April 11, 2014

Stop with the Rules

I can be my own worst critic sometimes, and to be perfectly honest, no one is probably harder on me than I am on myself.

YUCK.

I hate even admitting that... to myself and to you, and realizing there's a lot of truth to it makes me sad. Jesus isn't even as hard on me as I am on myself. In fact, he's not hard on me at all. His heart towards me is mercy and grace and love... 

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." 
~ Romans 8:1-2

His voice is never condemning or shaming or blaming. He never says, "Get your act together. Now." like I sometimes say to myself. He's kind and gracious and patient and forgiving. Constantly and continually. All the time. He doesn't demand things from me, and get frustrated when I don't follow through. He doesn't hand me a list every morning and say, "Do these things. Get this stuff done. Live this way… and you'll be good with me." 

Nope. 

He doesn't do that. 

Oh, but I do that to myself.

(Insert pause, deep exhale, and sigh)

And that is so very sad… so terribly flawed and wrong, and it keeps me from experiencing and living in the freedom that Jesus gave his life for, the freedom he longs for me to know and experience. It keeps me from resting in his love and knowing his delight, and it causes me to strive and arrange and perform, which looks only like bondage and absolutely nothing like "just being."

So...

Stop with the rules, Jenny.




Enough already. Stop handing yourself a mental list of, "If I do these things today and act this way and look this way and pray this way and live this way and parent this way and wife this way and all the other ways, then I will be happy and good with myself." God does not love and accept you based on how well you perform. He loves and accepts you just as you are. Not as you could be, would be, should be, or will be. Just as you are. Right here. Right now. Today. Stop with the rules and the lists, and love and accept yourself just as Jesus does. Kindly give yourself the grace to be and the room to become.


"Come Jesus... I lay down the rules and the crazy lists that make me crazy, and I repent of my striving and arranging and performing ways. I welcome your love and mercy and forgiveness and grace. Heal my heart and set me free in ways I have yet to know, so I can run with abandon the race you've set before me. Living freely and just being."



It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (…and that includes the mental list of rules that we heap on our own heads and hearts.)
~ Galatians 5:1




April 4, 2014

Making the Most

Spring is finally springing here in Northern Virginia and it's simply the most glorious thing!

I'm afraid we thought it would never come… that winter would never release it's strong, firm grip and we'd be shoveling snow, bundling up in coats, and turning up the heat forever.

But, alas, the warmer days are here, the sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and birds are singing, and I'm so deeply grateful because WHEW… it was a long winter!

Unfortunately, though, along with this much awaited and hoped for season… with the budding of trees and the blooming of flowers… comes that powdery, sticky, yellow dust that lingers in the air and covers your car and causes headaches and scratchy throats and itchy eyes and lots of sneezing.

Lots and lots of sneezing.

Every time I blow my nose or get a sinus headache, I try and remember just how very happy and grateful I am that spring is here. I can handle the runny nose and the headaches and the itchy eyes, but I can't handle the cold, dreary days of winter any longer. Not even for one day. I am so completely done.

I don't think I've ever been so happy in all my life to see spring.





But spring's pollen is working hard to get the better of me and I woke up this morning with a raging headache. I took two Sudafed and two Advil to try and ward it off and while I stood at the dryer folding clothes and trying to hold my head up, I remembered the verse from Ephesians that says "make the most of every opportunity." (5:16)

How could I make the most of this headache? How could I push through the pain and enjoy the day? I knew I was pretty worthless until it passed. I wouldn't be working out, folding more laundry, or cleaning up the breakfast dishes until I felt better. But I didn't want my day to get tanked... didn't want to waste it away waiting for the headache to pass, and so there were those words whispered to my heart by the One who knows me well, loves me dearly, and cares about all the little details of my life.

"Make the most of every opportunity…"

So for the last several hours, I've been doing just that…. making the most. I put on George Winston's "Winter to Spring" album, lit a "Spring Blossoms" candle, got comfy on the sofa, and started writing and reading and commenting and posting and texting and it's been such a rewarding, enjoyable morning. I've gotten so much done, and now that the pain is fading and manageable, I can move on to tackle the dishes, fold the laundry, and squeeze in a workout.

I love how Jesus is always so present with us. How he knows all the events of our days. How he sees and know US. He whispers to our hearts the words we need to hear, and he guides us and leads us in all things… in every opportunity.

Making the most.

May I have the strength and grace to live that way each and every day.




"So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 
Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days." 
~ Ephesians 5:15-16

"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."
~ Philippians 4:19

"But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head."
~ Psalm 3:3



March 23, 2014

Weekend Words: Simple but Strong

Happy weekend, friends… 

I'm writing this morning from our living room sofa, in my jammies, snuggled up under a warm, cozy blanket, and savoring my second cup of coffee which Michael sweetly made for me before he left for an eight mile run. 

Goodness, I love that man. And not just because he makes me coffee on the weekends, but because he's good for my heart in more ways than I will probably ever know in this lifetime. How incredibly grateful I am for him. How very blessed I am to call him mine. I'll save all the warm, gushy love feelings though for another day, another post. I know you can hardly wait for that one! (smile)

On to what I wanted I share…

I came across these words on Pinterest this morning and my heart immediately let out a big YES! Such simple words they are, yet they're strong and powerful and pack a punch. 

I kind of lost my way over the past week for various different reasons… I threw my back out and didn't feel well for several days. I had a to-do list of things to do that I really didn't feel like doing. Errands. Housework. Stuff. Decisions to make, cliffs to jump… more ways God was asking me to be vulnerable. More and more and more.

Plus, we also put our girl on a bus and waved her goodbye to five days of road-tripping to Florida with her high school and living it up in Disney World. Though I really haven't worried about her and I'm thrilled she could have this experience, my heart has been stretched all those many miles to Florida and I feel her absence. She comes home today and we can hardly wait to hear all the fun details of her adventure. How wonderful it will be to have the sweet, little songbird back in our nest.

So these words…

With all this world and life throw at me, with all the ways the enemy tries to tie me up and keep me down, I desperately NEED my heart to be kind, my mind fierce, and my spirit brave. When I lose my way AND when I know my path. When my back goes out and I feel terrible AND when I'm feeling great and can run three miles. Whether my family is home safe and sound OR they're off adventuring in Florida or elsewhere. Whatever a week may hold. Whatever might come. Whatever may surface in my heart. However God may invite me to walk with him.

Kind heart.

Fierce mind.

Brave spirit.

What a simple but strong and powerful mantra to pray each and every day.

May it be true of me, Jesus. May it be true...


Photo Credits: Pinterest


A bloggy update… I have a new Facebook page where I'll be linking up my posts, sharing snippets from our life, verses, quotes, pictures, music, and more. If you're on Facebook and would like to follow along, just click the link to the right. I would love to connect with you there!



March 12, 2014

On Mornings and Choices

Morning came much too early today and I wasn't at all ready for its arrival. This time change always gets the better of me, without fail, every year. I'm really not very tired when I go to bed at night, and then I really don't sleep too well during the night, but once it's time to wake up in the morning, I can barely move.

My alarm went off at six and I finally pulled myself out of bed close to seven. I hit the snooze button more times than should be allowed, and at some point, I just had to firmly tell myself, "Jenny, get out of bed. Let's do this thing." 

I thought about the dog who needed to be fed and let out, and I thought about breakfast and lunches for my kids, and I remembered that I needed to get Jane Anne to school early. I also thought about the fact that I'm the adult, I'm the mom, and my people are counting on me.

So I stumbled out of bed and down the stairs and mindlessly, in a stupor, fed the dog, started the coffee, and prayed something out loud like, "Jesus… help me. Help me. Help me. Help me." 

I poured myself a strong cup of coffee and sat quietly and comfortably in a big cozy chair, and once the caffeine kicked in and my mind perked up, I thought about how life some days really is just an act of the will.




Though I would love to float through life on a whim, living by how I feel, and taking it as it comes, I know that would get me nowhere, and it would probably get me in a lot of trouble. Much of life, maybe most of life, is a conscious choice. An act of the will. Mind over matter.

And that's true when it comes to getting up in the morning, and that's also true when it comes to deeper matters of the heart…. Choosing joy over sorrow. Love over hate. Peace over fear. And so on, and so on...

The thousand little choices we make every day matter. They matter greatly. Sometimes those choices come easy, and other times, they take every ounce of strength we have. But the good news is that we don't have to make those choices alone and we don't have to rely on our own strength. We can lean back into the arms of Christ and draw our strength, our very life, from him. He wants nothing more than to come through for us. He cares about all the details of our lives, both big and small, and he cares about every choice we make, both big and small. He's everything we need and more and he hears our, "Help me. Help me. Help me," prayers and he's ready and willing to answer.

I like to think of it this way… I can and I will, because He can and He will.

And as I head to the kitchen to make another pot of coffee, I'm carrying that truth with me today.

Care to join me?


"How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none."
~ A. W. Tozer

"He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless."
~ Isaiah 40:29

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength."
~ Philippians 4:13


March 8, 2014

Weekend Words: Here and Now

As I get older, I'm realizing I might be a bit of a visionary. 

I know I'm definitely a dreamer. 

There are so many things I'm passionate about… things I long for, hope for, and can't wait to see happen. That is, if they even happen at all.

Some of those things are frivolous and superficial like maybe wishing for a long, lingering, exotic vacation traveling across Europe, or maybe an early retirement for my man, and enough cash in the bank to afford a massive sailboat in which to sail the world with him. Perpetual youthfulness would be nice too, as well as continued good health and the ability to maintain my figure, or even achieve a better one, as I get older.

But most of the things I'm passionate about are of a deeper nature, God-breathed and etched firmly in my heart… a longing for others to come to know the Jesus I love, for the Kingdom of God to grow and advance in ways we haven't yet seen, and to play a vital part in that would be pure bonus. A hope for the light of truth to open eyes and justify and shatter the darkness with its secrets and lies. A longing for more of Jesus and more of his beautiful life in and through me… more healing and strength and wisdom and grace. And as for my family, my husband and kids… there's no limit to the pages I could fill with the numerous things I long for and dream for each of them. 

But sometimes all these longings and hopes and passions and dreams get the better of me and I get antsy and anxious. I grow impatient and lose sight of what is here and now, and I get ahead of myself and ahead of God. I know I have this tendency, so I intentionally make a point to see… to really see what is right here and right now.


photo credit: Pinterest


I slow down and look around and take account of what's right in front of me, where God has me today, even this very moment, and I carefully gather the minutes of my life and live them.

Savoring...

Pondering...

Reflecting…

Enjoying.

I don't want to waste precious time pining away for what I hope may come and miss the here and now… Like the way the sun shines over our roof in the morning and brightens the trees behind our home, or the gentle hum of my husband's snore as he quietly sleeps beside me, or the way my daughter's hair smells so sweet when she curls up next to me and puts her head on my shoulder, or the life around our table when the four of us linger over a meal, laughing and sharing… and on and on and on.

There is so much life in this day. In this moment. Here and now, and I don't want to miss it.

So I dream and I long and I hope because I can't help it, because that's the way God has written himself on my heart, but at the same time, I carefully gather the minutes of my life and I live them.



March 7, 2014

Willing Hearts

I'm writing with a group of women today on Lisa-Jo Baker's blog. Every Friday, she picks a word and invites us to write a post about what immediately comes to our heads and hearts. No over-thinking… No over-editing… (which are both very hard for me, I might add.) Just writing and sharing. Today's word is… WILLING.


Yesterday, I was driving home from a grocery run to Trader Joe's with a car full of organic, delicious, whole-food goodness. It's no secret that I'm deeply in love with that store.

My heart was so full… so in awe of Jesus and keenly aware of his hand on my life. It was one of those moments where the curtain was pulled back and I could see so clearly. How grateful I am for those moments because they help me hold on with hope and faith when life grows cloudy and bleak.

As I drove home with a huge smile spread across my face, I laughed out loud and shook my head in disbelief and wonder of God. He's so incredibly kind and generous. Just a few hours before, he'd completely stunned and surprised me, blew my doors off as our family says, with some really fabulous things that happened. Such sweet gifts they were to my heart, and I knew, deep in my spirit, that they were directly related to my willingness.

Just the day before, God had invited me to walk with him in some ways that felt really daunting and vulnerable, and though I had no idea how things would turn out and knew that my choices could result in a complete, embarrassing fail, I accepted his invitation because that's just how I've learned to roll. I want to walk with Jesus… whatever that looks like and whatever that may cost because obedience brings such freedom and intimacy with him.

Over the years, I've learned to jump cliffs... learned to be willing to leap in any way God may call me. I trust him. I know that he loves me. And I'm completely confident he's in control and I'm tied on to him, regardless of what happens. So I jump. As Esther said, "If I perish, I perish." After all, what's one more cliff when you've already jumped hundreds?

And now, here I was, basking in the joy of what God had brought through my willing heart, through one more leap of faith and obedience. What an honor that he invites us to partner with him in the things he's doing and crafting in our lives! That just blows my mind and humbles me. He's God. He doesn't need our help, and yet he invites us to come alongside him in his work, and then he honors our willingness and obedience and blesses us beyond what we can imagine. How stunningly beautiful. 

What God can do with a willing heart...


"Jesus, I love you…"




Oh Trader Joe's… You make me so very happy. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways… 
One, two, three, four, five...


What does the word "willing" stir in your mind and heart? How might God be calling you to be willing and to partner with him in the things he's crafting in your life? I'd love to hear...



March 2, 2014

Hi there...

Hi there Friends,

A note to update you on blog happenings...

I was remembering this week that at this time last year, we were right on the brink of making some huge decisions. We knew God was moving us, but we weren't yet sure what that would look like… the when, the where, the how. But now, here we are, one year later and settled for over nine months in our new home, incredibly happy and content. What a difference time makes! It's really good for my heart to look back and remember where I've been. Sometimes I miss the progress and growth, the gifts along the way, if I don't.

The same is true with this blog. There's been much progress and growth here as well, and it's so good for me to look back and reflect on it. I've been writing for almost two years now and what a journey it's been! Pouring my heart out here in this space has stretched me and pulled me from all that's comfortable and safe. It's helped me find my voice… my place in the big, beautiful story God is telling. Though there have been times I've wanted to quit and throw in the towel, or maybe start a new blog, one that's easier to write like a cooking or home-decorating blog, I've kept going. I've kept being, and God has honored that. I'm deeply grateful.

One of my favorite verses is...

"He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me."
 ~Psalm 18:19

Those words have been so beautifully true of my life. Over the past decade, God has rescued me from much pain and heartache… delighting in me, setting me free, and bringing me into a spacious place. (insert huge sigh of relief and gratitude) and this blog alone is evidence of that. In the past week, this little corner of the Internet reached close to 11,000 pages views! And though numbers have never been or never will be what this blog is about, they do help to affirm what God's doing here. In his time, this blog has grown and become a spacious place, and I'm incredibly humbled, honored, and blessed by that. What a gift!

Thank you for your part in its growth and for your warm response to my post last week. Your affirming words, feedback and suggestions, were all much appreciated. God is on the move and exciting things are happening here… I just recently bought the rights to my blog and have a new domain now. This is officially www.beandkeepbeing.com! I also have a new email address, if you'd like to write to me. It's jenny at be and keep being dot com. I'd love to hear from you!

Thank you for your hearts, for joining me on this journey and for coming back to visit and read. It's my hope and prayer that you've found something of Jesus here... encouragement and inspiration for your own journey.

With love and blessings,

Jenny


Photo credits to Gray, who's becoming quite the photographer these days.


"If it's God's, then he's going to give you everything you need to accomplish his purposes."
~ Jennie Allen



February 28, 2014

What I Love Most About Life

The afternoon sun shone warmly through the windows as we stood in the kitchen and chatted while I started to make supper. We talked about her day at school and just generally about life… laughing, sharing, and confiding. I listened and offered, loving and affirming her as she talked, and she so beautifully did the same for me. What a gift to my heart this girl is.

"Momma, what's the one thing you love most about life?" she asked with a big smile on her face, her blue eyes dancing with curiosity. I stopped for a minute and thought. Hmmm…

I don't usually like those sorts of questions, though my kids love to ask me them. What's your favorite food? What's your favorite movie? If you were stranded on an island, what one thing would you want to take with you?… and so forth. I'm terrible at answering those questions because I can never pick just one thing. I have lots of favorites, lots of things I enjoy, and if I were stranded on an island, there's just way too many things I would want to take with me to limit it to just one.

But this time and with this particular question, I knew the answer. I knew right away that the one thing I love most about life is HOPE.

No matter how horribly life may unfold… no matter the struggle, the loss, the heartache, the tension or conflict we may know, there is always hope. ALWAYS. And that hope doesn't come from people, from this world, from any material thing, or any other source, that hope can only be found in Jesus and in him alone.

Nothing is impossible for him. NOTHING. He's all-knowing and all-powerful and all-wise, and he rules and reigns sovereignly over everything. He's constantly working and moving in our lives and on our behalf to bring about good, to bring forth his purposes. Whether or not we can see or feel it, it's true. There's always more that he has in store for us… more healing and life and love to be found. Things are never finished, over and done, bleak and useless. There is always hope.

In Proverbs 43:5 it says... 

"Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God."
~ The Message

Whatever your story is and wherever life may have you, put your hope in God. He sees you, my friend. He sees your pain and struggle. He knows every little detail of your life and he's working them all together for good. You can trust him. He loves you more than you can possibly imagine. And he is good. Oh, how he is good. Fall back into his arms and rest in the hope he so freely gives… a hope that cannot be shaken, stolen, or destroyed. Stand firm. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He has you. He wants to be your very hope. 


From our trip to the beach last summer… a rainbow, the promise of hope on the horizon.


"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."
~ Romans 12:12

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
~ Romans 15:13

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, 
to give you a future and a hope."
~ Jeremiah 29:11

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you."
~ Psalm 39:7 

February 22, 2014

Getting It Right

One morning this week, as I drove my son to school in my usual jammies and slippers and big heavy coat, we chatted about the day ahead and how much he loves sports.

He was telling me all about a game he once played and this one particular play where he felt really alive and strong and proud, and I listened and smiled and nodded as he talked. I was totally engaged and present, or so I thought, but unfortunately I got it all wrong.

When he finished telling me about his clever punts and passes, I said something like, "Ahhh… That's awesome, Dude. You're such a great athlete and I'm really looking forward to watching you play soccer this spring." 

And then he turned and looked at me with a blank stare, and being somewhat annoyed said, "Mom, I was talking about football."

Oops.

I quickly apologized and before I made the whole thing worse by defending myself, I thankfully chose humility over pride as he wondered if I was even listening to him in the first place. 

I don't know where my mind goes sometimes. Maybe some of you moms can relate. I'm listening to my kids, engaged, wanting to offer and be present, and yet I get all the details wrong, or sometimes never even hear them in the first place.

I'm sure some part of this is due to multi-tasking as if my life depends on it, and to thinking of a thousand different things at once, but still I hate it. I want to not only listen when they speak, but I want to really hear them, and I want them to KNOW I really hear them.

Michael and I are very blessed that our kids actually talk to us. I know that can be rare with teenagers. Both Jane Anne and Gray confide in us in ways that show their respect and trust, and I want to honor that and honor them, but still I don't always get it right.

And this is where grace and mercy comes in. Where I'm the one needing and asking for both, not my children. And this is where I trust that my children know my heart towards them, regardless of how I respond in the moment, and where I hope they know not only how much I love them, but how much I'm interested in every detail of their lives. And this would also be where I need to give myself huge amounts of grace and mercy for not being the perfect mom and not always getting it right. I'm not superwoman and I'm not God. I'm only human and I can very easily be a little crazy and scatter-brained at times. That, I KNOW, I'm getting right. (smile)


Jesus, thank you for your grace that covers me… my children, my relationship with them, our very hearts and lives. Thank you that you love and accept us, whether we get it right or not. May we offer that same unlimited grace to each other, and to ourselves. 




Of all the pictures we have of Gray playing sports over the years, I think this one may be my favorite. He looks like an angel about to take flight and I love the look of determination on his face. Oh how I love this boy and love being his momma.



February 21, 2014

Hi There...

Hi there Friends,

I hope this note finds you happy and well, enduring this long winter season with much grace and joy. Maybe it's warm and sunny where you live, or maybe it's cold and icy and snowy like where I live. Either way, I hope you are finding more of Jesus in it all. I certainly I am. There are so many beautiful metaphors to life to be found in this season. Though I want to rush to the balmy, green days of spring, there's much for me to learn yet in these still, quiet days of winter. I'll probably write more about that soon.


This is a first for my blog… a post in the form of a letter, but God is breathing some new life into this place and so I imagine this is just the beginning of many more firsts to come. Change is in the air and I feel it in my heart. God continues to call me up and out, drawing me from the shadows, asking me to offer more of my heart and life. I want nothing more than to walk with him in that so I'm excited to see what's ahead.

I've changed a few things on my site… updated my profile, what this blog's about, added Twitter, and I'm working on a few other changes as well. I'm writing to ask if you'd be willing to offer some feedback and suggestions. I would love to hear from you! Things such as...

What do you enjoy about this blog?

What inspires and encourages you here?

What would you like to see more of?

What would you like to see less of?

And more…

You choose the more. I'm all ears!

You're welcome to leave your responses in the comments section by clicking where it says "comments." If you don't have one of the accounts offered, you can leave your comment anonymously but please sign your name so I know who you are. It's my hope to respond to every comment so check back for my response, or you can also check the "notify me" box and it will be emailed to you.

You can also Tweet me, or message me on Twitter or Instagram if you follow me there. We have a private family Facebook account, but I hope to soon have one of my own so I can interact with you there as well.

Thank you, in advance, for offering your thoughts and suggestions. I really appreciate and value your feedback. And, as always, I'm very grateful for the time you take to read and share in my journey.

With love and grace,

Jenny



Scenes from the frozen tundra that has been my backyard. 
Spring is yet to be found, but it's coming. It will come. Hope upon hope.




 
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