The Careful Chisel

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I hope today you find yourself empty-handed. No chisel in hand chipping away at the things that you wish you could change in yourself and others.

I hope today that you find yourself moldable, softening in the hands of the Potter who is not finished with His vessel.

I hope you look past the actions of people and see the wounded, and love them harder allowing forgiveness to flow freely.

We are the work of Gods hand and as long as there is breath then He’s still working, still shaping His masterpiece.

“But now, O Lord, You are the Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and we are the work of Your hand.” (Is 64:8)

When asked how Michelangelo had accomplished the majestic statue of David, he said, “By simply taking away the superfluous marble.”

He had to chip away at what was unnecessary to free the image trapped in the stone setting it free.

He was the artist and when he looked at stone he only saw purpose and beauty. He didn’t see what it was; he saw the promise of what it could be.

Michelangelo said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set her free.”

I think of our creator God who has fashioned our days just for us and how He paid the price for our freedom and yet we return to our captivity and chains.

We take the chisel and chip away and covet…and we find ourselves crumbling in the dust of “I am not enough.”

When we kick against our divine purpose, position, and calling we are telling our Creator what He had in mind is a mistake. We will always crack and crumble when we compare and covet another woman’s role, life, home, and children.

“Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands.’?” (Is 45:9b)

The careful chisel has to remain in the hands of the Creator instead of the inner critic that is constantly tearing yourself, and others, down. Who you are is enough and exactly what God wants to use. What you have to offer is needed and necessary.

We are exactly like the passage in Isaiah saying, “Hey God, you forgot the hands. I just feel like something is missing here.” We have wasted so many fruitful moments in life with the chisel in our hands instead of the hands of God. What God makes of His people depends on our response. We have to allow the Word of God to chip away at the things that shouldn’t be there, from the things that distract from His light instead of reflecting and enhancing it.

“My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Ps 139:15-16)

You beautiful piece of art, God sees the image within and has already paid the price for you to be set free. Your days were fashioned specifically with you in mind, God the Creator and sculptor face-to-face with His artwork. You are fearfully and wonderful made, He did such a good job when He made you.

“That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth, that our daughters may be as pillars sculptured in palace style.”(Ps 144:12)

The chiseling process of something so rare, beautiful, and regal for a palace takes time and we have to submit to the pain and purpose of it all.

Stop tearing down what God longs to build up and let God’s word alone be your mirror, don’t pattern your life after a flawed woman. Pattern it after the God who fashioned you for greatness. Lay down your chisel, it was never meant to be in your hands anyway and trust that what God has in mind for your life is beautiful even if it looks like a hot mess right now. 

Much love to you,

Jennifer Renee

 

 

 

 

 

Hair Pulling & Tired Hands

Photo credit: Debbie Thurmond

Photo credit: Debbie Thurmond

I read something on social media last week that had me fired up. It actually hurt one of my dear friends and shook her up. How she handled the criticism, which is unfortunately part of life, made me so unbelievably proud of her because she is on the frontlines of Women’s ministry, well known, and longs to see women set free to just be who God intended them to be. I get it, social media is a beast, you can either use it as a tool or it will use you. Either way, we have a choice to make on how we use our platform and how we honor Christ with our voice. We are all divinely fashioned by a God who created us to function uniquely in the body of Christ. And when you publicly bash someone or call them out…you are talking bad about God’s baby.

I have this community of blogger sisters and friends in leadership that I absolutely love and feel a connection with them because we are all in this together. I don’t feel anything remotely competitive with them because that’s not at all what this is about. It’s not about us; it’s about being the light and being good at that. We are much stronger and effective when we are united and isn’t that the point?

These sisters of mine are bleeding on paper and spilling their guts because deep inside of them is a fire shut up in their bones and a calling that scares the crap out of them. And it should. What God has asked us to do is walk uncharted territories and use our jacked up, broken stories to show others that God can use anyone to change this world one broken heart at a time. We are all painfully aware of our flaws and would rather not be on a pedestal. So, I rally around them, promote their books and what they are doing in life because I’m a fan. But most importantly, I am their over-protective sister. I fiercely want them to succeed and I will cry with them when the enemy hurls ugly darts at them. But what breaks my heart more than anything is when I see my sisters pulling each other’s hair and being ugly. We are better than this and the last time I checked, this is not Junior High. If ever there was a time to lock shields and hold hands in this bloody battle, it’s now. I watch the news and see a world that needs us to focus on what really matters instead of infighting and pointing fingers.

For those of you comparing each others gifts and feeling like you don’t measure up, please know that this a tactic of the enemy who loves to cause discord and disunity in the body. It’s his biggest trick and distraction because he knows if he can’t get you to swing on wrecking balls butt-naked and partying like it’s 1999…he can cripple you with comparison and criticism that is just as much of a time waster as a trip to the world of rebellion. What would happen if we stopped trying to fit a certain mold and went on a mission to do our part instead?

Our vision has to be bigger than we are and to make this happen we need each other. We need people that are stronger and wiser and we need to listen to them instead of phasing them out of service, the workplace, and church. If you want to know when I stopped being intimidated by women who are more successful and smarter than me…it was when I let some older women verbally spank me from time-to-time and mentor me. I needed what they had to offer and I still do. I’m nothing without them. If I’m completely honest with you, I would much rather hear from a 50-something, or older, who is killing it and more beautiful than she’s ever been because she knows what really matters in life, not someone afraid of aging squeezing into skinny jeans who is terrified that she’s no longer relevant and useful. Everyday is a battle and we are nothing without each other. Maybe it’s time to stop comparing and join forces.

As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset. (Ex 17:11-12 NIV)

Right now we are all tired from fighting and we need someone to help our hands remain steady till sunset. Life is about taking turns, the ebbs and flows of life and timing; it’s about knowing when to lead and when to follow. The worst thing we can do is covet another person’s role and calling. The second is to rip a person to shreds for doing what God has asked them to do and diminish and be jealous of their light. What would have happened if Joshua and Hur didn’t hold up the hands of their weary leader? What if they were too busy tearing Moses down instead of helping him? Those who are great at “holding their leaders hands up” will one day be entrusted with so much more.

What you have to offer is exactly what God wants to unleash revival in a world that desperately needs hope. Stop pulling hair and being ugly, that’s not who you are. You fit and you’re needed and useful. Use your platform and your voice; don’t let it use you.

Loving you fiercely,

Your over-protective sis~ Jennifer

Hope Deferred

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Waiting sucks. {I’m not quite sure I’m allowed to say “sucks” here but “waiting is hard” didn’t adequately describe how I’m feeling} I hate waiting, and I’m not really good at it. Patience is not my forte.

It seems as if everyone I know is in a holding pattern right now. Waiting on new. Waiting on change. Waiting on someone, something, somewhere. Waiting for doors to open, and others to close. Waiting on pain to end. Waiting on joy to come. Some have been waiting for years, faithfully serving, faithfully trusting, day after long day stacked one upon another until so much time has gone by that you begin to wonder what it is you’re even waiting for anymore. But the heart remembers. In the dark quiet of the night the longing persists. A prayer unanswered. A desire unmet. An ache unfulfilled. Hope deferred.

It’s even harder to wait when the desire is good, godly even. A child. A job. A friend. Pain to cease. Depression to lift. Prodigals to return. We pray and wait and wonder; why would God withhold good gifts from someone who loves Him?

In the last few weeks a verse in Galatians keeps popping up in my life. And let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. I know this is truth. I know I’m not supposed to throw in the towel. I know I’m supposed to continue doing good in my waiting seasons, however long they may be. But sometimes it’s just hard. Harder still when the people around you don’t seem to be waiting for much of anything. I know it’s a matter of perspective. That it’s not true that God’s coming through for everyone except me, but sometimes it feels that way. You too?

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Hope deferred makes the heart sick… Prov. 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. {can I get an amen?} Our human hearts cannot contain the pain of waiting past the point that we deem reasonable. The longer we wait the more our hearts grow weary. Before too long they succumb to despair and desperation. How do we hold on to hope when all of our strength is gone? When our trust has been stretched past the breaking point? When the womb is still empty and the promise seems dead and the God we pray to is strangely quiet?

When the waiting persists it is hope itself that I need to cling to. Hope… not in the thing I long for, but in the God who (for reasons irrational to me) continues to say to me “wait”.

And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Psalm 39:7

What am I waiting for? Good things? Yes. Godly things? I think so. But ultimately it is not what I wait for that will satisfy me. Even the most holy thing longed for (a child, or friend, or spouse, or job, or ______) will disappoint us eventually. But there is one thing that will not disappoint…

Hope does not disappoint,

because the love of God has been poured out within our

hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:5

I have been guilty of holding out hope for something less than God. I’ve been guilty of getting mad and cranky when I feel like God is withholding good things from me, when I’m growing weary in my well doing for Him. I’ve been guilty of succumbing to depression and despair when I transferred my hope from the Eternal King to earthly things. This human heart of mine simply can’t contain the pain of waiting and I often find myself in desperate need of rescue. Thankfully, the God I serve specializes in just that. He rescues us because He delights in us. Rescues us from deferred hope.

Hope does not disappoint; if our hope is in Him.

It’s hard to hold on to hope. But what if we weren’t made to hold on to it? What if hope was made to hold on to us? What if hope is the rope thrown to us when we feel like we’re drowning? The rope that we slip our arms through and tighten down around our chest… holding the rope in our hands while the rope holds us in its embrace.

Hope is an embrace. It wraps us up. Holds us tight. And we cling to it in the waiting.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Prov. 13:12 

Praying that our longing for Him outweighs all the other longings of our hearts. And that in the waiting we will find ourselves surrounded by hope.

~Keri

The Messy Middle, When Life is Not Beautiful

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I’m reading in Ecclesiastes today because I’m desperate. How’s that for transparency? The writing life is not just about what ends up on paper, but all the things that I dare not type. It’s the sacred thread of a woman’s heart leaning wholeheartedly on God to do what I cannot. Fix things and hearts. My intense desire to nurture springs into play and I just want to kiss the hurts away and make things easier for the ones I love. But, that’s not what God is asking me to do. He leads us to cast our cares on Him, and it’s hard to cast something that we are so afraid to release. But, an unclenched hand is a sign of a surrendered heart and it’s dead weight to us if we try to carry it longer that we should.

The deep roots I have taken to find myself in Christ have only made me stronger, not weaker, because it hasn’t been easy. I had to work hard and learn the benefits from a little blood, sweat, and tears. In this place where I feel certain that I’m in transition and our ministry is in transition, I have to trust that when everything seems unwoven and uncertain…His purpose in all of this is for our good.

I turn to chapter 3 and I relax into the knowledge of timing for every purpose.

A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted. 

It seems like the planting is much safer and more hopeful than the plucking of something that you hoped would grow, but it has to be done. Dirtiness happens in the uprooting of something that is not doing what it was designed to do. We do our planting and sowing until God asks us to pluck and uproot something in our hearts and lives that are not producing the kind of fruit He desires. How much time have we wasted watering something that died a long time ago?

A time to break down, and a time to build up…

It seems so tragic when all we see is a wrecking ball and the chaos that comes from the things we’ve spent a lot of time building being ruined in a heartbeat. We restore broken homes and broken dreams and sometimes we just need a clean slate and a restart. We are better at the clean slate than we are when everything is scattered and out of place. So we brace ourselves for the breakdown and catch our breath when we see the master builder rolling out a new design with a stronger foundation that will last and walls that are unshakeable.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor-it is the gift of God. (vs. 11-13)

God has made everything beautiful in its time and if it’s not beautiful…then maybe it’s not time. It’s the season of plucking and breaking down. It’s the season to refrain from embracing when all you want is to be held. But we can’t embrace when we are carrying things that stand in the way of true intimacy. And so we watch the things we love tare knowing that the mending and sewing that is coming will be with divine thread that doesn’t fray so easily. We weep and we mourn and then we laugh and we dance because life is such a sweet gift and we have so many things to rejoice about.

Life might not be beautiful right now, but it will be. Don’t be mad about the uprooting and the temporary breakage, God is so good to remove things in our life that are not fruitful and toxic in order to make way for the miraculous moments that are dance-worthy and joyful. We don’t know the beginning to the end, so we hang on with hope in the messy middle because He who has called us is faithful.

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thes 5:24 NIV)

Much love & prayers in this messy middle season.

Jennifer

Keri Sallee’s Broken Girl Story

We are so excited to share Keri’s story with you today. Keri is a joy! She’s one of the most talented girls I know, has a contagious laugh and is beautiful inside and out. She blogs at The Creative Life where she takes bits and pieces, lots of glue and makes art that will take your breath away, her story will do the same thing. 

We pray you will be encouraged by Keri’s Broken Girl story.

Love,

Keri & Jennifer

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Crushed by Grief. Not functioning. Forcibly separated into two or more pieces. Incomplete.

These are all definitions of what it means to be broken and for most of my life, it was a perfect description of my life.

I grew up in a home many would give their lives for…a mom…a dad… and a big sister. We moved around a lot, but when you’re a kid, it seems like one big adventure.  But in the midst of my adventure, I was forced to find my own way. My parents were still there, but they were so caught up in their own issues, that I felt alone and abandoned in my own home.

I soon realized that the only way I would get noticed was if I made good grades, so I put all of my effort into doing that and tried to be the “good girl” and fade into the background the rest of the time.

When I was 12, we made our first big out of state move to a small town in Texas where, if you hadn’t lived there your entire life, you didn’t stand a chance. My parent’s marriage was rapidly crumbling and so I didn’t add to their stress, I kept everything bottled up. I bottled up my loneliness. I bottled up my hurt. I bottled up the fear that consumed me, when at age 12, the thought of suicide first took root in my mind and seemed like an actual option.

Our next move took us to West Virginia and took me deeper in to the cycle that would be my go-to act for many years: I would be fake happy at school, be the typical vague teenager to my parents and I would lie awake at night hating myself for not being stronger.

I became very easily influenced by others at this time. I had my first cigarette. My first drink. I became so easily influenced by others that I let a friend talk me into running away from home. And when I came home and my parents asked me why I did it, I wanted to SCREAM at them “I’m just so unhappy and I just wanted you to notice me.” But…I didn’t. I told them I don’t know why I did it, they believed me and we moved on.

Upstate New York was our next move and it gave me something I had never had before: friends. It was so much easier to pretend to be happy, but I still couldn’t shake the depression and the feeling that something was missing from my life.  So, I started searching. I began to read my horoscope daily. I began to read tarot cards. I read books on crystals and how they were supposed to bring me love and hope and friends, but no matter how many rocks I wore around my neck or carried around in my pocket, the war inside my head would NOT cease.

By now the war had become a series of battles that played on a loop: I would think about ending it all and when I wouldn’t have the “guts” to do it, it would only add to my feeling of inadequacy and loneliness which would lead me back to suicide.

It was truly a painful, sadistic cycle I lived in.

The battle caused me to loose so much of my life; so much of my childhood. So many experiences that I should have had as a teenager but I was too scared someone would find out my secret and label me “the freak” that I never stepped out and experienced.

Then came Faith…

Faith was the first girl we met when we moved to a small town in Missouri. She was our tour guide at our new school and Faith invited us to church.

For six months, I sat through sermon after sermon and didn’t believe a word of them. God didn’t love me and He sure didn’t have a plan for my life. I sat there waiting for it all to be over so I could have social hour with my friends.

That is until one night in April of 1997 when we had a traveling show come through called Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.

The basic premise of the show was it showed people who did and did not believe in Jesus and what happened to them after they died. And like most other church things, I sat through it, but didn’t really listen. That is, until about three quarters of the way through the show.

The scene came up and it consisted of a girl sitting on a chair on a completely dark stage, except for a single spot light on her. And as she began to talk, I felt like she was telling my story.

She began to talk about how lonely she was. How no one loved her and how no one would miss her when she was gone. And from behind her back, out of the shadows, she pulls a gun and as the lights go out, the sound of a gunshot reverberated through that small church.

That night I realized that I didn’t want to end up like that girl on the stage, where she felt her only option was to end her life and for the first time in a very long time, I cried. I cried for the years I had lost and I cried for the person that I knew I would never become if I didn’t choose to make a change in my life.

So that night I gave my heart to Christ and for the first time in my life, I felt put back together. I was still fragile and I knew I couldn’t hold it together on my own. Only with God as the glue, could I keep the pieces of my life whole.

A few years later, I moved to attend Central Bible College and I thought that I had everything together, but during summer break, my life was, once again…broken.

It was the Saturday before Memorial Day and like any college student on a Saturday I was still sleeping when someone knocked on my door around 10:00 that morning. I opened the door to my little apartment to find my dad standing on my doorstep. .

I asked my dad where mom was and he told me she’s down in the car with Leslie (my sister) and Andy (my brother in law.) I told him to have them come up and he said no, he needed to talk to me first.

We sat on my little thrift store sofa and he said, you and your sister have always joked about being adopted…..and the truth is you are.

And I remember looking at him and asking “IS THIS A JOKE?”

He said “No.” and he hands me a letter and tells me “Your sister got this letter in the mail and you’ll be getting one soon, too.” And I start reading this letter and I always joke that it sounds like an after school special from the ‘80s because it says:  “MY WIFE AND I GAVE UP TWO DAUGHTERS IN 1981.” Gave a name and my sister’s birthday. Then gave another name and gave my birthday. “I think you’re my daughter.”

And in that moment, my perfect bible school world was gone… all of those feelings I had struggled with as a teenager came crashing back on me. I was once again that lonely, insecure and self-destructive girl. And now I had evidence. Look…even your own parents didn’t love you enough to keep you. They gave you away. You weren’t meant to be alive anyway.

That summer…I was shattered. Pieces of my heart and my soul were flung so far and wide that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I would never find them all, let alone be whole again.

Trying to ignore my brokenness, I began to fill my life with self-destructive distractions. I began to drink and party. I put myself in a situation with a guy that I almost didn’t get out of.

I was lost and lonely and I didn’t have any one to turn to because I was so angry. At my biological parents for picking drinking and drugs over us. At my adoptive parents for lying all those years and for not loving me the way they I felt they should have.  And honestly, I was mad at God—I gave my heart to Him…wasn’t it supposed to be safe from this kind of heartache?

Anger and fear colored my everyday life for a long time. It colored my marriage. How I treated my kids. How I made friends.

It colored my healing process three years ago when my sister and I finally opened up about abuse that had happened to us as young teenagers by a relative. In all honesty, I had shoved those memories away, under lock and key. But when my sister decided to open her vault and told me what had happened to her, the lock on my secret box broke wide open and those memories became Technicolor. I remember thinking as a teenager “At least someone is paying attention to me.” For that brief moment, in my messed up, lonely brain, I wasn’t alone.

That is my heritage…I’m a product of abuse…abandonment…depression…anger…suicidal thoughts…hurt…neglect… unworthiness… COMPLETE BROKENNESS.

So why am I still here and how can I call myself an un-broken girl?

I found HOPE.

Being an un-broken girl is as much a journey as being a broken girl. An un-broken girl is not perfect or loved more by God or “has it all together.” The only difference is an un-broken girl has HOPE that a broken girl does not.

Those of us who call ourselves the un-broken have battled the same loathing, depression, pain, hurt, abandonment, abuse and so-on in our lives and the reason we are here and are able to say “I am un-broken” is that we looked up from ourselves, past our issues, and away from our past and current situations and found HOPE in Christ.

Psalm 31:12-14 & 24 says this (bold added by me):

I am ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot. I have heard many rumors about me, and I am surrounded by terror, My enemies conspire against me, plotting to take my life. BUT I am trusting you, O Lord, saying “’You are my God” So be strong and courageous, all you who put your HOPE in the Lord.”

Those verses are my life in 67 words.

I still have cracks…I still have noticeable flaws, but that’s OK because in my eyes now, when the light of God shines through those cracks, it’s even more beautiful.

You don’t have to live broken…God’s life for you has you whole…strong…and courageous.

It will not be an easy journey to un-brokenness…trust me…I’ve walked it, but it can start with just the one small step of HOPE.

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Keri Sallee is a lover of all things creative…from cooking and scrapping to mixed media and music to reading and writing. You name it…she loves it (well…except for sewing). You can join her on her journey of daily creativity at The Creative Life. Or follow her on Twitter @creativelifear