The Roundabout Way

When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle. -Exodus 3:17-18.

I hope you had a fantastic ThanksOver celebration with your friends and families. I had one of the best ones ever. The food was over the top delicious and my home was filled with laughter and good conversations. The only thing that would’ve made it better would’ve been the presence of the three family (or close to being official family) members that couldn’t make it this year.

Wednesday and Thursday I was over the moon excited about just about everything in my life. I was singing the song Promised Land over and over so much that at times I woke up in the night singing it. I could see the Promised Land for me and my family. Friday I was happy about my Promised Land, but no longer excited. Saturday, I was blah. I didn’t really have the energy to think about my Promised Land. By this morning I was like “I don’t really want to hear or think about my Promised Land.”

Do you ever get like that? Do you ever find yourself all excited about God’s promises one day, and within 72 hours not only do you barely believe them, but you actually feel irritated by the thought of them?

There isn’t anything specific that took me from the place of claiming my land to running from it. It’s not like we had something bad occur in the last 72 hours. I simply had the perfect storm of subtle things that brought me from excited to irritated. My hubby has a horrible cold so I have been sleeping (barely) on the couch. The predicted blizzard ended up being more of a 72 hour prison hold where the snow didn’t amount to much, but you still shouldn’t be out driving, which kept me home and away from my prayer meeting and church service. No sleep. No jailbreak. No church. No good!

That bad trifecta left me open to the snake. This morning the Did God Really Say…thoughts began. This time they showed up in the form of When God When? and How Long? 

When God when will I ever write more than an introduction in a book?

When God when will Tom be free from all infirmities?

When God when will I stop going around some of these same mountains in my life?

How long will I be at this job that I am so bored, yet also overwhelmed by?

How long until the desires of my heart are fulfilled?

These thoughts should’ve had me running straight into the Presence of God. I should’ve sat down with my Bible, journal, and pen and let Abba Father’s love wash over me and bring me back to that place of faith, peace, and joy. That’s what I should’ve done…

Instead, I sat in my devotional chair with my Bible, journal, and pen next to me, half heartedly listening to an online church service while online shopping. Mostly for myself. Buying warm and cozy things to make me feel better. Things I don’t need but wanted. How’s that for transparency? How’s that for an example of What Real Women Do when they are tired, hormonal, and tired of the fight?

I ran from God until 3:33pm at which point I couldn’t take it any longer. I poured my heart out to Him. I told him how I was tired and sick of the fight. I told him I didn’t understand why it had to be so hard. I told him I was sick of hearing about the Promised Land and not living in it. I told him I was sick of taking one step forward and two steps back.  I let it all out and held nothing back.

I then opened my Bible and began reading where I left off the other day in Exodus. God answered the cries of my heart in Exodus 3:17-18. When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.

I have always looked at the wilderness as a place of preparation. A place where God prepared you by burning out all of the things that cannot come with you into the Promised Land. Things like unbelief, idolatry, fear, doubt, etc. I still see it as that, but I confess I also saw it as kind of a place of withholding.

Remember when your kids were little and they disobeyed you? When my kids were little the “naughty mat” was a common form of discipline. You placed your child on the “naughty mat” and had them think about what they had done. They were not allowed off the naughty mat for a certain amount of minutes (I think one minute per year of age) and they had to give a sincere apology after their time was up. Right or wrong, that was common a decade or so ago.

I didn’t realize until my meltdown today that I have viewed the wilderness as somewhat of God’s “naughty mat”.  Where God says, “You’re going to stay in this place until you no longer do X, Y, and Z. Then, and only then can you get off the wilderness naughty mat and go play in the Promised Land. And f course, you must offer a sincere apology for all the ways you missed it and disobeyed while you were here.”

Somehow I forgot to view the wilderness through the lens of Abba Fathers’ relentless love for us. Everything He does is out of love. When I read those verses today I see that the main reason He brings us the long way, through the wilderness, is to protect us. He doesn’t want us freaking out when we see what lies ahead. The vision and dreams He has for us are so much bigger than the dreams and visions we have for ourselves. If we truly saw where He is leading us we would probably run back to the comforts of Egypt. The place of bondage and pain, but familiar and comfortable nonetheless.

The primary reason for the wilderness route is to protect us from fear. The Israelites had spent the last 430 years in slavery and bondage. They had forgotten how powerful and mighty God was. They had also forgotten they were God’s chosen ones. If they had seen the Philistine giants they would ran right back to Egypt. They had been beaten and told they were worthless for years. It was going to take a while to undo some of the damage that had been done to them in Egypt.

The same is true for us. Until we fully understand who God is, and who we are in Christ, we will run in fear every time we are faced with a battle. However, once we realize who we are, well, there is not a giant in the land that can scare us into running back to Egypt, (or online shopping :).

The wilderness is real. We all go through it. We go through it because God loves us. It’s true that even though God took them the “longer way”, it was the Israelites that made it as long as it was. The longer way was only 12 days journey. As you know, it took them 40 years. That is why we are going to stay in the Old Testament for awhile. We are going to learn from those that have traveled the wilderness before so we can avoid some of the pitfalls that lead to delay in our Promises being fulfilled. We are going to study it remembering to look at the lessons through the lens of God’s love for us. Any other lens distorts the truth of the journey.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for your fierce and relentless love. Thank you for waiting for us with open arms at all times. Thank you for your patience as we run and wrestle and struggle with understanding and believing your Promises. Thank you that you love us so much that you lead us through the wilderness and away from any battles we are not ready for so that we do not run in fear back to the things we were once in bondage to. Thank you for not only hearing the cries of our hearts but answering them. Thank you for your Promises. I ask for the gift of faith to increase in each of us so we may understand and comprehend your Promises. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

 

Embracing the Roundabout Way,

Jen

 

 

 

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Possess the Land!

Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.'”- Joshua 1:10-11 NKJV

 

Last Friday was the first time that I had “published” anything in almost two years. I have been writing in the form of journaling, almost every day since I fell off the blog radar, but I have not put pen to paper in the form of publicly publishing anything for anyone else to read.

I don’t know how to explain it other than to say last Friday I could not NOT do it any longer. I couldn’t sit on all of these things I have experienced over the years- especially the last two. I felt I was about to explode if I didn’t release some of the things that are stirring within me. Even though I didn’t have, and still don’t have, a clear idea of what to say or how to say it, I have to start somewhere. I have to start “possessing the land” I believe God has given me.

Last night I had one of the most obvious lightbulb moments. It was so obvious that I found it ridiculous that I hadn’t truly seen it before. I am not sure if you are familiar with the book of Joshua but here is the shortest EVER “cliff note version” of the book: Joshua and Caleb were the only two men permitted to cross over into the Promised Land that God had promised to Moses and the Israelites when he used Moses to set the people from from Egyptian captivity. Because of fear, unbelief, disobedience, etc. the others, including Moses, were not permitted to go. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. When the last of that generation died, the Lord commanded Joshua to finally go possess the land.

Most of you I am sure have heard the account of the first battle, the first “possession of the land”. It was the battle of Jericho. If you need a refresher of the account you can read it in Joshua 6. It is one of the most frequently taught Sunday School stories as it is epic, and shows just how mighty the Lord is.

Even though I have heard and read the story a million times (ok maybe 100 times), somehow I have overlooked this one thing. This one lightbulb moment thing. This one life changing, land possessing thing. Would you like to hear it?

Even though God had given them the land, they still had to cross over to claim it. They had to step onto the battlefield and into the battle in order to possess it. 

LIGHTBULB!!!

You see I have believed for many years that the Lord has a special possession for me and my family. I have known of my inheritance. I may not know the details but I have a pretty good picture of what my land looks like. I have a pretty good picture of my role in it. What I have lacked was the faith to cross over and possess it.

I have waiting for the Lord to “scatter my enemies” (fear, doubt, unbelief, hurt, etc) so I could go possess the land. Last night I heard the gentle voice of the Lord say “The enemy won’t scatter until you step foot on the land and begin to possess it.”

Woah!

LIGHTBULB! LIGHTBULB! LIGHTBULB!

The light turned on so bright that I thought I was going to explode. So here I am. Taking another step on MY land. FOR I WILL POSSESS THE LAND WHICH THE LORD, MY GOD, HAS GIVEN ME TO POSSESS!

You know the other “rule” the Lord gave Joshua? He told Joshua that all 12 tribes had to fight together to possess each tribes land. There would be no “each man for himself” mentality. They ALL crossed over together. They all fought side by side so that each one of them could possess their land.

That is why I am sharing this with you. I am sharing my trials and triumphs, my mistakes, and my lightbulbs moments. I am sharing it all because together we are all going to possess our land! Not one of my Sisters is getting left in the wilderness! We are crossing over together! We are possessing our land. Prepare your hearts. Gather your provisions. Get ready. The battle has already been won for us, but we MUST step foot on the battlefield. When we do our enemies will scatter!

I can already hear some of you say “I don’t even know what my land is!” That’s ok. The first thing you need to do is believe that you have a land. And once you believe you have a land, the Lord will reveal what it looks like, and what you need to do to begin possessing it. We ALL have a Promised Land. Some of the land is the same for all of us according to His Word, but we also have individual lands to possess. It is our inheritance as daughters of the Most High God! Hallelujah!

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for your goodness and grace, your kindness and mercy. Thank you for being a good, good, Father. I thank you Abba (daddy) that you are waking up your daughters to who we are. I thank you that you are stirring the dreams and visions we have carried in our hearts for so long. I thank you that you are raising up a warrior Bride that knows who she is, and what she is capable of. I ask you today Holy Spirit to reveal to each and every one of us what our land looks like and what our next step is in possessing it. In Jesus’ mighty, glorious, and beautiful name, AMEN!

 

Possessing the land,

Jen

 

 

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Pick It Back Up!

Now you are ready, my bride, to come with me as we climb the highest peaks together. Come with me through the archway of trust. – Song of Songs 4:8 The Passion Translation

Wow. Where to begin. It’s been almost two years since I have posted a blog. I am not even sure if I remember how to do it (guess we will find out in a few minutes 🙂

The Lord had me lay down my writing for a season. He had me lay down A LOT of things over the last two years. I had to lay them down as I entered into an intense season of pruning, cleansing, and healing.

To be honest, laying down my writing wasn’t too difficult for me. I have laid it down many times and in many ways over the years. I have nicely and obediently laid it down. I have thrown it down. I have thrown it down and stomped on it in hopes it would go away. I have thrown it down and ran the other way as fast as I could from it (which is funny because I am the slowest runner EVER). Laying it down, yeah, not a problem…

You know what is a problem? Hearing the Lord tell me to pick it back up.

I was at church one night in praise and worship. We were singing Lay it all DownI was minding my own business pouring out my praise to God when suddenly I heard Him say “Do you know what’s harder than laying it all down?”

First of all, for those of you who are asking “What do you mean you heard God speak to you? How does God speak to you?” Let me simply say YES. He speaks to me. He also speaks to YOU. You just may not realize it yet. The Word says in John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  Wow. What a beautiful promise. I could spend a day just unpacking that. And we will at some point. Right now I just want you to understand that the Living God speaks to YOU! (ps- this “speaking” is not generally audible but at times it is SO strong and so REAL that it almost seems as though it is)

I have learned that when God asks me a question, He already knows the answer (duh), so I simply responded with “No, what?” “Picking it back up again”, I heard Him whisper.

Well that pretty much halted worship for me as my mind started racing. “Pick what back up?” I knew immediately that He was referring to my writing but I confess I was kind of playing dumb because I was not ready to “go there”.

I was not ready for the heartache. I was not ready for another dead end. I was not ready for the frustration. I was not ready for my hope to be deferred once again.

That moment lead to the final phase of pruning, cleansing, and healing. The moment where I had to decide if I truly trusted the Lord. Did I trust the Promises He has spoken to me over the years? Did I trust the gifts He has placed within me? Did I trust Him when He said I am ready? Did I, could I, truly trust Him with my heart?

I would love to say my immediate answer was “YES!” to all of those questions, but it wasn’t. He told me to pick it back up about three months ago. The Lord and I had to work (and burn) a few more things (lies) out before I could walk with Him through the archway of trust.

So here I am. This is my first official step in picking it back up AGAIN. I am not sure what it looks like, though I am sure it will look different, as I am different. I am forever changed. Thank you Jesus!

So you may be saying “Good for you, Jen. I am glad to see you writing again.” Well before you start celebrating on my behalf and cheering me on, let me assure you of this: HE IS ALSO TELLING YOU TO PICK IT BACK UP! Whatever “it” is. It’s time to pick it back up! It’s time for the Church, the Bride of Christ, to do what she was created to do. It’s time for each and every one of us to “pick it back up” and run our race so we accomplish the good work He planned for each and every one of us.

It is time to enter the archway of trust.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for being a good, good Father. I thank you for your fierce love for us. I thank you that your Promises are YES! and Amen! I thank you for each and every person that will come across this Word. I pray Lord that they would each hear your voice as you encourage them to “pick it back up”.  I break off all fear that would rise up in the hearts of those that want to move forward in their call but are afraid because of past hurts, pain, failures, dead ends, and any other thing that has come against them in the past. I thank you for clarity of vision and strength of spirit for your sons and daughters. I thank you that you speak to them and root out and expose any lies that are hindering them. I thank you for your healing that will leave each and everyone of us ready to enter into the plans and purposes you have for us through the archway of trust. In Jesus’ most holy and mighty name, Amen.

 

Picking it back up,

Jen

 

 

 

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Fan the Flames

I remember the day I met with my beautiful publishing friend. She asked me what I had been writing and I told her all of the excuses I had for why I wasn’t. She sat there nicely and listened. The final excuse I gave was that I didn’t have a laptop or computer anymore. She promptly got up, walked into a closet and came out with a pen and some yellow legal pads. She plopped them in my lap and said “You cannot bring God glory if you do not use your gift.” She said it because she loves and cares about me but boy did it sting. That moment has haunted me for the last few years.

I would like to say I left her office with a new resolve and desire to write, but I didn’t. I left her office feeling like my writing ship had sailed and no one seemed to understand that. I had stepped out in faith only to hit what I believed to be a dead end one too many times and I didn’t have the faith or the heart to try again.

It says in 2 Timothy 1:6-7 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a Spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self discipline.

Though I have read these two scriptures many times over the years, it wasn’t until this weekend that I put them together. I think many of us fail to use our gifts in the way God intended because we are filled with fear, doubt, and insecurity. We lack the discipline go the distance and fight against the obstacles that will inevitably arise whenever we attempt to live the life God called us to.

That is why Paul reminds Timothy that all of the things he may be feeling are not valid excuses for not using his gifts. His feelings are valid, but the Spirit of God living and dwelling inside of Timothy gives him everything he needs to overcome what he may be feeling. The same is true for all of us.

Paul also encourages Timothy to fan into flames his gift. Though I had an idea of what that meant, I looked it up online to make sure and this is what I found: to intensify or stir up feelings, exacerbate and explosive situation. 

It is often referenced in a way that makes a situation worse. However, when read in the context of Paul’s letter I see it as encouragement. I believe Paul is telling us that we need to keep using our gifts so when the time comes we are ready to ignite with full power the gifts we have been given.

You cannot run a marathon without training. You cannot even run a sprint without training (without hurting yourself anyway). That is why we need to fan the flames of our gift. We need to train and practice our gifts so when the time comes for us to operate in all of it’s power, we are ready to ignite. When we find ourselves in this place, fear and timidity do not stand a chance!

If your fiery gifts have been rained on, I encourage you to take a step of faith and start using them again. Stir up those dreams! Stir up the visions God gave you! Stir up the passionate desires you once had! Whatever let downs you may have had in the past no longer matter. Leave it in the past. All that matters now is what lies ahead. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that it’s good!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce love of me! Thank you for the gifts and talents you have placed within me. Thank you for giving me the courage to fan the flames again. Give me a renewed sense of hope, purpose, and desire to use my gifts. Bring me opportunities to use my gifts. Ignite my gifts in an explosive way that changes the lives of those around me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Explosive Gifts,

Jen

 

 

 

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From a Whisper to a Scream

I said I was going to listen to my own advice. I was going to listen for the gentle whisper of the Lord in the decision I needed to make. I quote “I am going to resist the urge to try to figure it out. I am going to trust God’s word that says he delights in the details of my life. Most of all, I will stay in his Word. The answers to the smallest questions are often found in the perfect Word at the perfect time.

I meant it. I was not going to think about the job I was considering applying for. I was not going to churn it in my mind until it became butter. I was going to “cease striving and relax and know that He is God” as Psalm 46:10 instructs us to do.

As I laid my head on my pillow Monday night I felt as though I heard the Lord whisper to my heart and assure me that everything was going to be fine when I returned to work the next morning. I thought I had my answer. I shouldn’t apply for the job.

As I drove to work I prayed and gave myself the same motivational pep talk I often give myself on my way to work. I assured myself that it was going to be a great year. I reminded myself that reentry is always tough the first week or so returning from summer break. I couldn’t judge the year by the first week.

As I got nearer to the door I felt my steps getting heavier and heavier. I opened the door and took a few steps in. I stopped at the secretary’s desk and just stood there. One of my friends was at the desk also. I just froze. They asked what was wrong. I told them “I can’t do it. I can’t do this again. I want to get back into my car and drive home”. I stood there for a minute feeling as though I might have a panic attack.

Is that what a gentle whisper sounds like? It felt more like a violent internal scream! I just sat at my desk, staring at my computer and my blinking message light on my phone. All I kept thinking is “I can’t do it. My heart is no longer in it.”

I understand this may sound dramatic to you. I understand that many people find a job and stay there content, happy, and thankful. I admire those people. I am not one of them. I get upset with myself for not being one of them but that really does me no good. I am who I am and I need to feel passionate about the work I do and the places I spend my time and energy.

Is the extreme discontent the sound of a gentle whisper, or is it the scream of a big baby that needs to grow up, be thankful for what she has and stop sniveling? I don’t know…

I do know this. I know it says in Proverbs 16:9 A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life] But the LORD directs his steps and establishes them.

Sometimes we don’t hear the gentle whisper because our own desires are screaming too loud. Sometimes the screaming desires are the ones the Lord has given us and that is in fact what is directing us. I know it is confusing. I wish it was as neat and tidy as I made it seem on Monday. It’s not. Sometimes faith is messy, and confusing, and try as we might we just do not know 100% what we are supposed to do.

Here’s what I do know. I know God is good and He loves us even when we aren’t sure which end is up. He knows our heart and if we make a move in error He will bring us back to our proper path. He will not let us go astray to “teach us a lesson”. If we diligently seek Him and are unsure, we simply make plans as best we can as we journey through life, and trust that He will direct and establish our steps.

I applied for the job. I am excited and nervous. My friend and I prayed prior to hitting the submit button that God would open the door if it is right and close it if it is incorrect. If I missed the whisper then I trust He will give me fresh grace for another year right where I am at.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for directing and establishing my steps. Thank you for your Word that promises you will bring us to the proper path and plan for our lives. Thank you for bringing me peace in the process. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Established Steps For Us All,

Jen

 

 

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The Smoke In Our Lives

One of my favorite things to do at the cabin is to sit outside at night and gaze at the moon and stars. The moon is huge and the stars are brighter than anywhere else I have ever been. It feels like if I took a running start and jumped off the diving board I could grab hold and swing from one.

Due to the forest fires north of us I have not seem a single star in the the nine days we have been here. Tonight the smoke is so bad I cannot even see the moon. It is pitch black outside when there would normally be moon and star reflections dancing on the water. The smoke has stolen my vision.

In Calvin Miller’s book Into the Depths With God he writes “In 1 Corinthians 6:12, the apostle Paul reminds us that while all things may be permitted some things aren’t good for us. Those things that steal my vision for God are not good for me.”

The question I have been asking God  is “Is there anything in my life that needs to go (or needs to start) in order to live the life you created me to live?” In other words “Is there any smoke in my life that is stealing my vision?”

I return to work next week. I also return to being a youth leader, a mom with kids in activities, and all that goes with it.  Last year I was so busy and often overwhelmed that I didn’t even, couldn’t even, think of writing. I also didn’t have much time to take care of myself. I cannot have another year at that pace.

The thing is- I don’t feel like I spent time doing wasteful things. I am not a tv or Netflix person, and this blog is my only form of social media. Those are the two most common time wasters. I am lucky if I can get through a chapter of a book without falling asleep at night. When I looked at my schedule it seemed as though everything I spent my time on was good and/or necessary. I didn’t know what I could cut out.

As my last days of summer go by I am seeking God for wisdom and direction. I cannot afford to have any smoke stealing my vision for God. Neither can you. I encourage you to ask God the same question. The stars and the moon that are waiting behind the smoke are worth a million times more than anything the smoke can offer!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for who you are. Thank you for loving me. Thank you caring about the intimate details of my life. Thank you knowing what is best for me. I ask you to show me anything in my life that is taking me away from the call you have on my life. I want nothing more than to have you be the center of my vision. Speak to my heart and show me what changes I need to make in order to live my life to the full measure you have created me to live. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Smoke Free Life To You All,

Jen

 

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She’s Living My Life!

I am currently on our annual family vacation to Washington. We are here for twelve days and the forecast is high 90’s every day without a single cloud. I am so thankful we are right on the lake!

We flew this year so I could not bring my paddle board. I was bummed but there is still plenty to do here so I wasn’t too concerned about it. We arrived Tuesday around noon and the first thing I noticed was that the entire lake was pure glass. It is never like that during the day! Usually you need to go out first thing in the morning or wait until after dinner to get water like that, and even then there are usually still ripples in places.

I just stood there on the dock staring at the water. It felt like it was taunting me. How dare it be so calm midday when my paddle board is two thousand miles away? It is never like this in Minnesota either. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity (in my dramatic mind anyway). It remained smooth as glass all day and night. I couldn’t believe it.

I was so thankful on Wednesday to see that the lake was it’s normal rippling self. No more taunting and teasing. Tuesday had simply been a fluke. Or so I thought.

I woke up today and once again the lake was pure glass. It really is something. It is so calm and serene and looks like a postcard. I don’t know why I find it so fascinating but I do. I had come to terms with the fact that I did not have my board and rather than lamenting anymore (probably because no one seemed to feel sorry for me )I sat on the deck marveling at the view in awe. I was content in the moment, appreciating that I had nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Then I saw her. Off in the distance there was a paddle boarder. “How dare she” I said to my daughter who just rolled her eyes at my ridiculousness. I just stared at her out on her board. “Not fair!” I thought. “She is living my life! That is what I should be doing right now!” I was so jealous.

I have felt that “No fair! She is living my life” feeling many times before. Every time I see a woman my age publishing a book, writing a Bible study, or speaking at women’s groups I have that feeling. I will read a book or a devotional and think “I could have written that” (it is not said in disrespect- it is just that often I read something and it sounds like the person literally spent time in my head or read all of my journals) and then I go on to wonder why I hadn’t.

Do I lack faith? Discipline? Did I give up too soon? Did I make this whole dream up in my head? Did I miss the boat? Am I just some egomaniac that craves the stage? Is my writing just for me?

These thoughts used to drag me down into a depressive pit. I would wallow in self pity and jealousy. It has taken me a long time to simply rejoice in another woman’s ability to encourage us women. Thank God for them! I have benefitted from these women and they have carried me through a lot of difficult times. I have come to a place where I know that if it is God’s will for me to write for more than my own benefit it will happen- as long as I don’t crawl back into the tent :).

And what if my writing is just for me? Is that so bad? What if God has given me a creative way of drawing close to Him and seeing Him in everyday life. I think that is pretty sweet. Don’t misunderstand me though- I would love nothing more than to share his sweetness with others :).

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. Galatians 6:9

Love, Grace, and A Right Time For Us All,

Jen

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Playground Life

I received a comment that sparked a follow up blog for today. If you ever have a comment you feel like leaving- please do! You never know, it may be just the thing I need to spark my Word for the day. If you do not want your comment posted, just indicate that and it will remain between you and me 🙂

The comment read “What a great analogy to coincide with dreams. I am not sure where I am at on the slide, but it gives me time to pray and ask God”. I started thinking about my friend that left the comment. She is the mom I was at the playground with the other day.

I thought back to what life was like when my kids where ages two and infant. It was a crazy, busy, exciting, sweet, exhausting, precious and often overwhelming time. I don’t know that I did much dreaming during those early years. I think my dreams at the time were to be able to sleep long enough to have an actual dream, and to take an uninterrupted shower.

Revisiting those years got me thinking how life is kind of like a giant playground. There are many stages in our adult lives and they all have a piece of playground equipment that coincides with that stage. There are the college years, otherwise known as the monkey bars. You are focused on going from point a to b barely hanging on and hoping you can make it across. Then you are off to the sandbox where you try to build a life for yourself with your own little castle.

Next comes the merry go round. This is how I felt at times when my kiddos were little. The days sort of blended together and it seemed like the hours between waking and sleeping had me dizzy from running in circles all day chasing after the kids. As the kids got older and I went back to work I hopped on to the teeter totter. There I try desperately to balance work, family, friends, and all of the hats us women wear. I am hoping this year I can get that teeter totter to balance out!

Finally there are the swings. The swings represent the retirement years. The swings are when you get to kick back and watch over all of the other people on the playground and enjoy the different stages they are in. Though you are still active, you are not in a rush to get anywhere.

So where does the slide fit in? The slide is for all stages. We should run over to the slide often while we are in our different life stages. Our dreams will look different at each stage, but we should always be dreaming. We dream of our future, we dream for our kids, we dream about our career path, and through it all we discover the dreams God places within us. Once we have those dreams we will go in and out of seasons where we get to play on the slide. Sometimes it is only a quick ride. Other times we get to hang out there for a long while.

If you find yourself on a part of the playground you are not enjoying, take some time to visit the slide. Do as my friend is and pray and ask God what you should be dreaming about, and what if anything you should be doing to move towards them at this time. You may discover it’s time to spend more time on the slide, or you may find you are in a another season of life and right now you should enjoy that season while visiting the slide when you can.

There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Love, Grace, and a Playground Life For Us All,

Jen

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Big Girl Slide

Yesterday I went to the park with my friend and her two boys. Gibson, who is not quite two and a half was excited to show me how he could go down the big boy slide. When we got to the park I pointed to the slide and said “This slide?”. Gibson nodded his head and said “This slide!” I was surprised, as the slide seemed pretty big and just a month ago I had to coax, beg, and plead for him to go down a slide half it’s size. He had obviously grown into his new role as big brother in the last month.

I watched him climb up the ladder, his mom following him to make sure he did not fall backwards. He was all smiles as he climbed up. Once he got to the top his mom walked to the bottom of the slide to catch him as he came down. “Wave hi to Auntie Jen”, his mom said. He turned to wave at me and suddenly his face changed. He went from excitement and smiles to apprehension. He looked down towards the ground on the left side of the slide, and then to the right. He suddenly realized he was up high, and he was all alone. He sat there still as can be taking it all in, not sure what to do.

His mom was at the bottom encouraging him to come down, assuring him she would catch him. He kept asking her to come closer until finally she was standing with her arm reached as high as she could so he could touch her hand. Once Gibson was assured he was not on his own he went down the slide.

As Gibson sat at the top of the slide looking to the left and to the right, I got an image of what Peter must have done when he got out of the boat to walk on the water towards Jesus. He took his first step out of the boat with confidence and excitement. Then the sound of the waves caused him to look around and he realized that at that very moment he was on his on his own. Even though he could see Jesus, he wasn’t sure he could do it and panicked. As he started to sink and cried out to Jesus, Jesus grabbed him by the hand and pulled him safely onto the boat.

At a recent writer’s conference Susie Larsen said something to the effect of “When God first puts a dream in your heart you want to run after it with everything you’ve got. You keep telling God you are ready for it, but He assures you that you are not. Then suddenly one day God tells you it’s time. You are ready, at which point you panic and assure God you are not.”

I think about that statement a lot. For years I tried to tell God that I was ready for whatever He had planned for me. I was ready to live life big. Lately however, I see myself panicking a little at the thought of my dreams actually coming true. It was all fun daydreams before. What if it suddenly gets real? What would I do? Would I sit at the top of my big girl slide turning my head from the left to the right looking down? Would I suddenly realize that if I were to fall flat on my face it would hurt- bad? Would I trust that God was there to catch me at the bottom?

It says in Psalm 139:5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Just as Lia walked up the slide behind Gibson, and then immediately went to the front to catch him at the bottom, God also climbs with us in the high places, and will catch us in the low places. He even holds your hand on the way down. That verse came to life for me yesterday as I watched the interaction between mother and son. She was all around him, assuring him of his safety and being ready to help him in any way.

What about you? What will you do when you get to the top of your big girl slide? What will you do when God assures you that you have what it takes to make it on your own? Will you trust that He is there, cheering you on and ready to catch you? I know one thing- it’s a lot easier to slide down the big girl slide than it is to try to climb back down the ladder…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for going before me and following me. Thank you that you are with me every step of my journey. Help me to be aware of your presence at all times. Give me the faith to climb and to enjoy every good thing you place before me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Big Girl Slide For Us All,

Jen

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Don’t Quit!

I am currently reading a novel titled Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. It is the story of a young African couple that worked very hard to come to America to live the American Dream. The husband moved to America first and worked for two years just to save enough money to bring his wife and son to America. Though it is a novel, I believe it is very common for many immigrants seeking to move to America to live their dream.

This young couple is working so hard to make it in New York. They both work multiple jobs and the wife is also going to school in hopes of becoming a pharmacist. Though life is tough for them, their excitement of what lies ahead for them keeps them moving forward.

Then a series of obstacles arise. One thing after another goes wrong and despite their best efforts they find themselves moving backwards rather than forwards. It is a very difficult time for them. Then suddenly one day the husband announces that they are moving back to their homeland. When I read this I had the same reaction as the wife in the story- NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I was shocked by the turn of events and I was also shocked by my reaction to it. I was so upset. I felt so sad for him. I especially felt sad for the wife who did not want to give up and go home. With each chapter I remained hopeful that something would happen to change things around. I have 24 pages left in the book, and as far as I can see, they will be leaving America as well as their dreams behind.

There is something so sad about watching someone give up on their dreams. You see them suffer through hard times and you so desperately want them to come out on the other side of it. Often times life gets the best of people and you watch them slowly fade away from the vibrant excited person they once were to a smaller sadder version of themselves. You can’t help but share in their grief, despair, and brokenness.

Even though I was reading about fictional characters I kept finding myself trying to give them a pep talk. I didn’t want them to quit. I wanted them to hang in there a little longer. I wanted to tell them to simply play it through until the end was the end and not to quit until they were forced to. And even though with just 24 pages to go I do not see them turning things around, I will hold on that hope until I get to the end.

Can you think of someone in need of a dream pep talk? Is there someone that has been tossed around by life and they are now a smaller sadder version of who you know they truly are? It says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Now encourage each other and build each other up. The best part of encouraging someone else in there dreams is that you get to share in their joy when they achieve them rather than share in their sadness when they give up. I have been on both sides and I pick sharing dreams every time!

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for putting dreams in my heart. Thank you for putting people in my life to both share in my sorrows and to encourage me in my dreams. Use me to be a light and a blessing in someones life. Show me those that need encouragement. Thank you for your faithfulness and for your promises. Give me increased faith to believe what you have planned for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Tenacious Dreams,

Jen

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