My first mammogram….

Yesterday I joined the ranks of many women who have gone before me as I had my first mammogram. And all I can say is:

How is it, that in the year 2017, the best the medical community can offer women for mammography is a glorified Panini press?!?!

Y’all, I had NO idea! None.

I didn’t even know that I was going to be squished and pressed like a panini yesterday. It all happened while experiencing the other joy of womanhood—the well-woman exam.

As if laying there on the table in your paper gown in all your glory while trying to pay attention to the doctor’s idle chit-chat isn’t bad enough (I mean seriously doc no amount of chit-chat is going to make this experience feel normal!) Then the doctor casually mentions that women over the age of 40 really need to start having mammograms and that, conveniently enough, they now offer them right down the hall.

I get dressed and follow the signs to the mammography suite (yep, cause calling it a suite makes it all better!)

I am warmly greeted and welcomed to the “club.” There’s lovely music playing and the color pink is everywhere.

“Sugar,” a kind older woman calls out to me, “We can take you back now.”

She leads me to a small dressing room and points to a basket, “The gown opens in the front. Then just head through that door when you’re ready.”

I open the “gown” only to discover that it’s a vest. A short—only to the waist—paper vest.

Why is this a problem??

Because I’m wearing a dress!!!

You see, I have this neurotic fear of a doctor walking in the room while I am in a state of partial dress. Yes, I know the doctor is soon to see me in a much less, but for some reason I have this need to undress as quickly as possible to avoid the dreaded walk-in. And so I wear dresses to these kind of appointments. Easy on, easy off.

But now I stand here, holding a paper vest, feeling the blood drain from my head.

Maybe it looks longer on, I rationalize.

It doesn’t.

So now I stand in a pink paper vest and my underwear, weighing my options.

I try pulling my dress on like a skirt (stupid small neck line) I try wrapping the dress around my waist like a sarong (it’s too short) I try creating shorts out of another paper vest (sadly, I now look like I’m wearing a pink paper diaper!!!)

My neck is covered with purple splotches. Surely this is not happening. Surely I am not going to have to leave this (un)dressing room in my underwear!

“Jennifer? Honey? You ok in there?” the woman calls.

“Um….I don’t have pants,” I reply in a hysterical yelp.

“It’s ok,” she chuckled. “Just come on out.”

Dear Lord, has it really come to this?

I peak through the door like a mouse assessing its surroundings.

Just the one woman.

Deep breath. And walk.

“Bad day to wear a dress huh?” I hear myself say.

“Go ahead and step over here,” I am told. “Step right to the machine and I’ll position you.”

Oh dear Lord! She does. And with all the gentleness of a mover trying to shove a sofa through a narrow doorway. I am not well-endowed and so I think she was having to pull all the available skin from my entire torso to have something to put on the machine! She pulled and tugged and yanked (all while I stand pant-less). And then just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, she says, “Ok, lots of pressure coming,” and she closes the panini press, giving it one last tug!

Are you kidding me??? This is the best we can do for women???

“Just breathe,” I am told.

I’d really rather not, cause passing out sounds really good right now. Not only will I be oblivious to this…event, but I won’t fall because my boob and all the skin from my neck and abdomen is literally stuck in a panini press!!

I am told to stop breathing for a moment while she takes the image.

Way ahead of you lady!!

We repeat the process on the other side.

It is done. Thank you God!

I turn to leave.

“Oh wait, sugar, we have to do it from the side now…”

Wait…what?

Yep, let’s turn the press on its side and squeeze the panini vertically!

Y’all…really?

Finally, we are done. The tech says words. I don’t know what they are. I make my way back to the dressing room, feeling like my once small chest is now hanging down to my knees.

I throw the paper vest away and put my stupid dress back on. I walk out of the room, avoiding eye contact with everyone. Do I need to check out? I don’t care. I exit the waiting room, confident they will send a bill or something.

As I flee from the “suite” a woman is entering. She looks wide-eyed, unsure, and around 40, She’s wearing a dress. Oh, poor thing….

I sit in the car for 5 whole minutes trying to process what just happened. And then I start hysterically laughing.

For you see, a few days ago I confided to my husband that one of my biggest fears with this whole book publishing thing is that pride might creep into my heart. I asked him to pray with me that in all things and at all times I will point to Jesus and remain humble in my heart.

You guys, be careful what you pray for! Because God might just give you a “humility moment” to reflect back on…a humility moment in the form of a pink paper vest, underwear and a panini press!!

(Disclaimer: although the experience was less than awesome, I am so grateful that mammogram detection has saved countless lives! So, go get your mammograms. After all, if I can do it, you can do it. Just do yourself a favor and wear pants!!!) 

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When the storm just won’t quit

“Peace. Be still.”

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The storm was raging. Their boat was filling. They were panicking.

But Jesus? He was sleeping.

Don’t you wish you could sleep through the storm today? Curl up, pull the covers over your ponding head and retreat into a blissful state of unconsciousness?

Do you long for the wind to stop blowing? The waves to stop ponding? Your boat to stop filling?

Is it starting to feel like the storm will never stop?

Do you long for Jesus to say, “Peace. Be still,” to your storm? Maybe you are even growing weary, thinking that He will never calm your storm. Or feeling hurt that He seems to speak Peace into other’s storms, but not your own?

If so, would you take just a moment to consider the familiar passage from Mark 4 in a different light?

Had the disciples not awakened Jesus, He would have continued to sleep.

He only rebuked the storm because His disciples were freaking out, and He chose to use that moment to demonstrate another aspect of His character to them—that He had power over even the wind and seas.

Yet, prior to the disciples terrified wake up call, Jesus was sound asleep.

He was at peace, in the storm…with them!

He was soaked, just as they were soaked!

And yet, He did not fear the storm. He knew that they would not perish. He knew that He was in complete control. He knew there was purpose in the storm. He knew that those He loved were safe with Him. And so…He slept.

It is natural to want the storms to stop. Storms are uncomfortable and scary.

But if your storm feels relentless today, know that you are not alone in that boat. The One who made you, loves you and has a plan for you is with you. And though you may feel frustrated that He seems to be asleep in the stern, know that—trust that—He is fully aware of what is going on. He is fully with you and for you.

I wonder….what would have happened if the disciples had chosen to lay down beside Him that day? To see His restful state as an example to follow during the storm?

Today, as the storm rages around you, would you snuggle up beside Jesus and let Him speak peace to your heart.

For there you will find rest in the middle of the storm.

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Much love,
Jen

Simple acts in complicated times

Sad.

I have spent four days trying to think of a more intelligent sounding word—a more descriptive adjective—to describe my overall melancholy. I’m a writer. Surely I can write a more profound word than sad.

But I cannot.

For at the core of my being I am most definitely and unequivocally sad.

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Frustrated? Yes.

Angry? Absolutely.

Surprised? Well, no, not really….

I’ve wanted to write about recent abhorrent events, not because I feel I have anything earth-shaking to add, but because 1) writing is how I process things and 2) remaining silent seems wrong.

However, forming words, thoughts and sentences has been a challenge for me.

For how do you process the incomprehensible? And what do you say when there are so many saying so much?

And so I pondered, I prayed and I waited.

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I waited to hear God’s voice more than my own thoughts.

I pondered how such evil can seem to go unchecked; how some people can hate their fellow humans for no reason other than the level of pigmentation found in a bunch of epidermal cells; how people consumed with hate and evil can dare to bring the Name of Jesus into their supposed “cause”; and what on earth we (those who love and cling to the real Jesus and seek to follow Him) can do in response to such hate and evil.

And I prayed for wisdom, for self-control, for understanding. I prayed to love others more and to have the courage to show that love. And I prayed for an action-item—something tangible to do, a way to stand up for good and to fight against evil.

I asked God to reveal to me a glimpse of Jesus in this mess.

Now, not to try and bring back certain bracelet movement that swept the country during my high school years or anything, but I found myself asking, “Jesus, what would you be doing if you once again took on flesh and walked among our streets today?”

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The answer I heard whispered to my heart over and over again was, “Be kind.”

As profound as the word sad, right?

I will confess to wanting to hear something more.

More specific…

More engaging….

More tweet-able….

But over and over again I heard “Be kind.”

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And as I thought about it….I realized, “Well, what else would Jesus be doing?” In fact, couldn’t His entire earthly ministry be described as His demonstrating kindness to broken, lost, hate-filled people?

His presence on this earth – kind.

His willingness to touch the untouchable, to love the unlovable, to speak to the rejected, to heal the broken, to shine the light of truth to those trapped in darkness – kind.

His willingness to give up His life for ours – kind.

His victory over death – kind.

Yes, maybe kindness is an action item. And maybe kindness holds a key to overcoming this melancholy in which I feel trapped.

So today I want to be on the lookout for opportunities to be kind.

I want to be intentional with my pursuit of kindness, which means I need to be in a constant state of prayer, asking God to reveal who needs kindness and what that kindness will look like in that moment.

But I can easily fall into my comfortable, hermit-like routine, and so the pursuit of kindness is going to take effort.

But I just have to do something! Don’t you?

Even if that something is as small as letting someone else go first in line; giving a smile to one who looks down; as big as sharing the Gospel if the Spirit leads; or something in-between, like offering to help carry a bag; or showing grace when I want to complain…..

I want to show this world what Jesus looks like—as imperfect and skewed of an image as that will unfortunately will be.

But I think He will be pleased by His children trying to show His kindness to a world in chaos.

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And I think He will take our little and make it much.

So, while we wait for the more profound words and the more lasting change, let’s find one person and show them the kindness of Christ. And maybe, just maybe, we will begin affecting the more profound…

Much love,
Jen

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When it’s time to spread your wings and…trust

I have wanted to post here for some time, however, I have been hard at work cleaning, purging and painting my house (things I had been putting off while writing my manuscript; things I now can’t stop doing as I wait to hear if its been accepted!) Yet, God provided (as He always does) by literally dropping a post in my inbox 😉 

Today’s post was written by one of my best friends, who also happens to be my aunt. Her name is Judy and she is amazing! I would need an entire post to properly introduce her to you, but here are the highlights: 

– She’s incredibly generous  
– She loves Southern Gospel, Jimmy Buffet, country music and 60’s rock. 
– She’s the youngest of 4 (and the only girl…which meant she often volunteered her dolls to    be used as target practice just so she could play with her brothers!) 
– She loves Jesus, and a good glass of wine!
– And on August 7th, 2003 she was hit (indirectly) by lightening and survived! (ironically the  strike occurred just days after she prayed and asked God to put a spark in her for Him and  set her heart of fire once again for Him…careful what you pray for!!)

Oh, and she LOVES butterflies! So much so that my daughter has nicknamed her the “butterfly queen.” And so….here is today’s post, written by Aunt Judy: 

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For those of you who don’t know me, I love dolphins, pelicans and butterflies.  Even though I would love to raise dolphins and pelicans, I can’t, so I raise butterflies.

To keep the butterflies from being a meal for the many lizards around here, I keep them in a mesh cage with plenty of milkweed.

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They spend their days and nights eating and sleeping.  So, from the time I take the small caterpillars off the plants outside, bring them into the safety of the mesh cage, the only thing I need to do is make sure they have plenty of milkweed.  And, boy do they eat a lot of milkweed.

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Once they reach their full size at the caterpillar stage, they begin a journey up the side of the cage.  This is where they change into a chrysalis.  They go from a black and orange caterpillar to a pretty green chrysalis with a gold band around the top.

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Anyone who says there is no God has never watched the life of a  butterfly.  Back to my original thought — They stay this pretty green for a week or so and then turn black.  In the next day or two, the miracle happens and this beautiful monarch butterfly emerges.

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I tell you all this to paint a picture of what happened next.  When the butterfly is ready to be released, I will reach inside the cage and this beautiful creature will crawl onto my finger.  I will then move him or her out of the cage and watch it fly away.

Two days ago the butterfly was ready to be released.  He crawled onto my finger and as I was removing him, he flew off and went back to the side of the cage.  This happened two more times.  Then he grabbed hold of my finger and let me remove him to the freedom he was really wanting.

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Right then it occurred to me.  How many times are we just like this butterfly?  How many times does God reach down to us, to remove us from our cage and we let go of His hand and “fly” back to the side of our mesh cage?  I had such a feeling that God was telling me to let go and take hold of His hand.

My prayer is that when I feel a change in my “mesh cage” that I will reach out and hold on to God’s hand.  I hope and pray that you too will let go of your mesh cage.

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Love you,
Judy

When facing a storm, look for the dolphins….

I had never been so scared. We were on a small boat. My head hurt, my elbows and knees were turning deep shades of purple and yellow, my daughter’s lip was bleeding, and we were purposefully heading toward a storm.

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Yet, just an hour or so before we had been having the time of our lives!

While on vacation in Florida, my family had rented a boat. We had spent the morning fishing, playing at a deserted beach, watching dolphins play and zooming up and down the inter-coastal waterways.

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Our skin was sun-kissed, our hair wind-blown, our hearts full of joy. We love boat day! 

Yet, this boat day would take a very different turn, a turn none of us saw coming:

“Mommy, come sit with me!” my daughter calls out over the noise of the engine.

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My husband and son are at the wheel, my daughter at the bow. She says she feels like she’s flying when she sits at the front of the boat. I tuck myself into the little sitting area, our knees are touching.

She hands me a rope used to tie-up the boat, “Hold onto this mama, some of the waves make you feel like your gonna fall.”

I take the rope, turn my face to the wind and smile. It does feel like I’m flying! The air roars in my ears as we make our way up the inter-coastal. My hair whips around my face. I spot a dolphin surfacing just ahead. We wave at a boat as it approaches us, and then rock back and forth as we encounter its wake.

“Isn’t this fun?” My daughter asks, sheer joy radiating from her face.

“It’s awesome,” I shout with a smile.

Pelicans swoop and glide, inches from the water’s surface. A fish jumps. Another boat approaches.

The engine sputters. My husband turns his head toward the sound, just as the approaching boat passes.

We hit the wake—hard. My head bobbles and I tighten my grip on the rope.

“Wow, that was…” I start to comment to my daughter, but I am interrupted by another wave. A much harder wave.

A much harder hit. I am air-borne—for a second. And then….I hit. Hard. I know instantly that something is wrong. I feel pain. Dizziness. Nausea.

A cry breaks through my confusion.

“Mommy! It hurts, it hurts!!”

Blood is visible in my sweet girl’s mouth. My stomach turns. Please God, don’t let it be bad.

My husband steers the boat from the channel. My son throws out the anchor. I’m holding my little girl who now has ice in her mouth. My insides shake with fear that she will need stitches or that a tooth has come loose. It was a hard hit, I just know there will be significant injury.

Miraculously though, it is just a cut on her lip and gum. It stops bleeding within minutes.

As the reality of her not-serious injury washes over me, I start to cry. I am so relieved. Yet as the adrenaline wears off, I realize that I am also in pain. My elbows hurt, bad. They both have what looks like golf balls protruding from them. My knees are scratched and bleeding. But my head. My neck. Something’s not right.

My husband’s eyes meet mine—eyes so full of compassion and pain.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispers, although it in no way was his fault. “Let’s go back.”

I protest. We were on our way to a secluded restaurant, accessible only by boat. I don’t want to cut boat day short. And I really want to get off the boat for a bit. So, much to my husband’s consternation, we go. I’m dizzy, but being on land is nice. We eat, we laugh, my elbows no longer require ice. We buy a souvenir. The room stops spinning.

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I find a treasure—Motrin!!

As I gulp the glorious pain-relievers down, my phone rings.

“Jen, a big storm is building at the end of the island. Have you guys checked the weather recently?” My mom’s voice is tense.

With all the drama, we had not paid attention to the weather. The sky is clear where we are. All seems well.

“Seems fine here, but thanks for the heads up,” I reply, glancing at the time on my phone. “Actually, our time’s about up so we will start heading back now.”

We get back on the boat. The Motrin is helping. My daughter and I choose to sit on the bench across from the bow. We ride down the water equivalent of a residential road before turning back into the open water of the inter-coastal.

That’s when we see it. A storm that would make even storm-hardened Floridians nervous.

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The charcoal gray sky—illuminated every few seconds with stripes of lightening—roars its displeasure. White foam bobs in the distance.

Everything about the storm makes me want to flee in the opposite direction. And yet, the only way home is toward the storm.

Shallow water abounds in this bay, forcing us to follow the channel markers—markers which lead us due south before eventually turning us west.

South is the storm, west is safety.

I exchange a look with my serious-faced husband. He gives a decisive nod and we set our course toward the storm.

My daughter grabs my hand, “Mama, I’m scared.”

“Me too baby, me too.”

Never have I felt so vulnerable, so exposed. So out of control of my circumstances.

A dolphin surfaces just in front of our boat.

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I try to smile at the creature I absolutely adore.

The sky quickly fades to gray, the sun blocked from view by rapidly building thunderheads. The water morphs to a fearfully beautiful greenish-gray. Thunder shakes the heavens. My little girl squeezes my hand.

“Mama,” she whispers, her lips quivering.

Another dolphin surfaces to our right. Its presence somehow comforting.

The boat engine roars, yet an eery quiet permeates the air.

White caps rock our boat. Lightening splits the sky.

“Hey, there’s a shark! I just saw a shark!” My son exclaims, overjoyed with his discovery.

My heart drops as my blood pressure rises with this new information.

“Dear Lord,” I whisper, my prayer snatched away with a gust of wind.

Rain drops begin to pelt our boat’s canopy. We are so close to the storm that I can smell the rain, almost feel the pressure change.

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Another dolphin makes itself known.

A fierce clap of thunder brings tears to my daughter’s eyes, “I want to get off this boat!” she cries.

My head begins to throb. Fear grips my heart.

“Hey sweet girl,” I say forcing a lightness to my voice, “Remember the story about Jesus sleeping on the boat during a storm,” I ask.

She nods.

“Where do you think He would be sleeping if he was in our boat right now?”

Tears swim in her eyes as she points to the bow.

(I seem to remember that He was in the stern, but I think He will forgive a little creative license in this case!;)

“Can you picture Him there now?” I ask, my own voice choking with emotion.

She nods.

“What did He do when they woke Him up?” I ask her, desperate to hear the answer myself.

“He said ‘Peace,’ she answers.

Peace.

The word passes from her salty lips straight to my heart.

“Baby,” I begin, pulling her closer to me as our boat begins to rock in earnest, “Let’s pray, but let’s look right where we imagine Jesus would be, ok?”

“OK,” she mouths.

I pray, out loud. I talk to Jesus as if He was right there (for I truly believe He was).

Lord, we are so scared. This storm is bad and it is so close. Jesus, would you please see us safely through this storm. Would you say ‘Peace’ to this storm and to our hearts. Lord, we need you. Hold us and let us know You are with us.

As I begin to sing every worship song I can think of, two dolphins leap from the water—as if in a Sea World show! My jaw (which I discover hurts) drops. One of the dolphins jumps again as we make a sharp turn west.

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The storm now to our left, is rapidly growing. Yet, I am no longer nervous. Anxious to be done with this adventure, but no longer terrified. I continue to sing, but this time from a place of true worship. For I know that my family is not alone on that boat. Jesus is there with us as much as He was with His disciples so many years ago.

And He made His presence—His power—known to me by the creatures I love so much. It was as if the dolphins were escorting us home. A reminder of God’s sovereignty and love.

He knows how much I adore dolphins. He knows what comforts my heart, and He provided—yet I had to look for them.

Had my eyes been squeezed shut, had I hidden from the storm, I would have missed the dolphins. I would have missed God’s provision in the storm.

After what felt like an eternity we docked and could not scramble from that boat fast enough.

My girl and I headed for the car while the boys paid our bill.

We were both quiet for several minutes as the heavens opened, drenching our car.

“You ok baby?” I ask her.

“I’m ok. Are you?” she replies.

“I am,” I assure her, “But I think I’m gonna be pretty sore tomorrow.”

I rub the back of my neck.

Silence reigns again as we are both lost in our thoughts.

“Hey mama,” she says breaking the reverent silence. “That was really scary.”

“It sure was baby girl.”

Tears pool in her ocean blue eyes, “But it was kinda cool too.”

I smile. It was not what I would have ever chosen, but she is right, it was kinda cool.

“Mama,” her sweet voice again calls out, “I feel….different.”

“How so baby?”

She begins to cry. Tears flee my own eyes.

“I just…He was…He was there. Jesus was with us!” Her voice raises an octave, “And did you see all the dolphins?! Did He send those???”

“Mama,” she pauses, “Do you think God let that storm happen so we could feel Him close like that?”

I nod. I have no words.

A determined look—a courageous look—furrows her brow.

“If so, then the storm was worth it!”

We drive back to the condo where ice and whiplash recovery will begin.

I look out the window at the suddenly clear sky and can’t help but repeat my girl’s words,

“Lord, if I get more of You, then the storms are worth it!”


Look for your dolphins today as you face your storm! (And if you are willing to share a “Dolphin Moment” you have experienced I would love to hear about it!)

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In Him,
Jen

Ready…set….stop

I rush. He beckons me to wait.

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I run. He invites me to linger.

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I fret. He whispers “pray.”

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I hurry. He says, “Be still and enjoy Me.”

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We (I) can get so busy with my to-do’s that I often forgo the importance of simply being with Jesus.

Surely the enemy delights in our busyness (especially when it’s busyness for the LORD). For when we are busy, when we are running around in a million different directions, when we feel the whole world is dependent on our success or failure, then we are vulnerable.

Vulnerable to believe the lies that cry out:

You are too busy for your quiet time today.
You have no time for that person. 
You need to hurry, you can pray later. 
Time alone with God is not as important as time serving God. 

Oh that the Holy Spirit will grab hold of us in the midst of our busyness!

That He will convict and make known the spiritual anemia we are experiencing.

That we would see our need for Him (for His Word) surpasses all of our to-do’s.

That we would grasp that our ability to serve God comes only from focused time with God.

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Today, this summer, would we be willing to carve out moments (even if they are hidden moments in a closet or a bathtub, early moments before the kids wake up, or late moments when the house is tucked in for the night) and focus our hearts and minds on Jesus? Would we come to Him empty and dry and ask Him to pour Himself into us, so that we can then be poured out onto others.

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Let’s pick a book of the Bible and linger over it. Let’s take a week to absorb just one chapter. Let’s slow our breathing and steady our thoughts. Let’s inhale His goodness and exhale our busyness.

And this summer may we find ourselves filled to overflowing by the grace and mercy of God.

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In Him,
Jen

 

 

Once upon a time there was a father….

Once upon a time a there was a little girl who lived in a large kingdom. The kingdom was full of many exciting things and many beautiful people. And yet the little girl often felt scared, unsure, and hesitant. She was a very quiet little girl, surrounded by noise and chatter. Day after day she would watch the goings on of the kingdom with yearning.

“Will I ever feel unafraid?” she would ask her toy bears and dolls, the only creatures with whom she felt comfortable enough to converse. “Will I ever be brave?” she whispered, too afraid at times to speak up even to her friends made of cloth and stuffing.

As little girls are prone to do, this one dreamed big dreams and wished big wishes.

Yet, when dreams and wishes go unspoken they often float away like dandelion seeds.

This little girl had so many dreams, yet no voice with which to speak them. For talking did not come easily to her.

Yet, this particular little girl had a father, one of the wisest and kindest in the kingdom (who would often say that his wisdom and kindness came from his dear wife). And this father could see the dreams that lay just beyond his daughter’s voice, just out of her reach.

For he too knew the fleetingness of unspoken dreams.

And so he took a most special tool, one that he knew had the power to unlock his little girl’s hidden dreams. He held the tool most gently as he crafted a masterpiece for his young daughter.

“What do you think?” he asked his wife.

“I think you are wonderful,” she answered, praying that this would help their quiet little one.

“Where should I leave it?” the father asked.

His wife looked around their little cozy cottage. “There,” she said pointing to the pot used to make the morning coffee.

Smiles were exchanged and the masterpiece was left, right where they knew their daughter would find it the next morning.

As the morning sun chased away the lingering darkness, the little girl’s bare feet carried her to the kitchen. In search of her favorite bowl and cup, she was startled to find a sheet of paper propped up against the large coffee pot. Curiosity drove her gaze toward the white page. Her name was at the top. Bowl forgotten, she picked up the letter and began to read:

My sweet daughter, 
I know that speaking is hard for you, and so I have devised a way for us to converse.
I will write to you about my day and then you can write back about yours. I will share with you my thoughts and dreams, and then you can tell me yours. 

What do you think? 
If you like the idea then I shall begin with a dream I have for you:
My dream for you, my little one, is that you will always feel loved, and that that love will lead you to do brave and wonderful things. I pray that you will find great courage and compassion as you grow, and that you will find your voice and the strength to use it.
Now, what is a dream you have for yourself?
Anxious to hear back from you, 
Your loving father 

The little girl held the letter to her heart as she wiped tears from her large brown eyes. A strange and exciting feeling began building in her stomach. It climbed higher and higher, spreading all the way to her fingers. At once, as if moved by an unseen force, she ran to her room, rustling through three drawers until she found what she was looking for.

A pen.

She wrote. And she wrote. Trapped and silent no more, words poured forth from her heart. She shared her dreams. She shared her thoughts. She shared her fears.

That night, with their cozy cottage bathed in moonlight, two little bare feet scampered down the hallway, a letter clutched to a little girl’s chest. With the upmost care she deposited her treasure in the same way she had found the first, leaning against the coffee pot.

She ran back to her room lighter and more carefree than she had left. She hugged her bear as she laid in bed.

“Mr. Bear,” she whispered in her darkened room, “Maybe I can be brave after all.”


 

To all the daddy’s who make their little ones feel a little braver, who give their children strength to pursue their dreams, and whose love propels their children to love others…thank you and Happy Father’s Day!

And to my Daddy, my hero, my constant encourager….thank you for writing to me that first time and thus beginning our coffee pot chronicles. Thank you for giving me an outlet, a way to share my heart with you. And thank you for loving me with a fierce and protective love, a love that gave me strength, and courage, and a voice. There are not enough words in this world to express how I feel about you, so I will just say: I love you!

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If only you would let others see what I get to see…

I followed the melody up the stairs and into my son’s room. With at least two guitars, a harmonic, and an old recorder in his room, I am often greeted by music when I enter. But this night was different. There was a sound I couldn’t place coming from his room. A whistle that, while familiar, was unidentifiable. I listened outside of his door, as the theme song from “Lord of the Rings” was strummed on a guitar and whistled on a….What was that thing? And how was he making both sounds at the same time?

I walked into his room, convinced I would find his dad or sister in there with him.

What I found instead was my son with his electric guitar in his hands, and a nose flute taped to his face!!!

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I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was not that!
I was certainly not expecting to find my normally shy fourteen year old son sitting on his bed with a blue plastic nose contraption held to his face with masking tape, breathing out the tune to “Lord of the Rings” while strumming his white electric guitar.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Hard.

He tried to maintain his serious musician demeanor, but my laughter brought his own.

“What?” he finally asked, having caught his breath, “You don’t like my act? I’m practicing for America’s Got Talent!”

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The hysterics started again at the image those words conjured up.

“Oh buddy,” I said, trying to catch my breath, “If only you would let others see what I get to see.

We laughed some more. He played “The Sound of Silence,” “Seven Years,” and “Amazing Grace” on his nose flute. We talked about the book he is reading. Prayed and I told him goodnight.

As I went in to brush my teeth, my own words fluttered back through my mind….”If only you would let others see what I get to see.”

You see my son, who is wickedly funny and absurdly silly at home, is guarded and quiet with most everyone else. Only a handful of people ever get to see the side of him that I get to see.

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I get to see his intelligence and curiosity.
I get to witness his antics and impersonations.
I get to laugh at his jokes and observations.
And I get to discuss his deep, mind-bending questions.

I adore what I see. I get excited about what I see. But convincing him to allow others to see it, is a whole other matter.

If only you would let others see what I get to see.….

The words swirl around my thoughts, stirring up images and memories from long ago:

A little girl hiding behind her daddy’s leg, afraid to talk to people. Yet talking non-stop at home, eager to share about her day.
A shy young girl, singing into a hairbrush in her room, dreaming of one day singing on a stage.
An awkward teenager so afraid of drawing attention to herself, yet longing to stand out for Jesus in some way.

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I am reminded that I too was guarded. I too was scared. I too hid and tried to go unnoticed. And yet all along

God saw.
God noticed.
God delighted.

And He placed something in me that He longed for others to see.

A calling.
A light.
Himself.

How often do we hide who God has made us to be?

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How often do we bury the calling He has placed on our lives.

We delight our Father. You delight your heavenly Father.

And yet, we live timid. Unsure. Afraid.

If only you would let others see what I get to see…..

What might God want us let others see? What has He called you to do that you are doing, but hiding in your room doing?

Maybe, just maybe, today would be the day that we are willing to take our nose flute-guitar act on the road and let others see what He sees….

Much love,
Jen

God may have called you, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gonna be easy….

I thought it would be a piece of cake. I honestly expected waters to miraculously part, doors to spontaneously open, and words to effortlessly flow. In fact, I not only expected it, but assumed it was part of the package deal. You know, the “God calls you and He’ll do it” special.

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And truth be told, I even thought that if things became difficult then maybe that meant I shouldn’t be doing this.

I truly believed that my heavenly calling would exempt me from the hard work of doing.

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(Apparently, I figured that all those stories in the Bible of people striving, working, waiting, failing and even suffering in their calling-aka Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul- didn’t apply to my calling. Um, hello…pride!)

The embarrassing truth is, I thought that because God had called me to do something (in my case write a book) everything would be easy.

Boy. Was. I. Wrong.

While there have been certain aspects which have come easily, others have been very difficult. I often feel out of my league. Overwhelmed. Afraid. Tired. Distracted. Frustrated.

 

 

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At times those waters which I assumed would miraculously part before me have left me tossed and turned with their churning. The doors I assumed would be thrown open have felt nailed shut. And the words I believed would be poured out of me dripped out in a painfully slow trickle.

Yet, with each difficulty, with each labored step forward, God has shown me a clearer glimpse of His faithfulness.

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A faithfulness which is not dependent on my performance.

A faithfulness which is not hindered by my lack.

A faithfulness which is not lessened by my fear.

And a faithfulness which is not diminished by my frustrated confusion.

The truth is, the more difficult the journey, the greater the opportunity to see God’s might and faithfulness.

And the rougher the road, the more painful the falls and rugged the terrain, the more opportunities to find ourselves surrounded and upheld by the arms of Love.

Sure, some callings lead to easy roads where the way is laid wide open before you.

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But, other callings lead to winding roads, steep roads, uncharted roads full of unknown dangers and difficulties.

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Yet, our God never changes. And He who calls us is faithful.

He may not pave the road, but He promises to hold our hands as we traverse the way.

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We have an enemy who loves nothing more than getting us off course, taunting us with the difficulties we face. Whispering lies that difficulties mean God is not with us.

Yet, testimonies drift from heavenly voices –

“God is with us while lion’s crouch before us.”
“God is with us when the fire rages around us.”
“God is with us, even in a jail cell.”
“God is with us when all others have turned away.”

God is faithful, no matter our circumstances or feelings. And if He has called us to do something, then He will accomplish it. Even if the way He does so, looks nothing like we thought it would.

And so….

I type. I edit. I rewrite.

I cry. I pray. I eat chocolate.

And….I trust. In a God who has proven over and over again that He is, and always will be,

Faithful.

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Much love,
Jen

When the only way to grow is to tear something down

Why must growth almost always necessitate the tearing down of something?

  • In order for muscles to grow, their small fibers must be torn down.
  • Forests often grow as a result of fire tearing down that which has been growing for years. The fire releasing needed nutrients from the forest floor, opening the canopy to sunlight, and releasing seeds from certain trees.
  • The seashore grows by the constant tearing down of shells and rock.
  • Buildings grow larger as walls are torn down and expanded.
  • People mature at the tearing down of self-righteous and destructive strongholds.

So often I find myself wishing that there was another way. If only we could grow without pain, grow without change, grow without having to experience the tearing down of something. And yet, I cannot think of any instances in my life when growth came as a result of maintaining the status-quo.

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Yet, even knowing that growth requires a tearing down of sorts, I naturally resist the tearing down, often even becoming downright offended by the very mechanism which will ultimately lead to growth!

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As I sat in our church worship center this morning memories wrapped around me like a comforting embrace. The room (which I keep reminding myself is just a room) holds a most special place in my heart. For it is the place where God has spoken to my heart countless times through His Word, through others sharing from His Word, through music, through testimonies, and through quiet times of prayer. It is the room where I first felt God’s whisper to write-for Him. It is the room where I had the honor of watching my two children take their first Lord’s Supper after trusting in the saving work of Jesus. It is the room where I am left in tearful wonder each Christmas as candles are raised to the chorus of Silent Night. It is the room where my husband was commissioned to be a deacon. It is the room where we have said painful earthly goodbyes to friends, as well as joyous welcomes to new life.

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It is, of course, just a room. But it is a room full of memories, love, hope and the Presence of the Living God.

And it is a room that must now be torn down so that new growth may occur.

God continues to grow our church, our vision, our passion, and our calling. And with that call to growth, comes the practical need of a larger space. I know it is right. I know it is needed. I know it is a calling from the Lord. And yet…..

I hesitate.
A tear escapes my grasp for control.
I long to wrap my arms around the four walls and say “NO! Let’s find another way!”

As the powerful lyrics to “It is Well” drift through the room I love, I look at my son whose 6 foot frame now towers over my own. My arms ache with the memory of holding him, just 8 weeks old, during his first ever church service. I glance at his sister who reminds me daily that she is soon to be in double digits. Yet, I still remember the delight of watching the evidence of her moving and kicking to a worship song while safely snuggled inside my womb.

“There is no other way,” I hear the LORD whisper to my heart.

My kids smile at me (completely aware of their mama’s difficulty with letting things go.)

Change is hard. Growth is painful. Letting go can be excruciating.

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But, God does not tear down for sport. And He is most gentle with us.

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God is in the business of life and hope. And so if God tears down it is always so that new life can begin. 

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And so, I take one last look around the room that has meant so much to me. I breathe in the familiar, soul-soothing scent. I thank God for bringing us to this place that has become like family. And I walk away….toward the future.

Toward growth.

Toward….new life.

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This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Much love,
Jen