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

Undivided Heart: The Summer I Embraced The Sloppy Perfectionist

BeachPic-Give Me An Undivided heart

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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The Spotlight or the Crucified Backseat

Carved out in a rock worn out by rough waters is a place that fits my frame. It was made for me, or so I think. Here in this place I stand on the rock that is higher than I. Yet, I sit like a child small and frail. My heart feels the weight, I can’t carry the people God called me to minister to, but I can feed them.

The waterfall is only a trickle and yet I’ve seen it at its best and worst. Flooded and flowing with everything in its season, not questioning its place just surrendering to it. This process of becoming, you can’t rush this or it will wreck you. You simply abide. You wait even though you eagerly feel readiness propelling you forward. Trust me on this one; God opens doors that no man can shut. Yet when the door slams in your face and it feels like it’s over. It’s okay to cry and trust God anyway.

I’m not chasing after another persons position or calling, or chasing __________ ‘s shadow. But, I would love to serve them. Maybe hand them a bottle of water and a latte. And sit down with them face to face in hopes of learning how to pay the price for the greatness, striving for excellence in Christ not the out-of-reach perfectionism. We learn so much more learning to serve one another.

God didn’t call me into the spotlight. He called me to be the light. And that light compels me to servanthood, not to self-promotion. Do I want my name on the best sellers list? Of course. Do I expect it to be handed to me? No. Greatness and excellence costs you something. It is never handed to us. Yet, when it is we have to ask ourselves if we are hoarding and burying our talents and gifts…or are we spending them well and pouring ourselves out like a drink offering.

I just want my name written on the hearts of the ones I love. I wipe my fan clubs noses and tuck them in at night. I kiss his face and affirm him with words that feed him.

I could color my hair a different shade of ginger and sing my heart out. But, I’ll never be Adele. It’s her voice and sound, and it’s stunning. You could write every angry break-up song, have pillow fights, and look adorable even when your cheeky…but you’ll never be Taylor Swift. And they wouldn’t want you to be because they know what it is like to be compared to someone else. Be you because who you are in Christ is stunning and something to be proud of.

I could list several amazing ladies in leadership that I admire. In my twenties I coveted their calling and their voice. Yet, in my thirties I crave seeking first the Kingdom and His righteous. By seeking God first, I found my voice. And because of that I grew into my own calling, never have I been happier in this skin of mine. Whatever is added to me in the process of seeking Him first is bonus, like cake after dinner. It’s what I eat the green stuff for, the cake of life.

I worry about the bright eyes craving the spotlight. I’ve watched too many people who lost their sparkle trying to make it to the top, now they look with empty eyes wondering if selling out was worth it. It’s obvious to me that Jesus loved to use the least likely to succeed and rock their world as they stuttered and stammered over words until the Holy Spirit showed up. It’s okay if you trip over words as long as the Holy Spirit shows up and resides within.

If you want your name in lights, try Hollywood. If you want your name written on a shiny gold plate on the door of the church, try getting your hands dirty first. If you want to stand on the platform and have hundreds receive your message, start with cleaning the toilets and stacking chairs. But if you want to embody greatness, check your ego at the door. Be the least. Be the one who bites your tongue waiting for the Holy Spirit to show up and your flesh to take the crucified back seat. Nothing else matters in life except for pleasing God first and feeding His sheep.

I’ve been lost in this passage of scripture for quite some time, John 21:15-19. Jesus kept asking Simon Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times Jesus asked, even to the point of hurting his feelings. Do you love me? His threefold denial in the past needed a threefold answer to his calling and signing up for a life that would cost him something, even his death. Peter would answer with a pain in his heart, “Yes, you know that I love you.” Each time Peter said yes, Jesus answered back with tend to my sheep. Feed my sheep. And then Jesus tells Peter that loving Him well means taking care of His children, the feeding of souls. He asks us to follow Him, wherever that leads. In life and even in death we glorify the most High, as we take the crucified back seat as Jesus and the Holy Spirit as our GPS takes the lead.

Much love  to you!

Jennifer

(Here’s a picture of me without makeup, yikes, on my favorite rock that is normally covered by a waterfall. My family  picture was taken at the same place by: Chelsea Rustad, Imago Dei Photography.

A Letter to My Younger Self…

(I wrote this in March 2011. I thought we all might need a little reminder about our worth. To read more about the Broken Girl Journey…click on store. That will take you to our devotional & collaborations of being “undone” in Christ.)

Last night I met a young lady and saw a glimpse of younger self, wide-eyed and hopeful, ready to take on hell with a water pistol. A woman marked by the call of God, waiting to blossom into all the things God the Father has created her to be.

This young lady, just barely twenty-three, is connected to a family in our church whom I simply adore. I immediately had to make my way to her, there is just something about her that makes you stop in amazement. She’s just beautiful, but it goes so much deeper than her outer beauty. It reaches into the depths of who she was created to be, a woman called by God- a gift her Father longs to use.

I hugged her; I couldn’t help myself. She beamed as her happiness spilled out…

“I’m engaged.” She said with the brightest smile as she flashed her engagement ring. Her happiness was as stunning as her ring, the symbol of his love

“I’m marrying a pastor.”

My husband chimed in, “Well, Jennifer could tell you all the things you might need to know about that.”

I felt his heaviness from that statement, like he was just waiting for me to say, “Run, like the wind, girl. Make sure you are marrying just a man and not an entire congregation.”

She searched my face and I smiled as she said, “Oh…don’t worry, I went to Bible College…I’m prepared.”

I thought, how adorable.

I patted my husband’s hand, and then I released his hand to squeeze hers and said, “Just look at you. You are beautiful and so happy!”

Flashbacks over the past twelve years of my life and the past few weeks entered my mind. Truth be told, I could have been one of “those” wives. The ones who are dried up and bitter, and yet not an ounce of that surfaced inside of my heart. I can assure you that I am flawed with moments of ugliness that sting, times when I feel rejected, cast aside, times when I feel like I’m not a gift. If bitterness would have surfaced, it would have been right then when my hurt was fresh. But, only God could do such a thing so beautiful in me. 

Spilling out from within was this, “It’s wonderful when that is what God has called you to do, you will be great at it. And you just call me if your Bible college experience left anything out.”

We chatted for a little while, we laughed and then I found my place next to my husband and held on tight.

I forgot to tell her one thing…

Sweet thing, you are a gift.

You have unique gifts; I can see them all over your face. You will enhance that man that God has called you to, not distract or take away from the things God has called him to do. Don’t ever forget, when the critics misunderstand your youthful zeal, that God alone is your seal of approval, marking you for greatness.

Your journey will not be easy, but you are soft and sweet. Don’t let the disappointments of life creep in and rob you of that. You will walk out this journey; you will be stronger, not harder. 

You are a gift.

With aching in my heart, wanting you to get this, I say to you…you are a gift.

As I penned these words, my thoughts have turned towards you and the ones who have taken the time to read this. Do you realize that you are a gift? Have the sorrows of this world caused you to forget the God-given worth and value within?

We offer ourselves to the world around us, we hold our hearts in our hands and say, “Take it if you want, it’s yours.”

Carefully cupping our fragile state. We hold it; we release it, and after it’s beaten down and trampled on, the thing that we now hold in our hands is bruised, swollen with disappointments from lessons learned. What once was the picture of health, beating freely with the hope of things unknown, is now a broken cadence, a murmur, a heart that skips a beat as you hold your breath because the pulsating hurt runs too deep.

And He whispers, “My child, I hold your heart in my hands. This is your safest place. You are my gift, can I take what was stolen from you; the things you carelessly gave away, and offer you something sweeter in return? 

Gifts are to be given, not taken. We give ourselves; we do not spend ourselves. We do not throw away our worth or our confidence, or believe the lies spoken over us that say we are worthless and have nothing to offer. The words that say we are not good enough, the words that say we are not a true gift, that we are merely wrapping paper, a waste meant for shredding, and cast aside.

No, we cast aside our pride by choice and with the help of our Maker.

We throw off the things that so easily entangle us.

And we run the race free without weights of this world, or our former brokenness. We dance the undignified dance of a king in training that delights in the God who knows the heart of the dancer. We sing the lonely songs of a Sheppard boy by fireside and it is sweet to Him. We embrace the spirit of David, running to the cave of comfort in Christ. We say to God, “Only you set us in seat we belong in. My position in life is because you say so; I don’t have to fight for it. You will open the door for me, so I don’t have to kick it down with my three-inch heels.”

You are a gift, what you have to offer…God wants. The pain in your heart; God sees it and longs to bring back the softness and sweetness that comes from refusing to carry around baggage from your broken past any longer.

Sweet friends, you are a gift.

…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29 NIV)

You are royalty wrapped in the finest garments God has to offer. You are not a mistake, nor are you misunderstood. He gets you. He delights in you, smiling down on you saying…

“That’s my girl.”

“That one is mine, see my stamp of approval on her heart?”

“Just wait, till you see what she does next week…as all of heaven applauds.”

You are a gift; don’t ever forget that. 

“A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” (Prov 18:16 NIV)

 

Much love from a Former Broken Girl, who travels in & out of various states of brokenness,

Jennifer