Peter Cave Road

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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

How To Love Someone In A Midlife Crisis

Photo Cred-Lynne Hand, Boat

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it’s freaking hard right now.

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

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

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

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

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

You are not alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer Renee

Photo Cred by Lynne Hand

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

 

Suddenly

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Spring is finally starting to spring up around here. I love the winter, and snow is my favorite, but even I am ready for warmer days and signs of new life.

Growing up in the nursery business gave me a profound love for the smell of freshly turned dirt and peat moss, and after a crazy few weeks of working more hours than I can count I decided I was in need of therapy of the dirty kind, so I headed to my flower beds with a trowel, shears and a garbage sack.

Step one in insuring pretty flowers throughout the spring and summer is a good spring clean-up in your flower beds. I’m normally not one that likes prep work. I do my best to skip as many steps as possible so I can get right to the fun part of the project (Thus the spots of paint on all the trim in my house. Seriously, who has time to tape and cut in?). But cleaning my flower beds this year was different. I found myself slowing down as I pulled weeds and cut back dead winter branches.

As I sat and looked around me I noticed that my flower beds looked a lot like I felt. Pretty ugly. Dry. Barren. A scraggly mess. I was so ready to be done with the dreary winter look… in my heart and my front yard. So I pulled weeds, pruned vines, chopped off the old dead ornamental grass. Leaving my Jack Frost babies for last…

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Ugly isn’t it? Prickly too. A million invisible thorns live on those branches. I know, I should get some gardening gloves, but then you can’t feel the dirt, and that’s just not acceptable. I’d rather face the prickly plants.

I love Jack Frost. In the spring and summer it makes me so happy to see its pretty leaves and dainty blue flowers. I have two that live right by my front door and I adore them. Even after they quit blooming they stay vibrant green up until it gets really cold. Then they turn into the ugly thing above. All winter I’ve been tempted to rip up that unsightly tumbleweed of a dead plant, but I know better. You see, under that ugliness is a chance for me to have pretty flowers again this spring… if they survive the winter. And I know that ugly dead thing is protecting the potential for new life.

But yesterday… Yesterday it was time!

It came up easily, with just a slight tug the branches let go of the soil and revealed the most beautiful sight beneath: new life!

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And there it is! Where there was once only dead, ugly branches suddenly there is new life. If you would have walked by my flower gardens last week you probably would have never guessed that such a beautiful sight lay hidden under such a lifeless thing. But it did. I was there all along. Sleeping, then waking and growing; waiting for the right moment to peak its little head out and soak up the warm spring sun. Waiting for me to come along and pull up all the dead things.

Can I ask you a question? Do you sometimes feel like there’s nothing happening in your life? Like everything in you is dried up and lifeless? Like everything is perpetual winter with no sign of spring? Do you keep walking by the same thing in your heart wondering if anything but ugliness will ever live there? Have you asked God if He even hears you at all? If He’s doing anything or if He’s just forgotten about you?  I have. Sometimes we just can’t see what’s taking place underneath it all.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isa. 43:19

 

Do you not perceive it? Sometime the answer is no. No, God I don’t see. I don’t see what You’re doing. I don’t see growth or change or answers. Everything looks the same to me. Then suddenly He pulls back the veil and gives us a glimpse of the glory. Suddenly a light pierces the darkness and we see that He was there all along. Working on us. Growing in us. Planting and preparing us for a new season. For new life.

Master Gardner, Author of seasons, today would You give us eyes to see? Would You pull back the lifelessness of the winter places of our souls and reveal glorious life spring up in us? Remove the tumbleweeds of our hearts. Show us that You’ve been at work all along, even in the ugly things. Let spring burst forth in our hearts and spirits. Help us to grow strong in You.

~Keri

 

The Beautiful Struggle

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We walked through the dark valley together, Jesus and I. It was the hardest two years of my life, the two years after my husband decided he didn’t want to be married anymore. The two years when nothing was stable except the Rock of Christ Jesus.

Through the darkness, through the depression, through the questioning and the confusion there was Christ, always Christ, always near; tangible.

My life tends to be an open book, one of the consequences of working in radio. I can only share what I know, and for most of my life that hasn’t been a problem. As I’ve grown and matured I’ve better learned how and when I should share. I’ve learned that not every detail has to be shared in order for a story to be effective (although I still love details and often have to reel myself back in). When I was a young girl of 15 and very new in my walk with Christ I asked Him to use my pain. I honestly didn’t know at the time what I was praying, but I knew it was a life defining prayer, “God, whatever I have to walk through, please just use it to help others.”

That prayer has chased me in the decades since it left my mouth. There’s been times I’ve whispered, “I know I said whatever, but maybe not this?” And always there was a reckoning between Jesus and I and a decision made to share even “this” (and there have been many “this”es in the last couple of decades).

I even tried to be as transparent as I could in the season of my divorce, while still honoring other people who were tangled up in my story and giving myself much needed room to protect my heart and keep sacred things secret. I honestly never thought I’d be able to bring myself to utter the word “divorced” much less write or talk about it. Yet, here I am.

After coming to a decision to let God use the divorce “this”, I thought I had reached a new milestone. Surely nothing else that could ever come into my life would be as hard to go public with than the death of my marriage.

I was wrong.

It’s been over a month since I last posted a blog update. And before that post another long gap of time passed between posts. Why? Because I don’t want to write about where I am in life right now. I don’t want you to know. Why? Mostly because I haven’t figured it out yet. I tend to try to wait until I’m on the limping-but-victorious side of the wrestle before laying myself bare. Today I’m still in the wrestle. Today I’m still struggling. Today I’m still asking hard questions. And it’s hard to admit our struggles when we’re stuck in the middle of them.

I’m tempted to remain quiet here in this frustrating place. But I can’t. Why? Because of my brave friend Amber’s words, “I have tended toward self-preservation and hiding, and I have felt that I have had little to offer.”

That’s exactly where I am right now. Self-preservation and hiding with little to offer. But isn’t that exactly where God usually shows up to perform a miracle? And, seriously, I could use a miracle about now.

Because, you see, I’ve lost Jesus.

I know, I know, I haven’t really lost Him. How can the omnipresent one who came to dwell, Emmanuel, be lost? He is here, in the midst of this wrestling place. Only I can’t see Him. Can’t feel Him or hear His voice either. The only thing I can find is the space He once filled, the void of His absence.

I’ve been tempted to fake it a lot lately. To act like things are “just fine thank you”. But I’m having a hard time mustering up the strength to do the whole good-Christian-girl thing, where nothing is ever a struggle. The truth is; it’s all a struggle right now. Prayer. Bible. Worship. It’s a struggle.

The funny thing is, I don’t at all feel hopeless or desperate. I’m strangely accepting of this questioning place. Not content, mind you, but accepting. I can’t help but think that God is growing my roots deep in this wrestling place. Normally, when I feel distant from God I have an overwhelming urge to figure out what’s wrong and fix it immediately. I don’t feel that this time. I feel a resting, a waiting, and an assurance that Jesus and I are okay, even if we don’t feel particularly tight at the moment.

I know what it is to be carried by Jesus. I know what it feels like to have Him bend low and gently bind up my broken-heart wounds. I struggle with knowing how to walk with Jesus in the common everyday mundane of life. I can feel Him when the days are dark and hard, I can’t seem to find Him when the days are sunny and calm. And that is what my heart longs for. Not only to be carried through crisis by Christ, but to also learn to walk beside Him. To be led by Him through dark valleys and green pastures. To walk with Him through raging seas and still waters. To be so aware of His presence in every moment that He can’t ever be lost.

That’s the struggle. Seeking Jesus here. Seeking something genuine and real and sustaining. So, the wrestle continues. I’m not letting go. Not giving up. I’m hanging on and waiting.

~Keri

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Hope Deferred

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Waiting sucks. {I’m not quite sure I’m allowed to say “sucks” here but “waiting is hard” didn’t adequately describe how I’m feeling} I hate waiting, and I’m not really good at it. Patience is not my forte.

It seems as if everyone I know is in a holding pattern right now. Waiting on new. Waiting on change. Waiting on someone, something, somewhere. Waiting for doors to open, and others to close. Waiting on pain to end. Waiting on joy to come. Some have been waiting for years, faithfully serving, faithfully trusting, day after long day stacked one upon another until so much time has gone by that you begin to wonder what it is you’re even waiting for anymore. But the heart remembers. In the dark quiet of the night the longing persists. A prayer unanswered. A desire unmet. An ache unfulfilled. Hope deferred.

It’s even harder to wait when the desire is good, godly even. A child. A job. A friend. Pain to cease. Depression to lift. Prodigals to return. We pray and wait and wonder; why would God withhold good gifts from someone who loves Him?

In the last few weeks a verse in Galatians keeps popping up in my life. And let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. I know this is truth. I know I’m not supposed to throw in the towel. I know I’m supposed to continue doing good in my waiting seasons, however long they may be. But sometimes it’s just hard. Harder still when the people around you don’t seem to be waiting for much of anything. I know it’s a matter of perspective. That it’s not true that God’s coming through for everyone except me, but sometimes it feels that way. You too?

yellowchair

Hope deferred makes the heart sick… Prov. 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. {can I get an amen?} Our human hearts cannot contain the pain of waiting past the point that we deem reasonable. The longer we wait the more our hearts grow weary. Before too long they succumb to despair and desperation. How do we hold on to hope when all of our strength is gone? When our trust has been stretched past the breaking point? When the womb is still empty and the promise seems dead and the God we pray to is strangely quiet?

When the waiting persists it is hope itself that I need to cling to. Hope… not in the thing I long for, but in the God who (for reasons irrational to me) continues to say to me “wait”.

And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Psalm 39:7

What am I waiting for? Good things? Yes. Godly things? I think so. But ultimately it is not what I wait for that will satisfy me. Even the most holy thing longed for (a child, or friend, or spouse, or job, or ______) will disappoint us eventually. But there is one thing that will not disappoint…

Hope does not disappoint,

because the love of God has been poured out within our

hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:5

I have been guilty of holding out hope for something less than God. I’ve been guilty of getting mad and cranky when I feel like God is withholding good things from me, when I’m growing weary in my well doing for Him. I’ve been guilty of succumbing to depression and despair when I transferred my hope from the Eternal King to earthly things. This human heart of mine simply can’t contain the pain of waiting and I often find myself in desperate need of rescue. Thankfully, the God I serve specializes in just that. He rescues us because He delights in us. Rescues us from deferred hope.

Hope does not disappoint; if our hope is in Him.

It’s hard to hold on to hope. But what if we weren’t made to hold on to it? What if hope was made to hold on to us? What if hope is the rope thrown to us when we feel like we’re drowning? The rope that we slip our arms through and tighten down around our chest… holding the rope in our hands while the rope holds us in its embrace.

Hope is an embrace. It wraps us up. Holds us tight. And we cling to it in the waiting.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Prov. 13:12 

Praying that our longing for Him outweighs all the other longings of our hearts. And that in the waiting we will find ourselves surrounded by hope.

~Keri

The Messy Middle, When Life is Not Beautiful

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I’m reading in Ecclesiastes today because I’m desperate. How’s that for transparency? The writing life is not just about what ends up on paper, but all the things that I dare not type. It’s the sacred thread of a woman’s heart leaning wholeheartedly on God to do what I cannot. Fix things and hearts. My intense desire to nurture springs into play and I just want to kiss the hurts away and make things easier for the ones I love. But, that’s not what God is asking me to do. He leads us to cast our cares on Him, and it’s hard to cast something that we are so afraid to release. But, an unclenched hand is a sign of a surrendered heart and it’s dead weight to us if we try to carry it longer that we should.

The deep roots I have taken to find myself in Christ have only made me stronger, not weaker, because it hasn’t been easy. I had to work hard and learn the benefits from a little blood, sweat, and tears. In this place where I feel certain that I’m in transition and our ministry is in transition, I have to trust that when everything seems unwoven and uncertain…His purpose in all of this is for our good.

I turn to chapter 3 and I relax into the knowledge of timing for every purpose.

A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted. 

It seems like the planting is much safer and more hopeful than the plucking of something that you hoped would grow, but it has to be done. Dirtiness happens in the uprooting of something that is not doing what it was designed to do. We do our planting and sowing until God asks us to pluck and uproot something in our hearts and lives that are not producing the kind of fruit He desires. How much time have we wasted watering something that died a long time ago?

A time to break down, and a time to build up…

It seems so tragic when all we see is a wrecking ball and the chaos that comes from the things we’ve spent a lot of time building being ruined in a heartbeat. We restore broken homes and broken dreams and sometimes we just need a clean slate and a restart. We are better at the clean slate than we are when everything is scattered and out of place. So we brace ourselves for the breakdown and catch our breath when we see the master builder rolling out a new design with a stronger foundation that will last and walls that are unshakeable.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor-it is the gift of God. (vs. 11-13)

God has made everything beautiful in its time and if it’s not beautiful…then maybe it’s not time. It’s the season of plucking and breaking down. It’s the season to refrain from embracing when all you want is to be held. But we can’t embrace when we are carrying things that stand in the way of true intimacy. And so we watch the things we love tare knowing that the mending and sewing that is coming will be with divine thread that doesn’t fray so easily. We weep and we mourn and then we laugh and we dance because life is such a sweet gift and we have so many things to rejoice about.

Life might not be beautiful right now, but it will be. Don’t be mad about the uprooting and the temporary breakage, God is so good to remove things in our life that are not fruitful and toxic in order to make way for the miraculous moments that are dance-worthy and joyful. We don’t know the beginning to the end, so we hang on with hope in the messy middle because He who has called us is faithful.

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thes 5:24 NIV)

Much love & prayers in this messy middle season.

Jennifer