Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, discernment, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's will

Where the heck am I going?

I’ve always had pretty good direction–I see maps in my head. I like to get my bearings and understand where I am in order to navigate where I am going. I get the shakes when I am just following a crowd. My husband will tell you that I am all about backroads and finding the faster way.

“The faster way” has gotten me in trouble a few times. It reminds me of a trip to London when I was 25. Long story short, due to my mom breaking her ankle, I took my parent’s place on a senior adult tour of England, Scotland and Wales (thankfully my good friend Amber also went). There are many stories from this trip including a stalker that I naively picked up, but that one is for another time.

Now, for you, youngins, this was before you could get walking and driving directions by phone. I didn’t even have a phone on this trip. We were trying to get to a show very quickly using the Underground, and I basically was leading the way on directions with a lot with people following. Which lead me to the brilliant shortcut… Picture it, a winding staircase from the Underground that wound up probably 10 flights of stairs (that I thought would be 2 flights)–with twenty 65-80-year-olds behind me. The map did not show topography…it just showed distance. So, my “shortcut’ almost sent 5 adults into cardiac arrest. Not my finest moment.

At twenty-five, I was coming out of a season where I felt directionless in every way. I had landed on a plan and was in grad school for school counseling while in a serious long distance relationship with Greg. I thought that getting a plan for what I was going to do would lead me into understanding who I was. We easily confuse that as humans, huh?

Looking back with what I know now, it makes sense that I was overcome with making a decision with so many choices before me. As an Enneagram 7, I love spontaneity and new adventures and loathe a plan that buckles me in. However, the world, my parents, and all the little ladies from my hometown were continually asking me the question “what are you doing with your life?” I felt the weight of deciding the rest of the path of life right then and there from career to marriage, and I did not have ONE clue which direction of the 3000 ways I could go was right. My heart is beating faster thinking about those weird conversations I had from about twenty-two to twenty-six.

The “right” part was the thought in which I was stuck. I felt I needed a distinct calling into something to do it.

What would the 43-year old Jen tell the 22 or 25 year old Jen?

  1. It is going to be okay…apart from the marriage choice, these decisions on jobs or cities or careers are not going to make or break or DEFINE your life. And, even in the marriage choice, God is gracious with both of you.
  2. Pursue God and be in His word and with authentic people on the same journey. You are going to meet some amazing friends that will struggle with you, encourage you, stretch you.
  3. You are messy. You tend toward depression. You do not have to be the image of that 10-year-old girl that does everything right to be praised. The best growth and beauty will come out as you share your brokenness and lean into your Gracious Father.
  4. Girl, you are going to try lots of new things. You will paint, sing, speak, write. And, don’t throw up in your mouth, but you are going to be a pastor’s wife as one of your roles along the journey. Breathe…you are going to be okay with it.
  5. You are going to learn how to study God’s word deeply. You are going to grasp and dig deep into the power of the gospel, and you will be transformed and taste greater freedom than you can imagine. In fact, instead of drowning in your feelings, start pursuing that now!!
  6. Life is not about your happiness. Happiness is fickle and a shadow in life. You will learn, through much pain that I will not disclose at this time, that the secret to life is being content in the Lord. In plenty and in want, in sickness (which will come) and in health, in laughter and in tears, in gain and in loss…your roots are going to grow deep into Him. It is going to be really good.
  7. It doesn’t matter your job or career, Jen. I know now it seems it does…but you are going to be you and minister to others with God’s love wherever you are. He is in control–breathe. He is going to take you on many adventures, and you will get to experience new challenges in each season. Be open to the new and do the small things of faithfulness in the midst.
  8. Remember this: the people who have a plan and seem to have conquered adulthood are just as lost inside as you are. Their outside “direction” may look together, but on the inside, they might be feeling the burn of walking up 10 flights of stairs looking for a shortcut. We all are in need. We all struggle.

The verse I was meditating on this morning: “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thess 3:5

Wherever you are on the journey, this is my prayer for you.

Posted in candida, Food, God's sovereignty and goodness, healing, no dairy, no gluten, no sugar, Uncategorized

Wake Up

Do you remember those moments when your parents got your attention as a child?  They asked for your eyes and took your chin in their hands to direct your gaze, and you knew they meant business.  There was a sense of heightened awareness of their authority but also awareness of their deep love and care.  That has been a picture of me and the Lord in these last few months.  He has taken my chin in His hands and literally turned my neck in a different direction awakening parts of my heart that have been dormant.

I had NO clue the lostness you can feel as a mom of young littles–especially if they have any heightened needs.  Every moment (even in sleep) is dedicated to tending to the physical and emotional needs of another, and it is a learn-as-you-go gig.

Most of these last 4 years, I feel like I have been in survival mode–especially the last 3 (pregnancy and 2 years with 2).  This past year has included one event after another of physical sickness or emotional needs for our family.  Several people we know have made jokes about our lives–“can one more thing happen to the Pinkners?”   I am tired, and I have not taken good care of myself.  It was the “do anything to survive and not fall apart” plan.   You take one thing at a time, and you keep on going because you have to be there for your children (the mantra of parents throughout the ages!).

Since last Winter, I had been experiencing hot flashes where I sweat profusely about 4 times a day.  These were “get out of my face, I’m going to die, I don’t care who you are…” hot flashes.  I was also extremely fatigued and dealing with depression.  (This was most likely due to the fact I did not sleep between 1 and 5 am most days–good ole insomnia).  I also began having aches and pains in my body, hands and feet that I blamed on 40–the age I USED to think was ancient!  Did I mention that I developed a high temper and a continual bad mood?  I was carrying more weight than ever before and could not budge the scales when I tried to improve.  Blood work did not show anything, but my gut knew there was something really funky going on within my body.  I dealt with it limping through until God took my chin and directed me to research on “Dr. Google.”

I landed on Candida yeast overgrowth.  What I found was that people who have had a lot of antibiotics (hello ear infections, tonsillitis, urinary infections galore in the last 35 years!) and who have been under extreme stress with cortisol released can tend to have systems that are way out of whack.  The good bacteria has been killed in the gut and then yeast (that is there in everyone) begins to grow more AND it feeds on sugar.  Sugar is in so many things (and in that cortisol released from stress).  Even the “well-meaning” things I was eating turned into sugar in digestion.  This Candida overgrowth then begins multiplying and will affect different systems of the body.

What’s the cure?  Diet.  No sugar, no dairy, no gluten (not even fruit).  This is meant to starve the feeding Candida.  What have I found?   Sugar is not our friend–especially not my friend.  I thought that the way I was feeling was just “how it was going to be the older I get.”  Cloudy mind, depression, anxiety, fatigue, aches and pains began to wane after I had the “break-up with sugar” headache for a couple of weeks.  I actually looked forward to the day.  I can literally look back over the last year of my life and see a darkness over me–it was affecting my outlook and my thinking. I was not sleeping, so I was not waking to spend time with God.  I literally just crawled through the day almost in a stupor.  I remember telling my dear friend that I kind of hated life–that is not me at all.

I am still fighting this demon of Candida, and I thank God for literally rescuing me from myself.  I was walking toward self-destruction, and He loves me and is faithful to me even when I do not pursue Him.  See, this is not about food–it’s about so much more than that.  I did not change my diet because I am disciplined.  I did not change my diet to lose weight.  I did not change my diet as a resolution.  The Lord showed me that I have no other choice if I wanted to live as He had made me to.  He is the One who has given me the strength each step–through Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I literally cannot go back to the way things were.  He has shown me the lesser things that I trusted in to get me through the moment.  Now, I am able to see with greater hope and plan with greater hope.  I can think on truth again; I want to think on truth again.

I share this to encourage those who have weird health things going on–or even fatigue or headaches, etc.  Food can be a healer–look beyond the box.  We are our only advocate and our children’s only advocates…a lot of times you have to research on your own and listen to your gut if you think something is not right.  I could go on and on, but I will leave it here for now.

 

Posted in authenticity, discipline, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Remember

Life is hard. We forget the good at times. We forget where and how we have grown. We forget friends who were faithful along the way. We can major on our feelings of the crisis or the mundane we are in.
This is the human condition. That is why God reminded the children of Israel over and over and over in his word of their story and His faithfulness in their story.
When I was in the deep throws of infertility the first time(…thinking we would have no children and wrestling with all my emotions of that fact), I took time to write my life story in my journal. I was at the beach in January by myself. For hours I poured through the pages of my mind remembering joy and sorrow and God’s faithfulness. Many times I would say out loud “OH YEAH–I totally forgot that fruit or that growth or that miracle!”
This morning, as I was praying, I remembered that journal. I need to find it and reread it–TODAY. We are forgetful and are often driven by our feelings of pain in the moment.
We each have huge miracles and pictures of grace in our lives that we easily dismiss when the next pain comes along–just like Israel when they got hungry and tired right after God had parted the Red Sea.
Let’s take time to remember so that we may run this race with endurance.

Posted in advent, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, grace, healing, Hymns, sin, the gospel, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

When blind hearts see

I hate that thing in us, in me, that thinks we know better than God.  The voice that says, “yeah, but I see another angle.”  “Just this one time I have it figured out.”  “I deserve better.” It gets us in a whole heap of trouble.

That trouble becomes the state of our heart health and our sight and our hearing.  We become blind to what reality is–we even begin seeing illusions.  We hear what we want to hear instead of actually what is said.  We become hardened to things that matter and strive to fulfill senseless passions.  We destroy ourselves and the people around us in one blow and sometimes with little blows that wrecks relationships over time.

I hate it–hate it.  Yet, why do I fall into it more often than not.  It’s subtle, but the final blows are catastrophic.  Marriages wrecked, children disillusioned and neglected, relationships destroyed, hearts jailed in bitterness.  Three little letters–SIN.  A billion consequences–for ourselves and those around us and our offspring.  Did I say I hate it?  I obviously do not hate it enough not to die more to it daily and be on guard against the enemy that is out to steal, kill and destroy me and those around me.

This morning, I remember a phrase from scripture…”Those who are walking in darkness have seen a great light.”  “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

This sin thing is not new–it’s been around since close to the beginning.  But, so has a promise of rescue–rescue from ourselves and our own brand of “wisdom.”

This rescue comes in the most unlikely way–the God of everything condescending to us in the form of a baby–humble, helpless, feeling the arrows of the collective sin of the world.  Born in filth, cold, no fanfare.  Growing, serving, perplexing those who seem to have it down pat.  Turning conventional wisdom upside down to introduce real wisdom, real life, real hope.  Taking the blows in a horrible death meant for me, for you, for those who hated him.  Making a way to enter our hearts in relationship that was an impossibility on our part. Holding the promise of real joy and life and peace out to us saying “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  Asking us to trust Him in faith that we might turn from our sin, our way and put our faith in His work on our behalf.

“O Holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us we pray.

Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today

O Come to us, Abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!”

What a privilege to know Jesus–our Hope, God with Us.  My prayer is that I, you, we pray to be made new–to place our faith in the One who gives abundant life, who pardons our sin, who gives us the strength to follow Him in this dark world.  Who, in the midst of the messes we make (in ourselves, our families, our friendships), asks us to trust Him and His ways–to follow His wisdom, to be quick to be truthful about our “junk” and to love with His love.  It is not too late…

Posted in discipline, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, prayer, rest, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God

Hope In One Thing

We use the word “hope” often.  I hope my child grows to love Jesus.  I hope my husband experiences healing here with his rheumatoid arthritis.  I hope that you have a good day.  I hope you enjoy the holiday season.  I hope that I live fully to glorify Christ.

The only place to put my hope “IN” is God–Jesus–the Holy Spirit.  Where does my help come from?–from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth.  If my husband suffers the rest of this life from RA (and thus, I feel that suffering) and my child rebels and never knows Jesus and I see unspeakable tragedy–My hope is still to be found IN God.  He is the only stabliizer, the only True One.  “The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of our God stands forever.”

It’s totally okay to hope for things…but our only hope “In” can be found in Christ.  Everything else fails and fades and disappoints.  He IS MY ROCK AND MY HOPE.

Posted in authenticity, gifts and talents, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, thankfulness, trusting God

What If?

What if we got what we wanted when we wanted it?  That’s what we demand…

 

What if I had gotten pregnant in the first months we tried and we never went through the years of infertility?  How would my life be different?  How would the world be different?

If that…then I would not have been able to spend concentrated time with my Dad in his last year of life.  I would not have been able to help my mom when he was in his last stages of Parkinson’s where his brain and body were greatly hurt.  I would not have been there to spend the last two weeks of life with him in the hospital.  I would have missed some really rich time.

If that….then I would not have had time and energy available to begin discipling girls.  Then, I would not have gone on the journey to start Women’s Discipleship Concepts.  I would have missed out on some beautiful opportunities to know and walk with many young women.  Retreats and trips and lunches would have been much more difficult.  I would have never undertaken this as a new mom…I know myself.

If that…then I would have missed out on the opportunity to grow as a writer–I probably would have a mom blog instead of a blog like this.  With the time to sit with my pain and to learn to trust God, I have grown to trust Him and to share that journey with others through writing and speaking.  I also would have missed out on the opportunity to write curriculum and Bible studies for Women’s Discipleship Concepts.  Big gaps of time were needed to concentrate that kids do not create:).

If that…then I would have missed out on growing as an artist.  I would not have had the time or exact pain that creates that opportunity and risk for creativity.  In that time, I have learned to share my work and be a bit more confident.  He has birthed many paintings from the things I have learned in the whole process of pain.  I would NEVER have made an Etsy page and sold paintings.

If that…then I would have missed out knowing some pretty special women who have gone through the journey before me and behind me.  Depth and maturity come through pain that is filtered through God’s truth.  It is a privilege to call these women friends.

If that…then I would have missed out on knowing God the way I do now…He plunged me to the depths and  He became my only hope.  I would like to say that I would chose this on my own, but I like comfort too much.  I have truly seen the “joy of the Lord” as my strength.  I have tasted and seen the Lord is good.  I also have seen that the Truth is really true.

If that…then I would have missed out on coming together with Greg in the same way.  God used this to strengthen our marriage–to sharpen both of us–to mature us as followers of Christ–to prepare us for disappointments in parenting.  He became my partner.

If that…then I would have missed out on doing Precepts Bible study with some special women.  In this, I learned how to study God’s word inductively.  This has changed how I read and study the Bible.  I also have written several inductive studies to help others learn to study God’s word.  So rich to know His word more.

If that…then I would have missed the opportunity to serve in the same way by leading worship.  This created time for me to grow in that and serve weekly for several years.  After leading with a child and without, I see the time commitment it takes when you are parenting as well.

God has done many things that I wanted to be in different timing…but I am reminded, when I stop and think, that He works ALL things for the good…even and especially pain.  He knows better than me….period.

In the last few weeks my mind has been buzzing with all these expectations (see previous blog).  I think I have been wanting to continue in all of these things above that I could create and know before children.  I realize that I cannot produce at the same rate as before.  God sovereignly set aside the time for me to grow in so many areas, and he has called me to focus in a couple of areas now.  In this season, I do not have the time to paint and write as I had before.  Both of those things take longer periods of time with a clear heart and mind.  That is just not available as I have this precious boy to parent and love.  There will probably be another season where I can continue to grow in those areas.  I am called to pour into and love young women that God has given me to lead.   I want to do that well–to love well and speak the Truth with grace.  I have less unscheduled time to sit with the Lord and be taught and filled so that I may then pour out into others.  However, I cannot let things that are not priorities in the now become part of my expectations for myself.  I have to be realistic.  I cannot keep producing art to sell on Etsy the way I want.  I do not have time to write Bible studies.  I cannot participate in extracurricular Bible studies in this season.  In order to love my husband and child and ministry girls well, I have to say goodbye to the beautiful growth of last season and to look to what God has for me in this season.  I love Him so much…may I trust Him in the letting go right now to embrace how He calls me in faithfulness right now.  I do not want my mind to be clouded with unrealistic expectations that blind me from the opportunities to serve and grow in front of me.

My mind has been so filled that I have been ineffective.  I want to pair down what is important…Loving Him with everything and loving my neighbor as myself.  If I seemed frazzled next time you see me…remind me of this!

 

Posted in discipleship, discipline, doctrine, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, infertility, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, trusting God

Feelings, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Feelings…

In the last few days I have had several conversations that remind me that our feelings can be tricky.  We have feelings for a reason.  They help us express joy and enjoy life.  They can be exhilirating.  They often can alert us to something big going on in our heart and relationships.  Feelings are not bad in themselves.  The danger comes when we elevate feelings and experience to god status.

Think about relationships…in the beginning the feeling is like flying.  Studies even find that chemicals are released in the brain that are euphoric at the beginning of relationships.  So fun.  But then, what happens when they go away?  Some panic thinking their love is not true.  Some try to recreate that same feeling and when it fails they are despondent.  Some move on to the next relationship to capture that feeling again.  Some get married and fight a new battle of feelings.  Those who push through and learn see that love deepens and matures over time.  They may not experience euphoria, but they enjoy the person and trust is built and friendship is deepened and they are fully known, scars and all.  There is a peace and reward to that kind of commitment.

A marriage, over time, has peaks and valleys, but with the goal in mind, much growth can occur.  Endurance through those highs and lows and commitment and focus bring maturity and intimacy.  This can be likened to our relationship with God.

At first, when our hearts are made new, it is so exhilirating.  We are new creatures learning a new life and so full of love.  We see God so many places.  We want others to know Him.  We hear Him.  Like a child, we grow quickly because there is so much to learn.  We long for more…and then something happens and we may lose that “feeling.”

I remember as a teenager and a newer Christian looking at adults and thinking they didn’t get it.  Mind you, some of them really did not know Jesus, but some did and did not have the same “passionate” response as me.  I made a judgement on them.  I discounted their faith.  Now, I am on the other side of that (twice the age I was then).  I understand a little more.

Think about adulthood.  Once you hit a certain age, your growth changes from outward to inward (at least we hope).  The early and mid twenties are about finding out who you are and asserting that relationally in the world.  I work with young women everyday who have hit the wall of adulthood and say “is this what all this is about?”  They easily get depressed.  It is hard.  They feel lost.  I remember those exact feelings.  There’s the F word–feelings.

Part of my purpose is to point them to truth and to bring them to bring their feelings underneath the truth.  As a person, if you do not learn to do this, you will continually be seeking the next thing that will create good feelings within you.  This could be a new spouse or relationship, a new job, a new city, another kid, new friends, walking away from faith, walking to a new faith, self-help, drugs, status, material things, vacations.  I could go on and on.

In our relationship with God, He wants us to know Him despite our circumstances, in and even despite of our feelings.  Many think when they lose that first feeling and passion of the early days in their walk with God that they have lost Him.  He may be teaching us not to trust or rely on feeling but Him.  He may want us to seek Him and find that He is true even in sadness.  We all have seen people who are so driven by experience that they are always chasing the next new thing in Christianity because that’s where people are really “knowing” God.  A lot of times that can be mysticism without God at all.  We can make our religious or spiritual experiences an idol.  He will not stand for that.

God is so much wiser than we make Him to be.  His word says that those who endure to the end will be saved.  This life is not a sprint but a marathon.  Ask runners if the whole marathon is a high–they will tell you there are definite highs but there are moments that they want to quit and do not think they can make it.

God, in His word, calls us to trust in Him and not our own understanding (feelings), and He will direct our path.  He calls us to mature in Him, to grow in intimacy just like a marriage.  As we mature, change comes in long and often painful periods of trust.  To become more like Him, it involves the shedding of and dying to our sin.  This does not feel good because we have come to trust it (sin) and treasure it more than Him.  If we cannot process our feelings and bring them under His truth and choose to trust His truth even when we do not feel it, we will run away to try to get a better feeling somewhere else (in marriage, we call this adultery).  We will miss some of the richest parts of knowing who He really is–not what we’ve made Him to be.

The biggest places God has refined me to know Him despite and even in my feelings are marriage and the struggle with infertility.  In His grace, He continually called me to make a decision to study and meditate on His word.  Was this easy? No.  I wanted to run…and at times I did run to get a “high” somewhere else.  However, in His grace and love, I submitted to His truth and chose to trust His sovereignty.  Oh what a deeper joy…even such that I am thankful for the time of infertility for I would never have known Him in such a way.  Faith is submission even when we are sad or angry or all over the place with our feelings.  Faith is the submission and believing in His truth when we do not feel Him.  We make this decision everyday.  I pray that you not give up or run to something that seems easier or makes you “feel” better for the moment.  Intimacy and maturity in Him do not rely on the circumstance of the moment but continually meditating on His truth and who He is and choosing to place your trust there for the long haul.  I would not trade the long marriage for the false beginning high, and I pray that I continue to remember that.