A Call To Brokenness, Guest Post by Karen Pashley

Marvelous Light pic

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:8

 

I’d say I’m your typical Christian wife and mother, blessed with a loving husband and four amazing daughters. Life’s had its ups and downs, but God’s been good to us.

Until a phone call threatened to destroy everything I thought I believed.

My husband walked in the room with a terrified look on his face. Our smart, beautiful, compassionate twenty-five year old was in a hospital two thousand miles away.

In medical detox for drug addiction.

She’d checked herself in. Too afraid to call us. Too ashamed to reach out.

We were in total shock. Paralyzed with fear. Through rivers of tears I frantically searched for the next flight to get us to her, and…then what? We weren’t sure. We’d never dealt with anything like this. She was a good girl. College educated. Responsible.

This couldn’t be real…couldn’t be happening to a “good” family like ours.

As the minutes ticked by, shock exploded into anger. Not towards my girl—but towards God. I blamed Him for not taking care of her, despite a lifetime of earnest “mama” prayers. I screamed, “I’ll never trust you again!” I may have even uttered some unspeakable blasphemies. Yeah…I’m pretty sure I did.

My anger melted into repentance and desperation the moment I saw her, fragile and pale, lying in that hospital bed. Sedated, confused, but alive. I realized this was a battle for my daughter’s life—between the prince of darkness and the God of light.

Seven days of detox, and many pleading prayers later, she agreed to go straight to rehab. A ray of light in the blackness.

Hugging her and leaving her at that treatment center was one of the hardest moments of my life.

Returning home, I couldn’t focus on anything. Weak from exhaustion, eyes blurred from crying, simple tasks overwhelmed me. Cooking dinner, paying bills—how’s a mom supposed to act normal in a situation like this? Unhealthy thoughts consumed my crushed heart.

Would tonight be the night we’d get a call that she’d walked out of rehab? Would the light she once carried for Jesus ever burn in her again? Would our family become stronger through this crisis, or would it destroy us?

I went on like this for a while. Relieved every night she phoned, telling us her day had gone well, that she was learning a lot in therapy, that the withdrawals were subsiding.

I started reaching out to other parents of…addicts. The term reluctantly becoming part of my vocabulary. I spent a lot of time on the internet. Too much time. I listened. I learned. And I prayed. Oh, how I prayed—because this disease is rooted in deception and evil, and it is relentless in its pursuit.

About six weeks into her rehab, I was invited to attend a small gathering of godly praying women. I felt safe with them, and I shared my heart that day. We travailed together for my daughter. We proclaimed the Word, and my spirit soared as I claimed God’s promises. She would be set free! She could overcome this battle, and I did have the strength to fight alongside her, no matter how long it might take!

The following Wednesday, I returned. Our little band of prayer warriors quietly listened to worship music in preparation for our prayer time. As I mediated, a Word came to mind. I wrote it in my journal.

“For I am bringing her out of the darkness and into My marvelous light.

Something deep within me lit up. The song ended, and I smiled. The next song started and a chill went up my spine. It was the song my daughter played daily on her guitar back in high school. The song she sang with sincere adoration to the Lord—the one she once performed for the Bible study I led.

It was “our song”.

I burst into tears, listening as joy filled my starved soul, incredulous that the Lord used that specific worship song to minister to me that morning. I thanked Him for His gift of hope. And then something even more mind-blowing happened.

I saw a vision.

As clear as a movie playing before me. And I wrote these holy words from Psalm 23:

Though prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.

I saw a long wooden farm table in a field of wild flowers. The sun shone gloriously, the breeze blowing softly. My daughter sat at the head of the table, alone. She was still, her eyes fixed on nothing in particular. She sat peacefully as Jesus walked carefully and slowly around her, setting a fork on her left, a goblet on her right. He was in no hurry. The love and care He demonstrated as He set her table exploded in my heart for her. She seemed unaffected. As if she couldn’t see Him there. Yet Jesus was at peace with her. He didn’t mind that she was unaware of His presence.

Dear friend, words cannot describe what went through my mind! Jesus, her Lord and her Savior, was preparing a table. A table of blessings, a table with a future and a hope—a feast of peace and joy and freedom from guilt and shame!

All while the enemy watched within striking distance.

The enemy, who had stalked her and nearly stolen her away watched as Love served His grace and mercy like honey to her lips. Jesus—her ever-present help in times of trouble was not intimidated that the enemy prowled nearby in the tall grass while He prepared this beautiful table. Jesus was in command!

From that moment on, I was a changed woman. A changed mama. A changed believer.

We are not out of the woods. The physical and psychological battle continues. But every time worry and fear rise up within me, waking me in the night, or threatening my peace, I close my eyes and feel that breeze, smell the wild flowers, and whisper thanks to the Lord, who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that I may ask or think.

Today marks 90 days since my brave girl checked herself into that hospital, nearly dead from heroin and meth.

She’s finished the first phase of treatment and is now living at an extended care facility for women in our home city. We had lunch together today. We laughed, we ate hot wings, and we felt pretty normal. I saw a glimmer of spark in her eyes. She hugged me goodbye with emerging confidence. Today was a really good day.

Dear friend, I am broken—and I’m okay.

“Brokenness is the condition whereby our will is brought into full submission to His will so that when He speaks, we put up no argument, make no rationalizations, offer no excuses, and register no blame, but instead, instantly obey the leading of the Holy Spirit as He guides us.

                                                                                                            Rev. Charles Stanley

Karen Pashley is passionate about wading deep into the rivers of God’s Truth. Called to Karen Pashley bio picinspire women to live radically for the Lord, she writes and speaks whenever and wherever doors are opened. Her first soon-to-be published novel addresses the hidden thought life of a prominent Christian wife who faces an unimaginable dilemma when her husband’s pregnant mistress is diagnosed with a terminal illness and has no one to care for her. Karen hopes her work will steer women towards the hope that only Jesus offers. She’d love to hear from you. You can connect with her on Twitter at @K_Pashley or http://www.karenpashley.com/ 

Work-In-Progress, Guest Post by Bridgette Tomlin

Sanctuary15

I find myself grappling on a consistent basis with the concept of selfishness and rest–how the two seem to war within the heart of most men and women, and most definitely within the heart of this momma. The theme of God’s shaping of my last few years has involved Sabbath, rest, time in His presence. I’ve prayed about it; I’ve thought about it; I’ve read about it; I’ve blogged about it; I’ve taught about it. The topics of rest and spending time in His presence comes up in most conversations I have, whether formally or casually, primarily because most people in our culture don’t ever get enough of either.

I’ll be honest; I’m still a work-in-progress in these areas.

This past December, we, like many families, had multiple weeks where at least one person had a runny nose, was running a fever, wrestled with infection, or a combination of all the above. Just when it seemed we were all well, finally giving illness the boot, another kid would begin to sneeze. As the COO (chief of operations) of our humble abode, I was flat worn out! Little kids with runny noses and heightened needs and levels of whining were taking their toll on me. And, shocking as it may seem, I began to grumble. At one point I turned to my husband and said, “I simply am not fit to be a good mother. I’m far too selfish for this. I do not want to wipe one more runny nose. I am in desperate need of a full night’s sleep. And I, quite frankly, need to be anywhere but here.”

All I could think about at that point was what I wanted for myself. I had been consumed with thinking of everyone else’s needs and wants to such an extent that I was beyond help myself! Like most moments of utter desperation, I ran to the safest place in my home: the master bedroom’s closet. Falling on my face before the Lord with a panic-filled cry, I threw a grown-up girl’s temper tantrum in His presence. “I’m too selfish to be a good mother, Lord! I just can’t do anymore…”

I’m not sure how the Lord speaks to you but generally I hear Him say things to me with such candor, it’s like a best friend is sitting beside me, speaking to me with ease. “Well, if you’re going to be selfish, be selfish with My presence.” (Do you believe God has the capacity to be sarcastic? I believe He has a sense of humor when we come to Him, acting as children.) “Be selfish in your time with Me, My lavishing on you, My doting on you. You’re less likely to come to this desperate state again if you’ll be selfish with My presence.”

It feels selfish to steal away with Him when there’s so much to be done, right? But let us follow the psalmists here who said with total abandon, “My soul longs…no, it FAINTS, for the courts of the Lord for there I will go from strength to strength, not ‘fumes to fumes’!” Truly one hour in His presence can change the course of your life!

Feeling selfish today? Take that selfishness to a place where it can actually add value and strength to your life. Find yourself with your Heavenly Father’s undivided attention. Strength is waiting for you.

“How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! 2 My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.” (Psalm 84: 1-2, 5-7,10)

Seeking from a selfish heart,

Bridgette

Tomlin{MWP}-45Bridgette Tomlin is wife to a bona fide traveling evangelist & revivalist (yes, there are still a few out there!) and mother of two adorable blonde-headed girls. But she also carries a call to challenge the follower of Jesus Christ to a deeper walk through her writing, speaking, and music. One word description? Determined. Bridgette’s ministry, both alongside her husband and on her own, digs deep and yet is laced with quick wit and humor. Bridgette also has a heart to reach out to the wives of full-time ministers and recently launched a unique ministry called Sanctuary. Read more from her blog spot at www.ctministries.com/news-events

Making Grace Circles Around The Ones We Love

unsplash boat

Some memories warm me and so I let them. Like when the sunlight would dance on the water when I was a kid. Those summers were my happiest, feeling the heat on my skin and the fast wind in my hair matted from lake water. My legs would be so tired from water skiing and somehow I loved the ache that made me know I had nothing but wild fun that day.

I was good at it because Daddy taught me how. It was a process, but I’m such a determined person that I knew if I just held on tight enough and did what he said, eventually I would be gliding across the water. Holding on until my skinny legs couldn’t take it anymore and my arms felt like jelly, I would let go and put my hands in the air as high as they could go and melt into the sweet summertime kicking off my skis.

The first time I fell I hit hard, choking on lake water and wondering where my skis went. I never worried about the distance between the boat and me because he was watching, someone was always watching, and the flag would go up to let the other boaters know I was in the water. And then he would circle the boat around to get me.

 

Fall after fall, it happened like clockwork and it didn’t matter how much it hurt, help was on the way. He would circle that boat around and pull me back in every time. And this feisty girl always wanted to try again.

Over the years things would get harder, life would change, his daughters would marry and move away, babies were lost, babies were born. Life happened changing hair shades of silver and he would cover it up until he grew into his grey. I liked his hair that way. In many ways we were still circling our boat around to pick each other up. Every time. Through rights and wrongs and fights and making up, love made circles of grace around us never leaving us stranded in water that was too deep.

 

We never stopped making circles around each other, not ever. This was unchangeable, love doesn’t walk away it just swings back by to make sure you have a big rope pulling you back in. And sometimes the rope isn’t long enough, but you keep extending it anyway. Grace and mercy come without expiration dates; in many ways grace is one vast circle without a beginning or ending.

I have so many memories and I’m thankful for being loved that much.

I’m glad that Daddy taught me a few self-defense moves when I was young just in case those grade school boys kept messing with me. And even to this day, I think that I could give that fool a big enough bruise to make him regret he had ever messed with me. Somehow he made me feel strong enough to pummel a kid twice my size.

 

The circling has stopped and saying goodbye looks much like a large body of water that I’m not quite sure if I’m supposed to glide across it or sink into it. Perhaps both. When it gets hard, and it does, I remember my Abba who loved his circling wanderers who wasted forty years in a desert complaining. I pray and ask God to help me circle the right things and the right path.

I’m certain that God is circling around to rescue me in my sinking and sadness while dealing with the loss of my father. His grace makes wide circles and each part of my frail heart is surrounded by a love that doesn’t stop.

Maybe I’ll write more about this, maybe I won’t because there are certain pieces of me that are too sacred to end up on a page. But, every piece of me is whole and free because love made big circles around me all of my life.

I couldn’t fix the broken things inside of him, no one could, but we circled our boats around him and loved him. And in the end, that is enough because that’s what love does. It doesn’t leave you stranded.

I thought I had more time, but I was wrong.

His body is at rest now, no more pain from a worn-out heart and body. He looked like peace when I said goodbye and as hard as it was to leave that room where he rested, nothing was left undone.

 

One last time I said, “Goodbye, Daddy.”

 

Circle the ones you love in prayer and use all your best words, swallow your worst ones. Say, “I love you,” every time you think it and just once more to make sure they didn’t forget. Circle with arms that embrace and grace that covers what time can’t erase, love even when it’s work and keep making those big, wide circles.

This is what loves does, it circles because love never leaves you stranded.

 

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:8)

Much love,

Jennifer

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HOT MESS but blessed

hot mess but blessed

I notice her with her walls up, trapped in a moment where she felt like she needed to pretend. She stood upright, but everything about her revealed to me that she was crumbling on the inside. With each fake, plastic smile she became more exhausted with the fine art of hiding behind a façade.

I placed my hands on her shoulders, “You don’t have to be okay right now. You don’t. Maybe if you give yourself a little space to fall apart, you might feel more together. A little more free.”

She wrestled; fighting inwardly and then the tears start to stream down her darling face. She melts into me and I hug her as tight as I can. I whisper, “I know what it’s like to go through the motions, just pretended to be okay when I really wasn’t.”

I know what it’s like to be a faker. Don’t we all?

As if one more coat of mascara is going to make our eyes sparkle again. Like the perfect under eye concealer is going to make us look like we actually rested instead tossing and turning, the replaying of events, the things we should have said. The things we shouldn’t have.

It’s possible to be surrounded by people and feel more alone than ever.

It’s possible to say I love you” every time you feel it and still feel unloved. It’s possible to have a smile splash across your face and not feel an ounce of happiness within.

It is possible to feel everything and nothing…and wonder what the heck is wrong with you. But, I know the power of walls coming down in the acknowledgment that I am a needy girl with a God who is big enough to handle it. I know the power of watching words set a heart free. Say them, love them with your words.

It’s okay.

You don’t have to be okay when you’re not.

You don’t have to hide or fake it. You can simply come wrecked and torn, just as you are and know that is enough.

Coming to church admitting that we are needy has become ridiculously taboo.  My last post, Female Kryptonite: The Shaming Chase for Perfection stirred up a group of women ready for healing. If you missed it…you should read it and share it! You can read it here.  

The rain comes, it always does, and we feel it soaking through the façade until we let go of this little thing called perfect. It happened to me in a tiny choir loft, running a fever and losing my first baby to early miscarriage. As a lady looked over at me, fully knowing what I was going through, she asked me how I was doing. I felt like she was asking me to smile and nod just like everyone else and I couldn’t. I had lost the will to fake it. True words came rolling out, my pain unmasked.

“I’m just here.”

That’s when I stopped pushing myself so hard while my body tried to keep up with the fast pace of pretending to be perfect. Pretending that I was stronger than the grief I was feeling inside. The walls came down and it was the most freeing and purposeful pain. I felt so small and it was okay. I asked those hard questions and even the useless one of “why.”

I let myself be small and frail. I let my mom hold me like she used when I was little. I found God in that broken space of loss and found myself at the same time. The one with angry poetry underneath my worn out Bible, the girl who knew that faith and questions could linger together in my sadness giving way to deeper, unshakeable roots in Christ. By admitting that I wasn’t okay I found room for real healing, the kind that takes time and can’t be rushed.

Whether your heartache has been recent or decades ago, I wish I could sit with you and hold your hand to let you know that it’s okay that you are not okay right now.

One day you will be.

You will be strong and steady, someone that others lean on. One day you might be holding chubby babies, or climbing the corporate ladder and finding joy in your “right now” moments.

I pray joy will return and God’s peace will surround you.

Much love and prayers, Jennifer Renee

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:3)

*All my friends are going nuts over this shirt…I have made one for us!! You can order by clicking here.

Haven’t Figured Out Your Resolutions or One Word? Me either.

One Word?-4

I look down at my calendar noticing the white space, I jot down dates and obligations realizing that soon this fresh page will be filled with opportunities for ministry, connecting, and things I really don’t want to do.

It’s just eight days into the New Year, and everyone is making lists. Lists that will make them feel guilty. Lists that might make them feel a little more productive. Lists that will make them feel like this business of producing never, ever stops.

They even have their “one word” picked out for the year like rest or abundance.

I don’t have a list this year, but a charge of sorts for us to refuse the meaningless striving.

Instead of validation, may we seek to be available to God, to others, and whatever that may look like.

That we could look at our circle of influence differently, perhaps even make it smaller. That we could start in our homes, working outward to our jobs, churches, and community. And if by chance we can only manage one of those things in our circle; that we would know that one thing was enough.

That we would not seek the approval of others and waste time on that bottomless pit of people pleasing, but instead seek time to feel the loving, correcting hand of God in our lives.

That we would no longer throw out the words, “I don’t have the time.” And replace them with the knowledge that we make time for whatever is truly important to us.

No more measuring sticks, just measureless grace for others and for us.

No more dreading what may happen, just take it day-by-day, sometimes even minute-by-minute.

No more beating yourself up, or talking bad about people who might sin differently than you. Because we all have our things and we are all painfully aware of what we need to be working on.

No more records of wrongs for others. To quote from the great philosopher, T. Swift, we need to shake it off. Cuz haters are gonna hate.

We can cry, let go, and forgive repeating those steps as often as we need to.

My prayer is that grace will fill our lungs, hope will flood our hearts, and that we persistently trust in the unseen, mighty things of God. And because we never know what’s next for us, we will focus on taking one obedient footstep after the other.

May our focus remain on who we are becoming instead of what we produce.

Much love,

Jennifer

The Gift Our Daughters Really Need

Whitley,Flower child

I wish I could erase this pattern that cripples women, the one that starts as a preteen and follows us through life. This unhealthy space of not liking the way we look. I blink slowly trying to remember when this started, or why it started. Was it the images on television or the porn I found in someone’s house when I was a girl trying to figure out what being a woman was all about?

I remember thinking that day when I realized that people pay money for this trash- So, this is what you think of women?

Don’t you know that I will be one soon?

This is someone’s daughter and you are someone’s dad.

Is this all you think that we are? Painted and displayed and broken.

I felt sorry for her, the girl on the front cover bare.

I am bringing up girls now and I feel the weight of this enormous task that is laid out before me.

God, please help me to do this right.

My daughter asked if it was a good time to talk. When your preteen wants to talk to you, it’s always a good time to talk. This “shut the door, tell me everything you are feeling” stuff is starting to happen. God knows how much I want to be good at it.

I want to have the answers and play it cool when something throws me off guard; I want to have the words to ease her troubled mind.

And it starts.

I feel bad about my body.

I feel bad about my mind, like I’m not smart enough.

I decided to start with the “I wish I could change my body” talk first.

I tell her about the change that is happening, that right now her mind and her body are trying to catch up. I talked to her about comparison and how she just needs to be the healthy version of herself, that there is no weight limit or jean size that can be her guide for this. The hormones are invading her space and she is growing, developing, and morphing into a young woman right before my eyes.

This stretching out place happens both in our bodies and our mind, but somehow we need to carefully walk our daughters through this. They need to know that their bodies are a gift; that they are a gift.

So, I pulled out this scripture verse knowing that it takes a lifetime to really get this, but I quoted it anyway.

“…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7 ESV)

Of course, men and women look at the outward appearance while God looks at our heart. But, all I saw sitting in front of me was a girl who looked just like me; and I wouldn’t change a single thing about her.

Something comes to me, a thought, a way that I could help her. I grab my soft middle, the part that I wish wasn’t there and say, “Is this what you notice when you look at me?”

She shakes her head and says ‘no’ softly.

“I didn’t always have this soft part of me. At times I wish it wasn’t there, but it gave me you.”

Bringing forth life changed my body, but more importantly, it changed my heart. So, I thank God for the stretchy middle and the miracle of giving birth. I thank Him for helping me when I was underweight, stressed to the max, ill, and unable to sustain a healthy pregnancy.

I knew that in moment I needed to give my daughter the gift of seeing her mother love her imperfections and show her what it looks like to honor and respect my body.

I am not measured by my soft middle, or the size of clothes that I wear. I am not my title, or the position I hold. My worth is based on the contents of my heart, that’s all.

If I can teach this to her at eleven and reinforce it over the years. If I can guard carefully the words that come out my mouth about my body image, I can make a lasting impact.  If I can do this and change the way she views womanhood, I could change a generation-the one that she will be leading.

But, I can’t do this without you doing the same thing for your girls.

Maybe if we link arms and allow our strength be larger than Kim Kardashian’s butt displayed all over the internet, we can be the women who not only teach about the power of a woman’s worth- we can be the women who live it loud enough to quiet our daughter’s insecurities.

So, as I sit here wrecked with a list of things I need to buy for my girls for Christmas, I know this is the most important gift I can give them, the gift of championing the worth of women. All the women, those on display and the ones starving and cutting themselves to dull the pain.

But I must start first with the miniature versions living in my house.

Are you with me?

Love you like crazy,

Jennifer Renee

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Give Yourself A Gift This Year

walking with my baby

My nine-year-old crawled in bed with me. Yes, she still does that and I love it. She’s the baby of the family and my little cling on. She wrapped her arms around me as I wrapped her up in my arms.

“Mom, I need you to pray for me.”

“Is something wrong?”

“I am having bad thoughts…like something bad might happen.” She whispers.

I began to pray, asking God to help her to not think those thoughts or worry and then prayed for a hedge of protection around my family. I asked God to help me with my thoughts and that I wouldn’t worry either.

Tears fall softly down my face as my daughter starts praying.

“Jesus, I just want to be the best me that I can be. Help me to do that. I want to be the best me I can be.”

She begins to tell Jesus how she falls short at this with words from a nine-year-old heart. It reminded me of how many women have basically said the same thing with bigger words laced with regret.

How many women feel like the worst version of themselves? Too many.

My tears fall on her as we say ‘amen’ while I search for words to tell her about how God sees her heart and would honor those sweet prayers of her. I find the words and remind her of the worth found deep inside of her and that maybe, just maybe, she’s being too hard on herself.

And my mind drifts to countless conversations and endless words from women I know doing the same thing, being ridiculously harsh and unkind to themselves.

I think that’s what we all want; to be the very best version of ourselves and every day we have a million opportunities to blow it. But, we press on knowing that God sees our hearts and searches all the deepest places within us.

Everyday we give our days like a gift to the God that formed us, and most days we wonder if it’s enough.

Years ago in a moment of mentoring I apologized to someone who became more like a sister and less like mentee. I told her how I wished that I had done more to help prepare her for the road ahead. She looked me in the eyes and said something that I’ll never forget.

“Jennifer, sometimes we learn more from Clark Kent than we do from Superman.”

Her words set me free; I hope they will set you free too.

In all this striving of trying to be the very best version of yourself, perhaps it’s time to look at yourself through the filter of “I am enough” and give yourself a big fat break.

Perhaps that could be your Christmas gift to yourself, to be a little nicer to the woman you look at in the mirror.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee