you in His image. His. Not in the image of someone else. You were never meant to be the person sitting in the shadows or locked up inside. You were meant to radiate His light and you can’t do that trying to be something that you’re not. Let Jesus wrap you up and assure you that you are good enough, simply because you are His. He never asked you to jump through hoops like a show dog, just shine girl!

“And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:2 ASV)

Much love to you!

Jennifer

Unsafe

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My husband and I watched The Impossible this weekend. To say that this movie wrecked me emotionally would be the understatement of the century. Based on a true story these horrific events of the Tsunami swept across our television as families were torn apart, scattered, and ravaged helplessly.

A mother and her older son fight their way to one another desperate for two things: to stay alive and stay together. They hear the sounds of a little boy crying out. It doesn’t matter that it’s not the cry of her own children still missing, it only matters that a cry goes out to anyone willing to listen. Her son reasons with her that they could loose their own lives and that it’s unsafe. And she says, “Even if it’s the last thing we do…”

Life is not about being safe, it’s about finding those who are not. And so we go to them as missionaries, workers, and ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Even if it’s the last thing we do, we risk life and limb for those gasping for air waiting for a lifeline.

We box up things we have in plenty to send to those who have just lost everything in a mile wide tornado. We send up prayers and cry tears for those we’ve never met because deep in our gut we are moved with compassion and the knowledge that we have to do something because doing nothing is not an option. We live outside of the boat because we know what it feels like to be rescued.

“He was moved with compassion.”—Matthew 9:36.

“This is said of Christ Jesus several times in the New Testament. The original word is a very remarkable one. It is not found in classic Greek. It is not found in the Septuagint. The fact is, it was a word coined by the evangelists themselves. They did not find one in the whole Greek language that suited their purpose, and therefore they had to make one. It is expressive of the deepest emotion; a striving of the bowels—a yearning of the innermost nature with pity. As the dictionaries tell us— Ex intimis visceribus misericordia commoveor. I suppose that when our Saviour looked upon certain sights, those who watched him closely perceived that his internal agitation was very great, his emotions were very deep, and then his face betrayed it, his eyes gushed like founts with tears, and you saw that his big heart was ready to burst with pity for the sorrow upon which his eyes were gazing. He was moved with compassion. His whole nature was agitated with commiseration for the sufferers before him.”

(Sermon No. 3438, Spurgeon, Published on Thursday, December 24th, 1914.)

When Spurgeon delivered this message at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, there was no way he could peer in the future and look upon humanity today, yet somehow he knew that as long as there were people scattered on earth they would need to know about a God who is moved in his gut with compassion for them. Jesus walked this world unsafe, ready to lay down His life for people that moved Him so deeply.

You might be the walking-wounded feeling invisible and forgotten but, darling one, God sees you and He cares deeply with a compassion that is endless. Your prayers and tears will not be wasted.

You who have been rescued like me, live in such a way that it scares you a little and makes you pray a lot. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those in need around you.

Much love,
Jennifer

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