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.

 

My Unfolding, When Love Runs Towards You

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Almost seventeen years ago I told him to run and that loving me would be a little too messy for a pastor’s kid like him. He couldn’t help what his heart felt, love ran towards me instead of away. Sometimes messy, complicated love is what a structured renegade really wants.

He told me he would wait because he knew I was what he wanted. He stirred his hot tea and I felt sorry for my new best friend who made me feel safe. We were so different that everyone tried to keep us apart. My friends, his friends, my inner circle, his folks and even my mom had their doubts.

But love doesn’t run away from you, it runs towards you. We sure tried to listen to everyone, but we ran towards each other anyway.

Like the father ran towards the prodigal son, like a safe preacher’s son with a lovesick heart, he ran so hard towards me that love had to teach me how to run towards him.

God’s love stays the course even when the ride is bumpy and blinding and brutal. Even when loving messy, insecure hearts is baffling. Love still stays because it’s crazy-stubborn like that.

I still run sometimes, especially when I’m hurting or sick. I tried to run this weekend at a big conference reverting back to my ‘broken girl syndrome’ because I assume I’m only loved when I’m nice. Sweet. Annoyingly forgiving. Gah, that’s exhausting. I had nothing to give, but I gave anyways and God blew my mind, gave me new hearts to love, and open doors.

My heart knew who I could run to when I was sick, my Broken Girl BFF and soul sister, Keri. She took care of me, truth be told, she’s never witnessed me that ill or messed up.

She spoke truth into my heart like true friends do and she knew exactly what to do when my blood sugar level dropped so low I almost passed out. Later, she called me the equivalent of a spiritual lapdog who feels the need to stay by the side of someone who is hurting. She’s right. I run towards the hurting, but run away when I’m hurting and frail.

My heart gravitates towards certain people, our stories unfold and soon I understand why. Inside of our beating hearts is a gravitational pull, our hearts are like magnets. Together we are better and less twisted because in our brokenness we are the very same messy, complicated kind. The kind that lets us know we are not alone.

I still run, but this time I know who I can run to. Most of the time I just run to God like a rag doll and let him do His cutting surgery within. I’m so honest with Him, I always have been because His love pierces through me and sees every wrecked place. His love fixes me, His mercy is stronger than the frailty in me. His love makes me run toward Him and He runs to meet me.

I’m not the same girl my husband married sixteen years ago. I’m more confident and I’m less insecure. But sometimes when I’m weak and the furthest thing from the nice Southern girl who learned to turn the other cheek…I wonder if I’m still worth it. So I run away to my tender place with my first love, my Savior, and I’m reminded why He loves my fragile, complicated heart. And in that flailing moment, I know for certain I’m definitely worth it simply because I’m His girl and always will be.

Man, I wish I could be normal for like fifteen minutes…and then those fifteen minutes are up and I realize that those minutes were the most wasted, boring fifteen minutes of my life.

I can’t wait to share the rest of this Unfolding journey and the book I’ve been writing this year with you. I can’t wait for you to read more of Keri’s work…because it’s amazing and will help you. I’m her lapdog.

We are still Broken Girls, but this time it’s for a different reason, it’s for you and for the unfinished, unfolding story inside of you.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

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The Scary Beauty of Becoming

Whitley,Flower child

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

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

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

God whispers to all of us…

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

He gives us rest, not lists.

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

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

But, it should.

Our list should say:

Mark as much as you can off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love you like crazy,

Jennifer Renee

Photo cred: The darling, Kylie Swank

 

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

God is within her. Ps 46:5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God is within us and will work through us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I kiss those girls when they start to cry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or like your big sister.

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

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

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

Make art anyways.

Make a mess.

Be a mess.

Clean up your mess.

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

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

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

“Hi. Do you want to be friends?”

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

Sweet, grownup girls,

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

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

Much love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

Untidy Hearts

keri-1When people ask to meet with me for advice or just to have someone safe to talk to, I come ready. By ready I mean, I pray like crazy. I beg God to show up, that it will not be my words but His. His words bring life and sometimes my words, if not chosen carefully, fall flat and amount to absolutely nothing. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I just knew that she wanted to meet with me. So, I rearranged my schedule to give her as much time as she needed.

Would she open up to me?

Would she feel like she could let her words and broken heart spill out on the table without holding anything back?

Would she feel safe and loved and wanted? Because that’s the best way I know how to customize vulnerable space for these broken girls that I love so much. Feeling safe, loved, and wanted is the doorway they will timidly walk through.

She held out her hand to shake mine, but all I really wanted to do was to wrap her teenage frame in my momma-arms. But, I followed her lead and shook her sweet, nervous hand instead. We sat across from each other at the gorgeous table designed to impress businessmen and I purposed in my heart that I wouldn’t let the glass and finished wood create an officious wall between a broken girl and the one who had outgrown her broken girl status.

I’m nothing at all if I forget the power of my testimony, if I shy away from letting her know that I’ve been there too. Broken. Trying. Wrecked not wanting to cry. So fragile yet trying to be strong, trying to learn how to fall apart, and let someone else watch you and lovingly coach you through that process. I believe sharing our testimony is another form of healing for us personally and for those we share with.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Rev 12:11 NKJV)

What would I have to offer her sitting there with a polished appearance yet remain guarded, unable to show her my heart, even if it’s untidy? The tidy, careful me faded the moment I embraced my true worth and released an insecure heart. Tidiness is for someone else’s space, not mine. Because where there is life, there is mess. Why would I lie and say that I wasn’t tangled up in a handful of messy relationships with messy people? Maybe I’m less of a mess inside because of the way I allow myself to relax and release the need to fix messy hearts. Sometimes my heart alone is a big enough job that I can’t handle the weight of trying to make my husband happy and my kids happy and all the people I love happy. And I love so many people. What a ticking time bomb I would be if I thought I had to be the savior of their hearts and solely responsible as the keeper of their happiness.

This generation is tired of fake and false perfection. It craves real. They need to see that God uses messes and misfits. That He is still drawing them out of unwanted waters like Moses, taking stuttering lips that trip over words creating a mouthpiece and a leader that will usher people out of bondage and captivity. Powerful things happen when untidy hearts surrender to God.

I didn’t want to counsel her from my position, or so called authority; I wanted to counsel her from a vulnerable place where I learned to wade through the murky waters of brokenness just like she is doing now. Navigating through a life that isn’t always polished and pretty has been an oasis of wealth for character building. It’s worth sifting through broken places to find God waiting on the other side. And as I sat on the other side of a pretty table, I hoped that I could be the arms of God extended, asking her to cross safely to the other side.

Finding God in my broken spaces has taught me this; God cares more about a polished heart than a polished appearance. You can fake one, but not both. You can hide behind a cute outfit and apply another coat of mascara, but it won’t mask the pain behind tired, beautiful eyes.

“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7 NIV)

Let your words spill out and together we will try to make sense of it all. No shame. No judgment. No long list of what you are supposed to be doing.

She cried. She spilled out words. I grabbed enough tissue to help her collect them and told her to worry about her pretty makeup later. Just cry, let the mascara run and the worry spill out in salty form. Hold nothing back in this safe, sacred space. 

Our time was out and she needed to leave; her heart was lighter as a smile splashed across her face. I did what I wanted to do from the very moment we met, I wrapped her up in my momma-arms and prayed over her before she left the room with the glass tabletop made to impress businessmen.

This is real life, messy ministry-the life-changing kind. The kind that makes me feel alive and brave. The kind that makes me out myself for being messy just like everyone else and yet whole, confident, and eager to see others find sacred, messy space.

My prayer for us today:

Lord,

Untidy our world and give us eyes for the broken. Let us roll up our sleeves and let their mascara and tears stain our cute shirts. Let us know the power of our testimony because we are unafraid to share our redeemed secrets. Let us be the nonjudgmental arms waiting on the other side of the minefield, or better yet, give us the guts to pull wrecked hearts from the devastation. Let us love in such a way that it wrecks our polished appearance as you cultivate a polished, refined heart within. Perhaps that is the best way to win others and make Your name famous.

Amen and let it be.

Photo by Chelsea Rustad

Vulnerable Hearts

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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.

A Disgrace To All Housewives

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I got a text yesterday about a family that needed a meal and I volunteered to do it. By volunteering, I mean, I offered to buy them a meal. Why? Because I’m not a good cook. I’ve mastered about five really good meals and I can rotate and fake it. I can buy pre-made things and figure out another way to make chicken, add a few sides and call it good. A decade ago I would have stressed, planned, and flipped through cookbooks. I would have wasted an entire day of doing something I didn’t enjoy and that I wasn’t good at. The Lord knows I’m not proud of this, but I probably would have cried about it too.

I wonder why we feel like we have to be well-rounded and good at everything? Why can’t we just be good at what God has entrusted to us and pursue the joy of living artfully?

I can’t tell you how much time I wasted trying to be well-rounded, desperately spinning my wheels to be good at everything. I’m not sure where we have picked up that idea, but maybe we aren’t supposed to be good at everything. In the parable of the talents the master was handing out talents, a bag of gold, to each according to his ability. And it breaks my heart to read about the man who was too afraid of that one thing he was given and so he buried it.

To the other he gave five, to the other he gave two, and to he timid man he gave one. The one with two doubled what he was given. The one with five doubled what he was given. And the man with one started to dig deep, racked with fear of not knowing what to do and what value that one talent meant, he hid it and refused to figure out what to do with it. (Matt 25:14-30 NIV)

In my early twenties I couldn’t relax because I was too busy comparing myself to others. I was looking at what God had given others to work with and I measured myself according to what He handed someone else, instead of looking inside at the bag of gold God had given me. I was the girl holding something of value in my hands and heart, but I didn’t have the slightest clue what to do with and so I hid it. I buried it. I compared it. I wasted it.

To compare gifts is to bury gifts and make them unusable. To covet gifts is to throw away what God has entrusted to you in reckless pursuit of traits and gifts you were not meant to have. It is such a waste of time, this chase to be something we are not.

Don’t make it your goal to be well-rounded, ask God to take the gifts He has placed inside of you and smooth the edges to take on a different, glorious shape. A shape that fits you and your gifts. I wasted so much time trying to be well-rounded, trying so hard to master things that I was never meant to be good at. I’m a firm believer in trying things for the first time, I have loved exploring my gifts and my calling. I have watched it take on shapes and change with each season. But, I have also set aside things that I am passionate about to tackle things that I hate because I thought I had to be good at everything. I thought I had to say yes to everything. I was exhausted, spent, and discontented.

I don’t want to be good at everything, I want to spend and multiply what God has given me to work with and invest in the hearts of others. That is where I see the gifts of God double, grow, and bloom. I want to use up every ounce of what God has given me and not worry about the things He hasn’t.

If He gives to each according to his or her own ability, why on earth would we look at it and say it’s not enough to work with? God can teach us the ability to multiply what we have, not based on what someone else has. We can do amazing things by thanking God for what He has given us to work with because it’s stinking amazing. I can change my corner of the world with the things He has placed inside of me. I don’t have to hide or be afraid, and I’m sure not going to bury my gifts by minimizing them.

I believe that we should take risks and try new things, I think we should step outside of our comfort zone and grow. But, I don’t think for one second that this means we have to morph into something that we are not. We have one glorious life to live and some pretty spectacular things waiting for us when we stop wasting our time with things that are completely outside of the landscape of who we are.

There is nothing wrong with you, but maybe you are trying to fit a certain mold? Maybe you are hiding and digging in the dirty ground scared to use up and spend the beauty of who you are. Cultivate a heart that learns to listen to His voice and stop comparing and crippling yourself. Figure out who you are and be really good at that.

Much love from a disgrace to all housewives,

Jennifer

Photo by Seattle Municipal Archices Seattle Municipal
Quote by: Jennifer Watson