Overcoming Difficulties

Welcome, I’m so glad you are here!

You may notice a gap between the date of my last blog and this one. It is a rather large gap – 1 year, 8 months, and 9 days to be exact. A total of 630 days. These days marked a season of great change for me. There may come a time when I want to write more about the hills and valleys of that gap, but in truth, I am still pondering that time in my heart and seeking to gain a deeper understanding for myself.

That in-between time is what I want to talk about right now – those days, those months, and/or those years after the onset of difficulty and long before you can see or experience anything good coming your way. It is a time of emotional pain. It is a season wrought with confusion, difficulty, and hurt. There are the days when you question your faith and despise the well-meaning sentiments of others. There are nights when sleep eludes and anxious thoughts cause turmoil. There are moments when you doubt the love of others and the goodness of God. There is heaviness.

If this happens to be where you are today, I have great compassion that was born from my own experience of the in-between time. If you find yourself in need of a sincere, genuine, and empathetic ear, I am available to you.

One of the beautiful things which happened in the last 630 days was that I found and embarked upon a new career path. I am currently a graduate student working toward a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Colorado Christian University. At the moment, I am completing my Practicum and am seeing clients (free of charge) to complete my university’s requirements. If you live in the Upper Cumberland area of Tennessee and want to turn over a new leaf of change, please reach out.

I am properly insured and under supervision at both the university and local level. You can contact me by email at: jgreene@students.ccu.edu.

Here are few pictures of my tee tiny counseling office. I would love to see you soon.

Continue reading “Welcome, I’m so glad you are here!”
New Life, Overcoming Difficulties

Becoming a Woman of Great Depth

Maybe you are searching among the branches, for what only appears in the roots – Rumi

 

Have you ever looked at a tree and thought, “Now those are some gorgeous roots”? Probably not, unless of course you are a dendrologist (a fancy term for someone who studies trees).  Generally speaking, we tend to focus in on the parts of the tree we can actually see – the leaves, branches and trunk. 

But did you know the root system of a tree is a key indicator of its overall health? Yes, long before a tree shows distress on the outside, its root system reveals the true story.   

For example, in a drought, the tree’s root system, which is typically found in the top 3 feet of soil, will begin developing new and deeper roots.  These tap roots, as they are called, will grow vertically downward going much deeper than the existing root structure. 

Depending on the type of tree, the soil it’s in, and the climate, tap roots can grow up to 30 feet in depth – that’s 10 times greater than the average!

When talking about trees, what’s below the surface is what really matters, and I believe it is very much the same way with us as followers of Christ.  The apostle Paul tells us this in Colossians 2:

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

A taproot’s ability to find nourishment deep below the surface will determine whether the tree will have what it needs to continue growing. 


Deep Roots = A Strong & Vibrant Life


Does your life seem really hard at this moment? Have recent days, weeks, or months brought challenges you’d never imagined? Have you found yourself wondering if things will ever get easier?

These times of distress, while never easy, offer us an incredible opportunity for rapid growth.  When we tap into our our Heavenly Father’s resources, we can thrive during these times of great trial.  How exactly do we do this?

John, one of Jesus’s most beloved disciples, gives us a clue in Chapter 7 of his gospel:

…Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him…

Tell me, are you desperately looking for comfort?  For answers to your pain?  Do you feel weary and exhausted?  Or completely parched and aching with the dryness of your own soul?

Have you tried filling your thirst with social media, Netflix binges, constant busyness, sweet treats, wine, excessive exercise, constant travel, business achievements, shopping habits, prescription meds, romance novels, constantly serving at church, striving for perfection, or the next big DIY project, etc… While temporarily fun and exciting on a surface level, all of these things will leave us woefully unsatisfied deep inside.

This is what Jesus himself had to say about our attempts at self-fulfillment:

13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13-14

Wow, I don’t know about you, but I want to have that fresh, bubbling spring of abundant life within me me ALL THE TIME.  But how can we access it?  The obvious answer is Jesus, but drinking of his Living Water doesn’t begin and end with a one-time salvation experience.

If a tree’s tap roots stopped growing, then the tree’s ability to nourish itself would be limited.  It’s the same with us.  Our roots have to keep growing down deeper and deeper, searching out those pools of Living Water and tapping into them.  With every new difficulty, we must develop deeper roots.

So how can we as Jesus-loving women stay nourished and vibrant during times of great stress?  For starters, we can access our Living Water by spending daily time reading scripture.  We talk to him and invite His Spirit to nourish us.  We listen for what he is saying to us.

In order to access those deep pools, we must take the time to put down the phone, turn off the TV, and get into our place of quiet where we have room for our soul to breathe.  We must drink deeply of God’s Word, every. single. day.  We show up fully engaged, anticipating that something we read or hear will strike a resonant chord deep within our spirit. We hang on with him, waiting until we have it.

Then we apply what we’ve learned.  We let the truth’s in God’s word instruct the thoughts we entertain and the choices we make throughout each day.

We do this day in and day out.  We get up early or stay up late.  We use our precious free time because nothing will satisfy more than nourishment from The Living Water.


Much like the tap root of a drought-stricken tree determines its survival, our willingness to tap into God’s word each day will determine whether we can remain vibrant in the face of life’s biggest difficulties.


Is everything above your surface falling apart?  We can choose to see this difficulty as an opportunity to develop stronger, deeper roots.  As women of great depth, we will pull strength and courage and peace from Jesus, using it to rapidly grow in times of distress.  As a result our faith will be stronger, and we will bubble over with thankfulness.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him… Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Are you becoming a woman of great depth?

 

For further study:  Throughout scripture the outpouring of God’s presence and blessing is often associated with pools and springs of water.  [See Psalm 107:33 & 35, Isaiah 35:7, Isaiah 41:18, Revelation 7:17, Revelation 14:7, Revelation 21:6]  Look up these verses and answer this question:  How can you create an atmosphere in your own life and heart which invites the blessings of God’s presence?

New Life, New Year

What Could We Say in 2019?

Do you have a word for 2019?  The trend of finding a term of unique and personal significance for each new year has been increasing in popularity.  My social media feeds this week have been chock-full of pithy expressions my friends have adopted as their 2019 mantras of choice.

While I do love the idea of choosing an inspiring new word upon which to focus our energies, goals, and hopes for the next 365 days, as 2018 drew to a close, I was in the grasp of an entirely different perspective.

What if in 2019 I were to focus on ALL of my words?  Well, at least the ones I speak aloud…  I know this must seem like massive overkill for a New Year’s resolution, but hang in there with me while I explain.

In recent years, I have come to believe that the words we speak aloud (even in passing comments) have tremendous influence on our lives and the lives of those around us.  This is not some hocus-pocus or name-it-claim-it nonsense.  This idea is supported by the entirety of scripture in both the Old and New Testaments.

While I don’t have the capacity here for an exhaustive journey into every book of the bible, I do want to give you enough to show this philosophy is firmly rooted in the bible.  We will start at the very beginning – it is, after all, a very good place to start, especially since it’s a brand new year.  😉

1. How did God create the world?

Genesis 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 

Genesis 1:6-7 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters”… And it was so.

Genesis 1:9 And God said, …. And it was so.

Genesis 1:11 And God said, … And it was so.

Genesis 1:14 And God said, … And it was so.

Genesis 1:20 And God said…

Genesis 1:24 And God said, … And it was so.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said…

You get the idea here.  As you read the account of Creation as found in Genesis 1, you can see that God spoke our entire universe into existence.

The New Testament also supports this: Hebrews 11:3 tells us, By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

God spoke all of Creation into being.  He made the heavens and the earth and every living thing from His spoken words.

2. The Exact Same Spirit of the Living God (who created the entire universe by speaking) lives in us.

If you are a child of God, having believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation, the bible tells us that the Spirit of the Living God lives inside of you.  We commonly refer to Him as the Holy Spirit.  Here are a few references about this:  Romans 8:11, John 3:5-6, Acts 2:38-39, Matthew 28:18-20, John 14:26, John 16:7-15, Titus 3:4-8.

3.  Therefore, as believers, the words we speak aloud have tremendous potential to create or destroy.

The tongue can bring death or life; Proverbs 18:21a

And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire.  It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body.  It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:6

From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good.  Proverbs 12:14a

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18b

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Proverbs 25:11

Whoever desires to love life, and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 1 Peter 3:10

4.  Choose to Focus on the Positive.

In the past when I read bible verses about the tongue, I always processed them through my “Thou Shalt Not” filter.  You know, it’s that way of thinking that says:  Don’t lie, don’t gossip, don’t slander, don’t exaggerate, don’t be unkind, etc…  I only ever focused on what I should NOT do with my words.

If speaking evil and deceit can bring bad days and result in a hated life, then speaking good and true words will result in a life well-loved and well-lived, filled with good days.

So what if we were to view all these verses about our tongue through a “YES, PLEASE DO” filter?

Do you have a seemingly impossible situation in your life?  Instead of constantly bemoaning the crappy circumstances that seem completely insurmountable, YES, PLEASE DO speak life-giving words over it.  Ask God to accomplish the impossible, believing He will, and then thank Him for doing it.  And keep thanking Him for His miraculous provision and grace in that situation.

Do you have a close friend or family member walking through a time of deep darkness?  Maybe they are dealing with addiction or mental illness?  Instead of rehearsing all the various medical or psychological nuances of their addiction or illness, choose instead to speak positive and healing words aloud continually about that person.  Then YES, PLEASE DO thank God for the miraculous and complete recovery in this person.

Do you have a relationship with ongoing or unresolved conflict? Instead of constantly venting frustration and anger about this person, YES, PLEASE DO ask God to bring restoration, unity, and mutual understanding, then thank Him for it.  YES, PLEASE DO thank God for what this person has come to mean to you and how well you get along together.

5.  Start With a Thank You.

A wise friend gave me the most beautiful illustration of Psalm 100:4 which says:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, go into his courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him and praise His name.

As we boldly approach God’s throne of grace in our time of need, let’s stop at the entrance gates to give the password – which is “Thank You.”  Then we can proceed into the King’s outer courts with praise, before then entering the throne room itself and voicing our concerns and needs.

By starting with a posture of thanksgiving, we are verbally expressing our faith.  We believe in advance for what we’ve asked.  We are thanking God as if he’s already completed it.

We aren’t manipulating God into doing anything that is against his will.  He isn’t some earthly ruler to be controlled by human words, but when we have the faith to believe he will accomplish something we are releasing the power for His “will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This phrase “may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” was used by Jesus himself when he was demonstrating how we should talk to our Heavenly Father.  Matthew 6:5-13

I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard see, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move.  Nothing would be impossible.  Matthew 17:20.  See also Matthew 21:21 and Mark 11:23

How did Jesus say these miraculous things would happen?  Through the power of our spoken words.

Do we have faith big enough to speak words with a crazy-bold defiance of the reality of our physical circumstances?  Do we have a desire to see what is seen come from what is unseen?  Are we willing to thank God in advance, believing He will accomplish it?

If you feel lacking in this area, no worries!  We can ask for help much like the father of a demon-possessed son in Mark 9:24.  “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief.”

2019 is like a brand new notebook, full of blank, white pages.  Our tongues are the instruments through which our stories will be written.  Our words are the ink; they will become the very substance of our lives.  What will we say in 2019?

 

Finding Peace, Renewal

Tangles

“Ow! Mommy, that hurts,” my 6-year old squealed as I was brushing through the underside of her long blonde hair.  I was trying to smooth out her locks so that I could pull it all up into her customary side ponytail before we scooted out the door to school.

“I know it hurts, darling, but we’ve got to get these tangles out,” I said.  “If I don’t do it now, they’ll continue to get bigger, and then it will really be a big mess.  I’ll be as gentle as I can.”

As the words left my lips, I suddenly sensed a deeper layer of meaning.  In that moment, I could imagine my Heavenly Father saying the very same thing to me.

You see, I had some “tangles” of my own He was working through.  But these tangles were not in my hair.  Instead they were in my heart.

There were some attitudes He was bringing to my attention.  Hurt feelings had turned into smoldering anger and then bitterness.  It was messy with lots of tangles.  I was tempted to snatch my hair out of His hands and refuse to submit to His gentle brushing process. Part of me wanted to hide the tangles and pretend like they weren’t there, bury them back down and smooth over the top layer.

When we offer up our tangled messes to the Lord, He can begin to gently work through them.

When I gently brush through the depths of my daughter’s long hair, I can see all the places she is likely to miss by herself.  Likewise, the Holy Spirit can help us identify and work through those heart tangles we have overlooked.

Maybe we have buried some past hurt or fear, having conveniently forgotten its presence.  When He starts untangling those knots we begin to feel the pain again.

We might be tempted to yell out an “Ow, stop it Lord!” and grab our hair to turn away from Him.  He will let us do this.  But the messes in our hearts will continue to grow until a tiny little tangle has become a matted mess of hair.

We can only hide these these tangles for so long before others will eventually notice.  Matted hearts aren’t attractive. 

If we will let him comb through the little things now, He won’t need to use the scissors later to cut out the big clumps.  The minor discomfort of the present is much preferred to the post-surgical pain of a gigantic pruning later.

How about you?  Will you offer up your heart to the Lord, allowing Him to gently work through your tangles?

Just like a daily brushing of our hair is good physical hygiene and will result in improved physical health, a daily Spirit-led comb-through of our hearts will result in improved spiritual health.  How good it is to let the Lord untangle the knots in our hearts.

 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life

Psalms 139:23-23

Finding Peace

Overpacking

Have I mentioned that I’m a planner?  Yes, I want to know where I’m going, what I’m doing, and how I’m going to get there waaaaaaaay in advance of any and every event.  I also like to have a contingency plan for my plans.  If plan A doesn’t work out, then I can easily and confidently resort to B, C, or D.  Options are good.  I like them.

This compulsive need to plan ahead for all contingencies is evidenced by the gargantuan size of my suitcase when we travel.  I must have several options for each day.  What if it rains?  What if I don’t feel like wearing athletic shoes?  What if an unexpected blizzard pops up right smack in the middle of July? What if we meet European royalty and get invited to a costume ball while hiking at the Grand Canyon?

I’m totally kidding about that last option, but you get the picture.  I need choices and alternatives.  Picture an enormous, hard-shell suitcase large enough for an entire wardrobe, with an interior compression system and removable laundry bag – and that’s just what I take for a weekend away.  😉

But all that luggage can really be a pain to deal with.  There’s the loading and unloading of it from the vehicle and the wheeling/carrying of it into hotels/lodging.  If I’m flying, there’s the potential for extra charges if it weighs more than 50lbs.  There’s the hauling of it up onto and down from the luggage racks on various parking and rental-car shuttles.  If I’m not careful, all the planning for options can really weigh me down on a trip that is meant to be fun and relaxing.

Winston Churchill once said, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”  This statement has been my unintentional motto for most of my life.  I combat the bothersome tendency toward worry with precise planning.  I manage anxiety about the unknown in knowing what my options are.

As the years pass and I grow closer to the Lord, I pray more and plan less, but there are still some situations in life where I like to know my plan in advance.  When people ask me questions, I like to have answers.

I’ve recently hit a situation that is the proverbial wall in my compulsive need to have a plan.  This isn’t some wimpy sheet-rock wall through which you can punch your fist or swing a bat.  Instead, it’s the equivalent of a 12” block wall, reinforced with steel rebar, poured solid with concrete and faced with brick.  If you know anything about construction, you know that this wall is NOT going anywhere.

Earlier this week I was sharing with a wise friend all the nuances of my current circumstances.   She listened raptly, and after I was finished, she said, “Jennifer, it sounds like you are on The Potter’s wheel.”

I quickly followed up her statement with a nod of my head and a witty quip about it being someone else’s time to take a go round on it, but later that day I took time to really ponder her words.

A quick word search on BibleGateway.com for “potter” and “clay” yields several verses, but I felt these two from Isaiah 64:8 and Isaiah 45:9 really jumped out to me:

And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
We are the clay, and you are the potter.
We all are formed by your hand.

Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it,
saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’

I was struck with a mental picture of me, a clay figurine atop a spinning potter’s wheel, frantically trying to keep hold of my gargantuan, overweight pieces of luggage.  My Potter was gently and lovingly trying to mold me and make me into something useful and beautiful, yet I was holding on to all these oversized plans and options.  As the wheel turned, objects were escaping from my suitcases and flying away into the oblivion.

My grasping struggle atop the potter’s wheel was creating this unnecessary friction and discomfort for me while delaying the masterpiece My Potter was trying to create.

If I would let go of my carefully packed, yet burdensome luggage and surrender to The Potter’s expertise, the extra friction would cease and peace would come flooding back.

What insight this is.  What freedom this brings – this letting go of every single thing.  Arms up high as I surrender to the loving hands of The Potter.

Father God, I lift up my circumstances to you, as they are beyond my control at this time.  I let go of my plans and options.  I will defer to your expertise, your ways, and your purposes.  I will travel light.

Comparison, The Very Good News

Dear 18-year-old self…

It’s the season of graduation, of beginnings and endings.  For many of us, several years have passed since we were the ones to walk across that stage, taking hold of our future.

Yesterday I had the lovely opportunity to share my own thoughts regarding this time in my life on The River’s blog.  Click on over there and give it a peek.  Blessings, my readers!

https://www.therivercc.com/daily/2018/5/22/18yearold

Marriage, Relationships

6 Minutes to Sandwich

“Woman, make me a sandwich!” said my husband, Jordan as he looked at me with a wry grin on his face.  He knew he’d get a reaction with the way he framed his request.  I turned and gave him a withering look.

Then I laughed, throwing my head back, because I couldn’t succeed in pretending to be angry for very long.  In a sweet and slightly snarky tone, I said with a smile, “Now, you’ll have to ask a little more nicely if you want me to do THAT for you.”

I’m so glad that we can joke about these things after 19 years of marriage, but I couldn’t deny that deep down his request rankled just a bit.  It was not a dissimilar feeling to having a few grains of sand stuck inside the bottom of my sandal.  Irritating, but not greatly so.

But WHY should this simple request bother me at all?  Was I being hypersensitive?

Well, for one, I hate making sandwiches.  It’s the fact that I have to drag out (what feels like) half the contents of my fridge.  Then there are the crumbs all over my counter and a mess in my sink with the discarded parts of lettuce, tomato, etc…  Maybe I’m a little OCD, but it’s just a hassle.

It’s also that I’m gluten free, so I rarely make a sandwich for myself.  I’m not hyper-allergic, so I don’t have problems from just touching bread.  And, yes, I know there’s gluten-free bread and all, but most of it tastes like cardboard or worse, and 2 slices of bread (even if it’s gluten free) are just too many carbs for me to regularly consume in one sitting.  So, yes, there’s probably a little resentment there, too.

Most of all, though, I think it is the assumption that I’m the one in the relationship who should make his sandwich, which is what he eats for lunch almost every day during his busy season at work.  I would never ask him to make my lunch for me, so why should I have to make his sandwich for him?

Now, I know I may have stirred up some strong feelings in you, my reader.  Before you flip out and spout women’s rights all over me, you should know that my husband loves and respects me, and he isn’t some male chauvinist pig.

Or maybe you’re on the opposite side of the field, and you think I should be more understanding and appreciative of my man and just make him a sandwich already.  You might tell me to read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, which, by the way, I have.

Honestly, his whole sandwich-request thing is not unreasonable.  There is an unofficial sharing of duties in our household in the mornings.  He takes our eldest to school, and I clean up the kitchen after breakfast and make his sandwich.  This all sounds quite logical.  So what’s my problem?

I could wax poetic here about needing to be a better servant in my household, having the mind of Christ and/or about being a true wifely helpmate.  Or I could just as easily talk about how women need to be liberated from these old-fashioned gender roles.  Or maybe how we need to be liberated from feeling like we need to be liberated…. But nope, I’m going to stop right there.

Over the period of a few months I continued to loosely and randomly ponder these sandwich thoughts.  I was making him sandwiches a few times per week, albeit with some lingering irritation and resentment.

Then last week I got a text message.

I was trying to squeeze in some much-needed exercise early on a weekday morning by walking the hills in our neighborhood with our puppy.  It was beautiful outside, and I was about 2/3 done when a text from Jordan buzzed my phone.  I looked down and saw, “6 minutes to sandwich.”

Now, there was absolutely no need to take instant offense at this text.  My husband was telling me that he would have to leave for work in 6 minutes and would need his sandwich.

Yet, despite my logical, mental understanding of this, I had an immediate emotional flare of anger and an onslaught of different thoughts.  Oh goodness, I should have made that stupid sandwich earlierI’m not sure I’ll make it back in timeWell, he can just make his own d— sandwich.  He can make his own d— sandwiches from now until eternity.  What the heck is HIS problem?  Stupid sandwiches….  He can just starve.  Sheesh.  What the heck is MY problem?

I knew that my thoughts needed help of a supernatural kind.  Did I want the peace of my entire day to die in an angry battle on the mole hill I was getting ready to escalate into a mountain?  NO.

So, in my spirit, I cried out to the Lord for help.  Lord, help me! Help me to see this differently.  I can choose in this moment how I feel.  I can choose to be thankful.  I can choose to be thankful I have a husband who needs a sandwich because he goes to work.  He goes to work to provide for our family.  He is an excellent provider, and really, it’s not a big deal that he needs a sandwich.  Thank you Lord that I get to make his sandwiches.  I will make his sandwiches with thankfulness and joy.  I am thankful that I GET to make his sandwiches.

In that moment, as I prayed, my heart condition changed.  I can’t explain it, but the anger just melted away, the irritation fled, and I truly was thankful.  My entire perspective had changed.

By the time I got back to the house, just a few minutes later, I was happy as could be.  I quickly made that sandwich for him and sent him off to work with a smile.  The irritation never came back.

I’ve made more sandwiches since then with no more issues.

I don’t share this story so that you can say, boy, she’s a really great (or crappy) wife.  Instead, I share it because I’m desperately flawed.  We all are, but as believers in Jesus Christ we have a confident expectation of something better.

Whether it’s at work or at home, we each have our own individual hot-button issues of ongoing irritation and complaint.  We can choose to nit-pick these issues to death, trying to politicize and justify our irritation/anger/resentment.  Or we can realize that the responses generated from an ongoing place of anger/bitterness will eventually damage one or more of our treasured relationships.

While your hot-button thing may not be making sandwiches for your husband, we serve a God who is big enough and powerful enough and personally-involved enough to radically free us from that thing (whatever it is) and give us a brand new perspective.  This new perspective can bring inexplicable joy and peace in place of ongoing anger.

We may be desperately flawed, but we serve a God who is bigger than our issues.  And as believers, we have the source of that power living on the inside of us in the form of the Holy Spirit.

My prayer for you, my reader, is that you will tap into that supernatural source of help today.  May your days be full of peace, no matter the sort of text messages you receive.  May you be filled with joy as you invite the Holy Spirit to change your perspective, trusting God to accomplish His work in you.  Blessings!

Finding Peace

Permission Needed

Coffee cup in hand, I sat down on our leather sofa with a loud sigh of relief.  An unfolded mound of clean laundry was piled up beside me.  A dozen tasks were pressing down on me, their urgency increased by the impending arrival of guests for tonight’s dinner.  I needed to be moving, doing, prepping, accomplishing, but, instead, my soul desperately needed a respite.

I took this moment to lean my head back and breathe deeply, trying to relax into a rare interlude of silence purchased by husband’s willingness to allow our daughters to accompany him on an errand.  With less than 2 hours before our guests’ arrival, I knew a variety of tasks would remain undone, but as I weighed the cost of my stolen moments, I realized that none of them would result in my guests’ discomfort.

These “pressing” tasks were more about my comfort, my need to appear to have a perfectly presentable household.  As the tension in my mind and body loosened a little, I realized the true need of my soul in this moment was just to BE still.

It is astonishing to me that this very act of doing nothing actually requires my own consent.  But it does. 

You see, I’ve become aware of this constant mental measuring of my own usefulness.  I’m not actually keeping a written score by physically grading each day or event, yet there IS a tally being calculated just below the surface of my consciousness.

This subconscious scorekeeper can be my worst enemy.  Sadly, for many years, I mistook this inner analyst for the voice of the Holy Spirit.  (More about that in a future post.)

But in this moment, I gave myself permission to rest despite all the demands (both legitimate and otherwise).  I embraced a stillness in body AND soul.

Be still, and know that I am God!  

Psalm 46:10a

You know, sometimes, it’s okay just to BE.

I recently made this statement to a group of adults.  I could see the immense emotion of this simple statement reflected in the eyes of several women.  We, especially as women, can have such a difficult time with this.

Who told us that we must DO… in order to be of value?  in order to be worthy of love? in order to be useful?

I know we all have responsibilities, and I’m not endorsing laziness or neglect of our families.  However, I’m asking the Lord to give us His wisdom about what we can let go of (big or small) in order to embrace His rest.

This will look different for each of us, but let’s drop that measuring stick and throw away the mental score card.  Let’s stop using it on ourselves and on each other.  Let’s acknowledge that sometimes it’s okay just to BE.  BE you.  BE still.  Just BE.

What would it look like to give yourself permission to embrace a season of stillness?

Whether it is a few stolen moments on a weekend afternoon, a whole day or week, or an entire season of embracing this state of BEING rather than doing, I pray that you will find true refreshment from the ONE and ONLY who can provide that to us, Jesus Christ.

…Don’t be afraid. 

Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. 

Exodus 14:13a

On a funny note, I was so relaxed after just BE-ing, that I completely forgot to fold that laundry and put it away before my guests arrived.  In fact, I didn’t realize that I had forgotten about it until after everyone had gone home.

Now, before you get all judge-y on me, you should know that the adults spent most of the evening in the dining room and kitchen.  It wasn’t like we were chatting while sitting next to my husband’s undies.

But still, I can’t even believe I forgot this.

I’m so thankful for my grace-giving friends and for my grace-giving God.  Most of all, I’m thankful for this journey that is enabling me to take hold of grace for myself.  I’m marking this down (laundry pile included) as a major accomplishment in my journey toward vibrant living.

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New Life, The Very Good News

What does Easter mean to me?

Many in the Christian community have taken to calling it Resurrection Day.  This re-branding is fine with me, as it places the focus for this holiday exactly where it should be: on the risen Jesus Christ.

So what does Resurrection Day mean to me?  Honestly, I have struggled at times to have fresh eyes for this nearly two-thousand-year-old event.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not downplaying its importance.  I know that it is essential to my entire faith.  If not for the Resurrection, Jesus would have been one of the numerous other good teachers with a following who lived and then died, end of story.  No power. No glory. No hope.  My faith would be dead and powerless.

So, I’m not overlooking the fact that this event is integral to my faith.  But after 39 years of celebrating this day, 33 of those years as a believer, sometimes you just need a fresh perspective and a newness of joy.  I want to experience this holiday, as if for the first time.  Is anyone with me on this?

I don’t want to simply go through the motions of this day, its significance lost in the rote-ness of the familiar.

So I got up early this morning, not to iron my daughters’ Easter dresses or to make from-scratch cinnamon rolls.  Instead, I spent my quiet early-morning coffee moment asking the Father for a fresh view and a personal encounter of the Resurrection’s relevance for me TODAY.

What He gave me is worth sharing.  May it encourage you, like it did me, to walk in freshness, rather than familiarity.  May you experience vibrance, rather than boredom.

It’s brief, so I promise that you’ve got time for it on this day (or any day) overflowing and bustling with activity.

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Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, wasn’t the only one raised from the dead that day.

Romans 6:4b says, “…Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

You see, this is our Resurrection day too.  We, too, are being called forth from our tombs.

A tomb is where we put dead things.

Do you have any dead areas in your life?  Any departed dreams?  Lifeless relationships?  Messed-up messes?  Worn-out approaches?  Unresponsive situations?  Hopeless circumstances?  Exhausted emotions?

I’ve got news for you.  You are NOT dead, and your circumstances are NOT beyond the reach of the glorious power of the Father.

You are being called forth into the newness of life.  Are there any areas in your life that need refreshing?  Or re-making?  Or resurrecting?  Or maybe, like me, you’ve got an area where you’d like to see a complete do-over.

The VOICE translation says it this way, “…just as God the Father, in all His glory, resurrected the Anointed One, we, too, might walk confidently out of the grave into new life.”

So my friend, where can you walk confidently out of the grave into new life?

I feel like our Heavenly Father is saying to us:

 Give me your weary, worn out, tired, hopelessly dead places.  Toss away those grave clothes.  Confidently walk out of that tomb.  Break forth into newness of life and embrace MY Glorious Life for you.

May you let Him resurrect you today and everyday.  May you let His glorious power and light enable you to break forth from what holds you back.

And as a bonus, here’s a little song that goes right along with my musings.  It came to my mind as I was singing in the shower this morning.  Blessings!

Trusting God

Letting Go

It was an earnest moment of decision for my preschool-aged daughter.  You could see the deliberation on her sweet little face as she tightly gripped the Andes Mints, one in each hand.

If you will give ONE of your chocolates to Pa, I will give you another one.

I knew this might be a struggle for her and was watching with anticipation to see what decision she would make.

She loves chocolate candy so much, and this particular kind was only available to her once per week when we would meet my dad (her grandad) for lunch at our favorite local Mexican restaurant.

I could see she was internally wrestling with the process of physically letting go of what was in her hand.  Did she believe me?  Would she trust me?

I repeated it again:  If you will give one to Pa, I will give you another one to replace the one that you give to him.

It was a promise.  But it required her action to activate it.  You see, she had to let go of the piece of chocolate in one of her hands, before I could give her another one.

This was a practical request.  There was no way her little hands could hold 3 pieces of candy, navigate a pass off, open the wrappers and avoid dropping one onto the floor.  With the crowd of people in front of the cashier’s desk, the candy could easily be stepped on and smashed.

After a few more seconds of consideration, she handed a piece to my dad, saying, “Here, Pa, this is for you.” I smiled, knowing that this had been an important step for her.

Before the smile faded from my face, I felt the Holy Spirit impress a feeling of even greater significance upon my heart.  I knew I needed to remember this exchange, and I wrote it down in my journal, trusting the Lord would eventually show me.

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A few weeks passed, and I had just learned of yet another major change coming my way.  The grief, anxiety and sorrow welled up in me anew.

Over the last 18 months, almost all the things in which I had found purpose, comfort and stability (with the exception of my husband and children) had been ended, altered, or shifted in some way.  A career.  A ministry role.  A few friendships.  Educational plans for my youngest daughter.  And on and on.

Honestly, I was so sick of change and felt like I really couldn’t take any more.  I was just done.  Over it.  Finished.  Seriously kaput.

Lord, seriously?  I was just getting into the groove.  I thought we had a plan.  Lord, what ARE you doing in this situation?   What does this mean for me?  I hate this.  Really, I hate this.  Can’t you just keep things the way they are, at least for a little while?

The next morning I was struggling through my quiet time trying to read through a chapter in one of the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament, Hosea.  I was finding it a bit dry, which was also how my soul felt in that moment.  This is what I wrote in my journal that morning:

“Father God, help me have a God-attitude about the news I received yesterday.  I’m struggling and so sad, but most of all, I feel thrown out into The Wilderness, again.  God help me, help me to find joy and hope overflowing in this.  Release your blessings on my life… Make a way for me in the desert.  Bring me to a land of flowing streams, lush landscapes, soft hills, and babbling brooks.”

Later that day, I was still wrestling through what all of this meant and feeling gloomy.  While driving in my car, I heard these lyrics from a song in the general playlist of music on my phone.

I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Letting go and trusting when I cannot see
I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Surely every season you are good to me.[i]

These words that I’d heard so many times before struck me with such significance.  Letting go.  To let go, you have to open your hand.  It was like the Spirit was saying this:

Jennifer, if you’ll open your hand again, you’ll see that I’m good to you in every season.  Let go of what you cannot keep.  Give it freely, so that I can give you the next blessing. 

Oh wow.  The wisdom in this.

It was a promise.  And just like with the Andes Mint moment, it required my action to activate it.  You see, I would have to emotionally release what was in my hand.  I would need to give it to my Abba Daddy, and with faith and trust, believe He would fill my hand again with something good.  I had to believe that He would fill it with something that was valuable and cherished, with something I would relish and enjoy.

Jim Elliot penned this now famous phrase, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Maybe, like me, you are facing another period of transition.  Do you feel the stirrings of change?  Is the Lord asking you to relinquish something?  Is He asking you to hand over something that’s of high value in your life?  An opportunity that may not come again?  A ministry position or job you really love? The future you thought you would have?  The way you spend your free time?

Even when we try to keep that tight grip of control on the things we value, we can’t hold on to them forever.  Change will happen, and wouldn’t it be much better if we relinquish our valued things to the Lord before they get dropped or smashed into the floor?

Beloved reader, open that hand and give the Lord its contents.  He knows what He’s asking.  Trust Him.  He wants to fill it again with something just as sweet.

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: …  For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.[ii]

May His streams of Living Water flow freely through you, bringing refreshment and lush beauty to the barren places in your life.

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[i] “Counting Every Blessing” by Rend Collective, 2018 Capitol Christian Records

[ii] Isaiah 43:14a, 19 (NLT)