I’m Still Learning That ‘No’ Is Not a Swear Word

Girl Looking Out

I’m the girl who will stand on my soapbox and hold your hand while you cry tears of exhaustion to tell you that you are enough and that what you have to offer is enough. I wholeheartedly believe this. But, I’m tired and so are you. Am I right? While I was stress-walking this morning, my to-do list unfolded and instantly became longer. All my roles, projects, and my people that need me in the most needy of ways, seemed to be at war with each other.

I’m a tough girl, always have been, but one of the toughest things I do is remain softhearted. That. Is. Work. And work requires energy, physically and emotionally.

Truth bomb: I cannot be enough for all of these people and have enough sanity left over. And I don’t have to be. In the past I have been the girl saying yes to everyone thinking that would please God. I am by nature a people pleaser, so making everyone happy would have to make me happy. Right? I wasn’t even remotely in a two-mile radius of happy. I was stressed, depleted, and terribly unhappy, but no one knew it.

I was sacrificing my health in the name of being good at everything, even the things I hated doing.  

Something had to change. I had these gifts that God entrusted me with and I was trying to add all these things to those few gifts hoping that somehow I could be enough. Do enough. Minister in the place of enough. Mother in the place of enough. Love in a world where what I brought to the table was enough. Be the kind of wife who knew, even on my most sucky of days, that I was enough.

But, I am not enough.

When I pray and ask God to be more than enough in me; that’s when my messiness ushers in a real, gritty faith that is more useful to God. Because I’m meant to need Him, not be the girl faking my way through the lie that real, godly women are supposed to have it together, all the time. (If you do have it all together, all the time, I need you to adopt me and spend time with me.) 

The struggle is what makes us great. Saying, “I have no idea how I’m going to get all of this done,” is what makes us great because in our desperation we know who holds our world, and fragile pieces, in place.

We were meant to be needy of God, not needy of the approval of others. We mix those things up sometimes. God didn’t promise us that He wouldn’t put more on us than we could handle, whoever made that up needs to be spanked.

The Word tells us this: I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)

Our peace comes from God, not on how awesome we are. He overcame the world so we would have a fighting chance.

If the enemy can’t get us to leave the faith and do all the big sins we think are worse than our little sins, he will distract us with the spinning wheels of “I am not enough”.  

We do not need to be enough to all of these people and look to them as the keeper of our worth. When I need to know that I can do all things through Christ, I have a really fat study Bible I flip through and I find a little soul nourishment that reminds me what my main things are. And you know what, having it all together isn’t one of them. I mean, read the Psalms, David was a hot-mess and his emotions were all over the place. David prayed the Imprecatory Psalms and then asked God to search his heart. So, it’s possible for a really flawed person to have a heart after God. This is good news for us.

I don’t have to be enough. I just have to be obedient. I don’t have to do all the little things that someone else thinks that I should be doing because my heart needs quiet space to listen to the Holy Spirit.

Here’s what I do when everything is flipped upside down and I’m a hot-mess and crying all the time.

I realize that something needs to change. My emotions and my health are screaming at me, “Something is out of balance, fix it”

I look at my list and plan my days with a little more breathing room. I use the word no more often, not because I don’t care. I care enough to be smart about what I can give my best to.

I look at the best example I know of, Jesus. The more the crowds pressed in on Jesus, the more he withdrew himself from the crowds. He took his smallest, inner circle with him. His need of seclusion didn’t exclude those that he trusted. Jesus was selective, he had the twelve, but on mountainsides and dodging the crowd, he had fewer.

My circles become smaller, not larger. I become more focused in knowing who is going to require more than I can give. If it’s work to be around them, I think about that by looking at my social calendar. I can always catch up with them later.

I have my person, that best friend who gets me and can speak truth to me. I listen to her when she offers words of caution. Friendships like this are gold; I hope you have this in your life.

I say the hard things and draw verbal boundary lines with my loved ones when I feel like I’ve been used like a doormat. Which, happens a lot for people who are “pleasers”. Gah.

I pray. I repent. I ask God to show me how to make my list shorter, not longer. I forget about perfection and just think about getting it done.

I stop talking about people to other people and talk to God about those people. I hand them over to God because it’s not my job to keep them in line. It’s my job to love them even when it’s hard work.

I say no without feeling like I’ve earned a ticket to hell. P.S. Today feels like Monday.

Much love,

Jennifer

The Scary Beauty of Becoming

Whitley,Flower child

My tribe fist-pumps the air and says, “Go chase those dreams, girl.” They cheer via text and instant messages telling me that they see me and want this for me and for my daughters. They want this for all of us. The women juggling motherhood and life in our tiny village as we wrestle with mom-guilt and trying to have it all together for our families while falling completely apart…because it’s hard.

I’m just trying to do all the things and remember where I put all the things. And let me just say, the ‘things’ are falling through some really big cracks right now like appointments, event planning, social calendars, and church life. Right now I’m so tired that I think a real Sabbath is somewhere absent of people, lists of things I need to be doing, and such. My Sabbath is coming…it’s called a vacation and I can’t wait.

I never miss appointments. But, I do now. I rarely miss church. But, I do now. And you know what? God is not mad, because I go to church all the time because I love Jesus and our ministry and the people. My tribe is not mad. What we do makes them tired as they shake their heads wondering what it’s like to be on call all of the time. My husband/preacher man is not mad, you know why? Because he sees me doing the really hard, diligent work of faith, family, work, and then all the other really important things that I love. My family and my tribe sees that I am still the woman that keeps showing up for life, while checking out when needed, because I am the only one in charge of taking care of my body and heart. I know what it needs, this body and heart of mine, and I have to be smart enough to pull back and say ‘no’ without feeling horrible about it.

God whispers to all of us…

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28 NIV)

He gives us rest, not lists.

And I just keep coming wrecked, tired, and somehow so unbelievably happy because I know I’m doing what He has called me to do. Even if my fuse is shorter and my days seem longer, He loves me just as I am. He is enough even when my two, really hardworking hands aren’t. Even when my mommy-brain is full and on the verge of shorting out, His grace is sufficient and enough for the ‘not enough’ in me.

I have at least ten thank you cards to fill out and sign, and I really want to send those this year before the moment passes and before I completely forget what I am thanking them for. I have all these lists and none of them say: Rest. Slow down, honey child, you don’t have to do all of this yourself.

But, it should.

Our list should say:

Mark as much as you can off.

The things you can’t get done; make those tiny people that look like you do some of them. It won’t kill them. You did chores and it didn’t kill you. Write their names next to some of the things they should be doing themselves. Like now.

I know you are a big girl and all, but let yourself cry when you hear your Momma’s voice. It helps. You’ll feel better by simply feeling small again, and like a train-wreck who still needs her Momma because she gets you. She’s been watching you freak out about things that matter to you for a really long time. So, it’s okay. She’ll tell you she’s praying, then pause to say, “I’ll take your kids while you are away? Will that help?”

And you’ll say, “Yes…just yes, that is what we all need. Please take these little people away and spoil them. That will make me feel better.”

The truth is ladies, you who dream big dreams; our vision is always bigger than us because it’s not just about you. It’s about all the tiny ones hanging on your leg and asking you for juice. It’s about that man who loves you so much and is just a tiny bit afraid of you right now. It’s about those cheering and texting and loving you in the ways they know how. A hug. A meal. A backrub. A kiss and a prayer and a slap on the tired, Momma booty saying, ‘Go get ’em!’

This passion inside of us has always been there, that calling that happened before we said ‘I do’.

My call happened before motherhood and crying in the floor because I was pretty sure that nursing a hungry 9 lb. 14 oz. newborn baby was going to happen every hour-and-a-half for the rest of eternity, but it didn’t. I blinked and she was a year old eating stale Cheerios off the floor. And now she’s nine and you would never know she was ever that hungry. All. The. Time.

I blinked and my firstborn is eleven and in a training bra, but we don’t really know what she’s training for. And we are super freaked out because once they get, you know, boobs it is really, really awkward. And they start crying again. All. The. Time.

And all of a sudden you’re the Mom she wants to tell all the awkward things and cry to because you know her inside and out. You’ll be the one telling her how to do all the things and hug her when she doesn’t even know why she’s crying.

In that moment, all the chasing of dreams happens in a purple bedroom with dirty, preteen clothes on the floor and artwork and journals scattered about just like it was when you were eleven, awkward, and becoming something that you were so afraid of…a little lady who dreams scary, big dreams.

I really don’t want a list today, but I still have to make one. I really don’t even mind that I need rest and a long nap. I just want a day with these tiny ladies and messages from my posse reminding me that I can do life called and set apart and sometimes torn apart.

I can do all things through Christ, but sometimes I can’t remember all the things and that’s okay too. I have waited on the timing of God and the timing of life and motherhood. Waiting has been hard. Going for it is harder. Sometimes I’m killing it and on bad days, it’s killing me. But, to stop the pursuing of really big dreams would just be crazy. I’ve already lived in the land were people perish and dreams are silly to some and just a chasing and grasping for wind. I’ve been the girl with a blank stare and dormant heart, but when dreams wake up on purpose, for such a time as this, don’t you dare let anything stop you…especially not yourself. 

If your dream doesn’t scare you, be unafraid to ask God to breathe again into the depths of your heart. Let him teach you how to wait and how to be diligent…and how to go get em’ when it’s time. Don’t be afraid of the vision that is bigger than you, because it’s not just about you…it’s about all of the ones who get to ride along with you on the crazy ride.

I’ll be here cheering for you every step of the way!

Love you like crazy,

Jennifer Renee

Photo cred: The darling, Kylie Swank

 

Girls, I Don’t Think You’re A Problem: You’re A Beautiful Solution

God is within her. Ps 46:5

As women we feel the pressing noose of comparison until we allow God to set us free. Sometimes we are the ones who tighten the noose and make it so tight we feel our breath leave us and our voice trails off into silence.

For about ten years I have removed the noose. As in, placed my hands on the jagged rope and loosened it until I could safely slip it off and trash it.

The only way we can correct a lie is with truth. I did word-searches in the Bible and studies on certain things, or wrong thoughts, that were tripping me up. I cried. I prayed. I wrote feverishly into my journal about things that ticked me off, things that inspired me, and prayers on paper. My freedom cry happened on bended knee and paper dreams. But, the journey was never meant for only me.

When we start a freedom journey to wholeness we give others permission to do the same thing. We miss out on really awesome things if we say things like, “I’m too much of a mess to make a difference.”

Your mess has a very powerful message; so don’t be afraid to use your best words and sometimes your worst words until you figure out how to tell your brave, messed up story.

I talked for hours with friends and heard phrases like, “Me too” and “What can we do to help women be free from this?”

We spilled out our thoughts across the table, shared a meal, and found our message. The freedom journey is sweeter when we take others with along for the wild, beautiful ride. Our connective thread that brings us girls together in those sacred moments of wrestling is this:

God is within us and will work through us.

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” (Ps 46:5 NIV)

And, we are stronger together than we ever were standing scared and alone.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecc 4:9-12 NIV)

In many ways this is where big girls learn to hold hands again like they did when they were little.

If there is one thing I know about myself it’s this, I get girls. I just do. I have sisters, one of them my flesh and blood and is kind of like my other half. We are day and night different and yet somehow our mannerisms are so much alike. I adore her, am amazed by her, and I still love to dig in her closet all these years later. Together we are better and sometimes double the trouble. And even in our late thirties, we still say things like, “Don’t tell Mom.”

We were always compared. I hated it then. I still hate it now because day and night are equally glorious in my mind. You can’t have one without the other. When day runs out of sunlight and trees cast long shadows, we know the bright moon will show us its face and bring a beauty in our darkness. And isn’t it magical, these different kinds of light?

As a mother of two “day and night” daughters, I find myself holding my breath as people compare them. Like one is better than the other and I can’t see it because my love is unconditional for both of them. I only see two very different, world changers that light my world on fire and bring me such joy and sometimes madness. Because where there are little girls you will find a little bit of drama or a lot depending on the moment.

But sorry, I just don’t believe that girls are a problem and only capable of drama. I think that in time and as they grow they will be beautiful solutions and nurturers to those around them. Right now is the hard, figuring it out part. That’s called parenting and it’s the hardest, best thing I’ll ever do.

I kiss those girls when they start to cry.

I sternly correct them when it’s needed and I see something that needs to be addressed. I lovingly guide them and fiercely protect them because I know what a true gift I have in my day and night girls…and I wouldn’t change who they are for anything or who they are becoming. Even when it’s stinking hard and I want to pull my hair out.

I will always be the mom asking them to dance to a different beat if they want to. And when they write a messy song with misspelled words, I’ll ask them to sing it for me because I see how deep a nine-year-old drama queen can be. And I figure she’ll be taking me on trips one day if we are still on a ministry salary…

I see how diligent an eleven-year-old firstborn can be, how she craves the constant and needs a play-by-play of what our day might look like. I take her hand and say, “Make room for the spontaneous, you don’t have to always know what is coming next.” But, I’ll never ask her to not plan and make lists, because it’s apart of her and I love that.

I see the spark and passion in my tiny one and I rebuff the idea of “breaking her spirit” or asking her to be more “in-the-box” and easier to contain because I believe with all my heart that loving parenting, discipline with great fear and trembling, and bringing her up in knowledge of God will be exactly what she needs most.

By all means, baby girl, don’t you dare try to be like everyone else. How dull this world would be if we only had a one-size-fits-all mentality.

Shine the way and teach us how to be brave and small at the same time.

When you walk up to a complete stranger with compassion in your heart and ask them if you can pray with them…I ask God to show all the big girls how to be small again and give way to the miraculous inside of us. Hearts like that inherit the Kingdom, so don’t you dare forget that little girls say simple, powerful prayers and make a wounded stranger know they are loved and seen by God and by the smallest, unpredictable lady in training.

By all means, predictable firstborn, plan and schedule away…if that is what makes you feel comfortable in your changing skin. I’ll always have planners and paper for you, I think you will change the world and organize it later. I love the wheels that constantly turn and how you want to do so much, but have no idea where to start. But, don’t you dare for one-second doubt you can’t handle the change that is coming because I’ve watched you in amazement for eleven, short years and I know you can do all things through Christ, baby girl. And you’ll need to learn how to hustle…because sixth grade is brutal and you’ll be late to everything if you have to show up perfect.

You might always be picked last for the sportsy games at recess, I’m sorry about that. You get that from me.

You might pee in your pants sitting on second base like I did in the first grade and figure out that cheering for others is what you do best. So cheer. Be the girl that celebrates what you cannot do and clap till your hands hurt and the dusty pee stain dries. You’ll laugh about it later, I pinkie promise.

And when the jealousy comes, and trust me it will, cheer louder until you can’t hear it telling you that you’re supposed to be better at something you hate doing anyways.

You will have a lifetime to figure out what you love and what you want. Try it all if you want, even if it scares you a little. Or makes you pee in your pants. It happens.

There will be days you wished you were like your little sister.

Or like your big sister.

Or like an airbrushed star on the cover of a magazine. Lord, I hope not.

Oh, what you will miss out on in life trying to be something that you are not…when who you are becoming is your greatest gift to God, to me, and to the world.

Maybe you’ll be an overachiever. Maybe you won’t care what others think at all. Maybe you’ll make messy art and wreck every surface and tabletop in our house.

Make art anyways.

Make a mess.

Be a mess.

Clean up your mess.

And I’m going to be there to help you make art and figure out how to lead and how to follow…and that some boys are punks. Don’t even get me started.

And sweet Jesus, I’m going to need some help with the preteen, and in between, and the fifty shades of awkward that just invaded our tiny cottage.

I flashback to the moments of watching you walk up to the unknown little girls at parks and poolside and hearing you say this…

“Hi. Do you want to be friends?”

An introduction and an invitation, then blank stares from wanting to belong turn to smiles as you would take each others hand and rush off to play with sweet sunshine and summertime on your faces.

Sweet, grownup girls,

Don’t let your blank stares from wanting to belong and quick default of comparison be the noose around beautiful necks. Reject the idea that different from you is wrong, or that your gloriously differentness is a mistake or doesn’t fit.

Let’s skip and trip and be beautifully awkward together because hand-in- hand we are always better.

Much love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

Undivided Heart: The Summer I Embraced The Sloppy Perfectionist

BeachPic-Give Me An Undivided heart

I have spent the year writing about how to deal with baggage while in leadership. My Southern Belle Momma taught me so many valuable lessons in life like… “A lady never airs her dirty laundry in public.” Sorry Mom, I think I just used my gigantic Mom-Spanx as a welcome mat. 

We all have it, this mother-load of baggage from our past, but I’ve learned that we only carry around the things we can’t stand to part with. Our identity is not our baggage, it’s our freedom journey that started with a battle cry and ended with empty hands in surrender and traveling lighter. I wish I could say it’s been all butterflies and rainbows, but it’s been really painful and freeing at the same time. I’ve done all the work to be unhindered.

Sometimes going forward in life means that we have to go back and deal with things that we have tried to ignore. To revisit a memory doesn’t mean that you dwell in that broken place where life left you breathless. You simply acknowledge it happened and you ask God to help you deal with whatever emotions surface in your heart.

If you need to forgive, do it. Don’t let the root of bitterness rot your beautiful bones.

If you need grace and forgiveness, ask for it. If the person you wronged can’t extend grace and forgiveness to you, just know you did your bravest act of humility, then move on and pray for them.

If you need a break, take one. Send out an SOS text and ask for help. Humble yourself and take off that Superwoman cape. We were never meant to do difficult things alone.

I whisper these words over you, a quote from a woman in ministry spoken over me when I was recovering from surgery seven years ago this summer, “Sometimes you learn more from Clark Kent than you do from Superman.”

In my wrecked weakness, her words set me free. She didn’t need me to be the perfect mentor and friend; she just needed to see me. No cape required, no need to mask the painfully awkward recovery I was in. I was scared, trying to heal and love others…and I was a hot-mess sometimes.

I remember crying to my husband weeks after the surgery, “I feel like I’m screaming, but no one can hear me.”

I needed to recover in a peaceful place where I could truly find rest in body and spirit without pushing myself to do things that would set me back physically. It’s the same way for our hearts. We need moments where we are “off duty” without feeling bad about letting someone step in to help.

Maybe you are not recovering from surgery, but chances are you are trying to recover from something.

So, what do you need for soul-recovery?

It could be as simple as a nap or coffee with a friend. It might involve you scheduling an appointment for counseling and walking in ready to unleash the hurts you’ve carried longer than you care to admit.

Maybe you need to start a prayer and soul-recovery journal and make a coffee date with Jesus before your children wake up.  If you aren’t exercising, start with adding twenty minutes of walking and commit to taking care of your temple. It’s the only one you have, be nice to it.

That summer in recovery I learned to embrace the sloppy perfectionist inside of me. I really can’t do all things well and I don’t even care to anymore. I just want to do what God has asked of me and lean on Him to make something of it. I’m nothing if He doesn’t show up every time I speak, write, or reach out to the needs around me.

The week before my surgery. Things are less scary on the beach.

The week before my surgery. Things are less scary on the beach.

This well-balanced thing sounds like a good idea, but what if you were meant to do five really noble things and you are too distracted by trying for ten? Take your five really noble things and watch God multiple the beauty and the impact of those things. He alone gives that kind of increase. Focus on the five things that are in your sphere of influence, start inside of your home and work your way out from there.

If we can’t be satisfied with our five noble things, or two or three based on the season of life we are in, how on earth will we ever be fulfilled in our meaningless chasing of the ten?

Let’s not do these difficult things alone, call for backup.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

Maybe your heart and focus is all over the map, I’m finding clarity from these scriptures by making them my prayer.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86:11 NIV)

I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. (Jer 32:39 NIV)

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NIV)

Linking up with sweet Holley at Coffee For Your Heart. Join us for words that encourage & lift you up!

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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.

Hair Pulling & Tired Hands

Photo credit: Debbie Thurmond

Photo credit: Debbie Thurmond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loving you fiercely,

Your over-protective sis~ Jennifer

A Pinkie Promise & Divine Wrestling

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I’m thinking of you this morning and wondering…how are you really? I hope you have a handful of friends who know enough about you to have you committed because then and only then will you be authentic and real and accountable. I hope you have true friends that know your junk and love you anyway. Friends that you must keep forever because they just know too much about you. They will go to the grave as the keeper of your secrets, a grownup pinkie promise and spit-handshake.

We must be available in the aching moments where they wrestle and war, wild like Jacob. Limping around as change seeps into their soul because receiving the blessings that we all long for takes us on a wounded journey till our name is changed. Availability doesn’t mean that we are the one responsible to fix or clean up messes we didn’t make. It means to simply stand guard, pray, and wait.

Sometimes we fix our gaze on the limp instead of the favor of God. In Genesis 32:22 we find the man who wrestles sending his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons over a brook while Jacob was left alone.

With two wives and eleven sons, I can’t imagine the noise level and madness that came from so many voices, so many needs, and only one of him. Lord knows that man needed some personal space. Jacob, whose name means “deceiver” needed to be all alone in the dark, away from all the noise to meet with God face-to-face.

It’s hard to watch the ones we love wrestle. Alone. In the dark. And yet, deeper purpose runs through us, transforming us, when we have been left alone to wrestle. Sometimes all we need to do is get out of the way and let God do His thing. We grasp aimlessly at the nothingness wanting a sword or a taser, whatever we can place in our hands to fight off the enemy of our souls, our destiny, and our name-change-moment.

Yet in Jacob’s moment, it was just him empty handed. Two strong hands against another’s in face-to-face combat.

“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” (Vs 24)

And the Man could not prevail, this angel of The Lord, had to throw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

Angel: “Let me go, for the day breaks.”

Jacob: “I will not let You go until you bless me.”

He asks his name.

“My name is Deceiver.”

That’s not your name anymore, this is your name…

Israel; for you have wrestled with God and with men, and have prevailed.

To be set free we must first admit that we are not. Jacob knew what his name meant. He wore it like a label, heavy like a bag of concrete thrown over his shoulder, dead weight. Yet God gave him a new name symbolic of a character transformation.

I’ve done my fair share wrestling till my heart limped and my spirit soared high in surrender. I’ve watched the ones I love wrestle and I had to be the one to cross over the brook provided for and blessed.

Whether you are the one wrestling, or the parent watching your offspring or your spouse or a dear friend wrestle needing a breakthrough and a character transformation moment…you have to take your hands out of the mess. You can’t be the one who throws their hip out of joint until they are free, you simply cross over the brook and pray until you see your beloved blessed and unlabeled.

I pinkie promise you this, you’re going to be okay and they are going to be okay. Those who limp fly higher than those who avoid divine wrestling matches. You can do this, baby girl. My God is waiting to change your name to “favored one” and “one who no longer worries.”

Much love,
Jennifer