summer days turned inside out

I wonder, these days of vacation, how we react when we hear the lovely poetic promises of summer days stretched long and schedules free and calendars wide open. I wonder, these days, what our expectations are when school is out and the kids are home—or the pace of the workday is less intense and hopefully more tolerable. I wonder if we think finding time with God will be easier.

I wonder if we think we will more readily hear God’s voice, then.

I wonder if, when things are supposed to slow, we think we will be able to breathe more deeply. I wonder if those breath prayers we’ve read about would be something we practice, too.

I wonder.

Abby at beach

I wonder, these days, as I imagine sipping lemonade through striped paper straws in cute mason jars or holding crystal stems of wine, under an umbrella as the sun sets, and swaying on the patio to strums of mandolin or acoustic guitar. I wonder, as I imagine days of sand between toes and dirt on scuffed knees and skipped showers and long walks with the dog and holding hands under still-warm, star-filled night skies. I wonder, as I look for days of sleeping in and not having appointments to keep and having books dog-eared and worn with much-loved and turned pages.

I wonder.

I wonder if I will be gentler, softer, more ready to be open and listen to God’s voice then.

I wonder if the longer days, with less on my plate, will make me want to listen more intently. I wonder if having a calendar more free will prompt deeper thinking, propel me towards contentment, surrender, peace.

I wonder.

I wonder if it is just me who feels the weight of expectation as vacation begins. I wonder if it is just me who can turn something beautiful into something about which to be worried. I wonder if it is just me who gets tired of one-dimensional-Pinterest-beauty and magazine ads of perfection and social media photos of what summer is supposed to look like. I wonder if it just me who grows tired of trying to figure out if I am doing the right thing, as I try to not worry about doing the right thing. I wonder if it is just me who hopes she will finally rest and let go and let God, a little bit more, in.

I wonder.

Our family is away this week; we threw bags in the car on a last minute trip hours after the kids finished up school. We are in a little cottage in a beach town, an hour from our home. We are reading a lot, and laughing. We are taking walks through town and kayaking in the ocean. We are skipping traditional meals and hiking and orchestrating scavenger hunts—with ice cream treats as rewards—around town. And in this season of slowing, I find I can feel guilty about not resting correctly. I feel guilty for not reading enough, for not relaxing enough. I feel guilty for not making the most of my time—whatever that means. I feel guilty for not listening to His voice, enough.

And that’s it.

I know I sound ridiculous—maybe a little crazy.

But I like that I can share this with you here. I like that I can wonder aloud, in this community of His gathered daughters, and know, as I wonder, you might be wondering it too.

I like that I can tell you how I wonder if, in the slowing, in the twisted expectation of slowing down correctly, I even find myself missing His voice.

I like that I can tell you how I fear I will miss Him by not doing, even, vacation, well.

I like that I can tell you I fear I will not see Him, and not look for Him.

Just by telling you, by sharing my heart in this community, I hear Him. I hear Him whispering love-song straight to my heart. This day. Oh, I am thankful for you, His gathered girls.

And now I turn, and I hear Him, and I answer back, and I pray.

I turn and I hear Him

And I pray for you, as you struggle. And I pray for you, as you face a relationship that is strained. I pray for you, as you feel alone and beg for arms around you. I pray for you, as you worry about finances and for the unmade decision that feels so heavy, as a lead weight. I pray for you, as you bend over family members who are sick. I pray for you, as the storms rage. I pray for you, as children run far. I pray for you, as He gathers us, telling you He is close, reminding us He is here, in the midst of hearts breaking. He is here, cupping our cheeks in His palms. He is here, saying I see you, I know you, I delight in you. Stay.

My daughter, do not run away. Do not run from my presence. Here, here, my love, is where your safety is. Here, here, my love, is where your fast beating heart will slow. Here, here, my love, is where you are captured, fully captured by my love and free, all at once.

My love, turn your face to mine. I take my hands underneath your chin and raise your eyes to meet mine.

Don’t close your eyes or look down.

Look into my eyes, child (Excerpt from Loop, “Where Your Safety Is”).

I wonder.

Yes, this is where I will be.

How do you think about summer days? How do you listen for His voice in this summer season?

in the pain and the wonder

Two and a half years ago they began documenting the journey towards Home. The cancer prognosis, “treatable, not curable,” and the church saw the family clinging to Jesus. Emotions sinking low, hearts reaching high.

So many trials those years–with other family members leaving, a life ending unexpectedly soon. All while the fight to live continued on.

Oh, God, how we want to live, and how we live to trust you.

how we want to live.jpg

We read the news reports of families searching for strength–claiming the body of a daughter, a brother, a mother, a son from the ocean deep. We continue reading other stories: lives tortured, spirits almost ripped in two–through slavery, through mutilation, through physical, emotional, psychological abuse.

Oh, God, how we need you, and how we need to see you.

From the outskirts of hope, from the periphery of understanding, we cry out or stay silent. We grow angry or we feel nothing. We beg for answers or we hurt too much to care.

And you are so vast, God. You are too great for our small understanding. And we beat against your chest, or we walk away from you, or we stand fast, not needing to know what you know, trusting that not knowing all your ways is okay.

It is okay.

And we remember we are small and we are loved and this heartache, this dying, this suffering is what you feel, too, And maybe we can’t understand it all–all this pain, but let our hearts settle right down into you, hold us as we cry. Remind  us how we are here to love as you loved. Remind us we are here to let these hearts of ours break and break again. Remind us we are here to have our hearts do what yours has done, Father, over and over again . . . 

For the stone has been rolled away.

And while we can’t understand and can hardly bear the ache from people we love suffering so deep, we trust you more than ourselves. We stand in the middle of the grief and we see your face. We stand in the middle of the marriage failing and the children crying and the friend dying and we trust the answer we can never come up with on our own is you.

You begin again.

The stone is rolled away and we begin again. The stone is rolled away and we see that anything we thought was secure, that mighty stone dust in your hands, is only our arrogance, our pride, our desire for control causing grief layered upon grief.

Yes, we will feel the pain; we will bear it.  But take away our pride that makes us want to have you all figured out when things don’t go the way we think they should.

We lay ourselves down. We mourn and we shake our fists and we fall broken on weary knees.

Oh, God, you are our strength. You are our hope. You are the resurrection. You are the life.

So, yes, forgive us for the ways we doubt you.

We lay ourselves down.

why I like you here

I think about you a lot.

When I write here, I wonder what it is you most need to hear. I wonder what is the current desire of your heart. I wonder where you are sitting, how you are reading this–if you are at home or on your phone. I wonder if you are tired or if you feel hopeful. I wonder if you are encouraged or if you feel sad.

why I like you here

And I love writing here because I know God has you. And just me writing that truth down now makes me remember it for myself, too. When we are together, here, in this space. I remember He has me, too.

So, thank you. Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for prompting me to look for Him and listen for His truth and think about you and then think about Him (or maybe it’s the other way around?)

In any case, I love how you help me to remember what is true. So, I’m going to just write it right here again:

God has you.

God has us.

So, let’s say it aloud to our stubborn, hurt, frustrated selves and take a big ‘ol deep breath when we do it:

God has me right now pin

Oh, there I go . .  my heart beating fast and my eyes blurring from those tears again . . . because that’s it–everything and all we ever need to know. . .

In Loop just yesterday, I heard Him say how much He loves beginnings. And it is my favorite thing, I think, when He says that. The word “begin” and “beginning” have just got to be the two most beautiful words ever.

For no matter what the heck was in the past, God isn’t concerned with that now. He knows all we’ve gone through and all the hurt we’ve collected along the way. And yet, the mess isn’t what He sees when He bends low, real close, and cups His hand around our face and looks right into our eyes and into our heart.

He sees our beginning.

He sees us fresh, clean and beautiful.

He sees what is true and what is bold and what is to come.

And He sees it all right now. 

I love the story of this world, and I love the story of you. I love the wedding for which you are being prepared. And I love how you get a glimpse, now, of the beauty of the wedding day and how it is the ultimate beginning.

Beginning happened the day the light was formed, the day my Son was born, the day the Word came down. Beginning happened the day all story began to be told.

Beginning happened before you took in your first breath, before your lips shaped into a smile. Beginning happened before the pain came in, before the regret shaped you, before sin was taken off your shoulders. Beginning happened when my Son chose to die so He could marry you.

Beginning happened the day He rose. Beginning happened the day you opened your eyes this day. Beginning happened the moment you sought Me, the moment of the wedding, the moment you trusted Me, and the moment you loved Me, and when you donned your wedding dress and you saw Me and you joined your sisters and brothers—like I ask you to now—to be with Me and call out to Me and be the wedding song I’ve made you to sing. This is the celebration. This is the beginning.

I am the beginning. Stay close, my daughter. I am where beginnings happen. Here, now, the moment you breathed your first and last breath (Excerpt from Loop, “Let Me Tell You About Beginnings”).

You are beginning now, my sister. We are beginning. And I pray this promise sinks deep into your heart and you breathe long of His love and you smile.

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P.S. Congratulations, Emily Simmons, you won Love Idol, by Jennifer Dukes Lee! Email me your address and I’ll send it to you right away! Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway!

some kind of vulnerable

this kind of vulnerable 3

I get to lead a day retreat at my friend’s house for her women’s group next week. I love listening for Jesus’ love song for His girls. So, I have been scratching down His whispers, trying to listen close. And every time I listen, I am brought hard to my knees.

There is nothing like telling a group of women, His girls, that they are astoundingly lovely, breathtakingly beautiful. There is nothing like your heart breaking for the one who believes she can’t imagine being worth another person’s attention–because that is what she has learned, that is what she has been taught.

And this is why I love writing here.

The way He whispers to me is different than how He whispers to you. And I long to hear His voice. Here. There. Everywhere. How each of us hear God’s voice and how we individually live it out propels us, in community, toward Him. We need to encourage each other to listen for and respond to his voice, for then we know who and whose we are.

And we are free then.

Do you see?

His voice is what frees us to be ourselves, known and abundantly loved.

If we let ourselves believe it.

this kind of vulnerable

Jesus has come to save you. He has come for you. For you. He loves you–a love that penetrates you and will never let you go, when you let Him in. You are not yourself, the beautiful, whole you He designed you to be unless you let yourself see Him. And sometimes, to do that, you’re just going to have to let yourself go.

You’re going to have to let Him in to the places where there are no rules and there are no boundaries and there are no schedules and lists and responsibilities. Your job, your life’s mission, the only way you can be free and have joy and love–the love you are designed to live–is to let yourself go and be present with the Lord who made you and who adores you.

And it’s simple, friends. It’s just so simple.

And hard.

It’s simple in how He wants to just be with you, without expectations. It’s hard in that to do this you need to let yourself be vulnerable–because being with Jesus is the most vulnerable place we can ever be.

And, oh, sister, I want to learn to be even more vulnerable.

this kind of vulnerable 2

There’s the kind of vulnerable when your friend rings the doorbell early and you’re still in your jammies and you feel crummy and she gives you a hug and brings you the best food in the entire world: homemade banana bread. There’s the kind of vulnerable when you think you might die but you have let yourself die already so it doesn’t matter anymore–and you tell the people you trust the thing that you believe will surely change how they think of you forever, and they love you still.

And then there’s the kind of vulnerable when you are with Jesus, in his arms. There’s the kind of vulnerable when you give him your mind and your heart and you let him free your imagination so you can go places with him you didn’t even know you loved to go.

This kind of vulnerable brings freedom. This kind of vulnerable feeds imagination. This kind of vulnerable frees our minds and hearts to connect and let go of all expectation. This kind of vulnerable lets faith lead. This kind of vulnerable knows what God speaks is what is most real. This kind of vulnerable ushers in courage and quiets any deadly whispers of this world.

It is just too beautiful to imagine, truly, the way our God sees us. But more than anything, in this life, I want to try.

It may be too much for me to believe–but I must. I must believe in what He sees. I must let His truth be my truth. Everything else I thought I believed needs to be destroyed, given back to Jesus. Jesus, on his throne, burns the old lies about who we are and our nightmarish past and brings purity and fresh, clean, white-washed beautiful all over again.

There is a lot more God whispered to my heart the other day . . . in Loop. Each word is a favorite. Here is a glimpse:

Me in you? That is what is captivating. That is what shines. That is what brings people hope. That is what lets you care less about productivity and more about being with Me. When you are with Me, you are loving. And when you are loving, you are experiencing my freedom; you inhabit my space. It is what you have been designed to live.

Joy. Freedom. Hope.

So don’t second guess how I’ve made you. I only made one you. Only one. You are the only one, my daughter. So inhabit my love and you will love in abundance without having to try. Because you will be being yourself. And, oh, that’s just the best now, my darling.

God’s love is so amazing, so complete, so astoundingly HUGE I want to jump and run and fall down all at once. And sometimes, when I am alone, and He fills me up, that is just exactly what I have to do. Jesus’ love is not one prompting us, always, to sit politely and stay still.

Being vulnerable may be pretty awesome, after all.

Is this idea about your imagination being set free to see Jesus more clearly something that stirs your heart? Or, what is the most difficult thing for you regarding being vulnerable with God? I’d love to know. But, mostly, I’m just glad you’re here.

Gratefully,

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this post isn’t just about sex:: a giveaway

No Shame in Longings -Moody

It’s been a while since I’ve written about sex here. Although it’s woven into my story, a threaded needle I used as a weapon to hurt boys who should have stayed just friends.  Six years ago, when I  finally began to pursue God with my whole heart, He showed me, bit by bit, how many lies I had been believing about sex. I had used it as control, I had used it as a weapon. I had used it to gain attention. I had used it replace a low self-esteem. The biggest lie I let myself believe was that sex with these boys didn’t mean anything. I didn’t yet know that sex is not just a physical act; it’s a soul connection, too.

God wants our whole heart, and when I had sex outside of marriage, my soul was connected to each person I had sex with. It wasn’t just a physical thing; it was a soul thing, too:

There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body (1 Corinthians 16-20, MSG).

Just two years ago, more than twenty years after being in sexual relationships before marriage, I prayed and broke the soul ties I had with the boys with whom I’d had sex.  My sexual activity before marriage was affecting the intimacy God was inviting me to share with my husband when we became married. It has been a long road of healing for me around sex: for much of our seventeen years of marriage, sexual desire prompted me to feel shame.

Not Separate- Moody

The thing is, it doesn’t take a past like mine to get women to feel confused and frustrated around the idea of sexual intimacy. It’s difficult to even talk about, face to face. With all the Christian friends I’ve had over the years, there are only a very small handful with whom I’ve opened up, and whom have been open with me–over kitchen counters with mugs of coffee, over walks through trees with muddy shoes slipping on wet trails. The topic of sex is usually a silent one. We reason we don’t like talking about sex, I think, is less that the topic itself is embarrassing, but more because we struggle talking about desire.

101-  The church has majored on playing defense on the topic of sex. In an effort to keep teens chaste, women modest, and men monogamous, the primary message coming out of the church is DON’T: don’t look, don’t touch, don’t think or feel sexually. This has resulted in Christian women who are confused about whether sexual pleasure is really okay (Pulling back the Shades, 101).

We are made to have desires–desires for God, desires to be loved, desires to be fed, physically and spiritually, through sex within marriage. And when we feel shame around sex, or we feel our desire for sex is not being met, women may be tempted to satisfy that desire in other ways. And this is why Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery have written a book on this topic–because they found women were turning to erotica to satisfy deeper unmet needs. For books selling to women, erotica is the fastest selling genre. Specifically, the erotic novel series,  50 Shades of Grey, sold 70 million copies in its very first year.

Their new book, Pulling back the Shades, is a reaction to the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, but it is also much more:

Not only do we want to pull back the shades of Grey for you to see God’s truth about what it and other books like it can do in your life, but we also want to pull back the shades on your own sex life. This book is not meant to be merely a reaction to Fifty Shades of Grey. Ultimately it is about YOU—your longings, your questions, and your wholeness as a spiritual and sexual woman. We hope to offer you something you deeply need (Pulling Back the Shades, 13).

 

And, friends, I think we do need a book like this. We need women coming alongside us, listening to our questions, bringing light to our confusion about sexual desire–our bodies and our hearts. Here are some awesome quotes from the book, to get you thinking:

Erotica strategically and masterfully pulls you in by exploiting what your heart secretly longs for.  Your longing is legitimate. We just believe there are ways to get what you are looking for without compromising God’s standards (Pulling Back the Shades, 18).

Women love a great romantic escape, but be careful how you escape, because some fiction or online relationships promise to satisfy, but in the end they lead to more dissatisfaction. We have met with women who started reading erotica to awaken their sex lives with their husbands, but it actually caused them to be less satisfied in their marriage bed than ever. Single women have told us they used porn as a “sexual outlet until marriage” but it suffocated their desire to pursue a relationship at all. And we have counseled hearts wounded deeply by online relationships gone bad. What seemed innocent to them ended up being harmful (30).

We’ve got news for you: God is not about just playing defense on the topic of sex. His message doesn’t just include a big, fat NO. He created sex and He is all for it! In fact, God is for great, pleasurable, and frequent sex within the context of marriage. . . God knows you are a sexual being. He made you that way (101-104).

The bottom line is this: sex is sacred and deserves incredible honor. We cannot afford to speak of it in hushed tones, but must walk in full freedom regarding this beautiful gift from God. If we can do that well—as difficult as it may be—we will not only prepare the way for sexual fulfillment, but the world will see the love of God in the mystery of marriage (114).

This book is not ultimately about Fifty Shades of Grey or even about erotica. This book is about the spiritual battle for the hearts and souls of women. Our prayer is not just that you throw out the junk that enslaves you to the world’s thinking but that you join a call for revival among God’s women (147).

Does this book sound like one you’d like to read? I love the site Authentic Intimacy, which has a team of awesome Christian women focusing on these two things: encouraging women in their intimacy in marriage and their intimacy with God.  It’s a safe environment to come forward with your honest questions around intimacy.

Can I be Spiritual & Sexual-

I wanted to let you know about Authentic Intimacy and all the good they are doing there–so go on over there and check it out. And also, let me know if you’d like a free copy of Gresh and Slattery’s amazing book, Pulling Back the Shades. Authentic Intimacy is giving away 5 copies to You are My Girls readers. Just leave a comment before this Friday March 14, at 9pm (PST), and I’ll enter you in the giveaway!

Want to read some more posts I’ve written about marriage and intimacy? Try these:

marriage bed

crumbling sand

when getting intimate is hard to do

Love that you’re here.

Gratefully,

Jennifersignaturescript

 

when light falls

when light falls

We hear whisper towards home, towards connection, towards open arms and gentle place to rest our weary heads. When we lay down at night we consider our day or try to forget it. We reflect on the beauty, the surprises, the ways we fell flat on our face.

We cry, some days, our heart aching.  Bright sunlight falls cold; clouds cover light. Warmth? Where? How to be drawn close? How can golden light fall?

We shout loud for light. We sing hard for hope.

We fear darkness uncovered still allows in no light. No hope. No choices. Only a dead end. Despair.

Oh, may we ever feel the sun again.

But yes, Father, You are light. You pull us in—towards beginning, towards healing, towards promises of future, towards rewriting the story of our past.

We choose. We choose You. On the longest days, the darkest days, the days of shadows and regret and frustration and isolation.

You come. You come again.

And You rescue us. Here. Now. Again and again and again.

Hold us tight now. Let us love You and hope for You and choose You and see You.

Oh, how You love us! Give us a greater glimpse of this love that is too great for us to imagine!

And here, here, let this be a place, Father, where we come together, reaching for You, breathing deep Your open-space love that never ends.

Draw us in. Draw us close.

We, your daughters, come.

Praying you have the most beautiful, glorious, light-filled weekend, my friends.

a friend will come

God, when will she come? Where is she? I am so tired, tired of being alone, tired of this heart of mine aching.

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You say I’m not made to be alone. You say I’m designed for connection. You say I’m designed to walk with You, be in community, be vulnerable and open with others You say are safe. But Father, how do I know they’re safe? How do I know if they can be trusted with my heart?

No excuses now. You are designed for relationship, for relationship with Me.You are designed for community, for your heart to crave connection, people who know you and love you. You are designed to be known, understood. You are designed to be loved. Loved.

I want to be loved. So badly. I want to be known and seen. Understood. I want this heavy weight to lift. It’s pressing, and I can barely breathe. Oh, please, take this ache from me. I pray for a friend. I pray for people to come around me. I pray for a sister to lean on. I pray for a place where I can cry and laugh and say I am afraid.

Oh, I am afraid.

I love you perfectly and completely. There is no other love you need to chase down. And I bring people into your life who are designed to love, too. And they are called to love you. And they are called to reflect Me to you. And they are called to help you hear Me. And they are called to help you walk straight where I walk straight, and turn when I turn.

You love me. . . Oh, I am desperate for You. I am desperate for your love. I am desperate for your arms around me. I am desperate for your touch. And I need your touch through a sister, too. You have created her, You say. And You have given her your heart, and You have given her your words, and You have given her your strength. Help me to see her. Help me to see You. Help me to trust You. Help me to see with your eyes and trust the people you bring into my life.

It feels so risky to step out, trust another, and love.

You, my daughter, are not made to be alone. So if you are lonely and you are misunderstood and you are longing for an arm around you now, a friend to sit beside you, a person to experience your life with you, lift you up when you are weary and down . . . call on Me, my dear one. Call on your Father who made you, who designed you to yearn for connection. And then take a risk, into the adventure I call you to, and trust the safe places I’ve created for you, with others, to see Me and hear Me and lean on Me.

Oh, Father, to trust You? Trust You more? What will that require? How do I do that?

I will show you how to go forward. I will show you how to trust. I will protect your heart as you stay close to Me and take risks and head into what feels dangerous and unknown. This world is dangerous, and you have a helper. You have a helper in Me.

I will stay close. I will seek your face and drink your words and cover my heart with your truth. You are my friend. You are the one who loves. You are the one who is here. And you are with your church, your body broken for us so that we may love one another in your name.

So, I believe You will show me your face in the eyes and words and heart of another. And it will be a messy process, with lots of bumps and trials. But that will be good. You have made me–and have gifted me with everything I need–for a friend.

*Sister, I share this from a heart who knows what it means to ache for connection, and from a heart who knows this Father of ours answers this prayer–for friendship, and for greater trust, in Him and in others. If we can trust Him, we can see Him in the faces of the people who brings into our life to love us, as He calls us to love them.

I pray we see the faces of His children more clearly, with open hearts, and that we take risks for the sake of friendship. I pray we live bravely, knowing we are not alone, but that He leads the way and never leaves our side or lets go of our hand.

**The words excerpted above are from Loop: “You’re Not Made to be Alone.” Find out how to subscribe to Loop here.

What are you longing for, in a friend? How can I pray? I’m so glad you’re here.

Gratefully,

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as the music plays and you hear God {& a giveaway}

There are songs, sounds, voices lifted up to God–hearts expectant, listening–ushering us to the Father. When you are in a room full of people who know God and are burning for Him, burning to be with Him, in His presence, you are drawn in. You are drawn into the Father’s presence, the Holy Spirit bringing his fire and igniting in you the desire for more. More of God, more of his Spirit, more of his love filling you, overflowing and being everything you see, hear, smell, and touch.

Yes, we are seated at the right hand of God, my friend. And when our hearts are burning with desire for more of Him, more of his love, his smile, his voice, his arms spread wide and his dancing, dancing over us and laughing with wild emotion because He loves us so  much, so much, we are right where we are supposed to be.

We are made to hear the voice of the Lord. We are made, his daughters, to know our Father’s voice. It is written into the fabric of our hearts. It is the truest sound we know.

The thing is, we each hear Him differently. And we need each other to hear God differently. As the body of Christ, we many members experience greater fullness of God’s presence through the very way each of us hear. It helps our hearts awake to the more that He has for us.  None of us can afford to miss what our sister, our brother, is designed to feel and know and hear of and from our God.

I get to know my God even more deeply through your choices, your words, your actions. With everything you say and do I get to experience a piece of the God you see and hear. When you walk with Him and you listen for Him, He speaks to you, my friend. I am so excited to hear his voice in you, the sound of his singing. the rhythm of his steps during the dance you do together.

To better operate in our full identity; we need each other’s hearts to connect with the One who made them. This is the way the church is made to work as a whole.

Is anything holding you back from hearing Him telling you, loud and clear, I love you. I love you?

It has been a long road for me, believing I could ever hear God, believing He would have anything, personally, to say to me. . . It was a journey of pushing away from God’s love for me, and then wrestling with Him as He so lovingly showed me how my pride, my trying to do things my way, on my own, was only bringing me sorrow and pain and isolation. It was creating separation from His heart. He wanted me to know his love for me, and there were many wounds, both self-inflicted and circumstantial, that needed his loving attention. There were so many wounds He wanted to come and heal. And there were lots of lies that had to be rejected, too.

Often when I listen for Him, I listen to music. Almost every song in my playlist has been recommended to me by a friend, a sister, another heart who craves the Holy Spirit in her life and longs for more connection with the heart of God. The songs I listen to are examples of other people of the body of Christ hearing God and letting Him speak through them. They are instruments. I hear God’s voice in their song.

There are four songs I have on repeat, my earbuds in my ears, as I listen for God’s voice when I write Loop: “Holy”, by CityHarmonic, “Intimacy”, by Jonathan Helser, “Mt. Zion”, by UnCaged Birds, and “Heaven”, by Daniel Bashta. In the last few weeks, I added these other songs, “With you Now”, by Ellie Holcomb, “Oceans” by Hillsong, “Come Close” by Melissa Helser & Uncaged Birds, and then, just today (and this song blows me away), “You’re Never Giving Up”, by Jonathan and Melissa Helser.

What songs usher you into the presence of the Holy Spirit? What songs fill you with a greater awareness of His grace, His sacrifice, His love? Or, maybe it isn’t music for you that helps your heart be open and worship, have a conversation with your Father. But, as the body, we each have something to offer. We each have something to help each other see and experience God. I wonder what it is for you.

Love Songs for His girls

I would love to give away, to a few people, an iTunes gift card. Perhaps there are songs the Father wants to sing over you, as He invites you to experience, even more deeply, his adoring heart. If you’d like a chance to enter the giveaway, which will end soon, by 9 pm Pacific time (12 am EST) this Valentine’s Day, Friday, February 14, please write a comment, sharing how you hear God or are desiring to hear Him more in your life. And make sure you include your email address, in case you win! On Saturday, I’ll announce the three winners.

I can’t wait.

Much love to you, His girls,

Jennifersignaturescript

you’re not meant to be brokenhearted forever

I remember the girls circled ’round me, hands lifted high. Then the feeling of another hand coming from behind me, arms enclosing me, palms pressed to my heart. Voices lifted and daughters together sang sweet the prayers of their hearts, the language their Father has taught them, the song of love and belonging and being called home.

You are being called Home.

Crazy beautiful things happened that weekend. Women, desperate for more of God, were healed. We were reminded how Jesus comes to heal the brokenhearted, yes. He comes,with tender fierceness, to heal the broken hearts of His daughters. Whether trauma or abuse or lies or generational sins split the fabric of our hearts, Jesus comes for us.

You are meant to be healed.

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Seeking healing can be a choice to enter into pain–to let God call up memories of the past pushed down, or memories you never knew you had, too difficult for a little girl to deal with, when she is so young. When we are hurt so deeply, so profoundly, a part of our heart, our spirit, may break off, preserving us, as we deal with the pain that is too great for our young heart to bear.

But you’re not meant to be brokenhearted forever. To say yes to healing means letting Jesus show you, with His eyes, His heart, the hurt He knows you have experienced. And He will raise you from it. His love for you will help you to stand and not cower and live anew, despite the pain of the past.

He will heal you. No matter what has happened to you.

The process of healing may hurt, but He will never leave your side.

He is bigger than the sexual abuse you endured as a child. He is bigger than the neglect of your parents. He is bigger than the insecurity you’ve always felt about not being enough. He is bigger than the urge to hide, the desire to silence the pain by withdrawing, self-medicating, pretending everything is okay. You are okay, despite what has happened to you. You are okay, despite your past, your family history, your sin.

He loves you. You will be okay.

Let Him come in. Let Him hold you. Let Him come for the girl, the daughter He adores. Let Him show you His delight in you, His good plans, His true healing that brings light to darkness, health to the sick, clear sight for the blind.

Until you are healed, you are blind–blind to beauty that is you, that is yours, that is your destiny, your plans He has created just for you. Until you are healed and you let Him come in and you are willing to do the hard work of facing the dark shadows that feel too horrible to bear (and not alone; you are not meant to walk this road alone!) you will keep carrying the burden you are not meant to bear, that you were not designed to live with.  Because remember, when He created you, you were designed to be healthy, joy-filled, free.

I’m back home now, not in the midst of snow-white beauty, tucked in with sisters who love Jesus and crave more of Him, who reach desperately, full-on, for God. But I was held, held close by a Father who delights in hugging close his beautiful girls.

And those four days, where I slowed, where all electronics were laid down and I was completely out of contact with everyone except the sixty of us, I heard Him. I heard His voice. And I let Him come in more. I wanted more, more of Him, more of whatever He has for me. And a deeper pain of my past He unlocked. And my heart He mended. And my voice He unstopped.

It is worth it. Let Him come. Let Him heal you. It will be a long road, yes, but it will be a road He is on with you, giving you strength for each step, never, for one second, letting you go.

What do you hold on to other than Me? What is more solid than I am? What is more strong? What is more loving? What is more dependable? Do you know how I adore you? Do you know how much I love being near you? Do you know I love it when you pause, when you look up, looking for Me, and realize I am here? 

For it is then that you allow Me to hold you. You see my face and you behold glimpses of my glory and you want to stay with Me . . . And I hold you. I love when you pause and trust Me and want to be with Me and I get to hold you. It is just beautiful here, together, my daughter.

Praying for you, dear one. You are so not alone.

In His love,

Jennifersignaturescript

*The excerpt quoted above is from Loop, “Us Two, and No Other”. Learn more about Loop here.

 

with abundance and laughter and joy, freedom is for you (what I learned at a women’s retreat)

We sit in clusters, sixty women tucked in a log house on a hill in the middle of a Colorado snow storm. Snow presses up to ceiling-tall windows, glistening. Everything outside–the mountains, the distant pine trees standing sentry–washed with sparkling, quiet white. Sunny, the golden retriever who lives here, flies by the window, a reddish blur of fur every few moments, doing laps in white spray. Bounding, bounding.

She makes me smile.

Yes, yes, this is for me; this is for you. We are made to leap and live free, washed with white, transformed, brand new. But how do we get there? How do we live uninhibited, joyful, carefree?
snow 1.jpg Linda, who drove hours to be with us and share what she hears when she pursues and listens to God’s heart, does not hold back when she talks. She knows what it means to live trapped. She knows what is means to believe she is doing all the right things while nothing feels or turns out right. She knows what it means to be hungry, desire newness, crave redemption, risk falling so she can live in fullness that can’t be compared to any one thing.

That’s you, too, right? Are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you craving a new life?

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I watch the snow through the window behind her when she speaks: it’s beauty, how it’s so clean. But Linda’s voice captivates me, and I turn. She smiles and reaches her arms far, her square glasses framing eyes sparkling blue, brighter than the sky, brighter than the twinkle of ice crusted on each window sill. She knows who she is. She knows the sound of her Father’s voice. And she has come to tell us about Him, and how we miss connection with Him–and walk on too dangerous ground–when we align ourselves with things far, far away, from Him. These are things that can seem so good but might actually open up entry points to the enemy getting in.

How am I vulnerable to not trusting God? How do I choose my own way rather than His?snow 3.jpg

Ang, leading the four day retreat, demonstrates, with her hands spread out, head thrown back, fingers wide, eyes up, back arched, what it looks like to live fully abandoned, fully present, fully awake and on.

Yes.

And what it looks like to live life filled with striving, fear, shame: head bent low, arms hugging torso, back curled forward, eyes down. Oh, no. No. Let’s not do this.

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We have a choice. Stay here, in shame, in darkness, in self-pity, in self-protection and false safety and hiding. Or here, risking community, seeking His voice, asking Him in to heal, going for help, laying down the idols we believe in more than our God.

You don’t have to do this alone. You are not made to do this alone.snow 5.jpg

Stand up now. Lift your feet. Straighten your back, lift up your head and then raise your eyes. Look up. Look up, into the eyes of your Savior. Yes, open your eyes; keep your chin raised to heaven; spread your arms. Spread them wide, fingers outstretched. Is this you? Can we do this? Can I do this with you?

I know this feels so . . . exposed. I know being so vulnerable and open is difficult, uncomfortable. It’s hard to not want to protect ourselves from this world. We have been wounded so much. Life has been hard.

Yes, He knows. He knows. And, I promise, He promises, He is not going to leave you here, here where the pain overwhelms, here where the memories are pressed down deep, in a place that feels safer than the thought of dealing with them, bringing them to the light. That would be dangerous. That would be painful. That would take a lot of work.

Yes. Yes, it will hurt. But . . . it will be good. I promise.

I watched Ang,the beautiful organizer of this whole retreat, spread her arms out like this, head back, a dozen times this last weekend. And what it represented–the freedom and complete joy and abandonment of self and focus on Jesus and fullness of heaven in me–is what I want. Everything in me screams yes, yes, yes!

Yes, I want this. I want to live a life holding nothing back.
snow collage.jpgDuring the break I listen, desperate for His voice, the only navigation for my life that is true and sound and good. And I hear Him. I ask Him, what do you have to say to us, Father? What do you have for your girls? And the tears pour fast (as usual) and I scrawl this down:

My daughter, I am holy. I make everything holy. You have nothing to fear. I am bigger than every thought, every ache, every fear. I stand before you in the gap, between your belief and unbelief. I stand before you—your God, your rescuer, your redeemer. I stand before you and you are not forgotten. You are held. Always.

If you want Me, if you want more of Me in your life, I will come. I will not hold back. If you want my love, if you desire more freedom and joy in your life, ask Me to come. Let Me come to the deep places, the dark places, the unknown places.

I know you. I know where in you I need to go. So trust Me. Trust Me. Let Me come. With Me I bring no fear. With Me I bring no sorrow. With Me I bring only hope and newness and life. I am life, for you, my love. With my love for you I bring life. I pursue you, and I will never let you go.

So, come. Come. Ask Me to come. Ask Me to enter in. You hear Me. I am close. So close. And I love you. You are the one I love.

And I believe Him. I believe Him. So I will go. And He will heal me. And He will make me new. And I will live fully awake and filled with His joy.

This white snow falling soft and quiet is beautiful. And I want to run through it. I want to bound through white and spin ’round and laugh, snowflakes dancing in my hair.

 How does it feel to stand up straight, head back, arms out, eyes turned up to God? How can I encourage you and pray for you? 

Also, if you want to get hugs of encouragement twice a week, just like His words above, make sure you check out Loop, by clicking this link right here.

This post is linked up with Jennifer Lee, #tellHisstory.

 

as sisters

She grips my hand with a strength that always surprises me. It is a hand of a girl who loves. Skin soft, fingers still small and just-a-bit-still-chubby-perfect. She turns eight years old in just a few weeks, the day after Valentine’s Day. And she loves with fierceness I want to devour and keep close. She teaches me kindness and generosity and patience. She is the girl whom I don’t deserve, not one bit. And I can’t fathom how God trusted me to be her mom.

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I have parented, so many of these years, especially the early ones, feeling like I was just flailing. So many days I could barely find my way. I don’t write about my early days of parenting much here. First, because I know some of you here are not mothers and there are a million mommy blogs out there. And second, because being a mom has shaped me, yes; but it is the relationship between sisters, between daughters, between friends (my daughter loves to tell me how, not only am I her mommy; I am her sister, too) that pushes me to want to see Him, stand before Him, worship Him with everything I am.

In God’s love, we are daughters, together. In God’s love, we are sisters, together. And, in Jesus, He calls us friend.

Being in relationship, as sisters pushes us to see, with eyes clear, how desperate we are to love more than we can ever love, on our own, all by ourselves. Being in a relationship is also a choice–a path towards giving up, or a path towards fighting for control, or a path towards surrendering and being further transformed by God.

It is vital we break the lie that we are alone.

“For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:14).

In relationships, we put ourselves in situations where love becomes something we realize we are desperate for. We see the damage we inflict on another life when we chose selfishness instead of love. We lose the opportunity to see God’s face, and be further transformed, and be a daughter who worships when we choose separateness instead of love.

Here, as His girls, we are the daughters who may not have it all together or do a thing perfectly. But we are beautiful, right now, still. Because He is love, and He is grace, and He says we can live in His life and grace, too.

And here is one place, I pray, where we can be real and be vulnerable and encourage each other toward Him–toward our vulnerability and His strength, toward not standing alone.

 How do you most need a friend, a sister, around you right now? How do you need to feel His love and encouragement? How can I pray?

Linking with sisters over at Laura’s and Jen’s.

planning for the wedding

I can listen for God and not hear Him. I can say I am open. I can say I want to lay everything down at his feet. I can say I am desperate for his presence and his voice and his truth to go deeper into me.

Can you relate?

Isn’t this one of the reasons we gather? Don’t we need to practice being vulnerable and real–encouraging each other towards not trying so hard to be someone different than who God has already created  us to be?

I think we are starving.

We want to eat God’s truth. We want to consume the love that he is.

planning for the wedding

For we are tired. And we ask him, desperate hearts crying out: How do we see you and be with you in this world that does everything it can to pull us away from you? How do we stay close to you? How do we be vulnerable and open and yet protect our hearts from what is not good?

How do we gather? How do we keep you as our focus? How do we live freely, knowing our identity, leaning into community, seeking adventure, in your arms?

Everything in our world pulls against true connection, pulls against time to slow and sit and listen and tell stories of hope, of loss, of pain, of regret, of joy. It is a world of going and doing and striving and getting ahead or just keeping up. It is a world of believing there is a “better us” just around the corner if we only work a little harder, look a little better. And this doesn’t mean just superficial things–how we look, but how we act, too. We are always striving to be a better version of ourselves.

But the version of us He sees, right now, right now, is the version of us He loves. Always.

And this is why we are chosen. And this is why he died. And this is why there is going to be a wedding.

He has proposed. He is the bridegroom asking us if we trust him, if we want to heed what he says more than the lies of this world.

So, you ask Me, how do I protect your heart? How do you live in this world, one of comparison and envy and slander and thievery? How do you protect yourself from comparison when that is the culture in which you live and the wedding is around the corner but not yet a date you can perceive? How do you await my coming again, my Son’s rescuing you again, in a world of tearing each other down and pain?

Oh, my dear, look to Me. The only way to protect yourself is to regularly look into my eyes, see Me looking at you, see Me desiring you, see Me writing your name upon my heart and feeling sorrow when you believe you are not good enough to be desired as much as her, or her, or him.

Look to Me, look to the choice of my Son, as He kept His gaze on Me. He practiced looking on Me, listening for Me, being away with Me. He removed himself from the world while remaining in it, too. It is possible for you, to remain close to Me and observe this world and be my daughter who desires to join Me in loving this world, while not being eaten up by the evil of it, too.

Practice coming away with Me. Practice looking for Me. Practice recognizing my voice. Practice looking at this world through my eyes and seeing yourself the way I see you, with a name, and a purpose and a mission and a beauty all your own. There is no one person, not one daughter of mine, like you. Come closer now. My arms are wide open.

We can do this. We need to practice listening and being still and trusting and then going . . . After all, there is going to be a wedding.

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).

What are your thoughts on how we might encourage one another to practice, together, being with God?

how the internet can hurt our hearts and work to heal us, too

I wonder if it’s hard to be real with one another through a computer screen. I wonder if you, reading a blog post or interacting on social media, feel that you can be vulnerable and connect with the writer behind the words, behind the pretty pictures, behind what may sometimes feel like a facade. I also wonder if there is any chance of you sharing your heart when the writer herself isn’t willing to be real and a bit raw herself, sometimes.

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We hurt each other when we choose to hide and act like we have it all together when we are really suffering inside. I know I’ve felt more alone in a house full of smiling, seemingly put-together women with whom I am having trouble connecting than when by myself, alone, in a room.

I can feel this way–alone–when reading articles and looking at stunning photos on the internet, too. I can feel this way even when the writer is hoping to encourage me, not discourage me. Unless she is vulnerable and real with me–what I feel inside is exactly the opposite.

None of us has it all together. We don’t need to pretend that we do. And social media can bring to the forefront my insecurities that I’d much rather ignore. I compare another person’s photo or good idea or beautiful house with my own situation And I feel I need to work harder to achieve what the other person has–whether what I am trying to achieve is real or not.

For a lot of my life, I struggled with not feeling good enough in social situations. I would critique myself, cringe when I couldn’t think of the witty, interesting thing to say. I felt I had nothing to contribute. And so I stayed silent, and I disliked myself even more for it. I didn’t want to talk or share what I was really thinking because, when I compared myself to everyone else, I felt what I had to say was worthless.

We each have a voice–and not just a voice we can hear. It is a voice we can feel. It is a voice that brings rescue, or a voice that creates community, or a voice that instills order, or a voice that encourages life to spring forth straight from the desert ground.

We each have our stories to tell and our distinct personalities to share. We are not made to be anyone else other than who He has created us to be.

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Yet, as a woman who has hit bottom and let God in to heal me, again and again, I can still compare myself to the words and the images and the status updates and witty tweets I encounter on the internet. As much as I appreciate the internet as this amazing tool to connect with women with whom I might never otherwise meet, I can feel bad about myself when I let myself believe that what I have to contribute is not as good as another’s.

And this lie comes straight from the pit of hell.

We are made to stand tall, not cower. We are made to be nothing else (and this is no small thing) but the daughter our Father claims us to be.

You, my daughter, are complete, in Me. You, my daughter, are the one who doesn’t need to look different and act different or have more or less to be chosen, by Me. You are the one I have chosen. You are the one I want. I can’t take my eyes off of you, my dearest.

I type up words here because it is my heart to share the reminder that you are loved and claimed: He whispers to the hearts of His daughters, “you are My girls”.  And I trust God will clear the path for each other’s hearts to connect, if we are faithful, if we are obedient, if we seek Him first.

He loves us. He wants us to be joined together. We doesn’t want any of us to feel alone.

So the internet, and being able to connect with each other online, is a gift. But if we are not vulnerable and real and open with each other about our struggles as well as our victories, we are not connecting with one another in the way God intended.

Do you know you don’t have to pretend, here? Do you know I know that some of you who read here are aching for community, for someone to listen, for someone to say “yes, I know, I understand; I’m your sister, and I am in this thing with you; I will cheer for you and pray for you and point you to God and remind you you are actually the beloved and not at all alone”? 

I know what it is like to hide, and I’m tired of doing that. Shall we not hide together? May I be that sister, here, for you?

family come home

I wonder how much I should think about this, the way angels surround His throne, the way song is speech and individual longing is forgotten. All is realized. All has come.

I can sit in my house, light blanketing the family room, and not be here, not really.

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I am here and I am in a deeper place. I am here, kitchen sink still waiting to be emptied, dog waiting to be walked, and I am in my Father’s home, at His feet, hands reaching skyward, fingers extended long. My voice sings loud and it is beautiful and there is light everywhere and sisters and brothers surround me. I am in the middle of light, not looking on it, not looking at it, wishing I were deeper in.

I am in it.

I am circled up, radiant and full. I need not search for a thing. My yoke is light. I am weightless. I am with my Father and with my family and Home. I am Home.

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And you, sister, are here. You are here with me. I need not type words on a screen to reach you. I need not wish the pain would stop and the longing filled. I need not wish to tell you you are not alone, but held. I need not desire connection missing and sisters holding hands and not pretending to be strong. I need not be tempted to hide and look more beautiful and more productive and more perfect. I need not strive to keep up and run faster and do better.

I will be Home. We will be Home. And girl, I see you. I see you now. I see you there, as we stand, empty-handed and hearts raised. United. We are one here, at the throne.

Grace comes gentle and glory comes triumphant. I am in light, with you, and my heart takes me where it sees–beyond what these eyes of mine can ever, here, on earth perceive.

See with your heart, sister. See now, with the heart He has given you. Reach deep within  you and trust your longing for a friendship, a relationship for which everything in us yells out, with exuberance and hope, yes, yes!

We are made for this.

I remember walking in the garden, my arms around my beloveds, the sound of their feet as their soles touched the earth. I remember their voices, their laughter, how easy it was for them to walk side by side, share with Me their every thought. . .

You are meant to be with Me, my chosen one. You are meant to be with Me, walking in the garden. You are meant to be in community with Me. You are meant to be strong only in my presence . . . Let Me walk with you. Let Me be your friend.

And I see Him, and I see you, and I see us, all gathered around our Father, a family, the family come Home. And now, I pray, I pray we see, this day, with all of its dangers and sadness, its lists and responsibilities, the glory of the throne, a glimpse of His smile, the beauty of light shining from a Father’s gaze, the walls come down, the front door, this Home, open.

Open wide.

Dear sister, I’m so glad you are here. What community, what hope, what light are you desperate and hungry to see?

And do you know about Loop? Did you know I have a letter for you, and a free gift if you subscribe? Click here to find out more.

how do we open the door?

Six years old, on the long bus rides to school, the Color People were my friends. I’d stare hard at the metal seatback in front of me until my eyes saw circular blotches of rainbow swirling on smoothed-bumped silver. They knew what I was thinking, what I was feeling. I would come to them and they would come to me. They knew what I needed, and all I had to do was show up. They required nothing from me. They simply loved–at least the version of love that comes from dots of color produced in the imagination of  a little girl’s mind on her way to school on the right side of the school bus.

With the Color People, I was not expected to behave a certain way or asked to do a certain thing to be accepted. I was accepted for who I was, no matter what I was thinking or feeling.

When friendships get hard now–real life friendships, the kind where two people come together and say real words aloud and move into each other’s real lives–is when acceptance of one another feels conditional. Love isn’t love–friendship isn’t friendship–if it exists only when things are easy. And I think it is tough for us to be real and open with one another when life is hard, when the finances are tight, when our heart is aching for a loved one suffering, when our family is difficult to talk to, when we feel we are alone and no one could truly understand.

We struggle to reach out for help and believe we can be loved when we are most desperate for help, when we are most wanting of love.

I think two things I struggle with in friendships are asking for help–and surrendering my desire to “fix” a situation when a friend of mine is hurting. I am reluctant to let people in often, because (1) I don’t want to be a burden and (2) I don’t like to admit I don’t have it all together. Can you see how I struggle with pride?

Not sharing my true self, my true mess, my true heart with a friend is so hurtful, both to ourselves and to the relationship. We can’t dig in deep and be real with one another unless we trust God is in the center of the friendship and He is big enough to take care of our mess.  He is our friend first. Unless I believe and trust Jesus as my friend, I can’t surrender pride, I can’t love and trust another, I can’t be a friend or let my friends attempt to love me well.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).

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I am the friend who asks to be invited in. I am the friend in the quiet, the quiet within you, the guest outside the door knocking, waiting. I am here, not far away. And I don’t tell you I am waiting to be invited in because I want you to feel guilty or sad or discouraged. I am not telling you I stand, outside, waiting, for the purpose of making you feel you need to work harder, listen better, be a kinder daughter to Me.

I am your friend, and I love you. And I desire friends who love, who nurture, who pour kindness into one other. You can hear Me. You can be that friend, with Me.

I want you to know I am the friend who will not disappoint. I am the friend who will be strong when you need Me to be. I am the friend who will give you words of hope when you feel sad or disappointed. I am the friend who knows what you mean when you say “I am dying inside” or “I am so alone” and you are lost and afraid of the quiet.

I am the friend who can be heard, even amidst noise. Your heart can be tuned to Me, in any situation. But in the quiet, it can be easiest to hear Me. You can be busy and bustling around. But remember I am the friend who equips you to love others. And without you letting Me in, into your relationships, into your work, into your moments of doing and going and trying, you will feel hollow inside. You will feel alone.

I am the friend who knows everything about you and knows you can, indeed, hear Me.

Listen.

Shall I come in?

The words above are excerpted from Loop, “My Friend”, which went out to subscribers on Monday. What sentence did  you most need to hear? What kind of friend do you need right now? How do you struggle in trusting in that kind of relationship–what Jesus calls, “friend”?

Make sure you check the upcoming post about the special giveaway coming up here. . . 

Leaning in with you,

Jennifersignaturescript

a dare . . . or an invitation

Back propped up against pillows, my son’s plastic clipboard in my lap, I play chicken with the past. It’s 11 pm, the night before I am supposed to share my story, face to face, with dear friends. I write out the moments quickly, convicted, determined to not be scared.

I know this place. I know how to search and not have answers and be surprised by Him coming and bringing light to what, on my own, I could never see.  As a girl-woman who has been broken and who needs to be broken again, to be made whole, I practice studying my life. I practice not having answers. I practice being okay with surrender. I practice desperation to let God in.

I grasp pages scanned from Don Miller’s Storyline–chapter one, “A Character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it”. Yes, I am a character in His story. I am a character loved. I am a character fighting for acceptance and security and approval when this victory, my heart in His, has already been won.

I write them out, what Don Miller calls “Life Turns”, one after another. Each turn, a moment that changed me forever.  I document the turns with the spaghetti scrawl my English teacher loathed. Positive life turns are noted with a  number, 1 through 10, depending on the degree of positive or negative impact on my life.

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27 Life Turns.

11 of them positive.

16 of them negative. The negative might be the most beautiful. Each of the negative turns He has the power to redeem.

I sit next to my friend at lunch after I tell my story to the group, the friend who has walked with me, beside me, when His healing dragged me to my knees, less than ten years ago. She tells me the beauty of telling story–of the honor and privilege of saying aloud the places where God has been–where we’ve seen Him–and how the telling brings light and encouragement to our hearts. For each of us will never be fully healed, she says. Not all of our stories will reach full redemption, until our time on earth is completed. And we need to keep pointing each other to the beauty He brings. The beauty in the moment of living, whether the moment is of the past and the things we cannot change, or the moment is of the present and we get to experience Him, right now.

Whether we are looking at the story of our past or the story of our present or the story of our future still being written, we are being asked by our God, our Healer, our Maker, if He can be invited in.

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For the story is not completed. Even the things in the past, where we are filled with so much regret and sadness we feel we can barely stand let alone breathe, He comes to rewrite them, girls. He is not done with us. He is not finished writing. Because He has come to claim His signature on the pages of our lives, He asks us if He may show us the edits He’s made, the true marks of beauty of story, the pages He longingly wants us to see.

Oh, girl, are you willing to let Him in? Are you willing to hold up the moments of pain in the past and the moments of pain in the present and ask Him to bring redemption to things that seem just too impossible for light to be redeem? Do you believe your story is too dark, too ugly, too flawed, for redemption? What are you willing to do to let Him show you the beauty in the story, no matter how dark, that He sees?

Paul  and Timothy write,

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it (Philippians 3:12-16, MSG).

Let’s keep going. Let’s let Him show us our story within His larger one. Let’s surrender, even, a little more. Let’s let Him fully in.

I don’t know why I have one story and you have another. I don’t know why I am in this particular place, with this particular life situation, with a past that is full of mistakes and a present that is even more desperate for God than before. But I know this: I am made, a character in a larger plot line, with a story still being played out, and with plenty of mistakes and redemption left to come.

And I need to remember I am made. And I need to remember my story, no matter the dark twists of plot, has a theme overarching that is good. God makes what is good. God makes what is beautiful. God makes what is full of promise and what is filled with hope and joy and light. There is promise here, for us, yet.

There is a story He dares you, with eyes full of love for you, to let Him show you and fully see.

Have you asked God to show you your story, through His eyes? Have you shared it aloud, within a trusted space? How can I pray for you?

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Knowing you are made means you can be fierce. Knowing you are made means you can be bold. Knowing you are made means you know you’ve been invited deeper in.

And this God of ours has so much more for us, you know.

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This weekend I’ve been at a conference called Allume, a place where bloggers come together and do more than swap stories across a screen . . . They meet face to face, and talk about God, and encourage each other to be bold, with the message He has given them, with the words He has to spread around, for the cause of His kingdom.

And of course, when you get in a room full of women who are on mission to carry forth the heart of God, it is beautiful, and it is exhilarating . . . and it is a bit exhausting, too. This is all expected.

What wasn’t expected . . . by me at least. . . was healing to happen, like it did.

I didn’t know woman after woman would go up on that stage and declare the goodness of God and His desire to free His children, His daughters, from bondage. I didn’t know I would feel His hands press right up to my heart, my whole body blazing now, with the Spirit’s fire coming over me and asking me, again, to go to my knees.

I didn’t know my desire to use words to proclaim His light and healing for the sake of His daughters would require a plunging deep into a place where He still has healing, in me, to bring.

The thing is, He just isn’t done with us, girls. And when He has something for you to do, He is going to press in and wait until you’re ready to let Him in a little more. And then He’ll touch you, that part of you that is aching and dried up and tired and disappointed. That part of you that tries to rise, on its own, but can’t because it’s chained by lies about you’re not being enough, or too much, or too messed up, or a disappointment.

You, my friend, have His light in you. You are made and you are walking around here, His creation, His daughter, to bring Him glory, to live with fullness and joy and a heart ready to be opened wide to receive all He has to give.

He gave it all.

I have to ask myself:  Am I accepting Him? Am I living knowing I am made? Am I living believing, with a full, open heart, that I am invited into a life where I am called to go forward, abandoning everything, like Jesus did, in the name of our King?

This weekend, with community around me, I was reminded I can’t go forward to do the thing He’s given me to do. . . when I am chained.

In a room full of 450 women, I felt His arms around me, pressing hard. And together, with the lights dimmed low, near the back corner, I turned to my neighbor in the seat to my right, and I confessed what I feared. I said aloud, a small confession of giant hope as I laid down the thing I felt pressing in, chaining me, a lie imprisoning me so I couldn’t live free, full of joy, with a heart knowing I am made.

“I fear I don’t have what it takes. I doubt my voice.”

And the woman to my left, a sister I had never before met or spoken to in the crowded room, leaned over, ten minutes later, in the middle of my worshipping with trembling hands, and said “I have something to tell you. . . God said something to me about your voice, and that He wants to give it back.”  And my knees just about buckled, the room spinning ’round.

“Yes, that’s it. That’s it,” I said, struggling to smile, in relief and wonder. “What’s your name?”

“Dee Dee,” she said. And I will never forget her smile.

Oh, sisters, our Father comes for His girls. He comes for His broken. He comes to redeem. He comes to rescue what has been stolen. He comes to restore what has been distorted or trampled on or thrown away.

To be made means we are designed to bend to our Maker. To be made means we are called to obedience. To be made means we are called to trust. And I write here, to tell you I know. . . I know how hard it is to lean in, body trembling, heart weary and desiring more, so much more. My heart aches for Him. My heart aches to know it is already full.

I write here to tell you you are not alone. And I will be your sister cheering you on as you ask Him, too, what more He has for you right now . . . what in you He desires to heal.

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breaking agreements with the enemy, again {made: day 10}

breaking agreements

It’s been a struggle, looking for words. I’m a woman looking for the lost coin. I scramble, heart desperate. Because when I press in, asking Him more about what it means to be made, to live in that reality of Him, I am reeling. There is something I’ve been bumping up against before this series even started. It’s what prompted me to write it — push in, slow down, listen close, trust more . . . consider what it means to be made. Created. Designed. His.

I want more of Him. For I am so tired, so tired, girls. When I was in a circle of women this week, women open and vulnerable and fearlessly sharing what they don’t want to speak aloud . . . but they do, I was frozen, not myself. I walked in excited to see them; and then I sat there, feeling unable to speak, wishing I had set a fake timer on my phone as an excuse to beat the heck out of there.

But I stayed. Miserable and blessed all at once.

My dear friends coaxed me into His arms, helping me believe, for real, how truly loved I am.

Don’t we all need to be coaxed out of our turtle-like shell, once and a while? Don’t we sometimes forget and need to be told again and again how much we are loved?

And I when we went around the circle, asking each woman to share the one word on her heart right now, I said I wanted death.

I have written here before of the insidious power of agreements–false beliefs we tuck away and believe are true about ourselves, about life, about God. We are so comfortable with these agreements. They feel so much a part of ourselves, we don’t even recognize them. We don’t believe they exist.

But they do.

And what this Made series is churning up in me is this: the need to die, right now (again) to insecurity about my not being enough.

On the way to get a haircut (first time in six months, pretty exciting), I sat in the car at a train signal, my heart heavy. I want to be free to love, unencumbered by self-doubt. So, at the blinking red light I said it loud, right there, “Dear Jesus, I reject the lie that I am not good enough. In Your name, I break the agreement that I am unworthy and I need to work to earn acceptance and love. I agree with You now . .  . In Your name, I agree that I am secure, I am whole, I am worthy, I am loved.”

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

I have broken these agreements before. But I needed to do it again. There is a war on our hearts, making us doubt ourselves, the beauty He has created, the wonder of what He has made.

I search my heart, desperate to find what I am missing. No matter what it takes. I don’t want to miss this, this life, all the possibilities of joy I might miss if I don’t die first, to live.

There is more to say . . . the words coming slowly. But I’m going to trust them.

The next place He invites me to go with Him: when the agreement was first made. . . Want to stay tuned?

Do you find there is opposition when you think of the beauty of you being made? Do you accept it readily, or is there a part of you that struggles to be free within that truth, even when you hear it, over and over again? Is there an agreement, girls, that you might need to break?

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 Psst. . . I was also over at Allume blog today, talking about Holding Life Loosely. And there’s a free printable I made for you all, over there, too! Come on over!

the story we need to hear

I watch my friend sit across from me. Beautiful. Brown eyes sparkling. She tells the story of a life of hope and of family. Of community and friendship and the way the life of a friend weaves into the lines of our own.

Story.

Any choices towards love and sacrifice and serving and selflessness are no small ripples in a life still lived out today.

Death doesn’t stop love. Death doesn’t stop truth. Death doesn’t stop legacy of a life where adventure and joy and beauty are the language spoken.

And I hear this in the words of my friend, in her sharing the impact of her friend who laughed and cried and hugged her and held her hand.

We continue to tell the stories of lives intertwined with ours. Our stories become their stories. Their stories become ours. It is messy to tell a story, to find the edge of fabric we recognize as ours, and not theirs. And maybe that’s okay.

My friend begins with “I was born”  . . . and that, there, really, is no small thing. No small miracle. She was born and now words find her. This girl has a story to tell.

Story.

Do you know your narrative? The one where choices show you what you believe? The one where vulnerability writes out mistakes and your Father lets you choose which path looks best?

Story.

Holy ground. The finding our way, claiming beginning and middle and end . . . Claiming voice to narrative, language to action, in the midst of story still unfolding, still changing, still being created. Begin, again, child. Begin.

Characters–family and friends and people we encounter–shaping us, giving us dialogue, sparking in us action–creating drama and suspense and surprising twists we might have never, ever planned.

The narrative plays out and words we speak aloud (the voice of my friend singing true and brave and strong) place us right there, the center of a life written and lived, all at once.

Together, story can fill a room.

you can tell a story we need to hear

you can tell a story we need to hear

We hear His story, the story of beginning, a Father and a Son and a Spirit, who were always beginning, always together, always One. We hear the Story and are grateful it is told to us in words on paper and in songs in church and from children on knees and through breeze in windows and by women in circles, listening, honoring, recognizing story. Recognizing beauty. Recognizing beginning and middle and end and beginning and holy, holy ground.

We let story in. We let story live. We let story breathe. We let story fold right on out and trust it for the words.

His story is the only true one, the one we can trust and read.

We need to come alongside each other to let the stories sing. To let the stories breathe air and be uncaged and free. To let His story in us be the ones we tell our sisters. We have stories where His name is written out beautiful and long, and that is the story we need to tell, with unwavering boldness and trepidation, all at once.

He will lead. He will carry us and bring the words. He will guide us to beginning. Always beginning, again.

you can tell a story we need to hear

you can tell a story we need to hear

I wonder what we should do next here, regarding story and life and looking to Him to help us tell us. Proclaim it as we claim it. Believe it as we live it. Listen to it as we share it. You. And me. And you.

What narrative, a story on your heart, girl, are you meant to share? Have you shared it yet? Is it written down? Have you said the words aloud?

Happily linking with Jennifer and Emily.

 

sick and tired . . . and the sweetness of it all

We start this week on a slow roll, the weekend stretched long with all five of us sick. We staggered home from the boys’ football games, after sitting outside in 90 degree weather all afternoon, and plopped down on the big king bed. My husband first, then me, then our little girl and middle son. Our older couldn’t make it off the couch in the family room before running out the door to throw up again. (On my flowers . . .lovely.)  I can’t remember the last time–or if ever–we had all gotten the same bug at the same time. And it was brutal, but there was sweetness in it, too.

We didn’t know yet that the boys were getting sick with what Justin and I already had (and Abby got first, days before), on the day of their weekend football games, the one Jackson had worked so hard for all week, including having to change his diet to make weight as a bigger, older player on a younger team. It was an away game, almost two hours from home, but the first of the season. And these boys love football. So, we were going to get them there, even if we had to take throw-up bags in the car for Justin and me in the process.

We didn’t think we would have to use a bag–for Ollie–on the drive there.

I managed to be the driver, while Justin, who was feeling worse, tried to sleep. When we arrived, I was blessed with the ladies bathroom all to myself as it was my turn to get sick, hours before the first game started.

While the boy’s warmed up (as Ollie bounced back once he saw his team and was determined to play), Justin and I crawled over to some shade near a fence behind the stands and laid down on the coolest, most heavenly grass in the entire world. I will never forget its softness, the way it cradled my aching limbs and head.

And then my parents arrived to see the games. And my sister and her family, too. And the coach came over to ask Justin to help him videotape. And we stood up and tried to hold it together, while the sky was spinning and the sun beamed down. And we made our way to the hot metal bleachers, which, even under the shaded awning my heaven-sent sister brought, felt like grills used to cook meat in an oven.

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Our 42 (in the back) waiting for the handoff.

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Our 66 as defensive captain before the game.

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Justin and I decided that day, in the sun, feeling sick, and doing one of our most favorite things to do–watch our boys play football–was one of our worst days ever. . .We felt so terrible we didn’t know how we would make it home. And then the throwing up started again, in the car.

Yes, it was rough. . . and that’s why our bed was almost as nice as the grass, when we got home.

It feels silly, now, to admit how unpleasant this all was–especially since those moments of being sick this weekend were some of the most special, too. After sleeping for over twelve hours straight, the next day was filled with snuggles with my boys on the couch, reading aloud the book we didn’t get to finish over the summer. I had a tea party in the backyard with my daughter. We watched episodes of Myth Busters. I took a few short bike rides around the block with my kids as an easy way to walk our dog. Our weariness slowed us all down, and while, I don’t want to get sick again anytime soon, I loved how being sick together helped me appreciate the sweet moments of slowing down, together.

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I don’t know what you’re going through right now. I imagine it might be a whole lot worse than this silly stuff I just described about my family’s bout with the flu. And I would love to pray for you. I would love to be with you, help you find some soft grass on which to lay your weary head. I would love to listen to what is on your heart, what made your long weekend filled with beauty, or what made it make you want to run away and scream. I would love to let you lean on my shoulder, sharing the burden with you, while the tears fall. Or see you smile and hear your laugh as you tell the story of that crazy thing that happened that just keeps making you smile.

I would love to stand with you, praying for you, sister. When I write, I trust these aren’t just words on a computer screen, floating out into space when I hit the little blue button on the right that says “publish”. They are meant for you, right now.

Because we all get tired and need to know we aren’t alone.

Because we all get discouraged and need to know we are heard and someone cares.

Because we all get sad and lonely and mad and confused and wonder what it is we are supposed to do with this day and wonder how we will ever get through it.

Because we all know, sometimes, it is difficult to even raise our heads–that it aches to feel or see.

But I know this is true:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

And I know it is true that we are not meant to journey these tough days alone.

Looking forward to hearing from you, friends.

Love,

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Linking with Emily and Jennifer today.