Posted in doctrine, God's word, loving God with your mind, spiritual growth, transformation by truth

Sprinkled or Power-Washed?

The last few days, I have been one with the pressure washer. The space on our deck seemed to triple in that time. I had LOTS of time to think, to pray, to ponder, and to learn.

Pressure washing is oddly satisfying. You can see results in the stripping of dirt and grime. There is power there. Used effectively, it transforms.

Funny how dirt works. It builds over time, and it is subtle. We are the same way. We are affected and changed by the day in and day out grime that builds up. Often we do not even recognize the change in our hearts and lives until we tank. That whole caveat that we become who we are around…it’s true. We have become like the world in so many ways. Our hearts become hardened and our ears gunky so as to not be able to discern falsehood. Our mouths tend to be loose and prone to criticize and to complain. Our minds become cloudy with anxiety and questions and thoughts of self-preservation and self-worship.

The power washer to us? God’s character and word by His Spirit. The problem? Most of us use His word like the trickle of a hose. It might feel refreshing to our felt need of the day, but it does not transform. A little devotion here, a little worship there, check out this therapeutic book, say some prayers for your business, your kids, your attitude… We come in contact with the water, but we do not understand and feel it’s power. We want the benefits of Him without knowing Him.

I have had many different relationships with the Bible in my life. Earlier on, it was facts to memorize, words to sing, and prayers to pray. As life marched on, it became truth to wrestle with. A little further in, water for my parched and disoriented soul. Deeper in, the invitation to die to my definitions of fulfillment and to live in His definitions.

There are times that I feel the sting of that power washer digging into the build up of my comfort and pride and the very ways that I define myself. It is painful, but it is necessary to bring greater growth and health and life. I know it is out of love from the Spirit. See, I can age and weather and get build up and look like everyone else, and at times, that feels very comfortable. But, then the rot comes. The fungi gets in the cracks and creates rot, and it spreads like a cancer. When Jesus commanded us to remain and abide in Him, His words, His love, that was not a suggestion for a trickle of water. He calls us to depend, to be transformed, and to be renewed.

I see the rot happening all too often in my own life and in that of others when we are choose not to be equipped to deeply dive into the Word of God and to be transformed. Time and time again, I see the drift. I see people falling for the “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3) When we are not versed in who God really is and what He is about (which is found in the letter from Him to us in His word), we tend to choose what sounds the best and makes the most sense within the culture. We have the build up and we have lost the sensitivity for what is really true.

There are some things (well, a lot) that completely do not make sense to my natural heart and thoughts in the Bible. I want to get along, love everybody, make them feel good about themselves and have them feel good about me. Those are the basics of Jen. But, as I have come to know Him more–in the light of His character displayed in His word–I know that my desires are often contrary to good. I may think I am doing good to someone, but I am actually contributing to my rot and to their rot. See, I can paint a deck with the best of them. I can pick a really cute color and scheme and make it look good for the moment. However, the inside of those pieces of wood and the stability of the decking will show. The winds will come and the rain will come down, and it will crash.

In learning to study His word, I throw out the foundation of sand which looks appealing to the outside. I begin to be grounded and have a sure foundation on the rock. The pressure washer stings when it hits my pride, my bitterness, my arrogance, my longing to please others, my anxieties, my self-worship, my disregard for others in need… However, I am then free from those things and free to see, to hear, and to commune with the Father. My soul finds rest in following Him. I walk healthier and with more of a regard for others and their truest needs. The grime builds up everyday, and everyday I need the transforming power and words of the gospel which frees me from myself.

Posted in comparison, encouraging women, God's word, loving God with your mind, self-absorption, spiritual growth, transformation by truth

What story are you writing?

What story are you writing this morning? Not a writer you say? I disagree. You are telling yourself something about a lot of things.

It may be that you have carefully crafted a story about your acquaintance’s life, her trip, her parenting, her marriage, her financial status. It may be that you have written a story about everyone having good friends but you. You may have written a script with conflict in a friendship in which your friend is unaware. In fact, you might be an anonymous writer that has never shared her work with anyone but yourself. You have created a scripted show in your head and have never checked it against reality. You could be constantly sharing information with yourself that breeds more and more disconnection, deception, and strife.

Gone are the days of just comparing your life with your next door neighbor or your cousin. With the world at our fingertips, we are bombarded with all of the things. We have a virtual world with fancy filters, branding, and crafting of our stories that shows us everyone we have ever worked with, dated, been to school with, known through a friend of a friend, went to summer camp with, or watched on television, etc. Their lives flash before us in the scroll. We do not control what they post as they carefully craft the story they want us to see.

It’s a bit exhausting to compare our lives to each of them. “What do they do for a living? How can they afford that? must be nice to have a spouse who… their teenagers actually seem decent… Must be nice to get to work out all the time… They are doing so much for others while I am over here drowning… Look at how much their parents help…How many times are they going to be away from their kids? How can they go to Disney that much? How can they crusade about that? what are they doing to help others?”

We have these thoughts and write these stories unchecked, and then we awaken to feel the weight of our hearts. We have no idea what the real truth is, but we are living with this alternate truth that we have crafted. We are cut off from relationship because we have assumed and have not conversed and checked in with the actual people.

Whatever we feed grows. When we are feeding a fictional narrative in our head, what does that do for our reality, our relationships, our actual lives?

Our hearts, in the flesh, will deceive us every time. We set ourselves up front and center, and we interpret life from our feelings. This is really dangerous (think looking at life as a 2 and 3 year old demanding our every desire). So, how do we navigate? Where do we fact check and mature and get our tantrums under control?

Did you know that the word of God tells us about this? Those living life apart from God’s transformation through Christ, are “darkened in their understanding alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to their hardness of heart….have become callous, given to sensuality, greed, practice impurity, corrupt through deceitful desires…” (Ephesians 1) It also says that those, in Christ, are to put off their old self and to put on the new self created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

So, it sounds like there is hope and transformation written into our stories, huh? It is very easy to fall back into the old, and we have to step into and put on the new self. This is a battle, but it is a battle in which we are NOT alone.

First, we have to acknowledge “old” and deceitful stories we are telling ourselves. When we begin crafting a story, we need to stop and to examine.

We examine ourselves with the Lord first: Where is our attitude out of alignment with God’s character? Are we remembering the grace of God toward us or are we caught in guilt and shame and bitterness? Where are we holding in to the old ways? Are we humbling ourselves before Him and trusting in His thoughts toward us?

Then, we examine our relationships with others: Are we assuming the best or the worst in others? Are we choosing to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn? Do we need to ask forgiveness in a relationship? Where do we need to humble ourselves and to serve others?

In taking our thoughts captive in obedience to Christ, we replace lies with the truth. I always find it so helpful to remember Philippians 4:8 “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Oftentimes, I need to think situation by situation, person by person–what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy in this, them? When practicing this, I am able to turn my thoughts into prayers, into being “for” instead of against, into looking at what will spur them on instead of seeing it as a competition.

We all know that “reality tv” is far from real, and we must always remember that we can be living in our scripts and missing out on true life and growth and relationship. Let’s spur each other on today…

Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, grace, loving God with your mind, parenting, transformation by truth, trusting God

Whatcha carrying?

Here I am, 44 years old, dressed like it’s 1996. Overalls–check. t-shirt–check. Backpack filled to the brim–check. No shower–check. No makeup–check. However, unlike 1996, the load I am carrying is much heavier.

My wise counselor once told me that if you feel a heavy weight that that is not indicative of God’s presence and the freedom He brings. So, I sit down this morning in heaviness and start examining what’s in my backpack (or pack-back as my youngest calls it).

I start unpacking the contents. There is an overall anxiety within the month of May. I have to call it for what it is with field trips, field day, JURY DUTY the last two weeks of school, teacher gifts, special recognitions, prepping for summer plans, leadership duties, art projects, business specials and product launches and the overall grumpy fatigue of our family. So, there’s that. I remind myself that I choose today what I move toward and what I worry over. Some things are going to be much less than stellar, and I am going to choose to embrace my fallibility and strive for FIRST things. Those first things involve our values as a family–presence and enjoyment with my family, aiming to encourage my family in the chaos, pointing to God and his goodness by practicing gratitude, and not dwelling on the shortcomings of yesterday.

The next thing I uncover is an overall sense of shame. It’s a lingering sadness with a critical voice inside that points out every single area where I am falling short. So, I start tackling what’s really present there.

Shame: a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming or impropriety; self-reproach; an uncomfortable feeling of guilt or of being ashamed of your own OR SOMEONE ELSE’S bad behavior.

There are a few things I unpack that have shame involved: my parenting fatigue and lack of intentionality for the month, the fact that my house looks like the rubble after a war, the fact that I have not had a lot of energy in business to lead others well, the fact that there is not enough of me to go around to do things well. These all contribute to me drowning in a feeling of sad and heavy on the inside. Instead of continuing the cycle of yuck, I have stepped in to what I can do to move against my regret–taking my child to the park instead of getting work done, cooking a healthy dinner, sitting down to take my thoughts captive.

There are also some heavy things that have been brought to my attention in the last few weeks which do not have to do with me, per se, but I have picked them up and put them in my backpack of complicated emotions. I have made the narrative that someone else has written to be mine.

I have this intuitive dance I do in life. It goes like this… Someone shares something with me, I read something, etc, and I have something in common with it–ex. someone has a problem with how they have been treated by Christians, someone has a bad taste in their mouth about a business partner or business practices with MLM. I find myself guarding against being those ways that I begin to diminish my presence in those areas or I fill myself with anxiety and thought and take the shame of someone else upon myself. It’s the equivalent of getting wronged and you being the one who says “I am sorry!” Healthy, huh?

I see this happen in our culture today. I feel like the rules and the vocabulary have changed so distinctly, and it is all about the perceived wrongs of others and who is responsible. That leads to fear and accusation. Have you watched the news?? Do you have Social Media? Have conversations with teenagers and College students? Then, you have seen it explode. Here’s the deal, if we live afraid or carry the shame of everyone who has anything in common with us (whether it be race, gender, religion, politics, decent, socio-economic status, family name) we miss out on making a real impact in the world. We miss out on the most beautiful part of bearing God’s image, however dimly (this is all people) and being transformed and being part of the transformation of His children (this is those who have been adopted through faith in the work of Christ).

I have been up in “my feelings,” and some really screwed up thoughts have led to their inception. It is time to tackle them with what is really true, what I really need to own, and what I need to do in response to move forward and be present.

Here are the truths I speak to myself, and I encourage you to take a hold of what is true as you unpack your backpack:

These regard the practices of those who are involved or have been involved in MLM businesses vs my involvement:

1) I strive to run my business with integrity, care for others, and a view to help people and to meet them where they are. My “why” in life is true in all hats I wear–“helping others come alive.” 2) Like all professional people in different vocations, I do this with a view to help my family by providing and being present with them. 3) Some people might have experienced being used in poor business practices and poor integrity, and I cringe at this. (Whether you are talking Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher, Pastor, Nurse, Salesperson, Marketer, Politician, Judge, etc) However, I aim to care for people and their well-being and value them whether they are a customer, competitor, critic or not. I control my actions, and I choose to make an impact for God’s glory.

These regard what is mine and what is not mine to carry, in general:

4) I cannot control the expectations and perceptions of others especially when they are not checking themselves against truth. I have no business running my heart and life on assumptions. 5) I carry the load of the things I do wrong, but I am not charged to carry the weight of perceived wrongs of every person that has had a bad experience with things or institutions that I may have a common trait with.

These regard my identity and my story and voice:

6) Not all feelings are true, and it is my responsibility to stop and bring what is true to bear. I am not a victim to circumstance or the emotions of others. 7) Culture does not write my narrative. My Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer does. 8) I choose what I let in and how I let it in. I choose how I process, and I always have a choice to take my thoughts captive and to throw off imagined shame. 9) When I do offend, wrong, and hurt others and most importantly God, I have a call to repent, to confess and to remember that forgiveness is offered in Christ. Because of my identity in Him, there is no condemnation for those in Christ. However, there are consequences in the everyday, and I have to be mature to walk those out in relationships. If I have hurt you, please come to me.

Posted in authenticity, discipline, encouraging women, expectations, grace, isolation, loving God with your mind, spiritual growth, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God

What did I expect?

It all started with a little conversation with a woman who embraces life with gusto. We found out our birthdays are one day and 11 years apart. She asked me what I had planned for my birthday. She had 3 separate parties planned. I said, “Wow! We don’t really have high expectations for birthdays.”

Then, I thought back to my 35th birthday when I took it upon myself to grab life by my rules. I was embracing the fact that we were at the end of our quest for fertility, and I said, “I am throwing myself a dinner party and will choose to celebrate!” After the prior conversation, I made a decision a few weeks ago that I would take charge of making something happen on my birthday this year instead of being passive. Life is what you make it, right?

Well, I tried to make it. I decided we would go out with some friends of ours for a birthday dinner. I sought out babysitters. One by one, no one was available. And then, I began writing this script in my head. (Spoiler alert: this is why you do NOT practice having unexpressed expectations .)

Expect: to consider probable or certain; to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of; preparing/envisioning for—Hope; anticipate, await

I said…”well, we can work on a girl’s night.” However, guess what I had envisioned in my head? It went a little something like this: Greg had really scheduled one of these babysitters “who couldn’t make it,” and we were going to go as planned but it would be a surprise for me. Y’all. We don’t really do surprises in our family. We don’t do manipulation (I learned this at 23 the first time I stormed out of a room and was not followed). We try to say what we mean. Why in the world, did I think the rules had changed?

I dared to expect, but I told no one. I tried to put it together, and I expected a different outcome when things did not go as I planned. Instead of dealing in reality, I kept basing my hopes on a script I had made up. As I was recounting this story later, my friend, Beth, said–“you normally do not do this!” Yep–but I did it with abandon this time.

Because we had planned to go to dinner earlier in the week, I told Greg to go to buy tickets for the Avengers movie on the morning of my birthday while I was with the boys. In an attempt to seize the day with my boys, I thought we could go downtown. I reached out to several people to see if they were up for tagging along, and no one was available. Most people I know plan ahead, so I could not fault them for my lack of foresight. Our plans were amended, and we went to Chick-fil-a for the boys to play outside, and then, Greg met us to take them home while I had some “me” time. Usually I am elated to have some alone time that is unscheduled. However, because I had set my expectation on the hope that my birthday would somehow be filled with people, I came up lonely and disappointed.

Y’all, I kept digging the hole deeper and deeper with the false narrative. “It’s okay because tonight…” I came home “in my feelings” realizing that I had set myself up. So, like any good 7 on the Enneagram, I took up a paint brush and painted a wall and changed around a room. I cannot control the other stuff, so, I chose what I could control. I was mad, lonely, frustrated, and it was no one’s fault but my own. I ruined my own birthday with my attitude.

As I was cooking dinner that night, I began to fight to take back the narrative. I began telling myself what is really true instead of my feelings. My feelings, based on a false narrative, had hijacked my joy. I had been riding a rollercoaster of self-imposed self-pity.

What did I remember was true? I have a beautiful family with boys that awakened me with flowers and a card (that their Daddy provided for them) as my birthday began. I have a husband that is real and true and faithful that doesn’t play games that joyfully gave me time to myself. He is a rock for me. I had a day of sunshine and warmth and flowers and the hope of Spring that I chose to ignore. I have a Mother-in-Law that thoughtfully sent a beautiful arrangement of flowers. I had the privilege of affording Chick-fil-a and watching my boys have fun and care for others as they played. I have hope in Jesus because of His work on the cross and life He lived. I have a home that I can be creative in. I could go on and on.

The last thing that was true? I had the privilege of leading a women’s growth series the next morning where we would discuss relationships, vulnerability, authenticity, and gulp, expectations. “I get it, Lord.” My life had been a lab for what we were going to talk about. My heart was tender, and I was reminded of this fight we have in relationships. We can allow our desires and our expectations to run rampant and to leave us in a constant state of disappointment, resentment, loneliness–poor me. We can write an impossible script that we are hoping will come true that is completely unrealistic and false. In doing so, we keep ourselves stuck, and we miss out on the true joys and the true growth. We can become a victim of our false thinking. Let me assure you of this, the control we have in life is in how we think and respond to things. With the truth of God’s word, the Spirit and the hope in Christ, we can live with a lens of adventure and expectancy that do not have our limited desires and narrative as the end all, be all.

Was I still tender and sad the next day? Yes. Did I have hope in something beyond circumstances? Yes. Did I get together with a few friends that Sunday night to pull away and celebrate time together? Yes. And, I appreciated the simple joy of doing so…

Posted in discipleship, God's word, grace, self-absorption, sin, spiritual growth, the gospel, transformation by truth, trusting God

Forget Me Not

When you feel remembered–when someone acknowledges and leans in, it is so powerful. You feel seen and heard and chosen. There’s nothing more deflating than having to introduce yourself to a person for the 49th time, and they have no clue who you are. It feels empty. That’s why I love to connect with people–we need to know that we are valued. It changes how we interact with and invest in others. It reminds us that we are not alone and that we are a unique person in the middle of the masses.

A random gift I have is remembering people–what they do, where they are from, what motivates them, their name, etc. Because of 43 years of involvement in school, ministry, interests, there have been a lot of experiences and a lot of people, and my files are pretty full. So, I am getting more confused from time to time because it’s different to remember layers of connections from a combination of places, times, seasons. It makes me sad when, because of that, I forget someone.

The last few days, I have been studying in the Psalms again. There are several repeated phrases throughout the 150 chapters. ‘Remember. Do not forget.’ In fact, Psalm 106 traces the history of the Hebrew people in a series of God remembering them, taking care of them and them forgetting and ignoring Him.

The Hebrew people did not remember:

  • Did not consider His wondrous works (have you heard the one about parting the sea????)
  • Did not remember the abundance of His steadfast love but rebelled at the sea
  • They soon forgot His works and did not wait for His counsel
  • They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt
  • They exchanged the glory of God for something they could touch and see
  • they served their idols which became a snare to them
  • They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan (sound familiar?)
  • Psalm 28 speaks of evil men not regarding the works of the LORD of the work of His hand

But, notice what God remembered and the reason why.

  • YET He saved them for His NAME’s SAKE that He might make known His mighty power
  • On their behalf, he rebuked the sea and made it dry, He led them through the desert, saved them from the enemy, redeemed them
  • He showed His anger at their rebellion and said He would destroy them and Moses stood in the gap for them, He gave consequences for their unfaithfulness as they were taken over, His anger was kindled against His people and He abhorred His heritage
  • Many times He delivered them (though they were unfaithful)
  • for their sake He REMEMBERED HIS COVENANT (promise) and relented according to His steadfast love

The root of our actions comes out of the fact that we live as though God is not there. We forget His words. We live oblivious to His works and His movement. We fashion for ourselves idols of pragmatism (what works for us for our goals), romanticism (what feels best to us and what seems fulfilling), consumerism (striving and ingesting and going after more) instead of regarding His name and His glory. We do not listen long enough, make a practice of remembering His faithfulness, or bother even knowing Him to know that He is much more fulfilling and brings peace to our hearts in ways the things we fashion can never do. (Check out 1 John 2:15-17) So, we come up with a plan of our own.

The phrase that is haunting my heart–‘But they soon forgot His works and they did not wait for His counsel.’ and ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’

I do not want to forget who God is…or be found to have fashioned a god in my own image. That seems to be our M.O. these days–one of these two things. The only way I REMEMBER Him and KNOW Him is to hear from His word by the power of His Spirit. When we use our own circumstances, our own desires, our own wisdom to figure out what He is for and what He is against, etc. we have made it about us. We are missing out on the gift of knowing Him and seeing the worth of His name. We, in effect, put words in His mouth–and He will not be mocked.

So, I encourage me and you to REMEMBER who God actually Is and to NOT FORGET His works and purposes. May we not devalue His infinite value, holiness, righteousness, justice, steadfast love by brushing over who He is like a chance introduction at a party. Let’s lean in. Let’s dig deep into His character poured out in His word and throughout the thread of our lives. He says and warns…’Forget Me not.’

Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, God's word, grace, humility, the gospel, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Contrary to Popular Opinion…

You are not enough.

You read it right.

That’s offensive, huh?

I am NOT saying you do not have worth. I am NOT saying that you do not have value. I am NOT saying you cannot do hard things. I am NOT saying you are not tough. I am NOT saying you are a failure. I am NOT saying you are less than your neighbor.

I am saying that the voice inside you that feels behind, that sees you cannot spin all the plates, that feels less than adequate for all the adulting, that is constantly on a performance wheel that seems to go nowhere…there’s a reason it is there. Our reality and our experience show us that we fall short all the time. We cannot be all things to all people doing all the things all the time. Period.

Maybe the quote should read–you do not have to perform to someone’s version of enough to have value. OR, your value is not defined by the world’s standard or by your performance.

When we feed ourselves the line that we are enough, we are lying about a huge reality in life. We are incomplete, and at the core, I think we know it. That uncontrollable longing that you feel (or run from) when your mind slows, that anxiety in your belly when looking at life, that wondering in your mind about the deepest questions of the universe, that thing that you have tried to overcome over and over and keep missing, those monumental regrets…all of that is pointing to something more and our lack. It is a need we cannot meet or problem solve.

What happens when we grasp the reality that we are not enough?

We don’t want to face it because that tears apart the scaffolding of our lives. We all try to make sense of and build our lives in different ways with the same problem. We may think if we do it perfectly, or if we are useful to others , or if we produce and achieve enough and gain status, or if we dig deep within enough we can construct meaning, if we learn and conquer knowledge, if we come up with a plan to secure life, if we experience life to the fullest and adventure, if we take charge and lead the way for the underdog or if we can bridge the gap for peace that THEN we will be enough. We will be complete.

There is huge freedom in accepting the reality we are not enough even though it is uncomfortable. I think that this is when true Life begins and is lived. We then see a need for truth, strength, and meaning beyond ourselves. We can quit performing and striving and listen.

Why can we not be enough? We go back to the beginning. We look to the Creator who created in His own image; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27) The Image of God: That is very worthy. And, Then, something jarred everything…made it hard, less clear, brought toil, separated us from the Beauty of God and the peace of being WITH God: The whole process began with “did God really say?” “Surely He didn’t mean…He’s lying to you. He is keeping power and honor, love, fulfillment and glory from you–your rightful identity.” Then, the three letter word was born: Sin. We took understanding into our own hands. We defied the One who lovingly created us to commune with Him. We said: We are enough without You.

That leads us to today–the anxiety, the striving, the loneliness, the frustration, the gaining ground only to fall back down, the one-second glories that take longer and longer to achieve. The line of fulfillment we were fed was a bald-faced lie. Our “freedoms” enslave us all the more. It is grace to see that we are not enough.

There’s a problem: We cannot make it better on our own.

The beautiful part of the truth of God’s word? The promise of redemption was hinted at in the same chapter that the Fall of enough occurred. AND…the Old Testament gives the picture of what enough is through the Law of God. That law is the picture of perfection–of God’s character, otherness, set-apartness (I may have made up a word). AND…trying to be WITH and like God by performance was an epic fail. The way we are reconciled to God is through the enough of Jesus…in fact, the perfection of Jesus’s life on this earth AND His death in the place of ours. There were dire consequences for our rebellion and insurgence–death and separation. God, who is rich in mercy, made Jesus who knew no sin, no rebellion, to be sin for us. He was punished, killed, separated from God (whom He had communed from eternity past) in order that reconciliation might be made and in order that those trusting in Him may be called children of God through the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. For those who see they are not enough and put their trust in Jesus work on the Cross on their behalf, they are given new hearts and lives. The One who is more than enough lives in their spirit, guides them, encourages them, reminds them, strengthens them, renews them.

So, in ourselves, we are not enough. We do not have the tools. We do not have the heart. We do not have the strength.

In Him, though. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We find joy, freedom, grace, no condemnation, identity, purpose, hope, and deep and abiding love In Him. That helps us take a deep breath. It helps us feel lighter even when things are HARD and the way is very CLOUDY. We are able to see others in the grace afforded to us instead of railing against them for not being enough. There is freedom in this reality and in the power of God in the midst.

So, where are you today? Striving, surrendering, exhausted, or at peace? I pray that you take your heart and your life to the One that is More than Enough.

Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, discipline, grace, margin, sin, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, trusting God

It all started with a “little” project

It all started with a closet project.  Little did I know that it would turn into so much more.  

Our home has more than ample storage, but the problem is we have dumped stuff there.  The stuff that is falling out of the closets and the basement means there is stuff everywhere in our house, as well.  Storage is of no value if you do not use it well. 

That brings me to our downstairs guest room’s closet.  It has looked like this for 3 ½ years. 

I would tidy the middle part of it when things were falling out, but I never took the time to tackle the big job.  It seemed overwhelming and time consuming, and nobody has time for that with 2 active boys, no headspace and a side of tired.  It wasn’t urgent, so it kept getting stuffed around what was urgent.    

This week has afforded a few days where there was no agenda.  It has been a wearying season where there has not been room to unpack my mind and heart let alone a closet that carries baggage that I have to sort through.  I found myself thinking of the closet, and it wasn’t a “should” but a “this would be healthy to do.”

What was in the closet? Letters, pictures, albums (nostalgic girl here), boxes that had not been unpacked since our move 3 ½ years ago, storage bins of art materials, boxes and storage bins filled with random objects where I had to “hide stuff” from company, random throw pillows, important business documents, etc.

I knew it would not be a fast job, and I knew I needed to be mentally and physically prepared to tackle it. 

So, I began taking stuff out which made a bigger overwhelming mess.

There were times I didn’t know what in the world to do next.  I thought—“what have I done? I could be watching Christmas movies, building a puzzle or taking a nap.”  (All my go-to escapes). I toyed with closing the door, and not using the room again.

However, it was time.    It took me a day and a half—going through every box, every paint bottle, every random notebook.  

Thoughtful examination was required to see what should be kept and purposefully used, what should be discarded, and what was worthy to give away.  I examined things that were unfinished projects and asked the hard question—“Am I holding on to this because I ‘should’ or is it a worthy thing to follow through with in this season?” I add, in this season, because that’s where I get myself bogged down.  I see the possibilities in all things, but I end up going nowhere.

Then, I began placing things that I found purposeful back into the closet with a rhyme and a reason.  They are accessible now.  I know what’s there—it is not a mystery.  There is room there to put other things that fit into certain categories.  There is room for a guest to hang clothes and put a suitcase (aka I could actually be hospitable to welcome others).

There was a lot of unusable space in there that can be used now for my art stuff!

As I was walking through the process, I thought, this would be an awesome blog post—there are so many life parallels.  Then, the Lord awakened me at 2 am in the morning and started really dealing with my heart, gulp. 

He asked me to look without background noise or distraction, without the sounds of the day at what I was storing in my life.  Jen, What is superfluous and crowding out what is truly life giving?  What do you think is a harmless habit that literally is stealing room in your soul to have margin and peace?  Where is the baggage that you just keep stuffing (like your closet and basement) that is literally encroaching on every area of your life?  Jen, do you feel peace and purpose or just a lot of noise?  It is time to look and to deal and to see what you want to expel from your heart and your head and what you want to pass on and what you want to keep in an orderly fashion. 

It is scary—actually terrifying—to ponder what is really in our hearts, huh?  It takes time, courage, grit, humility.  The real beauty though, is that the One who created, sustains and redeems us, will guide us in GRACE.  If we will take the time to truthfully and bravely tackle our stuff, He will meet us in the middle of all the piles that seem completely impossible and overwhelming.  He will teach us what to hold on to, what to let go of permanently and temporarily, and what to literally destroy in the trash.  God is not a God of confusion or disorder, but I will tell you, it takes time to sort through the things we have experienced and stuffed trying to handle it on our own. 

We think our fear is telling us the truth, but fear is a liar.  Fear tells us to throw it in there and ignore it—stuff it.  Fear tells us, “He really doesn’t know what He is doing—this is a much better plan to numb yourself or to take control on your terms.”  Fear says, “did He really say or mean this?”   Once we make a habit of listening to that fear, we become weary of substance.  We run out of space in our closets and basements and our junk pours forth into the public areas of life.  We cannot hide our stuff.  There is no margin to deal with it. 

When we walk (however TERRIFIED we are) with The Lord, He who calls you is FAITHFUL to walk with us and transform us.  It’s gonna look messy as we continually bring piles before Him, but it is going to be freeing in all the ways.  He calls us to draw near to Him to sort what is good and purposeful and life-giving and honoring in our lives.  There is space and margin and ROOM when we take COURAGE to go there with Him. 

So, I encourage each of us to look intently into His word and His purposes and lay our lives next to them.  Let us be brave, reach out to others when we want to hide and when we feel that our closet’s contents will literally suffocate us.  The truth is…they will, apart from Him. In the midst of our piles, the truth of the Gospel allows us to draw near to Him with confidence because Jesus has paid our debts with His life and death and resurrection.  He says “remain in me, and you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.”