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The making of confident girls

I was given a gift.  I did not seek it.  I did not deserve it.  I had no idea its worth until it’s initial presence was gone, and I reflected with wisdom.

I reflect on this gift this week.

I have two small boys that do not know real want.  They have warm beds, warm hugs, abundant clothing, a variety of nutritious food (whether they choose to eat it or not), educational resources, invested adults, and hearts and words pointing them toward Jesus.   They experience security in ways that many children in our country and world do not. They need it, but they did not seek it.  They did not choose it–it was chosen for them. They have NO idea the gift they have that is an ache in the heart and bellies and souls of children across the world.

Last night, I looked at my four-year-old, Luke.  He crawled up in my husband’s lap and snuggled with no fear; he knew that he is welcome. I think of that sweet confidence I had of crawling in my Daddy’s lap at two, four, ten, sixteen, and, yes, even thirty.  At the age of thirty, I experienced that love, affection and deep care from my Daddy for the last time.  However, the deposits were everlasting.

Oh, how I miss his affection, but his investment built a foundation in my heart, in my mind and in my confidence.  I never feared to approach him.  I never wondered if he cared for me.  I never had to guess that he enjoyed me being around.  You know what makes my heart burst?  I know he shared that care and investment to pour into boys and girls that did not have present fathers as he was a minister of the gospel at our church.  That investment reverberates into the lives of moms and dads investing in their own children and so on.

His simple presence in my life and the lives of others made a distinct difference.  It brought peace, laughter, encouragement, and fun.  Was he perfect?  No way.  Was he loving and present and hilarious and goofy?  Yes.  Did he know how to connect with me always?  No way.  There were awkward conversations and missteps in our relationship. I reflect on some mechanical conversations at a Mexican restaurant when I was 22.  Did he make me cry?  Um….yes.  All he had to do was show disappointment or lose his temper.  In fact, I often exasperated him when he tried to discipline me, and I immediately cried.

In all my 42 years, I have witnessed many father-daughter relationships as a school counselor, a minister, and a human.  I have seen how the absence of a father, whether physically or emotionally, sculpts the confidence of a child (male or female).  There is a space in all of us that a healthy male figure needs to fill–that is the design we are made for.  Sometimes it is our earthly Daddy and sometimes it is another male caring figure and sometimes it is painfully absent. It points to our need for our Creator and his imprint–both masculine and feminine.  When that relationship is absent, it is very evident as a thread of need throughout one’s life.

As I look at the reality of relationships in this world, I realize the humbling gift I was given in the presence of my Daddy and my Heavenly Father.  There is a thread of confidence within me that I can trace to the stability and the love and the investment of my Daddy.  As I reflect on his death 12 years ago tomorrow, I miss him terribly.  However, I am so thankful for the years I had with him.  I am thankful for his legacy which is shown in the ripples of investment he made in others.  I do not take the gift of his life lightly.  I can only pray that my investment in others point to my Heavenly Father like he did.  And, I encourage those Daddies young in the game–it is not too late to ask the Lord to give you guidance, to give you a heart for your children, to give you the heart to turn from a heart of self-preservation to one of love and authenticity and hard work.  You are important and a vital part of your children’s lives and the lives of people around you.

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Heart Questions for the Believer in Business: Part 2 Carrots aren’t just for Bunnies

With a background in growing up in an education and ministry family and choosing to be in ministry and school counseling, I had never had an opportunity to see efforts being rewarded with higher pay or bonuses.  It was more an intrinsic reward.  I got paid for my work, but for most helping professions, the pay is not the reason you enter the profession.  I have always been a hard worker no matter the job or title, but the way some businesses are set up, you literally could always have another challenge available.

Imagine the weirdness of being in a field where there is a new carrot for your effort around every corner.  At first, that is exhilarating (or overwhelming–depending on your personality). Make this goal, win this bonus or prize and increase your paycheck.  Then, there’s a newer and better one.  These incentives are built around human nature and the hunger for more and better. Again, there’s the wrestling inside….”is it wrong to keep making goals?  Is it wrong to not participate?  what if I get left behind?  is my worth in my title? how does this affect my family?”

Notice that I have been asking a lot of questions.  See, as a follower of Jesus, I have the Spirit of God inside of me and the mind of Christ–the Bible tells me so.  God’s word also instructs that my heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,  that the LOVE of money is the root of evil, and that my heart is an idol factory that will easily serve something (and myself) before the God of the Universes.  The created becomes what we seek rather than the Creator, and that gets us all out of whack and creates more problems.

I have found that it is sometimes wrong for me to participate in chasing another carrot.  In fact, I have begun praying about chasing any opportunity.  I pray, talk it through with my husband to see the benefits and setbacks for our family and then make an informed decision.  Just because it’s available it doesn’t mean I sign up.   Here are the questions I weigh in that decision:

  • To what end/purpose am I doing this?  For my glory?  For my family?  For a need for recognition?  to strengthen my business?  to simply win/because it’s there/pride?  to provide a certain need?
  • What will this cost and is that cost worth it?  time away from my family?  my reserves?  margin for relationships?  what will the consequences be for my health and the health and well-being of my family? Will I still have margin to pursue the Lord and my family first?  Will I MISS people and their needs in the midst?
  • What kind of example am I showing my team about balance and boundaries through pursuing this?  Am I encouraging others in the midst?  Am I pointing people to Christ in the midst?  

Is it easier not to question?  Shoot yeah!  Will it numb our hearts if we don’t?  Yes, over time it will.  In anything, we need to see why we are doing things.  There is always a reason, and we are called to guard our hearts and minds as believers.  The enemy would love to render us pointless for the Kingdom simply because we are too busy or too caught up in our next goal.  Is having a goal or going for it wrong?  No–it just depends on the why.  Sometimes we don’t set goals or go for anything because we are afraid.  This can look Spiritual but not be.  The heart, what a complicated thing!!!  Happy QUestioning, and I will be back with more!

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Heart Questions for the Believer in Business, Part 1

How do I start this one?  From the moment I started in the “business world,” I saw a whole new world of possibilities for good and for bad.  I saw a ton of questions to weigh within my heart. This is a series out of what I am learning in my heart.  It is not a hard and fast list of what to do, but it is a picture of questions to ask as a believer.  We have a higher calling–for everything we do, including our motives, to glorify God.  It is tricky because no one knows our motives but God, but twisted motives cannot be hidden–their fruit is shown over time.

First, I had to question if it was wrong to profit and to make money and not just try to give things away.  I know this sounds ridiculous seeing as goods are made and sold to feed mouths and actually put into place healthy communities and economies.   There are examples of good and bad EVERYTHING–roles and positions can easily come with a bad reputation simply because there have been people involved making hurtful and selfish choices. Doctors, Lawyers, financial planners, business owners, pastors, social workers, salespeople, politicians, homemakers, medical professionals, military, police officers, actors–etc, we all have a picture of them depending upon our experiences.  We put value judgements on industries and professions simply because we have known people good and bad in each of the categories.  That doesn’t make the “profession” sainted or tainted; it reflects the hearts of people.  There is no schism between secular jobs and sacred jobs; it is the heart in which they are done.

Second, I had to wrestle with if I sell something to someone does it LOOK  like I  have an angle or that I am using them?   I quickly realized it was the way in which I would conduct business that was in my control–not what people thought.   I am responsible to the Lord for my actions. I was not there to take advantage of people–I simply had a good product or a business opportunity to share. The spirit of service and of respect and excellence I pray is seen in my business.   I want to treat people the way I want to be treated every time.   Servant leadership is what I try to model to my team.  People first–relationships first–bottom line, last.

Third, what eternal significance does this venture have?  I will have seasons with this question.  At first, I totally thought this was so vain–the eternal significance was helping my family by making money and being present in the now.  Then, as time marched on, I saw much opportunity to encourage women as customers and then business partners in their spiritual lives and to gain entrance into their lives.  The question for me…how was I taking that opportunity to serve and to love?  I am now literally seeing God story after God story of people being transformed and asking hard questions and talking about deep pains in their lives and who God is in the midst of them.  I was in such a Christian bubble before, and I am so thankful for the opportunities for skincare to open a door into real life relationships and spiritual growth.  That is available to all of us in our jobs whether we are in something we love or not–how are you engaging with people?

These are the first questions of many in my journey.  If they can help another business person wrestle in order to make an impact for the Kingdom, it is my honor to share.  Warning: There will be some that will step on all of our toes, for sure

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It’s not the load that breaks you–it’s how you carry it.

Mondays are the most #getrealwednesday days of the week.  How we approach them frames our whole week.

Dread.  Avoidance.  Letting the treadmill take us where it is going anyway.  Trying to blend in and not rock a boat.

Hope. Fight.  Renewed Purpose. Asking for help from the right places. Looking for opportunities to make a difference.

These two lines of thought start with our hearts, our thinking, and our worldview.

I spent most of 2016 feeling the beatdown, believing the beatdown, and not fighting with truth.  Weary, tired, disconnected, and feeling the fail in every area of my life. I just wanted to make it through–numb down the hard that would not be changing anyway.  Sound familiar in your soul?  I chose for the load to break me in half and another million pieces.  I felt too tired to do the small things day to day to choose Hope and to press into the Lord.

I believed the lies that were being hurled my way…”this is your lot–fine job you are doing, Jen.”   “you are literally failing at everything–too much screen time, cannot connect with your kid, cannot grow your team, cannot meal plan and cook for your family, cannot get the balance in life, cannot sleep, cannot enjoy your children…”

And then….everything broke within me in one moment.  And, I realized that I needed the Lord desperately like I have never felt or recognized.  I knew I had to tend to my soul which meant going to painful places.  I called the counselor that I didn’t think I could spare the time or money for, and I realized that she would be my friend for life on this journey of SPD and rheumatoid arthritis and mothering and pastor’s wifing and reformed people pleasing.  When we are broken and cannot fake it, we have the opportunity to act without thinking about what it looks like to others.  Little by little, I began to feel Living Water flowing through my soul again.  I began to find and hear the Spirit working through me.  I began to call out the root of all the lies that had been barraging me.  I began to take back my voice that I had lost.   I began to see glimpses of the real Jen coming back to life but more.

I am a different person than I was a year ago at this time. Have my continuing circumstances changed?  No.  Do I have a promise that they will change? No.  I am being renewed within day by day and by the grace of the Lord Jesus.  Before, I was letting the load crush me.  I was choosing to think in the worst of ways giving in to “this is my lot and it will never change.”  I was silencing the voice of Hope within me.  However, the Lord was not finished with His work in me, and He uses our pain and our need to awaken us to true Life.  I am so thankful to Him, and I am reminded of His grace at every turn.

This is not my performance in life; it is my dependence.  I have learned to depend again.  I am beyond thankful…and this is the posture and the legacy that I want to pass to my children and everyone I come into contact with on this journey.

Where are you today?  I am here to tell you, even amongst the rubble of your choices, there is Hope.

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starting the conversation

Most of the time I write a blog, I know I have thoughts to wrestle through and to solidify in my heart and my brain.  The writing is more about that process than anything.  I feel things bubbling up in me–longing to come to the surface.  Our world does not lend itself to wrestling time.  In fact, we have learned to run from it, to find the first thing to numb ourselves, to create white noise to cover the drone of need, to deaden the bubbling and the longing because we are afraid of what they will uncover.

The world’s pace and culture and our Creator are at odds.  See, He created us to think, to wrestle, to pray, to dream, to see our need for Him, to doubt, to grow, to be in the desert place, to question the hard stuff, to dig for Hope, to bury the expectations we had to awaken to a different hope, to face silence in life, to be face to face with impossibility and to see death be turned to life.  When we push down those uncertainties and try to cover them, try to hide, we mirror Adam and Eve after the fall.  Originally, they were naked and unashamed in relationship with Him, and then, complexities and consequences arose from their rebellion and distrust of Him.  Each way we try to hide and to avoid causes another layer of consequences and problems and another way we don’t want to face the Truth that will literally set us free.    When we do not take time to interact with who He is (we find that in His word and through His Spirit), we have this feeling that He is unsafe, that He is not good, that He is uncaring, or that He is completely inconsequential.  Why?  Because we are wrapped up in our own wisdom and fears.

You may be saying “yeah, yeah, I ain’t got time for that!”  And, I understand your conundrum.  I have said it for far too long.  What I have found is that we were made to MAKE time for that, and if we don’t, we are slowly dying and cut off from who we are created to be.  The slow death might accelerate depending on the ways we are trying to cope and how our bodies are reacting.  The Lord has shown me in blaring ways in the past year that I need to reevaluate.  Announcement:  I do not have this figured out.  However, I have figured that the way it was going was NOT GOOD.  I was operating by “momma has to keep this ship going despite chronic illness and sensory processing disorder and young kids and business and church responsibilities and I don’t have time to reflect or to study or to do anything but keep the hamster wheel turning.”  I did not even see I was choosing this.  I thought it was chosen for me–my lot.  And, there are things that are my circumstantial lot, however, I was playing the victim of no choices instead of making space to see choices.  I was band-aiding things that desperately needed figurative surgery along with rest and reset.  Any of this sound familiar?  I was not attending to my heart in the midst–I was not connecting to the Vine as Jesus had told me to.  He said that I couldn’t do it alone, but I tried harder to do it alone.

I was not attending to my heart in the midst or listening to the Lord and communing with Him. “Takes too much time,” I said.  And then, like a hurricane that literally uproots and floods and destroys all the things we have called home, the Lord sent a figurative storm and saved me from myself.  He took me to the depths to have me ask the deepest of questions when all my “property” was gone.  He turned me upside down in the best of ways that were the scariest.  My mind and heart are more alert to the real Enemy more than ever.  The Enemy who longs to steal, to kill and to destroy–  the Enemy who wants us to never face the doubts, the hurts, the questions in the Light of the Creator’s love and Truth.  “Push it down. It all this rests on you. You are sucking at this.  You are forgotten.  You are a failure at keeping everything together.  This is the way it is–fine life, huh? There’s no time for you to be real–keep going,” says the Enemy.

I had no choice but to stop, to ask the Lord for help in the deepest of ways, to receive grace (unmerited favor) from others and from Him.  I, very clumsily, began to build in times for self-care because it was not something I could avoid.  Then, over time, the Lord began to show me where I had chosen to silence my voice because I was not connected to Him.  He reminded me of the beauty of walking in His Truth, in prayer, in remembrance of Who He is in character, of leaning on His Body.  He began restoring some joy, and my circumstances had not changed, but my Hope and focus had.

In this process, my business has grown–only by the grace of God.  And, as I am looking at my life, I see that the Lord has provided graciously that I might begin to “be with” people again.  As I am coming out of an intense season and looking to my schedule, I am looking with different eyes.  Usually, I fill it to the brim, and now I feel Him calling me to create margin.  In a business training I was in in the Spring, I really got to nail down why I am doing everything that I am doing in life.  I drilled down to the statement “helping others come alive.”  If the purpose in the things I chose was not that, then it needed to be scrapped.  One thing that I realize in myself is that there has to be space for me to have a heart that is sensitive to the Spirit and, in turn, my family’s needs, my business partners, my friends’ needs.  Helping Others Come Alive is not giving someone an “attagirl” and telling them 5 ways to improve their week.  It involves “seeing” people.  The reality is, I can only be present and “see” so many people.

I have been turning down very good opportunities and things to create space in which to have an impromptu face to face meeting or to be able to pause with someone I pass in the rush to listen.  I like it and see great worth in life spaced like this.  It is old-fashioned.  It is meaningful.  And, the only reason I can do it is because of the blessing of my business.  Getting to see how my sweet son is learning and thriving at school while I still get to be home and have flexibility with my younger son is a gift I do NOT take lightly.  I work hard and invest purposefully in my team to help them grow, and I am so so thankful.  I thought this was a vain pursuit–skincare, good grief.  A direct sales model–good grief.  I am a people-helper and this is business, good grief.  And, that is just what I am–a people helper helping others come alive, “seeing” others, talking to others about business but at the core sharing life on life and sharing my TRUE HOPE in Jesus.

So, a year ago, my world crashed, but I am so thankful for the ways the Lord has shown me there must be time to wrestle, to seek Him, to “see” people, to prioritize what is important.  He truly continues to create beauty from ashes.

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Unlikely Places

I am the one that always responds “no amount of money.”  You know the game where people say “for a million dollars would you spit off the rail at the mall and humiliate people?”  “For $10,000 would you eat a squirrel?”  My husband laughs at me, but I am just not motivated in those ways.  Not that I am free and clear from the lures of materialism or from pleasing people, etc.  I am more likely to eat a live cricket to make someone feel better about their life, and that has its own set of demons.

Enter the hilarity of me being in qualifications to earn a Lexus with RF.  The sheer irony of this is not wasted on me.  I am quite content with my Toyota Sienna Minivan. (The automatic doors change lives, people!!!)  On the inside, my car mainly looks like a cross between goodwill drop off and a Chickfila dumpster (the cleanest of fast food dumpsters).  So, there have been conversations about who will actually drive said car with strict rules on cleaning it!

This journey (and it has been hard work, effort, collaboration, getting out of my comfort zone) has brought me to a place that I did not seek, per se.  I have worked hard to encourage and equip myself and others to grow personally and professionally.  I have engaged in business with the heart to help others with the greatest lion’s share to equip and provide for our boys.  God has placed specific people on my team to help us thrive.  I am so proud of them and thankful that we are persevering together.   I am unbelievably thankful for the financial provision that God has brought through this business vehicle–that is the reason I stepped into this.  But, I am not going to lie….the titles and the car and the carrots are a distraction.

We can so easily be looking to the next goal or thing to fill us, and, deep down, we KNOW they do not.  Yet, we are crushed when they don’t.  However, we find ourselves in a race believing a lie.  Man’s praise feels good for the moment, but it is fickle.  Cars and titles rust.  Trips vanish from our minds.  If there is one theme that the Lord has been singing over me, around me, to me for the last 15 years–THIS WORLD IS NOT OUR HOME.  The things of this world can be enjoyed in Him with an eye for His worth and glory, but when they are seen as the “IT,” they will destroy us.  When we put an expectation on this life to fill us– our family, our spouse, our career, our children’s behavior and performance, our vacations, our bank account, our church, our friends– we will be crushed every time.  Or, we will be satisfied for a moment only to chase the next thing (whether this be a new relationship, jobs, cars, boats, vacations).

My prayer in this whole process is for my heart and the hearts of the people working with me.  Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for this season, but I am continually reminding myself and being reminded to live this life with an open hand.  Material blessing is a test of our hearts, and we are all susceptible to begin to be enthralled with and value that which is dung.  We can easily start to trust what we can control with our bank account versus knowing that we ultimately do not have control.

So, by the end of the Summer, I could be driving a new car.  However, know when you see me that I do not glory in it but I glory in the Father.  May this business be the opportunity for me to engage with and to serve others whose need goes much deeper than anything financial.  My deepest prayer is to help others come alive, and I fight with all my might to keep my heart and mind and actions focused on that goal alone.

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what are you afraid to say?

I’m afraid to speak my grief out loud or to actually feel it.

Why?  Because people cannot handle it.  They want to fix.  They want it to be easy or neat or not chronic.  Shoot, I want life to be easy, neat and not have chronic hards.  In fact, I expect that reality every day only to be met with a better one.

A better one, you say?  Not better as in more comfortable or more palpable, but better as in the deepest gift I could be given.  It is a gift I forget I desperately need…a gift I look like a brat responding to…a gift which lays me out and exposes my ugliest parts.  It is a gift that does not appease the taste buds like cheesecake but nourishes like apple cider vinegar.

Yesterday, my friend, JC,  spoke briefly before communion.  He said our lives were a cycle (just like Christ’s).  We are chosen, blessed, broken and given.  I felt the heaviness of the word broken.  In the last month, in particular, we have been in a battle in parenting where we do not have the answers.  We do not have the capacity to power through.  There is not a strategy or a plan or the “godly” way to tie things in a bow.  We have come to the end of ourselves–so, yeah, I feel the brokenness.

I also see how in the last 3 years of parenting that the Lord has used our chronic sorrows over the realities of Sensory Processing Disorder to give hope away.  A support group was formed and people can come together to identify and to share and to encourage and to pray.  Were it not for this painful place, there would be only isolation for some.  Were it not for this painful place, there would be no #getrealwednesdays.  Were it not for this painful place, I could not give grace upon grace to young mothers (I might think I have it all together–or at least fake that I do.)

I DO NOT have energy within or without to fake it.  For this reforming people pleaser, that is a gift.  I don’t say this in an arrogant way because it is nothing I have manufactured–only God has birthed this–but I am making a difference in my pain.  It is because of the Lord’s great love for me/us that we are not consumed.  His mercies are new every morning.  I want people to know the power and reality of the Gospel of Jesus that He takes dead, hopeless things and realities and makes them come to life like the blooming garb of Spring.

These last 12-15 years of my life have been a systematic breaking of my supposed dreams, my hopes, my desires.   Daddy’s Parkinson’s and death, Infertility, Greg’s Rheumatoid Arthritis, My depression, and now in parenting–Sensory Processing Disorder have dismantled my coping mechanisms, my supposed control, and my self-righteous heart.  See, God is not a God who appeases our whims–who listens to our guidance and plans.  He is the Ancient of Days.  He is Wisdom.  He has all knowledge and righteousness.  He holds Eternity.  He is Savior.  He is Just.  He did not come to save or redeem or restore me in part but the whole.  He is not a Santa Clause God that listens to our fits and whining of the moment and says “oh, you are right, you do need this toy, this car, this success, this guy, this behavior out of your children, and then you will know that I am good.”   He is a Good, Good Father who sees beyond our momentary pain and calls us deeper into Him to find the ultimate Hope,

He says, “jennifer, I know your heart hurts wanting to make things easy and palpable for your boys.  I know you grieve when everything seems to be a challenge.  I know you long for ease and comfort.  Do you believe in my goodness?  Do you remember my faithfulness to you at every turn to refine you to be more like Me–to know Me more?  Don’t you want that for your children, your husband and more for yourself?  You were created to make a difference for My renown and My glory, and being broken allows my message to be poured forth in love to others.  Look at the tapestry I have woven with the pain you have experienced…It is more beautiful than a painting or life that you could manufacture…Do you trust me and know that every step of this life is a gift to steward well and that I will not leave or forsake you?  Do you trust me that ALL hope and fulfillment that you “lose” here will be gained in eternity?”

Yes, Lord.

My heart is burning within me.  I’m on my front porch swinging in my new swing literally ablaze with love for my sweet Savior.  I know He has me and that He has my family.  Does that mean ease?  No.  Does that mean rich life?  yes.  yes. yes.

I write to create a space to wrestle out my heart with the Lord.  Thank you for letting me share.  What are you afraid to say?  What pain are you not facing with Him?  What are you trying to stuff down.  You were created with a purpose–to make a difference–that includes every single part and pain and experience.  I pray that you have courage to truly live.18379554_10155232565336358_94709615_o