Self Pruning Disaster

Last week I wrote about Jesus being our Master Gardner. He is the one who prunes away all that is dead in our lives. He does this in His personal tender way. As I wrote that message I felt the love of God in my heart. I felt encouraged and excited for the work God has begun, and promises to finish in my life.

I started the week feeling so free, so confident, and so full of hope. Then something happened. I didn’t realize it at first. I just noticed that the freedom and peace were gone and in it’s place was the usual angst, frustration, and weariness I am trying so desperately to avoid this year.

Every day I had a list of things I believe God wanted me to tend to, and get back on track. They included things like eating healthy, exercising, and writing. However, each day I drifted further and further from these goals. The further I drifted the more miserable and frustrated I became.

This all came to a head Saturday night. My daughter and I were going to go to a special church service at our old church. I have been excited to go hear this guest speaker for months. I had great expectations for this service. It had been a long day and if it were anyone other than the guest speaker we both would have opted to go home and rest.

My daughter was late in meeting me which meant we were going to be late to the service. Mind you she was only 5 minutes late but something within me snapped. I spent the car ride to church lamenting about how I make sure to get everyone to their events on time and I put everyone’s needs first, and on and on like a mad woman. I tried to tell myself to shut up but I just kept ranting. (Since I know my sisters and mom are reading this and thinking “Oh poor Charley! Please know we had a great talk after and I fully apologized when we got into church and she is not emotionally scarred in any way 🙂

Truth is I wasn’t mad at her. I was mad at myself. I was mad because it was Saturday night and as I looked back on my week I felt once again as if I had failed. Not only did I not accomplish any of my personal goals- I actually got further from them and self imploded.

As praise and worship began, I couldn’t raise my hands as usual. Instead I hung my head and started sobbing and praying. My prayer went something like this “Jesus, I am so sorry. I know I am supposed to be worshipping you right now but I can’t. I am so sick of failing. I am so sick of falling short. I am so sick of believing big things and seeing nothing. I am so sick and tired of dealing with the same issues year after year. I want to quit. All of it. But where would I go? I give up. I don’t have it in me to try anymore.”

Sometimes it really boils down to that. It’s not that we have great faith. It’s that we have nowhere else to go. We have sought the world and all of it’s comforts and promises and repeatedly came up empty. We feel unsure of all the promises of God, but we do know that the world has nothing to offer. Even in our worst moments we have a little flicker of hope burning somewhere down deep.

It says in John 6:68-69 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

I have come to know that Jesus is the Holy One of God. I don’t claim to understand all that that means, but I do know that He is good. As I walked into the restroom to wash the mascara off my face (I looked like Alice Cooper), I heard in my heart “He prunes with a tender and gentle hand.” I scoffed at the words, thinking they were my own thoughts poking fun at me.

I went back into the service and cried some more and left feeling just as bad as when I got there. I reverted to my old behavior and crawled in bed with my two boyfriends, Ben and Jerry, polished off a pint of Tonight Dough, and went to bed feeling depressed and frustrated.

I did not want to get out of bed on Sunday. I did not want to go to church. I wanted to lay in bed lamenting about my failures. I got up and made my coffee. While in the kitchen my daughter started giving me tips and suggestions on how to achieve my goals. Bless her heart she is a go-getter.  I have never met a fifteen years old with such conviction and determination. She inspires me everyday.

I thanked her for the pep talk and went outside with my coffee. Again I heard “He prunes with a tender and gentle hand”. Being a little thick headed I still didn’t get it. I did however start feeling as though the frustration and depression were lifting. I actually looked forward to going to church.

Don’t you love it when you go to church and you feel as though the entire message was put together just for you? That is what it was like for me yesterday. Again, I heard “He prunes with a gentle and tender hand.” It took me awhile but I finally got it. I had once again come up with a self-pruning plan. It my excitement to have the Lord begin the pruning process in the dead areas of my life, I jumped the gun (so unlike me) and came up with a master plan of my own, assuming it was the way God would do it.

God’s ways are tender and gentle. My ways were not. Though I would love to rip off all of the ugly branches  of myself, such as insecurity, doubt, negative body image, impatience, food struggles, etc. God has a gentler way. Not only is it more gentle, it is longer lasting.

I am so quick to try to hide the branches of my life that I don’t like that I take short cuts in dealing with them. The thing about short cuts is they never lead to lasting change. Eventually you revert back to old ways and habits. God’s tender, gentle, and often gradual process is painful in a different way. It can be painfully slow at times. However, in the end we have lasting change rather than a temporary fix.

If you find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle of defeat, perhaps you are trying to do your own self- pruning. Self pruning has worse side effect than the average pill advertised on tv. Self pruning side effects include, but are not limited to: frustration, depression, anger, irritability, and complete disdain for anyone that seems to be enjoying a care free life. If you experience any of these side effects please go straight to the Healer and let Him treat you to an antidote of lovingkindness, tenderness, and mercy.

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess I cannot do life on my own. I keep trying to make changes in my self and I continue to fall short. Thank you for loving me enough to help me be the best me I can be. Help me to see myself as you see me. Help me to love myself as you love me. Help me to receive your gentle pruning and help me see when I try to prune myself. In Jesus’ name, Amen,

Love, Grace, and Gentle Pruning For Us All,

Jen

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Is Your Heart Purring?

Despite me saying there is no way we are getting a pet anytime soon, we now have a cat. I won’t go into the details of how we permanently acquired the cat, as it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that now we have a cat- complete with a cat box, kennel, and living room floor full of various cat-stimulating toys…

I informed my kids I would have nothing to do with the care of this cat, other than to pick up the cat food and liter from Target when the kids informed me (with at least 48 hours notice) that these supplies were needed. I would not feed the cat. I would not tend to the liter box. I would not even pet or play with it.

That may sound harsh but I have my reasons. The first one is the fact that we have buried three pets in four years, and I simply do not have the heart capacity or emotional capability for another pet right now. The second reason is despite the kids claiming responsibility of the care of the last two pets, I am the one who ends up caring for the pets (mom- I know you are probably smiling a little bit as I believe the same thing happened to you as us girls were growing up :).

For the most part, the kids are keeping their promise and doing a great job with the cat (somehow the older one has put the responsibility on her younger brother). Here’s the problem though- I am the first one up in the morning. As soon as I get up, despite how quiet I try to be, the cat comes running and crying. It wants breakfast. Good luck trying to ignore her, she is relentless. So despite my pledge to not care for it, I am going downstairs to feed her.

Feeding her takes only a minute so it’s not a big deal. However, after breakfast she seems to want some love and attention. As I sit down with my morning cup of coffee, Bible, journal, and laptop, the cat starts crying again. I present her with all of her toys but she is not having it. She wants love.

She jumps up on the couch and confidently walks across my laptop which is on my lap. SHE STEPS ON THE CAPS LOCK BUTTON or worse, the page top or discard button. She doesn’t care. She is oblivious. All she knows is that she wants some love. She will walk back and forth across my laptop, Bible, or whatever is in the way until I move it. She doesn’t mind dipping her tail in my coffee either.

This morning as she stood in place on my laptop I did what I always do. I gave in. I stopped what I was doing and made room for her. I then started petting her in a way that got her pur motor going (the fact that I even know how to get her purring bugs me as it violates my “no bonding” rule).

As I listened to her pur I thought about how we, as daughters of the Most High God, could learn a thing or two from this cat. We need to be as confident as she is when she wants love and affection. We need to approach the Father’s throne with the assumption that there is nothing He would rather do than drop everything else to love on us, especially because it is true.

It says in Hebrews 4:16 Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].

God loves it when we come confidently to Him despite our flaws, weaknesses, and failures.. He loves it because it shows Him that we understand his fierce love for us. We understand that his love for us is not based on us. It is not about what we do or what we achieve. It is not based on a points system. We do not earn more love when we do good, just as we are not disqualified from His love when we fall short.

Oh that we would start our day walking back and forth across the lap of our Father until we have a full revelation of His love! That we would wait upon Him until our pur motors were running- our hearts filled with the overwhelming sense of forgiveness, completeness, love, and grace. Imagine the confidence we could head into our day with by having fresh revelation of his love for us, as well as a fresh blessing upon us!

To think a stray cat could remind me of such Truth.

I encourage you to take some time today to go boldly to the throne of grace. Bring your flaws, fears, worries, concerns, and failures with you. Let His love and grace turn them into things of beauty that will be used for good. Let Him love on you until your heart is purring.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for wanting to spend time with me. Thank you for inviting me to come boldly to your throne of grace each morning. Give me a fresh revelation of your love and grace towards me. Fill me to the overflow with your love so I can carry it out into the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Purring Heart,

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 Dangers of Offense

I had the opportunity to get offended today. Unfortunately I took advantage of the opportunity. Someone said something to me that both offended me and hurt my feelings. I tried to defend myself once but only received a sarcastic remark complete with an “exit stage left” move that had me sitting there fuming.

Thoughts immediately flooded my mind. Most of them snarky. Thoughts like “Passive aggressive much?” and “I am sorry you are miserable, but I have a life.” I also thought of remarks I could say later. Two can play the passive aggressive word game…

These vengeful thoughts made me feel sick and sad. I did not want my day to go like this. I was just minding my own business (listening to an online prayer service no less) when this interaction went down. I also know that the person that offended me truly cares for me. The comment that was made to me came from their issues, not anything I was doing. Trying to talk myself down I did the one thing I knew to do. I prayed for them.

I prayed that they would have a good day. I prayed that whatever was bothering them would be fixed. I prayed that they would be able to rest and have peace. I prayed every good thing I could think of. As soon as I finished I returned to feeling ticked off. I couldn’t shake it.

It says in Colossians 3:13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

But what do you do when that forgiveness doesn’t come easily? What do you do when you have tried to shake it off and you still feel hurt and offended? I did the only thing I knew to do. I got into the kayak and started to paddle.

I prayed and asked God why I was having such a hard time getting over such a trivial little offense. In my mind I knew it was ridiculous but I couldn’t seem to shake it. The answer I received was more of a lesson than a reason. In fact, I would argue that the Lord allowed me to sit in my offense long enough to see the dangers it brings.

Offense brings out the worst in us.

It brings out our pride, “Well, I will show them!”

It brings out our self righteousness, “They are not living for God.”

It brings out our judgmental nature, “Look at how they are wasting their life.”

It brings out vengefulness, “Oh just wait, I will get even.”

It brings out our insecurity, “Oh they have hurt me so bad.”

Are you convinced of the dangers taking offense causes? I have one more for you. Offense robs us of our joy. That was the big one for me. I had been having the perfect day up until the incident. Within two sentences my joy was gone. Gone!

As soon as I realized the power I had given a ten second conversation, that I would give up my joy that quickly, something in me surrendered. I truly let go of the offense. I also had the feeling that God taught me this lesson because I am going to have more opportunity in the future to take offense. I need to learn the dangers of it now or it could have the potential to derail me and my dreams.

Forgiveness truly is the antidote to offense. Do you know what true forgiveness does?

It increases your compassion.

It takes away the sick feeling in your gut and heart.

It frees you from the need to retaliate.

It allows you to move on to the good things god has planned for you.

It allows you to sit on the dock later and laugh and talk and enjoy time as a family.

It restores your joy.

If you are dealing with offense in your life that you cannot let go of, I encourage you to spend some quiet time with the Lord. Ask Him to show you why you are having trouble letting go. Ask Him to show you a glimpse of what is happening in the offenders life. Ask him if there is anything within you that you need to make amends with. Ask Him to show you your insecurities and to heal them. Just talk to Him like you would a friend and sit still and listen. He will speak to your heart. He will set you free!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all the times you have forgiven me. Thank you for all of the blessings you have poured out on my life. I do not want to offend anyone or hold on to offense. Please take these hurts and offenses from me. Show me if there is anything I need to do in order to let go. Thank you for being with me through every hurt and offense. Thank you for loving me even as I struggle to do what is right. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and an Offense Free Day To You All,

Jen

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The God of Second (and many more) Chances

Today we put the boat in at Pend Oreille River and rode seventeen miles into Pend Oreille Lake. You may remember last year when we did the same thing. You may remember it because the day inspired the blog The Rescue because we ran out of gas and were stranded on the river…

I was so excited to go this morning. The words Second Chance kept going through my head. I was happy that we got a second chance to do this trip again. A second chance to end the trip on a high note rather than a frustrating rescue. A second chance to learn from our previous mistake. A second chance at a perfect day on the water with my family.

Throughout the day I thought about how God really is the God of second (and many more) chances. I thought about all of the second (and many more) chances I have personally had in my life. Even when I was the one to blow it, He has never said “Enough- no more chances!”

It says in Lamentations 3:22-23 The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

If you are feeling like your life is a mess that is beyond repair, let me assure you it’s not. God has not and will not give up on you, your children, your spouse, your career, or anything that is important to you. He is always there ready and willing to give you and your situation a second (and many more) chance. His mercies never cease!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being a God of second chances. Thank you for all of the second chances you have given me in my life. Thank you for your daily fresh and tender mercies. Help me to receive them and trust in your faithfulness for all of my needs. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and A Second Chance For Us All,

Jen

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Alumni Day

A few weeks ago we had Alumni Day at the office where we all wore something from the high school we graduated from. We also had to turn in a senior picture. We played a game where we tried to match the senior picture to the current staff person. When I turned my photo in the ladies had two responses. The first one was “Oh my goodness! Look at all of that hair!” I was truly a product of the 80’s and my hair barely fit in the picture. The second response was “Except for the hair you look the same. Everyone will recognize you right away.”

“I hope not”, I thought as I walked away. I was not referring to my appearance though. I was referring to the important part of me, the inside of me. The part that I pray is dramatically different from the big haired girl in the photo.

The girl in the photo had a lot of friends and did well in school. She had cute clothes and a cool car. She had a busy social life and a good and stable home life. From all outward appearances she had it all. On the inside however she was a hot mess. She struggled with insecurity. She struggled with depression. She struggled with body image. All these struggles led her to make some very bad choices and decisions as a young adult.

I would like to think I am dramatically different from that insecure big haired girl, but to be honest with you I often find myself revisiting the same issues I have had for years. I think I have just learned how to deal with them (and hide them) a little better. I still struggle with insecurity, am prone to depression, and have to fight daily to make peace with my body. It’s exhausting at times.

The good news is that even though I still struggle from time to time with these same issues, I don’t respond to them the way I once did. I don’t let them control me and I don’t allow them to drive me towards bad decisions (most the time :). In fact, it is often my struggles and weaknesses that provide the most ministering opportunities.

We are told in 2 Corinthians that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. Sometimes we have to receive that truth in faith. The enemy loves to remind us of our past. He especially loves to point out our current mistakes as he whispers things like “Look at you, you will never change. You are still the same old mess you used to be. In fact, you are worse because now you are trying to act like you are different but you are nothing but a phony. If anyone knew the real you they would see that you are still the same insecure out of control girl you have always been. You may as well give up and give in.”

If the father of lies has been telling you that you will never change, that you will never be good enough, or that you are just one mistake away from ever receiving anymore of God’s grace,take some time to meditate on the truth of Gods word that says you are in fact a new creation and your old life is behind you. When God looks at you today He sees you as a new creation. You have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus and you can go boldly before Him at the throne of grace and pour your heart out to Him. You never have to spend another minute feeling as though you are not good enough!

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone, a new life has begun. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Love, Grace, and a Fresh Start to You All,

Jen

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The List

Another week has gone by and this is the first I have sat down to write. Every morning I say I am going to write when I get home from work. Every night I go to bed frustrated as I struggle to figure out how to fit all the things I want and need to do into each day.
As each day of the week came and went I found myself getting more frustrated and depressed. My mind was constantly racing with The List. You know The List- the list of things we should and should not do.
It sounds something like this: “I should stop at Target on my way home tonight so I don’t have to do it tomorrow. I should have taken out that pound of ground beef so it was thawed for tonight. I should sit down and write tonight. I should not have eaten that. I should work out. I should work out my upper body. I should work out my core. I should work out my lower body. Oh forget it- there are just too many body parts that need work, I can’t do them all so I am not going to bother with any. I should throw in that load of laundry. I should lose ten pounds. I should have worked out at least one stupid body part. I should have prayed more today. I should quite my job. I should be grateful and thankful for my job.”
The List is exhausting and never-ending. It robs me of the ability to enjoy the present and steals my peace for the future. As much as I know the list is bad for me I struggle to stop it. The list makes it impossible for me to just be still. I get so exhausted from the list that I don’t have the energy to even take care of anything on the list. From the minute I wake up in the morning to the minute I lay my head down the list tries to take over my mind.
I’ll be honest with you- I don’t like to admit that I struggle with this. I would much prefer to let you all think I have it all together and I have all the answers. There is a part of me that fears that when I share the struggles I will be disqualified as a woman of God who has anything to offer anyone else.
But I named my website What Real Women Do and you know what- I know I am not the only real woman that is tormented by The List. Sure, your list may look different from mine, but I imagine the impact it has on your ability to enjoy the moment is the same. Maybe if we all come clean and admit we have lists that drive us crazy, we can help each other ditch the lists!
I know God wants us to ditch the lists. Jesus hung on the cross so we would no longer need to live a life of should and should not’s, of lists, rules, and regulations. Jesus ditched the list for us. Now we need to keep our thoughts on Him and off our lists. He will help us put our lists in order. He will show us where we need to put our time, energy, and focus. The thing is- we need to sit still long enough to hear His voice. It cannot be heard above the ramblings of The List.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting (not exhausting) way. Psalm 139: 23-24 NASB version with an added parenthesis by me ☺

Girls, if you are struggling with lists of your own, take some time to be still before God. Write down everything that comes to mind on the list and then tear it up and turn it over to the One that freed us from worry, anxiety, fear, and lists!

Love, Grace, and a Great Day to Ditch the List,

Jen

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How He Loves Us

I used to think the story of Adam and Eve was one of the saddest stores in the Bible. I felt so bad for them when they got kicked out of the garden. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to go from walking and talking with God to suddenly being escorted out of the most beautiful, perfect place created just for me.
The worst part was the thought of how mad God must have been at them. After telling them the list of horrible curses that were now attached to them, I always pictured him marching them to the edge of the garden, pushing them along on their way and then watching as they sulked off, crying with their heads down, occasionally looking back to see if he was watching them and possibly changing his mind. When they would look back on him I pictured him standing stone faced with a tear running down his cheek pointing straight ahead commanding them to continue wandering in the opposite direction. It was truly a heart breaking scene.
I see this story differently now. I see it as one of the many love stories in the Bible. Not between Adam and Eve, between God and us. It is a story of redemption, protection, and grace. Let me explain.
When God came looking for Adam and Eve after they had sinned, he found them hiding in the trees, covered with fig leaves. One of the first things they realized when their eyes were opened to sin was that they were naked and for whatever reason their now “knowledgable” mind told them this was wrong and they should cover themselves. God agreed, they should be covered. However he lovingly covered them with animal skins. It was the first of many sacrifices offered in the Bible. It was the first example of the blood of Jesus covering our sin.
As I was studying this I learned that fig leaves, when broken off their tree have a horrible pungent smell, and quickly shrivel up and die which would have left them exposed quickly. It is symbolic of the way man can only hide his sin for so long and then it will be exposed. The only way mans sin is completely covered is by a perfect sacrifice, by the blood of Jesus. i now picture God looking at them in their fig leaves and feeling pity for them. I now picture him sacrificing the animals, placing the skins on Adam and Eve, stepping back and saying “There. That’s better”, as he gives them a Fatherly smile.
If He forgave them and covered their sin, why did he still kick them out of the garden? That too was an act of love. Remember way back in Genesis 2 it tells us that God made all sorts of trees and in the middle of the garden he made two special trees- the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. If they would have eaten from the tree of life, they would have to live forever in this fallen state with no chance of redemption. They had already proven themselves untrustworthy by eating from the tree of knowledge, how much more desperate would they be to eat from the tree of life in hopes that they could somehow undo what they have done? The only reason God sent them out of the garden was to protect them from themselves.
I was also wrong about God no longer walking and talking with them. I know this because later in Genesis 4 when God confronts Cain after Cain kills Abel. Cain begs God not to banish him from God’s presence, which means they were all still in Gods presence. This shows us that though God could no longer walk and talk with them in the garden, he still chose to walk and talk with them where they were at.
Girls, I want you to see just how he loves us! Even in our worst moments, even when we are tangled up in sin and shame, God loves us. He lovingly reminds us that we are covered by the blood of Jesus. He never leaves us or forsakes. In the times when it feels like is has walked us to the edge of the garden and pointed for us to go in the opposite direction, is always an act of love. We may not see or feel it, and we may not understand it, but God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and when you find yourself removed from what may have seemed “perfect”, you need to trust that God is protecting you.
Maybe you find yourself identifying with Eve today. Maybe you have been trying to fix and cover up your own feelings of guilt and shame. Maybe you are asking yourself if God has given up on you and set you outside of the garden. If that describes you, please take a moment to sit at the feet of Jesus. Wherever you are at, close your eyes, take a deep breath and simply pour out your heart to God. Tell him your fears, your sin, and your shame. Tell him you want to feel his presence and protection. Let him cover you in his love. He did it for Eve, he will do it for you. In fact, it is his very favorite thing to do!

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

Love, Grace, and a Day in His Presence For You All,

Jen

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Cleared of All Charges!

A few years ago I got a speeding ticket. I wasn’t happy about it and even though I was guilty I decided to fight it in court. Paying a $100 fine was bad enough but even worse than that was the thought of it being on my driving record. I was afraid our insurance would end up raising our rates and that would be an added expense we definitely did not need!

By the time my court date arrived I was thoroughly convinced I would be free of all charges. I had been praying about it and I had pictured the scene a million times in my mind. My friends and family would tell me there was no way I would get out of it, but I told them to wait and see- I was coming home with a clean record!

I remember sitting in that court room trying not to smile. I could not wait to get home and tell everyone “I told you so!”. The longer I sat in the courtroom, the more confident I became. I was sitting in one of the back rows and I could hear the county attorney in the small room behind me making deals with other offenders. He was dropping DWI charges down to reckless driving tickets left and right. Surely, he would make this forty year old mother of two’s little speeding ticket disappear.

Finally it was my turn to plead my case. I was so confident regarding the outcome that when he denied my request I simply sat across the desk from him staring with my head tilted to the side the way a puppy looks at you when they know you are talking to them but they don’t understand. After what must have seemed like eternity to him he finally said “Mrs. Gilbert, we are done here. It’s time for you to go and pay your fine.”

I left the room wondering what had just happened. That wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. I had plead my case with my whole heart. I even admitted that I was guilty but explained how this was a financial hardship for us and surely since I had a clean record up to this point, he could make sure it remained clean. I even got choked up and had to fight back the tears- the natural response for both my sister and I whenever we are fighting against an injustice. I begged and pleaded and yet here I was walking out of the courtroom towards the pay station. I couldn’t believe it.

Aren’t you glad that our heavenly Father is not like that crummy old county attorney? Aren’t you glad that he doesn’t pardon sins for some people while holding accountable the sins of others. Aren’t you glad that when you approach him at the throne of grace you don’t have to worry about whether or not you will still be left paying for your mistakes?

God is more just than any courtroom could ever be. Yes, he demands payment in full for our sins, but he also knew we would never be able to pay all the fines we accumulate. They are far too great. Rather than simply looking away, he sent his only beloved son as payment for all of our sins. When Jesus cried out from the cross “It is finished”, he could also have said “PAID IN FULL” because that what the finished work of Jesus is. It is payment, full payment, for each and every one of our sins. We will never have to “pay for” what we have done. We do not owe God anything. That is what makes His grace so amazing!

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt! Psalm 32:1-2

Love, Grace, and a Day Cleared of All Charges To You All,

Jen

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