Brave, Unearthed Hearts

Female Statue istockDo you ever feel like you have wasted countless moments in the pursuit of the American, white picket fence dream? I find it suffocating, this keeping up business. Sometimes more is just more and vast rooms decorated with the finest can’t satisfy an empty heart trying to find another thing to make the unhappiness disappear. Sure, I would love some more space in my tiny cottage but I refuse to trade things for time when all I really want is for my time to count.

Didn’t Peter say, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you…in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)

Money is spent and pockets are sometimes empty, but a bold prayer is never wasted on hearts willing to give up and walk.

If I had more money I would place it in your hand and cup your hand in mine…and wonder if it’s enough. Perhaps in that moment I could just love on you and pray like a beggar in the streets with an empty cup knowing that is the kind of desperate prayer that will shake the heavens and truly change things for the better.

I wonder if we’ve stopped walking in a place where our shadows could actually heal people, a place where we say that we will pray for others and then we don’t because our hearts have been hollowed out by a grownup, mass production of getting things done quicker.

Could we both give of our time and our money and beg for God to do the miraculous in and through us?

I have to believe that we can and that we must.

No one should waste these last days, this unfolding of time where the news rocks us to our core and reminds us that maybe, just maybe, the end is closer that we think.

Maybe God wants to unsettle our comfortable Christianity where we trade things and “more” for being someone we are proud of. A legacy of loving each other more than we love ourselves while we walk this dusty minefield of life. I just want to be so good at being the least of these that I don’t even know how to walk to the front of the line. I want to be the girl who is fine with being last because I don’t want to miss one single thing that God has in store for me waiting in the back of the serving line. Hollowed out hearts with their hands out their eyes ask a question, “Do you see me?”

“If there is a God, I need you to show Him to me.”

And sometimes we walk on by and try to avoid eye contact because it’s less messy and we don’t have to exercise uncomfortable, walking on water faith.

To say God has been dealing with my heart about this would be an understatement. He is in the business of rearranging my space and stopping me in my tracks…and I feel awakened and like my heart is being excavated. And it hurts.

She asked me if I was busy and if I had the time.

I looked around like, “Who, me?”

Our eyes met and I noticed her desperation, her car filled front-to-back with plastic bags and everything she owned in one, broken down car. It’s summertime so sweat happens, but she was covered in sweat and had swollen ankles.

“Yes, I have time. How can I help?”

She needed gas to get her to the next place; I knew I could help her and that I was supposed to make the time. So I did. I told her I would follow her to the gas station and pump her gas for her. Somehow she knew that I would follow her and make good on my word. I called my baby sister and asked her to pray. We’ve been doing crazy things like this for a long time. We come from a long line of givers; our Grandpa would have given you the shirt off his back. Sometimes I feel like he’s still with me when I lavishly give what I can.

It was still daylight when I pumped her gas and we talked for a little while as she shared her story. And I wanted to fix it and her, I wanted to take out all her plastic bags and figure out a better place to put them. I wanted to find her a place where her feet could rest and the swelling could subside while the sweat dried and her heart was truly tended to.

She looked at me as I finished pumping her gas and said, “You’re really brave.”

I nodded almost choking on my words, “I am brave.”

And crazy.

We smiled a slow, sad smile. She said something about Christian love and I don’t even remember what I said as we parted ways, but I cried all the way home with the cool air blowing in my face and my trunk full of groceries and a few things I didn’t need.

Why on earth would she look at me, all five-foot-four of me in my cute outfit pumping her gas, and see a brave girl inside of me?

I can’t for the life of me remember the words we shared, all I can remember is how her words wrecked me and how her brown eyes pierced through mine as she called me by my new name. Brave.

I want to be that kind of brave everyday, because time is short and I don’t know what tomorrow holds. So maybe if we take ahold of one brave moment at a time and be the girl that has the time to care…maybe we could change the world and live a life that matters.

No more safe picket fences.

No more wasting of time.

No more avoiding eye contact because the pain seems like more than we can handle. 

No more, I’m sorry…I just don’t have the time.

Just you and me with our wrecked, brave hearts grasping for unearthed miracles waiting as God excavates our hearts to make room a life that is set apart to be His hands and feet.

Be brave with me, will you? I can’t do this without you.

Much love,

Jennifer

 

 

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

Taboo

shh

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

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

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

5472054774_54e07849fc_b

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

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

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

labels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Keri

 

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

Photo by Melissa Emmons Photography. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Allison McDonald. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

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

 

Permission to Run

20140421-131747.jpg

A three-hour drive would be enough time to tell him everything, my plan was to end with this: Run.

Forget about how much you love me. Forget about asking for my hand in marriage and getting your first job to pay for my engagement ring. Don’t think about the fact that I’m the first woman you ever said, “I love you” to in a car parked at your daddy’s church with the rain falling so hard it sang us a love song. Just drive me home and I’ll tell you everything and all the reasons why you should run.

But, he didn’t run. As my words spilled out, I watched him grip the steering wheel so tight I thought it would snap. I watched creases and frown lines etched from pain from hearing my story. I found myself comforting him, but I tried not to reach for his hand, for his anything.

I wasn’t raised in a pastor’s home like he was. I didn’t have the view of marriage that he did. Marriage scared me to death. I knew marriage was supposed to mean forever, but I also knew I never, ever wanted my parents back together. Sometimes people come together and become toxic. When one person wants Jesus and the other wants a bottle and to chase women, marriage is a trap and toxic. That wasn’t the way Jesus meant for it to be. In my young mind I thought if you stayed in that you became broken down, trapped, and flailing. Everyday is about survival and brutal. You watch your little girls become different people when a man and fear walks through the door. Your strong self, becomes a scared self. You think about taking your life, you think about running, and you pray with groans, not words. You pray with tears and one-worded-prayers…Help.

And I didn’t want that, not for me. Not ever. I wanted the fairy tale, but fairy tales were a lie and somehow fairy tales saved my life at the same time. I had reason to hope, to dream, and I started that process of escape when I was too little to know what a dreamer was. If it got loud, if I heard raised voices, I could slip away to another place that I created in my head, my La la land, and I liked it there because it was safe. My dad called it having my head up my a**, but I called it wonderful. I felt Jesus there, that heavenly Daddy. And every time I went somewhere else in my mind, I found Jesus waiting for me in my secret space.

If you yell at me, I will check out. I will put my head up my a** and only come back to you when you stop the yelling and scaring me and scarring me.

That was when I learned how to build walls and go somewhere else, an isolated fortress of protection. That’s when I learned how to run, even if it was only in my mind. A running dreamer.

I could emotionally run away until I learned that I didn’t have to anymore. I could stand. I could pray one-worded-prayers. I could hold on. I could let go. And I could ask God to teach me how to let someone love me even if I thought running would be a better, smarter idea.

Sometimes we have baggage that we picked up from other people, our family history, and the ones we love. We wonder if genetics and bloodlines will be stronger than the new creation that God is building in us. But, with all my heart I believe that the old has gone and the new has come when we become followers of Christ and we must be brave enough to believe that the Word will cut and be sharper than all the wrong things we picked up along the way. Sometimes we have to wrestle with the truth for a little while because we have believed lies for so long.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:17 NIV)

The old self carried around baggage that we thought belonged to us, the new “us” is not tethered to the past, bloodlines, and bruised knees from falling so hard. When our past life is more like a poorly written country song instead of a fairy tale, we can take God up on His word and ask for a little bit of “new” and a little more of letting go. We can add to our one-word-prayers and add five more words.

Help me let go of yesterday.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Is 43:18 NIV)

The NLT version says it this way, “But forget all that–it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.”

I love that. Forget about all that, all of the mess, and the things you would rather not replay in your mind, and watch what I am about to do because it’s going to blow your mind.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ez 36:26 NIV)

I know what it’s like to have a heart of stone. I know what it is like to shut people out and runaway to my emotional hiding place. And I know what it is like to let the former things remain in their proper place, out of my way and a thing of the past. And you can too, you don’t have to carry around the former, broken things and beat-up baggage from bloodlines and bad mistakes. If all you can utter right now is “Help” that’s okay. But, if you can and you mean it, add the five other words, “Help me let go of yesterday.”

Much love to you,

Jennifer

Dirty Hearts & Unpacked Bags

flickr.freedomfrombaggage

“Everyone comes with baggage. Find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack.” ~Anonymous

Jesus walked this earth to set hearts free, not only did He help others unpack their baggage; He removed it. In John chapter 8 the scribes and the Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in the act of adultery. I can’t imagine the shame she felt, all eyes on her eager to condemn her and throw stones at her to end her broken life. But not our Jesus, He stooped and wrote in the ground as if he did not hear them testing him. As they hurled accusations at the broken woman with baggage He raised himself up and said:

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 

And then he writes some more on the dirty ground in a crowd of dirty hearts who needed to see their own sin in order to walk away from the woman who was caught in the act. One by one they left and it was just the woman with baggage, desperate to be loved, and Jesus who mends broken places in ragged hearts setting them free.

“Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, my Lord.”

“Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

The more baggage we carry, the more intense our desire is to be loved and please others. It becomes a craving that is never satisfied and a lingering emptiness that takes us down dusty roads that lead to dead ends in every aspect of our lives. Ragged hearts tend to find people with jagged edges to pierce their tender state of being and this is our Jesus, the God who goes out of His way to meet with a broken girl in a broken relationship. He sees the jagged edges and tear-stained face and refuses to move on until the stone throwers walk away. He writes in the dirty soil and rewrites this woman’s history. Go and sin no more, your slate has been wiped clean. When the enemy reminds us of our past, let us hold unswervingly to the promise of our future. No matter how many times we fall and fail, we must get back up and remember that moment as Jesus stooped low to write on the ground and set a woman free.

That day a woman with a sketchy past met true and last loving, one that restored hope instead of inflicting shame, scars on her heart, and an imitation of love that only wanted one thing. Loved walked onto the scene and unpacked a very large, ugly bag. Loved removed the label of shame and welcomed her home baggage free. I pray we can love like Jesus does when we noticed the hurting and the wayward, may we rally around them and help them to unpack baggage they have been carrying around for decades. If we can look past all the things we don’t understand about them, maybe we could be more like Jesus and less like a judge and keeper of wrongs.

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and not a single one of us has it all together no matter how long we have been serving Christ. (Rom 3:23) Let us be grace givers, not stone throwers, for this is the heartbeat of Christ to seek and to save those who are lost. I pray I never forget the way I came to Christ and my all-consuming need of a Savior.

The Jesus who writes in the dirty soil is unafraid of a dirty past, wiping the slate clean and rewriting our story where baggage becomes a platform, under our feet…exactly where it should be.

Much love,

Jennifer

The Beautiful Struggle

mist

 

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

Picture3