Taboo

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I’m not a really big fan of games, but from time to time my family twists my arm and makes me play with them. If I do have to play a game I have my favorites; Scrabble, Boggle, and Taboo top the list. Notice a theme? I love words and word games.

Taboo is one of our family favorites. A quick refresher in case you haven’t played in a while: each team is trying to get their teammates to guess the “secret word” the only problem is there’s a list of words that are “taboo”. If you say one of the taboo words someone on the other team will buzz you. Buzzing people just happens to be my son’s favorite part of the game. I hate getting buzzed. Just when I seem to be on a role and getting lots of points for my team I’ll let one little word slip, hear that awful buzz in my ear, and be completely derailed.

It happened to me just last week, but I wasn’t playing Taboo, I was filling out insurance paperwork so one of my kids could get some dental work done. I’ve yet to meet a mom who enjoys filling out the endless piles of paperwork for their kids, but it’s unavoidable. I was about finished with the first page when I heard the buzzing… Are you: single, married, divorced, widowed. Ugh. Seriously? Why does it matter? And why do I hear that stupid buzzer every time I have to check the “divorced” box?

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My parent’s divorced when I was a teenager. I was mad for a long time. Mad because they gave up. Mad because they didn’t try harder. Mad because they chose to walk away instead of fix it. I carried that anger into my own marriage. I was convinced that if you tried hard enough and loved Jesus enough that every marriage could last the length of time.

I was the most judgmental person you’ve ever met when it came to divorce. When I heard about someone going through divorce, especially if they were a Christian, my first response was to roll my eyes and inwardly scorn them for not trying harder. Pretty ugly, huh? But I’m being honest. I had zero mercy in my life when it came to this issue.

Then one Tuesday afternoon I came home from work to find my husband waiting with bags packed. He was done, and there was nothing in that moment that I could say or do to stop him from walking out that door. The day my marriage broke so did my Pharisaical condemnation towards divorce. I had created a standard for myself and imposed that standard on everyone around me; divorce is always avoidable and therefor never an option.  Now here I was facing the one thing I had determined I would never face. What do you do with that? How do you cope when you’ve moved from the position of casting judgment to being the very thing you’ve condemned?

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I had become taboo. I was labeled with the one label I swore I would never wear; the one label that I was convinced would bring me the most shame.

There are certain things that we tip-toe around in the church; divorce, abuse, addiction, mental illness, depression, doubt. I understand why we do it, they’re hard things attached to real emotions affecting real people. We don’t know how to broach such difficult subjects so we often stay silent or, even worse, spout off without thinking. I’m not pointing fingers, I’m the guilty one. I’m the one who sat in the seat of the scoffer. And as a result of my own judgment, three years later I still hear a little buzzer when I have to check the divorced box.

There are certain sins, certain struggles that we have deemed “taboo”. The problem is, making something taboo is pretty much the opposite of what Jesus did.

Luke allows us to see what Jesus does with those who have been labeled with something taboo in his gospel. He tells the story of two people, one a religious leader, the other a sinner. One who seats in the seat of the scorner, one who sits in the seat of the condemned. The Pharisee does exactly what I expect him to; he welcomes Jesus into his home and then proceeds to silently judge the sinful women talking to Jesus. He did just what I would have done, elevated himself to a position of “better than” and judged her and deemed her “unworthy”.

The woman, on the other hand, does exactly opposite of what I expect her to. Instead of hiding from Jesus, instead of avoiding the gathering altogether, she marches right into the thick of it. Does she feel shame? Probably. Does she feel like she doesn’t belong there? Most likely. Does she feel like her whole life is taboo? I’m sure she does. But, she doesn’t let that stop her.

“There was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” Luke 8

The Pharisees had a reputation, she had to know they would judge her if she walked into that room. Apparently Jesus had a reputation too. I don’t know what she had heard about Jesus, but it was enough for her to press through the fear of being whispered about to get to Him. Jesus wasn’t afraid of her label. He didn’t buzz her and see her to the door when she bowed at His feet in humble adoration. He didn’t ignore her sin; neither did He condemn her with it. He simply loved her.

He loved the broken, sinful, repentant, humble woman.

There are two places we can stand when we feel condemned. We can stand outside, fearful and ashamed, weighed down with the buzzing we hear, or we can stand at the feet of Jesus.

The woman who came and washed the feet of her savior was washed by His love. She entered condemned, and left forgiven, cleansed and at peace.

The boxes don’t go away. We will still have to put check marks next to things we never dreamed in a million years would apply to us. But the buzzing can be silenced. No. Not silenced, replaced. Instead of the buzz of condemnation, if you listen hard enough you can hear another sound, a quiet, loving whisper, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

~Keri

 

Photo by (cup)cake_eater. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Melissa Emmons Photography. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Allison McDonald. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

How To Love Someone In A Midlife Crisis

Photo Cred-Lynne Hand, Boat

As I sit down to type I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, I’m in the middle of the worst battle of my life trying to see if I can fix someone else’s midlife crisis. It seems like I should just keep trying everything and doing the very best that I can. But, I’m not sure how much longer I can tread water in this crisis before the waves pull me under and I sink hard and fast with the ship I used to like living in.

I’m so heartbroken at this and my real thoughts might seem really honest and cold, but I think the definition of midlife crisis should be: a one-way trip to a place of selfishness.

I do not want to go on this trip, but who’s to say I won’t experience my own mid-life soul crisis? I’ve battled depression on and off for years and I remember thinking that my husband was strong enough to lift the dark cloud off of me. But, he couldn’t. Somewhere in my headspace, my winter months of darkness and bareness of joy, I wrestled with prayer and with God and stopped wrestling with others. My hands were up in surrender with the white flag raised, “God, If you can save me, throw me a lifeline. I’m desperate, I’ll take crumbs I don’t even need a full meal. I just need something.”

And God always came to my rescue. Sometimes it seemed like the sadness lasted for much too long, but it eventually left and my color returned. Laughter filled my lungs and a song spilled out from a renewed heart. When I couldn’t pray, I asked others to pray for me and had trusted friends to hold my hand on the journey. I never asked them to jump in my pit of despair with me, just maybe take me out for chips and salsa and give me a reason to change out of my yoga pants. And after the conversation became lighter and tears stopped, we would have a cake-date afterwards. Sometimes you just need to celebrate the small victories because if we can’t, our expectations might be a little too Hollywood, airbrushed fakeness, and not based on reality.

I’ve learned that letting others see my ugly and broken moments is receiving love when I’m the furthest thing from perfect. In the past, I wanted others to only see me when I was happy and living life to the fullest, but God has given me the truest friends and family that have been unwilling to leave my side at dark, broken moments. They love me just because, no strings-attached, no need to jump through hoops or fake anything. I just get to show up and that’s enough. Man, that’s nice. 

I guess that is what I’m trying to do now as my loved one has a head-on collision with this thing called mid-life. Just show up and try not to check out when things get hard.

But it’s freaking hard right now.

So, how do we love someone in their mid-life crisis and soul funk?

Realize that it’s bigger than you. Ask really good questions about feelings and what they need from you.

Realize that if you are doing all the things that they “need” and it’s still not enough, take breaks for your heart and do whatever you can to not go into crisis-mode with them. Someone has to be the strong one; Lord knows it doesn’t feel fair. But someone has to be the voice of reason and hear the voice of God if the other person’s judgment is murky.

If you feel yourself fighting so hard, like I am now, look them in the eyes repeatedly as you walk on edge through the crappy minefield and say, “We are treating each other like the enemy when we are allies.” And join forces again. Keep reminding yourself that this is not who they are, but as they wrestle with change in their hearts, minds, hormones, and brain chemistry, everything is pretty much based on fear and a lie. The things that used to make them happy don’t anymore and they don’t even know why. That’s brutal.

Get help! You might need personal, or couples therapy, it’s so brave and should be celebrated, not an embarrassment. It doesn’t mean you are failing, it means you care enough to not give up. You need a friend that is sticking as close as a soul sister possibly can. Prayer journal, angry journal, or verbally barf on someone who can speak truth like:

You are not alone.

Or drop a truth-bomb, “What is coming out of your mouth doesn’t line up with the Word.” Don’t let what you feel rule what you know to be true. Like, this too shall pass like a kidney stone with spikes the size of Texas, but it will pass. So, let me speak truth wrapped up in love and hold you while you cry. 

Be careful, if you are brutally honest and feel like that’s okay, but you can’t take it when someone is brutally honest with you…then it’s going to be really difficult for you to receive correction and help. You’ll have to swallow your pride and not choke on it when someone thinks you can handle the same kind of “strong medicine and truth” you normally dish out.

Everyone feels like they don’t want to be married at some point, but choosing to stay and fight is the new brave. Running, leaving, and freaking out is the old, ineffective way of “finding yourself.” Marriage isn’t about finding yourself; but losing yourself. The merging of hearts and differences is the laying down of your selfishness to become a better, stronger one flesh. Christ died to show us how to love each other, but we don’t want to crucify strong desires and egos, we want to fight for it. Man, I think we are missing it.

Laying down your will and wants for someone else is so attractive. Maybe sexy isn’t a shape, or non-saggy breasts and firm bodies on a Victoria’s Secret add. Maybe sexy isn’t a man with a six-pack, perfect abs and David Beckham-like face.

Maybe sexy is serving your spouse in stretched-out skin with all the extra, soft middle the years have added and losing yourself instead of making everyone around you miserable. “Finding yourself” and “the new you” shouldn’t seem like a punishment for others, the “renewed you” should be the gift that we all really desire to be for the ones we love. 

Figure out your default setting. For me shutting down emotionally is what I do. I’m working on it. When you feel yourself shutting down, ask yourself why. And together with your man, teach him how to keep your heart unlocked. For me, my broken girl syndrome might emerge instead of the confident, godly woman that I have become. Anytime I felt backed into a corner, trapped, or embarrassed publicly, I would just check out and put up a wall to protect my heart. Or I would come out swinging. My default is flight, not fight. I hate conflict, but boundaries need to happen if someone is crossing lines and just expecting you to deal with it and be the nice one. Communicating is essential if you want to have something that lasts. Period. If you stop the lines of communication, you might as well stamp an expiration date on your healthy marriage or relationship.

When you are in love you do whatever it takes to protect the one you love. A person in crisis no longer knows how to protect and cultivate your tender heart; they are focused on what they are feeling and what they need. So, it feels very personal and selfish. Try to focus on what you love about the two of you together, remember the better days and pray for better days to be restored.

Figure out their default setting. Harsh truth, anyone in a mid-life soul crisis doesn’t even know what their default setting is. So…there’s that. But, they do have a love language and things that fill up their tank. Try those things. If they need their love tank-on-steroids filled up so fast and often that you can’t even keep up, you might feel yourself feeling deep resentment towards them and feel like a dog jumping through hoops of fire. It’s soul-burn out. I’m pretty much at this stage and trying not to be.

Stop doing the same things. For me personally, I am completely bored with every summer looking the same. If everyone were happy and healthy, sameness wouldn’t be so awful and boring. When you are going through a major crisis, you need something to look forward to. I feel trapped by the sameness, so I am currently searching for the perfect vacation with my man so I have something to look forward to. I also have some amazing trips that are coming up for me personally and I’m finding joy in knowing that awesome things are coming.

Find a reason to hope and dream again, take your “wounded one” with you and live a little. No lists, agendas, or jumping through the hoops, just courting each other again and chasing after joy and each other until love returns.

Just because they are in a mid-life funk doesn’t mean you have to be too. When I was going through my seasons of depression, I didn’t need my man, or friends, to join me and set up camp there. It was my depression and because I love them, I just needed them to understand, love me, and pray for me. Not push me or tell me I’m wrong for feeling that way. I never expected them to fix me, so it would be stupid for me to feel like I am the Junior Holy Spirit and able to fix a soul-crisis. But, truth be told, I sure have tried to fix this jacked-up state of being. But I can’t.

Guard your heart and mind and take your thoughts captive, it’s the only thing you are accountable for right now. The crazy-cycle in a relationship brings out the very worst in all of us, that’s why I’m so grateful for a God that loves me just because I’m His and I’m enough for Him, even when I’m at my worst. Repentance is apart of my journey right now because my thoughts are scaring the crap out of me and I’ve whispered words that sound a little like giving up and that’s just not me.

I thought I could list some books for us to read, but no one has written, “Help, Midlife Crisis Sucks” yet. I could rattle off some deep, spiritual verses and wisdom that might help, but all that is coming to mind right now is quotes from the movie What About Bob where the therapist goes mad. I don’t know if I’m Bob or the therapist, or if perhaps he’s my Bob and I’m trying to not loose my ever-loving mind, either way this is deep as I can get right now…

“I’m baby stepping. I’m doing the work. I’m not a slacker!”

I’m just trying to sail, not sink. You too?

We have so much to celebrate…and go to therapy over, either way, we are only as good as our thoughts and how much work we put into selfless love.

Love you like crazy, while trying not to be crazy.

Jennifer Renee

Photo Cred by Lynne Hand

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Nana Becky Jane

Whitley & Nana. I love how happy she looks in this picture with her Nana.

People inspire me. I’m captivated by a good story and most of the good ones have a little crazy in it. When you love words and people you find something to inspire you if you are brave enough to slow down and listen to words that define a heart. Sometimes a story has a little sadness and sickness in it, things we can’t edit out like a bad sentence or storyline. But, if I could I would edit out the hurt.

I love a good underdog story, the one that has bloody knees like mine from trying, flailing, and repeating as often as needed until faith returns and reminds me why bloody knees make better stories and people. Most of the time it’s not something featured on the news, or a blog that’s gone viral that moves me to the core. Although it happens and I love it when it does. It’s the stories of the people I love the most, just everyday people doing the best they can when life leaves them breathless and sometimes broken by something they can’t control.

I’ve watched my mother-in-law and loved her for over sixteen years. No one else has sacrificed more for God, her family, and ministry. I’ve been blessed by the efforts of what love has built in her and through her.

You will never ever meet a perfect woman, but sometimes life gives you the sweetest gift of loving people who find love perfected inside of them. A selfless heart giving to her family, spending up her days knowing that days are fragile and days are wasted. But we will never regret loving and living for God and our families. Everything else is just bonus.

I’ve heard it. I’ve said it. I’ve whispered it. I’ve wanted to scream it…WHY ME? 

I have been invited to pity-parties and I have been the honorary hostess of pity-parties. I’ve seen anger on faces and worn out creases leaving tracks on faces and hearts. I’ve seen the fear and fist-clenched questions, and I’m not saying it’s wrong to think it and ask why me? I’m saying that it’s a waste of heart and mind space because of one woman’s faith in really difficult situations wrestling with an illness that leaves her no choice but to take a cocktail of pills and trust in an unseen God who has guided each step, even her recent, shaky ones.

I pray I’ll never say those two words again, but I can’t be sure. Although her body and sometimes her mind gives her fits, the core of who she has always been shines through the most beautiful blue eyes.

You’ve done everything right. You’ve lived the good life. You’ve fought the good fight. You’ve loved. You’ve sacrificed. You’ve given every ounce of all your beautiful things for everyone else, why does this bad thing have to happen to you?

When she was asked, ‘Why you?’ by someone she loved, words spilled out and taught us all a better way to ask hard questions.

Without hesitation she added one more word: Why not me?

Questions fade out to a beautiful God space, where He always wins and we win with Him. Cancer might silence a beautiful voice and take people way before we are ready to part with them. Parkinson’s might leave them shaky or cloudy, and we can’t fix it or control it. But, we still pray for it to go away and leave the ones we love alone. We ask God to give us strong limbs and minds to carry them through a season of uncertainty.

We don’t ask them to be strong; we pray that we can be strong enough for them. We take each day as a gift and love each other fiercely as we press through the crashing waves of fear and tell it to go away as His perfect love casts out the fear of the unknown inside of us. We come as we are and take turns being the cared for and the caregiver. I can assure you of this, it’s much harder on the ones who are being cared for.

Dementia makes me a stranger to my grandmother, but she is not erased from the slate of my heart, mind, or my memories. Love lives on inside of the hearts that remember. As I think of what all she has faced, the people who have broken her sweet, selfless heart…I say to myself, “Maybe to forget isn’t such bad thing.”

The lists of why me and why her and why us could spin a tangled web of fear and spill over into whatever our days, months, and years look like. Or we could ask a better question and steal back a bad moment where the enemy tries to do a number on our wobbly faith.

Why not us?

Why don’t we tell an unfinished story?

Why don’t we honor the ones who have given us so much?

Why don’t we shake our fists at the enemy and cry out to our God, and ask God for us to reach more than we could ever dream imaginable from a moment where we add one more word to our why me?

Why. Not. Us.

Why can’t we defy broken statistics and bad reports from doctors where the odds are stacked against us?

I grow weary of seeing my people tangled up with the noose of ‘why me’ tied around their necks, especially if it’s the only thing I hear repeatedly coming from their mouths.

A broken lyric stuck on repeat, a snapshot of pain, a scene that makes you want to turn your head and yet it is replayed over and over again…until we have had enough.

I grow tired from hearing my own, same, complaints. So, I’ve decided to be proactive in making changes in my life and relationships. I’ve overused my frustration when clearly my words and my actions can take on a better and more useful-non-doormat shape. I want to ask better, more helpful questions. I want to stir up faith in my heart and others, not frustration and endless ‘venting’ that is exactly what it is, barren, fruitless complaints that will not motivate others, or even myself.

We can still believe and beg for our miracles for the ones we love and for our big mountains that we can’t climb alone. But, until we have no more breath left we pray without ceasing. By serving others we give better space to the selfishness in our hearts. Often our mundane and miraculous moments are sometimes the same because it takes place in a heart that refuses to “check out” for the redefining of who we are. If we are still breathing God is not finished with molding our hearts and lives into who He destined us to be. Not more or less, just better and more like Him. Not like flawed humanity, but perfected love from telling the selfish side of you to die a little and take the backseat to someone else’s needs.

I’m better because of all the ugly, unwanted moments. The times I felt rejected. The times my body failed me and I questioned my sanity. God help us to ask better questions, because ‘why me’ is overdone and overused and it hasn’t helped one person that I know. It sure hasn’t helped me.

After I lost two babies to miscarriage and one son through a failed adoption, I was heartbroken. They slipped through my hands like sand until I was left with nothing but a clenched fist from trying to hang on to something that was never meant to be mine.

I asked God, Why me? Why did I have to be the frail, unfinished, wannabe mother?

Now I know why.

During my time of grief God showed me that He wasn’t mad at all that I was mad. It wasn’t a sin to be angry, but it was up to me to find out what to do with those feelings without opening the door to sin. I could travel to a place with moments of anger, but not set up camp there. My heart healed while doctors strapped me on tables to fix what was broken inside of me while I prayed for all the pain to be worth it. I promise you this, I’m better because of every single tear and broken, unwanted thing I have faced. I have learned to embrace the beauty of being shaped into someone with deeper faith roots because of my broken spaces and ‘why me’ moments. Yet from now on, I will add one more word and rearrange the way I see pain.

Why not me?

With so much love it hurts,

Jennifer Renee

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Missing my hero, Reverend Harry Melvin. He had Parkinson’s but Parkinson’s never had him.

 

 

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My sweet, beloved Grandma. I love her.

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:12-19 NKJV)

Linking up with my sweet friend, Holley Gerth. Would love for you to drop in and read all the encouraging words!

 

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Till Daddy Comes Back Home

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Can I just say it? Father’s Day makes me a little sad. My first thought was to not blog, or even speak those words…I’m sad and I don’t want to be. I have so much to celebrate today, I really do and I will. I will laugh and I will be proud of all that I have. I will celebrate all the special men in my life.

My husband who is the best dad my girls could ever have, I love watching him love our girls. This day is his; we honor and celebrate him. I could go on and on about him…about how thankful I am for him. I’m thankful for my father-in-law that lives and leaves a legacy to his children, grandchildren, and countless others who wish they had a father like him.

My heart-dad, some might call him my stepdad and I guess that’s okay if our steps led us to him and him to us. But, there is no step. It’s just dad. He’s my heart-daddy and I feel no loss or void. I’m a lot like him, I’m not really sure how that’s possible…but it is.

My biological dad who shares my eye color and my history, he loved to teach me how to be fearless. I’ve learned that well; I’ve loved trying different things because someone believed that I could do just about anything except for cooking his favorite meal. I could almost walk on water, or maybe just water-ski when I was old enough to hold a rope and hang on for dear life until I was so tired that I would let go and sink into the warm, summer water with the sun on my face. He would circle around and pick me up in his boat that said “Plum Crazy” on the side. The boat was plum and silver and awesome.

I always knew he wouldn’t leave me with my skis in every direction and choking on lake water. He would come back for me. I guess in some ways, I’m coming back for him. I had given up, but I can’t forget the little girl who prayed. Then stopped. And gave up. Then tried again. Repeating those painful steps often until faith returned and love didn’t know how to let go anymore.

I guess this is me waiting for daddy to come back home to a faith in God even if his body is too worn out to live unfolded and free from pain. If bodies had a check engine light, his would be on. Our summers on the waters were my favorite. I miss that. I miss him being healthy enough to do things like that.

I have so many happy memories and so many reasons to celebrate today, but I’m still sad. When I see my dad now, somehow I time travel back and feel childlike and helpless. His body failing him while I wonder how many more days do I have left with him? I wonder if there is a way I could change the way he is living, or fix what seems so hopeless to me right now.

I guess I could just post all the happy…but then I would be forgetting all of you who might be feeling a little sad too. And I can’t just post my happy without loving you enough to post my sad.

I don’t know where your daddy is. I don’t know if he left earth for heaven and left you with a cavernous void inside, or ran out the door decades ago and you can’t even remember what his face looks like.

Maybe you’re the one who ran away from home and it’s time for you to run back and deal with some things you left unsaid.

I get it. I really do and I’m right there with you, running back home to remember that little girl who prayed, the overly sensitive teen who made mistakes and kept some records of wrongs, who learned how to fall apart so God could piece me back together in a way that made better sense.

Till daddy’s come back home to faith, till wayward, wrecked ones run back home, the limitless love of God leaves the light on for all of us.

11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. (Luke 15: 11-24 NKJV)

His ways so much higher than ours, His plan for us runs deep with purpose and it doesn’t matter how far or fast we run from it…He still waits for us to come home, to be needy, to sink into the smallness that we used to be before we grew up. And He never leaves because He doesn’t fail. He waits and His love runs to us wrapping us up with an embrace that says, “You belong to me. I don’t care what you’ve done, just come back home. Let’s have a party.”

Tonight, I’ll have a party. I will, and I will be happy. And if you lived close by I would have cake for you and hugs. We would tell funny stories and I would tell you it’s okay if you’re a little sad too.

We are in this together.

Much love, cake, and hugs.

Jennifer

Holding Hurt Hostage

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Two summers ago I read a story in a blog that has recently come back to my memory. In fact, I can’t quit thinking about the monkeys Fab saw that day…

One time I made the mistake of going to the Austin Rescue Zoo with a friend of mine. It is probably the most depressing way you could spend a day; each of the animals has been rescued from a terrible environment. I was excited to see the monkeys because (a) I like monkeys and (b) because these monkeys had been trapped in tiny containers (barely the size of their bodies) their entire lives and now they had this huge enclosure with room to swing in the trees and finally act like monkeys. I scanned every branch, but there were no monkeys to be seen. Then I saw a little girl pointing to the corner of the enclosure, and sure enough, there they were. The monkeys sat with hunched bodies in the corners of the cage with their faces pressed up against the bars. It was as if they didn’t know that they had been set free and behind them lay this huge open space. I guess they felt more comfortable in the position they had known their entire lives. They didn’t know how to move their bodies the way they were made; it hurt to stretch and move their muscles. So they just sat – looking at the exact same view they’d had before they were ever rescued.

There are times in life when hurt holds us hostage. When misfortune finds its way into our hearts and displaces everything else. When we are so wrapped up in grief and circumstance that we feel trapped by it, enslaved even. Thankfully, for the most part, those are seasons in our life that come and go. Usually they stick around longer than we’d like, but almost always they do end. The problem is, when hurt has lingered long it’s hard to break free from it. Sometimes, long after hurt has let go of us we still hold tight to it. Instead of hurt holding us hostage we hold hurt hostage. We invite misfortune to pull up a chair and stay a while. Hurt moves in and takes up residency in our hearts. And all the while we hold the power to set them free. Instead of letting the hurts go and releasing the pain of the past we hold it hostage. We tie it to a chair and point a gun to its head. The problem is that we ourselves become the prisoner.

I’ve watched too many movies. I know what hostages are like. You can’t turn your back on them for one minute or they will escape. So we live with one eye trained on the hurt. We can’t fully engage in life because we’re tied to watching our hostages; fear, anger, depression, bitterness, mistrust, resentment, cynicism, abuse. They cloud our vision and keep us from being free. We can’t let them out of our sight or they might escape. I hate my hostages, I want to be free from them, but somewhere along the way I’ve taken them on as mine and feel responsible for guarding them. But what if we let them go? What if we put the gun down and untied the ropes? What if we opened the back door and let the hurt leave? What if we made room for something else to occupy that space? What if we emptied a few chairs and risked letting peace or love or joy to come and sit with us?

We live like those monkeys. God has delivered us, but we’re still not free. He has broken the power of the hurt and pain, but we can’t let go of the memory of it. We’re afraid to turn around and explore our new found liberty because we might get hurt again. We feel more comfortable in the presence of pain and sorrow then we do in the presence of life and joy so we hang out with what’s familiar. I get it; it’s risky to leave the cage. It’s scary to head into unchartered territory. It’s silly to think that we’d rather stay tied to hurt than to run out into abundant life and joy and freedom. But when you’ve been hurt too long, and broken too much it’s flat out hard to change.

And we don’t have to. We can keep living like we’ve always lived. Overcome by fear, in the shadow of doubt, with closed off hearts. Or… we can let go. We can chose to cut the ropes that tie us to our past. We can open the door of our heart and let love and life blow in. Scary? Absolutely. Worth it? I think so. (I know the right answer is “yes, it’s worth it” but in full disclosure my heart is still in the “I think so” stage.)

When we hold hurt hostage we live small lives. We live trapped. But we don’t have to. God longs to set us free from the confines of our own fear. He longs to bring us out of the dark dungeon and into the light of life.

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19

Let’s make room in our lives for the spacious places God has planned for us. Let’s take a deep breath, close our eyes, and let go off all we’re holding hostage in our hearts. Let’s live free!

~Keri

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Photo by IKO Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Matthew Paulson Licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Why I Love Tina Turner, When Mothers Learn To Stand

Fab Tina: https-::www.flickr.com:photos:herry:

 

You can’t possibly understand how much I love Tina Turner. Seriously. You just can’t, but maybe you will after you read this. She’s the soundtrack to pieces of me and after writing a really difficult chapter in my book, sobbing like someone had just ripped out pieces of my heart and mangled it, I turned on Tina and I danced. And I was happy again. 

Momma liked to listen to Tina Turner so it was only natural for me to fall in love with her too. I didn’t always understand the lyrics although I could sing every line by heart; looking back I understand that Mrs. Turner helped Momma learn to be strong and fierce. Loving Jesus helped her more, but I still want to give Tina a little credit. For three solid minutes two battered women connected and Tina sang for her letting her know it was okay. Perhaps we can’t have “Proud Mary” moments without learning that it’s not okay for someone to knock the wind out of us, and sometimes the life out of us.

When Tina sang to us, I believed her. Line by line the words spoke that we could just say it, “You better be good to me.” And later when I was sifting through teenage hormones, falling in and out of love, I let go of a boy who wasn’t being very good to me. Even broken girls can know that they are worth so much more than they are getting; Tina said so.

I’ll never forget what it looked like watching her get shoved to the ground. Young brown eyes watching from an upstairs window, pulling curtains back to make sure she was okay. Mad, but okay. I’ll never forget the moment our eyes met and I knew she saw me standing there looking down on a moment where mothers learn to stand. Momma got up, she always did. Sometimes we opt for a risky love and Momma was willing to risk love twice, but just barely. Love would build them back up and show them a better way, one with Jesus at the center, but it took time and years and tears in the night.

Blending families and children and past mistakes leaves a wake of crazy, but I envy their love sometimes, my mom and my second-heart dad. It’s the attached at the hip kind, like you can’t say one name without the other. Two messed up hearts can become whole together and if you ask me if I think we get better as we age I would say, “Heck yes, we do,” because I’ve watched it.

Standing in the hallway all grown up looking at the picture of two brown-eyed girls and one foxy momma, just the three of them together but a complete family unit. I looked over at my heart-dad and said, “This is my favorite picture…”

He smiled and said, “Mine, too.”

“Is that what we looked like when you fell in love with us?” I had never asked that before; but I already knew the answer.

“Yeah, it is.” He gave a slight smile reflective of quiet, good heart.

We didn’t say anything after that, no words needed between us because if we did, we would both be crying. His soft heart entwined with mine, no bloodlines to connect us. But if you were to ask us, we would tell you that we love each other like flesh and blood because we are flesh and blood and mended love.

I’m so glad he fell in love with us. I’m just so glad he wasn’t afraid of how scared and stubborn she was sometimes because she knew what it was like to lose her voice and her way. All she wanted when she was much to young was a happy family and a happy marriage. Marriage, not love, left a mark on her, the kind that even time can’t erase. But Momma found her love to grow old with, but not without a few bumps and bruises and thoughts of running again. But this time, love didn’t run because it didn’t have to. It won. A thread of redeeming grace was waiting for both of them in a tiny church decades ago. A wounded woman who loved God and bathed her decision to love again in prayer sitting next to man who looked a little like love and a little like trouble. He didn’t love Jesus, he just loved her and as she prayed telling God she couldn’t go through heartache again… she looked up and noticed that the man who loved her walked up to the front of the tiny church to love Jesus too.

And that’s what we do, we walk up to the front and try to love Jesus and His redeeming grace that loves the freaking mess we’ve made on our own. He picks up shattered pieces and wipes away the bloody mess from our hands because He’s already redeemed years and years of sins and bad mistakes. Jesus knows we can’t clean up life-mess like that; His wounded hands and side cover and clean all the stains and shards we cannot. We walk up to the front and sometimes our sanctification process is so slow, but it’s the lasting kind that changes our spiritual DNA and reserves a seat for us in heaven and for new life walking in abundance and blessing here on this broken earth.

Momma didn’t have to tell me why she loved those songs because I felt it, singing Landslide in the backseat I wondered what getting older would feel like and if I would be afraid of changing too. But when you are little you can’t really wrap your mind around grownup lyrics, but in retrospect, it all makes perfect sense. We listened to so many things, mostly Christian songs and radio stations, but every now and then I had Proud Mary moments in Momma’s car and I fell in love with words and lyrics and a soul-stirring, three-minute story.

Our stories are much longer than three minutes, but if we we’re willing to listen to the song our heart wants to sing, what would be your song? Your anthem? Your hope? Sing a good song, even if it’s a broken one because when you break free, you teach another soul how to break free too. Our testimony and the power behind it heals the leftover hurt and pain that resides inside of us, extracting the ugly baggage giving us new and better things to hold onto.

Much love to you…and all you Proud Mary’s keep on burning.

Jennifer Renee

Photo by Henry Lawford