Billy Graham

As a little girl, I used to preach to my stuffed animals.

I would line them up and then passionately preach the Good News of Jesus to them, just like Billy Graham. As a shy girl who loved Jesus, I was fascinated by the dynamic man who taught the Bible to thousands. As a teenager, I attended one of Billy’s crusades. And whenever anyone would ask the question “what person, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with” I would always say, “Billy Graham.”

Maybe it was the secret evangelist in me who longed to step into the light and boldly share my faith. Or maybe it was me simply wanting to be near someone who was so near to God. Or maybe it was his humility and simple upbringing that made this friend of world leaders somehow seem approachable.

I find myself reflecting on all of this today. This day when Billy breathed his last on this earth and opened his eyes to the Home he has spent a lifetime leading people towards.

And I grieve. I cry. I mourn our loss.

But then….

But then I realized that even in his death, Billy is pointing us to hope. Pointing us to truth. Pointing us toward Home.

In a time when our country is heartbroken, when the darkness seems too strong and hope seems like a fantasy, Billy’s life stands as a beacon for hope, for light. Today his message is being broadcast on every news station. His words, the words God ordained him to speak during his lifetime, are once again going forth among the nations.

Only God could bring life from death.

Today, someone is going to hear Billy’s message replayed on their tv.
Today, someone is going to hear the message of hope.
Today, someone is going to fall to their knees and surrender their life to God.
Today, someone will begin their eternity with Jesus.

Today, life will come from death.

And that is the power of the Gospel. The Gospel Billy Graham gave his life to preach.

What if today, as a way to honor the man who dedicated his life to sharing the Gospel, every single one of us who claims the name of Jesus, shared the hope of the Gospel with just one person. What a final Billy Graham crusade that would be!!!

Thank you Billy for always leading us to truth and always pointing us to hope. And now, even in death, you are still pointing people to truth and hope. You reflected the heart of the Father and now you are in His arms. And yet your message, God’s message, will remain. Continually pointing people to Jesus. 

Much love,
Jen

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“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” I Thessalonians 4:13-14

 

 

The only place comparison ever takes us is away from who we are meant to be

I reveled in the attention, as one stepping into sunlight after countless days of rain.

As a painfully shy child who found making friends difficult, my then six year old self delighted in the crowd of children who surrounded me. Each one there to admire the fluffy little bunny I cradled in my arms. My new bunny shook with fear. I trembled with the joy of acceptance.

Days later, my new friends still wanted to talk about my sand-colored bunny—appropriately named Sandy. After just one successful show and tell, I suddenly had something to talk about with people. I had a way to connect with kids I had never been able to connect with before. And I loved it.

But then….Emily got a bunny.

And I got jealous.

The same crowd that had surrounded me, now surrounded her. The same questions that had been asked of me, were now being asked of her. I envied her attention. I resented her bunny. I longed to once again feel the warmth of the spotlight.

And so I pouted. I wallowed. And I never went over to look at her bunny.

I still feel bad about that.

And granted I was only six, but what if…..

What if I would have walked over to her and said, “I really like your bunny. Maybe our bunnies could play together sometime.” Or “hey, you have a bunny, I have a bunny. Wanna make a bunny club?”

What if instead of seeing her bunny as a threat, I had viewed it as an opportunity to connect?

(ok, so maybe not thoughts a six-year-old would have, but certainly thoughts grown-ups could have!)

So much of my life has been spent comparing myself to others and finding myself lacking.

She’s prettier.

Her house is nicer.

She’s far more talented.

She’s a much better writer.

Her dog doesn’t act like a maniac when company is over!

But….

What if instead of viewing each of those statements as a threat, I turned it around as a chance to connect?

What if I made an effort to get to know the woman behind the beautiful face? Her hopes, her dreams, her fears. For surely just because her face could grace a magazine cover doesn’t make her immune from insecurities, fears and…life.

What if I asked the lady with the nice house to share some decorating tips with me? Or what if I got over myself and committed to invite someone over to my house to extend the same hospitality that I was shown?

What if I decided to support another’s talent? Show up for her. Cheer for her? Encourage her to reach for her dreams?

What if I learned from another writer? What if I supported her work? What if instead of viewing her words as a threat, I shared her words with others? For what if her words breathe life into someone who is on my friend’s list? What if her words were meant to be shared through me?

And what if…well…what if I just hire the lady with the well behaved dog to come train mine!!! You guys, the struggle is real!

Each one of us has value, purpose, and meaning.
Each life is precious and sacred and important.

And yet, the only place comparison ever takes us is away from who we are meant to be.

So let’s ask God to expose areas of pride, jealousy and doubt. And replace them with humility, love and trust. 

And let’s embrace the gifts, talents and abilities that God has given each one of us, let’s celebrate them in each other, so that we can all become who He created us to be.

And if you ever get the opportunity to form a bunny club…take it!!!

Much love,
Jen

The only place comparison ever takes us is away from who we are meant to be.

Exposing the puppeteer behind the curtain….

Over the last several weeks our pastor has been challenging us to trace the symptoms of our sin to the source of our sin.

Lying, stealing, disobeying, lashing out in anger….all of these are symptoms of sin—outward evidence of an inward problem.

So often I simply want to address the symptom without addressing the source.

But that’s like wiping an allergy-irritated nose instead of removing the allergen or taking allergy medicine.

Or like putting a band-aid on a wound that really needs sutures.

And so over these past few weeks as our church has been studying the book of Ephesians, I have been asking God to reveal to me the source of my sin(s). Not really the most comfortable experience.  Nor the most fun prayer request, but one God clearly delights in answering as evidenced by His quick and thorough response (almost to the point that I want to ask Him if we can take a little break! 😉

And while God has been revealing sources such as pride, self-reliance and flat out laziness (I’m telling you it’s been an eye-opener and making me SO thankful for grace!) The source that rises high above all the others is fear.

Fear.

The great puppeteer of my heart.

Fear pulls the strings of my thoughts and behavior like no other.

Fear even sources other sources like pride and greed!

That last one really blew my mind! I had never thought of fear and greed as going together, but so much of my greed (my greed for a big savings account, the approval of man, my precious free time) all stem from fear! Fear of the future and not having enough. Fear of not being liked. Fear of having my “me” time encroached on.

The more I trace my outward signs of sin the more I find fear at the root, pulling the strings of my thoughts and behavior.

Perhaps this is why God tells us over and over again to “not be afraid” for He knows how greedy a puppeteer fear is.

“God, what am I to do?” I cried out as I drove to pick up my kids from school.

The puppeteer felt too big, too powerful, held too firm a grip.

“Do not fear, for I AM with you….” the words of one of my favorite verses (Isaiah 41:10) floated through my mind, settling in my heart—giving fear a little push.

The great I AM is bigger than my fear.

God is bigger. He is stronger. He is more powerful. And He holds my heart. He dwells in my heart. And He can cut the strings right out of fear’s hand.

The verse goes on to say, “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

God says that He will hold me.

If I hold a Marionette puppet in a firm grip then whoever is pulling the strings would not make the puppet move, right? And… if I wanted to I could even cut the strings completely!

I will probably always struggle with fear.

The puppeteer will always lie in wait, seeking to pull the strings of my thoughts and behavior.

However, there is One greater than my fear, whose loving grip is far stronger. And He offers to help me, to strengthen me, to be with me.

So today I choose Him.

I choose to trust His grip over fear’s strings.

I choose to trust that His plans for me are good, that His ways are good. That He is good.

And with each decision to trust God, the strings of fear become weaker and weaker. 

What puppeteer seeks to control your thoughts and actions? Will you ask God to reveal it to you? And when He does will you measure that against God? For no puppeteer can stand against God…ask God to help you. Ask Him for strength. And trust Him to hold you tightly in His loving and firm grip.

Much love,
Jen

Do not fear for I AM with you; do not be dismayed for I AM your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

If you are struggling with a particular heart puppeteer and want some encouragement and practical help then check out this sermon series on Ephesians called Grace Unleashed

First Joey Interview: On Writing, Horses, and Hope

While my daughter and I spend some quality time on the sofa binge watching Psych while waiting for the plague an annoying head cold to pass, I wanted to share my first official JOEY related interview with you. (ok, so in full disclosure this is my first official interview about anything ever! In fact, the whole idea that anyone would want to interview me about anything is still pretty surreal.)

You can find the original article here:

Article on Writing, Horses and Hope

Or if you want the cheat sheet version here you go:

How did you become interested in writing?

Jennifer BleakleyI first became interested in writing as a child, exchanging letters with my dad. I was a shy kid who found verbal communication overwhelming. My perceptive daddy realized this and began writing letters to me—letters about his day, about prayers he was praying for me, upcoming vacations, really anything—but he always ended with an open-ended question and encouraged me to write back to him. I did and quickly discovered that I could easily communicate through written words.

But, because I had dreams of being in the medical field, I never thought about writing professionally. In fact, I probably have one of the most random author resumes out there. I have a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry, a master’s degree in mental health counseling (and worked for several years as a grief counselor). While I had always enjoyed writing—I even enjoyed writing term papers in college—I didn’t write professionally until about six years ago.

My youngest child went to kindergarten, and I found myself looking for something to do during the day. Following a conversation with a pastor at our church, I began writing children’s curriculum lessons to meet a need we had at the time in our church, and I found that I loved writing Bible lessons for children. And not only did the experience draw me deeper into God’s Word, but it also instilled in me a discipline that conditioned me to write almost every day.

What inspired you to write JOEY?

Joey by Jennifer BleakleyAbout a year in to writing curriculum lessons, a friend invited me to tour a horse ranch in Raleigh, called Hope Reins. It is a beautiful ministry that pairs hurting children with rescued horses in order to find hope and healing in Jesus. Although I’m not really a “horse person,” I was intrigued by the work they were doing, and I went to learn more about the ministry. That is where I met a blind horse named Joey.

From the moment I heard Kim Tschirret—the founder of Hope Reins—describe the circumstances that led to Joey’s arrival at the ranch, and how God was using him to help people see the light of hope, my heart was stirred to share his story. And yet, I had no idea how or what that would even look like—after all, I had only been writing for a year, surely I couldn’t write a book! And so I pushed the thought away.

But God kept bringing Joey to my mind. Every time I prayed, every time I opened the Bible, every time I drove by Hope Reins on my way to church, I would feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to write. Thankfully, God doesn’t let our fears and inadequacies deter Him, and He kept pursing my heart until I finally surrendered to Him and began to write Joey’s story.

What has been the biggest hurdle to writing in general – and writing JOEY in particular?

The biggest hurdle for me for writing in general (blog posts, curriculum lessons, articles, etc.) has been fighting the numbers game and comparison trap. In a culture that measures success by likes, shares, followers and platforms, writers can often feel as though their writing, or even their words, don’t matter. It can be discouraging to pour your heart out on the page or the screen, feel as if God poured His words in you and through you, excitedly post it to share with others the blessing you just experienced, and then have no one, or very few people, respond. (It is equally discouraging to write a book proposal, send a query letter or submit an article and never hear back.)

I have wrestled often with God over this issue. Yet, He always patiently points me back to His Word and shows me that over and over again that He simply calls people to obey Him—not to worry about the results. He will also gently remind me that one is enough—even if the one He uses your words to bless is yourself. And so for me, I constantly have to put numbers, likes and followers aside and simply write from a place of obedience and worship and leave the results to God.

Now the biggest hurdle in writing JOEY was that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing in the beginning! I had never written a book before—and it showed in that first manuscript! But thankfully my team at Tyndale—the amazing publishing house who took a chance on a new author—was so patient with me and helped me write and rewrite JOEY until it was ready to publish. (But I will confess that it took four complete rewrites to get there!)

Throughout the writing process, I constantly battled not feeling good enough or talented enough. And the truth was that I wasn’t, but God was—and I just love that my inadequacies highlight His sufficiency. And so now, four rewrites later, I have learned so much about writing and have already started working on another book.

How does your faith influence your vocation as a writer?

My faith has been the cord that has kept me tethered to God’s plan and His will. Faith that God has called me to write and that He has a plan for my writing. Faith that His timing is perfect—even when it is much longer than I would like. Faith that obedience to Him is more important than likes, shares, followers or platforms. And faith that He is always faithful and will accomplish the plans He has for my life.

What tips would you give to other aspiring writers?

The best advice I could give to aspiring writers is to just keep writing. It sounds so trite, but it really is so important. Write as an act of obedience. Write as an act of worship. Write for yourself, or write for one who is hurting. But just keep writing.

The second piece of advice I would give to those wanting to take the next step towards writing a book or writing professionally is to attend a writing conference. There are many great conferences to choose from—even many wonderful Christian conferences. Conferences can get you connected to other writers, publishers, agents and editors. The first conference I attended was where God really confirmed his call on me to write JOEY. That conference also helped me begin to navigate my way through the giant (and overwhelming) world of publishing. And also, because writing is often a solitary assignment, conferences help you realize that there are in fact others like you, people with the same passions, fears, struggles, sense of humor and love of all things books who can support you, pray with you and help you along your writing journey.

And my final piece of advice is to follow God wherever He leads. Exchange your plans for His, your timing for His, and your desires for His. His timing will most likely be different from yours. The story He calls you to write may not be what you thought it would be. And what He asks you to do may be harder than anything you ever imagined. But His plans, His purposes, are always—always—better, and always worthy of our surrender. And always remember that: “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

JOEY is available for pre-order from all major book retailers, and will be released May 8, 2018. You can follow Jen’s journey with JOEY and future projects through her blog at jenniferbleakley.com or through FacebookInstagram and Amazon.

Good advice from a good granddaddy

“Sugar,” he said, his Kentucky accent flooding my heart with warmth, his serious expression straightening my posture, “Never forget your roots. Never go so far that you can’t remember how you got to where you are.”

My granddaddy was a man of few words. But man could he say a lot in those words.

I adored my granddad. I once told him that, to my little girl mind, he was the perfect mix of Superman and Santa Claus. He had a quick wit, a quicker laugh, and a fierce love for his family. He was the kind of man who could share with you wise counsel and then make a joke about bodily functions. He gave the best hugs and could make anything from wood.

Fifteen years ago today I said goodbye for now to my precious granddaddy. And yet all these years later, his words to me about roots that day in his living room in FL still echo through my heart and mind.

We had been joking about something. And then I had shared that I was thinking about becoming a doctor. He told me that he knew I would make a great doctor; that I could in fact do anything I set my mind to. But then he turned serious. His eyes fixed on mine. I could feel the charge in the air as he urged me to remember my roots. I will confess to being a bit confused at the time. Why had he become so serious? And what did me wanting to be a doctor have to do with my roots? And what the heck were these roots anyway?

Granddaddy didn’t expand, and I didn’t ask. He didn’t explain, and I didn’t question. I simply agreed and we fell back into our light banter. But his words had become a seed buried deep into the soil of my heart. A seed that would quietly grow for many years, until it’s roots made their way to my consciousness. A seed sown by God, who happened to use my Granddad to speak the seed into existence.

I never did become a doctor—but given my aversion to blood, I don’t think my was surprised! But I did move away from home. And I did end up doing something harder than I ever thought I could do. And now as I sit just on the other side of my life becoming very different for a few months with JOEY getting ready to launch. I find myself reflecting a lot on Granddaddy’s words that day. And I can’t help but picture a tree, whose branches are stretching toward the sun, whose leaves are being blown by changing winds, and whose roots are holding it firmly to the ground.

Roots of faith in God’s Word and in His strength.

Roots of family and friends.

Roots of experience and education.

Roots of both precious and painful memories, both of which have served to shape the way I see this world and the way I try to love people.

And the roots of those who have loved me enough to speak loving truth  into my life.

I so wish that Granddaddy could have lived long enough to know my kids—oh how he would have loved them. (although he did live long enough to meet my son—something that I had begged God to allow, and will never be able to thank Him enough for granting. Granddaddy died hours after meeting my son).

I also wish that he could be there the day I launch my first book. (in fact, one Christmas I gave him the very first—and painfully bad—book I had ever written. It was a story about our dogs. I just printed it off my computer and stuck it in a document folder, but he acted like I had given him a Pulitzer Price winning book!) He was always so proud of his family!

But while my eyes crave seeing his smiling face at the launch party, my heart knows that he will be there. For my heart feels the roots of his love wrapped tightly around me—intertwining with the root of my faith in God—and holding me steadfast and firm.

Have you ever thought about your roots? What holds you in place when the winds of this life blow fierce? Maybe today take a minute to ponder your own roots and ask God to help you strengthen the roots of others. And if you happen to still have your Granddaddy with you, would you give him hug for me?

Much love,
Jen

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes….” Jeremiah 17:7

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Granddaddy and me at my college graduation
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One of the many Christmas Eve’s we spent together
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My first “book”

A prayer for two boys….

(Two boys in my son’s 9th grade class were involved in a serious accident last week, and both have been in the hospital ever since. The boys and their families are being prayed over constantly by so many. My heart has been so heavy for all those involved as they sit and wait. As they brace themselves for each new report. And as they long for their boys to wake up. If you have a moment, would you join me in praying for these two…)

Lord God—the Almighty One, mighty to save and incomparable in power,

In times like these we realize just how powerless we are. How dependent we are on You—on Your will, Your plan and Your presence.

Father, our hearts are broken for those who have been hurt, and for those who are hurting with them and for them. We cry out against the pain, against the fear and the unknown.

We long to turn back time—to stop this from ever happening. But once again we are reminded of our powerlessness, our weakness.

God may that awareness draw us to Your power, Your strength, and Your grace.

Lord, two young souls lay in broken bodies. Bodies which have been battered, bruised and scarred. Unreachable by those desperate to once again hear their voice, see their smile, feel their embrace. Deafening silence permeates a room which should be filled with chatter, with laughter, with life.

Father, right now we ask that Your voice would go where human words cannot.

Jesus, would you speak, even now, to the hearts of those boys. Will you whisper words of hope, of peace, of grace. Of life.

Lord God, with but a word you spoke life out of darkness. Will you speak once again.

With but a word you pushed back the sea. Will you speak once again.

With but a word you healed, redeemed, forgave, saved. Will you speak once again.

And God we trust that while we may never hear Your voice speaking to the boys, you are indeed speaking even now. You are whispering words of love. You are speaking words of truth. You are breathing words of healing. You are singing words of delight. 

God we trust that the voice of God can go where human words cannot.

And we believe that in the darkness, You are shining light.

In the quiet, You are speaking grace.

In the brokenness, You are making new.

And in the heartache, You are healing.

Jesus, we commit these boys to You. We trust them to Your care. We place them in Your hands.

And Lord we ask that You would strengthen their parents and families. Flood each soul with Your peace—peace that doesn’t make sense. Peace that stronger than fear. Draw their hearts ever closer to You. Infuse them with strength. Sustain them with Your power—the same power that triumphed over sin and death.

God we are fully dependent on You. We stand here broken, with empty hands raised to You in full surrender and trust. Be glorified in this Jesus. And as your children heal and recover may they become living breathing thriving testimonies of Your grace, and mercy and power.

It is in the powerful, healing, sustaining name of Jesus we pray, amen.

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Three powerful words to remember when GOD seems far away…

When flood waters rise and unrelenting rain pours from the sky, God where are you?
When fires rage, consuming everything in their destructive path, God where are you?
When hurricanes churn in open waters, terrorizing those in their paths, God where are you?
When a grim-faced doctor reveals a life-changing diagnosis, God where are you?
When nations war against nations, people against people, brothers against brothers, God where are you?
When children are buried, marriages dissolve, and hurting souls take their own lives, God where are you?

I AM here.

The words float toward earth—billowing echoes from the throne of Heaven.

I AM here, the echo repeats, Closer than the air you breathe, nearer than your beating heart.

I AM standing beside you, giving you strength.

I AM whispering peace in your ear.

I AM holding your hand as you stand in broken disbelief.

I AM stroking your hair, catching your tears.

I AM waiting within the pages of My Word.

I AM longing for you to look to Me.

I AM the Sovereign God who promises to never leave you nor forsake you.

I AM brokenhearted with you. I AM grieving with you. I AM saddened with you.

But I AM also the author of Hope, and dear one, your story is not over, this moment does not define you. This storm will pass, and you…my precious child, you will be stronger, braver, bolder. You will be changed because you saw Me in the midst of the storm.

For when you see Me—when you look past the visible, into the face of the eternal—you will never be the same.

This is my promise to you:

In Me you will find strength and peace and rest.
In Me you will find hope and courage and wisdom.
In Me you will find refuge and protection and light.

In Me you will find….life.

Tonight, may you feel the arms of Love wrap around you tonight and the presence of Peace surround your weary soul.

Jesus said, _Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest..jpg

*This post is an excerpt from an earlier post titled God, where are you?

Pain—life’s motivator

“Pain is a great motivator.”

She spoke the words so matter-of-factly—as if part of her daily routine. And yet in that moment my world stopped spinning as I absorbed the unintended meaning of her words.

Pain is a great motivator.

I looked around the open gym area of the physical therapy office. I was there for my second visit—finally having surrendered to the limitations and pain of the whiplash I experienced last summer (you can read about that here). For months I have treated pain with over the counter medication and heat—or attempted to ignore it all together. And for months the pain kept getting worse. My range of motion became decreased, as did my willingness to try new things or even experience simple things I used to love, like laying my head back in the sink at the hair salon!

For months my pain motivated me to medicate, withdraw, and retreat.

But all of a sudden my petite twenty-something physical therapist was offering a new way—encouraging me to allow my pain to motivate me to stretch, strengthen and work-out my neck muscles.

“Your shoulder muscles have been doing things they were never meant to do,” she reported during my first visit, while massaging the pyramid of knots from left shoulder. “They have been overcompensating for the weakness in your neck muscles from the injury you sustained. You need to retrain each of your muscles to do the job for which each was intended.”

I didn’t quite absorb her words at the moment, since I was trying not to come up off the table as she worked out each painfully tight knot.

But yesterday as I reported feeling pain while typing away on my laptop, she urged me to use the pain to remind me to do the specific stretches she had printed off for me the week before.

“When your neck starts hurting, don’t ignore it and don’t grab Motrin,” she said, her tiny frame at odds with her commanding presence. “Instead, I want you to let the pain motivate you to stretch and strengthen your muscles, ok?”

I nodded at her, but deep somewhere deep within my soul, I felt myself agreeing with God.

From her audible words, my heart heard the inaudible voice of God whisper:

I want you to allow the pain of this life to draw you to Me so that I can strengthen your faith. When facing pain and conflict, disappointment and heartbreak you have two choices: allow it to draw you away from me or allow it to draw you towards me. In me is strength. In me is healing. In me is recovery. What will you choose?

A massage and a spiritual lesson! I’m really liking physical therapy!

And so today, I will pause from my typing to stretch and strengthen my neck. Knowing that it is not an overnight cure, and that strengthening these muscles and retraining them to only carry the burden to which they were created will take a long time. But trusting that one day the pain will be less and my neck will be stronger.

Today, I will allow my pain to motivate me to do the work I must do so that I can heal, whether that work is neck stretches and exercise, or prayer and spending time in God’s Word.

Are you facing some kind of pain today? Physical? Emotional? Spiritual? Our natural response is to flee from pain, to try and disguise it or ignore it. But what if today we embrace that pain, just a little, and allow it to propel us into the arms of the One who loves us more than we can possibly imagine—even if we don’t always feel that loveable. God is good even when our circumstances are not. Today, just for this moment, will you allow your pain to motivate you to cry out to Him and to do the work that will ultimately lead to healing? And if you would like to leave a prayer request, it would be an honor for me to pray for you as you do the hard work of stretching and strengthening. (I’ll pray for you as I go through my neck workout routine! 😉

Much love,
Jen

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Parenting free of fear (even when your kids begin to drive!)

I felt like an idiot crying my ever-lovin’ head off in my kitchen. Thank God no one was home.

What is wrong with me? I cried out, startling the dog from her nap.

I kept staring at the text that had just come through letting me know it was time to schedule my son’s behind the wheel driver’s ed class. I had read the words and then lost it. The weight of a hidden fear I have carried for years erupting like an emotional volcano.

A fear that had begun as a dream….When my son was only two, I had a dream that he was driving our car and crashed. In my dream, I ran to his lifeless little body, sprawled out on the road.

Awful right?! (welcome to my nightmares!)

It was so awful and a dream that has stayed with me ever since. A dream I never told anyone about. And a dream that fueled a fear that I would allow to simmer until that day in my kitchen.

But that day as I stared at my phone I had to confront that fear. And it was hard. I cried. I yelled. I stomped. And I totally freaked out our poor dog!

“God, ask me to write 100 more books,” I pleaded, “but please don’t ask me to let my son drive!!”

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I had a full on temper tantrum with God for about thirty minutes. But then, when all my tears were spent and all my emotion laid bare, I quieted.

I took a deep breath.

And I surrendered.

I surrendered my perceived control for God’s full control.

I submitted my fears to His Sovereign will.

And I committed my child to his heavenly Father’s plan.

It was hard, but at the end of my emotional torrent, I meant every word.

For years I have been anxious of letting my son drive. For years I have feared having to let go. And for years I have tried to shove those feelings and fears down, pretending all was well.

But that day as my lack of control could no longer be denied, I remembered something—a fundamental truth I have preached and taught and shared with others, but a truth I had somehow forgotten to apply to myself: the need to allow yourself to grieve.

From my time as a grief counselor, I saw firsthand the importance of taking time to grieve. Those who did the painful work of grief—remembering, weeping, allowing themselves to feel anger, allowing themselves to simply experience the feelings—would eventually heal. They would always bear a scar, but the open wound would heal. But those who tried to shove the grief down, tried to hide the pain or ignore the wound, would carry that wound with them for the rest of their lives.

Maybe because I have worked with children for so long, I tend to put important things I want to remember into rhymes. And because I saw firsthand how important it is to let yourself grieve I put that principle into this rhyme:

Feel and deal and one day you’ll heal. But stow and go and one day you’ll blow.

Catchy right?

And yet so true!

As I dried my tears that day in the kitchen, I felt lighter than I had in years. I had finally allowed myself to feel and deal with my fears—and to feel and deal with the fact that my baby is getting older and the childhood clock is running out.

I have loved being a mom to small children, and even though I love my older kids and find that this stage of parenting is pretty awesome too, I finally realized that I needed to allow myself to feel the loss of the little kid stage, and the perceived control it afforded me.

So much of parenting involves an aspect of grief, doesn’t it? It seems weird to write that, but yet as our children enter a new stage, it means the loss of the one before. And while for some stages that is great! For others it is painful.

I think as parents maybe we need to let ourselves feel and deal a little more, something that is getting harder and harder in this crazy busy world that demands our full attention and constantly has us on the go.

But I know the peace that flooded my heart that day in my kitchen was a result of pouring out my fears and my feelings to the One who knows my heart and invites me to share the burden of my fears, my feelings, and my pain.

Do you need to cry out to God today? Is there a pain or a fear you have been trying to ignore or hide? He awaits with loving arms open to you (even if you come to Him in the midst of a big ol’ adult temper tantrum!) And as you feel and deal in His arms ask Him reveal His love and goodness to you. 

Fear is a natural part of parenting, and yet, by continually taking those fears to God and laying Him at His feet, we can live and parent free from fear (even when letting our kid get behind the wheel of a car!!)

Praying for all of us who are wrestling with fear today (and especially for all mamas of driving children!)

I felt like an idiot crying my ever-lovin_ head off in my kitchen. Thank God no one was home. What is wrong with me_ I cried out, startling the dog from her nap. I kept staring at the

Much love,
Jen

An Easy and Powerful Way to Connect With Your Child

My 15 year old son sat crossed legged in the middle of my bed as I dug through our fire safe. I was looking for his birth-certificate and social security card—documents he would need to take to the DMV the next morning to get his learner’s permit. Our fire safe contains a hodgepodge of items: documents, mementos, recordings, and letters. My son tried on his great-grandfather’s ring, marveled at a two-dollar bill and begged to know when he could cash in his savings bonds.

Finally securing the necessary papers, I took them downstairs and placed them in an envelope for their trip to the DMV. After cleaning up the kitchen, letting the dog out, and putting the clothes in the dryer, I returned to my room to put the fire safe away. There I found my son, still sitting in the middle of my bed, surrounded by the contents of the safe and clutching a sheet of paper. His grip was firm—yet reverent. His expression hard to read—but clearly focused. His eyes glassy with unshed tears.

Mentally scrolling through the list of documents, wondering what could have him so enthralled, I asked what he was reading.

He looked up at me—the look on his face is something I will never forget.

“You wrote this to me,” he said, sounding befuddled. 

He untangled his limbs and stood. He held the letter out to me.

“You wrote this to me before I was even born.” His words held a reverence I’d never heard from him. “I….you….I love you mom.”

I was enveloped in his arms. His head resting on my own. His six foot frame towering over mine.

And then he left, the emotion more than his teenage heart could handle. But before he left, he handed me the letter—a letter I don’t recall writing, let alone placing in the safe.

I scanned the first line.

“To my little buddy, I am 23 weeks pregnant with you and this will be the first of many letters that I will write you.”

I sat down on my bed and read the words I had penned over 15 years ago. I have written many letters to him since, but I didn’t remember this one.

I had written of my fears and of faith. I had made him promises and written of all the things we would do together. And about how much I wanted him, how I longed to meet him, and how proud I already was to be his mom.

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I made myself cry—reading the letter I still had no memory of writing!!

But my amnesia didn’t matter. All that mattered was that those heart-felt words had touched my son’s heart in a way that I couldn’t have imagined.

I will confess to making a ton of mistakes in this thing called parenting, and no doubt, I will make many more. But I believe that day I accidentally stumbled across something very powerful, a precious tool every parent has in their parenting toolbox—the power of the written word.

My son was able to see the depths of my heart in a way that is easily lost in the torrents of errands, dinner, homework..life. He was able to absorb my words as they were intended, without  a lecture or big life lesson tossed in the middle. And he was able to see me as a person—a person struggling with fear, wrestling with my faith, and longing for my heart’s desire.

I tucked the letter back in its envelope and placed it in the fire safe—right behind another envelope.

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This one yellowed, with a different name on the front. My name, in my daddy’s handwriting. Inside were letters my dad had written to me. The first one penned when my mom was pregnant with me.

How had I forgotten these letters?

And so I snuggled into my bed and carefully opened the envelope. I held the sheet of paper reverently as I read of my dad’s fears and joys, his hopes and dreams. Of his faith and his love for his family.

A letter.

Words on a page.

A heart shared through sentences and paragraphs and thoughts.

Such an easy assignment.

Such a vast reward.

You don’t have to be eloquent. It doesn’t have to be long. You don’t have to be a great writer or good at grammar. You just need to be willing to take ten minutes and share a bit of your heart with one you love.

In this day of electronic communication, emojis and gifs, there is something almost sacred about words written on a sheet of paper (or even a napkin).

And even though one day you might forget ever writing those words, they just may end up being one of the most precious gifts you will ever give your child (or anyone).

My sweet child, I love you...Mom

Do you have a special way of connecting with your child? Do you share letters? Or maybe a special date night? I would love to hear about the ways you share your heart and connect with your kids!