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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It’s Supposed to be Hard

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Remember the movie from the early 90’s A League of Their Own? It’s about two sisters who join an all-female baseball league during World War II. The older sister, played by Geena Davis, is by far the better player and soon becomes the star of the league. Her team is doing well and makes it to the league’s first World Series. Days before the series begins, her husband returns home from Germany after being wounded in the foot. By this time it is apparent that she loves baseball and is passionate about the game. When her husband returns home she decides to quit the league and return home without playing in the World Series. Her manager, played by Tom Hanks, tries to talk her into staying. He tells her that it’s obvious that she loves baseball and if she quits now she will live with a lifetime of regret. She answers, “It just got too hard.” At that moment he gets very serious and leans in closer and says, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

It’s supposed to be hard.

We live in a culture that says it’s supposed to be easy.

Grey hair? Nice ‘n Easy

Sagging skin? Two minute facial mask

Hungry? Hit the drive through

In a hurry? On-line banking

Tough boss? Get a new job

Failing marriage? Get a new spouse

Browse through the Sunday adds and over and over you’ll see it: Quick! Easy! Time saving! Oven ready! Just add water! Instant! Fully cooked!

Everything around us tells us life should be easy. Except the Word of God.

God’s Word tells us it’s supposed to be hard.

Wait. Pray. Seek. Persevere. Press.
Trust. Follow. Deny. Fight. Run.
Turn from sin. Crucify your flesh. Carry your cross.
Turn the other cheek. Give to the poor.
Love your enemies. Speak the truth.

According to the Bible life is hard. And I’ve noticed that the more you trust God, the bigger risks you take in following Him, the harder it gets.

I’ve been praying a simple prayer lately, “Lord, help me to do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.” Everywhere I look He is showing me examples of the hard, but good, way to live.

This weekend I watched two movies, Jobs and The Help. Both of them were stories of people who were trying to accomplish something while facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges along the way. Then I spent some time on Saturday with a group of people who are choosing hard every day; brave families who have opened their homes as safe places for any child to come and find love and security. That kind of love is hard to give.

God is asking us to step out of our comfort zones and into hard places. He’s asking us to be brave in the big and small moments of life. To risk loving, to risk giving, to risk speaking… to say yes to the hard, when we know it is good.
Is it scary? Yes

Is it safe? Absolutely not

Is it worth it? Yes. Yes! A thousand times yes!

Why? Because it’s the hard that makes us lean on Jesus. It’s the hard that makes us bow our knee in surrender. It’s the hard that makes others pay attention. It’s the hard that brings forth fruit. It’s the hard that brings glory to Christ.

It’s the HARD that makes it GREAT!!!!

If my choice in life is easy and average or hard and great…. Lord, LET ME CHOSE HARD!!

~Keri

Photo by Ron Zanoni. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Peter Cave Road

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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

Undivided Heart: The Summer I Embraced The Sloppy Perfectionist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what do you need for soul-recovery?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

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

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

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

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

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

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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

 

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

The Shadow of His Wing

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“We spend more time talking about how wonderful it is to hide

under His wings than actually finding refuge there.”

Angie Smith

We sat in the gazebo in the middle of forty beautiful acres with open books on our laps discussing chapter five of “Chasing God”. It was evening and the sun was slowly setting, the only sound was that of birds scurrying about and the breeze on the wind chimes. We sat in silence as the truth of Angie’s words filled the space between us.

Just a few minutes earlier we were at dinner with about thirty Benedictine Sisters inside the hundred year old Monastery that sits in the middle of the property. At dinner Sister Kimberly was entertaining us with a hilarious story. She was at a retreat out of state when several of them decided to make their way down to the lake for a few minutes of quiet reflection. It turned out to be not so quiet after all. On the bank of the lake was a pair of geese with a large brood of goslings. Sister Kimberly was excited to see all of the baby geese, when suddenly a large dog came out of nowhere barking and chasing after them. The momma goose ushered all of the babies into the lake and then proceeded to stretch out her gigantic wings over each of the goslings and pushed them under the water. She stayed there like that for the longest time, hissing at that dog, and nearly drowning her babies. Sister Kimberly said she held them under water so long she was sure that none of them would survive. Eventually the dog wandered off and one by one the baby geese bobbed back up to the surface.

I couldn’t help but think about her story as we sat in the gazebo discussing what it looks like to take refuge under His wings. How brave of that mother goose to gather and protect the little ones. How terrifying it must have been to be one of those babies; thrown into the lake, pushed under water, surrounded by darkness, gasping for breath. I imagine they might not have thought their mom brave or heroic or nurturing. I bet they fought against those strong wings under that cold water.

Maybe this is why taking refuge is harder than talking about refuge.

“I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1) sounds a lot more poetic then “please nearly drown me and hide me in a dark cold place until the disaster has passed”. The truth is; experience is always messier than knowledge, which may be why we shy away from it.

The next morning I got up early and went out to the pond. I found my own pair of geese; these two aren’t keeping an eye on a young brood, but on a nest full of eggs. Their diligence to watch those eggs amazed me. They were willing to take me on the moment I got to close to their precious babies. I understand their fierce protective nature, I am a mother, I would do the same. I even understand why the mother goose pushed her babies under the water. I didn’t make sense to them, but to her it was what needed to be done in that moment.

So many times in my life I’ve felt like that nearly drowned gosling. I’ve fought against God, questioning what on earth He is doing to me. I’ve felt like the darkness would never lift, that the waters pressing in around me would never recede. Like Angie I’m a lot better at studying Him than trusting Him. Because often trusting Him doesn’t make sense, at least not from my perspective.

Job said “though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him”. I love the way the New Living Translation reads: God might kill me, but I have no other hope. (Job 13:15) Sometimes God’s ways don’t make sense. Sometimes it feels like He doesn’t hear our desperate cries and will never come to our rescue, but what if He is rescuing us in a way that feels more like drowning than being snuggled up warm and dry in a safe nest? Can we trust Him in those moments?

He says we can. He promises that His plans for us are for our good and not to harm us. Maybe trusting Him looks a lot more like a defenseless gosling trusting her mother’s wings will not drown her but protect her than believing that trust means we will never experience darkness or fear or pain under His wings of protection.

We know that if one of those baby geese had stood her ground and faced that dog in her own strength she might have wound up as lunch that day. That would be a foolish thing to do, yet I do the same thing all the time. When faced with disaster my immediate response is often to either face it head on and try to figure out a way through in my own strength or to run and hide all alone wondering why Jesus isn’t rescuing me. What if instead of looking to ourselves for rescue we looked for His wings and then stayed put under them for however long it took? Yes, it might be scary under there, but it’s better than facing that dog alone.

With Love~
Keri