Rebuilding and Reclaiming: A New Generation of Ruth & Naomi’s

Elise & Mom

My prince

My pint-size, just passing through, prince

I was thirty-one and recovering from a hysterectomy that I didn’t want to have and my husband was in Africa just two weeks after my surgery. (Sorry, this is a blog for women. I have no problem talking about mammograms and the fact that I don’t have a uterus.)

The reoccurring nightmares that I had been having finally stopped, the ones with a faceless man standing in the doorway leading into my room trying to hurt me.

I stopped fighting in my dreams. I stopped writing and hiding behind fiction because I was too afraid of the faceless man. I started the brave act of telling my truth and writing about the jacked-up, messy side of healing from years of emotional baggage and dragging deadweight from yesterday.

I was ready for whatever. But I had no idea what that would look like.

I was on my knees crying in surrender, terrified of the unknown and what was next for us as a family. I just knew in my heart that my husband would come home and that we would be on the mission-field next with my miracle babies, ages three and one. I would be in a tiny hut with no Wi-Fi trying to speak Francais Afrique and have to bake my own bread. And let me just add that my accent is strong and southern…and I would need language school for years just to help me change my bad habit of chewing on words and adding extra syllables that are unnecessary. Sometimes I talk like Reba McEntire sings and I don’t think it’s cute when it comes out of my mouth. But, she’s cuter, smarter, and can pull it off and make a lot of money from it.

My overactive imagination was playing tricks on me. I was a hot-mess trying to surrender to the unknown while on pain meds and trying to figure out which part of my surrender was Jesus…or maybe I was just high.

I felt like crying and reading my Bible would be the sane thing to do, so I turned to this passage and God whispered words to my mending heart.

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27 NKJV)

My husband was building an orphanage in Africa while God was rebuilding my heart.

When we are in recovery, both physically and spiritually, the ugly rises to the surface of our hearts and it looks a lot like fear and trying to control the unknown. Which is not possible, in case you haven’t figured that out.

In that moment it wasn’t about finding ways to control my life, it was about finding a way to lose it. It was about the laying down of my selfishness to find a life worth writing about and living. It was about the crucifying of this flesh and learning what dreams were worth entertaining and which ones that were selfish pursuits and vanity-induced ambition.

I cried and asked God, “What does this scripture really mean?

And answered, “…Of course my answer is yes to whatever you are asking of me. Even if it scares me silly and is messy.”

In my heart I felt like God was saying this…

“If you take care of and tend to the orphans and widows…and all those in between, I will take care of you.”

So, you want me to take care of the messy middle girls?

God did not spell out my next step. At all. He just told me to leave the light on at the door of my heart and make room for the wounded wanderer and all those who might come to me for a little while. And so I did. I focused on the widow and opened my home and my heart for a little pint-size prince that I didn’t get to keep.

And late at night I would write for my messy middle girls and found my tribe and my un-muted voice. I allowed my heart to gravitate to the strong women in leadership, kicking against transition, and I knew my job was to hold her hand and let her know that she was my kind of crazy and that eventually, she would be okay too. I knew that if she could be brave enough to surrender to living life upside down, counter cultural, and set apart…she would be free and happy and fulfilled for the first time in her life.

I am the Ruth to a bunch of Naomi’s wrestling with bitterness and finding the courage to go back home changed and softer, not just used up and mangled on the inside.

I was the woman with her hand outstretched reaching for the hem of His garment; reaching so hard I knew that in time I would have it some kind of healing.

Days unfold and we feel ourselves at the stretching place where we wait and hope in things unseen. We want to become better at the waiting and allow room for hope in the unseen. And then think we are crazy for actually thinking that it will rise from the dusty ashes of having what we thought we wanted taken from us. We are a little spoiled and a little too calculated. And we are definitely way too comfortable, we sit on padded pews and we never have to wonder where we will sleep or if we will have three square meals and all the snacks in between.

We want safe and easy. A, B, and then C.

We want plan A and stomp our foot telling God what plan B should look like.

As if we know better.

We wrestle with people instead of wrestling to be an un-muted voice for those waiting for us to get our crap together and realize that life was never meant to be all about us.

We ask for red flags and warning signs and sometimes we see them waving and know that God calls us to a messy kind of love that hurts and costs us something, if only our need for control.

What God does not need is another controlling woman. He needs a Spirit-controlled woman with an untamed fire inside of her that spurs her to action and getting her hands dirty.

Our bodies fail us, our minds find less space for trivial things like where you put that long list you needed to make to help you stay on track and the even larger task of being all things to all the people becomes less important. Your “people group” becomes smaller even if the number of people that you have been called to serve enlarges.

If we can’t remove some distractions from our life…He will love us enough to remove them for us. And sometimes breaking up with our former life is exactly what we need to usher in change that sets us all the way free.

Lately I have been wrapped up in this passage in Isaiah 61: 3-7 (NKJV) for weeks and these words are impacting me:

He has sent Me:

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall rebuild ruined cities…instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.”

Maybe all you see in your life is ruins and ruined cities…but God is rebuilding something inside of all of us right now. We trade up with God every time. Instead of shame, double the honor. Instead of confusion we find ourselves rejoicing. Everlasting joy is ours because He wins and we win with Him. Don’t go by what you see, God is in the rebuilding business. Stop fighting with people and start fighting for them. Be the Ruth. Go find the next Ruth. Be the Naomi who refuses to have her named changed to “Bitter”…and give birth to sometime new from what you thought was dried up and in ruins.

Much love to you.

Jennifer

Photo cred: Chelsea Rustad, my incredibly gifted friend with a heart for adooption.

Will you pray for our Ruth and her family waiting for her to come home? Click on the link to find out more about Ruth’s unfolding story. She has a Mom, Dad, and siblings that ache for her to be home. It’s been a long wait and they need you to bombard heaven for them. Let’s fight for our girls.

 

When it’s Time to Fight

Can I be honest?

It’s been a rough week. One of those “seriously if one more thing…” kind of weeks. It started out pretty subtle. A minor annoyance here, an unwanted thought there, but has continued to escalate to the point of a full out break-down with an ugly cry last night.

Then all the pieces fell together. Last night in the dark I asked Jesus to show me what was going on and He did.

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A week ago I apparently opened a can of worms with a little blog post. I’m not sure what happened but it went a bit more viral then I ever expected it would.

Almost two weeks ago I attended a conference with 800 women in ministry. Friday night Christine Cain started her powerful talk to us with this statement “Our enemy has always hated women, and women with a voice he has always detested.”

I agree with Christine. Satan puts a lot of effort behind silencing us from speaking truth. And when we choose to speak up, when we choose to bravely stand for truth; it seems to tick him off.

Last week I spoke up about something that was heavy on my heart. This week my family has been tormented at every turn. I can’t help but think the two things are connected.

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As soon as I made the connection I got mad. My tears dried up and I was ready to fight. I learned a long time ago how to fight the good fight of faith. I meet a lot of women who think it’s wrong to fight, but it’s not. I believe we are invited by God to fight. The problem is when we forget who we’re fighting for and who we’re fighting against.

For: in favor of; in support of: to advocate, to be on one’s side, to champion, encourage, esteem, to hold with honor, root for, support, value

Against: in opposition to; contrary to; adverse or hostile to; in resistance to or defense from, counter to, facing, in opposition to, opposed to, conflicting, incompatible

It’s time to fight! Time to fight for our kids, our friends, and our families. To fight for love, for truth, for justice. To fight against our enemy (not man, but Satan and the powers of darkness), to fight against sin and oppression and injustice.

God invites us into the battle. He asks us to take up our sword and wield it boldly against the enemy. He equips us for the fight. He is our shield and ever present help in time of trouble. He is our strength and our protection. He fights for us and against our enemy. And when we join Him in the battle we get a front row view of His power and might.

It’s okay to get mad. It is okay to raise our voice and shake our fist and call out our enemy on his sneaky schemes.

We have a real enemy. And sometimes he rears his ugly head and messes with our lives in a very obvious way. He is single-mindedly focused on our destruction. He wants to shake our faith and keep us silent. But… greater is He that is within you and me than he that is in the world.

Yes, it’s been a rough week. Yes, I’ve been attacked on every side. But I am not discouraged. I am equipped for the fight. I’m standing beside the ultimate Warrior, and I am not afraid.

~Keri

Are you in a battle this week? How can we fight for you in prayer? 

Photo by Wili_Hybrid Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by hmmlargeart. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

It’s Supposed to be Hard

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Remember the movie from the early 90’s A League of Their Own? It’s about two sisters who join an all-female baseball league during World War II. The older sister, played by Geena Davis, is by far the better player and soon becomes the star of the league. Her team is doing well and makes it to the league’s first World Series. Days before the series begins, her husband returns home from Germany after being wounded in the foot. By this time it is apparent that she loves baseball and is passionate about the game. When her husband returns home she decides to quit the league and return home without playing in the World Series. Her manager, played by Tom Hanks, tries to talk her into staying. He tells her that it’s obvious that she loves baseball and if she quits now she will live with a lifetime of regret. She answers, “It just got too hard.” At that moment he gets very serious and leans in closer and says, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

It’s supposed to be hard.

We live in a culture that says it’s supposed to be easy.

Grey hair? Nice ‘n Easy

Sagging skin? Two minute facial mask

Hungry? Hit the drive through

In a hurry? On-line banking

Tough boss? Get a new job

Failing marriage? Get a new spouse

Browse through the Sunday adds and over and over you’ll see it: Quick! Easy! Time saving! Oven ready! Just add water! Instant! Fully cooked!

Everything around us tells us life should be easy. Except the Word of God.

God’s Word tells us it’s supposed to be hard.

Wait. Pray. Seek. Persevere. Press.
Trust. Follow. Deny. Fight. Run.
Turn from sin. Crucify your flesh. Carry your cross.
Turn the other cheek. Give to the poor.
Love your enemies. Speak the truth.

According to the Bible life is hard. And I’ve noticed that the more you trust God, the bigger risks you take in following Him, the harder it gets.

I’ve been praying a simple prayer lately, “Lord, help me to do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.” Everywhere I look He is showing me examples of the hard, but good, way to live.

This weekend I watched two movies, Jobs and The Help. Both of them were stories of people who were trying to accomplish something while facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges along the way. Then I spent some time on Saturday with a group of people who are choosing hard every day; brave families who have opened their homes as safe places for any child to come and find love and security. That kind of love is hard to give.

God is asking us to step out of our comfort zones and into hard places. He’s asking us to be brave in the big and small moments of life. To risk loving, to risk giving, to risk speaking… to say yes to the hard, when we know it is good.
Is it scary? Yes

Is it safe? Absolutely not

Is it worth it? Yes. Yes! A thousand times yes!

Why? Because it’s the hard that makes us lean on Jesus. It’s the hard that makes us bow our knee in surrender. It’s the hard that makes others pay attention. It’s the hard that brings forth fruit. It’s the hard that brings glory to Christ.

It’s the HARD that makes it GREAT!!!!

If my choice in life is easy and average or hard and great…. Lord, LET ME CHOSE HARD!!

~Keri

Photo by Ron Zanoni. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Peter Cave Road

dangerous-road-ahead

My car was packed and loaded with teenagers, suitcases, snacks, and one mom who was so beyond ready to get out of town and head to a cabin in the woods for a few days. We were making good time with the cruise control set on 65 and gorgeous scenery rolling by outside of the windows. In just a few short hours we would be at the cabin where there would be no work, no agenda, no schedule. Just days filled with fun.

Then we turned down Peter Cave Road.

Y’all, never in my life have I experience a road like this one, and I grew up in the country. I’ve seen my fair share of treacherous dirt roads, but none of them had prepared me for this. I should have known we were in for a ride when I saw the sign on the side of the road “dangerous road ahead, 4 wheel drive recommended”. I hesitated when I saw the sign, but my GPS told me to turn left, so I did.

I had no idea what we were getting into.

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Five miles. Five miles of dirt road stood between us and the cabin. I know dirt roads well enough to know that five miles might take about 20 minutes, but not this dirt road. This road and these five miles took us over an hour. Several times we came to a complete stop before proceeding. Once we had to get out and move a tree limb out of our way. Every muscle in my body was tense as we headed uphill and then downhill with hairpin turns, steep drop offs, and pot holes like you’ve never seen before.

My daughter was holding my phone and counting down the tenths of a mile as we climbed our way up the mountain. Every tenth of a mile was celebrated as if we’d traveled a hundred miles. I began to wonder if we would ever make it.

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Over an hour later we did. When we pulled into the drive way and saw the cabin the car erupted in celebration. I’ve never wanted to kiss the ground before, but I did in that moment. We had done it, we survived.

The next morning I woke up early and quietly left the cabin to go sit on the porch and watch the sun rise over the Buffalo River. I kept thinking about that car ride and our harrowing adventure. The worst part was; we didn’t have to spend an hour of our lives on Peter Cave Road. My GPS chose for us to go down a road we didn’t have to. If we had only traveled a few miles further down the highway there was another road that would have brought us to the cabin without all the drama.

Isn’t life like that sometimes?

Sometimes we find ourselves traveling down a road we never would have chosen for ourselves. A road so long and treacherous that we wonder if it will ever end. A road that keeps us tense, single minded, and desperate. A road that is so slow going and unending that we begin to question everything. “How much longer?” “Will this ever end?” “Are we lost?” “Should we go back?” “Will we survive this?” “How did we get here?”

I learned a few things driving up Peter Cave Road that I think might be important to remember when life leads us down a dangerous road.

Sometimes experiencing Peter Cave Road is not your fault. The good news about our adventure is that it wasn’t my fault. I’ve made a lot of wrong turns in my life (both in the car and in my choices) but this wasn’t one of them. This time I was following directions. Peter Cave Road was chosen for me by my GPS. I don’t know why God sometimes choses for us to take the long, hard way to arrive at our destination, but He often does. It’s not because we did something wrong, it’s not because we are being punished, it’s not because we are too stupid to read a map, it’s because that’s the road He put us on. Is there a reason? Sure. Will we know the reason before the road ends? Maybe, maybe not. Sorry. I could lie and tell you some deep spiritual thing will only happen to you on that road. That might be true. But we also might wind up standing in His presence one day asking Him; “So, Peter Cave Road. What was that all about?”

Time and distance is relative. We started our road trip on Interstate 49 and ended it on Peter Cave Road. Our trip started with the cruise control set and us covering about 65 miles an hour. It ended with me riding the brake and us going 2-5 miles per hour. A mile is a mile, but road conditions very much affect how long that mile takes to travel. The harder the road, the longer it takes. Slow going is still going. Even when it feels like you’re getting nowhere, you are.

Don’t abandon ship. Multiple times during our adventure on Peter Cave road someone would pipe up with “It would be faster to get out and walk.” It sure felt like that was true. As tempting as it was to abandon ship and head out on our own I knew that as slow as the car was it was still a better option to stay in it. I know my own strength; I can’t walk 5 miles carrying all of our luggage up Peter Cave Road. Well, maybe I could, but I promise I wouldn’t have arrived at the cabin before dark, and being in those woods after dark doesn’t sound like much fun. As slow as the car was, it was our only hope. Colossians 3 says we are hiding with Christ in God. When the road is hard, stay hidden in God. Yes, it’s tempting to throw in the towel and go it alone, but we won’t get very far on our own strength.

Eyes forward. Peter Cave Road isn’t a smooth road. Bumpy would be a drastic understatement. Then there were the pot holes, washed out culverts, muddy holes, tree limbs, big rocks, and many other obstacles. Off the road there was beauty. Lush trees, mountain views, wildflowers, pretty birds, but I didn’t see any of it. I simply couldn’t pay attention to the things around me because I was so focused on the things in front of me. In life, when we are in a season of traveling a hard road it often comes with guilt. We want to focus on other stuff, we want to talk about other stuff, we want to see the beauty, but sometimes we just can’t. Sometimes all we can do is keep our eyes forward. That’s okay.

The best way out is always through. Any chance I can get to quote Robert Frost I’m going to take it, but on Peter Cave Road and in life he’s right. Stuck on the dirt road we kept looking for options; is there another road we can take? Would it be better to turn around and go back the way we came? Is there a quicker, easier route? I wanted to avoid the road, but we couldn’t. We had to keep going (as slow as it was) forward. Sometimes hard roads and the pain they bring can’t be avoided, when we have to travel one the best way out is always through.

Adventure comes at the end. On the way home from our time in the woods (using the alternate, safer route) I asked the kids what their favorite parts of the trip was. Every one of them said Peter Cave Road. They went on and on about how awesome our car was to get us up that big hill, and how scary it was when we had to drive through the river (seriously y’all it was an epic adventure) and how narrow it was in that one place where the trees were pressing in on both sides and how dark it was it the woods even though it was the middle of the day and how we made it out alive! It was an adventure. One we will talk about for years to come; the story of Peter Cave Road and how we made it out alive. There is something in us that loves to celebrate stories of survival; our Feast of Purim. The Jewish celebration of the Feast of Purim was a joyous celebration commemorating a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved by Queen Ester of extermination. They survived, the lived to tell about it, and they remembered and celebrated God’s deliverance. We need to tell our adventure stories and celebrate God’s faithfulness through the hardest roads.

At the beginning of our trip one of the kids was in the backseat singing “Life is a highway…” That’s not true. Life is not a highway. Life is a long road. Yes, parts of it are smooth and straight and sunny and fun, but other parts are bumpy and uphill and dark and dangerous. Whatever road God asks us to travel one thing remains the same; He can be trusted to get us to our destination.

Hang on for the ride!

~Keri

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

Link

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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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