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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

hearing God light

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.

hearing God clouds

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.

hearing God sky

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?

 

 

 

so, I’ve got issues

We meet over coffee, and I tell her how I can struggle to slow and listen for God. And then I tell her how yesterday wasn’t productive; I hadn’t made a dent in what I hoped I would be able to get done. So I didn’t want to listen. I didn’t want to slow.

I tell her that, as evening turned to night, I kept working, kept trying to achieve and fix and complete. I yearned for that not-so-familiar feeling of accomplishment, that mini-euphoric-mood-lift that comes in the rare moments I believe I have worked enough, that day. And then, and then, I could slow. And then, and then, I would have the peace of mind to listen.

I couldn’t possibly stop and rest and do something I loved . . . I hadn’t earned it yet.

Do you struggle with slowing, at all?

rainy day

I have other issues, too.

I tell my friend another thing–that when my doctor, two weeks ago, told me I should make exercise a priority and work out at least five times a week, if not more, I became less motivated to continue the almost daily exercise I was already doing.  I enjoy exercising, but now it was so much less appealing because the doctor told me I should to do it.

I don’t like being told what to do.

My poor friend. . . . I continued talking . . .

I tell her that my husband (sweet man), suggested–after seeing my angst and frustration and striving–it might be a good thing if I slowed and spent some time with God before we went to bed. Yes, he thought, it would be so good for me to slow and rest and listen.

I told him I didn’t feel like it.

And I told him I wasn’t going to listen to God and I wasn’t going to write Loop and I wish I were better at getting lots of things done in a short amount of time and I wish I were better at juggling lots more things than I am right now. I wish I were more productive with the time I have. Maybe if I were extroverted and more organized and more efficient I would get everything done in a day? Maybe I would have a good day, then? Maybe I would be able to listen to God, then?

What?

What a mess I am sometimes–a mess of pride and willfulness and rebellion.

Something in me was rising up, pushing back,  wanting to ignore the things I love to do, the things I know make me feel wrapped up in God’s love for me. I was my old self throwing a fit, wanting to do things I decide to do, on my own terms.

What’s going on?

in the puddle

It’s difficult to discern the whispers of our heart when we’re running–running to prove, running to get done, running to attain.  Our heart is numbed when we keep ourselves so busy. It’s silenced, pushed down. There is little way, when we are scrambling and striving, to figure out what it needs most.

There is an idol I need to confess.

What we need is not often what we chase down. Rather, we often chase replacements, counterfeits for the real thing we truly crave. At our core, we crave God. We are desperate for Him. But we forget. We forget because we haven’t practiced stopping to look for Him. Rather, we wish we were better versions of ourselves or a different person altogether. When we refuse to slow and believe our worth comes from what we do rather than who we are, we have made an idol of ourselves. We believe we are whom should be worshiped, attended to. We know better than God. . . . We can’t fathom being perfectly made, and we believe that if the day doesn’t go as perfectly as we would have liked it is a reflection of our weaknesses, our failures.

We can easily wish we were different. We can easily believe life would be better if we were someone else.

My friend listens and encourages me on. And I share with her the loving voice mail another friend left on my phone just that day. She felt she needed to call and tell me something:

Lasting change comes when our hearts are focused more on the Healer who does the good work in us and less on the problems in ourselves we pray that God will heal. Freedom exists only in our greater trust, deeper intimacy with God. He does the good work in us; we cannot work and attain any joy and satisfaction in this world, on our own. No matter how hard we try.

Wow.

rainy sky:blue sky

Focusing on God and His goodness is always better than focusing on our inadequacies. We will keep running in circles, on an endless treadmill of trying to attain something we can never attain–rest, peace, joy–if we don’t slow and listen to the truth of our Father.

His voice in us, to us, with us, is always, always, the one we need to heed. Our own noise can only be tuned out through the quieting reality of His presence.

And so, right there, in the coffee shop, I read aloud to my friend the fruit of slowing and listening and believing His truth rather than the made-up one where we are striving and trying to prove our own worth. This, from Loop, is the last bit of what He said:

Throw down this lie you chase that makes you strive towards imaginary perfection. You will not receive my joy, my peace, my life in you that sustains if you continue to chase what is not meant for you to attain. Who are you to decide what it means to be desired, perfected, worthy? Who are you to shun what I’ve made and desire something different?

Let me show you this daughter of mine. Let Me show you the beauty of her, the joy she brings Me, the strength in her to love just the way I’ve made her to love, to work with the passions I’ve given her to use. She is mighty when she knows who and whose she is and abandons all idols that bring distraction to this life I’ve given her, distractions that bring death to her heart.

 For I bring life, my daughter. I bring you life. And this life I bring you is in you. I am in you. You are my delight and the one I sing over and never, ever want to leave.

He is right here. He is not hiding from you and me. He is not waiting for us to be someone different than who He has created us to be so we can be loved and accepted. As Jennifer Lee so beautifully puts it in her book Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes, coming out in April 1, we are Preapproved. There is not a thing we can ever–or need to ever–earn. We are loved because God is love. We are loved because we are what the author of love created. There’s nothing else He can do.

I encourage you to head on over to Jennifer’s as she has a pretty cool invitation for you. . . Because, yes, we are Preapproved. 51SjOKEf-zL._SL160_

And if you want to listen to God’s whispers to us, together, subscribe to Loop. Click right here.

 

 

 

Want to join me, thinking about what idol He might be asking us to lay down?

So grateful you’re here,

Jennifersignaturescript

even if you have a plan

Iconfesspin

Confession: I like doing things myself, my own way. I like being the one in charge. I like having a say in how things are going, having a bit of control, knowing what is coming because my choices have helped make those things actually come to be.

At least I think I do.

When God tells you He is is moving in you, when He whispers to you that He is close and He promises to pursue you forever and never tire, how do you feel? Are you excited? Are you energized and hope-filled? Or are you a bit nervous and scared?

If we want to keep control of all the details of our day, His reminder that He moves with us, in us, can feel a bit uncomfortable. We may feel claustrophobic. We wonder if His being the one in charge is the best idea. After all, we had a plan.

I am moving. I am moving in you and I won’t ever stop. You can’t stop Me, and that’s a promise for you, my girl. I pursue you and I never tire and I fight on behalf of your heart—your complete self—the full you I created and have always designed you to be. I’m not done with you yet, my darling.

imnotdonedarlingpinHow you feel about this day–what you believe is yours to accomplish and who you feel is on your heart to love–says a lot about who you believe is in charge. And if you get a bit nervous about God whispering to your heart that He is here, promising, “I’m not done with you yet, my darling,” perhaps you are wondering whether God knows what He is doing, whether it is such a good idea for you to give up control.

I get it.

When I woke up this morning to see I sent Loop to the wrong email list (sorry about that confusion, by the way!), I leaped at His words, “Move with Me now.” I am so often afraid, at the start of each new week, that I am not going to make the most of my time: I’m not going to get what needs to get done accomplished; I’m not going to love well; I’m going to waste time thinking about me and my to-do’s rather than listen to the Father who adores me and knows what’s best.

All this worry. I am so good at turning the most beautiful thing–His plan for me, full of potential goodness and life–into decided smallness and fear.

Fear and regret and second-guessing are not what God has for me. They are not what God has for you.

So, together, let’s begin this week lifting our heads and being honest with God. Speak aloud the things He already knows, all the worries you have about this day, this week.

Don’t lose hope. Hang tightly to my promises, the Word-come-down who breathes peace to you and guides you along the rocky paths.

There is a plan, this day. There is plan, His girl. It is the best plan of all, the one He has for you, the one where He gets to help you believe, a little more, how much you are cherished. His love is the fuel we need this day. His love is what equips us for everything.

This is no small thing.

Oh, girl, this is no small thing.

So watch how He moves. Heed the Spirit I leave with you. Know you are never alone. . .  For I want you to live like you know who I am. And I want you to live like you know who you are. And I want you to live like you know this life I’ve given you is for the purpose of you being blessed by my love.

My love is for you. I am for you. Move with Me now. See Me moving and move with Me now. This is what you were meant, always, to do.

And I pray we begin this week moving deeper into freedom–taking a deep breath before we plunge into what’s ahead.

I want to watch Him move and feel His movements in me. Today, I give up the struggle for control. I forget that I never really want all that control anyway.

His plan–the way He loves–is so much better.

What about you? How will you seek His plan for you this week?

Linking with sisters over at Jen’s.

cool stuff gathered up, for His girls

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Father, strip us, this weekend. Let us be naked before You. Let us not hide. We are here, your girls, gathered up, tired of striving and revived by your breath breathed deep into our souls. We raise our heads and know You are close. We raise our heads and see your face. We raise our heads and let ourselves be held and gain everything, everything, from You. We desire your goodness, your light, your hope. You are enough for us and we enter into this day with expectation and joy. We know who we are and go forward, your girls. We stay in your love and go on.

Identity: We sing prayers, cry prayers, work out prayers, raise prayers, plead prayers. Our life is prayer, raised up to the Father who knows His daughter’s heart and longs to have her connect with Him, again, again, and again. This is what we are made for, to pray unceasing. Here is a prayer that reminds me what God does in and through and with us when we pray.

Community: You know how I feel about secrets–and how I know this thing about myself: I have sadly, tried to do things on my own too often, before turning to God. And I know the cost. And I have learned, the hard way, we are not meant to harbor the deep, dark secrets of our heart alone.  So I appreciate Seth’s candid confession and encouragement to not stay silent about our personal struggle, no matter what it is. Here you can find his.

Adventure: It is a rainy California morning when I write these words now, and I am craving fresh air in my lungs, legs running free through puddles and under gray sky. I will have to head out soon. I wonder what it is you love, what adventure beats in your heart that helps you to see Him, experience His love, unique, for you? What do the two of you love to do together?

Here is a video that makes me feel wild and free. Do you love it, too?

I pray you run free and true, heart naked, with your Father, this weekend, friend.

In his love,

Jennifersignaturescript

you’re not meant to be brokenhearted forever

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

You are being called Home.

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

You are meant to be healed.

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

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

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

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

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

He loves you. You will be okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In His love,

Jennifersignaturescript

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

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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?

what to say, face to face, for freedom

Because sometimes we need to hear a real, live voice telling us we are loved.

Because sometimes we need to be encouraged: we are chosen, adored, the Beloved, just as we are, right now.

Because sometimes we need to be reminded we need freedom, freedom from striving, freedom from our past, freedom from the lies we believe about God and about ourselves.

And we can’t just let this go.

So, I thought I take a few minutes and tell you . . .  and also tell you how I am so grateful we get to pursue God together, we sisters, His girls.

Much love to you,

Jennifersignaturescript

it is going to be good

I manage to pull myself out of bed earlier than usual today. The darkness in the cool house a dark blanket around me. He tells me to begin my day thinking about who I am, my family ties, my heritage, the beginning of heartbeat and hope. I step into the quiet kitchen and light a candle, turn on the heater, grab the favorite white furry throw from the couch and sit in the red chair in front of the fireplace.

There is something to do, now. I turn my heart to God. I will myself, practice listening, practice quieting. Is this surrender? How do we awake before stepping into the events of the day?

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I remember what He whispered,

My daughter. Those two words are not small. My . . . mine . . . what belongs to Me, what I call my own. Daughter, family, a closer tie than any flesh, any blood. I begin here, reminding you who you are.

When you hear Me, from the true place that responds to my voice and knows who you are, you begin to think about yourself less. You strive less. You have nothing to prove. I start here, my whisper, my daughter, to ask you to let go of insecurity, let go of stories that are false, let go of memories that can’t be changed. Begin your day thinking about who you are, as that is how you remember your connection to Me.

That last line grabs hold of my heart. It feels so contrary to what I want to believe, what is the right and good thing to do. Begin your day thinking about who you are, as that is how you remember your connection to Me. Shouldn’t I think only about God and endeavor to forget myself? But He urges me to think of myself in regard to my heritage, my connection to him. He wants me to begin my day with his words in my heart. He wants me to claim what He’s given, who He sees me to be.

So, I begin.

I am a daughter, a beloved, a chosen, a descendant of the living God. I am crafted with his breath, his voice giving air, more than oxygen, sweeter than any water on parched lips. His lips, his heart, speak my name, speak joy, speak hope.

And I receive it.

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There is goodness ahead. Can you say this aloud with me, sister? I am God’s daughter, so I am loved. I don’t have to scramble for it or try to prove it. I am God’s daughter, so I am fully wanted, fully his.

You have nothing to prove. I start here, my whisper, my daughter, to ask you to let go of insecurity, let go of stories that are false, let go of memories that can’t be changed.

Turning my heart–practicing the discipline of thinking of who I am in Christ, before the whirlwind of daily events try to distract me, grounds me in God, grounds me in truth. I think of the truth of the heart of the Father, the God who loves me full-on, with His whole heart.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth (Psalm 73:25).

We choose to think of His love for us, and lies about us not being good enough just don’t make any sense. We choose to cling to the truth that we are his–even if our heart, this day, doesn’t feel it–and we are secure in him, in his love for us, in his creation of us, despite what the world encourages us to believe.

This day, this day is the day He has made. This day is the day He calls you daughter and urges you into his arms. This day is the day He calls you to awake to him. This day is the beginning, again. You two. A Father and his daughter, walking together into whatever is ahead.

And He has a lot more for you, you know.

Trust Me. Look to Me.

Now listen.

I place within you longing. Pursue this longing. Don’t ignore this. But pay attention for what it is you long. Ask yourself if you long for more, from a conviction of knowing who you are. Notice if you long to be more whom I’ve created you to be, and not someone different. Notice if you long to go further, with Me, using the talents and passions I’ve placed within you—or if you are trying to prove yourself, if you wish you were more loved, more liked, more noticed, more cared for, more desired, more perfect.

We choose to surrender to the God who loves us . . . and He trains our mind . . . and our heart follows. God does the job of prompting us toward deeper intimacy with him, stirring us to awaken to the unique desires He has placed within our hearts to see him and respond to him, this day.

As daughters of God, we each receive His whispers. Sometimes the whispers are longings, desires, passions to go places or do things and live out life in the identity He has given you.

You are a daughter of God. Listen. Notice how He is speaking to you. Remember who you are and see what happens. Let Him show you glimpses of hope. . . . and watch more and more unfold.

Trust Me.

Look to Me.

Now listen.

Oh, girl, He has you now. This day is going to be good.

Have you yet subscribed to Loop? This post is a reflection on His whispers,”Fully You.” Click here to learn more about Loop and subscribe.

when you’re invited to dance

She feels it rising again, that part of her that believes she needs to prove her worth. Funny how the word of God, His whispers in her heart, as she prays, can get so easily twisted and confused, when she lets them.

She hears:

My eyes are on you, and your eyes are made to be on what you love. And I can show you how to love Me more. What you are made to love, with Me, will be blessed by the fullness of my love. All this will be done through the unique way you see, with the unique way your eyes are on Me.”

And she can easily ignore the blessing–the reminder of His love for her, that she is enough and has been gifted with unique talents and strengths. It is easier, more comfortable, to look at what she needs to do: “love Me more” . . . “I can show you how.” Rather than listening to the words pouring out, again and again, reminding her of who she already is.

She doesn’t need to be more to love well.

She is already made to love well.

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She, already, is a blessing walking around. She is made, and she can’t help but bless, when she lives knowing she is loved, when she lives with the freedom of knowing this truth: she doesn’t have to earn it.

She reads the words again:

“Daughter, I love your gifts. I love what you are equipped to do. I love how you are made and the way you see. You are needed for the way you see.

The way you love is unique to everyone else. You are needed to reach out, for I give you eyes to see things no one else will notice. Your heart beats fast, its own rhythm. And I love how it is made to beat in alignment with Me.”

Her Father speaks of sight, of seeing. And it is beyond vision, she thinks. It is a knowing, a response to knowing. It is recognizing the heartbeat of her Father within her. It is looking inward, into the truth of her, as a creation of Christ, and living and loving outwardly, only by knowing, inwardly, that she is loved.

Love is what equips her to love, to move with grace, to know the steps she will take this day.

And this is what her Father describes as dance:

“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.”

She is her Father’s daughter, woman all grown up, still His little girl, dancing with beauty and grace and light. She moves with confidence when she knows she is not alone, when she remembers each movement is taken in by her Father’s loving gaze.

She is not alone. She is seen.

This day, this moment, each step she takes, even when it feels like she has no idea what she is doing, what steps to take next, when stumbling feels more familiar than grace and beauty and light . . .  She can choose to claim the vision He casts for her, His vision of her that is truer than the one she has of herself.

He will show her how to see, how to see what He sees. He will show her how to trust His eyes, His heart, so that she can trust her own.

And then she dances.

She dances, a unique way to move and see and love unlike anyone else’s dance. And the Father loves how she dances. And He doesn’t want her to dance any other way. For the steps she takes when she hears the music He places within her, her response to His whispers of love to her, are what fuel her love. Her response is to the rhythm of two hearts beating, as she takes one step, and then another, this day. She is not alone when she dances, for she is with Him.

“You love what you are made to love when you keep your eyes on Me. For then you see what you are made to see, your dance steps in sync with Me. You turn and dip and bend and twirl, and we keep step together. There is music, now, when we dance, to bless the ones you see.”

She is loved, so she can learn how to love. She knows what to love, as her dance steps are locked with His. She is gifted with a way to love people unlike anyone else. So her dance is unlike anyone else’s. Her music, her heartbeat with His, unlike anyone else’s.

And her dance is needed. Her beauty and grace and light, His heart in hers, do more than fill a room.

They bring rescue. They bring invitation to hope. They bring a new rhythm of living and moving–and all who notice can’t help but want to join in.

Do you believe you are invited to dance? Do you believe your dance, with God, is beautiful? What does your dance, with Him, look like right now?

This post was inspired by Loop: “The Way You Dance”. Subscribe to Loop to get encouragement, just for you, delivered to your inbox twice a week.

Want to hear a little bit about what I shared, on Restoration, at the Soli Deo Gloria Retreat, last weekend? Click here.