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.

140195020_0c045f4a3e_z

 

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.

2066800639_c61f1a8ad6_z

 

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

beachpath

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.

dirtroad

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.

road

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

Holding Hurt Hostage

4626758148_4d50322a28_b

 

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

8492960321_44fb45a42a_b

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

 

 

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.