When We Light the Advent Candle and Pray

Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy.We bend over thick French oak, each of the five of us holding fast a corner of the old table. It’s afternoon, and we pull in, slow with words that bring peace to our inner crazy.

God, center us to what we need most.

Gather us up here. Let us breathe You in.

Show us how to worship You, how to be raw, authentic, awakened, and whole, before You.

Help us be present with You now. Show us the space where You are, how You don’t hide Your face from us, but are here, right here.

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Show us how, in community with You, You make all the broken places in us whole. Let us be unafraid to be before You, hands unclenched, eyes raised, hearts surrendered and open. For we are true here, most ourselves, most whole, most free, most peaceful and joy-filled, only with You. We are only these things with You.

Slow us today, as we look to You for help in preparing our hearts in expectation for a Savior already come, already here. Let us come to You with everything we are.

Come for the weary, for the downhearted, for the hopeless, for the scared. Come for the weak, for the small. Raise our heads to look on You. Give us strength and help us to trust You.

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We are here, before You, gathered up, trusting that You hold us now, that we are not alone, that You await with expectation and joy for us to come and receive and behold what has already come and what has already been given.

Let us receive You anew. Awaken us, this, your children, as one.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Let’s pray for one another, sisters. How can we, together, pray for you right now, these days before Christmas?

8 Questions & a 10 Book Giveaway

8 Questions 10 Book Giveaway--answer this survey and enter to win 5 books for Christmas gifts!

Did you know this blog began, four years ago, as a for-fun experiment? Justin encouraged me to write as a way to connect with God. So, I did. And then we wondered if one woman’s yearning for God might encourage other women to seek God, too.

Community was what got this blog really rolling. After leading traditional women’s ministry at my church, I was tired of all the rules of conventional Bible study. I wanted to make room for the Holy Spirit to move.  So, I started my own group, and we called it My Girls. You can read more about My Girls here.

My Girls was a space of safety and of connection, of transparency and courage. We were women who gathered because we were tired of trying hard, on our own, and in our own strength, to follow God. We wanted to surrender everything getting in the way of hearing His voice in our  lives–and responding to His voice with our lives. 

In that space together, God reminded us, “you are My girls”. So for four years, You Are My Girls has been a place for Christian women to come and be reminded who and whose they are.

Because we forget, don’t we?

As 2015 approaches, I am looking ahead–dreaming big dreams for this blog. There are going to be some changes coming, and I want you all to be the one to spark the change.

So, I was wondering if you could help me make this blog even better by taking five minutes and answering the eight simple questions in the survey below. And then, as a small way to say thank you, I will be giving away a total of ten books (five each) to two people. These books are ones I’ve loved so much that I’ve collected multiple copies of them–and they have helped me grow in my relationship with God. Some of them I mentioned just the other day, in the post on my favorite books and sentences of 2014. What do you think?

Survey Book Giveaway #2

Again, your answers to these questions will guide me as I look to how I can best serve you, here. I am so grateful for you reading here, and I want to do the best job I can. (*The first question, your name, is your entry into the giveaway, when the survey is complete.)

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Here is the survey:

Thank you so much for completing each question! Your answers affect thousands of women! I am so grateful for your help!

I can’t wait to read your responses! And watch Friday’s post, when I announce the two winners of the book giveaway!

What to Do With the Isolation You Feel at Christmas

Christmas tree huntingI have a lot to learn. About kindness. About being slow to speech. About being quick to love–particularly when it comes to extended family during the holidays. I am practicing love with the family I live with–Justin, and our three kids–and even Fulton, our insecure dog whose constant desire for my companionship has driven me (an introvert) into crazy-land more than a few times in the three years we’ve had him. But I crave a softer heart, a deeper gratefulness, for relationships God has brought into my life but I take for granted.

The holidays amplify our decisions regarding the role of relationships in our lives. Feelings of isolation are magnified even while we are encouraged to connect, even when we don’t feel like connecting or we just don’t know how.

Do we pursue connection with friends and family? Do we avoid connection with people in our lives who have hurt us in the past? Do we have people with whom we are close–or do we feel alone and abandoned? Is our mailbox filled with catalogues and empty of Christmas cards? Do we stay home with the television playing and the phone silent from no one having called?

Isolations versus community at Christmas

Isolations versus community at Christmas

Isolations versus community at Christmas

In this independent-driven culture of ours that celebrates the success of the individual, we can forget how desperate we are to turn to Jesus for how to connect with others, for how to pursue community. But there is something about Christmas time that helps us to remember.

Christmas brings the invitation to celebrate the coming of a Savior who was born in a cave, amidst livestock excrement, in the ultimate posture of vulnerability, as a human baby. His parents, Joseph and Mary, leaned on their God with everything they had because they had nothing and no one else. Yet, there was only One who could satisfy their desperate need–for love, for companionship, for inspiration and hope in a world that is dark and cold and rejecting. And I have no one else, either. I have no one else on whom I can depend.

Only Jesus.

But I forget. I forget Jesus’ kindness and his compassion. I forget how He knows what it means to be alone and how He gives me courage to love people, even when I don’t believe I have what it takes to do it well.

I do.

And you do, too.

Do you find yourself telling your family members you love them but struggle to show it during the stress of the holiday season? Do you find yourself isolated because you are caught up in to-do lists this season–or, rather, you struggle to initiate connection in community or you are tired of rejection when you try?

I turn with you now, sister.

Let us turn our hearts towards the baby in the manger who was rejected by the world for whom He was born and sacrificed. Let us turn to the Savior who can bear our burdens and can lift us from our sadness and despair. Let us turn, in our busyness, in our isolation, in our mess, in our pain.

This Christmas, no matter how difficult the situation you are facing right now–let us turn to the King who knows pain and knows rejection and knows isolation, especially on the moment of His birth. In His kindness, He will teach us kindness–to ourselves and to the people whom He has given us to love.

You are not alone. Can we pray and lift each other up? Can we help each other remember?

Love to you, friends.

Jennifer

3 Questions of Friends Who Honor

leaves--3 ways to honorIt had been months since we’d seen them, years since she stood behind me, hands on my shoulders, and Jesus came, showing me his face, his tears, the posture of love underneath a stripped bare almond tree. These are the friends who fight–for freedom, for justice, for love. From one vantage point, it looks like, when they go to work, they are in the business of supplying steel. But behind office doors, they are warriors for the broken and brokenhearted, employing people just discharged from prison or currently living in the homeless shelter next door.

When we walk through the front door of their home, our friend goes down on one knee in front of our eight-year old daughter, a knight before a princess. She has never before had a knight kiss her hand. My son is welcomed with a firm handshake and a look right in his eyes; he is welcomed, respected, seen.

These are the friends who honor. They engage our children with questions and make them virgin pina coladas and let them sit on the couch with their shoes on and dessert plates in their laps and squirt whipped cream in their mouths because when they were little that’s the last thing their moms let them do. They make us dinner and sit with us for hours on the couch afterwards, sharing with us their hopes and their fears, asking us how, really, we’re doing.

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They listen. They are present. They create space for our whole family to be ourselves. We are loved here–welcomed in and wrapped up tight. We are safe here, this place where friendship pursues and rescues and loves.

Justin and I need people in our lives who are willing to go into the darkness with us so that we can better see God’s light.

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Because before Nikki prayed for me, that night, years ago, I was lost in darkness, not knowing there was any way out.

Because the morning Justin met Peter for breakfast the first time, he found a man willing to speak truth, with boldness, to men who needed freedom from lies and healing from past sins.

We need friends around us, sisters, who will honor us, see us, come alongside us and help us better realize the love of Jesus.

boots in leavesThese are the three questions Peter and Nikki asked us that night on the couch that made us feel honored and loved and seen:

Who do you have around you right now who is praying for you, lifting you up, challenging you to be more like Jesus?

Who is pushing you to go deeper into what God has for you?

Who is encouraging you to die (to that old self) so the new self can rise?

I love these questions. I love that there are people around us, friends who love us, who invite us over and ask us these questions. Because I need to be asked them; I need to pursue friendships with people who do this, because I need to be pushed, I need to be loved and encouraged and challenged. And I want to be the kind of friend who pursues my friends with these questions, too.

Do you want people in your life who see you, who pursue you, who challenge you? Are you the kind of friend who sees, who pursues, who challenges the friends in your life?

Which if these three questions would you most want to be regularly asked? Or is there another question you need someone to ask you today? (You know I want to ask you, right?)

3 questions honor

Who Will Walk Like Beauty?

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For the Beauties

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[C]an we all join hands now, Father? She is so different from me. And so beautiful. Her voice resounds and she moves with authority, like grass sways in gentle wind. She goes forward and she knows with each step she will be held. Eyes straight ahead, head determinedly set. But she is looking. She is looking and she is seeing. She has hands calloused and strong. She is sure.

She looks for the lost, knowing her King walks with her, knowing she is led.

She is beautiful. She is beauty walking. Who can follow her? Who can follow beauty into the night? Who can follow her onto the paths where others are afraid to tread? Who will put down what they are carrying, their schedules, their lists? Who will put down their fears, their burdens, their wounds? Who will present them to the King?

Who will lay them down, one by one, and ask Him to put salve on the places of pain, the places where evil came and violated? Who will come and be rescued? Who will come and know there is help and there is hope and there is a place where each daughter can find shelter and be home?


[F]ind the shadow under the wings, dear ones. Follow the path that leads towards rescue and stay. Wait and stay. You will not be disappointed when Love finds you there.You will not be looking this way or that for a different way to be filled.

No longer will anything else satisfy. No longer will anything else quench your thirst. Come, beauties, come and be fed and find shelter and be healed.

For you are asked to go forward, walking resolutely. The beginning of the end and the beginning. I will meet you there.


Song to listen to:  “Chasing You,” Sarah Reeves


[T]his is day 25 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

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Letting the Pieces Fall

Letting the Pieces FallFor J.

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[I] grew up knowing you, God. I would curl up next to my grandmother and she would tell me about you. Her Bible was worn and beautiful. Next to her, hearing her talk about you, I believed you were real. I believed you were with me. I believed you loved me.

And I needed to be loved.

She would read scripture and then talk to you like you were the only one there, even when I was in the room. She saw you, right next to her, and I learned you are a friend I could talk to. Not remote and strange, but close and good and present.

You know how mom wasn’t around as much and how my grandparents were my rock. They loved me. On weekends I would crawl up in the big bed and grandpa would let me talk to him about everything. I was the only child in the family, and when my mom wasn’t ready for me, my grandparents decided they were.

Letting the Pieces Fall

God, thank you that you’ve never left me. I have felt lost many times, unsure about the decisions I’ve made, particularly since I am married now. You know my husband and my two children and how I feel completely overwhelmed most of the time. You know how I wonder if I’ve made a mistake that can’t be rewritten, with my marriage that can’t seem to get fixed, with my one child who struggles to find joy and find his place. Yet while I am lost, I have never felt incapable of being found.

I need to be found again now, Father.

So I will curl up next to you, just like I did with my grandparents, as a child, and I will let you hold me here. I will read your words and you will quiet my heart and I will know you are present here. I will let you guide me and bring hope and direction here.

For I need you, God. I drop my hands and everything I hold. They are empty now. Please, pick up these pieces and put them back together, God. I don’t even know how.


Letting the Pieces Fall

[T]here are some things I want to show you, my dear one. There are some things I want to whisper to your heart. There are some things I want you to know and believe and live out. For you are treasured, my love. And you are not forgotten.

I hear your words, and I see beneath them. I know that little girl you speak of. I know her heart. I know the turmoil she endured, the way she felt lost, the way she felt abandoned.

Is that when rescue becomes even more realized? Only when realizing one is lost can one appreciate how she is found?

Yes, you are found. Yes,  you are dear–and perfectly designed by me.

Those eyes of yours, my love, what do they look on each day? Those ears of yours, my love, what do they choose to hear?

I know how things were so hard when the cancer came, when it spread and they had to operate and you were so sick, so sick for so long, my darling. I know how alone you felt and how you tried so hard to be strong.

Now listen: I know you want to love your husband. I know you want to hold up your family. I know you want to be strong. I know you want to do what is right. But there is a point, as you know, when trying to be the strong one just doesn’t work. (I know, through these ordeals, this is what you’ve learned.) But now, my girl, now . . . yes, I say you can do it. You can be strong. You just need to be strong in your weaknesses, strong in your love for–and strong in your reliance upon–me.

Letting the Pieces Fall

You are needed. So go forth. You are beautiful. So let your beauty be revealed.

Yes, I want to tell you something about your beauty. My darling, don’t let your beauty hide. You have been changed, yes, by the disease, but you are glorious in your beauty and you are glorious in your strength in me. You are called forth now to stay here with me and recognize my whispers to your heart and know that I give you what you need to love your husband and your children. I give you what you need to teach and to be a friend and be a daughter and be held, too. I know you know you can’t do a thing on  your own.

So, yes, curl up here with me, my love. I will hold you, and I will refresh you. I will restore you, and I will nudge you now, to step into places of discomfort for the good of your family. I will ask you to step into places of uncomfortableness, because you need to heed my whispers now. I am asking you to rely, even more, on me.

My girl, you are so much more than you think you are. Let me show you what I see.


Song to listen to: “Endless Years“, United Pursuit Band


[T]his is day 18 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

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