Hair Pulling & Tired Hands

Originally posted on Broken Girl:

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…

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Suddenly

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Spring is finally starting to spring up around here. I love the winter, and snow is my favorite, but even I am ready for warmer days and signs of new life.

Growing up in the nursery business gave me a profound love for the smell of freshly turned dirt and peat moss, and after a crazy few weeks of working more hours than I can count I decided I was in need of therapy of the dirty kind, so I headed to my flower beds with a trowel, shears and a garbage sack.

Step one in insuring pretty flowers throughout the spring and summer is a good spring clean-up in your flower beds. I’m normally not one that likes prep work. I do my best to skip as many steps as possible so I can get right to the fun part of the project (Thus the spots of paint on all the trim in my house. Seriously, who has time to tape and cut in?). But cleaning my flower beds this year was different. I found myself slowing down as I pulled weeds and cut back dead winter branches.

As I sat and looked around me I noticed that my flower beds looked a lot like I felt. Pretty ugly. Dry. Barren. A scraggly mess. I was so ready to be done with the dreary winter look… in my heart and my front yard. So I pulled weeds, pruned vines, chopped off the old dead ornamental grass. Leaving my Jack Frost babies for last…

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Ugly isn’t it? Prickly too. A million invisible thorns live on those branches. I know, I should get some gardening gloves, but then you can’t feel the dirt, and that’s just not acceptable. I’d rather face the prickly plants.

I love Jack Frost. In the spring and summer it makes me so happy to see its pretty leaves and dainty blue flowers. I have two that live right by my front door and I adore them. Even after they quit blooming they stay vibrant green up until it gets really cold. Then they turn into the ugly thing above. All winter I’ve been tempted to rip up that unsightly tumbleweed of a dead plant, but I know better. You see, under that ugliness is a chance for me to have pretty flowers again this spring… if they survive the winter. And I know that ugly dead thing is protecting the potential for new life.

But yesterday… Yesterday it was time!

It came up easily, with just a slight tug the branches let go of the soil and revealed the most beautiful sight beneath: new life!

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And there it is! Where there was once only dead, ugly branches suddenly there is new life. If you would have walked by my flower gardens last week you probably would have never guessed that such a beautiful sight lay hidden under such a lifeless thing. But it did. I was there all along. Sleeping, then waking and growing; waiting for the right moment to peak its little head out and soak up the warm spring sun. Waiting for me to come along and pull up all the dead things.

Can I ask you a question? Do you sometimes feel like there’s nothing happening in your life? Like everything in you is dried up and lifeless? Like everything is perpetual winter with no sign of spring? Do you keep walking by the same thing in your heart wondering if anything but ugliness will ever live there? Have you asked God if He even hears you at all? If He’s doing anything or if He’s just forgotten about you?  I have. Sometimes we just can’t see what’s taking place underneath it all.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isa. 43:19

 

Do you not perceive it? Sometime the answer is no. No, God I don’t see. I don’t see what You’re doing. I don’t see growth or change or answers. Everything looks the same to me. Then suddenly He pulls back the veil and gives us a glimpse of the glory. Suddenly a light pierces the darkness and we see that He was there all along. Working on us. Growing in us. Planting and preparing us for a new season. For new life.

Master Gardner, Author of seasons, today would You give us eyes to see? Would You pull back the lifelessness of the winter places of our souls and reveal glorious life spring up in us? Remove the tumbleweeds of our hearts. Show us that You’ve been at work all along, even in the ugly things. Let spring burst forth in our hearts and spirits. Help us to grow strong in You.

~Keri

 

When Hearts Break Wide-Open

T & Me

Almost two years ago we welcomed a little boy into our home for four months, we were in the process of adopting him when his mother decided she wanted him back. Those four months were extremely difficult. I wanted the boy, just not all the strings attached and baggage that came from his family fighting us. But love is about welcoming the chaos and opening your heart wide enough for it to break wide-open changing you forever. I watched love change my heart as I loved a stranger like he was flesh and blood, no different from my children.

I was never one to fall in love so easily, but sometimes love is like driving a car fast without any brakes. You brace yourself and hold your breath uncertain of the outcome. What once was invigorating and exciting hits the brick wall of change and you emerge different. The hope is that eventually the whiplash will fade to nothingness and your heart will be mended yet remain wide-open.

Love is bringing in all the baggage and dirty clothes with stains. It’s staying up late and rearranging all your space for one more. It’s saying, “You belong here, please untidy all the things that I think have to remain in a certain place.”

Love is letting go of your fears of loving someone you might not get to keep and loving so much it hurts in the best possible way. Love wrecks you turning you inside out, it’s the furthest thing from selfish and the closest thing to sacred we could ever feel. It’s messy and beautiful and worth it. The messy and the beautiful walk hand-in-hand and sometimes it hurts in ways words can’t express.

People always ask me if I would open my home again and I say yes, a million times, yes. I’ll leave the light on for you, little buddy. I’ll take your baggage and all your stains because fear doesn’t live here, love does. And I’ll leave my heart wide-open for my sister who feels like her world and heart has been split wide-open. Come and sit on my couch, you can cry and I’ll feed you chocolate. Together we can unpack your baggage, mending the tattered garments of your heart.

In our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts let us leave room for all the broken, baggage carriers because at one time that was us. Lets love each other enough and help them unpack their baggage. We will never regret loving fiercely and allowing our hearts to split wide-open. Love isn’t about counting the costs and being careful; it’s about saying it’s worth it. Come on, love, wreck me.

Loving the way Jesus does is risky, but with all my heart I believe it’s worth it. Jesus walked this earth with every intention of laying down His life for us, even for the ones who rejected and mocked Him. Laying it all down and living a life of putting others first is risky, but I want to love like that. My heart is full of gratitude for a cross, an empty tomb, and a risky, unending love.

There is room enough in my heart to be wrecked, split wide-open for those in need around me and I want more than anything to stop being so dang careful.

Much love,

Jennifer

 

When Marriage Is Bumpy Roads & Walmart Flowers

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I found a prayer that I wrote a year ago and because I’m either brave, or the people with the white coats need to come and take me away, I am going to share it with you.

Lord,
I need you to help me love him the way you have called me to. I refuse to carry bitterness and make long lists of yesterday’s junk or my record of wrongs. I seek Your face, You alone can be all that my heart needs and longs for. In You I am whole, loved for who I am, and not lacking.

And then I wrote some other things and prayed on paper asking for help because sometimes loving your man is hard and we have to say “I do” all over again with a greater realization that our love had to grow up and take on new shapes. We’ve both changed into people that I’m so proud of. We’ve grown up together, we’ve fallen in and out of love, and at times I’ve hated his guts and wanted to punch him in the face…and then all the anger drains out of me as I watch him be the father and steady leader we have needed desperately. The truth is, I wouldn’t trade this sometimes bumpy ride for anything.

I still “do” because together we are better and sometimes terrible. We are messy and real, sweet and sour, and worth fighting for.

I’ve learned something so profound by falling in and out of love and I’m pretty sure that the best parts of me are because of him. He’ll probably be completely bald by the time he’s forty-five and I’ll probably have to cross my legs every time I sneeze.

I’ll tweeze his ear hair and tell him he’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen and he’ll have to pretend he still loves my cooking and eat cereal right before he goes to bed.

We will keep loving and forgiving one another. We will keep kissing in front of our daughters and laugh because it “grosses them out”.

I’ll keep writing out prayers and asking God to help me be soft and loving, and not the broom-riding hag that I feel like sometimes. We will keep saying “I do” and loving this messy, beautiful life we have been given because it’s a gift.

Write out your prayers, ask God to change your heart first before you ask God to “fix him” and then throw away your record of wrongs. Chase after softness and forgiveness. Chase after the messy, redemptive love that comes with bumpy roads and Walmart flowers.

The God Who Sees & When She Has What You Want

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When we are at our lowest moment, running scared, we wonder if God sees us. We wonder if He knows exactly where we are, especially when our circumstances have caused us to not “feel” Him. In Genesis 16 a battle plays out in the hearts of two women who turned on each other. One of them had the heart of her man and the other was enlisted to carry his child.

One was a wife and the other a maidservant, yet inside of them both was a deep-rooted need to be loved, to be seen, and bring forth life. As the story plays out they both began to despise one another, mistreating one another in such a way that inflicted such misery. What seemed like a good idea at the time, the giving of Sarai’s maidservant as a wife to Abram, went terribly wrong dividing hearts and their home.

Two women misbehaving and inflicting wounds on the other, hurling insults and looks that could kill, and a passive man who just wanted all of this to go away.

Hagar did the only thing she knew to do, run. And in the process of running, God met with her in such a powerful way that it changed her. The heart of the maidservant needed to know that she wasn’t a throw-away-soul with no value or importance.

In verse 7-13, the girl who ran, was found.

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi…” (Vs. 13-14)

He is the God that sees us in our running place, wounded and forsaken. He is the God that meets with us and has specific promises for us even when we feel like we don’t deserve them and feel that we are second best. When we see the God who sees us, we can return with the assurance that whatever we face He is with us.

God looks at us and doesn’t see a throw-away-soul. He gives us a deep and satisfying well to draw from.

I look at these two women, the one with and the one without, and my heart aches at how women compare, covet, and wound one another. When “she” has what you want, ugly things can be stirred up within. Fight against that, not her. Don’t be blinded by what she has and what you don’t. I pray we can fight against the enemy of our souls who turns sister against sister. I pray that when God finds us, He sees us standing with our arms linked together and our hearts filled with love for our sisters in their various seasons of needing to be seen.

We all have something that we are waiting on.

We all want to run sometimes.

And we all crave to be seen in our broken places. We long to be seen in our seasons where we have and have not.

This week we will chase after the promises that are specifically ours and not look at what someone else has.

This week we will chase after our joy, not the joy that belongs to someone else.

This week we will rest in the knowledge that we are seen and noticed by God.

This week we will seek out someone who is struggling and let them know that they are seen and not alone.

Will you make this your prayer this week and join me?

Linking arms and hearts with you,

Jennifer

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Dirty Hearts & Unpacked Bags

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“Everyone comes with baggage. Find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack.” ~Anonymous

Jesus walked this earth to set hearts free, not only did He help others unpack their baggage; He removed it. In John chapter 8 the scribes and the Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in the act of adultery. I can’t imagine the shame she felt, all eyes on her eager to condemn her and throw stones at her to end her broken life. But not our Jesus, He stooped and wrote in the ground as if he did not hear them testing him. As they hurled accusations at the broken woman with baggage He raised himself up and said:

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 

And then he writes some more on the dirty ground in a crowd of dirty hearts who needed to see their own sin in order to walk away from the woman who was caught in the act. One by one they left and it was just the woman with baggage, desperate to be loved, and Jesus who mends broken places in ragged hearts setting them free.

“Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, my Lord.”

“Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

The more baggage we carry, the more intense our desire is to be loved and please others. It becomes a craving that is never satisfied and a lingering emptiness that takes us down dusty roads that lead to dead ends in every aspect of our lives. Ragged hearts tend to find people with jagged edges to pierce their tender state of being and this is our Jesus, the God who goes out of His way to meet with a broken girl in a broken relationship. He sees the jagged edges and tear-stained face and refuses to move on until the stone throwers walk away. He writes in the dirty soil and rewrites this woman’s history. Go and sin no more, your slate has been wiped clean. When the enemy reminds us of our past, let us hold unswervingly to the promise of our future. No matter how many times we fall and fail, we must get back up and remember that moment as Jesus stooped low to write on the ground and set a woman free.

That day a woman with a sketchy past met true and last loving, one that restored hope instead of inflicting shame, scars on her heart, and an imitation of love that only wanted one thing. Loved walked onto the scene and unpacked a very large, ugly bag. Loved removed the label of shame and welcomed her home baggage free. I pray we can love like Jesus does when we noticed the hurting and the wayward, may we rally around them and help them to unpack baggage they have been carrying around for decades. If we can look past all the things we don’t understand about them, maybe we could be more like Jesus and less like a judge and keeper of wrongs.

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and not a single one of us has it all together no matter how long we have been serving Christ. (Rom 3:23) Let us be grace givers, not stone throwers, for this is the heartbeat of Christ to seek and to save those who are lost. I pray I never forget the way I came to Christ and my all-consuming need of a Savior.

The Jesus who writes in the dirty soil is unafraid of a dirty past, wiping the slate clean and rewriting our story where baggage becomes a platform, under our feet…exactly where it should be.

Much love,

Jennifer

Blurry Trees & Healing Steps

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I have watched God heal my heart, and the hearts of others, in stages. When pain runs deep sometimes those battle scars need a little more time, a little more prayer, a little more dwelling with Jesus to be truly, deeply healed. A passage of scripture in Mark 8 reminds me of this healing process, these stages that are layered upon one another in order for healing to take place.

22 Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. 23 So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything.

24 And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.”

25 Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. (Mark 8:22-25 NKJV)

Sometimes we receive a touch from Jesus and we know there has to be more, we see men like trees, walking. We can’t see our healing in clarity and so we keep coming back for more until we see undoubtedly the way we were meant to see. Don’t be discouraged if you are still in the various stages of healing, keep coming back to Jesus and making your requests known to our Healer. He’s not finished. He is still in the healing business. We don’t know why Jesus had to touch the man twice, but it brings tears to my eyes that Jesus didn’t stop until the man could see clearly. And I know He does that with us, sometimes we need the various moments of life that let us know that we are not seeing life in focus the way He meant for us to.

Sometimes life is blurry trees and coming back to Jesus almost healed but not quite
. Sometimes life is steps, missteps, and spitting. All I know is that however Jesus wants to heal you and whatever that looks like is beautiful, messy, and worth waiting for.

Much love to you,
Jennifer