Posted in authenticity, the reason for coming alive, transformation by truth

What’s with the blog, jen?

48412520_229472477953462_6827589204122271744_nI picked a title because it moved me.

It sounded inspired.

 

This is a picture of my life.

I get a whim of creativity.

I start something new, and then I backtrack to contemplate the meaning.

 

The Art of Coming Alive

There are two types of people in this world: people who have a plan and are exact and Me.  I don’t know where you fall on the continuum, but the truth is that adult life will have its way with all of us.

 

We start with hopes and dreams and optimism, and somewhere along the way parts of us die in the realities of this life.  There may be small deaths as we are wounded by unmet expectations and disappointments.  It may be blows of death to our spirits as we experience trauma.  It may be a learned death feeling your voice doesn’t matter.  It may be an intense anger that your plans and control have no place here.

 

That dying may mean growing cold, lacking power to move, feel, respond.

It may mean going through the motions while no longer having interest, relevance or significance.

It may mean that you are no longer stirred intellectually or emotionally.

It may mean that you learn not to care and not to think too much about anything—and that’s sort of working for you.

 

I know this is where many of us find ourselves.

Friend, we are made for more.  For those in Christ, we are given a new heart and a new mind.  And, you just tuned me out—“blah, blah, blah, churchy speak that’s not true…blah, blah, blah.”

It sure doesn’t feel true, does it?  When we look at the darkness encroaching, it feels pointless.

 

But the truth is, there is skill to mastering the art of something…

ART: skill acquired by experience, study or observation.

Mastering an art involves wisdom, time, patience.  It involves wrestling with yourself and with your Creator.  It involves grit.

I know some of you are thinking—I don’t even have the energy or desire to think about that or to muster hope.

 

Greg, my husband, has always said that living is hard and dying is easy.  It is so true.  Kill a plant by not watering it—just ignore it. I can do that!

Life takes watering, pruning—those pieces of consistency day in and day out.  It takes tending, attending to all parts of it—it takes fight, time and risk.

 

Then there’s the “coming” part of the title.

COMING: gaining importance, an act or instance of arriving, approaching, impending

 

I was studying the words of Christmas carols and the Christmas story yesterday and saw the repetition of a word: Come.

“Come and Worship”

“O Come Let Us Adore Him”

“Come and Behold Him”

Shepherds came…Wise Men came

The definition of Come: move or travel toward, move closer, approach, draw near

Obviously, there’s movement involved—movement toward.

 

So WHAT Is LIFE?

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made through Him…In Him was Life and the Life was the light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ John 1:1-4

 

Life and being alive is found in the One who created us, and to find it, we simply move toward, approach it.  We observe, study, and experience Him and the process.  We start where we are…acknowledging our reality.  Our reality may be death—never even knowing Life.  Our reality may be impending death of our spirit.

 

What will you get here? 

You will get an honest woman on the journey toward coming alive in this world that encourages us to deaden ourselves.

You will get real thoughts and writing that hopefully help you wrestle with truth and not give in to the “give up.”

Humor—I mean, for real, we gotta laugh!

A pointing to True Life—that is not found in us alone.

Someone who does NOT have this figured out but keeps drawing near to the One who does.

Grace and Truth

 

What will you not get here?

Ten self-help tips that help you slay your day.

The word slay

A glossing over of pain.

Fashion advice—43-year-old woman who loves overalls might not have a lot to say about that.

Hype.

Condemnation.

Shoulds.

Recipes with long intros about my Great Aunt Sarah’s cheese philosophy

 

So, if you want to follow along and be a part of the conversation, you are welcome here.

Posted in authenticity, comparison, gifts and talents, insecurity, spiritual growth, The body of Christ, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

Encouragement to my fellow women

(These are notes from my last session this weekend…an open letter to my sisters in Christ.)

The more we KNOW him, the more we understand ourselves and who He created us to be.

I love to hear people’s stories. We think we know someone, but we do not understand them well until we know how they grew up, what adversity they faced, what their family is like.

When I start the discipleship process with people, I ask them to tell me their story. It opens my eyes to see where they are coming from, why they struggle with certain things and what truth we need to tackle with their hearts in order to grow. Divorces, abandonment, losing parents, eating issues and disorders, sexuality struggles, alcoholism, promiscuity, materialism. WE ARE ALL MESSED UP. WE ARE ALL IN NEED OF BEING STILL AND KNOWING THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSES. WE ALL HAVE BROKEN HEARTS BECAUSE OF SIN—OURS AND OTHERS.

Do You know what the common denominator with these women is? Their need for Jesus—the way the gospel has captivated their lives—changed them everyday, given them hope, given them love, given them worth. Do they still struggle? Yes, but the more they take time to be still and to know, the more in Love with the Lord they are, the more hope they have to journey on.

No one is from an ideal family. No one is issue-less. We all have struggles. If we take the time to look around, we might see the reality of the lives of those around us. We see the outside that we are jealous of or that we judge, but there is a deeper story and struggle there. God does not promise a pain free life. In fact, if we had a pain free life, would we even think about Him? Would we see the need to examine ourselves?

I cannot promise what will happen in the next day or 10 years. There will be heartache and joy. There will be things that rock our worlds to the point where we do not know what direction is up. There will be things that we choose to do and find ourselves involved in that will make us question who we really are in the first place. I cannot promise pain free. Here’s what I can promise. If we trust—if we keep stopping and seeking Him…He will never change. He will become bigger to us while these other things become smaller. We will find His promises to be true. We will find that He is our sure thing—not our family, or a relationship, or a husband, or a career, or children, or our talent, or our money or our status. HE IS THE SURE FOUNDATION. Build life upon Him. Seek His word. Seek His character. Savor His beauty. He will build deeper hope and love within us as we sort through our disappointment and pain.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5

See, the world has pain too. Pain is to point us to God, but Pain without His hand of guidance and without knowing Him is pointless. People strive to find a place of belonging—to be accepted, to arrive, to feel worthy.

We feel like to be worthy we have to be well known or recognized or look a certain way or be respected in a certain way. I pray that there are women that are captivated by Christ and learn who they are in Him. I pray that each of us learn our personalities and learn to accept who God made us to be—not our sin but our extrovert, introvert, organized, creative, thinking feeling. I pray that we would realize we cannot be everything. I pray that we would learn to live as God created us to be instead of trying to fit into someone else’s mold and end up being frustrated and defeated. Some of us are more inward and have a few friends that we will encourage deeply—do that. We do not have to be the center of attention to mean something. Some of us have mad organization skills—friends may make fun of us, but use that organization for God’s glory. Help others. Trust the Lord and draw near to Him with confidence, abide and remain in Him and let Him shape us and bring about our transformation to be more and more like Him. We do not have to perform to be this super Christian—ABIDE and OBEY that way. Love will begin to grow as we die to ourselves and live to God.

In my 30s, I have learned my giftings and have developed them more. I have become more comfortable in my own skin. I know I am never going to have a spotless house or a continually organized closet or be an accountant, but I have friends that do! I paint pictures and listen to people and encourage and flounder for last minute plans. What if we, as women, walked in confidence in who God made us to be? What if instead of always asking “why don’t people see me this way? Why can’t I do that?” Or even putting people down because we are jealous, we rejoiced in others’ gifts and cried with others in their pain? How would we treat each other differently? We need those people who are different from us. I need Greg. We get on each others nerves because we are so different, but we fit nicely together because we work together instead of in competition. We are all different in the Body of Christ, but we all need one another. Greg—master teacher, me an encourager/shepherd merciful person. One of my best friends from high school and beyond was also the hardest for me when we were around each other all the time because we are a lot alike. We competed and struggled. And after a lot of hard work, we know how to celebrate and cheer on the other…after 24 years. We have learned our personalities are similar but our giftings are different. There were some frustrating times, but with maturity in Him, we have learned to champion one another. When we practice being still and knowing Him, we will be changed. We will love with His love.

John 15:9-12 As the father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep his commandments, you will abide in my love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. “

Being Still and knowing God Allows you to obey Him. Obedience breeds obedience. We obey by stopping to be still. We obey studying His word Then we begin to know him more, love his character more, treasure him more He changes us and we respond differently to others . We want to share his character with others and we  love them because ywe are being changed. Then we have to learn to bear with others so we go back to him and seek him again. My fellow women, Seek Him with all your heart and you will find Him. And you will bear much fruit depending on Him and knowing Him. You will become more like Him in his timing and you will learn to love those around you…and help to encourage them to love the LORD.

Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, comparison, discernment, grace, insecurity, parenting, the gospel, transformation by truth

A good mom…

Well, it’s building again.  That pressure to do the right thing, to do it the best way, to prove your worth is on the rise.  Where does it come from?  From women’s mouths, popular books, sub-cultural norms to your ears–actually straight to your heart.  The words marinate in your heart until you believe it and act in pride or until you are shamed because you are not enough and you embarrassed because you have fallen short again.  This must be something really essential–you think.  Or has someone else pushed it as essential?

Motherhood.  Until I was first baptized into this “secret club,” I never realized the pressure to fit there, the pressure to perform.  It starts almost as soon as you get pregnant or fill out the adoption papers.  “Surely you are going to do….A thoughtful mother would only plan this way….Are you going to feed your child that?….You let your children go this long between feedings?”   “I will only do natural birth…  You are going to put THAT into your body?”  “You are going to name your child that?”  “Godly mothers do…I only use natural products…”

I was 36 when I gave birth after many years of infertility, and I will be 38 with my second.    I had some maturity under my belt, but that little teenage girl who was worried and timid about “fitting in” and would did not know who she was looked me in the eye in the mirror as all of these expectations came rushing toward me.  I had NEVER felt so much pressure.  There was a lot of opportunity to feel so much pride in my decisions–when I thought I chose to do something “right.”  There was also a lot of opportunity for me to feel “less than” from the club of mothers around me–things I chose or did not choose or could or could not do.

It is interesting how many trends can become en vogue in just a short span of years.  Right now, I see many young women in their twenties in the serious evangelical realm going for natural and home births.  I totally respect people for choosing that for themselves.  This is obviously something you pray and decide seriously about (as with many decisions in motherhood and child-rearing.)   I have then seen women who are crushed and feel like they have failed at a major point when a health issue prevents this (and they have to have a C-section or go to the hospital) and they lose that goal.   I  see people who are drawn to sleep training and parent-directed (AKA Babywise verses people who are very into attachment parenting (AKA Dr. Sears).  There can be a lot of judgement and shaming between those camps–I felt that when we decided to carry through with a Babywise philosophy.    There is MUCH MUCH MUCH pressure to exclusively breastfeed–which is a wonderful thing, but the pressure I took on myself from outside sources and wanted to work for me nearly crushed me as my body would not produce what was needed.  I truly believe the pressure that I internalized (yes–I take the responsibility) nearly put be over the edge with such deep postpartum that I could not see straight.  I could  go on and on and on…You get the point.

This is my concern…Somewhere along the way, we have made choices into essentials of our identity. “If I do not do it this way, my whole identity is shattered.”  We get on this proving ground and lose our minds and hearts.  And, as children grow, the proving ground changes but we still act as if our identities are essential to our decisions within the parenting realm.   It may be how we discipline our children or how we interact with them or what we expect from them at certain ages or what we expose them to (homeschool, private school, public school.)  I’m kind of getting the hives just writing this.  Because we cling to making the “right” choices as our identity, then we must enforce that with others.  We judge them in our mind, hearts and with our mouths because they are not doing things our way.  We think they are less than because in order for us to continue to gain our identity and worth from these things, they have to be wrong or get on board and think we are right.  We make things essential that are side issues.

So, as the pressure mounts, yet again, on this uphill climb in pregnancy and mothering, I remind me and others of what is essential.  The essential piece to our identity is the Gospel–whether we are single, married, jobless, parents, CEO or stay at home mom.  We do not prove our worth or acceptance to God by what philosophy we adhere to or birth plan we choose, whether our children sleeps in the bed with us until they are 6 or is in the crib the first night, whether we breast or bottle feed, whether we give immunizations or feed kraft macaroni or organic.  All of us are going to fail as parents because we are human, fallen, sinful creatures.  We can lean hard into the Lord from day one and do everything “right”, and our children will sin and rebel and break our hearts.  We can royally try to do it on our own without the Lord, and our children are going to sin and rebel and mess up.  It is what we cling to and  remember in our triumphs and our failures that will shape our hearts and our children’s hearts.  Who does our help come from?  Where do we go for our essential identity?  How in our failures and our children’s failures do we point them toward the hope of the Gospel?

Our children will get the message from us loud and clear as to what we think is essential to our identity (and, in turn, theirs).  They see what we cling to and what crushes us when it falls apart.  So, from the beginning, I encourage those on the journey with me to be on the journey together, encouraging instead of accusing, making the gospel essential and not side decisions, loving instead of comparing.  Will you come with me?

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, comparison, discernment, eternal things, God's word, idols, infertility, self-absorption, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Where does my hope come from?

Jack turned one a few Sundays ago.  My heart was full with thanks, memories, relief that that first month was not to be relived:).  What a beautiful, fun-loving, joyful, strong, funny, determined little one we are blessed with.  In the time of postpartum depression, I could never have imagined the beauty of his life and liveliness.

Sleepless nights, deferred goals, multiplied chores, inconvenient days…all of those are included in parenthood.  I stand today thankful.  I am thankful for this opportunity and humbled by it.  It is so easy to become overwhelmed and forget the miracle and not stop to experience the joy of moments that are racing by.  The giggles, the new milestones and funny tricks, the little mumbles and squeals…all can be easily missed.

You know what I hate, though?  These nagging thoughts that pull on my joy.  I am still trying to figure out balance–time in the word, time to keep house, time to cook, time to minister, time to do business, time to invest in my relationship with Greg, time to teach Jack, time to play with Jack, time to invest in family, time to invest in friendships, time to exercise.  I seriously do not know how to do it.  The thoughts that play in my head include the word “fail” a lot.

We all choose ways to try to make life work.   I have found myself struggling with two things…seeking peace where it is not to be found and comparing my family situation with others.  Everyone needs breaks to regroup.  The Lord has convicted me that I think that breaks and a vacation and date night and quiet times is where I will find my peace…where I will finally rest.  The only problem is I have not been getting any of these regularly or at all.  So, as with every expectation that is blocked, I get frustrated.  I think “if I could just…if they would just…I need more of…”  Until the last two weeks, I have not been diving into the Word consistently.  I have been expecting little breaks and laziness to be my solace.

This backward thinking has been designed in the sinfulness of my heart.  I have been seeking my idols of comfort and ease.  See, I have always sought after them before God.  He has been teaching me for a long time about this, and I always forget and forsake Him to try to be comfortable again.  I then begin to prop up my idols by comparing (coveting) my situation with other parents who are leaving their kids with grandparents a lot or going on vacations alone or even with their family.  See, I have not been joyful for them…I have just been thinking that they have it made…poor old me.

The Lord woke me up to the grossness of my thoughts.  He reminded me that peace is only found in Him.  No vacation or quiet or pampering or girl’s night or date night will give me the peace that passes understanding…only Him.  I have found solace and true joy in His Truth again.  He has allowed me to see where I have allowed these thoughts to take control–the more I have spent time in Him, the more I see the battle for these thoughts of covetousness.

Weirdly enough, I have entertained them much more as a mom than as a woman who struggled with infertility.  In infertility, I spent a lot of time in the word and in trying to guard my heart against sin. I spent a lot of time then reminding myself that the purpose of life on earth is not to be fulfilled with marriage and children and vacations and stuff.  I remembered daily that my hope is found in Christ and in eternity where we will see fully and experience fully His joy.   Since I have less extended time to spend in the word and I have not guarded my heart against sin in this area, it has been covetouspalooza in my mind and heart.  I have experienced amnesia of where my hope is to come from.

I am so thankful that the Lord has graciously awakened me to this sin pattern and the truth of His grace and hope in the midst of this season of my life. I do not come to you today with seven steps to get “cured,” but I come reminded of His grace in the Gospel, the power and efficiency of His Word, the joy that is experienced in Him.  Instead of having a free for all of jealous thoughts, I have been working toward remembering truth, rejoicing with those who rejoice and choosing to be thankful for so many blessings in my life.  It is still a struggle but one that I see the lie in now.

I want to be faithful…I want Greg and Jack to be spurred on in that…to see the richness of Christ.  That is more important that any momentary comfort on this earth.  I also remember that there is an eternity to travel and rest on the new earth.  Following Christ I lack nothing.