Stay Here, My Love. I Stay.

stay here my love I stay

From Me

conversation 20

Father, I can’t hear you when the day moves too fast. It’s been too full. And I know there are days like this, but I miss you when I don’t slow. There was a time when I was restless and I sought to be filled up, using whatever was near me to do the job. Internet shopping was my go-to when the kids were little and they used to nap in the afternoons. And gummy bears–the big Costco bags, too.  My mind and body were filled with things that never satisfied. They could never fill me like you do.

I can feel the tension in me as this week is filled with things to do, Father. I can feel in me the self-inflicted pressure to want to please people, too, as things get so busy. Their expectations of me drive me to make decisions I often later regret.

But each decision I make out of fear of not being liked, out of  the desire to be perceived as successful or responsible or whatever, leaves me empty. Because you aren’t there, in these places I chase down. You aren’t there, where I seek validation and fulfillment outside of you.

I confess to you my brokenness. I confess to you my worry about messing up. I confess to you my pride–how it drives me to get less sleep, the false and fleeting reward of productivity, efficiency, success.

Help me seek only your face, your whispers, your voice in me. It’s your voice in me, Father, that sustains me. It’s your voice in me through which love for me is received.

For your voice is not just a voice that I hear. Your voice is a presence to which my soul responds. I am lost without your voice. I can’t find my Home without you leading me there.

I give you the remainder of this day, my Lord, my King. I give you all of me. I let you wrap me up and lean back against you and stay. Oh, Father, I can’t hear you, I can’t hear your voice, unless I desire, with all my heart, to stay.

Justin gave me rings a few weeks ago that he had stamped with my favorite lines you’ve whispered. They are written in Loop:

stay here,

my love.

I stay.

And I gave these rings straight off my hand to a friend to wear because she, too, needs to remember.

stay here,

my love.

I stay.

And she wore them and then she gave them back. And now I continue to wear your words on my hand. Your words. Your voice. My prayer.

stay here,

my love.

I stay.


Take my voice deeper in now, love. Take me in deeper. Walk with me. Listen more closely. My voice is how you awake. My voice is how you dream. My voice is how you stir and seek the more I have planned.

You know there is more for you, more of me to realize in you, to experience in you. Awake a bit more, now, love. Awake and get to dreaming, get to seeing and hearing. Let me quiet you and help you run. Run hard. Run fast. Run straight into me and don’t pause to look around–and especially, don’t look back.

I will lean in close and tell you more. I will lean in close and draw you deeper in. I will lean in close and reveal more of this language you want to know.

Speak this language with your heart. Speak this language with every move you make. Speak this language with your love. Let it overflow, love. Run straight into me–deeper now–and let me overflow into everything you, and onto everyone you touch.

With my voice.

With my love.

With my hope.

With my light.

And in this running? And in this seeking? . . . In this speaking loud the language and love you pour out with my strength and might?

stay here,

my love.

I stay.


Song to listen to: “Remind Me Who I Am,” Jason Gray


This is day 20 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

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I Love You The Same

I love you the same

For H.

conversation 14

I have heard you call my name, in the night, and when the sun rises bright and quiet through the white window frames. I am stirring, Lord. You have called me and I am waking up. You whisper to me, through pages, through letters of typed black, in scrawls on paper, in song and the quiet whispers settling gentle in my heart.

I am your dear one, I know, although I struggle to feel that way sometimes. Are you happy with me, God? I know you love me, but are you happy with what I’ve done, with my choices, my decision with time? I am uncertain about how my days are supposed to be spent.

I want to be the wise woman. I want to be the certain one. I want to go forward with confident certainty. Don’t be frustrated with me, God. Don’t let me go through these days and not stop me if I am doing something wrong. I want to know. I want to know if I am messing up, if I am turning right when I am supposed to turn left. I fear not being faithful. I fear going through this life and not doing enough, being enough. I crave contentment, certainty, a knowing, deep within my heart that I live, with a full heart.

You have made me brave; let me be brave. You have made me intelligent; let me pursue you with fire and delight. You have made me fierce; let me seek you and set on fire the hearts of the people around me—that they see me and see that gentle, quiet contentment that comes from knowing you and following you.

I am yours, Father. Let me stay here, in that knowing. I am here. Let me not run away and search for hope and meaning anywhere else.


I love you the same

My daughter, deep breath now. I have chosen you, and yes, I come and bring soft places for you to land. My arms, here, are where you find who you are. I love how you ask me questions. I love how you stay here with me. This is so good. Will you stay, here, a little longer, child?

You are my treasure, a light shining in dark places. Take me with you, my heart within you, as you speak, as your walk, as you serve. And that serving, my girl? It isn’t something you need to strive to do. Just love me. Love me first. Be with me first. Stay with me first. All the answers to these questions will be clear.

You know how to stay here. Your heart is quieted with me. I smooth back your hair and I am quiet, with you. You don’t need to do a thing, you know. You are with me and you respond, naturally, to me in you. It is what you breathe. It is how you feel free.

So lean back against me, my love. You are my precious one, the one in whom I delight. You will be loved tomorrow the same as I love you now, this day.


Song to listen to: “A Little Longer” Jenn Johnson and Bethel Music


This is day 14 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day!

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For You Shine Bright, My Love

You Are Bright

For J.

conversation 13

Oh, it’s been cloudy here, God. This heart of mine drifting, unsure of what it feels. Sleeplessness can do this, I know. For I am so tired, stumbling through days with this precious life, my newborn, swaddled close. You journey me back home, where family is, and I am sure you are here.

Take me up close now, God. Take me in deeper. Take me where I hear you, where I feel you, where I recognize you, through the haze of my sleep-deprived state.

There is color all around and I want to step out into it. There is music singing. I can hear it in the trees, the aspens stretching gold fingers to blue sky and shouting aloud your name.

Help me shout with my whole heart, my Father. Help me to sing out loud this beauty you give me. Help me to inhale your rest, ingest you food. Let your words sink deep into my heart, your presence all around letting me rise.

You shine so bright, my Lord. Your holy presence fills me and equips me for standing. With you I sing and I stand.


My bright shining one, there is color all around you. You radiate hope my darling. You illuminate me.

I see you. I know you. You are given rest. You are loved and not forgotten. You are found and held.

You are my darling one who speaks healing with her words. You are my song, my poemia, my crafting of beauty when it stays and doesn’t fight and lets me show you how special you are, in my name.

My lovely one, close your eyes now. For I am here, in the turmoil. I am here, in the chaos. I am here, in the uncertainty. I am here, in the wondering of what’s next and when and how.

You, my shining one, know how to rescue because I’ve rescued and I am here, in the beauty of this moment, asking you to let me hold you close. No searching for me is required, just an acknowledgment of your desiring me. For you are made to desire me, and here, in the desire, I speak love and restoration into your heart.

There is more for you, in the staying close, in the trusting me, in the letting me hold your heart.

you shine bright


Song to listen to: “I Am Yours,” by Misty Edwards


Join me here each day, sisters, for this 31 Day series. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

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How Light Shines in the Dark

For L.

conversation 7

Jesus, I sit here in the dark, looking for light. Everything feels still, but inside I am churning. Can I just curl up next to you? I tuck my knees underneath my chin, bare feet on wooden floor. Yes, sit here, too, will you?

Yes, you’re already here.

I can lean up against you, your chest rising aginst my shoulder, your breath against the top of my head. And I listen to my breathing. In. Out. It’s the only thing I’m going to focus on now. No thinking. And I feel your breathing, too. Yes, keep your arms around me, will you? Will you let me stay here? Because I am tired and I don’t have answers for how to fix me, how to fix him, how to change this mess.

Oh, God, can I go back to the beginning? Can you let me rewrite that one day, and the other one too? Can you show me what I can do, how our hearts can be wiped clean and taught to trust one another and have joy with one another? Oh Jesus, can you remind me what it means for my whole heart to feel light and free and joy-filled? It is possible for a heart to know how to smile?

I’ve grown up knowing how to smile, how to fix, how to make things beautiful, but this isn’t the beautiful I want anymore. I want your kind of beautiful. I want your kind of real life. But I can’t bear to step outside, away from your heart beating. I am scared and I am tired and I just don’t know how this whole thing is going to get better.

For it is still dark here. And it is still still. Can you fill me with your laughter? Can you fill me with your hope? Can you fill me with your strength? Can you fill me with your light?

I crave wisdom, Jesus. I want to see the path and see my feet on it and hear your voice in my ear. This is the way. Walk in it. I don’t want to leave you. I want to stay here with you, your arms wrapped fast around me.

Do I have what it takes to love with a new heart, God? Do I have what it takes to start over, believe in light flooding in to dark places, even the places I can’t transform, on my own?

Oh, God, I want to change, but does it make a difference if he doesn’t change, too? What do I do? How is this going to work?

But it has to. And I know that anything is possible with you.


My daughter, I will stay here with you. I will stay here as long as it takes. Holding you, drawing you in close to me, is what I love to do most. I’m not going anywhere.

I love sitting here, too, you know. I love having you close. I will stay her with you. I will never leave you, if you want me to stay.

Yes, it is nice here. I love to comfort you. I love to remind you how precious you are to me. I stay here, with you, listening to the rise and fall of our chests. It’s nice here, you know. You with me.

See that window there? Do you see that hint of golden shining through, as the sun can’t help but come in? You can’t close out light, child. You can ignore it, or try to escape it. But if you want to see it, you see it by knowing it’s there, even if you only feel darkness all around you. The light is large enough to cover everything, each piece of darkness that wants to remain. No darkness stays dark. No problem stays the same, when the light touches it. Even if the darkness looks and feels the same, upon our touch. It is being changed. Darkness can’t stand against the light.

I stay here with you, watching light come in. I stay here with you, helping you choose to desire light. I stay here with you, teaching you what light feels like on your skin, upon your face, how it can reach all the dark places–in each corner of this room and all the places in your heart.

Ask me where you want the light to shine. Ask me how you can make it shine in places, too. Take my light in you and raise it high and nothing can stand to not be changed. Nothing can stand to not be affected by light shining bright and tall and wide. In my name, child, light challenges all darkness and battles and wins.

I have come and given you light and I hold you in it and you are filled with it and you are not the same as you were before. And all who see you and hear you and stay with you are responding to my light in you. And that light, my darling girl, let’s nothing stay the same.


Song to listen to: “The More I Seek You“, Steffany Gretzinger {Friends, this song, is one of my favorite, favorite, favorites . . although the quieter version by Kari Jobe, is the one I listen to all the time.}


Join me here each day, sisters, for this 31 Day series. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

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I Know What You Miss

For H.

conversation 6

Dear God, it’s quiet here, and I think I’m okay with the quiet. But I miss him, that boy of mine who had to go to you, so soon. He was so little, God, and I’m not sure I understand why some people have to experience so much pain while others seem to go on, in this world, with little tragedy striking. Is that true, that some of us experience more pain than others? Or, do we each experience similar degrees of suffering, but just different kinds?

Why did he have to suffer, God? And is it okay that I miss him so much? Is it okay that I struggle to not be sad with his being gone? Oh, God, he was our son.

Do you know pain, God? Is it love that causes us to feel so deeply, to be filled with so much sorrow and distress, when someone we love goes away? Would we not feel this pain if it weren’t for love? Sometimes I wonder if I can bear this pain, if I can keep going—and I feel guilty about this when you have given us other children to love and raise. And when you have never left my side.

Still, why do some people’s children live long lives and others die? Why do some people not get sick and others suffer? Why do children die and why do their parents live?

It is interesting how we use words, so carefully, to describe something terrible happening. We use the phrase “tragedy striking”—like the experience is something removed from us. But this is not removed from me. This is not far away, but real. And I know it’s real to you, too.

You brought him to us and you took him and I know you have him but I miss him. I miss holding him, God. I also miss how he smelled. And I miss the feeling of his skin on mine. I miss his cries and his smiles.

Oh, God, you continue to heal this heart of mine. You have not given more than I can bear. But I miss him, and I know he is with you. Please, keep healing me. Please keep me close and protect my heart.


My daughter, there is something I want you to know: I never left him. I held him each day. I was was with him before he was born. I was with him the day he breathed his first breath. I am with him, even still, beyond the moment when he breathed his last. It isn’t over, my darling.

Your heart, I know, feels like it will burst some days. Your heart feels too heavy for you to rise, on some. But I made you, my girl, and I made him, too, and I am with you, from the beginning, to the end.

I want you to know something else, my dear: with me there is no end. This suffering, this pain and stretch of time when life feels so long and so hard . . . there will be an end to this pain. And I have come, and I have restored you, and I have called you mine. You are mine.

You have seen me hold him. You have seen me with him. You know you have never been alone, and that I’ve walked with you and that his laughter will never be forgotten by you, his smile will be what your heart, forever, knows.

But I want you to know this, too: I know your smile, and I know how you love, and I love your questions and your yearning. I love your desires and your dreams. Those dreams of yours are ones I want you to give me. You are made to be with me, trusting me, letting yourself believe in what feels possible because anything is possible with me. I have held you, in the hard moments, and I have never left you. I know his absence feels so much to bear, but you also know I’ve given you a strength that you recognize as mine, in you.

I give you faith. I give you hope. I give you the ability to dream and seek me. There is so much more I have for you, my daughter. Want to come and see?


Song to Listen to: “God So Loved,” United Pursuit Band


Join me here each day, sisters, for this 31 Day series. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

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Awake and Running

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

conversation 3

For N.

I am awake to you, Father. I am standing tall now, looking for you. I want to run, and I want to dance. I want to feel the fresh grass under my toes and the dewdrops that appear in fresh morning light. You are holy and so beautiful, God.

I am here, with you, in the place where the sun rises just across the hill. I am not sleeping any longer. My soul awakes, and I am seeing.

I am looking for you and you’re letting me find you. I am looking for you and you are letting me touch you. I am looking for you and you are letting me see the color of your eyes, the ways your eyelids close over beauty, the way your hand feels when it is closed firmly around mine.

You’ve got me, and I love it here. I don’t want to go anywhere else. Help me stay here, in this place with you. For it is lovely and it is peace-filled, and I know I can do anything and go anywhere when I am here, with you.

I got weary sometimes, Father, from work and the time I spend sitting and trying so hard to be helpful. You’ve given me this heart to love and to feel your Spirit in me, whispering words to me. I can hear you, when I pause. And I can see you, when I stop and seek you. And I wonder if this place of sitting here, working each day, commuting so long to my job, being stuck in traffic and being in this leadership role, is the way I can truly serve you.

When I am with you I know who I am and I am content, not restless, but still. But I struggle to stay with you, in the long hours at work, and in the night when I am exhausted. I want to disappear then, open a magazine and see what things I could buy. I want to go shopping with girlfriends and leave the stress of everything behind. How do I stay here, in the middle of stress, in the middle of tough decisions, in the middle of weariness, when I fear I’ll fail to find you?

Are you here, in the daily mess of my everyday? Are you here, when I am not seeking you? Are you here, when I am striving and I am going and I am not looking for you at all? Are you only here when I am open to you being here? Are you only here for me to find you when it occurs to me I need you? What happens when I forget I need you? What happens when I need you desperately but I am, in reality, running far away?


My darling, do you think you can ever run away from love? Do you think you can stay away from your home? I don’t force my way into your heart. I pursue you, yes, but I don’t push my way in. And you know this. You know what it is like to be with me and to look for me, yes.

Do you know how I love to watch you, no matter what you are doing? Do you know I have formed you, just like this, to move with grace? I fill you with grace. I fill you with me.

Don’t fret, my dear. Don’t worry about the weariness and the disquiet and the restlessness you feel from the work I’ve given you to do. Practice looking for me during the day, when you are at work, just like you do when you are still, with me. For you know what it is like to be with me.

Know that I am present with you, my darling, even when it feels I am far. In your work and in your play, there is no place I don’t want to be with you. Don’t worry about doing your days right, whether you are doing a good job or not doing a good job of seeing me or looking for me. Choose me by loving what I love. Choose me by continuing to seek me. Choose me by desiring to stay. I am here. I am with you. You know me and I only want to show you more.

It is good you miss me when you have gone away. It is good you recognize how your heart yearns for me, when you are wayward and absent from where you think I am.

But ask me to quiet the fears. Ask me to touch my hand upon your heart and deafen you to thoughts of worry. Be my daughter. Be my girl. Stay. Stay awake. I stay here with you.


Song to listen to: “Fall Afresh“, Bethel Music (feat. Jeremy Riddle)


Join me here each day, sisters. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice adventure slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

 

I Want to Choose to See

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He is a tough one to figure out, this little boy approaching teen who grabs my heart with a smile and pushes me away the next day. A lot of conversations around this house are about how to be kind, how to love well, how to think about the heart of another before oneself.

But I think it is the talking less and showing more that matters most. And I am grateful how he lets me hug him in the mornings, the dark still resting on the house like a blanket hushing us back to sleep. But I’m awake, and he’s awake. And we sit side by side in the dark room just off the kitchen. When the rest of the family sleeps and there is only that one crazy bird outside calling the rest of the neighborhood to wake on up.

I sit here, in the dark, with my son, and I read a note from a sister in England who reminds me “how different God sees!” I can try to begin this day asking Him how He sees. For I can charge right on with my expectations for this day without heeding and listening and waiting.

I push God away so much, without even realizing it much of the time. I get so caught up in whatever it is I want to be doing, not even thinking about Him, that I don’t see that I am doing it. There is that young place in me, still–the girl who pushes back against her Father’s pursuit, His gentle nudge, His arms-out-greeting each morning as I rise.

Come on now, sweet girl, turn. Let me help you see as I see.

So for a while, this day, I will put way words and typing. I will put away cleaning and planning. I will put away wondering and thinking. For it is right now–my right now with Him, that matters. And to be in communion with Him–to even practice being with Him so I can notice how He is with me at all times–is the most important thing for me to do, this day.

In what way, this day, are you choosing to see?

 

Want to Know How to Remember the Most Important Thing?

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This is one of those  posts where I close my eyes and write. I am in that mood where I feel used up, distracted. But I know if I take a deep breath and ask for help, if I ask God for words for what I am feeling, He will give them to me. He does that for us, you know. He wants to restore us and give us glimpses of our true selves. We wants to help us understand our hearts.

Last week I wrote about how being with God doesn’t mean you have to be in a place of quiet. But I am learning how, while my surroundings don’t always have to be quiet–and my actions don’t always have to be quiet–my soul needs to be quiet. I need to be in a state of seeking God, if I want to be most awake to the whispers of God.

Now, I believe this is true: He loves it when we are quiet before Him. He loves it when we choose to put everything down and listen rather than try, so much, to do. I used to believe a good day meant one filled with a completed to-do list, with accomplishing. But now, I am believing the best days are ones when I seek Him and I let Him find me and I desire Him, even when I feel depleted, a mess, or my mind just can’t seem to quiet or slow down.

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

I like the days when there is space. And I like the days, particularly, when space feels impossible to find but I ask Him to give me some anyway. 

Because He always does.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

Have you ever tried this?  Prayed for more of God because you desire to be with Him? I am guilty of praying for more of God because I’ve hoped that by spending time with Him I will be a better person, a better version of myself.

But what if being with God is the only way we can experience moments of the fullness in us God sees? What if  the “us” spent away from God is not us at our truest, our most pure and clean?

Now, I know you know this: If we never spend time with God we feel stuck, alone, frustrated. This is because we are not giving our souls what they crave most: God. And with God, when we are in a state of seeking Him, we do what we are made to do: worship God.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).

I am learning, when I am with God, that the me without God isn’t the person I most want to be. I am learning, when I am with God, I love being with Him. I am learning, when I am with God, I want to be with Him simply because I like being with Him. No other reason.

But the problem is that I forget this.

I forget that being with Him is the best place I could ever be. I forget that being with Him is the only thing that brings me peace. I forget that being with Him is the only place of light and freedom and joy.

And I want these things. And I forget these things when life gets too loud.

It isn’t just in the quiet spaces that we find God. However, being with Him in the quiet spaces helps us recognize Him when life around us–and in us!– feels loud. Finding Him in the quiet helps us hear Him and recognize His voice. Then, when we are loud, when we can’t slow because we feel it just wouldn’t be responsible or prudent or whatever . . . we need to heed our soul’s desire to quiet. We need to heed our soul’s desire to worship Him. 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).

There is a clamor in our souls without God. It is the clamor of hearts who are lost without their Maker. We crave time and adventure with the One who designed us. We can’t do a thing on our own.

But we forget that, don’t we?  We forget how good it is to feel desperate for God. We forget this desperation is beauty. We forget this desperation is freedom. We forget this desperation is peace. We forget our strength is found in being desperate for God.

We forget our strength


Father, help us stay desperate for You. For in that desperation we are most able to breathe. We are most able to think. We are most able to remember the things You have created us to do, the things You’ve created us to love to do.

Help us to dream, God. When we are with You, we are more able to dream. And we like those dreams with You, because in them anything is possible. You increase our faith.  You help us believe that we can do anything with You, too.

We are so loved.

Father, help us here, your girls, to crave you with our whole hearts. Give us glimpses of beauty and delight as we stay close with you.

We remember you said it so perfectly once: “I am your home.”


Is there any other way I can pray for you, His girls? How do you feel about being quiet and seeking God? I’d love to hear . . .

Why I Don’t Love the Term “Quiet Time”

artPaint is thick underneath my finger nails. Turquoise and silver and black chalkboard. I didn’t sit quiet the day I went up into the attic and found the basket full of picture frames, still filled with photos and kids’ art work from preschool five years ago. There is a photo of Justin with Ollie on his shoulders, little boy fingers grasping Justin’s forehead as a handle. And there is a photo of me in the entry of the church nursery before I handed them five-month-old Abby, the baby girl who radiated a joy I wanted to inhale.

The wall in the family room, with the thick black framed bicycle art, was driving me crazy. It needed to go down; I wanted to replace it with something I could make with my hands. I wanted to grab a brush and get out the tools from the basement. I wanted to play music loud in my kitchen, while the kids were in school, and I wanted to make a mess and make beauty and hang it up and look at it when I was done.

There is something about being still with God, with listening and letting my imagination be wide open, that stirs me to want to create. I can be quiet with Him; I can be filled by Him. And then, after being with Him in the stillness, I am both energized and exhausted and can hardly sit still. I usually write during these times–the moments after sitting with God. But this day I wanted to make something beautiful–and tangible–too.

So I stacked up the dozen frames and took out the glass and went out in the backyard and sprayed the back of each rectangle with looking-glass spray. While the glass dried, I got out brushes and small tubes of silvers and blues and layered ocean and sky onto slices of wood. And then Justin came home and screwed the edges of the frames together and we hung the whole thing right up on the wall.

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And I wasn’t quiet while I worked that day. And I wasn’t listening with an attentiveness and a piqued curiosity about God’s thoughts about me there, in the kitchen with the sunlight streaming in. I just knew He was happy with me doing it. I knew it gave him pleasure to see me using things He had given to create something new and surprising and beautiful.

This, in all its mess, is something that makes me smile: Old pieces of wood stacked up in odd angles with blurry silver glass and a funny black chalkboard painted on plastic from a kid’s art frame from Pottery Barn. “Full Life” is what I wrote in my messy scrawl. And on another chalkboard, “create,”  And then on the other chalkboard we have over the kitchen counter, “present.”

quiet time

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And I wanted this to all be mine–a life that is full not because I want to create something–but a life that is full because I am a daughter who creates from God’s pleasure and desires, more than anything, to be present.

I wonder what it looks like for you, after you sit for a bit with God. Are you quieted? Are you excited? Are you exhausted? Are you weary? Are you energized? Are you filled with Him?

One thing I want to throw out the window is an expectation of what time with God is supposed to look like. I’d love to start a conversation here about how creativity and imagination and goodness and beauty feels stifled, unreachable, unattainable, when we feel we just aren’t any good at being quiet with God.

What are some of the ways we hurt each other–and ourselves–when we have narrow expectations about what “quiet” and “stillness”–with God–is supposed to look like? Can hanging out with God be a quietness within us–and stillness and peace attained from knowing who we are and who He is and how, at our core, we are loved?

Is this where anything peaceful and good and beautiful begins?

{Sharing with Jennifer at #tellHisstory.}

 

When We’re Afraid What Will Happen When We’re Alone with God

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Father,  you called me to quiet recently, and I don’t want to ignore it. I can’t hide that part of me that wants to achieve and to produce. I can’t hide that part of me that likes to run hard and loud and fast.

I trip a lot then. And I tire. Again and again I try to run a race all on my own, and you love me so much you let me do it.

So I am here, telling you I am tired of running a race alone. I am tired of trying, so much. I want to run hard this race you’ve given me to run, but I only want to do it with you.

Loneliness comes from shutting you out, from not opening the door, from seeking for the lost piece of me that is only found in you.

I want to love well, God.

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And I want to be quiet with you.

I am yoked with you, and I want you to set the pace.

My friends, here, these girls of yours who gather close and desire you to gather them even closer, are longing for quiet, too. They want to be with you and hear your voice and stay, as long as they can bear it, in the quiet with you. But it’s hard, sometimes.

I want to be married. In the quiet, will you ask me to lay that down?

I am scared of what will happen in the quiet, God. My heart is too heavy, my head is too full. I am afraid to quiet, because the noise inside me feels too loud.

My daughter is hurting, Father. Can I stay here, in the quiet, with You? She is suffering. It is so hard to bear.

I have allowed the busyness of this age get to me so much lately . . . my soul is aching to sit with You.

What do you have to say, God? In the quiet with you I haven’t been speaking. I have been watching you, these pictures of you and me, often as a little girl–sitting in tall grass, yellow wisps of stalks bending near my cheek. Or we have been running, your hand tight around mine. And the hill below is so beautiful and vast and there is water down below and we head to it, and you are laughing. So often, you are laughing.

But, Jesus, I know you cry, too. And I know you ache, too. And I know you draw us close to you with this love of yours that is sometimes too much for us to accept. But we want to see you. And we want to hear you. And we want to know you.

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What do you have to say to these girls of yours, Jesus, who want to sit with you, in the stillness, and be reassured by the presence of the only One who brings hope and light and calm?

My darlings, there is no right or wrong here. (And there is no way you can outrun me, my love.) There is no way you can sit with me and do it wrong.

Yes,the quiet can feel like noise, sometimes. Everything feels amplified when you are trying hard to not be distracted. Or, the noise is welcomed distraction, when you are afraid to sit with me. Don’t be afraid to be with me.

There is not one word I can say now that will convince you to sit with me. There is not one word or story I can share–or encouragement I can offer–when your heart doesn’t want to hear it.

You know I want to be with you. You know I delight in having made you. You know I rescue you. You know I have plans for you that are better than anything you could ever dream up on your own.

But to hear me? To really hear me? That is to simply be with me. You can’t hear me unless you want to be with me. You can’t see me unless you want to see me. You can’t feel me unless you believe I am here. I am here.

I want to be with you, and I am with you. But you have to let go and trust me more than yourself. Let your mind go. Let your emotions open up. Let your heart guide you to deeper places with me.

There are no rules where I am, with you. I take you to deeper places where you are known and you are free. Time with me stirs you to know yourself more.  You see glimpses of who you are, how I see you. No words can convey that. No words can convince you you are mine and you are loved; only time with me will. Only time with me can bring your heart to me. Only time choosing me–time choosing me above anything else–can rescue you, can let me rescue you.

And I want to show you how I rescue you and how I love you and how you are safe here, with me. So take a risk–something new and exactly perfect: Be with me. It is who you are. It is what you are made to do. Be with me. We will stay and we will go and I will awaken in you parts of yourself that have been dead and asleep.

Wake up now, child. Wake up and see the light. It is on you. It is with you. I am here. Sit still with me and we will go places you have always needed to go.

I can’t wait.

LET'S NOT BE AFRAID to be alone with God

Sisters, let’s keep staying in the stillness with Him–a little each day? How amazing to do it together. It may be quiet, but there’s a lot of action here we don’t want to miss out on. What do you think?

Because You Need to Be Free

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I circle the track, trying to get in shape for a December marathon relay with my sister, brother, and brother-in-law. Running is not as easy as it used to be–when high school and college races were what I lived and breathed–and it’s so tempting, instead, to just jump on the bike machine near my desk in the writing studio. (Reading a book while I sit on a machine and pedal to nowhere without having to leave the house? That takes a lot less motivation.)

Running, for me, can be hard. And inconvenient. And–when I’m not yet in shape–painful. But I feel like myself when I do it–like the girl in her dad’s orchard, running between the almond trees, like the woman who wants to listen for God’s voice and have it propel each move she makes.

What we choose to do with our time reveals to us more than just what we love and what we hate to do. What we choose to do with our moments, our days, indicates our response to God’s blueprint when He made us–our living out who we are, who God made us to be. When we say yes to do the things we are made to do, things we do that bring us joy and help us feel the joy of God, in us, we are making the choice to be ourselves.

Why do we spend so much of our days, our weeks, our years, desiring to be anything–or anyone–different?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately: what it might mean to more intentionally seek being only myself. How do I choose to do only things that make me feel the most myself? How do I say no to the temptation to strive to be anything or anyone else? 

I run in circles around the track and consider the question God has been whispering to my heart: how can I be more myself–just myself, perfectly myself–in every choice I make, in each decision that comes, in how I use my time?

What do you do to feel most like yourself?

I realize how tired I am trying to be someone other than whom I’ve been created to be: envy and insecurity sneaks in like gray fog curling quietly around my heart. There are so many moments I have trouble seeing, I have trouble feeling free. When Paul urges the Galatians to stand up for the freedom they have already been given, in Christ, I realize how often I let myself feel just the opposite of free.

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you (Galatians 5:1, MSG).

This has been my harness for much of my life: I look at what I don’t have rather than what I have. I look at what I am bad at rather than what I am good at and what I love to do. When we wish we were more organized, more creative, more productive, more talented, more intelligent (and on and on), we’re blind to who we really are. We’re blind to what Christ wants to show us; we’re deaf to God’s whispers to our hearts.

The biggest problem with feeling insecure about ourselves is the very focus on ourselves and our own deficiencies. (What a waste of time! What a waste of a life! What a waste of freedom!) The point of our lives isn’t to focus on how we need to improve. The point of our life is to love Jesus with our whole heart–and to love others, too.

And because we have Jesus right here, we have nothing in the way of living the free life of being ourselves, with Jesus, right now. Can I believe this? Can I choose to focus on who I am in Christ rather than the lies of what I am not?

Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him (2 Corinthians 3:18, MSG).

Christ’s freedom, in our lives, is wasted, when we don’t live, fully, as the person God created us to be.

We are only free, we are only experiencing Christ’s freedom, when we love Christ and the Holy Spirit in us is the voice we listen to above all other voices. The voice telling us we should feel anxious, afraid, nervous, envious, greedy, lustful, impatient, critical, judgmental, unkind is the voice that needs to be silenced in our lives. Only Jesus–only choosing to love Him and let Him show us who we are in Him–will take our eyes off the imperfections in ourselves and focus on the perfection of Him. And His perfection and goodness will inspire us to live the freedom that is always there for us to experience and live.

I think I’m going to keep thinking about this–but do more than just think about it, too. But first, I want to think about my God and how He loves me. I know He is going to help me, with everything I am, to love Him back. He tells me I have what it takes. And then freedom, I bet, is going to be pretty amazing.

You have what it takes, too. So do something today that makes you feel like yourself–no one else. ‘Cause there’s freedom and joy and a whole lot of good stuff coming our way–that’s right here. Sister, let’s not miss miss it.

Because you need to be free

What is one thing that makes you feel like you? What is that one thing you can do today?

saying goodbye

saying goodbye She’s leaving, moving a few states over, and it’s for real this time. I’ve shared here about how we met.  And now, after months of praying and waiting, she’s moving back home.

It’s really happening. God is leading, and they are going. I’m excited for her–knowing she goes where her King is leading her. But I will miss my friend.

Saying goodbye and trusting God is both so good and so hard. It’s one of the most difficult things, to say goodbye.

Over the last four years, many of you have written me, sharing your experiences with goodbyes. Goodbye to a spouse, a boyfriend, a friend, a child. You have shared glimpses of the ache of change, and the ache of sadness and the ache that comes when hoping, day after day, becomes weary and difficult to do.

I don’t pretend to understand how difficult it has been for you to say goodbye.

Mostly, in these notes to me, you’ve shared the ache of missing. And I anticipate the missing her, the friend who rescued me five years ago when I didn’t know I needed rescuing, the friend who loves with His fearlessness in her and who fights for the hearts of His girls.

Father, how should we think of goodbyes?

I know what it is like to say goodbye. I know change is hard and how it is difficult to imagine there is more ahead, just around the corner. Don’t cling to what you know, child. Cling to what I teach you. Cling to future hope, and today’s goodbye will feel more temporary.

For I am here, and I don’t say goodbye. So all the years and all the memories are not going to fade. Everything will only become brighter and more clear and more beautiful. You can let go because I never let go. For a goodbye is never a goodbye with me.

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To whom or to what have you had to say goodbye? How can I pray for you?

 

practicing listening to God

It is in that place, deep down, where I stir restless. I’ve reclaimed words here, in this place–the place where a voice was stolen and returned. Yet this is still where I struggle, where I feel most insecure and most confident, all at once, feeling like what I might have to communicate is worth something, even if it is only because this is the way I feel most myself and most like my Father’s daughter.

Listening. Writing it down. Reaching out to His daughters to help them remember, too, who they are and what He whispers to them deep down.

I know, when you pray, it is hard to listen.  And I know even, when you listen, it is hard, sometimes, to believe He is talking straight to your heart.

practicing listening for God

For me, I feel overwhelmed, so much, by this internet space–overwhelmed and discouraged when it is impossible to ignore all the other voices writing and sharing and encouraging, too. No matter what we love to do, no matter what we are made to love, the flip side of doing the thing we are made to do is that we are both strongest and most vulnerable here, as we do it. Yet God smiles as we claim the things He has given us to do with our life. He smiles when we trust Him and follow Him and keep focused on Him.

The world is always going to distract us from following God, even while it is the people of this world we are called to love. The world is always going to discourage us from doing what we are made to do, even while what we are made to do is to uniquely encourage and bless and love in the midst of the world trying to pull us away from the grasp of our Savior’s hand. But He’s got us. And despite all the noise and the second-guessing, He’s not leaving our side. He’s not letting go.

***

In the afternoons these summer days, I often sit outside with my three kids while we listen, together, for what God might be whispering to our hearts. We take our Bibles and something to write on. But we don’t have to read, if we don’t want to. And we don’t have to write, if we don’t want to. We don’t even have to sit still, if we don’t want to. But I encourage these young hearts here, still heeding me for a time, to listen.

practicing listening for God

We don’t call it “quiet time”. Because why does listening for God always have to be quiet? But I know it helps to practice being quiet, as letting ourselves be quiet inside can help us be tuned to what God might be saying, can help us to listen. So I do encourage these seemingly constant movers and chatters to slow and listen and not talk–to practice listening while sitting still for a bit–even if how God speaks to them might be when they are upside down on the monkey bars or playing the guitar in their room.

We don’t call it “Bible time” or “journaling time” or any other name attempting to label what hanging out with God is supposed to look like. But I do remind them that, in a relationship, the friends we know best are the ones we spend time with. I want them to discover how amazing it can be listening to God’s part of the conversation while we share with Him ours.

While we each hear God’s voice differently, we can still practice listening. For it is in the practice of listening, the intentional stopping and practicing to hear His truth in our hearts that we remember who we are and what is for us to do this day. Most of all, we remember how we are loved.

Because we forget that sometimes, don’t we?

How are your days this summer? I would love to know how you are and what you think about regarding practicing listening for God.

we look a little bit like him

It’s the last week of school for my three kids. Or, in the life of a mom, it’s the week of crazy. The last month has been packed with end-of-the-year musical concerts, open house events, and family graduations. We are in transition mode: enjoying/surviving the end-of-school responsibilities and anticipating the launching of summer vacation. And if you were reading here a few years ago, you might remember I can be a wee bit sensitive about the transition from school days to summer vacation.

I have been known to . . . well . . . flip out . . . a bit.

But I don’t think I am like that as much, anymore. I hope.

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That was the old me, I tell myself, the me who didn’t know life without striving, the me who didn’t know how to believe she was loved, the me who didn’t know how to breathe.

I can still struggle with that sometimes. But I think I am different now, too.

I have a friend who is a big part of my family’s life because her son is one of my son’s best friends. She is so full of love and kindness I think of Jesus every time I am with her. I see her at school pickup and on the playground and at our kids’ sports events. We’ve logged hours in conversation on porches and football fields, on school blacktops and on the phone as we arrange for our boys to be together. She’s a single mom, working tremendously hard for the sake of her family. And over the years, she has commented more than a handful of times that when she sees me I am often so calm, so peaceful.

Each time she’s said this to me I’ve just laughed out loud.

But I wonder.

I wonder if it is true He is changing me. I wonder if it is true He is working in me. I wonder if it is true He has good plans for me; He is with me; He wants other people to experience His goodness, too. Yes, of course. Yes. To all of it.

I can look back at who I was when I was sixteen, the girl under the almond tree who cared more about what people thought of her than about the baby struggling to grow inside her womb. I can look back at who I was when I was twenty-four, and married, and couldn’t imagine sex with my husband being a place of freedom and trust because I was so full of shame from my sin-filled past. I can look back at when I was twenty-seven, and teaching high school, and not telling the counselor one of my students was cutting herself because I wanted the student to like me and trust me, even though loving her meant reaching out, on her behalf, for help.

I can remember being thirty-five, with three little kids, and being overwhelmed and frustrated when I believed their behavior was a direct reflection of my worth, as a parent, as a person. I can remember the second day of summer vacation, five years ago, and I finally surrendered to God, behind a bedroom door, on my knees. I can look back and remember realizing I have never had it all together–and rather than trying to make myself better, and try to prove my worth–I can just figure out who God has made me to be and be okay with that. I can look back and remember the pain and relief of letting myself be quiet before God rather than working to silence Him by doing and proving and striving.

I can look back at who I was and love her, this past self of me, this girl and her heart–because then, despite all her mess-ups, I am able to love myself a little more now, and let God show me how He loves me–then and now–despite not deserving one thing. I can look back and see myself more clearly–and appreciate that the work He is doing in me is real. He is transforming me, and it is good.

My husband shared with me a line that Graham Cooke said once–that when people ask him what Jesus looks like, He tells them this: “Well, He actually looks a little bit like me.” And, if you think about it, this is exactly what each of us should be saying, too.

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him  (John 14:23).

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

I want to look back at the bad choices I’ve made in my past and let His grace and mercy cover all those mistakes. I want to look back and accept that when God looks at me He sees the beauty He has made. I want to look back and accept that, because of God, despite my bad choices, I am turning out okay. 

Yes, I regret so many choices. But, one thing I can’t help but see now is this: despite my messed up journey, I am loved, and I am changing, and God’s love has held me fast to Jesus’ hand.

I can still struggle with remembering I am part of a bigger story, much bigger than my own. I can still struggle with remembering God’s plan for me, this moment, let alone this summer, is rich with potential beauty and delight. Yes, His plan for me is always going to be good, and I want to not spend precious energy worrying about the things that just don’t matter one bit.

So, right now, I’m going to surrender my crazy-striving-Jennifer-dream that surfaces each last week of school, before summer vacation hits: The dream that my kids are going to have the most perfect summer, filled with long-creatively-packed beautiful days where they all get alone with each other and I am present with them each moment and delight in them every hour and no one ever fights and I don’t mind how messy our house gets when we’re all home all the time and the kids never, ever say once, “I’m bored.” The dream that the dog doesn’t continue to stalk me in my own house and the kids get excited about their chores and we ride bikes to town and read books under trees and make lemonade from scratch and play long from the hose in the backyard.

He has a good plan . . .for this summer . . .for these two months ahead.

Yes, He has a good plan.

After all, as I look at my past, in all its ups and down. . . I see that He always has.

So this is what I cling to: My God loves me right now, the me that messed up and the me that continues to sin. Despite my struggles, I am not the person I once was. I listen to the voice of my friend who has yet to know Jesus but yet recognizes glimpses of His heart. And I am going to claim it. I am going to claim this gift, the bit of recognition of who I am: my inheritance, my lineage, my choice to look a little bit like my Father, my acceptance that yes, of course I look like Him a little bit. After all, I am His, an adopted daughter of God.

For in Christ Jesus you are all [daughters] of God, through faith (Galatians 3:26).

What are your dreams or concerns or prayers for this summer? How can I pray for you?

And here is the winner (decided by random.org) of the giveaway of Bonnie Gray’s book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace: SimpleSaidMom.Congratulations!

He has a good plan.jpg

 

as you begin this day

Before the morning, before the messages come, before the words swirl and work to define, we say, I am Yours.

San Francisco window

Before we see ourselves with clouded eyes–just ten years old then, decades older now–and believe there is much to work on, to tweak and work out, to correct and improve, Your eyes behold us in our glory now, in our fullness, telling us,

You are beautiful. You are beautiful. You are lovely to see.

Before the messages come when we were so young, believing that what matters is what people see, what the world believes about us, how we perform, what we do, how each choice only measures up to matter if praise is given, tangible rewards received, You whisper,

I love you now, right now. My love cannot be earned.

San Francisco open door 2

Before the twisting of what is true tears our heart and we make choices that show we don’t believe, You see us unblemished, pure; we fall and You wash us clean.

Before our trying, and failing, to carry this life on our own strength, You remind us how on our own we can do nothing, that You are all we need.  You offer Your breast to lean on and let us listen to Your heart singing,

You are My beauty, My girl, stay, this is your resting place.

San Francisco railing

Before doubts attempt to shadow hope, the stirrings become questions about whether our rising up, in Your name, matters, You whisper truth within us, turn the lies inside out and offer back the voice You always gave.  You show us what cannot be quieted–this voice that will not be silent until You restore, heal, redeem.

Before the darkness falls and the weight feels heavy, You lift us, reminding us there is nothing we bear alone, there is only light in the end, there is only Your arms holding us.  There is only You, in the beginning.

Praying for you, dear friends, as we begin this week together. How can we pray for you today? And how about this song (below), to kick off your week? The whole You Make Me Brave album goes on sale April 24. But if you can’t wait that long (like me), you can find it over here now. (Just sharing it ’cause it’s what I’m listening to this week, thanks so my dear sister and friend who shared “You Make Me Brave” with me on a day when I desperately needed the reminder.)

Jennifersignaturescript

wrestling the finite for the infinite you

desire wrestling the finite

It was late into the evening when he asked me, I remember. I stood at the kitchen sink, the dishes mostly washed, mostly organized and put away. It was the end of a long, normal day–taking care of kids, errands, volunteering. Those were the days when I could hardly think straight and nap time was when I grabbed more than one handful of gummy bears and used my computer to check emails and do on-line shopping. I was usually exhausted, those afternoons, and by the time Justin came home from work and we tackled feeding the kids and getting them in bed and attempting to make the kitchen look like a bomb hadn’t gone off, I was usually weary.

“I want to love you better,” he said. “I want you to think about what you love to do, what you do that brings you joy. . . I want to support you and make sure you do these things, because it is who you are.”

What I love to do–in addition to being a wife and mom and a daughter and a friend? My throat constricted; the room felt hot. I couldn’t answer. How could I answer? What was the right answer? I was confused and overwhelmed. What, really, did I want?

That’s one of the first moments, I realize now, when I saw how far away from God I really felt. I wanted to please Him. I wanted to love Him. But I couldn’t possibly be close with God, truly know more of Him, unless I lived this truth: I am free and filled with God’s joy, only to the degree that I let myself believe I am truly loved. 

Justin’s question,”what do you love to do?” was an invitation to taste God’s personal love for me, to enter into life with God. The question required I search my heart to what it is God has made me to desire. And, yes, while I am made to desire God, while I am made to worship Him and love Him and be with Him, I miss out on the life God has intended me to live with Him if I ignore the unique way He made me to love Him . . . and love others He puts into my life.

Claiming my identity in God–living in His love for me– meant claiming my uniqueness, with God, too. The longings in my heart– moving my body outdoors, reading stories of adventure and faith, writing to and encouraging women, listening to music while baking milk chocolate chip cookies under a light-filled kitchen window–which are all, to some degree, completely ordinary, not-so-spectacular things, might, in fact, be my living out the very whisper of God’s voice to my soul.

desire wrestling finite you 2

Our souls are built to long for God. And while nothing on this earth can satisfy our desire to be with Him fully until the day we are in heaven, our ache to be with Him is, to a degree, satisfied, when we choose to be with Him in this temporal space, on earth. He calls us to awake. He calls us to Himself. He asks us to say yes to the miraculous, beautiful, exquisite crafting of us, His girls, made to do the things He has made us–each of us uniquely–to do.

It took me six months to finally figure out and write down those things I love to do. Then I shared the list with Justin, and he, also, shared his list with me. Together, we checked each other’s lists, helping each other discern if what we were writing down was true about our hearts, or if what we were writing down was a little bit off. The people who know you well need to know about your list so they can love you by encouraging you to live it out.

When we choose God in this finite life He has given us to live, right now, our souls connect with Him in the infinite. We are most ourselves; our spirit sings. Moreover, His presence with us now, His love filling us in the day-to-day decisions to be with Him, fuels us to love others; His love in us overflows.

I create within you a new space, a new self, and that is where your joy is. And when you choose to be with Me you are rejecting the old self and letting the new self thrive. Your joy exists in the space where the two of us get to be together. And that place is within you, in your new self, and nowhere else. You are made to be with Me, and anything that gets in the way of us being together is a choice you get to make. Let Me in, and I will take care of it. Let Me in, and I will clear away the dark places of the old self to let the new self breathe. I do the work once you choose Me.

So choose Me again. And choose joy again. Today, and then tomorrow, and also, when you lay your head down to sleep. (Excerpt from Loop, “How Joy is for You”.)

Would you like to learn more about how to write out your own “What do I love list”? Does anything I’ve shared here, so far, prompt you to want to know more? I’d love to know what stirs your heart, so we may encourage each other.

In His love,

Jennifersignaturescript

 

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.

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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,

Jennifersignaturescript

when you’re waiting on God’s plan for you

We bow our heads in prayer, the eight of us. We are women who’ve known each other for years now. And we’ll tell you we’ve been seeking God a lot longer.

We’ve spent weeks sharing with each other our stories. We’ve bent low, weary, as details from the past are said aloud for the first time. We want to see where He is now, so we look back to where He’s been.

It’s not easy.

God's plans

Even in the looking back it can be hard to see Him. We want to see Him. But our hearts . . . well . . . our hearts struggle going back. To the time when our parents split up and we felt we weren’t wanted. To the time when our dad got sick and we felt we needed to keep it all together. To the time when we made ourselves believe our choices, away from God, lead to condemnation and punishment.

We can read about God, we can talk together about God, we can go to church and listen to worship songs and lift up our hands and not know Him one bit. Not at all. Because knowing God is not about knowing His plan. We complicate things with our desire to have everything figured out, especially the things that are futile to try to know, the things we are never designed to fully understand.

But we can’t help but ask Him anyway: God, what’s the plan? I hear you have a plan for me that will make all this heartache worth it–that will help me decide my next steps? Can I get a peek at it? Can you whisper to me what’s ahead?

Do you ever beg for God’s plan for your life, and it feels like you get no answer?

Maybe we’re asking God the wrong question.

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It is a false comfort we seek when we believe joy and peace come in having control over the unknowns in our lives. But still we ask, and we make plans ourselves when it feels like He doesn’t say a thing.

It’s the same reason we fear slowing down and listening to God and trusting in His healing. It’s the same reason we want to take matters into our own hands and write our story ourselves, have control of the details. God may have a plan for us, we say, but it feels vague, which makes us uncomfortable. We soon give up on God, give up on listening, and plunge right into making up our own plans, by ourselves.

‘Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all’ (Luke 18:17).

I tell Justin, my husband, I want to be a person who thinks simply. I want to be fine with not knowing the details of what’s ahead–not knowing the intricacies of God’s plan for my life. If God bent close, his loving eyes looking at me and whispering soft, his hand stretched out, holding a map, saying, “Here you go, here is the plan for your life, here is where I hope you’re going, here is where I hope you’ll be in ten years, in fifteen, in twenty. . .” I think I would hyperventilate from the weight of the responsibility. I don’t want to know. It’s too much for me to know all the details of God’s beautiful plans for me, as He looks at me in my fullness. It’s too much for this simple head of mine to try to carry around the weight of His plans.

For I would try to carry them.

God’s plans for us are too good for us to imagine and comprehend. They are too glorious. . . and I wonder if we would surely twist their goodness and feel pressure to try to not disappoint Him if we knew more than what we are supposed to know. I wonder if we would strive to live up to the plans He has for us rather than rest in knowing He’s got our lives completely under control.

So, shall we try this? Shall we focus on our God rather than worry about all we don’t know? Shall we linger in His presence rather than talking about chasing Him down? Shall we praise Him for not telling us the details rather than worrying out the plans of our lives ourselves? Shall we rejoice that we get to live a life where it is simply about being with Him?

The details of His good plans for us–and all the awesome adventure with Him–will follow.

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‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:8-9).

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9).

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11).

And here is an excerpt from what He said in Loop, “Do You Wonder About the Plan”:

What if I told you the plan I have for you is not for you to worry about? What if I told you there is only a small part you can understand of all the things I know and the things I want you to know and the things you just don’t need to be concerned with?

Here is my plan: I have good for you. It is my desire that you know Me, that you love Me, that you follow Me, that you serve Me. It is my plan, it is my desire, that you want to be with Me, that you want to talk with Me, that you stay here, in this moment with Me, and concern yourself with knowing Me now, this moment, and not considering all the details about the future that I know and you don’t.

What do you want to know? What do you want to know that you think I am holding out on you?

Here is what you need to know: I love you, and I never forget you. Your life is my preoccupation. You are part of my plan for this world, which I love and which I desire to heal and bring to life and have know Me. I don’t want this world to miss out on what I’ve always had for it, as I hold out my hand . . . as I hold out my hand.

 There is more to talk about on this topic for sure. But let’s pause here.  Do you struggle with wanting to know God’s plan for your life? How can I pray?

Much love to you, sister,

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.

 

when you think you can’t hear God

As a teenager I used to write poems. Full of melodrama and hyperbole, spaghetti-looped words aimed to communicate a heart that couldn’t name its own feelings. I would scrawl them out all the same. It felt better to try to communicate my crazy, mixed up heart than to stay silent. It felt better to reach out and tell someone I was struggling or I was sad or I was angry, even if they didn’t have the solution, even if I didn’t know the reason for the feelings in the first place.

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Sometimes we don’t know why we feel the way we do–why the walls feel like they’re crowding in, why we just can’t feel joy-filled, or grateful or peace-filled, despite all those how-to books we grasp from the stack towering at our bedside.

We ache to be fixed. We ache to be different. We ache to know why we feel the way we do and how the heck to get ourselves all figured out.

I’ve been putting down the how-to books lately and picking up worlds of story that bring me hope and raise my eyes to Jesus. I read stories in His word, yes, but I’ve also been reading fiction. I hear the Father pulling me away from striving and nudging me toward His rest. So I’ve been getting myself outside and taking walks and noticing what makes my heart come alive, what helps me see Jesus, what helps me stay present with Him.

There is a rhythm of life He sets for us, a gentle, steady pace so much better than the hurried one we might design for ourselves.

Walk slowly and steadily, daughter. I’ll let you know when the pace needs to be fast. Sometimes it does. Sometimes I move quickly with you. But it’s a pace that’s never hurried. It’s okay to slow, for in the quiet you can hear Me more clearly. And then when you’ve spent time with Me there, and you know my voice there, you’ll hear my voice in the rhythm of work, in the rhythm of serving. You can’t do these things with Me without believing you hear Me.

Hearing the Father’s whisper in my heart–grasping the hand of my Savior and walking, running, skipping, dancing, swimming, climbing, resting, laughing–comes when I choose my own open-hearted freedom, doing the things I love to do.

In everything you do, you can listen for Me. It’s not that I speak to you constantly, in words; but I am with you constantly. And my presence is the language of your heart you’re created to hear.

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What you are made to love to do, my friend–whether it is cooking or painting or encouraging or teaching or organizing–is the gift of the Father to you so that you might bring Him glory, in the particular way you are designed to do it. And when you do the thing you are uniquely designed to do, in the unique way only you–only you–can do it–you are in the presence of your Father. For you can’t do the things you are made to do–and also love and bless another person–unless you are doing that thing you love while in the presence of God.

‘Cause that’s when you’re hearing Him. And that’s when you’re feeling Him. And that’s when you’re walking with Him.

You hear God best when you live out the identity He’s given you to live.

Training yourself to notice how I’m with you is not for the purpose of following a rule. You are able to get through a day without Me—but not well. Just not very well. We are made to be together, the two of us. I’m never alone, and you’re not made to be alone. Let’s go together, shall we? Do you see how I hold out my hand?

Practicing seeing where I am is responding to my life in you. It’s not turning Me away. It’s realizing, a bit more, the fullness of who you are.

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When you feel unsettled, when you feel restless and lost and alone . . . consider a thing you do that, when you do it, you feel a little lighter, a little more awake, a little more filled with contentment and joy.  That thing that brings you joy is one of the ways God uses to talk to you, connect with you, be with you. He designed you the way He did on purpose.

So do it.

He wants you to do what He has made you to love. Do that thing. Then you can love Him in the way only you know how.

You see, I see you. I see the real you, the daughter in all her fullness, in all her completeness. I know where you’re going. I know where you’ve been. I am with you now, seeing you here and seeing the full beauty of my glory in you. You are made for so much more than you will ever know—unless you trust Me more than yourself, unless you live knowing I am for you, with you, in all things.

Don’t worry about what it looks like exactly, to spend time with Me. Don’t try to figure out the right way to listen, the right way to heed my voice. Start with knowing I am with you. Let yourself relax and lean back into my arms. See my face. Hear the beat of my heart.

I am with you.

I am with you.

Enter each moment anticipating how you can be with Me.  

And then, my voice? You’ll be living out each word to you I say.

*Excerpt in italics from Loop, “You Can Hear Me”.

Do you know how you best hear God’s voice speaking to your heart? Have you explored what it might be?