Posted in authenticity, doctrine, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, spiritual growth, transformation by truth

a pivotal moment

The floor felt like it opened up to swallow me.  Thoughts and words and ideas and foundations were challenged as I sipped a frozen coffee and listened.    

At 21 years old and a senior in college, I assumed I would be a bit more stable.  In the prior year, I had seen my foundations fracture due to my own choices.  What started as hairline fractures burst into chasms in which I could not charm my way out of.   I hurt others.  I chose my own comfort for the moment.  I began to see that my self-righteousness was a front for the sin that lay beneath.  What stung the most for this people pleaser was that others called me out on my mess.  In 2019 terms, I was having a “brand crisis.”     

Looking in the mirror, the person I thought I was faded, and I did not know who this young woman had become.  One might be thinking I had gotten into a scandal of epic size, but it was not.  A poorly handled breakup and a poorly handled rebound where I hurt others started the snowball down the hill.  I kept trying to spin my choices in the eyes of others, and I found myself further in a hole.  I had lost fellowship with God as I walked my day to day life, and it became about my own wisdom.  Spoiler alert:  I had an overinflated picture of my own wisdom and resources. 

I could recognize and feel the grossness and inconsistencies within me for the first time.  Up until then, I really thought I had it together.  I know—yuck.  I had depended upon God, but I did not have a truthful view of myself and Him. 

So, as I sat looking at God’s word in a totally different way, I was greatly sobered.  Before, I had cherry picked verses that were encouraging or convicting.  Never had I studied through a book of the Bible or listened to teaching in that way.  I did not know how.  Never had I let God’s word inform me of what God was like.  I took what people told me and the wisdom that I had and formulated my faith. 

Ephesians 1 was before me…had I ever read it before?  It was plain, and it shook me. When I allowed the Bible coupled with the Spirit to speak…I was confronted that I was not the center of my story.  Though humbling, it was so freeing.  This freedom and joy only came after a war waged within.

This was the beginning of my journey of looking at God, His word and my faith in a different way.  See, I totally would be a different person today had this change not occurred. Every year and in every pain, He leads me deeper and deeper into His truth.  Sadly, I see where I could have been apart from His grace to show me the treasure of His word and who He is.  From my background, I assume I would still be in church.  I would still be a people helper.  However, knowing myself, I think the authenticity and vulnerability would not be there.  The richness of relationships would not be there.  I think my view of God would have shifted to be more culturally acceptable. I would not have had the anchor of God’s sure character within pain.  In infertility, in death and loss and grief, in ministry…I literally would be unrecognizable if I still thought I was the center of the story.  I would have missed the beauty of who He is.

If I can encourage people of anything in this life, it is to examine His word and to ask Him for wisdom and grace in learning from it.  For, from it, He shows Himself and in turn, one sees the reality of who they are. 

See, if God is the center and the praise of His glory is the point, I have found and am finding that there is meaning and worship and hope and eternal purpose in all things—even the most crushing of blows.  I can go to His truth preserved and find my identity and meaning there—even when I don’t understand and don’t like what I read.  He does not shift or change as everything around us does.  His purposes are true and eternal and good.   So, wrestle friends. It is worth it.

Posted in art work, authenticity, encouraging women, healing, identity, isolation, spiritual growth

Pieces of me

I remember the exhilarating feeling of the Summer after graduating high school.  I was 18, seemingly confident, and full of wonder for the future.  I can feel that ghost of a girl as I fondly look back.  Her identity would take some hits in the coming years.

I remember the trepidation and excitement as I spent the first night in my dorm room at the University of Tennessee alone. The lonely moved in that night, and a foreign reality set in.  The familiarities of life in a small town with the rhythms of predictable and warm people was traded for an upside down perspective where no one knew me or valued me. 

I remember getting a call from Delta Airlines offering me a job after graduating from UTK.  After training, I would be living in New York City with many people in an apartment.  Adventure called, and it sounded good but made me nauseated with fear.  My heart failed me, and due to health issues amidst training, I landed back at home with my parents unable to drive for 2 ½ months.  Talk about a pride crushing anti-climax. 

As I reflect, there have been a lot of times where I have been in a season with no plan, a timid voice and a questioning of my abilities. 

Transitional seasons in life have brought me right back to that scared, excited, lonely girl in that dorm room who mistakenly thought she knew herself.

Adult life can feel predictable, but the truth is, we are all being flipped on our heads all of the time with change, grief and conflict.  So, why don’t we talk about it? We isolate our inner turmoil and find ways to turn it’s noise down instead of sharing our fears with others.  Then, instead of exploring it, we self-destruct making asinine decisions that might destroy our families and our friendships in the process.

It’s funny.  In the last year, I have experienced high confidence in who I am and how I am growing in the aftermath of a really tough season.    Yet, Right now, I am plunged into a place where I feel my shortcomings, my selfishness, my lack of focus and how that affects the lives around me greater than I ever have before.  Who in the heck am I? As a kid, I had no idea adults were walking around feeling this way!

The Lord keeps giving me this picture of my life as pieces of paper ripped and piled up, unable to be made sense of by me. Since thinking and problem solving are my go-to activities, I have been frustrated.  I have this need to work it out and find a reason for things to be happening and how to solve them or spin them for a purposed good. And yet, He continues to remind me, “Show up right now, Jen.  You are not to figure it all out.  Don’t hide in your mind or your activities. Show up, and rely on Me.”    He is the One making the collage.  He knows the vision.  It is not my job to have the plan and piece the pile together. My purpose is to lean in, to know Him, and to trust Him.  It is there that peace is found.    

Empathy is one of my gifts but grieving is not.  So, I emote for others but I struggle to sit with and identify my emotions myself.  It feels too unpredictable.  It feels wrong.  I want to run from it, yet God does not let me.  Without the moments in my life where I am floundering and lack my sea legs to find a place and an identity (like all the situations mentioned above), I trust in myself and my abilities.    I stay on the surface. 

With each transition of undoing and being remade, I see the emptiness of life in Jen.  I see a shell of life with no pearl formed.  I see vacuous decisions.  Not that I seek it, but It is through pain, questions, annoyance, arrogance, loss, frustrations, hurts, and conflict that the grit has been rubbing my soul to form a pearl that reflects the glories of Him and not of my plans or my desires.  Good grief, what I would dream and desire would be empty and easy and so far away from the splendor of knowing the Creator of the Universe as my adopted Father.   So, I sit in the pieces, grieving the “not yet” and sitting in the “already” of redemption.  I am learning ever so clumsily. 

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.