I’m so glad you’re here.

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I’m Jennifer, a listener, writer, and speaker (in that order). I’ve been writing here at You are My Girls for four years, and now you can find me over at my new site jenniferjcamp.com

I’m still writing about listening for God, seeking His truth about my identity, in Him.

I’m still writing about the importance of community, with God and with each other, as we seek to follow Christ with our whole lives.

I’m still writing about adventure, saying yes to God and living a full life of faith rather than a filled life of to-dos.

What else is on my heart? A curiosity about worship & imagination, and what other women have to say about living art, with their lives. Come on over!

Jennifer J Camp blog CollageAnd if you do, you’re going to get a free gift: my 10 Best Things for Women, for you, just because.

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California Interstate 5: A Road Trip Watching

24099_1376311454053_6507475_nThere are trees uprooted next to the freeway. Mounds of dirt clod clumps clinging to thick roots sticking up, awkward, misplaced.

I want to get a better look at them, but I am driving on California Interstate 5 to Los Angeles. Husband and kids and bags and I journeying to friends who said, please come. It is overcast, gray sky low, arms stretching out in embrace.

If I were in the passenger seat, I’d take a photo. Or, I’d grab words and try to work out what it is that makes my heart feel so tight in my chest when I look out. Gnarled empty limbs, cement brown, so undignified, these trunks sprawled, broken and exposed, on their sides.

I am familiar with almond trees–as a farmer’s daughter who watched her dad bend low, dirt crusted in lines of tanned skin, watching and listening to the voice of trees. I know the sharp edges of older bark as it breaks off in clumps, and the smooth, knotted roughness of young bark layered on new green. I know the smell of wet earth and the miracle of paper-thin nonpareil shells the dogs crack open and eat from the ground.

These trees were planted once. They were seeds once. They were shoots that laid in dirt brown and hard, softened by drinks of water, aerated by steel spikes pulled by tractors, and visited by furry gray-brown squirrels and jackrabbits that scamper and scurry to limb upon limb or underground.

Hands laid each shoot into the ground. And the shoots grew and limbs stretched, quiet and strong, sprouting green leaves and white blossoms, and then nuts with green velvet shells before the hulls hardened and opened wide. Downy against thumb or cheek as you rub them close.

The day the bulldozers ripped roots straight out, one by one, row after row–violent, sure–was not a decision made quickly. It was not a decision that was easy. It was not a decision that was fun.

But it was necessary, whether due to lack of water, or money. Or maybe the orchard changed hands.

I hope new trees are planted soon. I hope these old trees, their roots so wrongly bent in weird angles outside the land where they belong, are replaced with new, young shoots. I pray their lineage continues, the life of the seeds giving birth to trees, with limbs pruned and the trees growing tall, before being pulled out of the ground.

Death doesn’t look beautiful, from this angle, as I speed by, one of thousands of cars on a January Saturday afternoon. It doesn’t look poetic or kind. It doesn’t look hope-filled or cause for any celebration.

My hands clutch the steering wheel and I memorize the scene, the uprooted orchards, the story of men and of women and of dreams and of life coming so miraculously from hard ground.

I remember my mom’s words to me on the phone the day before. The almonds will be in bloom soon. Just a few more weeks and the blossoms will be on the branches. The trees my father planted.

And here I see only uprooted trees, disaster, disorder, disappointment. And I know the trees my father planted are scheduled to be pulled up soon, too.

The word for almond in Hebrew, is shakeid, the root of the word meaning to watch or to awake. Jeremiah, when he is asked by God what he sees, looks and says “I see an almond branch.” And I think about Jeremiah looking for what God wanted him to see, and how Jeremiah did see, and how what Jeremiah saw was something of so much beauty.

Father, show us what to watch for. Ask us what we see.

Praying God gives me eyes to see what He wants me to see.

How will we answer? What is before us? What is in front of us? How do we see it? What is God asking us to see?

Jeremiah saw an almond branch, a branch of beauty, a branch also decorating the Lamp stand of the Tabernacle, in Exodus.

It is less than a minute and I have driven past the orchard. I am aware, as I look, that it is a memory I want to keep. I knew that I would want to record it.

Aren’t we stirred, both, by beauty and beauty absent?

And in this moment I feel tears fall; I realize I am struggling to see beauty and hope when before me is disorder and chaos and death.

Let us watch with clear eyes, with open hearts. Let us remember there is always newness, always beauty, with God, even when things feel completely bleak.

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it (Jeremiah 1: 11-12).

Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whatever situation we now face, I pray, sister, we ask for help in being watchful, in being observant, in desiring to see with clear, open eyes, what lies before us, yes–the miracle in the death, the life awaiting awakening, the word of God He is asking us to see, live out, believe.

How are you looking? How can I pray for you?

Linking up with the encouraging and beautiful Jennifer, at #TellHisStory.

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What To Do When God Feels Far Away

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When you feel far away from God, it can feel like forever until you find your way back. You don’t feel like you’re home.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling, darker than loneliness for its emptiness. For you feel hollow, forgotten even. Your head knows you are not forgotten by God, but the ache of your heart tells you something different.

Your heart tells you it is what you can trust, not your head. You are not free to be rational. You are not free to remember who you are–a beloved daughter who is delighted in. You want only to heed your heart, a heart that, actually, feels so untrustworthy now. A heart that may lie and a mind that wants your heart to listen to what must be true–despite it not making logical sense.

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For it tells you, once more: Dear one, you don’t have to keep chasing God. You need only know Him. Walk with Him. Listen for Him.

And you quiet, wanting to believe this could be true: God is close; God is here, despite the state of your heart and its untrustworthy whispers. For God gives away clean hearts. And it’s not because you deserve it, but, rather, because you totally don’t.

So you let your mind relax and your heart open up now–for you are unwilling to stay in the dark, where emptiness feels like death and God is life and hope. It is true: it is God you want, more than anything.

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So, these lies about not being okay have to go. There’s no room for them in a heart washed out bright and new and clean.

No more battle then, please. Instead, let’s choose God’s rescue and our obedience. Let this be a rebel’s determination to choose life rather than death, to choose God and fullness, not hollow, empty space.

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Come now, Father, mend these broken hearts. We are the rescued now, the fearless. We do not dread the quiet with you; we dread life without you, and our full hearts are what inform our minds now: stay here, where there is beauty, where it is safe.

 

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Afternoon Hunger: Finding the Miracle Deeper Still

Afternoon Hunger and Looking for GodOn these regular normal, ordinary days, I can forget not one of them is ordinary. All night I rested, slept long and hard and awoke. To this day. To this moment.

A miracle.

I awake too many days taking for granted the moment of right now. We have so many descriptions of time. We talk about how it marches or it flies. We describe how it drags or runs away.

We want to seize time. We want to rustle it; be the boss of it. We watch it. We regret it. We chase it. We rebel against it.

I want to mark time as holy, as sacred. I want to worry less about what I do with my time and enjoy more the moments, one by one, I get to live with God.

Holy Spirit, come. Show me how you are in this moment. Right now. With me.

It can take stopping, pausing, recognizing our breathing, even–in, out–to see a hint of the miracle.

It can take looking–determined faith that if we search hard enough for God we will see Him; we will hear Him; we will know more of what it means to have Him.

For if we want Him; we have Him.

And in this moment, as I type these words. My eyes are not on the keyboard, but looking out, past plates of glass to see tiny sparkles flit about near the stone bench in our yard, little bugs dancing above water droplets on green grass.

And I see, but I stop looking out, and I look in, my heart hungry to be filled.

Pull me in, Father. Pull us in, deeper still.

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For the Daughters Who Need God to Come In

IMG_8580 2It’s here, isn’t it, Father, where you want to come in.

Yes, come.

Yes, come in.

It’s the word in we want.

Father, come in.

Holy Spirit, come in.

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Grab hold of this heart that is weary.

And grab hold of this heart that is drowning.

And grab hold of this heart that is hopeless.

And grab hold of this heart that is skeptical.

Rescue, Father.

Come in.

Rescue this heart that is aching.

And rescue this heart that is searching.

And rescue this heart that is grieving.

And rescue this heart that is jaded.

Come in.

Holy Spirit, we pray, come in.

There is more for her, your daughter, the one who bends low, and the one who keeps going, and the one who has given up, and the one who has lost her bearings and doesn’t know which way to turn.

There is more for her, your daughter, the one feels tossed about at sea, and the one who doubts her self-worth, and the one who has been hurt, and the one who feels it is too late, and the one who is tired of trying anymore.

Supply her with more, Father. Pour out the heavens upon her. Holy Spirit, equip her.

Come in.

Father, come in.

We stand, together, hands to heaven, hearts open-wide.

Father, come in.

We trust you. We need you. We will take one step, and then another, seeking your face upon us, choosing to believe we are not alone and we are beloved and we are daughters who are chosen and this day is no ordinary day.

Today is the day we are seen. Today is the day we follow. And claim courage. And practice faith.  And endeavor perseverance. Because we say yes to rescue. We say yes to surrender. We say yes to you.

Holy Spirit.

Come.

In.

Want to sit down, close your eyes, and pray this with me, this day? (Subscribers, click here, to come on over and listen to this song.)

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Disco Ball Light and Choosing God’s Joy

I am stretching high on chairs and bending low with dustpan, putting away Christmas garland hanging in the dining room and brushing up piles of pine needles from the Christmas tree being taken out the front door. A disco ball, bright globe of whimsy given to me from a smiling Justin, scatters light over the walls of my dining room. I watch light dance and spread as the ball turns, polka-dotting hope upon dark corners. Specks of mercy, paint-brushed love-dots from God.

Oh, how He wants us to see–to bathe in–His light.

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I tell friends how I can breathe a bit easier so far, this season. I feel like I am trying less to reach some goal just out of my reach. Rather, I am resting a little better, a little more. And I can’t point to another season in recent memory when I have been able to tell you I am doing that, really, at all.

Rather, I can point you to year after year, month after month, of striving and stretching and longing. And the longing wasn’t the kind of longing that is good–the kind of pure-hearted freedom when we stretch our hearts out to heaven and claim the beauty of truth we know is real but which we can’t, otherwise, see. For too long, the longing has gotten twisted up a bit–twisted into something a little darker, a little more like bindings stretched tight across my lungs and less like the sweet, fresh breath of freedom from wide-open windows that stretch to hope that never ends.

I am realizing something now: I think I have been dying.

I think another part of my false self has died. I didn’t begin seeing this happy truth until yesterday, when I verbalized it to friends. We sit in a circle, asking the tough questions with gentleness: how busy do you feel right now? Do you feel like you are stretched too thin? Are you filling your plate of to-do’s too full? How are you resting in God? In what ways are you anxious? How are you choosing to see God in the moments of your day so you feel like His strength is what you lean on and not your own?

I am surprised by my own excitement to join in the discussion, and I can’t help but jump in first (a bit uncharacteristic of me, by the way). But I was bubbling up with joy and thanksgiving as I realized I actually feel so filled up with God. I felt restored and jubilant, even. And it is simply because of two simple things that I am saying ‘yes’ to now. These are things which, for much of my life, I struggled to give myself permission to do: (1) get enough sleep; (2) do something fun and relaxing, regularly, that I love to do.

These past two weeks, during the holidays, something in me just let go. I stopped getting up early, never set an alarm, and slept in as long as I could (who knew my body actually wants eight hours of sleep, when it can get it?) We also, as a family, started turning off all electronics, all technology, all noise-making devices, at eight o-clock every night, and retreated to the front room of our house to sit together, our own separate books in our laps, and read. I think it has been since high school, when I would happily curl up on my bed and read novels that stirred my heart, just for fun. Not for work. Not because I had to. Not because it might be “good for me” to do. I did it because I found rest in doing it. I did it because it was fun.

And I think that my saying ‘yes’ to letting God restore me–by choosing to make changes in how I live, how I use my time–is restoring me, is creating space for God to fill me, is killing the pride in me that enslaved me to a life of doing and striving.

God wanted to kill another piece of the false self in me that was pulling me away from Him. And I didn’t even know He was doing it.

But looking back, this makes sense. He wants our whole heart. He wants us to rest in Him. He knows what is best for us. He knows his presence fills us, and overflows onto others, when we trust how he has made us. We are made to get rest; we are made to love God; we are made to love to do things that help us to see him and worship him, with our whole lives.

God wants us to abide in his joy.

And we have to fight for it, sometimes, His girls.

So, I sit in my dining room and position the disco ball so that sunlight streaming through shutters reflects off the hundreds of little mirrors and shines light all over the walls, all over the dark room.  The ball only shines, illuminating walls, when it is positioned to let the light hit it just right.

And, girl, remember this: that disco ball is made to shine.

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Shall we stay here, in God’s whimsical, beautiful, jubilant light? Shall we let God’s light for us bring life to our hearts? Shall we let light dance all around us, covering us, filling us with bright, shining joy?

Father, shine!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

Is there a place in you where you think God wants to shine his light? What is one way God fills you with His love for you?  What action are you taking (or you plan to take) to seek the light for you that he has? How is God inviting you to receive his joy?

More than whimsy, joy is a weapon we use to fight life's battles. ~Margaret Feinberg #fightbackwithjoy

Here is a book, just released January 5, that you don’t want to miss: Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fearsby Margaret Feinberg. Fight Back with JoyI got to meet Margaret at her Writer’s Bootcamp, in Colorado, in October, after reading all of her previous books and loving her heart for God. Fight Back With Joy is a powerful and beautiful encouragement from a woman who chooses to fight life’s battles with joy, rather than succumbing to fear. She writes from the experience of knowing what it is like to stare death right in the face, but choosing God’s hope and joy for her, while she battles cancer.

Don’t wait to check it out and be blessed by Margaret’s story, as well as her encouragement, faith, and wisdom. Here are two of the places where you can find the book Fight Back With Joy: Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And here, you can find the Fight Back With Joy, 6-Session Bible Study Kit.

Fight Back With Joy 6-Session DVD Bible Study Promo Video from Margaret Feinberg on Vimeo.

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