When Sunday Morning Doesn’t Come

“I agree that marriage it hard, and a good marriage is worth it.  However, the hardest thing I’ve ever done isn’t marriage….the hardest thing I’ve ever done was a long, ugly, extremely messy divorce and the unhealthy, dysfunctional co-parenting relationship I have with their dad.”

I was sitting in the studio interviewing relationship experts Jeff and Debbie McElroy about the goodness of marriage when my phone buzzed with this message from a friend who was listening. She knew she could contact me, because we have walked the same journey of “long, ugly, messy divorce”.

As I sat in the studio with Jeff and Debbie I was encouraged. Encouraged to see two people so deeply committed to each other and so obviously in love. As Jeff described the “why” of marriage I found myself nodding along, “yes, this is what marriage is for! It’s for showing the gospel!” Jeff and Debbie continued painting the picture of how marriage models the gospel for us, how it shows us redemption in tangible ways. How in each marriage God wants to enter into every hopeless and dead place and bring resurrection. As Jeff says “Every marriage has a Sunday Morning coming.”

After they left the studio I needed to be alone for a few minutes. I needed to sit with the reality that the “Sunday Morning” of my marriage will never come. I needed space to grieve that fact, to take that truth to Jesus and sit with Him in the pain of it.

lily

Last week we received a message from someone who was hurting. He had heard a story of how God had healed a man’s wife of cancer, but his wife died. The same God who allowed cancer to take his wife’s life allowed another man’s wife to have more years with her husband and kids. His “Sunday Morning” of cancer-free-life will never come. And, I imagine, the reality of that truth hurts daily.

What do we do when the reality of our situation is that for us here in this moment Sunday Morning isn’t coming?

Today I’ve been thinking about Job and all that he lost. I saw him sitting there in sackcloth and ashes with dust literally pouring from his head and I was jealous. Not of all that Job had gone through, but of the time Job took to sit and mourn his loss. I was jealous of Job’s ashes. Ashes that told everyone who saw him and everyone who came in contact with him that this was a man in mourning.

I sometimes wish we had something to wear to let others know that our season of mourning hasn’t past yet and that we are still filled with grief.

I think we do a pretty lousy job in our American culture of grieving that which is important. We wear black to funerals and the next morning wake up and put on whatever color suits us. As quickly as the flowers from the funeral spray shrivel up, die, and are thrown in the trash, society tells us to move on. We’re not allowed to sit and blankly stare, or to talk about our loss, or cry. Our employers give us a day, maybe two, off of work to attend the funeral and say our goodbyes and then we’re expected to return to work and the task at hand.

But grief isn’t an occasion that comes and passes, it comes and stays, lingering at the door of our heart. It sneaks up on you unexpectantly in the strangest places. When you’re going through your day as normal and all of a sudden you catch the scent of something that reminds you of them. When those day’s come when time slows and memories seem to wrap your mind like a blanket and grief is stirred back up again. And you have to leave the room and lock yourself in the bathroom to mourn in private, because it’s unacceptable to mourn in public.

We live in a society that is afraid of emotion. We don’t know how to express it and we don’t know how to comfort others that do. We’ve been trained to not grieve and mourn, we’ve been trained to get over it, or at least pretend that we have.

But God is not afraid of our grief, or our anger, or questioning, or fear. He is not caught off guard or intimidated when we come to Him with shaking fists and tear stained cheeks and beg for the pain to go away. He doesn’t mind when our eyes fill up with tears at the most awkward moments. He doesn’t turn His back to us when we come with questions and fears and ask “why”.

Jesus was a man acquainted with grief. He wept and was sorrowful. Jesus mourned. And He shed tears, unashamedly.

He welcomed the broken woman who literally washed His feet with her tears and He did not push her away or tell her to pull herself together. He welcomed her to His feet to pour out every single bit of grief that she had carried for so many years. He did not dismiss her tears. Yet, we feel as if we can’t bring our emotions into the throne room of grace because we feel like we can’t bring our emotions into our modern day churches or workplaces or homes. But if there is one place that grief is welcome, it is in the presence of God.

I hear people talk often about how in Heaven we’ll never cry again, but I’m not sure that’s true. Revelation 21:4 says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes”. To me the picture of Jesus wiping tears from our eyes is not the picture of bride who never cries, but a picture of a husband who lets her, and who comforts her when she does.

Tears are precious to God. He collects them, He doesn’t dismiss them. We are welcomed into the presence of God when our hearts are filled with grief and sorrow.

I find it interesting that in biblical times ashes were a symbol of grief. When someone they loved died or a tragedy happened they would literally take ashes and throw them on their heads. They would cover themselves in filth to represent the darkness of heart they felt.

“To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isa. 61:3

Jesus offers us a holy exchange. He invites us to come to Him, ash covered and tear stained. He bends down into our sorrow and He wipes the tears from our eyes and pours oil over our heads. And as that oil runs rivets down our face and our shoulders and our hands and feet, it washes away the ashes of our mourning.

But we have to come.

We have to come to Him and bring every bit of sorrow. We have to come and sit with Him in the pain. Only when we come can He reveal the true beauty there.

~Keri

Photo by jmtimages Licensed under CC BY 2.0

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.

 

Peter Cave Road

dangerous-road-ahead

My car was packed and loaded with teenagers, suitcases, snacks, and one mom who was so beyond ready to get out of town and head to a cabin in the woods for a few days. We were making good time with the cruise control set on 65 and gorgeous scenery rolling by outside of the windows. In just a few short hours we would be at the cabin where there would be no work, no agenda, no schedule. Just days filled with fun.

Then we turned down Peter Cave Road.

Y’all, never in my life have I experience a road like this one, and I grew up in the country. I’ve seen my fair share of treacherous dirt roads, but none of them had prepared me for this. I should have known we were in for a ride when I saw the sign on the side of the road “dangerous road ahead, 4 wheel drive recommended”. I hesitated when I saw the sign, but my GPS told me to turn left, so I did.

I had no idea what we were getting into.

dirtroad

Five miles. Five miles of dirt road stood between us and the cabin. I know dirt roads well enough to know that five miles might take about 20 minutes, but not this dirt road. This road and these five miles took us over an hour. Several times we came to a complete stop before proceeding. Once we had to get out and move a tree limb out of our way. Every muscle in my body was tense as we headed uphill and then downhill with hairpin turns, steep drop offs, and pot holes like you’ve never seen before.

My daughter was holding my phone and counting down the tenths of a mile as we climbed our way up the mountain. Every tenth of a mile was celebrated as if we’d traveled a hundred miles. I began to wonder if we would ever make it.

road

Over an hour later we did. When we pulled into the drive way and saw the cabin the car erupted in celebration. I’ve never wanted to kiss the ground before, but I did in that moment. We had done it, we survived.

The next morning I woke up early and quietly left the cabin to go sit on the porch and watch the sun rise over the Buffalo River. I kept thinking about that car ride and our harrowing adventure. The worst part was; we didn’t have to spend an hour of our lives on Peter Cave Road. My GPS chose for us to go down a road we didn’t have to. If we had only traveled a few miles further down the highway there was another road that would have brought us to the cabin without all the drama.

Isn’t life like that sometimes?

Sometimes we find ourselves traveling down a road we never would have chosen for ourselves. A road so long and treacherous that we wonder if it will ever end. A road that keeps us tense, single minded, and desperate. A road that is so slow going and unending that we begin to question everything. “How much longer?” “Will this ever end?” “Are we lost?” “Should we go back?” “Will we survive this?” “How did we get here?”

I learned a few things driving up Peter Cave Road that I think might be important to remember when life leads us down a dangerous road.

Sometimes experiencing Peter Cave Road is not your fault. The good news about our adventure is that it wasn’t my fault. I’ve made a lot of wrong turns in my life (both in the car and in my choices) but this wasn’t one of them. This time I was following directions. Peter Cave Road was chosen for me by my GPS. I don’t know why God sometimes choses for us to take the long, hard way to arrive at our destination, but He often does. It’s not because we did something wrong, it’s not because we are being punished, it’s not because we are too stupid to read a map, it’s because that’s the road He put us on. Is there a reason? Sure. Will we know the reason before the road ends? Maybe, maybe not. Sorry. I could lie and tell you some deep spiritual thing will only happen to you on that road. That might be true. But we also might wind up standing in His presence one day asking Him; “So, Peter Cave Road. What was that all about?”

Time and distance is relative. We started our road trip on Interstate 49 and ended it on Peter Cave Road. Our trip started with the cruise control set and us covering about 65 miles an hour. It ended with me riding the brake and us going 2-5 miles per hour. A mile is a mile, but road conditions very much affect how long that mile takes to travel. The harder the road, the longer it takes. Slow going is still going. Even when it feels like you’re getting nowhere, you are.

Don’t abandon ship. Multiple times during our adventure on Peter Cave road someone would pipe up with “It would be faster to get out and walk.” It sure felt like that was true. As tempting as it was to abandon ship and head out on our own I knew that as slow as the car was it was still a better option to stay in it. I know my own strength; I can’t walk 5 miles carrying all of our luggage up Peter Cave Road. Well, maybe I could, but I promise I wouldn’t have arrived at the cabin before dark, and being in those woods after dark doesn’t sound like much fun. As slow as the car was, it was our only hope. Colossians 3 says we are hiding with Christ in God. When the road is hard, stay hidden in God. Yes, it’s tempting to throw in the towel and go it alone, but we won’t get very far on our own strength.

Eyes forward. Peter Cave Road isn’t a smooth road. Bumpy would be a drastic understatement. Then there were the pot holes, washed out culverts, muddy holes, tree limbs, big rocks, and many other obstacles. Off the road there was beauty. Lush trees, mountain views, wildflowers, pretty birds, but I didn’t see any of it. I simply couldn’t pay attention to the things around me because I was so focused on the things in front of me. In life, when we are in a season of traveling a hard road it often comes with guilt. We want to focus on other stuff, we want to talk about other stuff, we want to see the beauty, but sometimes we just can’t. Sometimes all we can do is keep our eyes forward. That’s okay.

The best way out is always through. Any chance I can get to quote Robert Frost I’m going to take it, but on Peter Cave Road and in life he’s right. Stuck on the dirt road we kept looking for options; is there another road we can take? Would it be better to turn around and go back the way we came? Is there a quicker, easier route? I wanted to avoid the road, but we couldn’t. We had to keep going (as slow as it was) forward. Sometimes hard roads and the pain they bring can’t be avoided, when we have to travel one the best way out is always through.

Adventure comes at the end. On the way home from our time in the woods (using the alternate, safer route) I asked the kids what their favorite parts of the trip was. Every one of them said Peter Cave Road. They went on and on about how awesome our car was to get us up that big hill, and how scary it was when we had to drive through the river (seriously y’all it was an epic adventure) and how narrow it was in that one place where the trees were pressing in on both sides and how dark it was it the woods even though it was the middle of the day and how we made it out alive! It was an adventure. One we will talk about for years to come; the story of Peter Cave Road and how we made it out alive. There is something in us that loves to celebrate stories of survival; our Feast of Purim. The Jewish celebration of the Feast of Purim was a joyous celebration commemorating a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved by Queen Ester of extermination. They survived, the lived to tell about it, and they remembered and celebrated God’s deliverance. We need to tell our adventure stories and celebrate God’s faithfulness through the hardest roads.

At the beginning of our trip one of the kids was in the backseat singing “Life is a highway…” That’s not true. Life is not a highway. Life is a long road. Yes, parts of it are smooth and straight and sunny and fun, but other parts are bumpy and uphill and dark and dangerous. Whatever road God asks us to travel one thing remains the same; He can be trusted to get us to our destination.

Hang on for the ride!

~Keri

How To Love Someone In A Midlife Crisis

Photo Cred-Lynne Hand, Boat

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it’s freaking hard right now.

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

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

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

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

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

You are not alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer Renee

Photo Cred by Lynne Hand

Suddenly

jack frost

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

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

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

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

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

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

But yesterday… Yesterday it was time!

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

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

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

See, I am doing a new thing!

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

 

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

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

~Keri

 

The Waste of Worry

Mountain picI wonder how many hours we waste with our hearts tangled up in worry sifting through conversations, our day on replay, moments mingled with hurt from something that someone said? Something that happened that was out of your hands. A child who is having trouble in school and you want so badly to just make it easier for them. And then your mind fumbles over memories that built you and shaped you into who you are today, peace rushes in because you know that beautiful things happen in a heart that learns to wrestle.

The truth is, there will always be a mile-long list of things that we can worry about, but it doesn’t do us any good to go down that road of destruction. We can take our thoughts captive. We can wrestle it out in prayer. We can rest in the knowledge that God is completely aware and unafraid of our mess.

But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. (Luke 21:14 NIV)

We don’t have to worry about how we will defend ourselves when it’s already been taken care of. Life is messy and relationships are messy. Just when you think you have it all figured out…you step back and realize that you are just as clueless as ever.

He is a God that carries us and just when we think we can’t walk in our mess any further; He carries us like a child because that’s what love does. It picks you up in your frailty and whispers that it won’t always be like this. There is a place on the other side of frailty where you will stand in strength and with refined faith.

There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. (Deut 1:31 NIV)

We don’t know what “this place” is.

It’s the unknown and it’s scary. It’s a place of becoming exactly who God intended you to be. All I know is that it’s going to be worth it.

Tears roll down my face as I think about all the times God has carried me through difficult things that I thought I would never get over, countless moments I was in complete shock and didn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other. There is a place waiting for you on the other side of this broken journey, so relax into His embrace and let Him carry you. He knows exactly where you are going.

I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. (Psalm 34:4-7 NIV)

Don’t worry, friend. Read these scriptures this week and let God carry you!

Much love,

Jennifer