November 3, 2014

Jesus Calling


"Lucy woke out of the deepest sleep you can imagine with the feeling that the voice she liked best in the world had been calling her name."

~ C. S. Lewis


When I was a girl and would lie in bed at night, in the dark and often afraid, I would hold my hands over my heart, the weight and warmth of them resting on my chest, and I would sing "Jesus Loves Me" quietly to myself.


It was an innocent, child-like response to the voice that called to me. A voice that invited me to rest, that settled my anxious heart, and helped to ease my fears. It was a voice that was safe and strong and ever so loving, and even as a child, it was a voice I knew I could trust.


I didn't know that voice then like I do now, all these years later. After many seasons of walking with Jesus, I've come to know his voice well and it's all the sweeter and more dear to me now from years of journey.


And still he calls to me… morning, noon and night… and assures me that he's always present, always with me, always for me. He brings comfort and hope and peace and rest. He reminds me that I have nothing to fear for I'm safe and secure in him, and he invites me to abide, to snuggle in tight and find my life in him.


His is the voice I like best in this world.




"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me."

~ John 10: 27-28


 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."

~ John 15: 5

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October 14, 2014

Here's My Heart, Lord...


I stood at the kitchen sink this morning rinsing the breakfast dishes, lost in thought, while David Crowder's "Here's My Heart" played on the stereo. Before I knew it, I was singing along at the top of my lungs on my knees in the middle of the kitchen floor, with arms raised high and tears streaming down my face, pouring my heart out to Jesus and, once again, offering him my heart and life.


I am found, I am Yours
I am loved, I'm made pure
I have life, I can breathe
I am healed, I am free

You are strong, You are sure
You are life, You endure
You are good, always true
You are light breaking through

You are more than enough
You are here, You are love
You are hope, You are grace
You're all I have, You're everything

Here's my heart, Lord….


I can honestly say that every one of those words, those stunningly beautiful and intimate lyrics, are true of my heart and life and what I've come to know and experience of Jesus. As I've walked a very dark and lonely path with him for many years now, those truths have been forever forged deep, deep down in the depths of my soul. They are truer than anything else I know, or anything else I've ever known, and the truth has set me so wonderfully free.




And as I'm coming to the end of that long and winding and difficult season, my heart is so very full. Brimming over and spilling forth. There is laughter and joy and strength and freedom and beauty and hope and passion like I've never known. I wouldn't trade the years of loss and suffering for anything, for what I've gained is a priceless treasure of heavenly worth that I carry with me now and will carry with me still in the beautiful world to come.


Here's my heart, Lord…


Here's my heart.




"How glorious the splendor of the human heart that trusts that it is loved."

~ Brennan Manning




Passion: "Here's My Heart" featuring David Crowder 


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October 13, 2014

Finding Life


I woke up this morning and lingered in my warm, cozy bed thinking about the day ahead. I was grateful it was Columbus Day, which meant a day off of school for our kids and a morning to move wonderfully slow without need of making breakfast, packing lunches, or rushing out the door. I felt happy and hopeful and rested, but even still, I was so aware of my need.


As I prayed a version of a prayer I pray every morning, not so much out of discipline, but more out of desperation and devotion… "Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I need you. Jesus, come. For my heart. For my day. For my family. For me. Be all that I need and more than enough," these words played across my mind...


"Every morning I'm dead on the floor until you come and pick me up and give me life."




I thought they might be the lyrics to a song, the words to a poem, or maybe they came from something I'd read. I wondered who wrote them and I made a mental note to google them later as I laid there and thought of how very true they were. Every morning I wake up virtually dead, thick-headed and groggy and needing coffee, yes, but more than anything, broken and empty and needing the One who gives me life. The only One who can give me life.


Jesus said in John 15:5...


"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; 
for without Me you can do nothing."


I've lived the pull-up-your-bootstraps life with equal parts self-will, self-motivation, and self-discipline with a good bit of self-reproach thrown in for good measure. It's miserable and futile and I've learned the hard way that it never works and it never will, but sometimes I still fool myself into thinking it might. I forget the relief and rest and joy that comes from giving up and laying down.


God created me to need him and to need him desperately and daily. Just as the verse says, he is the vine and I am the branch, without him I can do nothing. With great love, he calls me daily to die to myself, to my own efforts and will, to all the striving and arranging and controlling, and to find my life in him. 


He invites me to abide.


Deeply rooted.


Firmly secure.


Beautifully bearing fruit.


Later this morning, I googled those words but couldn't find them anywhere. They didn't come from a song or a poem or a book, they just came from my own heart… one that daily and desperately needs Jesus to pick her up and bring her life.


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August 28, 2014

So Long, Fear...


Dear Fear,

I'm writing to tell you that we're over.

We're done.

I'm breaking up with you.

I've broken up with you before, and I thought we were finished forever, but I was wrong.

I happily slammed the door in your face, bid you good riddance, and wiped my hands clean of you, but somehow, you weaseled in through the cracks and crevices and found your way back to my heart.

If I'm truly being honest, and I am, then I have to admit that I played a part in us getting back together. I cracked the door open ever so slightly, giving you space to crawl in. I listened to and entertained your whispers and lies, and I believed the things you said that weren't true but felt true… the what has been's, the what if's, and the what will be's.

I fell for you and I gave you ground, but now I'm taking it back.

Strangely somehow, your tempting and enticing lure, though false and debilitating and suffocating, is easier to give way to than truth. Truth requires trust and trust is so very vulnerable and risky. It calls for courage and strength beyond measure. It's jumping off a cliff blindly, unable to see the ground below, but believing that it's still there and you'll land safely on it. 

Trust is believing you'll be caught. 

Fear, on the other hand, is standing at the cliff, clinging tightly to the edge and to a false sense of safety and security. It doesn't require risk. It doesn't invite vulnerability. It never calls up courage. Fear stays small and refuses to jump, to give up control, to trust, and ultimately, to find life.

No more.

I'm done with clinging tightly to the edge.

I'm done with you, Fear.



Because I am a woman who listens to Love and not to fear. Who wants life in every way imaginable, regardless of whether it's safe, comfortable, or easy. I am a woman who risks, who trusts, who willingly jumps and takes the leap because she knows she'll be caught and she knows the One who catches her.

She knows him well.

And so that is why we are over.

Through and finished.

You and me.

For good.

For my good.

So long, Fear...



"Fear not, for I am with you."
~ Isaiah 41:10

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine."
~ Isaiah 43:1

"What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?"
~ Unknown

"She took the leap and built her wings on the way down."
~ Unknown




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August 5, 2014

Runner Woman

Though I like to run, and I'm trying to become better at it, I am not really a runner.

At least not in the long distance marathon sort of way.

But when I get out there on the pavement and my blood starts pumping and music is blasting in my ears, my feet take on a rhythm and pace all their own and something shifts in me and I start acting like a runner.

I become a runner.


I run fast and hard and I wave to the other runners as they pass me by, and when they don't wave back because they're tired or concentrating or maybe because waving isn't cool, I give them a little nod that says, "Hey! How's it going? We got this thing! We can do this!" And sometimes they look back at me like, "Seriously? Are you for real? You're not really a runner. You're just pretending to be one." And I just smile and give them a look that says, "Oh. Yes. I. Am. A. Runner. Watch me!" And then I take off and run as fast as I possibly can.

I get a little feisty out there on that hot, steamy pavement. Something comes alive in me, something wakens and stirs deep in my heart. The fog lifts. My mind is free and I can think and feel and see things clearly.

I do some of my best writing out there on those streets where words flow freely as sweat pours down my face and endurance and strength take deeper root in my heart.

God meets me there and runs with me. He reminds me of who I am and what I'm capable of. He cheers me on and gives me the nod that says, "You've got this. You are for real. You are a runner. I see you and I'm proud of you."

And to that, I pick up my pace and throw up my arms and run down those streets with everything I have and everything in me.

Unashamed.

Fierce.

Awake.

Alive.

Free.


"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, 
let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. 
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us."
~ Hebrews 12:1


"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. 
And when I run, I feel his pleasure."
~  Chariots of Fire


"Run like you stole something."
~ Unknown


"This girl is on fire..."
~ Alicia Keys

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July 14, 2014

Remembering


I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember, the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great is your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over) He’s all I’ve got left.
God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.

Lamentations 3:21-25 MSG




I woke up this morning remembering. 

Or rather, choosing to remember.

Remembering what's true… 

Of God. 

Of me.

Of my journey with him. 

Oh, what a precious gift it is to remember! How it rescues my heart, time and again. How it brings life back into focus and ushers in such comfort and hope. And oh, how desperately my heart needs it!

"But there's one thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope..."

YES.

Yes, we must hang on. We must hold fast. We must remember…

That his mercies are new every morning. He gives grace upon grace upon grace. He keeps no record of our faults, for he sees our beauty and not our sin. He calls us worthy and valuable. He calls us HIS. His love never fails, or runs dry and out. He's always faithful and so very good. He's with us and for us. He will never leave us, abandon us, or walk away. He's our refuge and strength… our strong tower. He rescues us. He saves us. He delights in us, and he even sings over us.

Don't forget. 

Remember.

Because by remembering, we keep a grip on hope. 


What truths are you remembering these days? What is God bringing to mind and etching on your heart? I'd love to hear…


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June 24, 2014

Kissing Waves


"I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages."
~ Charles Spurgeon ~


A dear friend is battling cancer for the second time and having a pretty rough go of it. Another friend's marriage is falling apart, and in just the past few weeks, I've learned of two families who've recently lost children… swept from this world at too young of an age, with so much life yet to live. And I have my own struggles, my own unique stories of suffering and loss, and I know you have yours as well.

Where do we go when trials come and tragedy strikes, and we're certain our hearts will break from the weight of them? Where do we run when fear and anxiety and sorrow hover close and threaten to steal our very breath? What could possibly ease the empty, bottomless ache of our souls and bring us any measure of comfort and peace?

I have learned, and I am still learning, to allow the waves of pain and suffering to wash over me because ultimately they drive me deeper and deeper to the heart of God. That is my safe place, where the pain in my heart is eased and peace comes in like a flood. There, on the bottom of the sea, where all is quiet and still and at rest. Where Jesus meets me and I am changed in his presence.




Jesus warned us that in this world we would have suffering, but he also encouraged us to take heart, to be courageous, to even be of good cheer, because he'd already overcome the world. (John 16:33) He promised us he came so we would have life, a rich and satisfying life, and we'd have it to the full with everything we could possibly need. (John 10:10) How do we interpret his words and wrap our heads around their truth when our hearts are so deeply broken and lost? How do we cling to his promises when life looks far from full and rich and satisfying, and we're pretty sure we don't have everything we need?

I think it's all about perspective. That's where the secret lies. I believe Jesus meant that even in the midst of pain and suffering and loss and trials, we can still have life to the full. In abundance. Spilling over. More than enough. If we look for it and find it, simply in and through him.

He is enough. His joy is our strength. He loves us beyond anything we could ever imagine. He is so very faithful, present and good. He sees all, he knows all, he hears all, and he's working all things together for our good. He is life. In and of himself… HE IS LIFE.

If we could see with the eyes of our hearts this beautiful mystery, we might learn to kiss the waves of pain and loss and suffering because they drive us to life. They drive us to God… straight to his ever-loving, fathering heart. And that is where our every need is met and life in all its rich and wonderful abundance is found… spilling over and more than enough.


"Let go my soul and trust in him, the waves and wind still know his name…"




"It is Well" 

Kristene DiMarco and Bethel Music



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April 30, 2014

Steadfast and Firm


Hello friends…

It's been awhile since I've checked in here. Actually, I've checked in a bit and I can tell by my stats that you have as well… thank you for that, for reading and following along even when things grow quiet around here… but I haven't been writing much over the past few weeks for various reasons. My kids were out of school for spring break, so I took the week off to hang with them and enjoy the slower pace. Then, Easter came with hope and new life, but I got sick with a stubborn stomach bug that lasted over a week. And then, on top of that, life unraveled during those days in some ways that sent me scrambling for solid ground and looking to find my feet again.

Whew.

We never know what the days will hold, do we? We never know what's ahead, what's coming around the bend. We journey along and all seems smooth sailing until a fierce storm blows in and knocks us off course. I can't imagine my life without Jesus to guide me and lead me, to hold me steady when the winds howl and the ground shifts beneath me. He is my anchor, my one true constant.

Just days before Easter, before I got sick and life got super messy, Jesus gave me this verse… these beautiful, life-giving words that I've been clinging to and holding close ever since.


"I will have no fear of bad news; my heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord."
~ Psalm 112:7


I say them out loud when I'm folding clothes, and on the treadmill, and when I'm driving in my car. I say them silently in my heart and pray them through my mind as I chat with a friend, or walk the grocery aisles. They keep me focused. They give me context. They keep my eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, and they're so very true of my deepest heart, the way I want to live.

There's great power in the spoken word, in claiming truth over our hearts and lives. It's good for my heart to remind myself of what's true… to dwell on it, simmer in it, speak it aloud, and hold it close. And it's also very good as well to remind the enemy of what's true. To say outloud… "This is what's true. This is what I believe. This is what I'm claiming. This is my heart, and I make no agreement with anything else, anything contrary to this truth."




We have to fight for the life we long for, the life we so desperately prize. We live in a world at war… there is good and there is evil. There is God and there is Satan. We have to stand firm, guard our hearts, and set our minds on truth. It makes such a difference in the way we live, in the way our days play out. It's so incredibly worth the fight. 

Whatever it is that you're facing, my friend, and we all face something... claim what is true. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Stand steadfast and firm, trusting in him. You have nothing to fear. He will come for you. He always does. Just watch and see...

"Jesus, I love you. I worship you and give my life over to you. Every bit. Every part. All of it. I will have no fear of bad news because my heart is steadfast, firmly rooted in you. Anchored. Nailed down. Safe and secure. I trust you with all of my heart, with all of my life. I am yours."





"Let it be Jesus" by Christy Nockels, Kari Jobe, and the Passion Band




This song is currently playing on repeat, often and always, around our house these days. It's lyrics are my heart and I sing them loud, though not well, and I hold them close and claim them as truth. What are you claiming as truth these days, friends? How is God speaking to you and coming for your heart? I would love to hear...



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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. Simply because you are his. 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




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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 holding up my head, 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 knows 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



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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 blessed I am to call him mine, but I'll save all the warm, gushy love feelings 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!



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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


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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.


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.

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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...



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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



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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 

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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.



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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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February 5, 2014

Perfectly Imperfect

Last May, I read this post, "Why You Should Show Off Your Imperfections" on Storyline blog, and was encouraged by the author's thoughts on perfectionism. I wrote a post in response to his thoughts but only left it up for a day or so. It was far from perfect and needed some good, strong editing that I didn't have the time to give it. So, almost a year later, here it is again, edited, but still imperfect, which is really what I'm after anyway. (smile)

This post got me thinking about how fast I want to run from perfectionism and throw it off like a thick, bulky coat on a hot summer day. I don't want to be perfect, or need to be perfect, and I definitely don't want the toxic fear and control perfectionism creates and breeds. I don't want it anywhere near me, or near those I love, and I certainly don't want to be the one carrying it around and throwing it on others.

But…  I'm not quite there yet. I have all the makings of a perfectionist and I dabble in the craft much more often than I would like or care to admit. Somehow, I wrongly assume that if everything is in order and seemingly perfect… my schedule, my house, my children, my husband, and me… well, then life will be in order and seemingly perfect, too. Plus, it will feel somewhat safer, more predictable and manageable, and that's the way I like it. False security is probably a good name for it.




When life feels scattered and nuts, when my inner world is rocked and I'm scrambling for solid ground, I find myself making lots of lists, organizing drawers and closets, and fluffing the pillows till they're just so. I straighten the pictures on the wall, arrange the books on the coffee table till they're fully aligned, and I wipe down the counters until there isn't a crumb or smudge to be found. And I do all of this like I breathe… without even thinking about it. I somehow figure that if my outer world is perfect and in order, then my inner world will be too, and all the arranging and straightening and wiping just makes me feel better.

It's RIDICULOUS.

Life is not perfect. We all know that. Just a look at the day's news proves that true. Life is messy and organic and raw, far from pretty, and often quite ugly. We live in a fallen world. Good exists, but evil does too, and this is neither Eden or Heaven. Not only do difficulties and messes and accidents and conflicts happen each and every day, but so do horrible tragedies. It's both futile and impossible to try and prevent them and create and manage a perfect life. It can't be done and to live trying to do so only brings bondage and strife. We'd be so much better off if we recognized that and turned from our perfecting, controlling ways.




There's great beauty and freedom that comes from living perfectly imperfect, real, and honest lives... lives that rely on and rest in God, in his ability to bring good from evil, to turn messes into masterpieces, and to take what is terribly flawed and make it perfect. He never intended for us to hold the world or ourselves together. We are not and will never be in control. He is.

Gratefully, as I become ever more a woman who's free and alive and resting in Jesus, I dabble in perfectionism less and less. But when I do catch myself going there, I purposely mess up the stack of books on the coffee table and leave dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. I don't take a shower and put on makeup, and I stay in my yoga pants, or better yet, my jammies, all day long. I don't make my bed, I let the dust collect on the furniture, and I tell myself to get a grip, lay it down and let it go.




Thank goodness, I don't take myself as seriously as I used to. I know I'm far from perfect and I'm more grateful than ever for God's grace. I really don't need or strive to have it all together anymore, which is such a wonderful thing, because not only am I much more fun to be around, Lord knows I'm terrible at faking it. (smile)


 Am I speaking your language here? Does any of this sound familiar? Do you also have all the makings of a perfectionist? Feel free to share in the comments below, if you'd like. I won't judge you. I'm right there with you and so grateful for a God who doles out endless amounts of grace and patience.


These are perfectly imperfect photos from my home on a random weekday. Though my bathroom and laundry room were a mess, my kitchen sink was looking pretty good, I must say. (winks)



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January 27, 2014

I've Got This

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed this morning and came across a picture of a beautiful star-filled night sky, and stretched across it were these words...


"I made all of this out of nothing.
Trust me, I can take care of you."
~ God


They caught my attention and made me chuckle a bit. Yes, God did make the stars, the sky, the planets, the earth, the universe and everything else out of absolutely nothing, so, of course, he's completely capable of taking care of me.

I know this IS true. I know this to BE true. I've seen him work in my life time and time again, yet it's almost comical and sad how much I forget it. How much easier it is instead to try to figure out life on my own and make it happen, as if I need to take care of myself. I pull up my boot straps and stand up straight and plow through as gracefully as possible while attempting to dodge the daily bullets of stress and conflict and shield myself from suffering and pain. 




Without even realizing it, I can too easily live as if I'm on my own and it's all up to me. With surprisingly little effort, I find myself fixing, protecting, controlling, and pleasing, all in an effort to create a safe, manageable, and predictable life. But not only does it rarely work, it's a wrong and false and godless way to live.

Part of it is due to being human and living in a fallen world, and part of it is due to my own unique story, to the things I've experienced in life and the ways I've been hurt. But I am not defined by this world, or by my story, nor by my wounds. I am defined by God and God alone… his work on the cross for me, his love and heart for me. He never intended for me to live alone or on my own, he created me to find my life in him.




I love the scripture…


"In repentance and rest, you will be saved.
 In quietness and trust is your strength." 
~ Isaiah 30:15


I'm learning that it's in repenting of trying to live life on my own and in turning away from self sufficiency that I'm saved. It's in daily dying a thousand deaths to my own will and plans that I'm rescued. And it's in quieting and calming my heart and mind before God and trusting him to take care of me that I find my strength. 

I don't want to live life on my own. My deepest desire is to walk with God, dependent on him and trusting him solely and completely to take care of me. I'm so keenly aware of my need for him and more confident than ever in his love for me, his ability to care for and come through for me. 

When I catch myself responding to life out of fear or control or self-sufficiency, I'm reminded of this scripture and I make a conscious choice to turn from the fixing, protecting, controlling, and pleasing and turn instead towards Jesus… towards repentance and rest, quietness and trust. I lay down all of my cares and plans and pray out loud, "Jesus, I love you and I trust you. You will perfect what concerns me. My times are in your hands."

And, as I pray, I sense a smile on his face and in my heart I hear his comforting words...


"Yep. I've got this."





"Give up the illusion that you deserve a problem-free life. Part of you is still hindering for resolution of all difficulties. This is a false hope! As I told my disciples,"in the world you will have trouble." Link your hope not to problem solving in this life but to the promise of an eternity of a problem-free life in heaven. 
Instead of seeking perfection in this fallen world, 
pour your energy into seeking me: the perfect one."
~ from "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young




These photos were taken in the woods behind our home on a cold and  foggy winter morning.



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January 20, 2014

It's Too Big

When my girl was little, she would play for hours and hours in her room, pulling out every last toy she owned to bring to life all the dreamy ideas floating around in her cute little head, and as those ideas grew and ran wild and free, so also did the mess in her room.

Many times, I remember well standing at her door and looking in, stunned silent with my mouth hanging open. How could such a precious little creature make such a humonstrous and overwhelming mess? Honestly, it was dangerous to even step foot inside because trust me when I tell you how badly it hurts to step on tiny toys like Legos and plastic jewelry and Barbie accessories and so forth.

When she'd stop for a second to look up from her "work" and see me standing there, she'd greet me ever so cheerfully, without a care in the world, totally oblivious to the mess that had rendered me speechless. I'd tiptoe across her room, desperately trying to avoid injury and the horror of possibly stepping on her toys and breaking them. I'd look for a clear spot where I could sit and visit with her for a bit but those were hard to find. Typically, her creativity took up every square inch of her room including the floor, her bed, and her kiddie-sized table and chair set. There was very little free space, I assure you.




But once I'd find a place to sit, I would try hard not to mention the mess of gigantic proportions and instead praise her inventive mind. I'd ask her to tell me all about what she was playing and pretending and she'd go on and on, happily describing it all to me. It was really quite precious and I treasure those memories, especially now that she's almost seventeen years old. (How is that possible?? GASP and SOB)

But as the day would come to an end, so would the inevitable… cleaning up the mess. I'd peek my head in her room and say ever so kindly but clearly, "Sweetie, it's almost time for dinner and Daddy will be home soon. You need to start putting away your toys and cleaning up your room." And she'd say, "Okay, Momma," in her sweet happy voice. But when I'd come back to check on her progress, there would be the mess still overtaking her room and there would be her… still playing.

I don't think she meant to disobey me and not do what I'd asked, she just couldn't stop her mind from dreaming and creating. But eventually the time would come when I'd have to get really firm with her and tell her to stop playing, clean up her room, and do it now. It was then that she'd realize the magnitude of the mess she'd made and the work involved and the tears would start to flow. "I can't do it!" she'd cry, "IT'S TOO BIG!" and after much fussing and sobbing and very little cleaning, she'd perk up and say with a smile spreading across her tear-stained face, "It's TOO big… BUT Daddy will help me."




And both wonderfully and unfortunately, that was true. She knew he would help her because he almost always did. After dinner, the two of them would set to work picking up and putting away every little treasure. Though it drove me a bit nuts because I felt she needed to learn responsibility and how to clean up after herself, it really was the sweetest thing to see the two of them working together. And though I wished she'd do more of the work herself, I loved that she was so completely confident that her Daddy would help her. She knew he would come to her rescue. She knew she could trust him and count on him to help her clean up the mess she'd made.

What a perfect metaphor and beautiful picture of what Jesus does for us. In our humanness and woundedness and sin, we can make such a mess of our lives and sometimes those messes are so big we don't even know where to start or where to begin to clean them up. It's all just too big. We can't do it. It's overwhelming and heartbreaking and we know we can't go it alone. We need someone to sweep in and rescue us and help us clean up the mess we've made. 

God does that for us. 

Not only does he send his son to die on the cross, forgive us of our sins, and set us free, but daily he walks with us, guides us, and helps us. He even says, "I'm here. Sit back. I've got this. Rest and relax. I'll clean up the mess." And he does it for us. He wipes our tears, calms our hearts, cleans up the chaos, and restores order once again.

He says…


“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” 
~Matthew 11:28-30


Just like my girl trusted that her Daddy would come through for her and help her, we can be confident that Jesus will do the same for us. We can trust him. He is present and able and he loves us more than what is humanly possible. He longs to care for us, to rescue us, to clean up every mess we've ever made, and to bring us life in all its glory and fullness.



"Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you,
He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.
O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. 
He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you."
~ Isaiah 30:18-21



The pictures above don't really do justice to the tremendous mess that sweet little girl could make. And even now, all these years later, she's still capable of making quite a terrific mess of her room. Sometimes, I still stand at her door with my mouth hanging open. However, her Daddy and I don't help her clean it up anymore and we've come to the realization that that's just our girl. Though we're here for her in many, many ways, she's on her own when it comes to her room. (smile)


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