Dry Seasons

Your dream has come true. That thing that you have wished for, prayed for, planned for and dreamed of is now within reach. You have imagined the moment many times. It has kept you going when you were ready to throw in the towel.

You look around halfway expecting the world to somehow look differently now that your dream has been achieved.

But it doesn’t.

A heartbeat later you realize that you don’t even feel that different. You’re happy yes. You’re overwhelmed with gratitude, yes. But it isn’t quite like you imagined it would be.

Why?

Is something wrong with you? Was this not really what you wanted?

As you begin to process these tangled up feelings you become aware of another feeling. A stronger feeling. A taunting feeling.

Fear.

Fear whispers, “Now what are you going to do? Now people will see that you aren’t really good enough, talented enough, unique enough. You can’t possibly succeed at this. You were crazy to think you could.”

Fear wraps itself around your dream and begins to choke it. You feel the grip around your heart.

Fear claws at your joy, your confidence, your hope.

Fear speaks more loudly and begins to drown out the whispers of peace.

You find yourself too distracted to pray. Avoiding God’s Word. Retreating inward.

What should have been a joyous time has turned into a dry parched season.

You’re spiritual throat burns, longing to be quenched by the Living Water of peace, but you hesitate. Unsure and timid.

Will He accept me still? Will He understand? Where do I even start with Him?

Fear squeezes tighter attempting to choke you. “You blew it. Give it up. He doesn’t want you like this.”

In desperation you look up. You can only mouth the word, “LORD.”

Fear lessens its grip ever so slightly.

“I AM here.” The words pour over your heart like a tidal wave. Fear’s grip is forced to relinquish its hold.

“Lord, I don’t even know what to say.” You feel uncomfortable and awkward talking to the One who knows you most and loves you best – the One to whom you used to talk to all the time.

“Just sit with me. Let me fill you with my Love.”

“But I don’t deserve You. I’ve failed you.”

“No my child, you have not. You took your eyes off of me for a moment, yes. But you are here. Fear’s grip was strong, but mine is stronger. Let me hold you.”

With a voice of awe and wonder you say, “Lord, You gave me my dream.”

“Yes, my love I did.”

“Why didn’t it satisfy me like I thought it would?”

“Because my precious one, I AM the only One who can truly satisfy your soul. I gave you a gift, but the gift cannot replace the Giver. Find your joy in Me. Find your dream fulfilled in Me. And only Me. Only then can you be truly satisfied.”

The gift cannot replace the Giver

Tears fall with abandon. “Yes, Lord. Yes. You are right. It is only You. Always You. Forever You.”

Your heart expands, free from the chains of fear.

“Lord, will You help me? To fight fear? To complete this dream?”

“You only have to ask my child. Remember these are not your battles. They are mine to fight through you and for you. Hold My hand and walk with Me. I will show You the way.”

“Lord, I don’t deserve You. I could never deserve You. But thank You.”

“You are most welcome. Now come, let’s us begin this good work.”


 

Are you in a dry season? Do you feel a distance from God? Do you find it hard to pray or read His Word?

From one who has recently been there, don’t wait until you feel spiritual. Don’t wait until you feel worthy or whole. Just open your mouth and talk to Him. Even if you just say His Name, talk to Him. Talk to God like as if you were a child. Read His Word. Pick a familiar passage, one that has brought you comfort before.

Do not delay in turning to Jesus. Do not give fear or pride one more second to grip your heart. Call out to the Giver of good gifts. Ask Him to pour His Living Water over your dry and parched soul. Then sit with Him and watch what He will do.

Your dry season will soon be saturated with His life-giving Love.

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Learning In The Hallway Instead Of The Spotlight

Such beautiful encouragement for those of us “hallway dwellers.” Love this!

Renee Griffin

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I propped the tote bag against my foot, leaned against the counter and checked the time on my phone. Only a few hours into the first day and the conference already exceeded my expectations, but the pace of activity sanded my nerves. Mental debate ensued.

Should I push forward to the next seminar or quietly slip back to my room for refreshing silence?

Solitude won the argument. Hungry and ornery feelings tipped the scale in favor of a few quiet moments alone with God and an icy, cold Coke.

I looked up to plan my escape route when she came into view. She smiled as she walked toward me.

“I think I know you from Twitter,” she’d said earlier in the lunch line as we filled our bowls with salad.

I only knew one other person in the sea of 800 women attending the event, so her greeting over the…

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The News I Can Finally Share

This time last year I was preparing for my first writing conference. I was finishing my first manuscript. Printing my first business cards. And learning how to do my first One Sheet.

I then experienced my first rejection, and first questioning of my dream to become an author.

Yet just a few months later—and only through God’s grace, mercy, and sovereignty—I was able to have my first phone call with a literary agent (and first freak out before said phone call). A few months after that first phone call, I was overjoyed to receive my first contract with the same literary agent (who I absolutely love!).

Then came my first phone call with an actual publishing company (and subsequent major freak out before said call!)

Along with those amazing firsts have come some other not so amazing firsts: my first terror inducing fear about not achieving my dream of becoming an author; my first paralyzing fear that I may actually become an author; the embarrassing realization that I had no idea about such things as point of view, perspective, or story arc—all proof of the fact that my background is in counseling, not writing. My background and lack of professional writing qualifications have continued to fuel an undercurrent of fear. Fear that causes me to perpetually think that surely someday someone is going to figure out I’m not really qualified to write!

But thankfully God’s calling trumps our qualifications.

So I sit here now still trying to absorb a huge and overwhelming first: my first publishing contract!

I have signed with Tyndale House Publishers (I still have to squeal when I write that!)

We got back to my parents house after being in Sanibel Island, FL for a week, and there in the mail was a packet I had been longing to see for weeks—longing to shout about for months.

I found out on May 3rd that Tyndale wanted to publish my book. That moment will forever be a sacred and precious memory for me. I sat in an amazed dumbfounded stupor as my agent told me the news. I thanked her profusely and then dropped to my knees in humbled awe. Tears flowed freely down my face has my arms lifted in worship of the One who has made all of this possible. I felt both significantly unworthy and profoundly loved at the same time. I sat there for an hour. Just taking it all in, remembering, worshipping, being present with the One who all of this is for, about and to. I wanted to shout the news, yet I also wanted to keep the moment private—just a grateful girl and her infinitely generous heavenly Father.

When the tears finally subsided I called my husband and then my parents. We laughed, we cried, we praised. Talking to my dad was especially moving as he was the first one to ever read a word of my book.

I started writing the book back in April of 2014. I would send him each chapter as I finished it, and he would read it and then ask me for more. He encouraged me to keep going, assuring me there was indeed a story here. My mom then took over the editing and proof-reading. Both of my parents were the only ones to read the manuscript before I sent it to my agent. Their support and prayers have been overwhelming.

It is understandable then when not 48 hours after finding out my book would be published, my world was turned upside down when I found out my dad needed immediate open heart surgery. We were told that without the surgery he could have a massive heart attack. Everything stopped. The joy that had permeated my heart, was replaced with fear like I have never known. (see Daddy’s Girl and Where We Are Now)

Life and death matters sure put things in perspective don’t they?

Suddenly, the dream that I had worked so hard for became a bargaining chip with God; “Lord, you can have it all back—the book, the contract, the dream—just let Daddy be ok.”

Of course, God doesn’t operate like that, but my heart was desperate and wanted to do something, anything.

I flew down to be with my dad, who insisted I keep following this path God has laid out for me. And after some of the most scary days of my life, my dad was released from the hospital and began the long road of recovery. He is getting stronger everyday and it has been a joy to be with him this past week.

In fact, he was the one who handed me the packet containing the written contract yesterday. The man who first taught me the power of words, the one who read each poorly written first chapter, the one who is still healing and recovering was the one to hand me my first publishing contract.

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Only God can orchestrate events like that!

I had started to get so frustrated that publishing paperwork takes so long. I had a verbal yes on May 3rd, but couldn’t publicly say anything until the paper contract had come. Everyday I checked the mail at home, longing, wishing the contract would be there. Yet, God knew all along that the moment would be so much sweeter shared with my parents.

I keep hoping to find enough words to convey the deep sense of thanksgiving I have in my heart, but words sometimes fail to convey certain things. I feel as though I will never be able to give God enough praise or thanksgiving for what He has done and is doing with this story of hope He has allowed me to write.

The book is scheduled for a summer 2018 release (which feels forever away, but I know will come very soon!) I will share more about the story as I am able.

I am excited and nervous; anxious and at peace; overwhelmed and overjoyed, humbled and grateful. But most of all I am so happy to publicly declare God’s overwhelming grace poured out on an undeserving but incredibly grateful girl. And I pray that He will continue to write His story through me.

To God alone be the glory!

Much love,

Jennifer Bleakley, author 😉

 

Other links that might be of interest: I am a WriterActively WaitingWhen You Don’t Know What You’re DoingGet Me Outta Here

For Erica

This post is a tribute to a woman who I have never met in person, but whose story has forever changed my own. Her name is Erica and she died yesterday.

Erica leaves behind three beautiful young children and a wonderful husband.

Her life was not easy, her burden was not lite. Yet she brought joy and laughter to so many, even up until the very end of her life here on this earth.

I never would have known Erica without God orchestrating events as only He can. There is so much about her life and legacy that I would love to share, but for today I simply want to share a letter I sent to her just eight days ago.

After learning of this brave young mother’s 4 year battle with cancer, our small woman’s community Bible study began praying diligently for her and her family. A few weeks later I felt God leading me to write to her about her fears of leaving her family, her anger at the situation, and her questions of whether or not her life even mattered.

I was a little nervous to send the letter. I didn’t want to make anything worse. Yet, a friend urged me to send it and I am so glad I did.

Erica sent me a message after reading it and said that more than anything else she hopes her life and her story will help even just one person.

So with that goal in mind I would like to share this letter and ask God to use it to speak to other’s hearts as well….to speak for Erica….to speak in honor of one whose life mattered greatly.

Hug your loved ones tight tonight. Tell them you love them. Show them you care about them. And thank God for every moment you have with them.

Much love,
Jen

Dear Erica,

I don’t know you but I pray for you often. I’ve never seen you but my eyes fill with tears, when I think of you. Tears, not of sorrow, but of joy. You have touched my heart so deeply. Your story has affected my own. I don’t know you, but I feel changed by you. Changed for the better. Changed in my desire to pray for those I don’t know. Changed in my passion for those who are hurting. Changed in my complacency—motivated to stop wasting time on meaningless pursuits and instead use that time to pray for others, to engage in meaningful activities with those I love and with those who need to know they are loved.

I only know a fraction of your story, and yet it has made a lasting impression on me.

I was told that you fear your life has not mattered, will not matter. Please know that is a lie—crafted and spoken by the author of lies. A lie meant to paralyze you, keep you captive, and steal your joy. A lie meant to destroy and diminish. A lie designed to keep you from discovering the truth.

Truth. What a beautiful word. Truth. Life giving, life sustaining truth. Truth – God’s Word revealed to humans; things as they truly are; things as they should truly be.

Truth shines its light into darkness and the darkness flees.

Lies hold captive. Truth frees.
Lies destroy. Truth makes new.
Lies defeat. Truth builds up.

Truth says:
You matter because you were made by the Author of Truth.
You matter because you are loved by Love Himself.
Your life matters because it was given to you by The Creator.
Your life matters because it is your story—which does not end when you draw your last breath. No, this life is just the prelude to the life to come. This life here on earth is what allows us to enter into life as it should be, life with Him.

You matter because you were made by God, redeemed by Jesus, and indwelled with the Holy Spirit.

Your life will go on through those you have loved and you have loved you. Your legacy will remain on this earth, affecting people long after you have moved on to Perfect Life.

Legacy. A word much like truth. Legacy—a lasting memory. A part of our hearts we leave behind.

Your legacy is your family. Your husband. Your precious children. Your WALK sisters whom you have touched and encouraged. Your friends. Your prayers.

Did you know that prayers never die? The Bible describes prayer as incense that continually flows before God (Revelation 5:8). The prayers you have prayed over your children will last for eternity, continually being brought before God. Your prayers will never end, never die, never diminish.

Every time you pray for your children and husband to have comfort and strength, you are leaving a legacy. Every time you cry out to God on their behalf, you are leaving a legacy.

Maybe you are angry with God. Maybe you are confused. That is ok. It is ok. He knows. He understands. He loves. He holds. He is big enough and strong enough to take it.

Job questioned God. David questioned God—he got down right angry with God sometimes. Moses questioned God. But you know what? God took it. He listened. He loved. And He helped them.

Sweet Erica, you have been wounded by those who should have spoken loving truth to you. They failed you. Medicine has failed you. Health has failed you. But God has not failed you.

The One who wept outside of Lazarus’ tomb, weeps over your illness. Sin seeks to destroy what God creates. Sin, sickness, pain were not God’s plan. He could stop them, yes. But He does not. This is hard to understand, hard to accept. But it is the way of life…for now. Instead of stopping sin, instead of healing all sickness and righting all wrongs, God allows it for awhile. Yet, He does not allow it without first holding us through it. He allows the storms to swell, but He holds us firm through them. Just as He is holding you. And just as He is holding your children and your husband.

And oh how He surely longs for the day when He will redeem all that sin has destroyed.

He is with you even now. He is using you even now. He loves you even now.

I wish I could do something practical for you like laundry or cleaning or fix your family a meal. But since I cannot, I will offer you what I can: my prayers, my love and my friendship. Isn’t it amazing how God can unite two hearts who have never met or spoken. I am so thankful for you!

It is an honor to pray for you and to “know” you in some way. Please know that you are loved by many, and by God most of all.

And you are being prayed for—you and your entire family. You are not alone—never ever alone.

Until we meet in Heaven,

Jen

  Your Life Matters