Untidy Hearts

keri-1When people ask to meet with me for advice or just to have someone safe to talk to, I come ready. By ready I mean, I pray like crazy. I beg God to show up, that it will not be my words but His. His words bring life and sometimes my words, if not chosen carefully, fall flat and amount to absolutely nothing. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I just knew that she wanted to meet with me. So, I rearranged my schedule to give her as much time as she needed.

Would she open up to me?

Would she feel like she could let her words and broken heart spill out on the table without holding anything back?

Would she feel safe and loved and wanted? Because that’s the best way I know how to customize vulnerable space for these broken girls that I love so much. Feeling safe, loved, and wanted is the doorway they will timidly walk through.

She held out her hand to shake mine, but all I really wanted to do was to wrap her teenage frame in my momma-arms. But, I followed her lead and shook her sweet, nervous hand instead. We sat across from each other at the gorgeous table designed to impress businessmen and I purposed in my heart that I wouldn’t let the glass and finished wood create an officious wall between a broken girl and the one who had outgrown her broken girl status.

I’m nothing at all if I forget the power of my testimony, if I shy away from letting her know that I’ve been there too. Broken. Trying. Wrecked not wanting to cry. So fragile yet trying to be strong, trying to learn how to fall apart, and let someone else watch you and lovingly coach you through that process. I believe sharing our testimony is another form of healing for us personally and for those we share with.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Rev 12:11 NKJV)

What would I have to offer her sitting there with a polished appearance yet remain guarded, unable to show her my heart, even if it’s untidy? The tidy, careful me faded the moment I embraced my true worth and released an insecure heart. Tidiness is for someone else’s space, not mine. Because where there is life, there is mess. Why would I lie and say that I wasn’t tangled up in a handful of messy relationships with messy people? Maybe I’m less of a mess inside because of the way I allow myself to relax and release the need to fix messy hearts. Sometimes my heart alone is a big enough job that I can’t handle the weight of trying to make my husband happy and my kids happy and all the people I love happy. And I love so many people. What a ticking time bomb I would be if I thought I had to be the savior of their hearts and solely responsible as the keeper of their happiness.

This generation is tired of fake and false perfection. It craves real. They need to see that God uses messes and misfits. That He is still drawing them out of unwanted waters like Moses, taking stuttering lips that trip over words creating a mouthpiece and a leader that will usher people out of bondage and captivity. Powerful things happen when untidy hearts surrender to God.

I didn’t want to counsel her from my position, or so called authority; I wanted to counsel her from a vulnerable place where I learned to wade through the murky waters of brokenness just like she is doing now. Navigating through a life that isn’t always polished and pretty has been an oasis of wealth for character building. It’s worth sifting through broken places to find God waiting on the other side. And as I sat on the other side of a pretty table, I hoped that I could be the arms of God extended, asking her to cross safely to the other side.

Finding God in my broken spaces has taught me this; God cares more about a polished heart than a polished appearance. You can fake one, but not both. You can hide behind a cute outfit and apply another coat of mascara, but it won’t mask the pain behind tired, beautiful eyes.

“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7 NIV)

Let your words spill out and together we will try to make sense of it all. No shame. No judgment. No long list of what you are supposed to be doing.

She cried. She spilled out words. I grabbed enough tissue to help her collect them and told her to worry about her pretty makeup later. Just cry, let the mascara run and the worry spill out in salty form. Hold nothing back in this safe, sacred space. 

Our time was out and she needed to leave; her heart was lighter as a smile splashed across her face. I did what I wanted to do from the very moment we met, I wrapped her up in my momma-arms and prayed over her before she left the room with the glass tabletop made to impress businessmen.

This is real life, messy ministry-the life-changing kind. The kind that makes me feel alive and brave. The kind that makes me out myself for being messy just like everyone else and yet whole, confident, and eager to see others find sacred, messy space.

My prayer for us today:

Lord,

Untidy our world and give us eyes for the broken. Let us roll up our sleeves and let their mascara and tears stain our cute shirts. Let us know the power of our testimony because we are unafraid to share our redeemed secrets. Let us be the nonjudgmental arms waiting on the other side of the minefield, or better yet, give us the guts to pull wrecked hearts from the devastation. Let us love in such a way that it wrecks our polished appearance as you cultivate a polished, refined heart within. Perhaps that is the best way to win others and make Your name famous.

Amen and let it be.

Photo by Chelsea Rustad

When Life Makes You a Thundercloud, How To Love Better

Image

20130724-055256.jpg

“She’s like a thundercloud, always rumbling.” ~The Book Thief

As the story plays out in The Book Thief I fell in love with the story, even the thundercloud, and found traces of her humanity that I could relate to and understand. Everyone can be described with many words, but sometimes our view of who they are is restricted by how we want to see them.

Some people are just like that, like a thundercloud, stormy and unpredictable. But there is always a reason for the way people act and react. One of my most favorite things to do is figure out why people are a certain way. There is always a story, a reason that will unlock parts of their heart and shed light on God’s fascinating creation. A mystery novel waiting to be figured out, they want you to know them. To let the plot of their life have twists and turns, heartbreak and heroism. Loving people well means taking the time to see them.

The woman who needs to control and micromanage every detail of her life, she’s a spinning top. She spins and spins because she just wants to cover as much territory as she can, she loves with acts of service, she spins until she drops and when she spins she is loving you. She would also love it if you would pick up your own stuff because when you do that you are loving her back. She spins because she has lost something precious to her and if she spins fast enough she won’t have time to cry about what is lost. She keeps herself busy. Don’t mistake her spinning for strength; she doesn’t know how to fall apart. It’s not easy for her. She often has lots of advice for others, but doesn’t know how to receive advice from others, or help. She feels like she has to be a pillar of strength for others, but even pillars crumble. Her intentions are so noble; she is often misunderstood. She is needed and needful and necessary.

The woman who is quiet and taking pictures in her mind, she is a deep ocean and she needs peace to make the craziness of life make sense. She needs room to spread out into deep waters and drink life in, she is actively participating in her life but she’s quiet about it. She longs for the deep, meaningful relationships and would rather have two best friends instead of ten. She retreats if you push her too hard, she’ll dive into her deep ocean and you won’t be able to reach her. Deep oceans require lots of beautiful space, loving her looks like acceptance and giving her room to swim rough waters alone sometimes. If you cut her off when she is trying to find words, she won’t fight you; she just won’t waste her time trying to get you to hear her. Loving her is letting her find words and allowing her to say them without thinking about what you might say next. Don’t mistake her quietness for aloofness, when she feels loved and safe she’ll take your hand and teach you deep things. She is smarter than you know; take the time to listen because when she says something it’s worth hearing.

Then there is the woman who rains words, always talking, always touching, and always trying to bring you into her sunshine. She loves people and is energized by large groups, sometimes she feels like she is too much…but all she really wants is to connect with people face-to-face, to see others and let them see her. She doesn’t like the silence; she doesn’t like to be alone. She finds her worth in the people around her that she loves; she needs words to affirm her and celebrate her. She rains words because she craves words; don’t mistake her energy for confidence. Sometimes it’s just a cover-up for a hurting heart. She is a leader and a cheerleader and she has a million things she wants to do, but sometimes in her dark moments when no one is around she wonders if she is enough or just all over the map. She is a force and a superhero without a cape.

All of these beautiful stories weave together and hold hands with other women; they are all needed, needful, and necessary. Every story vital and worth hearing because underneath all of these layers, and word pictures to describe them, is the heart of a woman who needs to know that how God hardwired her and fashioned her is okay. That nothing wrong with her, but sometimes she wonders if maybe life would be better if she was more like someone else. Someone who doesn’t thunder, or rain, or spin, or dive into the deep.

What would happen if we just released the thunderclouds, the spinning tops, the deep oceans, and the woman who rains words to love the way God fashioned them? To take who they are and measure it next to God’s word, not roles defined by society and fitting in?

What if we took who we are and just asked ourselves this?

Are you living 1 Corinthians 13 in the best way you know how to today? At the end of the day, I’m only responsible for how I act and how I show love.

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (NIV)

Some days I do all of these things. I spin and I rain and I dive headfirst into the deep. Some days I am harder to love and some days I love wrong and find it hard to love traits in others. I hang my head low and swallow hard because I don’t really need to do more or be more, I just need to love and let 1 Corinthians 13 be my rulebook.

Much love,

Jennifer

Vulnerable Hearts

keri-3 (2)

Last week Dave Frey from Sidewalk Prophets was in studio with us talking about his new single “Keep Making Me” and the story behind the song. He quoted C.S. Lewis “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” Those words stayed with me for days.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of guarding our hearts, of keeping them locked up and secreted away. But love can’t grow there. I remember sitting in the studio listening to Dave and asking God to make me vulnerable, to make me willing to be vulnerable so that I would be capable of giving and receiving love. Just a few short days later I got the opportunity to put in practice C.S. Lewis’ words. I was at lunch with a group of ladies that I meet with on a fairly regular basis. They are my safe group, girls I trust with my heart, girls that don’t sit around and talk about surface things, but are willing to dive into the deep places of the heart with you. Our conversations are those without filters, and I love them for that.

It had been a rough week for me, and I sat quietly during lunch, listening to the other ladies share about the exciting things God was doing in each of their lives and their ministries. They talked about big dreams they have for the future and how God is opening doors for those dreams to become reality. I felt like I didn’t have any exciting news to add to the conversation because my heart was hurting and I was afraid if I opened my mouth what would spill out would take the conversation from a direction of excitement and rejoicing to one of tears and concern.

I had all but decided to just put on a smile and keep my mouth shut when I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ words “to love is to be vulnerable”. I knew if I didn’t say anything I’d be passing up a gift. A gift from the hand of God, who had placed in my life three women who knew me and loved me, women who wouldn’t judge me or tell my secrets, but would simply listen and encourage and pray. To have friends who love without trampling your heart is a gift, to not be vulnerable with those friends is to snub your nose at that gift.

I finally got up the courage to speak and the minute I opened my mouth the tears fell from my eyes as fast as the words fell from my lips. None of my friends were mad at me for changing the direction of the conversation, none of them were upset that I was having a bad week and needed to process. I was hugged and loved and prayed for. That day I received healing and strength to carry on because I risked being vulnerable.

The truth is… vulnerability scares me. It didn’t used to, but being vulnerable has taught me when you give someone access to your heart odds are pretty good that they will break it; at least that’s how my history has gone. And after one too many times of experiencing a broken heart it’s all too easy to lock your heart up and throw away the key. But I’m realizing that there’s something more dangerous than a broken heart… a heart that’s unbreakable. A heart that’s hard and cold and closed off. A heart that’s afraid of love is a lot more damaged than a heart that is hurt by love.

We have to be willing to risk. Part of our healing, part of our finding wholeness on the other side of brokenness is taking a chance to risk again. We have to learn how to let go of the pain that love has brought us so that we can receive the love that God has for us. So how do we do that?

This week I was watching one of my favorite shows, Call the Midwife (it is serious British drama, and I love it!) when these words grabbed my heart:

“Next time there’s a storm leave open both doors. Don’t let your misfortunes find a home.

History needn’t be a trap, we can escape its web and shake off its weight of pain.

We can change our minds and open up our hearts.

We can let forgiveness speak and allow it to be heard, let friendship flourish,

and let love in so it might feed and sustain us all our days.”

 

There it is… the secret! Don’t let your misfortunes find a home. Don’t let the pain of the past take up residency and live in your heart. Let it pass through. Open the back door and let it free. Don’t hold the hurt hostage. Because if we do we don’t leave room for forgiveness and friendship and love to enter in and find a home.

The sad truth is, not everyone can be trusted with your heart, and not everyone should be given full access to your heart. God gives us wisdom and discernment for that reason. But He also places us in good community and surrounds us with brothers and sisters in Christ who want to love us and be the hands and feet of Christ extended to us. To reject them because of the hurt inflicted on us by someone else is to reject God’s healing for us.

We need to ask God to give us eyes to see the people He’s placed in our lives that are safe, and when He shows us who they are we need to ask Him for the guts to open our mouths and speak the vulnerable words, to uncover the hiddenness of our heart, to reveal the hurting places.  To let love in so it might feed us and sustain us all our days.

With love~

Keri

Image by Chelsea Rustad, used with permission.

The Ladder of Success is A Lie

20140516-151411.jpg

There is this thing, an idea, held over our heads. It hangs there if we let it. In this world that focuses on the accumulation of things and accolades, I think it eludes to us and it always will. This far off thing and our definition of it, scales and ladders in our minds and invisible measuring devices that say “success”.

My father-in-laws has often said from the pulpit and from his classroom that, “The ladder is a lie.”

With every fiber of who I am, I wholeheartedly agree. The ladder to success is a lie; with God it is all about obedience. Are you doing what God is asking of you, just you, without measuring it according to what you see someone else doing? It seems so simple, but our humanity and unrealistic expectations complicate things, doesn’t it?

We want to climb and conqueror and accomplish and so we set out to do great things and have honorable intentions. I love wild ambitions and when we leap headfirst into our God-dreams. And yet I war against my personal ladder and choose not to climb it.

It’s the lie of the ladder that we are “supposed” to climb and the nosedive into the deep, a pool or ocean of the unknown, to splash around in a place that takes misfits and teaches them to walk on water. I long to step outside of comfortable Christianity, and confined places, to follow Jesus without the worry of the lying ladder of success.

I think we should put the ladder in it’s place instead of the other way around. To do the small and become someone we are really proud of in the process.

To be the least and trail along at the end of the serving line because you can wait. You can wait to eat and be the least and you can rule out the notion of celebrity Christians because what you want more than anything else in the world is just to love the way God has asked you to. To serve in whatever way He calls you to and to know that whatever that looks like is a really big deal to Jesus.

To be a doorkeeper in His house.

Or the woman with a really large ladle scooping out portions that people are starving for.

Perhaps a man walking down the really long, lying ladder who takes off his three-piece suit and unties the noose around his corporate neck and charts a new path with less zeros because he has always wanted more life, not more things. He wants to become the hero to his affection-starved children and weary wife who could care less about her perfectly manicured hands because she misses how it feels to have her fingers intertwined with the man she loves. She misses when they worked side-by-side and nothing to their names.

Several months ago I was updating my resume and I had a decade where I went completely off-grid and off the radar of importance. No important things to add to my resume; nothing to impress you really. Just a woman with two-point-five kids and a blog and a ministry and piles of laundry to tackle, a woman unscripted and living on one income and so stinking fulfilled I almost didn’t know what to do with myself.

But, I wasn’t always happy, not for the entire time of my off-the-grid decade. I had glimpses of happy mixed with feelings of being on the sidelines of ministry and felt like I wasn’t important. And yes, I felt angry on the days where I felt like the church was “the other woman” and to be a good wife I needed to be a quiet one. One that didn’t have needs because “the other woman” needed him more. I wasn’t on a ladder because I didn’t need one. I swam in swampy waters and sometimes crystal oceans. And I found a woman I really loved being, the uncharted one.

It’s different for every woman and every family, and that’s why life is so beautiful and sometimes awful. But, it’s our life. We can ascend to the steady climb to conquer our personal mountains with our feet on dirty soil where we do everyday life.

This morning as I was reading I stumbled into this passage of scripture and I drank in these words and felt soul-satisfied and fed.

5 My soul, wait silently for God alone,

For my expectation is from Him.

6 He only is my rock and my salvation;

He is my defense;

I shall not be moved.

7 In God is my salvation and my glory;

The rock of my strength,

And my refuge, is in God.

8 Trust in Him at all times, you people;

Pour out your heart before Him;

God is a refuge for us. Selah

9 Surely men of low degree are a vapor,

Men of high degree are a lie;

If they are weighed on the scales,

They are altogether lighter than vapor.

10 Do not trust in oppression,

Nor vainly hope in robbery;

If riches increase,

Do not set your heart on them.

11 God has spoken once,

Twice I have heard this:

That power belongs to God.

12 Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy;

For You render to each one according to his work.

(Ps 62:5-12 NKJV)

The unimportant woman and the important woman are both a vapor, both a lie. I can’t find my ladder, but if I could I would sand it and refinish it to look like something more useful that actually fits with where I desire to go. I would add my special colors and climb it to reach things on high shelves I can’t reach. At the end of the day, I’m still reaching for His ways not my own.

 

 

Little Girls With Big Faith, Taking On Hell With A Squirt-Gun

20140513-122600.jpg

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t love Jesus, I was maybe six the first time I cried in Sunday school. When boys would tease me they would call me “Crybaby” and I was just that, a crybaby. But, in Sunday school I didn’t cry because I was backwards or shy, I cried because I felt Jesus in the words the teacher spoke. She had natural red hair and was sweet, that’s all I remember. Her words made me feel Jesus. I can remember looking around the room and once again, I was the only one crying.

I learned to pray for the lost and sometimes I could only pray for one of them, someone I loved. One lost loved one who needed Jesus even though they were too strong to know it.

I still loved Jesus when I was in the sixth grade and I decided that I wanted to be cool and to be cool I needed to swear like a half-pint, underdeveloped runt with words that I had heard someone else say. Swearing didn’t make me feel cool at all, it only made me feel smaller, so I gave that up.

I decided to love Jesus and to not swear to be cool and pray for one lost love. Middle school is brutal because everyone is awkward then, even if they are too cool to admit it.

I grew up. I kept praying. I followed Jesus and followed this wild calling. I was the girl who felt like I could take on hell with a squirt-gun. On certain days, I still do. My childlike faith became smaller, and grownup like, and eventually I felt myself praying less for my one lost loved one.

I remember feeling like it was my job to save them. It was my job to show them Jesus, but loving and living and trying so hard to fix it didn’t work. I didn’t understand him and I still don’t.

It’s not my job to understand why certain people do destructive things, it’s my job to love even when it’s hard to.

She is nine and full of faith, the faith that says it’s always possible. The same faith I used to have that prayed and prayed and prayed. I still believe in the prayers of a little girl, that somehow they linger in broken spaces understanding that our timing is not the timing of God. He knows and we don’t. Broken beginnings can have beautiful endings, I just know it.

My tiny one asks me hard questions and I craft my words carefully because of love and tiny minds.

“Why did they get divorced?” She asks, I swallow hard and beg God quickly for words.

“Because he wasn’t a good man.”

That’s all I can say, I can’t say more or less. I can’t explain each situation and why two people break apart.

“Why?”

“Because he doesn’t know Jesus.”

She gasps and then stuns me with her words as she looks at me with those hazel eyes I adore, so sincere and sweet.

“We need to do whatever it takes to show him Jesus, so he’ll have him in his heart. And show him Jesus is real.”

I lower my head, my husband starts to sob, and I try to shake off memories of being just like her, a pint-size soul winner. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing whatever it takes to show him Jesus. I didn’t know how to stop the fast moving train of adult choices. I still don’t. I don’t know how to clean up decades of trash accumulated from living hard and just trying to survive. I don’t know how to change living conditions and skin that easily bruises now. I don’t know how to fix a broken body doubled over in pain. Lord knows how badly I want to.

But I can show him Jesus. I can still love him and ask God to help me love him. I can do whatever takes because my nine-year-old believes I can and that we can.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 18:3 NIV)

Maybe growing up is possible without the forsaking of childlike faith? I don’t want to just enter the kingdom of heaven the day I take my final breath. I want to be the kingdom here and have the heartbeat of Christ. I want to be more like my little girl.

20140513-122637.jpg

The Shadow of His Wing

photo (91)

“We spend more time talking about how wonderful it is to hide

under His wings than actually finding refuge there.”

Angie Smith

We sat in the gazebo in the middle of forty beautiful acres with open books on our laps discussing chapter five of “Chasing God”. It was evening and the sun was slowly setting, the only sound was that of birds scurrying about and the breeze on the wind chimes. We sat in silence as the truth of Angie’s words filled the space between us.

Just a few minutes earlier we were at dinner with about thirty Benedictine Sisters inside the hundred year old Monastery that sits in the middle of the property. At dinner Sister Kimberly was entertaining us with a hilarious story. She was at a retreat out of state when several of them decided to make their way down to the lake for a few minutes of quiet reflection. It turned out to be not so quiet after all. On the bank of the lake was a pair of geese with a large brood of goslings. Sister Kimberly was excited to see all of the baby geese, when suddenly a large dog came out of nowhere barking and chasing after them. The momma goose ushered all of the babies into the lake and then proceeded to stretch out her gigantic wings over each of the goslings and pushed them under the water. She stayed there like that for the longest time, hissing at that dog, and nearly drowning her babies. Sister Kimberly said she held them under water so long she was sure that none of them would survive. Eventually the dog wandered off and one by one the baby geese bobbed back up to the surface.

I couldn’t help but think about her story as we sat in the gazebo discussing what it looks like to take refuge under His wings. How brave of that mother goose to gather and protect the little ones. How terrifying it must have been to be one of those babies; thrown into the lake, pushed under water, surrounded by darkness, gasping for breath. I imagine they might not have thought their mom brave or heroic or nurturing. I bet they fought against those strong wings under that cold water.

Maybe this is why taking refuge is harder than talking about refuge.

“I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1) sounds a lot more poetic then “please nearly drown me and hide me in a dark cold place until the disaster has passed”. The truth is; experience is always messier than knowledge, which may be why we shy away from it.

The next morning I got up early and went out to the pond. I found my own pair of geese; these two aren’t keeping an eye on a young brood, but on a nest full of eggs. Their diligence to watch those eggs amazed me. They were willing to take me on the moment I got to close to their precious babies. I understand their fierce protective nature, I am a mother, I would do the same. I even understand why the mother goose pushed her babies under the water. I didn’t make sense to them, but to her it was what needed to be done in that moment.

So many times in my life I’ve felt like that nearly drowned gosling. I’ve fought against God, questioning what on earth He is doing to me. I’ve felt like the darkness would never lift, that the waters pressing in around me would never recede. Like Angie I’m a lot better at studying Him than trusting Him. Because often trusting Him doesn’t make sense, at least not from my perspective.

Job said “though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him”. I love the way the New Living Translation reads: God might kill me, but I have no other hope. (Job 13:15) Sometimes God’s ways don’t make sense. Sometimes it feels like He doesn’t hear our desperate cries and will never come to our rescue, but what if He is rescuing us in a way that feels more like drowning than being snuggled up warm and dry in a safe nest? Can we trust Him in those moments?

He says we can. He promises that His plans for us are for our good and not to harm us. Maybe trusting Him looks a lot more like a defenseless gosling trusting her mother’s wings will not drown her but protect her than believing that trust means we will never experience darkness or fear or pain under His wings of protection.

We know that if one of those baby geese had stood her ground and faced that dog in her own strength she might have wound up as lunch that day. That would be a foolish thing to do, yet I do the same thing all the time. When faced with disaster my immediate response is often to either face it head on and try to figure out a way through in my own strength or to run and hide all alone wondering why Jesus isn’t rescuing me. What if instead of looking to ourselves for rescue we looked for His wings and then stayed put under them for however long it took? Yes, it might be scary under there, but it’s better than facing that dog alone.

With Love~
Keri

Moms Need Moms

IMG_1046Watson09-43

Sunday morning my dear friend Chelsea and I had uninterrupted time in a car which is worth its weight in gold for busy moms like us. Since she has been in my life she has given birth twice and I have held each one thinking I was an honorary aunt. That somehow those redheaded babies were mine in some small way. This is the family of God, the one that says you belong to me and I belong to you simply because we are His children. And to be like Him we must become like the little ones that we are trying so hard to raise. Arms outstretched waiting to be picked up, so trusting, and needy. But, we are not real good at this needy business.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 18:3 NIV)

As we talked the topic of motherhood came up, but not in the way you would think. It wasn’t two women talking about their children and our roles and questioning our sanity in the fine art juggling life, marriage, and roles. It was two women talking about our need for a mother. My mom is two hours and a phone call away, and hers passed on when she was much too young. Fifteen seems way too young and way too awkward to no longer have a woman to teach you, shape you, and hug you. I can’t imagine.

In a quick car ride words spilled out, took on shapes, and reminded me what it means to acknowledge an aching need. A mother who still needs to be mothered at times. What flowed out from a motherless void was a mother of four saying that it’s hard and sometimes she is still mad because her mother was taken too soon. I swallowed hard because I know how hard it was to say that. Hard to say, harder to feel, the place where we give room for a grownup heart to feel mad and figure out what to do with feelings we wished we didn’t have.

Somehow this monumental moment, the day we became a mother, flooded our hearts with a need for our moms. The one who brushed our hair and spanked us, the one who cradled us and rocked us to sleep. Becoming a mother made us more aware of our need for a mother. Who would have known that need would stir in our hearts when we cradled miniature versions of ourselves? I feel so blessed that my mom was with me at the hospital when I gave birth to my daughters. Two things happened that day, a deeper bond and love stronger than I have ever know between this tiny human and me…and a greater love and respect for my mom.

I have found that sometimes other women take turns with us, and stand in the gap when our mothers are hours away, or an eternity away. This need, this desire, this aching within the heart of women is the gift of nurture, to be both the giver and the recipient. Sometimes you adopt a widow and walk with her through the loss of her other half, you stand by her side and help her cry. You become the daughter she never had and take turns nurturing the generations, those far ahead of you and the ones still hanging on your leg giving you sloppy kisses. There are different seasons with different women, friends, and “other mothers”. But each one is a beautiful snapshot in the seasons of our life. And sometimes we fade in and out of service, switching gears when life changes and we change right along with it.

Maybe you are one of the aching women who couldn’t give birth to a child you could hold and name. I need to tell you that you have birthed other beautiful things and God is not finished with your nurturing heart. You are the kind of mother that children dream of and I believe that in your area of influence they are waiting on you. They just don’t know how to ask you to adopt the grownup version of themselves that still needs a hug, a mentor, and a friend.

The church in general is freaking out about Millennials leaving the church, but let me tell you what I see happening in our church and so many others. I see a re-entry and a coming home moment for these millennials the moment they become parents, tired, and needy for something vastly deeper than a social media, coffee-house theology. They crave the deep. Comments and likes on Facebook cannot replace the deep-rooted need for face-to-face connection. It will never fill the void of your place in the church. You are needed, necessary, and vital to the body of Christ.

To the men and women who have paved the way for us to go further, faster than we deserve I honor you. Perhaps you haven’t heard these words in such a long time…We need you. I need you. The world needs you.

Stop worrying about Millennials leaving the church and get your church ready for when they come home, because they will.

Be ready. Be available. Be unafraid of change. Make room for mess and make the space in your churches, and your hearts. I promise you this; if you love on their children you will win their hearts. You will be kingdom people. Adopt a needy twenty-something. Adopt a family.

To Millennials and the needy and those feeling the weight of the mother/fatherless gap:

Be teachable.

Be needy enough to give someone room to take over where others left off in the shaping of you. We are nothing without each other.

Put down your phones and hold weathered hands and ask them to tell you their stories. Look into their eyes and let them see a glimpse of their younger selves in you. Adopt a momma or a grandma.

Together we take turns and cradle the generations. We need each other.

Much love,

Jennifer