When We Feel Down the Day After Christmas

When We Feel Down the Day After ChristmasThinking about you today, His girls–and wishing you a heart filled with God’s joy and increased faith in His presence and continual pursuit of you.

These days after Christmas can be days of exhaustion and emotional let-down. We have been working hard and seeking Him and desiring His strength to fill us.  He is here, and we know it. But this moment–let’s surrender again.

Together.

Father, bless us with desire for you, with calm, peaceful hearts, with longings for your presence in us. Empty us of all distractions. Empty us of all temptations to turn away from you, from the goodness you have for us. Fill us with your abundance. Fill us completely with you and help us to overflow onto everyone around us. 

We feel alone and lonely. Wrap us up in you.

We feel small and weak. Remind us you are the one who is strong.

We feel hurt and lost. Touch the places in our heart that are wounded and need your healing.

We are afraid and anxious. Let us breathe in deeply your love for us. Show us your face, your words, your touch. You are what we need now. Remind us. Our hearts open wide. We remember you.

His girls, here is a warm hug from my family to yours, this Christmas season! (Subscribers, click here to watch the video.) Please leave a comment below or send me an email to let me know how I can pray for you. {And please join me over at the Holy Entanglement podcast on Tuesday, when Justin and I share more about the emotional ups-and downs–and what to do about them–during this transition time of the holiday season.}

With much love,

Ferguson and Holding Light

Ferguson and holding light

It’s into silence where you are willing to go. It’s into places dark and heavy. It’s where anger lives, injustice an iron vice around one’s neck. It’s where your people are trapped, souls chained like animals to a steel bar where freedom only seems to go so far. We are here, chained, the weight of the metal we forget to feel, see.

Where are the chains, Father? We are blind, forgetting we wear them when we forget you. We forget you walk into darkness, wanting to remove each and every chain.

We are created in God’s image. We bear His image. We walk around, beauty turned evil when we forget we are to bear light, in His name.

Carry us deeper into the darkness where you are, Father. We are in it but we forget. We forget where light is–and when we forget where light is, we are stumbling around in darkness and not even knowing we’re doing it. We think things around us are pretty good, until they’re not. And it’s because we are focused on creating our own light, our own lives, planning our own escape from the chains that we don’t really even see but think we can escape all the same.

Strip us of self-reliance, Father. Strip us of blindness and deafness and selfishness. Plunge us deeper into darkness, where you are and where you bear the light so we can remember you are the only one who is light. And when we forget and walk around holding high candles of our own making we are ignoring it is you who rescues and brings justice to the oppressed.

But we have a part to play.

You are here, and you are not removed from despair. You catch every tear, but you cry tears too big for us to ever catch, tears for the children who ignore injustice. Tears for the children who turn away from pain. Tears for the children who forget their brothers and sisters and are blind to their own chains that lead to indifference and turning away.

We are injustice too, when we don’t follow you into the darkness, when we don’t look to your leading for love and for rescue. We, too, then, are not truly free.

We are not free if we continue to forget who carries the light. We are not free if we forget we reflect God’s light only if we stay close to his light. We forget we can be candles in the window for the people who suffer and know they suffer. But we can’t bear God’s light for the suffering if we refuse to see how our only strength is the light that is His, within us. We falter when we try to create light on our own.

Suffering remains, darkness remains, when we think it is our own light that illuminates our way and not God’s.

For He stands in the darkness, a light created from nothing. God, you are the Word come down, light in darkness. You illuminate corners where pain walks, and injustice screams, and despair lies huddled long in shadows. Show us where you shine and how we can go with you, to shine. Show us how to see, how to hear, how to walk.

You come for us, freeing us in our chains. Help us stand with you, walk with you, in darkness with you–shining light where chains still exist. Help us go with you, removing chains, one by one, your hand in ours. Only in your light. Let us stay and shine in your light.

We continue to watch you shine. We continue to call out your name. We continue to forget ourselves and seek your face, in the darkness.

Oh, God, let there be light.

Ferguson and Holding Light YAMG pin

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I Sing Loud Your Praise

sing loud

For J.

conversation 26

[F]ather, you know how I don’t mind telling the story. Well, that’s not true. I hate to share it. It’s hard to go back and remember what happened when I was so little. It’s hard to look someone in the eye and tell them what was done to me and how at the time I didn’t know it was bad, although it didn’t seem good, either.

I could be bitter, I guess. I could stay angry, stay wounded, let my heart become hard. But this world is too good, Father! You are too good!

Even though the abuse happened to me, over and over, starting when I was three years old. Even when I had to put myself in foster care, leave the home I wished were safe, at the age of 16. Even though I had no place to live. Even though I didn’t know how get back on my feet. You’ve given me strength, my Lord. You’ve given me resilience. You’ve given me a heart that is grateful. I am grateful for my circumstances. I am grateful for you being with me.

I have never been alone, through it all. When I share about the tough times, I can smile through my tears. I keep my heart focused on you. I want to be more like you. I want to love you more. You provide for me. You care for me. You catch every tear that falls. You bless me, again and again, with friends, with people who love me. You provide me with food, with a place to sleep, with work to do so I can love others.

Oh, Father, there is so much for which I am grateful! My heart will surely burst from the joy of being with you! I will keep following you, trusting you, seeking you with my whole heart. This life is not too difficult. My past does not deter me from loving and from following you. You are enough for me, my King, my Savior.


[M]y lovely one, how I cherish you! Oh, how you make me smile! You stay close, always close, and I have walked with you, held you, loved you with an everlasting love. This life is so hard; there is so much evil, but so much good, for I am here. And oh, my darling, how you choose to see me! How you choose to see the good!

So I send you out, watching you go forward with strength and with beauty, with a warrior-strength, noble and beautiful, full of love and kindness and mercy. You walk with mercy, my love.

Every step you take is blessed with mercy, with kindness, with gentleness and love. I bless you, again and again. I love you and pour myself into you. I look at you, and I am glad! I look at you, and I say, ‘There, that is my daughter! The one who walks with calm, gentle strength, into situations that require much. She is not deterred. She know from where her strength comes.’

My lovely one, my precious one, I have more good for you in store. You delight in me, and I delight in you. You make the eyes of my heart smile.


Song to listen to:  “Our God,” Chris  Tomlin


[T]his is day 26 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

How She Loved You

How she loved you

For C.

conversation 19

[I] watch these trees change outside my windows, God. The leaves turning from green to bright orange and red. There is quiet here, in this new place where all six of us moved. We are far from the city now.

The countryside sings tunes sweet and low—the creak of the branches in the wind, the frogs when night blankets the hills. There is music here I wish she could hear too, God. I miss her. I miss her voice and her smile and the way it felt when her arms were around me.

My mom.

She’s been gone now, twenty-one years. Remember how she battled? Do you remember how she believed—and we all believed—she would be healed? My heart aches for her. And I look at my daughters and my sons, three of the four whom she never met. Oh, how can I take it in how you let her meet my daughter, my firstborn, her first grandchild, in the same hospital where she was staying and where she died ten days later? Oh, God, you let her meet my daughter.

I wish she weren’t so sick so that she could have held her, too.

That daughter of mine is growing up so fast, Father. I can’t believe she’s moved out and on her own. Twenty-one years old, the same number of years my mom has been gone. How is it my daughter is already grown? Is this the same little girl I used to carry around and cuddle close? How is it so much time has gone by and I’ve raised these four and my mom has been gone this whole time?

Where am I going, Father? Am I doing okay? Am I raising these children in a way that would make my mom smile?

We’ve moved so far away from what I knew, and it feels right. But I still worry and wonder and hope this is all going to turn out more than fine.


how she loved you

[O]h, my darling how she loved you. She loved you with an overwhelming love, a love that came from my heart in her. And she showed you that love, because I adored her too, my love. I know what it is like to give up something you love. I know what it means to have a beloved suffer and you wish it didn’t have to turn out the way it did. But I have been present with you, my love. I’ve never left you. All the hours in the hospital. All the nights when you were at home alone. All the times when you stayed up late at night in your room, worrying and wondering how to fix this, how to pray hard enough to make her well.

I know.

I know it was so hard and your heart hurt and you didn’t want her to go.

I know.

I give you new beginnings, my daughter. Each time you turn to me, each moment you surrender to me, I begin again in you. I gather you up, my love.

Those were my arms you felt, too, when she held you close. Those were my words of love, too, when she looked you in the eyes and told you it would be okay, that she was there, that you could tell her anything, that she loved you and she would never stop.

That mother’s love is a fierce love. It is a love that would give anything for her children. And she hated that she wasn’t able to keep staying here, loving you. But she knew me, and you know me too. Her prayers, again and again, were prayers of love for you. Prayers of yearning for you. Prayers of desire on behalf of you.

She loved you with a love that surrendered you to me. She loved you with a love that would have given anything for you, because of me.

how she loved you

Those children of yours? This love is passed down, my darling. That love she showed you? That love I gave to her? You are showing it to your children. You are blessed with my presence. You are blessed with my love in you. You are blessed with my hope in you.

If you know me, if you hear me, if you follow me, believe me now. Believe I am here. Believe I help you to stand. Believe I am your steadfast anchor, your rock.

You are not slipping. You are not falling. You are not alone and fragile. You are given a love that holds you and protects you and goes before you. You are the one to keep leading, my dear. Keep leading them to me. Keep leading your children to me. By my love. By my words in you. By my whispers to you and my love upholding you. It is the only thing on which any family can stand.


 Song to listen to: “Majesty,” Caedmon’s Call


[T]his is day 19 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

you are the beautiful land . . . and a giveaway

you are the beautiful land I sit on the couch, head throbbing. Day four of the flu. The pretty red chair from Justin’s grandma’s house we moved from the front room to the family room to make space for the Christmas tree is piled with clothes I will not fold tonight. There are schedules to sort for the busy last week of school and the to-do list isn’t even written. Well, I’m not a list maker anyway.

I’m in sweats and I haven’t showered and I’m in my not-so-comfy red cotton GAP socks that I’ve had since I was in college. I listen to Ellie Holcomb singing “I will lift my eyes from this fragile life, You will rescue me, You are my Prince my Peace”, while my dog who thinks he is a rug barricades me, sandwiching himself into the tiny space between the couch cushions and the ottoman. Our youngest son comes out again because he is having trouble sleeping and we take turns tucking him in. My husband and I feel our congested heads will surely explode. But we are together, and we know we will be healed soon. All will be healed.

When I thought of you, I knew who you’d be, this day. I knew the story, and the unfolding, and the journey, and how it has been hard.

This day isn’t the day that has been hard.

When I drove to Justin’s office last Sunday night to use a landline to be interviewed about my story of what I did when I was a teenager, I didn’t tell anyone the station of the radio. I managed to tell some friends ahead of time that it was happening, so they could pray for me. But then I refused to tell them the station so they could listen to it live. I can get tired of telling my story. I can get tired of sharing my mistakes and my shame. I can get tired of remembering the things I would do anything to change, if I could do my life over again.

But I do it.

I write and I speak the story because here’s the truth: it isn’t a story of shame anymore. It is a story of hope and beauty and new life.  But still, I forget. Pride makes me fearful and want to hide. So, I drive to my husband’s office on a Sunday night in the dark, running clothes still on, hat pushed down over ponytail, and I pray each word I say is translated in His truth. I want the story to do more than just make sense.

I don’t leave you here to wander forever. I come and rescue and lead you with my right hand holding you fast.

Every story ever worth sharing is never about us. It is the one whispered to us in the quiet, the one about a daughter and a Father and a beginning and a joy and a hope that never ends.

I had forgotten this truth when I felt shame welling up again and I wanted to keep the interview kind of a secret. I look at my sin and my self-imposed suffering and often stop there.

I am sorry it has been hard, but trust I don’t leave you here, in a place of desolation, in a place where it is only desert. I don’t leave you here to wander forever.

When I listen, I go to a place He has uncovered, a place He has seen. It is the place where He speaks. It is the only place where anything makes sense. Here is beauty: mess and regret and bad choices are what He delights to turn upside down.  It is His surprising love I will never tire of sharing, no matter how uncomfortable it feels to say the messy stuff, aloud.

Speak out truth now. Speak it out, even if you don’t yet believe it. I will help you believe. I will help you believe I will rescue you. I will help you believe I am here. I will help you believe, with your whole heart, I am enough.

And when the Podcast was available, and I listened to the story of a girl who felt alone and who let selfishness kill a life never hers to kill, I heard something I didn’t expect: the whisper of a Father, a Father who will bend low, on hands and knees and surrender everything for the love of a girl who He knows and who He created and who He encourages to be the full beauty He always sees her to be. And now, when He whispers this to us, I just have to believe. It is too beautiful to not believe and cling to with everything I am:

The land ahead is lush and you are cared for. You know how you are carried and valued and delighted in and seen.

You are the beautiful land, plentiful and rich and bountiful. Your heart is full and your life is full and your future is full and you are beginning now. . . You are beginning to see.

Yes, you are the land, my friend, you are the beautiful land, plentiful and rich and bountiful. He sees where you are and how you need healing, and He whispers,

Bend low now. See what I see. Quiet your heart and let Me show you what I see. Let Me speak truth into your heart that you may know who you are and know you are not alone and know how I lead you to new, fragrant places. See.

I may yet not see all in its fullness, but I am beginning to see. I may yet not be home, but I see glimpses of beauty in the path. I know I am heading towards good things. I know I am going  to a place where He is now. I know I am being held, with reassurance, resilience, fortitude. He is the rock. I don’t have to be.

Oh, my daughter, I see you. I like what I see.

Friend, can you believe it?

Here, my friend, is the link to the podcast, and here–what I am excited to tell you–is an opportunity to enter a giveaway for a special necklace below.

sarah ha pendant

Isn’t it pretty? Did you have any idea that wearing this pendant means you are wearing the entire Bible around your neck?

This amazing necklace was sent to me by Sarah Ha, a jewelry maker who uses nano-engraving technology (believe me I had never before heard that term before) to inscribe the entire Bible onto a single pendant. The charm is so beautiful, and protected by a mineral-glass window and hung from a chain of 100% Sterling Silver. The kids and I had a blast checking out the jewelry reader on their site that shows just how this all works. Check it out. It’s pretty cool.

Sarah ha pendant 2

I don’t do a lot of giveaways around here, but when I was contacted to see if I would be interested in being sent one of these beautiful necklaces, I didn’t hesitate. I was excited to say yes so I could give it away to one of you, here.

What do you think?

Sarah Ha pendant

You have until Thursday, at midnight PST, to enter the giveaway by using Rafflecopter below, and I’ll announce the winner on the blog on Friday.

xo,

Jennifersignaturescript

a Rafflecopter giveaway

after you have suffered a little while . . .

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

That was just this week.

suffering a little while

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

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

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

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

I hear questions from sisters:

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

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

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

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

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

You will not be in this place of suffering forever.

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

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

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

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

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

And His heart moves me to action.

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

suffering 2

There is an action for us to take here.

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

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

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

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

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

What do we do?

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

When will healing come?

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

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

Emmanuel. He is here.

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

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

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