When my daughter’s broken heart brought joy to my own

Tears streamed down her lightly freckled cheeks. Blue eyes swam in emotion—an emotion she couldn’t quite identify. As she read, she occasionally whispered his name, followed by the question “why?” She paused to wipe her eyes and then continued reading. As repulsed as she was riveted. Finally, from her stool at the kitchen counter, she looked over to where I was sitting at the table.

“Mama, did you know he did this?” she asked with breathless horror. “Did you know they did all of that to him?”

Seeing the tears in my little girl’s eyes made it difficult for me to speak. “Yes,” I whispered, nodding solemnly.

“But why? Why would they do that to him?” she demanded. “How could they do that to him?”

She looked down at the precious book open before her—to the pages containing words written in the color of the innocent blood that was shed.

“And how could he let them do that to him?” she asked, touching the pages she had just read.

“It was the only way we could be with him,” I answered, feeling the weight of the moment deep in my soul.

She knew the answer—had given the answer countless times. But this day was different. Something seismic had shifted in her young life.

This day, the truth which she had heard others speak of so many times—truth which had taken residence in her head—was now, as she read it for herself, being etched deep into her heart.

“He loves us that much,” she said, her words full of a new awareness.

Her nine-and-a-half year old hands caressed the pages of the Bible. Her head bowed in reverent acceptance of his gift.

“I love him so much,” she said, allowing her tears to flow freely—effectively releasing my own.

I went to her. We hugged each other and cried—cried for the pain and humiliation our Savior endured on our behalf. Cried tears of joy that because of his sacrifice we have Hope and a future. Cried because our tears are often the conduit which carries truth from head to heart.

My little girl had verbally trusted in Jesus many years before. She has known that he died for her, rose again, and is the only way to the Father for sometime. She has been his child since the day she cried over her sin—her awareness of her sin—and asked Jesus to take it away so she could be with Him. And yet the day she sat at the kitchen counter, the roots of her faith pushed their way into her heart.

For it was that moment, the moment when she read the words for herself—when she allowed Jesus to speak directly to her—that her faith became rooted in Him. Not a faith in my faith. Not a faith in a Sunday school lesson. But a faith deeply rooted in the person of Jesus. A relationship with the One who endured the cross for her.

Her faith became a relationship.

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A relationship with the same Savior who stands at each of our kitchen counters (or anywhere we are) and invites us in—into his family, into his arms, into a relationship with him. Can you hear him? Can you hear him whisper your name? Can you see the scars he bears—scars which testify to the depths he went to have a relationship with you?

Relationship.

That’s what Jesus longs to have with us. That is why he endured the cross. That is why he conquered sin and death. That is why the first words spoken on the newly risen Savior’s lips was a name.

“Mary,” he spoke softly, invitingly.

Her name serving as a place holder for my name. For your name.

Can you hear your name on his lips?

He calls even now.

The One who endured the cross on Friday is the same who triumphed over death on Sunday. All so He could have a relationship with us.

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He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Much love,
Jen

The Power of One

One.

The solitary number just never seems big enough, does it?

One potato chip? Hardly!!
One dollar? Barely enough to buy a soda anymore.
One day of vacation? You can’t even get fully relaxed!

I am so quick to dismiss one, often feeling as though it’s lack reflects my own. After all, in a culture of excess where worth is often measured in quantity, one hardly seems worth noticing.

And yet over and over again we see in the Bible, where God delighted in calling, in sending, in rescuing just one. 

With all the heartbreaking news recently, I have been so overwhelmed at what I could possibly do? I mean, who am I to help a country in crisis, half a world away? Who am I to offer assistance to those whose lives have been turned upside while worshipping on Palm Sunday? How can I affect any substantial change?

As I wrestled with these feelings over the past few weeks, God began whispering through the pages of His word. Over and over again I would hear the whisper of “one.” I would see Jesus ministering to one, I would read of God calling one. I would look around the world in which we live and see glimpses of lives forever changed by one.

For the truth is:

We might not be able to save the world, but we can make a difference in the life of one person!

One is powerful to the one whose life is changed.

One is important to the one affected.

One is valuable to the God who created that one.

Earthly awards and accolades may not be given to those who affect change in just one, but that doesn’t mean that touching the life of one is not notable or important. For not only is a life changed, but that changed life will most likely influence change another and another. And suddenly one becomes much larger.

And while crusades, sold-out concerts, and massive fundraising events are great–and while millions of views, thousands of followers and hundreds-of-thousands likes can affect great change, I believe the greatest change, the most lasting change, comes from one person connecting to another person and saying—whether through voice, post, or actions:

“You matter. You are seen. You are loved.”

As I try to wrap my brain around what I can do to help a broken world, and as I pursue a writing career, I can get so caught up in numbers – the numbers of people hurting as well as the lack of numbers indicating that I am affecting any kind of change. But what God is continually, and patiently, showing me, is that He delights just as much in one life changed as He does in thousands. For while Jesus taught and fed the 5,000, He also discipled twelve, and opened His arms to the “ones.” He took time to see an outcast Samaritan woman; He made time to counsel a confused Jewish leader; He reached out to a hated tax collector; and made Himself available to countless other “ones.”

So while I doubt that anything I do will solve the world’s problems, I will focus on asking God to help me make a difference in the life of just one.

For one is important and worthy.

One is beautiful.

One is powerful.

And one can be enough.

You might not be able to save the world, but you can make a difference in the life of one person!

Much love,
Jen

Work in progress; please pardon the mess

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” Romans 7:15

I love that Paul penned those words, and I am so thankful that God chose to include them in the Bible. For those two sentences perfectly encapsulate my day to day life.

  • I want to read my Bible, but I scroll through social media instead; knowing full well it will only leave me feeling empty and less than.
  • I want to spend time with godly women, but instead I bow to my to-do list and cancel, claiming there is just no time; knowing full well that my heart desperately needs the encouragement, accountability and blessing I would receive from those other women.
  • I want to serve the Lord, but I allow my fear to keep me stuck in the status quo; knowing full well that I was created for more.
  • I want to shout from the rooftops that I have found love, joy and acceptance just as I am from the GREAT I AM, yet I allow insecurities and fear to silence my voice; knowing full well that my silence may cost someone else peace and life.

Yes, I understand Paul’s upside down logic very well. But praise God, I also know that Jesus came to free me from myself—from my sinful upside nature. And that because of God’s grace, and the work of Jesus on the cross, I am no longer lost in my sin—condemned by my weakness and wanderings.

But because the One who lived a perfect life, died in my place and rose again lives—because He lives—I am free from condemnation. I am free from my sin. I am free from…myself.

I will war with sin until I stand before Him, but in the meantime I stand, not as one guilty and condemned, but as one already free and beloved….just as I am—an adored work in progress!

Don’t live trapped in sin that has already been defeated! Turn to the One who triumphed and broke those chains, once and for all. For He stands even now, arms open wide, waiting, longing…for you. 

Maybe today you simply need to hear, or be reminded, that you are loved. You are chosen. You are wanted by Love Himself.

Much love,
Jen

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A Creed Worth Reading (and memorizing!)

My dear friend and mental health champion, Aimee Elizabeth Caverly, has written a Creed for Mental Wellness. Having struggled with mental illness for years, Aimee knows first hand that hope in the midst of blinding darkness is possible! She is a living testimony that healing can happen and that a diagnosis does not define you. She is only and solely defined by the value and worth she has in Jesus and as a child of God. I hope you will take a minute to read this powerful creed. You can find it at her website:

http://www.jesusdefined.com/?p=841#comment-440

Much love,
Jen

What one little girl taught me about real worship

(I witnessed the following scene at church several weeks ago, and it has stayed with me ever since. It’s amazing what children can teach us and reveal to us about God and how to worship Him!)

She sang with abandon. Her blond curls bouncing as she poured her heart, soul, and fourth-grade self into the song. She stood among a crowd of elementary students turned temporary worship leaders. The front of the room was full of eager singers, most adding hand motions and bright smiles to the music filling the large room where we were gathered for music time. The song was upbeat, the lyrics familiar, the singer in the video well-known. The atmosphere was charged with excitement and joy. As the last few bars of music faded and the next video was queued, the crowd of young worship leaders turned toward the screen to see what was next. Amy Grant’s melodic voice began singing “Thy Word,” a song which made all the teachers over the age of 30 smile with memories of long ago. Of youth camps and worship nights. Of big hair, and the absence of social media. Yet as our smiles grew, our young singers began to sit. Unfamiliar with the song, unsure of the lyrics, uncomfortable now being front and center. One by one the kids left their self-appointed posts. One by one they sat down.

All except Lydia.

Lydia stood, although the discomfort she was feeling was obvious in her reddening cheeks. Her gaze searched the crowd desperate for someone to join her. Her blue eyes pleaded with friends to come and sing with her. A few looked at her with longing, but they did not stand. Lydia’s knees bent in defeat. If no one else was going to stand, maybe she too should sit. Yet, just a heartbeat later, her knees straightened. Her desire to stand, to sing—to lead—was too strong. And so she took a deep gulp of air, closed her eyes and sang—even though she didn’t know all the words. Even though the hand motions felt somewhat awkward. But before Amy had gotten through the chorus, Lydia had opened her eyes. The look on her face revealing that she wasn’t singing for anyone in that room. The radiance on her face revealing that she was not concerned with what anyone in the room thought, apart from One. For Lydia was clearly and only singing for the God she loves, and who adores her. She was standing for her heavenly Father—and for Him only. 

And then, as if drawn towards her joy-filled presence—as if craving what she was experiencing—one by one, others found their way back to the front of the room. One by one they stood. One by one they sang. One by one they followed Lydia’s example.

There weren’t as many as before, but that didn’t bother Lydia one bit, because she wasn’t singing for them. She wasn’t standing for them. No, she would have stood there by herself throughout that entire song, because she had discovered something powerful. Something God longs for each one of us to discover and embrace:

Real worship has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with Him.

We need not fear anything—not looking foolish, not standing alone, not having it all figured out. We need only stand and sing and live for Him. And Him alone!

Oh, how I long to follow this young girl’s example! How I long to be more like Lydia, and how I pray that she never ever changes!

Real worship has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with HIM

Much love,
Jen