When You’re in the Middle of it All and You Just Have to Dance

Abby & Jennifer hiking

There’s a project I’m working on, and I’m excited to tell you about it soon. But that’s not why I’m writing here. That’s not what I’m eager to tell you right now.

You see, in the middle of my typing, in the middle of working on the project, a song played through my computer speakers–music that made my fingers freeze over the keys.

It happens to be a song written a couple of years ago to play in the credits of a movie about, well, vampires.

Teenager vampires.

In love.

But vampires or not, this song is just romantic, just beautiful, and I have to keep it on repeat now, because this is what happens sometimes, when music grabs my heart and I have to pause.

(I know this happens to you, too.)

Now, I’ve told you about this before. I’ve told you before how I sometimes just need to stop what I’m doing–even if I’m in the middle of something that feels kind of important–and dance with Jesus.

I’ve also told you before this important fact: I’m not a dancer. Well, at least, I’m not the one at parties who feels comfortable being the center of attention. So, you know, at weddings, when everyone gathers in the middle and celebrates on the tiny dance floor? I do it . . . but I have to almost close my eyes to have fun.

So I do that, too, with Jesus. I close my eyes, and, in my head, I’m dancing. It’s just the two of us, in the garden. (I’m trying to get comfortable in calling this place my garden, or, better yet, our garden, as it’s where Jesus and I are almost always together.)

No matter what adventure Jesus is calling us to with Him–wherever you are with Him is the place of freedom, the place of movement, the place of beauty, the place where your heart knows where and who she is.

So, what else can you do?

You just have to dance.

And you are going to do it differently than anyone–anyone–else.

And you’re going to be amazing at it.

And that’s why I had to pause that thing I was working on . . . the thing I get to tell you about in a month or so . . . and tell you how good it is, how necessary it is to stop whatever you’re doing sometimes and listen to that music He wants you to hear. (And it might not be the music playing through any computer speakers, or even, music heard audibly at all.) The music that is most important to hear–the music to heed above all other noise going around you, is that music He’s playing, right now, to your heart.

Jesus is music within you, my sister. He is playing it in you and for you. He is orchestrating the whole darn thing, and He is reaching out His hands, His arms stretched out wide. For you. Oh, wow, because He loves you. He loves you so much.

You’ve just got to listen to that music.

It’s just for you, you know.

YOU HAVE TO DANCE PIN

And when you do . . . when you stop and you ask Him to play the music for you . . .and you close your eyes and you see yourself dance with Jesus. . . where are you? Wouldn’t it be fun if we shared with one another what the place looks like, or how we feel, or what we are doing, when we dance? You can read more about my heart for dancing–and Jesus’ invitation to you to dance with Him–here.

And one more thing: do you know that I love to invite sisters to come alongside me and listen for Jesus together? Do you know I’d come to you, come into your house or some other place where we can get cozy and be quiet and share together, and facilitate a retreat with you and your friends? You can find more about that here.

Wouldn’t it be amazing and wonderful to see each other, in person? (I’d so love that.)

Until then, get on with that dancing.

Love to you, my beautiful dancing, sisters,

Jennifersignaturescript

Red Scuffed Boots and Holding Hands

Red scuffed boots

The walk to school isn’t long, just two blocks. Three houses down the sidewalk to the left. Then a turn towards the house with the dog that barks through the gate and next to the oleanders with the pink and white blooms floating like fairies down to the dirt.
Her red suede boots are scuffed at the toes, and when we cross the first street, her blue backpack, the one handed down from her big brother—the one that still has his initials monogrammed in white on the front pocket–bumps over the pavement. She still lets me hold her hand.

It’s one more block before we meet the crosswalk, and the street is sardined with cars. Drivers attempt patience as kids and parents and bikes and backpacks stream across the crosswalk to the school. We make a left turn, where the street turns into sidewalk, and then a right at the metal fence. I have walked this route, twice a day, almost every school day, with my three kids, for eight years.

She is quiet during the walk; her usual chatter distilled to abbreviated answers—responses to my questions about what she thinks this day will hold.

“I wonder where you’re going to sit this year—where your desk will be?”
“How do you feel about your brothers not being on the same campus with you for the first time?”

blue backpack

We pass the school office and recognize one of her best friends standing near the office wall, her formerly long hair newly cut into a bob and purple sunglasses from the dentist with the plastic lens pushed out, perched jauntily onto her little nose.

“Hi, Abby!”

Oh, those sparkling eyes and that fast-waving hand at my girl. This day is excitement for these kids. And for the parents? How do we claim the roller coaster of emotion we are feeling, from one second to the next?

Abby grins and waves back, her hand still holding fast to mine. She follows me, as I lead, heading into the main hallway between classrooms where parents–and kids in cute, new first-day-of-school outfits–are going every direction. It’s a sea of energy and anxiety, excitement and joy and fear. We find Abby’s third grade classroom through the hallway, on the other side of the school.

This girl of mine, eyes bright, stiffens next to me when she sees her classmates—as well as another best friend who is in her class again this year. Just as quickly as she took my hand as we began our walk to the school, she drops it and gets in line with her class. I stand at the pavement, my husband next to me. We stand elbow to elbow, watching our girl. Another year beginning. Each day practice in letting go.

Her head bends a bit to the right as the line begins to move. She glances back as she moves up the ramp into the new classroom, her eyes finding ours for just a moment, her lips pursed together into a tiny grin. And then there’s the back of her head, the hair I brushed from its tangles as she stood in the kitchen. Another five seconds and the red scuffed boots turn the corner into the classroom. She’s in.

I’ll keep letting go, Father. She’s yours. I know.

I’ll keep letting go, only to hold ever more tightly onto you.


You women here? You sisters who gather here, so beautifully? Whether you have children or not, whether you are married or not, you each know the discomfort of letting go–in so many ways. I am praying for you now, in your place of letting go. You are seen. You are loved. You are not forgotten.

Red scuffed boots pin

Father, help us hold fast to your hand. Show us the new thing you are doing, right now.

How can I pray for you, His girls, this weekend?

turning towards God isn’t just about quiet

fighting for quiet

My phone vibrates on the table near my bed, and  I grab it quickly and shut it off. It’s one of those misty California Bay Area summer mornings–gray blanket thrown gently across quiet sky. Everything feels quiet. I picture God tucking me in still, even as I stretch my arms, rising slowly out of bed.

I know every creak in the beams of this old bungalow, nearing 100 years old. So, my steps into the kitchen are careful, ginger. The rest of the house still sleeps. The stillness is tangible–so amazing and beautiful and rare I can hardly believe it. I coax my noisy, excited dog out the back door and sit on the couch in the family room, right off the kitchen. This is sacred.

Oh, God, thank you.

I sit for a while, breathing in the beauty of this space–and then I lay down on the couch. Oh, I want to drink in this stillness. I want to wrap myself up in this quiet. This is no small thing.

For each of us, our time with God looks different–and different situations call for different experiences with Him, too. This moment–in the stillness? It was one I didn’t want to forget. So I grabbed a blank piece of paper in the kitchen cabinet and a pen–and I wrote.

How rare and precious it is, this quiet, this time with you. I love my family around me, and I would be sad to be alone for days. But periods of quiet, of complete silence, when things, even the air around me, feels completely still? I am grateful. And I want to stay.

I have trouble desiring to hear you, Father, in the noise. It is not that I think you can’t speak to me in loud cacophony. But I am so easily distracted by sound around me. I know, this morning–the stillness–drew me to you. You can use anything–and you desire everything to draw me to you. I wonder what atmosphere you like to inhabit most? What is your favorite place to be, Father? You must enjoy it all.Or, are there places or situations you don’t like?

In the margin of the paper, I write a little heart–to remind me, when I read this page again, where I wrote down my words–and what I heard God say back:

I don’t like distraction. I like focus and intentionality. I like rest and play and laughter. I like stillness, too.

I fill every space, child. Look what and where I inhabit. Practice turning, so your mind, so distracted, can fix itself on where I am. And your heart awakes. It knows what it wants and needs.

Within you, seek the quiet space, wherever you are. I love noise and music. I love the joyful calling of voices. I love praise.

You are most yourself and at peace in the inhabitance of praise.

In noise and in quiet, I can be present in all things. But it is the turning towards me, in all situations, which lets your mind be focused on me–so your heart and mind cannot help but praise. And in praise you are not distracted and you are most yourself. And when you are most yourself, you are free; you abide in freedom. And that freedom is my love.

It is no surprise that we crave things that feel scarce. And quiet, for many of us, can be one of those things. For me, with summertime and three kids and our little house and our dog, quiet happens–but rarely. I fight for it sometimes, managing to cajole the kids to join me in our studio in the backyard, where there is a big couch and my writing desk pushed right up against Justin’s. There’s a big windowed door that stretches across to the patio and there are tiny lights strung across the ceiling beams. This converted garage is one of the sanctuaries He’s given us, and we use it as a place of escape from noise–even as it doubles as a mini-gym and occasional video game haven, too, with our exercise equipment near the door.

And sometimes, in the still, still quiet of early morning, I practice listening.

We need to do whatever it takes–and it will be different for each of us–to practice listening to God’s voice in our hearts. And as we listen, we are filled with praise. And when we praise, our hearts are turned to God. And we are most ourselves. And we are free.

The Father’s words encourage me to fight for whatever it is that will help me turn to him. He says, “In noise and in quiet, I can be present in all things”. But it is my choice, as his daughter, to practice turning.

TURNING TO GOD PIN

 I want more of that. How about you? How do you practice turning towards God?

 

trapped? how about living the life you’ve imagined?

trapped.jpg

We can wake up, these days, and believe, with all our hearts, that this is the most ordinary day. The alarm goes off and everything looks just the same as it did before. Same bed, same room, same situation as the previous day. There can be comfort in the sameness. There be comfort in knowing the routine. It offers some feeling of control, which can feel safe. And safe can feel good.

I wonder if I think I desire safety and routine, but in reality I desire something I will never receive because I have so little faith. Doing the same thing, day after day, hoping that there will be more time to accomplish a certain task, or that my relationship with my family and friends–and my God–will be closer and more meaningful and awesome.

Or maybe I struggle with the hard work change requires. While Justin and I write how new life comes only after resurrection from death–how Jesus modeled new life only after agreeing to die, and with Him, setting us free from sin–I am convinced, again, something in me may just need to die. For I want to abandon, once more, the feeling of being trapped.

Feeling trapped in the life God has given me–in the life Jesus died for, in the life of freedom He offers–doesn’t make much sense. We’re not meant to feel trapped. We’re not meant to feel overwhelmed. But we can feel that way, nevertheless.  So I stand, in my need, with the Corinthians, as Paul speaks God’s words to my heart:

Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that (1 Corinthians 1: 5-9, MSG).

I have not a thing to lose now. My Father has given me everything I need. Trapped? I imagine this is not a favorite word in His vocabulary. He came to save us as we were enslaved in sin, trapped in greed and pride and lack of faith. Trapped.

I used to feel trapped by the guilt I’d feel by not feeling one hundred percent fulfilled by being a mom who stayed home full time with her kids. I believed there was something wrong with me. There was.

I used to feel trapped in relationships when I’ve felt disconnected from someone I cared about, or  misunderstood. I’ve felt trapped when my desires and passions were not claimed–when I ignored how God made me to love certain things, and I wasn’t doing them, or I wasn’t allowing myself time to believe they were real, or for me to do. Something was wrong in me then, too.

do what you love

There is a life Jesus has fought for me to live, a new life that is more than circumstantial. It is a heart change, this reality of freedom. It is a life that requires faith to realize. It is a life that I want to choose.

So, do I just trust you more God? Do I call out to you, pleading “I believe! Help me with my  unbelief!” ? Do I just refuse to believe in ordinary?

There’s a pillow sitting on the little couch in the front room we had made from the crib our babies’ slept in those first years. “Live the life you’ve imagined.” I like it–all the possibility it reminds me is real and true, and, well, possible to experience. This ordinary day.

live the life you've imagined

But I think it comes down to this for me: I need to believe the life I imagine is possible to live, with Christ, is for me–a life of freedom,where He is capable of taking from me every silly thought and every heavy burden.  A new life bought by His ransomed life. I live to die and be resurrected and live, again, with Him.

So, again, I pray God helps me die.

Die to anger and to self-obsession. Die to my plans and to the minutes that don’t go like I thought they should. Die to resentment and to my  critical spirit. Die to selfishness and to greed. Die to believing the lie I’m not good enough to do the things He’s made me to do, or that I shouldn’t even begin to imagine freedom from worry or fear or pride.

And live to imagine He is here. Live to imagine I am made by a God who loves me. Live to imagine I can handle anything, with Him by my side. Live to imagine, no matter what I face, it’s going to be okay.

Sisters, can you imagine being free?

looking home, inspired by Emily Wierenga’s Atlas Girl

This post, inspired by Emily Wierenga’s new book, Atlas Girl, is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour.  To learn more and read the other posts inspired by Emily’s beautiful book, CLICK HERE!

Emily Wierenga's blog tour: Atlas Girl

Three years ago, the afternoon of Mother’s Day, we scrap the bike ride plan and decide to cuddle close. All five of us on the bed, three under the covers, two at my feet.  My husband and my oldest grab the two edges of the big bed first: one with plans for a nap, the other with his book. I climb into the middle, and the two youngest begin silent paper airplane building, steadfast and determined. Their attempt at book reading–burrowed in between us all, under the covers–lasting a good five minutes.

We had planned to take a road trip to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day, but when that got complicated and we didn’t get to go, a day together was what we found God had planned for us anyway. Time together, just the five of us, is what we often need when the world around us feels like it is beginning to swirl.

This isn’t a usual practice of ours, all climbing up on the big bed together to read or to pursue a quiet activity, on a spring afternoon. The May temperature had turned unusually blustery cool, though, the wind spinning the leaves of the trees, and I loved the excuse to pull in close with this small flock He has given us.  I know it will be soon when we won’t all fit up here, and the kids’ idea of “quiet time” on a spring afternoon may include something far different than this.  We’ll see. But I wouldn’t be the mother I am without these four souls, here.

So on this day that happened to be Mother’s Day, when these three little children, still soft and sweet, are open to cuddling together with Mom and Dad, I jump at the chance to be close.  I soak them up and stay, my heart celebrating what He gives.

This moment, this moment now, and the next one He brings, so full of beauty and love and hope and joy–I know. I know, in my head, this is true. I believe, in my heart, this is real–the gift the Father offers, the gift He gives through hearts that give thanks in the moments that seem like details, accessories to the larger moments of  a day. But I need reminders to take in the beauty of the small. I need reminders to be present where I am. For I so want to be present with God.

***

Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. It is described: “Girl Meets God” meets “Wild” meets “Eat, Pray, Love.” I am loving every word. You can grab a copy here.

Girls, what moment for you triggers the recognition of “home”?

no longer the brokenhearted: a review & giveaway of Finding Spiritual Whitespace, by Bonnie Gray

I miss writing here. I miss writing, in general. I miss sitting and listening and slowing. I miss choosing quiet and holding God’s hand.

yellow flowers

I have been reading Bonnie Gray’s book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace: awakening your soul to rest, a book about choosing to let God in, a book about choosing to let Him guide our time, our memories, our choices throughout the day. It’s a book about surrendering, in all the possible ways. It’s a book about a little girl’s heart that was broken and healed again when she let herself be guided into moments with her Father, especially moments in her past that He longed to heal and rewrite.

Bonnie’s story is stunningly beautiful and heartbreaking and glorious. All of this. She is raw and vulnerable and so amazingly brave in how she shares the details of her life that brought such wounding to her heart, as a little girl–this wounding that she carried with her until less than two years ago, when the weight of her wounds led to her experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

God doesn’t want to leave us in the same place. He comes for the brokenhearted, resurrecting the hearts of His daughters who, as little girls, suffered. He knows His daughters, while even grown, still suffer: He knows when the wounds of the past are too great. He knows when the memories have been pushed down, tucked away, not surrendered to and rewritten by Jesus.

I never would have guessed in a thousand years my journey to rest would be paved with so much anguish. But the journey of the soul is one that Jesus is deeply and intimately familiar with (Bonnie Gray, Finding Spiritual Whitespace).

God doesn’t forget and leave the brokenhearted by themselves.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah 61:1, ESV).

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Each of us is the brokenhearted, in so many hidden, silent, undiscovered ways. Our memories, our past, our regrets, the trauma we’ve experienced can cause these soul-centered-inward parts of ourselves to split apart, almost as a form of self-protection.

Sometimes, there are things we’ve endured that are too much for a little girl to face. Consequently, a part of us shuts down, turns off, becomes numb. We are the brokenhearted: not fully ourselves, not fully alive, not fully whole.

Our little girl hearts need to be reunited with the new heart Jesus gives us when He brings healing and rescue and redemption to our past.

We are hungry to be healed, eager for our broken pieces to be made whole. Thus we ask Jesus to help us be courageous, to help us face the memories we’d much rather never again see.

pink flowers

Bonnie’s book resonated with me the first time I heard the title: Finding Whitespace with God. My new adventure with Justin, with Gather, has been stretching me. I’ve been working hard. But I’ve been neglecting letting God care for my heart. I need to spend time with Him, in quiet spaces, in whitespace where I can hear His voice whisper to me. I need to say no to opportunities, even if they are “good” ones, if it means I am saying no to whitespace with God.

For when I rush, when I am busy, when my to-do list is way too long, I feel so very alone. In these situations, my pride tells me I should work harder, be more efficient, dig in and get more things done. But the God who loves me, who created me, who knows me and draws me close, offers me time with Him. With Him, is whitespace–a place where I can rest and be creative and realize the truth of who I am and breathe.

I was gifted Bonnie’s book, but I’ve read it, instead, on my Kindle. I saved the beautiful paper copy, and didn’t read that one, because I wanted to pass the copy on to one of you.

FindingWhitespace_alt3D

Would you like more whitespace with God? Would you like to be encouraged to seek Him–for rest, for healing, for a new start? Would you like to read the story of a woman who clung to God’s hand in the midst of facing nightmarish childhood memories and trusting God to lead her through? Would you like to be invited to slow and consider practical ways you can live differently, once God is allowed into all the hidden places of your heart?

I bet you would.

If you’d like to win the copy of Bonnie Gray’s book, Finding Whitespace with God, leave a comment below on the blog sharing what is drawing you towards God’s whitespace–why this is the perfect book for you to read right now.

Can’t wait to hear–and I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, June 10.

Gratefully,

Jennifersignaturescript

 

so, if we can’t fix ourselves . . . (#loveidol)

fixing ourselves

There is a movement starting, a movement by daughters desiring to see. We want to see, with clear eyes, the face of our Father. You are made,  friend. Remember, you are made.

Anything we do to prove our worth–worth previously bestowed to us by God–is in vain. The gift of being loved, of being created by the God who loves us, does not need to be bestowed again. But sometimes . . . too often. . . we feel we need to prove our worth ourselves.

We find ourselves believing a mistake was made when we were created, a problem in ourselves we need to fix. Or else, why would that abuse had happened? Why would my parents have split up? Why would my mom have died? Why would I have married someone I’m not sure I even love?

Do you see h0w God wants our hearts now, this moment, despite what happened twenty years ago, despite what happened yesterday? Do you know that we are not the remedy of our own brokenness? We are not the key to ourselves being fixed?

When bad stuff happens to us in the past, it is easy to see the future as a carrot we want to grasp. It is going to be better, then. It is going to be better when. . . And we think it is up to us to do the fixing of our own brokenness, even though we know, deep down, this isn’t how it works.

Now sister, listen.

Whatever happened in the past, while shaping us and affecting each choice we make this very day, is not what decides who we are. Our Father decides who we are. Our God who made us speaks the truth of who we are. Our present relationship with Him, how we think of Him, right now, this moment, determines whether we reach for Him or whether we reach for something or someone else to fill our aching desire to be redeemed and loved.

You, my friend, are made to be filled up by the love of God. Anything we do to try to replace His love and fix ourselves–by earning, by striving or food or sex or things–is never going to work.

I know. I have been guilty of loving idols rather than loving God, again and again and again.

So I am a sister joining the movement– the heart cry of Jennifer Dukes Lee, in her book, Love Idol: Letting Go of your Need for Approval and Seeing Yourself in God’s Eyes. Because I am tired of running and proving and second-guessing my worth, I am going to spend this Lenten season slowing–doing something I never allow myself to do because I love doing it but I feel I haven’t earned enough credit to be given permission to do it: slow, walk, read.

For these forty or so days of Lent I want to lean back into the arms of my Father and rest there. I want to stay there. And I want to read stories that captivate my imagination and give me glimpses into the heart of God. I want to take walks in sunshine and listen for His voice and not worry as much about whether or not I’ve earned the permission to do these things. While I will continue to write and do the things He has created me to do, I am going to lay down the idol of proving my worth through productivity. And I’m going to pick up His invitation to rest and enjoy Him in the way He’s made me to.

He’s right here. He’s not a God I need to attain. But I miss Him when I think the act of pursuing Him, in my own strength, is how I find Him. He is right here.

So I slow.

He is right here.

How are you clinging to God this Lenten season? What idol might you need to lay down? How are you hoping to fix yourself? How can I pray?

Come on over and check out Jennifer Dukes Lee’s cool page about Love Idol, which releases April 1. You can preorder  it now. All this goodness just makes me smile. Love Idol

Sharing with #TellHisStory.

 

let’s ride, wind in our hair

“You have to confess it. You have to say the lie aloud. You have to throw it to the throne of Jesus. You have to reject it even if you still believe the lie.” My friend looks me straight in the eye, and I hold her gaze for a half second before staring at my mug, wishing I were small enough to hide under the table. Now what? I think she’s right.

I know I had better not stall.

lie girl story 9

When you recognize a lie as a lie, even if you can’t imagine no longer believing the lie, throw it up to heaven.

Renounce it. Reject it.

I heard this message again the other day, on my metal folded chair in church, grasping paper coffee cup fast in my hand: Jesus knows the way out of hell. God’s plan, His desire, is to save us from hell, save us from separation from the Father. And God sent his Son to die and take on every single one of our sins so He could lead the way out. He is the way out for us, sisters. Jesus knows the way out. He knows the way out of whatever you are facing.

He can reveal to our hearts the lies we believe that separate us from the Father. He can reveal to our hearts the twisted truths we believe about ourselves. And here was mine: I don’t want you to like me for who I am. I want you to like me for what I do. And my fingers pause now, as I write this, the tears spilling out. For it is hard, isn’t it, to say the lie out loud? It is hard, isn’t it, to be vulnerable? It is hard, isn’t it, not to wonder, what will she think of me, now?

So I cling tight to Him, His love letter to His girls, reminding us about truth, the truth of us:

The truth of you cannot be articulated in just words. The truth of you is a name and not a name. The truth of you is more than a description of personality, a page of characteristics, a list of mannerisms and popular expressions.

There’s something you must remember: you must live your truth. You must live, with determination and might, your truth. You must know who you are designed to be . . . if you want freedom, if you want liberation from lies, if you want joy.

lie girl story 11

lie girl story 10

So in the coffee shop chair, where I spend my Fridays, I push my ear buds into my ears so the guy in the armchair across from me doesn’t think it’s weird I don’t have a laptop in front of me and my hands are open and my eyes are closed and my head is down, my hair shielding half of my face. ‘Cause once my Father has pressed in and showed me glimpses of pain, glimpses of sorrow, glimpses of damage I cause when I believe lies about myself and about Him, I can’t wait one more second to renounce the lie causing the whole darn mess. Jesus knows the way out of hell, not me. And I cause a lot of mess when I have let myself be separated from God because I think I know better. . . I think I know the way out instead of Jesus.

So I say it right there in that coffee shop on that Friday afternoon, less than a hour before I need to jump in the car to pick up the kids from school. “Jesus, I confess I want to be liked for what I do. I confess I care more about what people think about what I do rather than who You think I am. I want You, Father, to love me for what I do! I confess I don’t want you to love me for who I am! I repent, and I reject this lie. I reject the lie that my value comes from doing rather than being. I reject the lie and I break the agreement I’ve made with the enemy that my value does not come from being a daughter of God. I give this lie to you, and cast it on the throne of Jesus.”

And I stayed there. It was too good to not stay, this daughter He made, at Jesus’ feet. And Jesus offered me his hand, and He took me where He always takes me, in the garden, by the river, through the path where the green grass tickles my legs and flowers perfume the air. I can feel the perfume now on my skin.

lie girl story 5

lie girl story 6

We walk up, up the hill, the grass blades leaning over the path so I can’t see the ground, can’t see where my bare feet fall. I see Jesus ahead of me, His looking back at me, smiling. He knows I love this, this walking through beauty, with water rushing fast, to my left, and sunlight shining bright through arches of trees. He knows I will love where we are going.

He leads me to the top of the hill where the waterfall is thundering, and He knows I want to jump. I want to jump right in. The water isn’t cold and the sun is warm on my cheek. And I turn my face up, and I am in God’s house and I am with my King and I am safe and I doing what I am made to do and where I am made to be.

And then I am alone. I am in a meadow, my back pressed into the soft earth. I lay in the flowers, eyes closed, the sun a blanket on my skin. Then the earth trembles beneath me. The soft ground shakes. I must rise. In front of me runs a giant white steed. It is huge and powerful and beautiful. Its eyes flash, and it whinnies as it stops right before me, its hooves stomping into soft earth. I want to ride it. I want to jump on and go, even though I’ve only galloped on a horse once, in my whole life.

But I can’t.

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Suddenly I am not in the meadow but in a dark, shadowy place where there are walls and I am standing, cold, alone. My hair is tangled and my clothes are dirty and tattered. Shredded pieces of linen, a grungy robe, filthy and brown, hangs from my shoulders. I lower my head, hands open at my sides.

Then, there are hands lifting each piece of clothing off of me. They were so heavy. I had no idea how heavy each piece was, as it hung on my tired frame. I then feel hands around my ankles, and strong fingers unfastening shackles around my bare feet, shackles I had never seen, attached to chains I never knew I wore.

And I am in the meadow once more. I am wearing a long gown and my hair is loose and clean, the sun shining bright and the air perfumed with light as it falls like love upon blooming flowers. I am on the steed. And I am wearing armor now, and I have a sword in my hand. This. This is the daughter He sees. This is the daughter I am. This is the daughter He calls me to be, the one who is free because she is willing to fight. The one who is dirty and broken and vulnerable and alone when she strives to be what she wants to create herself to be. The one who is actually beautiful and true when she lets herself know freedom, when she lives out the truth of the identity her Father sees.

Come on, sisters. Let’s break these lies. Let’s ride, wind in our hair.

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lie girl story 2

You, my daughter, are made to be strong, with Me. You, my daughter, are made to do things I’ve prepared, just for you. You, my daughter, are made to go forward, not back. And to go forward, you must fight and break the agreements you’ve made with the enemy. You must know I have come to claim you, the daughter I made. You must know your life has been paid for. You must know you are free. 

And sometimes, with my truth in your heart, you must reject lies about who I am. You must do this. Don’t wait. Do it right now. This it what it means to fight—for freedom from lies. It is rejecting lies and surrendering to Me. It is fighting for your identity, the one the prince of this world wants to take from you.

So, when you are weary, when the world presses in, remember I am here with you. Know I am the warrior who never sleeps. Know I rescue and ask you to trust Me more than anything else. That is how you fight. That is how you know who you are. That is how you are set free.

Sister, how is He pulling you close now? Can you dare to let your heart imagine the wonder of you He has created?
How can I pray for you?

she is the one I despise

We can’t do a thing well unless we believe we are loved. For me, I have struggled with the whisper you’re not good enough. And my frustrated, rebellious heart shouts back, Good enough for what? For whom?

I can crumble, beaten, or I can charge forward, searching hard for His hand. I don’t know any way to live free except to follow. And I know this only after years of rebelling first and wanting, so much my own way.

But maybe there is no other way.

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The night we took the Christmas tree down was a hot whirlwind of living nightmare. It was the night I pushed for my own way. My heart pounding, the words charging fast and loud. Boxes crashed down from the attic like stones, tempers vigorous and burning. Word-arrows hit the bullseye again and again, both ways. I didn’t see it coming. Our first fight, like this, in front of the kids.

I know what it means to go too far. I used to live like this, before getting married. Going too far was a way to judge whether or not I was loved, whether or not I was seen. I have lived much of my life afraid to be meek, afraid to be humble, afraid to be quiet. I have fought for my own way and everyone in my path has suffered.

It is a charade to pretend your life is better when you are the one in charge.

she is the one

Oh, that old self! She is the one I despise. Traces of her fight their way out when I least expect it–the self I wished was killed and gone for good. But still she slinks her way back, her bitter striving creeping out from some deep, dark place. She comes only to bring destruction, wreckage, pain.

The old self, when I look her in the face, the vice of her grip around my heart, her steely eyes piercing me, urging me to fight for the sake of MY self, I sink to my knees and know the world is spinning and I can barely hang on.  For there is no self worth fighting for if it isn’t the self for which my Savior already died. I don’t want this old self. It’s poison to me. I want the new one. The one He died to give me. Yes, the one filled with light and beauty and love.

You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you (Ephesians 4: 20-24, MSG).

I say I  hate the old self, but Jesus dislikes her more. Because He loves you, because He loves me, because He sees us in our fullness and knows our true, new self ready to embrace life with Him, He will never let us go until the old self is good and dead. But we are the ones whom He’s given the tools, with Him, to kill it.

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He gives you tools to partner with Him in killing the old self because He knows you can’t live this free life He has given you with her here. 

The old self is dark and she is selfish. She is envious and she is corrupt. She grabs hold of hope and chokes it, hissing cold breath into your ear. You are not good. You are too far gone to change. You are alone and forgotten. You have never been loved and known. 

Don’t you hate the part of you that fights for her own way, tries to silence the lies whispered in the dark, all by yourself? We can only fight with the tools He has given us.We can only rise and fight with weapons of love. And kindness. And gentleness. And patience. And self-control. We can only fight with a heart that is reconciled with Christ, a heart that wants His way, not our way, with a heart that knows there is no other way to peace, to hope, to joy, to love, to a life free of striving and rebelling and fighting and struggling and cajoling and lying and tearing for what this heart of ours–this heart of ours without God in control–wants.

The steely cold whisper of the old self screams to be heard in the noise, refuses to be quiet, still in the chaos, calm.

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate (Romans 7:15).

But our God is bigger. He is bigger than any mistake we’ve made. He’s bigger and more lovely and more powerful and more wonderful than any whisper of that old self that tries to bring us back down. You have a Savior on your side who has come to save you, again and again and again. He will never relent. He will never turn. He will never back down. He’s all in.

He is completely, head-over-heels, just can’t get enough, in love with you. You are not alone. You are not out of control.

Because you are held by a God who never lets you go.

It’s time to surrender again, to the Savior who comes and restores you to the new self He died for and promises.

I don’t think, in the end, that old self even has a chance.

How do you struggle with the old self? How can I pray for you?

Connecting with Jen and Jennifer, this day.

a little bit about strength

you are not strong

“You are not strong.”

He says it again.

“My child, you are not strong.”

These words He repeats four more times and I crumble, heart wrenching, chest tightening. It comes again as I type this, the screen blurring and my fingers wavering with the truth so close: Yes, I want so much to be strong.

I ask Him where that lie came in: when did believing I needed to be strong first begin. I am ready to see a picture of me from the past, some moment years ago when I first believed I needed to protect my own heart and be confident and strong, on my own. 

And then I see it, and the vision makes me tremble . . .

Please join me over at Circles of Faith today to read the rest? So thankful you are here, friends.

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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,

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after you have suffered a little while . . .

I have struggled here. With gratefulness. My eyes squinting hard to see beauty, to see miracle, to see all the obvious of what He has done. I have looked for more, for a better day to be reality now. I have throbbed with impatience.

That was just this week.

suffering a little while

Can I wake up? Can I live with gratefulness for who I am and what I have? False whispers distract, pulling me away from Home: you are trapped and don’t know how to make the most of a day. You are flailing and out of control. You are given much and are failing to measure up, still.

God’s words pull us back to Him, our minds open, expectant. We hear His words; yet, our hearts struggle to believe it applies to us, our situation, our life. What our mind desires to believe, our heart struggles to accept as true.

Do you feel even more alone when you hear God’s words for you and they feel like only words? What happens within you when you still feel stuck, alone, abandoned, crushed? What happens when the circumstances haven’t changed but God is telling you He loves you, He sees you, He is here?

Do you love Him, praise him, rejoice in the suffering, this moment, right now?

I hear questions from sisters:

Would a God who loves me continue to let me suffer? Would a God who loves me continue to let me stay here, on my knees, in the dark, the walls pressing in, letting me, once more, fall?

A friend of mine, last spring, put this verse on my heart. It has taken months for me to let the words sink deep:

Resist him [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your [sister]hood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:9-11, ESV).

This verse can make me uncomfortable. I squirm in my chair when I think about suffering–when I acknowledge my suffering (and don’t try to ignore it or push it down) and when I hear my God tell me He knows. He knows about our suffering. He knows what you, my sister, are experiencing, right now.

I want to skip to the end of the verse, when Peter, who knows suffering first hand (but who also, initially, did everything he could to avoid it), gets all worked up: The “God of all grace . . will himself restore, confirm strengthen, and establish you.” He knows what we are going through and we are not forgotten. He knows our plight, and He calls us to Himself. He knows every detail of our situation, and He promises to not keep us in this place of suffering forever.

You will not be in this place of suffering forever.

Twice this week I have joined my children and my friends at a national ministry for the homeless, called CityTeam Ministries. I did simple things, like pull up weeds and serve food and peel potatoes and place mandarins into plastic bags. And I listened to stories.

I heard the story of Miles, from Texas, just twenty years old, whose mother died of a drug overdose and whose beloved grandmother died soon thereafter. I heard how when he was a teenager he was addicted to drugs and had no place to go and lived on the streets. I heard how one day he felt compelled to buy a bus ticket instead of drugs and he joined his brother in California. I heard how he came into the front doors of CityTeam and his brother welcomed him and they gave him a job and a place to live. Brothers saw his suffering, and they showed him the face of Christ.

I heard the story of Tobias, whom I served next to in the kitchen, while I scraped potatoes peels of the floor. His blue eyes sparkled as he told me his gratitude of being surrounded by loving community now. He says he can do it this time–stay off the streets and keep this job and stay sober. And I heard the story of Reynolds, who is the boss of the kitchen and left a triple figure salary as the chief chef at the Hyatt Regency in town because he wanted to go into ministry. He wanted to love on people who are suffering. He wanted to speak the love Jesus has shown him into the lives of people who don’t yet know His name.

I go home and wonder at my life–the home I have and the family and friends God’s given. All gifts. All things I don’t deserve. And I get to write and listen to stories, doing something I love  . . . But He gives me the means to do it. And I didn’t merit it.

And I read the letters from you, sisters, of your suffering, of your waiting, of your longing for more and your longing for suffering to end. And I hold it up to God and wonder why . . . And I confess I want to have answers, and I confess I want to fix all these messes. I confess I want to have the right words and take all this suffering away. . . And then He leans and whispers, I know. I know. I don’t leave.

And His heart moves me to action.

For there is something we can do, sisters. We don’t have to lie passive, in our suffering. Our Father, with us naming us as His righteous ones, His chosen ones, His daughters, has equipped us for battle, has equipped us, in His name, with weapons to fight the suffering that could so easily steal our hope and our joy.

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There is an action for us to take here.

Do you see it? Resist. Resist Satan as he whispers his lies in our ear. (And we can be more vulnerable to believing these whispers, in our suffering.) Resist, as Satan tries to steal our joy in Christ, as he tries to steal our hope and keep the eyes of our heart focused on despair, on hopelessness. Resist, as he wants to keep us impatient and looking to the next thing to try to fix ourselves. Resist, as he wants to keep us tired and weary and busy and anxious. Resist, as he wants us to be blind to God’s goodness, deaf to His words of love. Resist, as he wants us to feel stuck and not free, hopeless instead of hopeful, sorrow-filled instead of filled with God’s joy.

Yesterday I was feeling the weight of lies upon me, stealing my joy, making me not want to be grateful for what I have. I seek a heart quiet in God’s love, strong and secure, not looking beyond what He has given.

Do you know, friend,  you are not the only one who listens to His words, reads His love letters upon the page, and doubts the words are for you? Do you know you aren’t the only one who can get herself to believe she is stuck, and that nothing will ever change . . . that she will never change?

The way you move, with Me, is a pace that feels like dance. You move with beauty and with grace and with light that cannot be contained. It is made to be seen. You are made to be seen by Me, and I see you, and I delight in you, and I love how you do it (Loop, “The Way You Dance”).

I’ve been reading Phillip Yancey’s book, The Question That Never Goes Away, and I love his reminder about Christ being enough to handle whatever we are going through–and how He knows, He knows, and He doesn’t leave us in the middle of what we are going through. He has done it. He has suffered for us all: “Christ is God crying I am here . . Because of Jesus, we have the assurance that whatever disturbs us, disturbs God more. Whatever grief we feel, God feels more. And whatever we long for, God longs for more.”

What do we do?

Oh, Father, what do we do now? What do we do when we hear You love us, You are here, You invite us to dance . . . and we just have trouble believing it? What if the pain is too great, the wounds too deep, to feel like raising our heads, to believe a look into your eyes will help?

When will healing come?

Our heads hear God’s truth, but our hearts are desperate to see it realized in our lives. We cry out, “my heart feels like broken fragments. . . my heart is gasping for breath.” But we know our suffering isn’t too great. He suffered. He gave it all. His love is even bigger than any suffering we endure, ever.

So we surrender, and we bow low. And we pray, and we lift up our hands, for we know He is close.

Emmanuel. He is here.

Father, we know You are here. We know You know our hearts, our suffering, our aches and longings. And You are here. And You love us. And this is the reason You invite us to dance.  And this is the reason we know we can do more than endure.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18).

I am praying, friends. And for my American sisters, I pray you have the most beautiful Thanksgiving. 

 

God loves you . . . and you don’t have to earn it

Do you, like me, struggle with slowing down? Do you push back against the truth that you don’t have to do a thing to earn God’s love?

On Wednesday, we talked about how it can be a struggle to believe we are worthy . . . even though God says so. It can be a struggle to believe we are good enough . . . even though we know He made us.

I wonder where that belief first came from? I wonder when it was that lie first entered your heart? For me, many years ago, as a little girl, I made an agreement with the enemy that love I received was based upon my performance. If I worked hard to do the right things, then I would be duly rewarded. If I made the right choices, then God would love me and be happy with me and I would be accepted and life would be good.

But then, what happens when we mess up?

The problem is that when we seek approval, when we seek love, from our own efforts, we have made ourselves an idol. Or the idol is the approval of others, and this is what we worship with our lives.

And this isn’t the life God intends for us. This isn’t freedom. This isn’t joy. This isn’t living.

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Okay, so what do we do?

Ask Jesus into the places of your memory where you first believed the lie your value is dependent upon your efforts to “be good”. Close your eyes and trust Him with your imagination. Let Him show you the situation when the lie first entered your heart and give that moment to Him. Let Him take it. Surrender it to Him. It is His. Let Him show you where He was in that moment, when the lie first entered, and let him rewrite upon your heart His truth.

Pray, “In Jesus’ name, I break the agreement that my worth is based upon my achievement. I am Yours, Father. Your love is unconditional, and there is nothing I can do to earn your amazing love. I am Yours. I trust You. Rewrite Your truth upon my heart.”

I’ll be praying for you . . . Let’s pray for each other. Want to say “hi”, in the comments, and we can reach out to each other here?

Have the most beautiful weekend, friends.

Gratefully,

Jennifersignaturescript

 

becoming, full on

I like to write with my eyes closed. The deepest, most true part of me, the part of me that is made, the part of me that is most beautiful, is the part of me you can’t see. I used to think it was ugly, this part of me deep inside. So I tried really hard to make the outside of me look cute. I worked jobs in junior high and high school and college so I could buy outfits so I would be noticed for how cute I looked. I didn’t like my inside, so I worked hard for my outside to be approved by the world.

And I think that part of me, the inside part, the part calling out glory and beauty and desired and chosen was the part slowly dying, bit by bit, year by year. Each year I grew taller, I squashed more of me and worked harder to seem more beautiful and accepted to everyone who didn’t know the inside me. The inside me was the me I didn’t feel comfortable letting anyone see.

And I’m not doing that anymore.

becoming, full on

Community has come around. Prayers of healing spoken deep into my heart. I had to make a decision: keep striving to earn love or ask Him for help in believing I am loved, already. And the battle for my heart, waged before I was born, began again. It began as I surrendered and the whispers of the enemy felt louder and my King rose bigger and mightier so He filled every space of my heart so there was no room for any more lies. No more room for these insides of mine, my true place, my heart that is made, to wither and die.

I didn’t make one step toward healing alone. But no one–not one prayer, not one encouraging friend, not one sweet note sent to me in the mail–could get me to make a step toward Him, either. I had to do that on my own. I had to to be the one to choose–let myself die, the true part of me that He made, or let the true heart He made step out, bold and lovely, and sing. I had to choose where to place my steps, my confidence, my life. I had to choose whether or not to heed my King, leading me home.

We just simply have to choose.

So I listen deep to His voice and trust my words and claim my voice and let the inside me be what I shout out as most beautiful, most claimed, most fought for, most desired and redeemed. Yes, the inside part of me is what is redeemed. So I grow older, and more wrinkles around my eyes and my neck appear. My hands become more beloved, like those of my grandmother’s with their brown and ripples and creases. My voice says truth, my words not hiding and twisting, trying to make themselves fit into a space that seems like the perfect fit.

I am a perfect fit. I am made, and I am beloved and worthy and glorious. And I’m not going to make excuses for it. To be made means to be awake to the coming fullness of you. Come on, let’s look at all we are becoming. Let’s grab hold of it. Let’s  smile, and look at it, right in the face.

How have you struggled, girls, with the acceptance of your true self? Have you received healing? May I pray for you?

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battle cry rescue with the room spinning ’round

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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rescue from yourself

how to be rescued

Morning lights peeks soft through curtained windows. She stretches, limbs reaching up and out. These muscles barely powering her to take that step out of bed. She wants this day to be better.

She watches the video about being beautiful, hears the words from the pastor at the pulpit, but they are only words. How can they apply to her? When will she believe she is adored? When will she believe she is enough? When will she believe she was chosen? When she will be okay with surrender, with rest, with joy, with gratefulness for being made?

The dark whispers of comparison and envy sink deep into her, familiar. It is what she believes she deserves. It makes sense, that she feels so broken and ruined, after all that she’s done. To be forgiven and loved . . . beloved . . . feels like too much. She is too much. She’s not enough. She feels she’s got so much further to go to receive His love.

Even though it’s not true.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).

What if she threw up her hands and said, I just can’t do this anymore, God? What if she yelled out, said she is tired of trying so hard? What if she stopped thinking about herself so much and her problems and the ways she believes she comes up short and just thought on the beauty of her Savior, instead?

He is beautiful.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array (Psalm 29:2).

What if she confessed her fears, her desires, her struggles, her pain to God and then stopped, and listened to what He said? Would He speak? Would she hear Him? Would the pain be lifted and she feel okay? Would she once again feel the warmth of sunlight on her face?

What if she claimed what is true? What if she rejected what is false?

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Girls, she will be rescued again, like she was rescued before. She is not left alone, abandoned, forgotten.

Her father brings hope and joy to His daughter. It is who He is. He cannot stop pursuing her. Yes, she will find His light on her face.

And that is why we are doing this, here, fixing our attention to the miracle of being made. We are a miracle. His daughters. And we, in His name, are beautiful. And healed.

And I am praying for you, sister. I am praying.

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the messy and awesome work of letting God in

Going through the hard, dark places of our heart with God isn’t fun. It’s super uncomfortable. It’s exhausting. It’s inconvenient. We want Him to go deeper in, to do anything it takes to free us of lies we believe about ourselves, about this world, about Him.

Don’t we?

We know nothing separates us from the love of God. He pursues us relentlessly. But His pursuit of us is one of a Father disciplining us sometimes. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. He is all-in, and He loves us too much to let us keep on going down a path that isn’t good for us. But the thing is, He asks us to let Him, give Him permission to do the work in us.

We are made. He wants to keep making us brand new.

In C. S.Lewis’ The Great Divorce, (one of my favorite books of all time) we see the beauty of redemption when angels ask visitors to heaven who would otherwise stay in hell, if they would like to be free of their false selves and live, with Jesus, in heaven. The angels reveal to the people the horror of their sins, and the despair that exists when they continue to refuse to let God in to their hearts.

In one situation, a man’s struggle with lust is manifested as a lizard that whispers lies into his ear. The man has become so used to the lizard’s voice that the whispers of deception feel a part of him. He can’t imagine letting the angel rid him of it, creepy as it is. The man panics and promises to keep the lizard quiet, saying that it won’t bother anyone. He’ll keep it under control and no one will ever even notice that he is there. The angel pursues the man, though, urging him to let him kill it, and the man finally relents, with a piercing, scream as the angel reveals a sword and slays the lizard, saying “I promised that it wouldn’t kill you; I didn’t promise that it wouldn’t hurt.”

There is such horrific danger in the existence of the false self. Unless we surrender and let Jesus take that sin within us, we lie writhing, like the man with the lizard on his shoulder. Our false selves are our inauthentic selves. They reveal what we look like without God.

Check out this compelling video by The Skit Guys, sent to me by one of His girls, Nikki. It shares a dialogue between us and God, as God asks us if we would like Him to come and remove the things weighing us down, preventing us from living the life God intended us to live.

It’s a choice. And sometimes, it isn’t pretty. (Subscribers, click here, to see the video.)

The other day,  I shared with you how, in the car on the way to my haircut, I called out His name, rejecting lies I wanted nothing to do with anymore. And I believe He heard me. And I believe His mercy, new every morning, comes with a mighty strength, covering me, protecting me–His Holy Spirit coming with a mighty sword to free me from the entanglement of deception in which I get so easily mired.

But I didn’t wake feeling entirely new. I am still in my earthly body, struggling, in my weakness, to surrender and rely on His strength. And it is hard. But I keep listening. And I keep trusting. And I keep surrendering.

After praying, I didn’t feel like magic fairy dust was sprinkled on my head. The clouds in the sky didn’t part and the sun didn’t shine a spotlight of grace right there, through the sunroof, on my head. But I know I am made, and He is with me. He is changing me. He is shaping me into something beautiful, a daughter even more like Himself.

If you are in this place, of feeling like there is something weighing you down. . . if you want more of God’s freedom and are tired of being entangled by the weight of a sin that prevents you from experiencing His joy, please know you are not alone. Don’t keep silent about it. Don’t try to work it out on your own. Don’t try to fix yourself.

You can’t do it. It just doesn’t work.

Because you are made, you need your Maker to come and bring His healing. And once you let Him in, the process might not be quick. It might not be easy. It might be frustrating in how long it takes and how painful it feels.

But, oh girl, let Him do it. And tell us about it, here, or send me an email, so I can pray for you.

You are made.

Any work He does, painful as it might be, will be good. And it will be worth it.

Promise.

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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!

when I judge and I fall down

You can feel His hand pressing in sometimes. His hand a whisper, a voice tangible. You claim the voice feels difficult to recognize, but you know it. You at least recognize it by its gentleness, its firm nudging toward what feels good and uncomfortable and right and hard. You feel the tension, subtle but sure. And you squirm.

when I confess

You want to run, but you don’t. You don’t want to stay, but you do. Questions come, the voice whispering, gently: Why do you feel uneasy, the walls feeling close, too close? But you ignore it. and you keep making small talk with the people you’re with, not asking yourself the real questions and turning your tangled thoughts over to God: why am I so insecure? Why am I choosing to be hard-hearted and not soft? Why am I judging? Why am I believing I am separate, different, better than her?

I don’t ask myself the questions, and when she enters the house, the wide, front double doors swinging in, I reach out my hand stiffly. And I see it, recognizing the judgment in me, the subtle deciding of who she is and who I am. I feel myself deciding her worth, assessing her, choosing to see through murky lens rather than through the pure eyes of my Father.

Chosen. Adored. Beloved. Beautiful. My child.

I am not seeing her through His eyes. I am not listening to her with openness. I am sizing her up, forgetting who I am. I can’t even write here what words I was thinking, deep inside my heart. The lies I heed, on my own, contrast too starkly with the beautiful truth of what He sees.

His whispers, I hear them now, remind me what I must not forget:

I am the daughter of a King who was born in a stable among animals and excrement and was holy.

I am the daughter of a King who honored His parents but could not stay away from learning and teaching, for hours, about His Father.

I am the daughter of a King who waited at a well for an adulteress and saw her true heart, underneath her actions, her mistakes, her failures, and loved her and stayed with her and spoke to her and showed her she is special and matters.

I am the daughter of a King who challenged selfishness with fierce gentleness and who conquered death with self-sacrifice and love.

I am the daughter of a King who knew His Father and heeded His heart within Him and trusted Him and chose Him and let His will be done.

I am the daughter of a King who loved thieves and liars and murderers because He saw their heart underneath their actions and knew they were His brothers, His sisters.

I am the daughter of a King.

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The moment I judged the woman who walked into the house, the woman whom I had not yet met but had judged in my heart before I even said a word, was just one of the moments I forgot the truth of who I am. There are many days I forget this, but when I assess the worth of another person and value the opinions of people rather than the heart of my King, I separate myself from Him. I separate myself from the truth of who I am.

My daughter. My restored. My flower. My delight.

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The squirming comes when I strive to put myself in His place, push away His loving arms around me, beckoning me to pause, see what He sees, hear what He hears, feel what He feels. I, a daughter redeemed who forgets and then remembers, how dark she is without the life of her King lighting her way, has no position in which to judge a sister, His daughter, His dear.

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3).

No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit (1 John: 12-13).

And so here, in this place, I lay myself down. I confess and beg forgiveness and call out, weak and broken and strengthened and healed. I confess I forget whose daughter I am, and I forget the face of my God. No more judging. No more hurting. No more separating. No more condemning. No more forgetting who I am.

Do you hear His whisper, girls? Do you feel His touch upon your heart?

Are you listening?

Are you listening?

Linking with Ann and Jen.

condition of the heart

Are the consequences of our mistakes punishment by God?

If we believe we’ve heard the voice of God speak to us, and we ignore it, do we think the consequences of our ignoring His words to us, His whisper of the Holy Spirit to our hearts, is the reason bad things happen to us in our lives?

Or, what if we’ve never recognized His voice? What if we don’t yet know Him–or don’t realize we do–and we live far away from Him, independent, alone? Does God stand back, wait for us to turn? Do the repercussions of our behavior ripple from generation to generation, never ceasing, so that the sin is felt and responded to, without ending, through relationships, through countless family ties?

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I am in a room of women, and the sharing of story, the detailing of lives and choices and regrets and wounds, make the space both holy and beautiful and desperate and sad. I am filled with questions, with the way one sister’s story can feel both so similar and different than another’s.

My mind is spinning, and I think about what I know . . . and how I know the things I know about God: the Father of mine who relentlessly pushes me, with gentleness and firmness, into seeing how sin, separation from Him, brings only pain.

Yes, sin has consequences. We make choices towards relationship with God, and we make choices away from Him. We recognize pieces of His love for us, and we also reject it, turn our back on Him, believing we are the only god in our lives that we need.

I think of the God of Eve, who created her to walk with Him, beside Him, with nothing to hide. (Oh, to walk with the Father, in a garden of beauty, by His side!) And then how she questioned Him, how she thought maybe her ideas of things were better than His.

Sin is what separates us from the Father, although that was never His intention. That was never His plan. He does everything to let us choose Him and find our way back to Him.

Are we finding our way back?

Our God is a Father of unity, not separation. Our God is a Father of joy and hope, not bitterness and pain. It is sin that causes disunity from God, nothing else.

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I listen to the stories of sisters and think about how no matter our life experiences, each moment is an opportunity of choice–love God or not. And when something gets in the way of our loving God, it is the sin that has caused the separation. And God is bigger than any sin or any mistake or any regret. Yes, there may be consequences of sin–and it is our bearing of these consequences that lets the old self die so that Christ in us can live anew.

“In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4: 22-24).

I know first hand the death of old self, again and again. Yes, I want to die–each piece of me separate from Him–to be made new. And why? Perhaps here, a few glimpses . . .

I know the God I know, the One who had me by the hand, as a child, before I realized He was there. The One with whom I felt safe but didn’t know well, but whom I prayed to night after night, the only hope for one of my family members, whom I feared would die and get sick, because of smoking.

I know the God I know, the One who tickled my face with gentle wind as I ran through rows of almonds, barefoot, with both dogs and cats chasing with me, and the squish of the wet mud between my toes, and the crunch of gravel as rain water rushed through with might, down the creek.

I know the God I know, the One who stood underneath the wall clock, in the kitchen, reaching out His arms for me as tension escalated. In the middle of chaos, He showed me there was a way to be whole, in His arms, and dance.

I know the God I know, who cried, underneath a leafless almond tree, as I believed I was more important than anyone, anything. Two decades later I am tired of running, and, finally, He shows me–knowing I am ready now–to see pieces of the effects of sin upon a life, the torn shreds collected, and mended and stronger now, by Him.

I know the God I know, love who rescues and takes me back to moments in my past where I have believed lies, situations where my perception of myself and the girl-woman I was made to be–and my view of God–had been twisted. I know the God who replays the scene of my memory with a new lens. He wants to show me where He was present, whether or not I ever realized it, the whole time.

I know the God I know, a God who gives second chances, who gives us a new way to see the world, I know a God who presses in and encourages us to die, to all the twisted, broken, damaged habits and beliefs that separate us from Him. I know a God who lets us feel pain and feel the results of living life without Him, if we want. And I know a God who never stops pursuing, never stops loving, never stops caring.

I know the God I know, who aches for this world, for the ways His children are desperate to die and be born again.

Yes, there are consequences for sin, but Jesus doesn’t need to die again to give you life again, in Him. Just once, friend. Just once. The pain of sin, the pain of our past, the pain of our present is where He comes, where He is present, where He refuses to ignore and turn away.

This life is hard, and it is filled with hope. This life is painful, and is filled with healing. This life is brutal, and it is filled with beauty.

I don’t have answers, only questions. But that’s okay. I know what I know. And I will surrender the lies that come telling me my God cannot be trusted. For this isn’t head knowledge I’m talking about. It’s a condition of the heart.

How do you wrestle with these questions, girls? What does your heart know about God?

Linking up with Jennifer and other story tellers.