Why I am trying so hard to avoid the “S” word this Christmas….

And no, it’s not that “S” word!!! (although I do try to avoid that one too! 😉 )

Nor is it Santa (although who knew that word could be quite so controversial in certain circles!!)

No, the “S” word that I am trying so hard to avoid this year is the word…..SHOULD.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I should put up more decorations.
I should buy more gifts.
I should bake cookies with my kids.
I should want to bake cookies with my kids.
I should make 18 side dishes to go with the turkey, ham and roast beef I am serving to my group of 7!
I should feel happier this Christmas.
I should put up cute graphics with my blog post! 😉
I should…I should…I should….

Maybe it’s my age (after all I am finding my 40’s to be so incredibly freeing!!), but as my mental “I should’s” began to kick into high gear this Christmas season, I found myself suddenly asking:

Says who????

Who says that I should buy more, do more, feel more?

Seriously? Who?

I pondered the internal list of should’s and realized that I was the one saying what I should do. So doesn’t it stand to reason that I could also be the one to tell myself to shut up?!?!

And so I did!

And oh my word y’all! It felt amazing!

So many “should’s” have crept into my Christmas over the years.

Some of them are related to traditions (and yet most of those traditions were things that no one even really missed!!).

A lot of my “should’s” come from the ding dang Hallmark Channel! (oh Hallmark Christmas movies how I love you! but how you cause me such angst when I can’t decorate my home like a movie set, or when my people don’t follow the heartwarming script I’d gladly provid, or when my neatly tied-up happily ever after doesn’t happen. And so I will continue loving you and your sappiness, but dear Lord I will stop trying to expect my life to mimic you!).

And still other “should’s” come from my desire to want to look like I have it all together—the joy filled maker of Christmas magic whose heart is at all times awash with the glow of the wonder of the manger and whose inner soundtrack is at all times tuned to “O Holy Night.”

Well, this year I surrender.

There will be traditions that go undone.
There will be pain-in-the-neck-to-hang garland that goes unhung.
And there will be Christmas songs that go unsung.

But you know what? I have a pretty good feeling that Christmas will still happen! That it really isn’t even about that stuff anyway! And that it might even be a pretty good one!

And yes, there are some things we do at Christmas (and all year long) that we just have to do. But those fundamentals (like keeping the humans entrusted into your care alive and educated) aside what if this year every time we start to hear ourselves say a mental “should” statement we replace it with a “can” question?

What if instead of:

I should really make 89 loaves of banana bread for all my friends and family because…well, I made them last year….

We replaced it with:

What can I do to bless those God has laid on my heart this year?

What if instead of:

I should go buy more decorations…

We asked:

How can I make my home an inviting place for my family to gather this Christmas?

And what if instead of:

I should have the perfect tree, matching family pajamas, professionally decorated cookies and well thought out gifts awaiting the wonder-filled faces of my perfect children this Christmas morning….

We asked:

Lord, how can I simply rest in You this Christmas—the only perfect person and gift ever given?

This Christmas is not gonna be perfect at our house: I found a typo in the Christmas cards that I actually remembered to order on time. We may or may not make the annual gingerbread house. Our tree is way too fat. I didn’t put garland on the piano, we have mismatched lights in our bush outside, and my kids are stressed-out, school-burned-out maniacs!

But, you know what? An imperfect “should-free” Christmas sounds absolutely perfect to me!

May your Christmas be should-free and your heart grace-filled!

Much love,
Jen

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Our Christmas bush tree!

Maybe you are just what this world needs…

I shared yesterday about Surviving Speech Purgatory. Well, today I would love to share my son’s speech with you: 

Maybe You Are Just What This World Needs
by Andrew Bleakley

The all-American hero.
The all-star athlete.
The celebrity.
The A-student. 

Everywhere we look we see images of the ideal person we are told we should become. The one who seems to have it all together—looks, talent, popularity and intelligence. So, we compare ourselves to them only to find that we can’t possibly measure up. So, we try harder and we spend more in a quest to become like them, because surely, we aren’t good enough the way we are…..are we? 

We keep striving and keep fighting to become like the one we imagine we should be; to become just like everyone else around us. Only in our quest to become like someone else we start to lose ourselves, and we start to become like everyone else. But that’s what we’re supposed to do right? Because we aren’t good enough the way we are, are we? 

Or are we? 

Could it possibly be that our differences aren’t that bad after all—that I don’t have to be like everyone else around me? Could it be that the only Ideal Person we should pursue calls us to be different. To stand out. Could it be that God is actually glorified in our differences—in our different talents, abilities, resources and even in our different skin colors and appearances? 

I believe the answer is yes to all of those questions. 

Just look around you. No two things in nature are exactly alike. No two trees are identical. Plants all are different in the patterns in which they are created. In space, we see great diversity. Out of all the billions of stars and planets no two are the same. Consider the animals, think of all the different species out there. And even though two cats or two dogs may look the same, they will act very differently. We are the only species that constantly try to make ourselves into replicas of others. 

 Why? Maybe it’s because we are afraid of rejection.  Afraid of being told we aren’t good enough the way we are—afraid of failure, afraid of being different. But isn’t different good?  

Where would we be without eccentric scientists like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein? Surely, they would have been considered different in their time. Where would we be if they had decided to act like everyone else? If they had been too afraid of having their own ideas or of being seen as strange? What about Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, or even Billy Graham?  What if they too had been afraid to stand out and be different? Afraid of having their own ideas and had just decided to blend in and become like everyone else?

Being different is often necessary for progress and change.  If we were all the same then how would anything new ever get accomplished?  What would this world be like if we all played the same sport or played the same instrument or had the same job? It is our differences that make us who we are and can give our lives purpose and meaning.

We all have unique talents and gifts, and yet we are all part of the human race, and if we are Christians then we are all part of God’s family. So the question becomes how can we be who we were created to be, while still working together to help and support each other.

After all the Bible says in 1 Corinthians that “we are one body with many members.”

 So, while being different is vital in life, we also need to be able to work with others and be able to take their opinions and thoughts. Edison and Einstein were different, but they still had to work with others to get their message and gifts to the world. If we become completely different then we will become isolated and not be able to work together. Being different from others can be a very good thing. But we also need to be able to see things from others points of view, and be able to work with others without letting our differences get in the way.

So is there really an ideal person? Or is a better question: is their an ideal version of ourselves?

Instead of trying to become like someone else, instead of trying to achieve what someone else has achieved, instead of trying to be what we are not, what if instead we tried to become who we were meant to be.

And what if in becoming who we were meant to be—who we were created to be—we just happen to change the world?

If you look around you and don’t feel like you fit in, maybe you aren’t supposed to.

Maybe, just maybe, what makes you different is exactly what this world needs.

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My silly, awesome, wonderful, different kids!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Speech Purgatory

“Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner, but we are in speech purgatory…”

I had typed the words in jest to a friend, however, there is really nothing jovial about seeing your kid stressed out of his mind. This week is speech week at school. The dreaded week when high schoolers must present a 3-5 minute speech they have written themselves. This might not sound like a big deal to some, but to those of us card-caring introverts who struggle with public speaking and would rather have a root canal than stand in front of a group of people, this can be excruciating.

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My son has dreaded this day since this time last year. And yet, he loved the act of writing the speech (wonder where he gets that from! 😉 ) In fact, from the first day of the assignment he knew what he wanted to write about. He chose to write about the danger of trying to become like everyone else. He wanted to write about the benefits that can come from being brave enough to be yourself. To be who God created you to be.

I was shocked and excited about his topic choice (since he’s not normally one to “put himself out there” like that.) I was blown away by what he wrote. I wanted to stand up and cheer the first time I read it.

But no sooner than he had saved the document, he realized he would have to present it. And suddenly it felt too hard, too risky, too….much.

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He practiced over and over. He fretted. He plotted how he could get out of it. He endured his parent’s “help” and advice.

But in the end he just had to do it. (cause, yep…that’s pretty much how this life goes)

But here’s the thing….he did it!!

Now, we prayed A LOT! Like a lot, a lot. In fact, I don’t think I’ve prayed as hard for something to have a good outcome since my first phone call with Tyndale!!

And yes, it felt a little silly to pray over a speech. To look to Moses and Jeremiah and Peter and remember how God spoke through them and compare that to a 9th grade speech. But here’s the thing…God cares as much about my son facing his biggest 9th grade fear and He did about those Bible people facing theirs and as much as he cares about you facing yours. 

So that thing you are terrified of doing. That thing that gives you hives just thinking about. Talk to God about it. Cry out to God. Admit that it is bigger than you. Admit that you can’t do it in your own strength, and then ask Him to do it through you. 

Prepare as best you can and then….rest in His strength. Rest in His power. Trust in His love. And then just take that first step and invite God to knock your socks off!!

I don’t care if my son gets an A or an F on his speech (ok…I will probably care a little if he gets an F 😉 ) What I care about, what I am so proud of, is that he did it. He faced his fear, he did the hard work, he trusted God and he showed up.

(I am so proud of you buddy!!!)

In fact I’m so proud I will post his speech here tomorrow! 😉

Much love,
Jen

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News I’ve been waiting four years to share….

After four years of secrecy, five rewrites and countless edits I am so honored to finally, FINALLY, be able to share my book baby with you (well, at least the cover and synopsis).

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Meet Joey! (isn’t the cover gorgeous!?!) The design team at Tyndale House Publishers did an amazing job!

It feels so strange to be able to share this publicly after so many years of keeping it a closely guarded secret. But I imagine I will quickly get used to sharing much more about Joey; a horse I met five years ago this month. A horse who, although I’m not really a “horse person,” quickly captured my heart. And a horse whose life stands as a beacon of hope for those trapped in darkness.

Joey is already available for pre-order at Tyndale’s website and Amazon (although it won’t be available until May 8th).

To say I am overwhelmed would be a vast understatement. This has been a long journey, filled with many ups and downs (see post), and yet in many ways it is really just beginning. I have so much still to learn: marketing, promoting, and book launching, but for now I am choosing to just bask in the goodness, kindness and lavish grace of God.

This book, this story, has affected me deeply. Yet, I have NO idea why God chose me (a non-horse person) to write a book about a horse, but He did and I am forever grateful.

You can read a synopsis of the book (and pre-order it if you feel so inclined!) at:
Joey pre-order info

Thanks for being willing to walk with me through this journey.

And one final parting thought: If you are holding onto a dream, maybe a dream you have never even spoken out loud, and yet find yourself longing to pursue it, but scared to death to take that first step…please know that if God is calling you to follow that dream than he will do it through you. Trust him, cling to him, but take that first step. And know that His dream for you may end up being much bigger than your dream for yourself! 😉 But take that first step, I promise you will not be sorry you did!

Much love,
Jen

When darkness makes it hard to see…

As a small congregation stood to sing your praise one clear November morning, Lord, surely you were there.

As little ones snuggled in their mother’s laps while the pastor offered a prayer, Lord, surely you were there.

As a husband leaned against the pew to ask his wife what she was planning for their lunch, Lord, surely you were there.

And as a madman burst through the doors of a tiny country church, Lord surely you were there.

And yet, it is hard to see anything but pain, destruction, evil and senseless loss.

It is almost impossible to not ask Why? How? Were you really there?

When bullets were flying, God were you still there?
When children were dying, God were you still there?
In the midst of the violence, God were you still there?
In the deafening silence, God were you still there?

Jesus, it’s easy to “see” you while the worship songs ring out. It’s easy to imagine you right beside us as your Word is preached. It’s easy to feel your presence with us as the communion plates are passed. And it’s easy to observe Your goodness on the faces of little children as they scurry to show us their latest Bible craft.

And yet…..

When evil comes—when darkness tries to overwhelm the light—it becomes much harder to see you, to feel you, to trust that you are still there.

And yet You are.

You say that where two or more are gathered in your Name, you are in the midst of them.

You say we are not to fear for you are with us.

You say that you will never leave us or forsake us.

And so we trust that just as your presence filled that little church from the first words of that first hymn, your presence also filled that church from the moment the first evil shot rang out.

Oh that we could see with heaven’s eyes for just a moment. That you would give us just a glimpse of what lay just beyond our view that day.

For as evil walked into a worship service, Love leaned into twenty-six lives.

As shots of hatred and madness ricocheted through wooden walls, the arms of the Almighty wrapped tightly around His children.

I AM still here, He whispered.
You are not alone, He assured.
Welcome home my sweet children, he greeted.

Oh God, we cannot understand the why, but help us trust the Who.

Help us trust You. Help us see You. Help us love each other through You.

And God, right now, when all we want to do is crawl in a hole and stay there with those we love, fill us with your Strength. Anoint us with your love. Indwell us with your peace. And illuminate us with your light.

Lord, the darkness seems to grow stronger every day. But we know—we know—that light is stronger than darkness. We know that one day you will make all things right. It doesn’t seem that “one day” is much of a comfort for those who are mourning and grieving and hurting now, but I pray that the “one day” will soon be a comfort for them—and for us.

Jesus you are light. You are love. You are good. You are the light that no darkness can overcome.

Today, as we question, cry, and grieve, would you allow us to see even just a glimpse of your unfading light. Let us see you—more and more of you. Oh LORD, how we need you.

Even in our grief and fear, let us shine your light into the darkness.

And help us fight against fear. Help us love each other well. And help us lean into you.

It is in your everlasting, all-sustaining, most trustworthy Name I pray, amen.

Much love,
Jen

 

-The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it-

A familiar story with an unexpected twist…

I stare into my coffee cup willing inspiration to waft from the steam. Sometimes teaching a class of ten year olds who have been raised in the church can feel far more daunting than teaching a group of kids who have never even heard the Gospel story.

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I stare at my open Bible as I take a sip of my favorite dark roast blend. The kids have heard this all before: Hannah prays for a son, God hears her prayer and gives her Samuel, then God calls young Samuel and makes him a prophet. It’s a fascinating story full of glorious truth and powerful lessons, and yet the last thing these kids need is more head knowledge. What they need is application—what they need is heart engagement.

I wrap my hands around my favorite mug, and breathe in deeply. God, show me how to reach these kids. Show me something different in this story. Show me…

Ding.

My phone alerts me to a text.

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Without conscience thought I grab the device and begin my reply. My reply leads me to my calendar. An email dings. Another reply, followed by a quick Google search. Oh! Did anyone like the photo I posted last night? Facebook informs me yes, a few did.

I raise my mug to my lips and take another sip, only to spit the offending beverage out of my mouth. When did my coffee get cold??

What was I doing? Oh right, planning the lesson…

My eyes return to the text:

“The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD…Then the LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times…Samuel answered….Speak, for your servant is listening.”

I read the familiar text, but yet, what I see in my head is an unfamiliar and distressing image:

There Samuel lies in the dim light of the temple, snuggled on his side in the quiet holy place, with an iPhone in his hand.

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The image is jarring in it’s ridiculousness for obviously Samuel’s young face would not have been illuminated by a screen, and yet the image grips my heart and soul with a barrage of what-ifs.

What if Samuel had been scrolling through social media that night?
Or captivated by a good book?
Or binge watching Netflix?

What if he had been so distracted that night that he had missed God’s call?

My heart sinks within my chest as awareness mingles with guilt.

Oh Lord,” my soul cries out.

How many times have I missed your voice?

How many times has the glow of my screen distracted me from the glow of your presence?

How many times have you stood by my bed and called out my name, only to have me turn my back to you as I scroll through my newsfeed?

I lower my head. I confess. I repent. I beg for divine help to stand strong against the slave-master of distraction.

My gaze falls back on the lesson I am soon to teach. And I am suddenly so grateful for a familiar lesson—a familiar lesson with a twist. A familiar lesson that I pray will find its way into the hearts of a group of ten year olds, and stay with me forever.

Especially tonight as I choose to set my phone aside and simply listen for His voice…

Much love,
Jen

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Conviction versus condemnation (and how to tell the difference)

I’m awful. I’m a lousy sinner. I deserve what is happening to me right now because of what I’ve done…..

Does any of that sound familiar?

Do you ever struggle with being able to identify God’s voice over the enemy’s lies—or even over that of your own thoughts and self-condemnations?

Recently, God has been convicting me of some sin that’s been buried deep in my heart for awhile now—sin that has gone undetected for a long, long time. While I’ve been living my life in blissful ignorance, the enemy has been crafting land mine’s of sin. Expertly placing them in my heart and mind, just waiting for me to eventually stumble across them and send shrapnel flying. Sins such as complacency, pride, envy, and self-sufficiency.

Having your sin brought to your awareness is not a fun prospect, and yet in this season of conviction something (other than my sin) really stood out to me. And that is that:

God is kind when He convicts.

God's conviction is kind

Which made me think:

How often have I attributed the enemy’s lies and condemnation to God?

How many times I have misinterpreted satan’s taunts for God’s truth?

As I was driving home one day last week, a faint whisper of a word floated through my heart. It was the word complacency. I found myself pondering the word and its source. For it’s not a word I use that much, nor something that comes up often in my self-talk. I mulled the word over during my drive, fighting the urge to ask Siri for its definition (I mean I functioned before she existed, surely I can find a definition on my own, right?! wrong…I couldn’t find a dictionary so, I googled complacency.)

Complacency: a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing condition.

Ouch! Can I get another definition for a 100 please Alex???

Yet, I still wasn’t sure why the word, and now painful definition of complacency, was floating around my head.

I opened my Bible and began my time of study and prayer. God, show me what you want me to see, I asked, turning to place where I left off in Jeremiah.

“‘Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,’ declares the Lord.”

Pretense. Hmm…

Later that day I was preparing a lesson from 1 Peter when this verse (1:22) jumped out at me,

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”

Deeply. Hmm…

Throughout that entire day those words and verses floated through my mind like dandelions seeds caught in a gust of wind.

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And then, late that night cloaked in quiet darkness I felt all the words come together in a gentle warning:

You have become complacent in your marriage. You are two ships passing in the night—two captains on autopilot, drifting further and further from each other. You have the pretense of lovingkindness for each other, but there is no depth. Look deeper, search deeper, love deeper.

And with that, my heart was instantly alerted to a hidden land mine of complacency.

Over the next few days other land mines would be unearthed.

And yet always with gentleness. Always with kindness. Never with condemnation.

Now, I have laid (or is it lain?) in bed many nights hearing taunts and accusations of condemnation: You are such a phony. You are such a hypocrite. You’re selfish. Insignificant. Unable. You aren’t good enough. Your not ready to serve God. Who do you think you are?!?

And I am sad to say that I have believed that voice far too many times. And worse, I have assigned those taunts to God’s voice.

When they most clearly are NOT!!

For the truth is—

  • God convicts, He does not condemn (John 16:8, Romans 8:1)
  • God whispers truth, the enemy shouts taunts (1 Kings 19:12, Matthew 4:1-11)
  • God alerts to sin, the enemy hurls accusations  (1 Peter 5:8, Revelation 12:10)
  • God seeks to build up, satan desires tears down (1 Peter 2:5, John 10:10)

And so today I rejoice in my conviction. For my God loves me enough to alert me to land mines of sin—and He loves my marriage enough to gently lift my head from its cradle of complacency.

Conviction is not fun, but our God is most gentle with His children, and He is for us so we need not fear.

God is most gentle with us

Today, I am praying that all His children will be sensitive to His conviction. And I’m also praying that when the enemy begins to condemn and taunt we would be able to boldly tell him that he can go to straight to his eternal home! 😉

Much love,
Jen
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When what you have to give feels too small, and yet it’s all you have (you go ahead and give it)

Earlier this year my daughter could not stop singing the song “Priceless” by For King and Country. We listened to it in the car, at home, while on walks. She made up a dance routine to it and I think even tried to get the puppy to dance with her. But one day, in the midst of Priceless overload, she came home from school discouraged and sad. There had been some kind of friend drama and she was feeling bad about herself. We processed the days events over some white cheddar popcorn (our snack food of choice!). And as I was gearing up to impart some motherly wisdom (insert slight sarcasm here), my girl stopped me in my tracks. I honestly don’t even know what I was going to say, but it was not going to be nearly as powerful as what she said.

“I feel really bad right now mama, but at least I’m priceless to God and still His girl, right?”

Um….yep. Totally what I was going to say!! (insert sarcasm again)

I’m sure I would have gotten there eventually. But I’m confident I would have taken a much longer route. Yet, those words were what my girl’s heart needed to hear. And they are really the words we all need to hear, right?

Well, that was the day an idea was born: Could I somehow turn the song into a little Bible study to help other girls discover that they too are priceless to God and His precious girls?

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It was such a joy to write, what turned into, a four week study drawn from the lyrics of the song. My daughter helped me write it (so that it “wouldn’t be boring”….gotta love how your kids keep you humble!!) And she insisted on including a craft to go with each week’s lesson. We hosted a group of girls this summer to try out the study. And let’s just say those days became quite special. Seeing young girls discover who they are to God was so powerful (one might even say it was priceless 😉

And yet, life being the way it is got busy and I forgot about that little study, until this week. Seeing so many women, so bravely and courageously, stepping out and speaking out about the abuse and mistreatment they have endured brought the echos of the song back to my mind, and with it this little study.

Compared to what so many have gone through, it feels trite to share this resource in response. And yet, God keeps reminding me that all He asks us to give is what we have.

And so, while I do not have the ability to right every wrong, hug every neck, or cheer for every warrior woman standing up and choosing to fight back, I do have a simplistic little resource to point young girls to the truth of who they are. So that maybe one day, if they (God forbid) find themselves the victim of abuse, or mistreatment, or lies, they will have a seed of truth buried deep inside. A seed that has been watered and nurtured. A seed that is strongly rooted and unbendable that will remind them that in spite of what they feel or what others may or may not do, they are Priceless and Precious and Invaluable to the One whose Love will always be there and whose Power will one day make ALL THINGS right again.

And so, I offer this most humble of offerings on behalf of every Priceless girl and woman out there.

My beloved priceless sisters, you are stronger than you know, braver than you feel and LOVED more than you can imagine!

Priceless Bible study (a four week study)

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Much love,
Jen

ps-if you haven’t downloaded the Priceless song or movie yet, I encourage you to do so. They are wonderful and incredibly powerful! You can find them wherever music and movies are sold. 

Some days are just like that…

Today is a hard day.

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But of course some days are just like that.

It’s no one thing, but rather a slow crescendo of many things—countless annoyances, irritations, ailments and responsibilities all coming together in bitter resonance. Clanging their mournful taunting disharmony until its burdensome sound can no longer go unnoticed.

You smile through the cacophony, pretending to be oblivious to its screeching sound.

“How are you?” you are asked.

“Oh just fine, how are you?” you reply on autopilot—as if responding in any other way will mark you as weak, needy…vulnerable.

All while longing to cry out, “I am NOT ok! Life feels too hard right now. It’s all just too much!”

Why do we hide? Why do we insist on wearing masks? When did we as a community decide that being real with each other was too risky? Too burdensome?

For the truth is we all have hard days, and we are all familiar with the bitter resonance of life’s troubles. And yet there is great healing that can come from someone coming alongside another in a time of need and pain.

Words aren’t nearly as important as another’s presence—as one being willing to stand with you and declare with their presence that ‘you are not alone.’

But therein lies the trouble. We are all going through something, and yet so often we insist on going through it alone. On shouldering our burdens and pain on our own, even when the weight of them brings us to our knees and buries us under their weight.

‘Surely I can carry this myself,’ I moan, while feeling my strength waning.
‘I need to keep it all together,’ I whisper as my shoulders begin to bend.
‘What will people think if I’m honest?’ I question as my knees drop to the ground.

As I lay under the weight of my thoughts and unshared hurts, I hear the voice my heart craves above all others:

You were created for community, the tender words declare.
You were never meant to keep it all together. That’s My job. The control you think you have is just an illusion, designed to keep you from trusting Me. Let go, my love, and trust Me.’ My heart leaps at the realization that my burden is a degree lighter.
People will think that you are human—like them. Your willingness to share your pain may be what allows them to share theirs. Do not hide your weakness, for it is where My strength shines brightest. My shame is being replaced by light—by hope.

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Yes, today is a hard day, but you know what? Hard days are going to happen. None of us are immune. And even though my pain and my burdens may not look like yours, we can both understand how joy-less they can feel.

And so even though I long to retreat to my covers and wait for this day to pass in hopes that tomorrow will be better, I will instead stand up and offer you my hand. And together we will shoulder each others burdens.

I may not have any words to offer you, but I will offer you my presence. And I will point you to the One whose Presence can heal and restore and redeem.

Today might be a hard day, but we do not face it alone. We face it together as we face Him together.

Maybe today is a day for rest and remembering Who He is.
Maybe today is a day for action and advancement.
Or maybe today is just a day to open up and share your pain with someone.

Today is a hard day.

But of course some days are just like that.

I would be honored to share your burden with you today. If I can pray for you, please leave me a comment below.

Much love,
Jen

 

 

Repeat after me: I am not an empty water bottle

I am by nature a scaredy cat. I always have been.

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As a child I used to hide behind my parent’s legs to avoid talking to people.

As a teen I refused to go on church youth tubing trips down the crystal clear rivers of central Florida, because um…hello! Florida has alligators!! All I could picture was my backside hanging down from the tube looking like the center of donut just waiting to be snatched!

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As a college student I lived in constant fear of a failing grade, because obviously my entire future and life success could be measured by the grade on my organic chemistry mid-term!

As a new wife I feared finding a roach when my husband wasn’t home, because…I mean, EWW!!! I can’t stomach bugs that crunch when you squish them!

As a new mom I feared…everything!!! Is the baby too hot? Too cold? Too smelly? Am I spending enough time with my husband? Am I totally screwing up the baby? What if the floor crumbles under the baby’s crib how will I get to him in time??? (yep! I really had that fear!)

Now, as a soon-to-be author (who suffers from both chronic introvert syndrome and a debilitating case of people-pleasing-itis), I fear the dreaded bad review. Or worse the even more dreaded “no one cares!” Or worst of all…having to speak in front of people, into microphones, or God-forbid on Facebook live!!!!

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And don’t even get me started on spiders, sharks, jelly-fish, barracuda (or really anything that lives in the sea except dolphins), hair in the drain, my kid getting behind the wheel of a car, or gas station bathrooms!

You guys, fear is my kryptonite!

I know that God is stronger. I know that He is able. And I believe that He is with me.

But when faced with one of my laundry lists of fears, especially the ones in which the underlying fear is that of my own inadequacy, I freeze. I fret. I falter.

When facing my fear, I feel a lot like an empty water bottle, whose cap has been loosened. One hard squeeze and I will be crushed. I can almost hear the crunch of collapsing plastic.

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I worry about failing, not being enough.
I wait for the inevitable emotional sucker punch life is sure to throw my way.
I will myself to try harder, do better, be braver.

I wince in anticipation of the squeeze.

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Yet, I am met with a soft word not of a crushing vice.

My gaze is directed beside me—to the water bottle I have yet to open. It’s seal still intact.

I hold the water bottle in my hand. I squeeze it, hard.

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Nothing.

I squeeze again, and again and again. I squeeze with two hands. I can’t crush it. Can’t make a dent in it, no matter how hard I try.

For the bottle is full—the lid is sealed.

I dig an empty bottle from the recycling bin. I easily crush it in my grip.
My gaze drifts back to the full bottle.

The difference isn’t on the outside, they are both made from the same material. What gives the one bottle its strength is what’s on the inside and the fact it is sealed.

My scaredy-cat lips part, “God, I see what you just did there!”

I can’t help but smile.

For the fact is—the scaredy-cat ending, fear destroying, bottle strength giving truth is—that I am not the empty water bottle! I am the full!!!

As a child of God (as one who has trusted in who Jesus is and what He has done) God is not only with me and for me but He is IN me!!!

He has placed in me (in all of His children) His Holy Spirit—His own power. The power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of God is in me right this very moment! And as if that weren’t enough, He then sealed me with His unbreakable seal.

the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you

I am a full bottle!!

The words replay in my mind as I squeeze the full bottle again and again.

It’s gonna take some time to begin living like a full bottle, but I have no doubt I will get there. After all, I now realize I don’t have to do it on my own.

He’s been there all long, just waiting for me to notice Him. Waiting for me to acknowledge the power He’s placed in me.

So while I may always scream when I see a roach—because I mean they will always crunch when you kill em—I no longer need to live like an empty bottle.

I can go and face what is to come knowing that He who is in me will keep me from being crushed by my fears.

Here’s to living full!

Much love,
Jen

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