community, grace, New year, parenting, thankfulness, trusting God, Uncategorized

2018 Year-End Ebenezer Awards

My counselor often says–“take time to write that down, Jen.”

How can we so easily forget the beautiful provisions and lessons that are so life changing? We have amnesia of the moment.  Whatever is right in front of us gets our attention.

So, I am writing it down–“blogging it forth”–“setting the Ebenezer up” to remind me of moments of thankfulness this year.                                                   It has been a huge year in my heart–growth-a-palooza with a side of a long way to go.  

In NO particular order, the Ebenezers go to…

*A reentry back into writing.  My soul was missing the way that writing makes me dig and process.  For a 7 on the Enneagram (which tries to avoid all pain), you can see this is a healthy practice for me.  I can take myself WAY LESS SERIOUSLY than I did when I started this blog 11 years ago January 1.  

*517VADWLEqL._AC_UL160_514-Br1DhSL._AC_UL160_The Enneagram.  Seriously, I think in terms of these 9 numbers now.  If you are thinking…”oh yeah I took this cute little test on that,” Stop. Right. Now. and get “The Road Back to You” by Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron.  There are several good podcasts too! A test will not suffice.  This is a helpful tool for understanding and growth!

*The growth of new and seasoned Business Partners on the Rodan + Fields journey.  It has been exciting and such a joy to encourage and grow with these women and my team all over the country.  Even more than ever, I realize that God expanded ministry opportunities through RF instead of closing me R&F(1of1)-59off to them with the disbanding of Women’s Discipleship Concepts 4 years ago.  The highlight was a retreat for some of my directs in April. It ended up, through the Spirit’s leading, to be a time of rest in the Lord, an encouragement for souls on the journey, and time of forming a deep community.

*Puzzles:  I am so thankful that I got a “hankering” for a puzzle one day, and the rest is documented in a big pile of puzzle boxes in our downstairs bedroom.   I know I am a nerd.  Yep.It is a practice that makes me set aside time to just be.  That is sooo important for our hearts, mommas.  (and, PS, I am donating some to an assisted living–in case you think I need to add “puzzle hoarder” to my profile.)


IMG_5146

*The freedom and financial ability to do some fun trips with the boys AND do Boat Club as a family. A little Chattanooga trip to explore for Spring Break, A full-fledged vacation to the beach for a week (first legit vacation we have paid for), some Smokey Mountain fun for Fall Break at Dollywood, Season Passes to Dollywood…  I want presence, experiences, and adventure with my boys.  Who knew that everything would be so expensive???  This has been a HUGE blessing from my continued growth in my RF business.

IMG_6961

*A special trip with my Mom and Sister to go to my nephew’s wedding in Spokane, Washington.  What a beautiful part of the country.  I am so Thankful for time with family.

I loved the enriching conversations that this trip brought with strangers.  I am reminded that God wants us to engage the world with His Beauty and Truth, and we get so bogged down with what’s right in front of us that we miss out.

*My oldest son’s Kindergarten and 1st-grade year…I was so scared.  Sensory Processing Disorder is no joke, and we have worked so hard to help him build resiliency and coping skills. I am beyond thankful for our school, the wonderful teachers and community, our OT, ac6646139525ea749b261b878deb0577Mrs. Kathy, the children’s ministry at our church, and family friends that have encouraged our little guy so much.  He is a different kid than when we started this journey over four years ago.  The motto around our house is “you can do hard things!”  Including the parenting part for Greg and me.  There was a HUGE marker in this journey in December as we got to reflect on how much growth has come in our buddy–HUGE thankfulness to God!

*RF Convention in New Orleans.  It was a beautiful and fun week with 30 members of our team, countless dear friends that are sideline sisters, and friends from all over the country that I have made on this journey.   It was so fun to walk the stage and go to spectacular parties.  Dressing up is fun, and I rarely do that in life! However, It was a IMG_9351monumental week in my heart for none of those reasons.  God intricately brought restoration to so many parts of me, and I straight up was overwhelmed by His Fathering, His pursuit, and His deep love for me.    Someday I might tell the bigger story, but I do not feel released to yet.  I am reminded that He can use anything anywhere to do His work in us.  Hilariously, I had a worshipful time in a city known for its darkness reminding me that His light pierces through our darkness.

IMG_8481IMG_8484*Y’all…I did a scary thing that I dreamed about.  I got the opportunity and encouragement from my friend and business partner, Lindsey, and I pressed go LIVE on a training platform for 180,000 RF consultants. The topic in April was “Times I almost quit: Building the art of resilience,” and the topic in August was “Get Real Thursday: examining the posture you are taking toward business and life.”  I am amazed at the personal growth in public speaking I have gotten over the last year and a half, in particular.  Every time someone asked me to stretch to speak at something new, I thought 2 things:  1) that is not my strength–I don’t do this!  and 2) I don’t have anything special to say that anyone has not said (aka someone else could do it better!)          Here’s the truth…both of those statements are probably true, but we only grow when we stretch to new things.  It is uncomfortable, exhilarating, challenging, full of anxiety, and yet, if I had listened to my fears, I would have missed out in sad ways.        Note 1: Live videos always choose the greatest screenshots–eye roll here.  Note 2:  I also discovered the spray tan the 2nd time around. 

* The growth of my sweet, sassy, smart boys.  I am so thankful that Greg keeps a running list of their hilarious quotes.  Every day I think about the slipping time, and I am sobered by the responsibility and privilege of being their Momma (yep–over my dead body will they call me anything else!!).  Greg is an amazing Daddy–I need him for balance:). As I have read back over the earlier years of my blog, I remember that there was a time that I surrendered that they would not be here.  Maybe it’s my age, their preciousness, or my period of infertility, but I am so thankful for their lives and this opportunity.  

The truth is, as I reflect more, I will remember more.  Why?  I so easily forget the beauty of God’s hand in my life.  What about you?  What are your Ebenezers for the year?   

infertility, thankfulness, trusting God

Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow…

Sometimes life gets so loud and painful that we miss recognizing blessings.  Our vision gets blurry because we are just trying to survive.  We start the journey with clear eyes, but life and all of its subtle and not so subtle issues help us to forget the goal for which we were striving.

This story started almost 8 years ago.  Two and a half years ago, God brought 4 miraculous blessings into our lives—eggs and sperms together to form embryos against some stringent odds.  Two were implanted September of 2010 in my uterus and a little miracle named John Benjamin “Jack” Pinkner entered the world in June of 2011.

Greg and I began praying about these next two embryos almost immediately after having Jack.  We had made a commitment to implant them or put them up and available to be adopted when we began the whole IVF process.  We took this decision very seriously as Greg and I know now the reality of his RA in parenting brings.  We had to be prepared to parent twins…which would be a big challenge with one parent with a chronic illness.  With trepidation (we are both realists–no romantic notions of parenthood here), we decided to trust God and go through a Frozen Embryo Transfer in January of 2013.

I was not prepared in my heart to walk back into the throws of infertility drugs and infertility thoughts and fears.  It. was.  hard.  The drugs seemed more intense in my body and in my head.  I had a toddler to tend to, as well.  Our journey with infertility was the richest time of growth in the Lord I had ever experienced, but it was so so so painful.  True growth comes, many times, through pain.  It is the kind of thing you want to look back on and not walk back through.  The process is long and you hold to hope and yet guard your heart for what reality might bring.  We had to know that this could be it…no more children and the answer would come definitive and soon.  All the while we were laying our hearts on the altar trusting God’s sovereignty and being re-baptized into the faith that grew the first time around–is God good when He acts differently than we expect?  When we gives what we hoped would not come?  Is He good and does He do us good when we hurt and are disappointed?

Three and a half months after this process began, fertility drugs, heartbeat scares, daily shots, shingles, colds, intense sickness and many many many prayers from the saints…we got a good report from the doc today.  A doctor who knew he was an instrument and not the answer to our problems…he acknowledged that God’s hand brought this life (single life) growing in my womb.  For the first time today, I have let some joy wash over me…thankfulness as my self-protection begins to fade and yet heaviness for those who have gotten devastating news in the last days and weeks about their hopeful ones.  I am so thankful –so undeserving of this blessing.  As my sickness wanes on, I pray that each day grow in joy.  These last 10 weeks have been filled with many things physically and mentally to cloud my vision and help me forget the reason we started this journey.  We having a baby that is due October 10, 2013.  Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow.  He is our hope…our strong tower…our defender…our redeemer…our all.

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.

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.

thankfulness

Have yourself a Merry little Christmas…

IMG_3899 IMG_3881 IMG_3856 IMG_3815This has been a special season with little Jack.  He is hilarious.  The picture with Santa perfectly captures his personality–checking Him out and making me crack up at the same time.  It is such a blessing to be his momma.  He is beginning to say more and more words–‘teat” is eat and he says “bye” with the quickness of my 99 year old Uncle Charley.  He LOVES The Muppets–could care less about cartoons–but Kermit with Bob Hope capture his heart and attention.

Today, he began saying “pease” along with signing it.  I love to see others take joy and love him.  I am learning how to discipline him–his sin nature has taken on full force–he wants to assert his will many times an hour.  I do not know if we will have the opportunity to have more, but I am trying to take advantage of everyday with him and prepare him to learn and grow in God as an adult.

 

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!

 

community, doctrine, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, infertility, suffering in joy, thankfulness, The body of Christ, trusting God

Lots of Thoughts…

      It has been a long while since I have posted a blog.  Many times I have thought of topics to write about that are swirling in my head and heart–I just have not. 

        Life is full of different seasons.  My thirties, to this point, have been about pain, struggle and immense growth in knowing Christ.  An overarching sadness has plagued circumstances (see the history of this blog).  Now, I am in a season of the joy of pregnancy–preparing to let go and preparing to embrace a huge new role and responsibility in life.  Soon, (3 months and coming faster) I will be a Momma and Greg a Daddy. 

        God has been unbelievably gracious to me in the last few years to lead me through heartache and struggle while providing friends around me who have prayed deeply on my behalf.  Even aquaintances and strangers have taken up the mantle of prayer.  He now has me in a season of having the privilege of doing that for others.

      I have NEVER experienced a season where so many around me are so heavy in pain and struggle–NEVER.  He has traded my personal struggles with struggling with the body.  My heart breaks for many around me who seem to be in the sadness and wrestling phase I had been in for so long.  No, it is not about infertility for most of them, but it is the same concept.  We, at one or many times in our lives, will find ourselves in situations and circumstances where we have NO CONTROL.  We are hurt by others and ourselves.  We see people moving toward utter destruction, and nothing we say can pull them back or change their hearts.  Like infertility, we cannot make new life happen.  We find ourselves at a crossroad of trusting ourselves and what we can make work of this life (good luck with that one!) or choosing to know and trust God in the midst. 

       I thank God that He is using everything I have struggled and learned in the midst of the last years to pour out to others (2 Corinthians 1).  This is not that I can give people answers–cause I cannot.  This is so that I might journey and struggle with others pointing them to the ONLY hope–Christ.  Pointing others to Him that they might taste and see that He is good no matter what the circumstantial outcome. 

         He has given me opportunity to pray and hurt with others just as friends prayed for and hurt with me.  There is nothing more comforting when you are in deep heartache than to know someone is faithfully praying for you.  Many times when we hurt, we are exhausted and do not even know how to pray (let alone feel like we have the energy to pray).  God is so gracious to give us opportunities to serve in the gracious ways we have been served.

       We do not know when times of heartache and struggle will come into our lives–we just know they will.  Though we war in every way against struggle, especially in our culture, without it, we wallow in shallow existence.  We choose the lesser things every time.  We choose to trust ourselves.  We choose to try to control our lives.  We choose worshipping the idols around us over the ONE true, beautiful, gracious, loving, just God.  When we are broken, we finally can see Him  and our need for Him clearly.  Though my heart is breaking and my knees are bruised from prayer for those around me, I do not want to take the pain away.  I know that pain and struggle are purposeful to bring us to deeper life in Him (Hebrews 12).  My prayer is that that life in Him be embraced fully–that they learn and grow in waiting on Him for their strength to be renewed. 

         I also think about this little boy growing in me.  So many times in the last month, I have already felt tugs in my heart to surrender him fully.  I do not know what his personality will be like or what struggles he will have or what decisions he will make.  I only know that he will struggle and I will not be able to protect him and heal him and shield him.  But, I know the One who has his best interest at heart every time.  My prayer is that I let the little one face struggle and adversity and know the ONE who is the only hope.  I pray that I can let go and let him wrestle with hard questions and circumstances and know God in ways that a “safe,” “disinfected life” does not bring.  It is not easy to say and pray now as I cannot imagine how hard it will be to follow through with. 

           I have to remember what has brought me true life and teach that to my child.   Greg and I want to be truthful and point to where true life comes from.    It’s a joke for me to think “I’ll deal with that when it comes.”   May I prepare to speak the same truth to Jack that I do to my friends who are hurting and girls that I disciple.  It all comes down to–do I really trust Him?  May I remember that He is trustworthy now and He will be then.  He calls me not to fear and to remember that ” He is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not grow faint or weary; His understanding is unsearchable.”   Isaiah 40:28

      Greg often says that the time to begin to  talk about the Sovereignty of God in all things is not at the casket…it is now.  I have been in a study of Isaiah in Precepts, and you cannot deny the complete Sovereignty of God studying that book or the Bible in general.  What comfort there is in His character!  I am wrestling with this truth over and over again as I pray for friends.  I am resting in Him over and over again as I pray for friends and think about the future when troubles come my way.  I do not have this life figured out, but I know the only place to go for Shelter and Refuge.  My prayer is that I teach that to Jack and model that for Jack.  John Benjamin is his name–meaning “God is gracious” and “son of my right hand (favor).” He is a gift that we did not earn or deserve and favor that we certainly did not deserve.  May we be faithful to preach the word to Him in and out of season–to love Him and disciple Him and let Him go.  I know I am going to royally screw up at times–may I continue to rely on God’s grace.  When I do screw up, may I go to God and model trusting Jesus to Jack. 

       In all things, even in the pain of my friends, God is teaching me about His beautiful character and His redemptive hand and HOPE.  I am blessed beyond measure, and I know this is not the end.  It is certainly not the end of my learning of our Gracious Father in all circumstances–soon to be parenthood.  I know it is not the end for my friends and family who are in pain.  We have no control over His timing, but we are called to know Him in the midst.  I cannot wait to rejoice in things He does that we have no clue about that will come from the midst of this pain now in their/our lives.  Thanks be to God for who He is.