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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A Final Lesson on Faith

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It has been three weeks since my last blog.” Even though I am not Catholic, that is the confession that runs through my mind daily. The confession is accompanied by feelings of frustration and guilt. I have a few friends that refer to themselves as recovering Catholics. They tell me I would have been a great one since I am naturally hard on myself, feel the need to confess all of my shortcomings to everyone all the time, and feel guilty about just about everything- including the fact that I feel guilty because a “true” Christian should fully understand that there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ. But I digress…

We have had a beautiful fall and I have been able to paddleboard through last week so I thought I would share one final lesson on Faith. I went out one night last week and was surprised to find the waves choppier than I had imagined. It didn’t seem very windy out but the lake was rough. The time seemed to drag on and I wasn’t really enjoying myself. The only reason I kept going was the fact that I knew it could very well be my final ride of the year.

In order to keep myself out there I set the timer on my phone. I had to keep paddling for another 20 minutes before I could turn around and head home. The time dragged on and I kept checking the time every five minutes. Suddenly I hit this calm, smooth as glass area on the lake. I had been on glass like water before but there was something different about this moment. Other times I could see the smooth surface ahead and it was like a goal to reach it. However this time it seemed to appear out of the blue, like a little reward or blessing out of nowhere.
I stopped paddling and just enjoyed the stillness of it all. I was the only one on the lake. The only one floating on this little spot of glass surrounded by rough water. For a moment I felt peace I hadn’t felt in awhile and I didn’t want to leave it.

I think faith is often just like my ride. We find ourselves in rougher water than we expected to be in. The time in this rough water seems to drag on forever and we keep asking ourselves and God when the timer will sound and we can go back home. Then suddenly, out of nowhere we find ourselves on smooth water again. We get our breakthrough, a reprieve, an answered prayer, or simply a feeling of peace we have been longing for. And when we find it, we just want to stay there.

The life of faith doesn’t work like that though. Just as I had to leave the glass and paddle home, we don’t get to stay in that easy place for long. Life has a new set of waves rolling our way. The Good News is, once we experience the peace of still waters, we can carry that peace with us into the waves because we know that at any moment God will deliver us once again and bring us to that place of stillness and rest.

What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely to harbor! Psalm 107:30

If you find yourself in rough waters today, please know that the the Lord will most certainly calm the waters and bring you safely into harbor. He will offer you peace and rest. He will be your refuge and hiding place. Though you may feel like you have been waiting forever, at just the right time, you will be delivered, and you will find a peace you have not experienced before. He will never fail you, forsake you, or leave you. He has not abandoned you and He hears your cries for help. Hold on to his promises and you will find yourself floating on smooth waters of peace!

Love, Grace, and Smooth Waters For You All,

Jen

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The Mother of All Lists

Yesterday I shared with you the struggle I had been having with The List. It is the list of “should” and “should not’s”, the contestant chatter in my mind, I often torment myself with. Reading yesterday’s blog you may have wondered what The List had to do with our study of women of the Bible.
Let me introduce you to the mother of all lists found in the Bible. Let me introduce you to the Proverbs 31 woman.
The famous, or often in my opinion infamous Proverbs 31 woman sets the standard for all godly woman. It is a list of all she does. Some of her to-do’s include finding and spinning wool and flax, bringing exotic foods from far away places in order to make her family amazing dinners, researching and investing in property- property that she builds a vineyard on in order to generate ongoing revenue, all while being so nice to her husband and kids that they actually arise and call her blessed in the morning. Can you imagine what this woman’s pinterest board would have looked like?
Let me share with you a glimpse of how her list translates in my home. She buys flax because she read it is very healthy for you and has every intention of putting it in her smoothies but she is too rushed in the morning to actually make the smoothie so the flax goes bad. She drives to Trader Joe’s to get a variety of exotic nuts and dried fruit for her family to snack on while she makes one of the five homemade meals in her monthly rotation. She would love to plant a garden but can’t even keep a cactus alive. Her kids arise and ask if she has signed their field trip forms while her husband still sleeps.
When I compare my list to the Proverbs 31 woman list I could easily get discouraged, and for years that is exactly how I felt. I would avoid that chapter in my Bible at all costs and if anyone made reference to her I would tune out so all I could hear was the teachers voice from Charlie Brown.
Then one day I actually had the courage to read the entire list all the way to the end. When I did I noticed something. I noticed that there was one thing that I could do. The best part is I truly believe it is the most important item on the list. I believe that by doing this one thing, we will find strength to do all the others. Maybe they won’t look quite like the woman in the Bible, but they will be the 21st century version of her.
Do you want to know what the most important thing on the list is? It is found in Proverbs 31:30b:

A woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. Proverbs 31:30b

Fear of the LORD simply means to worship him with awe and reverence. It means to acknowledge that he is God and He is awesome, glorious, beautiful, and worthy of our praise.
When we live a life of worship, the list goes from being overwhelming to doable. It also helps us prioritize the list and be happy with our own versions of the Proverbs 31 woman.
I know one of the biggest struggles for women is finding the time to sit at the feet of Jesus and surrender our lists to Him. We love the idea of it but are simply too busy to do it. I encourage you all to take the time each morning or right before bed to surrender your list and thank Jesus for helping you take care of those He has entrusted to you. It will make your life so much more enjoyable. I don’t know why I allow myself to suffer a few days before I take extra time to do it myself, but I hope you learn from my mistakes and try it for yourselves.

Grace, Love, and Another Day to Surrender Your List,

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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The Cone of Shame

While we were in Washington our dog Nana tore her ACL. Of course we did not know this at the time so we let her continue to run and chase squirrels, geese and anything else that caught her eye. By the time we brought her into the vet she had torn her ACL 75% and required surgery. The recovery has been much more than we anticipated and it has been a very stressful few days in our home. Though I try to tell myself and the kids that this is just a temporary deal and not our new norm, the thought of continuing as we have been for seven more weeks feels overwhelming and exhausting.
One of the things that gets me through stressful situations such as this is knowing that there will be a story or two that comes out of it. I feel it’s God’s way of “making all things work together for good” as He promises us in Romans 8:28. Though I much prefer having stories come out of fun experiences, often the ones that speak the most to others are the ones that come from the painful and stressful moments. Perhaps because they are the most relatable for in this life we shall be faced with many troubles.
As expected, Nana was sent home wearing a cone around her neck. Oh how dogs hate the cone. It completely changes their demeanor. Nana went from a happy, wild, proud puppy to a cowering, head down nervous baby. Every dog seems to react to the cone in a similar manner, which is why it is commonly referred to as The Cone of Shame by dog owners.
At first it is entertaining to see them try to navigate around the house with the cone, but after a minute or two when you see how distressing it is to them, you can’t help but feel miserable for them. You want to bring them relief from the misery. Even though it makes life inconvenient as you have to watch them the every minute to make sure they don’t start licking their wounds, you make the sacrifice because you know how desperately they need the relief. As soon as you take off the cone their disposition changes and they once again stand tall with their tails wagging and eyes that say “THANK YOU!”.
I needed a break last night so we put Nana’s cone back on. She immediately began to anxiously freak out. We tried to calm her down but she turned and walked away with her head down and tailed tucked in. It was very painful to watch and I of course caved in and removed the cone even though I knew it meant I would not sleep well that night because I would wake up every time I heard her move to make sure she wasn’t licking her wounds.
As I watched her walk with her head down and tail tucked in my heart broke as I suddenly thought of all the women in the world that walk around wearing their own cone of shame. They wear their mistakes, guilt, and shame around their necks and it chokes them and makes it impossible for them to look around and see the life God has planned for them. They go through life with their head down, trying to go unnoticed because they do not want anyone to see their shame.
The Bible is full of women that could have remained in their personal cones of shame but decided to trust in the LORD and in His words “neither do I condemn or accuse you.” Take Eve for example. She was literally kicked out of paradise as a result of the mistake her and Adam made. She could have wandered around the rest of her life with her head down bearing the shame of paradise lost. However, she understood that God still loved her. We know this because it says in Genesis 4:1 When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the LORD’s help, I have produced a man!” She knew it was God who blessed her.
Eve is the first of many scandalous women in the Bible, women that were definitely worthy of cones of shame. We have a woman who tricked her father in law into sleeping with her, a prostitute, and an adulterous- all listed in the genealogy of Jesus! I believe God did this knowing the world would be filled with women broken by their own mistakes and shame. He wanted us to know that there is nothing we can do that would ever disqualify us from not only being loved by Him, but also being used by Him.
Ladies, when Jesus hung on the cross he removed our cones of shame! He sacrificed his life, so that we may live ours to the fullest. To continue walking around with our heads hung down in shame is to say that his sacrifice was not enough and we deserve more punishment.
If you feel choked by all of the mistake sin your life I encourage you to sit at the feet of Jesus. Pour your heart out to Him and let Him remove the cone of shame you have been wearing for far too long. Not only is He willing to do it, he WANTS to do it. You can’t do it alone. No amount of good works will take it off. The only way to lose the cone is to let your Abba Father remove it. Will you sit still long enough to let him?

“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of your widowhood. For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:4-5

Love, Grace, and Freedom from the Cone of Shame to You All,

Jen

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She Was Convinced

We are kicking off our “Women of the Bible” series by taking a look at Eve. The story of Adam and Eve is one of those stories that most people, both Christian and non, are somewhat familiar with. Though many may not understand the truth and relevance of the story, they have heard the basic concept- Adam and Eve naked in a garden, Eve is tempted by serpent, eats apple, and after that they are hiding behind bushes. For those of us who live a life a faith, we know there is so much more.

We know that the world we live in is not the world God desired for us to live in. We know that had it not been for that one act of disobedience, we would be living in perfect harmony not only with each other, but with the animals and the environment. We know that we wouldn’t always be running frantically to and fro trying to fit 36 hours of work into a 24 hour day. And we know that we would not experience pain, loss, suffering, and death.

The Good News is we also know that this is a temporary situation. We know that one day things will be restored and we will experience the world God desired us to live in. We know that we will see the people we miss and that every tear will be wiped away by Jesus himself. And though these truths bring us comfort and peace there are still days when I say “seriously Eve, what were you thinking?”

Think about it. Prior to the fall, Eve was content walking around naked! That alone is a world I cannot even fathom. I don’t even like walking around in a swimsuit or shorts let alone be naked. And I must say I find relief in knowing that we are given white robes of righteousness in heaven because the thought of being naked just may keep me out.

All joking aside, have you ever wondered why Eve did it? Why would the woman who has everything, even the gift of walking and talking to God himself, risk it all? Though it may seem easy to judge and question her, the same is true for many of us today. We buy the same lie that Eve did. We believe there is something more out there and if we have whatever that something is, we will be happier.

We are bombarded with a million “somethings” every day. It says in Genesis 3:6 that “Eve saw that the the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom the serpent told her it would give her.” I don’t know about you but to me it sounds like most of the magazines, commercials, and Facebook posts we take in every day. We are presented with something beautiful and perfect and told if we buy this product we will be beautiful and perfect also and then we will be happy. We are solicited to join a dating site filled with handsome, adventurous men that will listen intently to our hopes and dreams while going to the mall with us and our new lives with these new men will be perfect. We see friends and family going on perfect vacations, buying new perfect cars, and building big perfect houses, and we look around at our stained carpet and old car and decide to bite the financial debt fruit.

It’s easy to see that Eve, like us, bought the lie. She was convinced there was something more. She was convinced that God was holding out on her. She kept looking at the one thing she didn’t have until she finally couldn’t take it any longer and just had to have it no matter what. And once she had it, just like us, she was not only disappointed, but now for the first time experienced shame and guilt.

So the short answer of why Eve ate the fruit is that she bought the lie. What I want to look at next is how she bought the lie. What made her more vulnerable than Adam? I have an answer based on something I noticed for the first time yesterday. You have another day or two to read the chapters and see if you come up with an answer also 🙂

For those of you who may be feeling like you are not enough, especially in your marriage, take today’s verse as a little kiss on the forehead from God

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him” Genesis 2:18

Love, Grace, and No More Lies To You All,

Jen

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Walking on Water

We arrived home Friday night from our three week vacation in Washington. After two days and twenty-one hours of driving I looked and felt like a zombie Saturday, but what do you expect when your lunch consists of sugar free Rockstar and sour patch kids? What? It’s not like I can eat a salad while driving…

I return to work tomorrow so for me summer is officially over. I know there are still warm days ahead and I will be able to walk, bike, and paddle for another month (hopefully two). When I say summer is over for me I mean the relaxed, minimal stress, easy going, happy go lucky part of summer. To me, that is the best part of summer (and the tan…everything looks better tan)!

In honor of my last night of summer, I thought I would share one final lesson I learned from Faith (my paddle board). It’s not that there won’t be more stories and life applications from Faith in the future, but starting tomorrow we are switching gears and starting a new series that I am very excited about(please pray God helps me figure out how to fit writing in as I return to work).

Our last night in Washington the lake was smoother than glass and the evening air was perfect. It was the fifth day in a row of 90 degree temps and the evenings were amazing. Add to that the fact that there was a full, or close to full moon. As it comes out it looks so close you would swear you could touch it if you jumped off the diving board high enough. Even though we had a lot of last minute things to do before leaving at 7am the next morning, I simply could not pass up the chance for one last ride.

My first few minutes were so peaceful as I glided along the water. It couldn’t have been a better night. About fifteen minutes into my ride I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of kayaks, pontoons, and speedboats coming out on the lake. It seemed more like a Saturday night than a Wednesday night. The lake is only 450 acres so it is easy to take note of the boat traffic.

I saw a woman sitting at the end of her dock and mentioned that it seemed like a Saturday night on the lake and she said everyone was out to watch the space shuttle launch. Supposedly we were going to see it start from the west and go over the lake. It seemed odd to me but as I looked around the lake I saw a few boats just sitting in the middle and others still coming out so I thought it must be true. I decided to turn around and get the kids so they could see it.

As I made my way back home I heard the sound of a boat that seemed close behind me. Since it was dusk and the full moon was already glowing I was concerned they may not be able to see me. I turned around to see how close the boat was and as I turned my head back towards the front, a small wave rolled in on my left and I almost fell off. The only time I have fallen off my board is when I attempted to do some yoga (which I can hardly even do on dry land). I have never fallen off while paddling.

I was caught off guard by how quickly it all happened. All I did was turn to look to see if I was in danger and the next thing I knew I was wobbling all over on the board. I immediately thought of the story where Peter walks on water (not that my story was anywhere near as cool as his). One minute he is walking confidently towards Jesus and the next minute he hears the rolls of thunder, and sees the raging waves and bloop, he starts to sink.

As I head into a new school year I purpose to keep my eyes on Jesus and not get distracted or fearful by the thunder rolls and storms of life. I know I have a busy schedule, but so does every other woman I know. Somehow when it is all said and done, our kids make it to school (most days), have food to eat (thank God for $5 pizza), and all the things that truly need to get done gets done. FYI- the dusting NEVER truly needs to get done 🙂

The sun has officially set tonight. My summer is officially over. It’s okay though because tomorrow begins the year of walking on water. No more anxious thoughts about how to get it all done. No more frozen in indecisiveness moments of fear. No more insecurity. No more less than God’s best!

Jesus is calling each and every one of us to get out of our boats and walk on the water towards him. I’m getting out of mine. Anyone care to come with me?

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” said Jesus.-Matthew 14:12

It’s not that there won’t be days that like Peter, we take our eyes off of Jesus and begin to sink in the struggles of life. It will happen. The awesome part is the fact that Jesus will still be there offering his hand to pull us up. Don’t be afraid of failing. Technically Peter failed. However, the story is not referred to as “the time Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and sunk into the sea”. No. It is referred to as the time Peter walked on water.

I would like to be remembered like that.

Love, Grace, and a Walking on Water Day to You All,

Jen

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The Rescue

Growing up in Minnesota we would go boating for hours on the river or on Lake Minnetonka. It was our favorite thing in the world to do. I could sit in the front of the boat all day long while we cruised on the water. It never got old. Boating with my parents are by far my favorite memories. I miss my dad for many reasons but one of the things I miss most is going with him on a boat trip. I have heard people say that heaven is whatever your idea of heaven is. If that is true there is a never ending river and an open bowed boat with my dad driving it right now. The very thought of that makes me smile, even if it isn’t true.

Our cabin in Washington sits right on the lake. If I take ten steps from our front door I will be in the water. It is a great, clean, spring-fed lake. It is the perfect size lake to swim, kayak, paddle board and tube. It is not however a great size lake to go boating on. It is fun to driving slow and looking at all of the houses and cabins, but I like to go fast :).

For years I have been begging my father-in-law to take me on some “big water”. Our cabin is close to the Pend Oreille river which runs right into Lake Pend Oreille, the second largest fresh water lake in the country. Every year the guys would talk about the lake and how it is 1100 feet deep in some parts and I would beg to go on it. The response was always the same “That would be fun- someday”.

Well this year my “someday” finally came! My father-in-law bought a new boat and he was ready to try it out on some big water. We launched the boat in the river and had an eighteen mile boat ride to the lake. The river was amazing. It was so wide and the houses alongside were huge. Some of them even had their own tram running from their house to the lake. I was smiling from ear to ear with tears running down my face as I was flooded with memories of boating with my dad. The only thing that would have made the moment better was if I could have shared it with my mom and sisters who also share the love of boating.

The river was amazing, but the lake- the lake was absolutely breathtaking. It was huge! The mountains surrounding the lake were magnificent and with each turn you felt like you were in another part of the country. If you told me I was in Alaska, or the Puget Sound I would have believed you. I felt so small and the world felt so big and it was all so perfect.

We stopped at a little marina so we could use the bathroom and get some snacks. I saw a tank top that read “My Happy Place- Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho.” I had to have it as I couldn’t have been anymore happy than I was at that moment. I put it on for the return trip and as the boat headed home I had the same smile and another tear or two over the perfectness of the day.

We got through the lake and entered the river. We had eighteen miles back to the boat launch. One mile in the boat made a horrible sound and then stopped completely and shut off. Tom tried to restart it, but it just sputtered and died. It was out of gas! Though the gas gauge read more than a quarter tank, the boat told us differently. The gauge was obviously broken. We were stranded in the middle of the river.

We will bypass, for today, the whole “Well didn’t you fill up with gas at the marina just to be safe” conversation. That is another lesson for another day. I will jump straight to the “What do we do now?” part of the story. After about two minutes of all of us staring at each other in disbelief while ignoring the “Why didn’t you guys just fill up the tank when we stopped at the marina?” elephant in the boat,the guys started waving their arms at a boat nearby. At first the people simply waved back thinking we were just following friendly boat etiquette but when the guys kept waving they finally stopped and said “Do you need help?”

Their boat was an expensive bright orange Wake Setter boat with all the bells, whistles, gadgets, and more. They were out trying to surf behind the boat when we flagged them down. The driver seemed nice enough but the others in the boat simply seemed annoyed with the thought of taking time out of their day to help the idiots that ran out of gas on the river that runs into the country’s second largest freshwater lake.

The driver said he would drive the four miles north to the next marina to see if they had a gas can or some other means of helping us. That was the extent of their offer to help but beggars can’t be choosers so we thanked them and watched them ride away.

After what seemed like eternity we all came to the conclusion that they did not go look for help. We thought it more likely that they turned the corner of the river and said “So long suckers!” and went about their Friday afternoon fun. I asked my father-in-law if the boat had a paddle. He dug it out of the hull and I took it, smiled, and said “I have been training the entire summer for this moment.”

I climbed on the bow of the boat, sat down, and started paddling. Now paddling a twenty-two foot boat seventeen miles down the river would be quite a task, and I did not think for a million years I would accomplish that task. I did however, take great pleasure in seeing my hours of paddle-boarding amount to something as we worked our way down the river, and I preferred taking an active role in my rescue rather than just sit there like some helpless damsel in distress.

I also knew that when another boat saw a middle aged woman sitting on the bow paddling the boat, they would know we were in need of rescue. Rather than flag down someone that doesn’t want to help, this would give someone that is willing to help an opportunity to come to us.

Sure enough, within a few minutes two boats approached us, one on the right and one on the left. The one on the left was heading our way and offered to tow us to the marina. It was an Italian family (judging by the beautiful dark skin, hair, and sweet accent) with a small yellow boat named Vintage Whine. We attached to their boat and began the thirty minute tow to the marina. We kept commenting on how awesome it was that they would do this as it was now about eighty eight degrees of pounding sun and we could tell they were miserably hot. So awesome to come across such generous people.

We will also bypass the part of the story where we get towed into the marina that is also a riverside bar and grill and were faced with approximately one hundred sympathetic, yet condescending, smirky looks for the poor idiots that did not fill up the tank when they stopped at the marina on the lake to use the bathroom. There is no need to discuss that. There is nothing amazing about that part of the story.

What was amazing is the fact that the gas attendant pointed over to the sheriff boat and said “Someone came a few minutes ago to call the sheriff and tell them you were out of gas and where you were located”. We looked and saw the sheriff and then we saw the bright orange Wake Setter parked along the dock. What do you know, the nice guy with the crabby crew pulled through after all. He did in fact rescue us, just not in the way we thought.

There have been many times in my life that I have cried out to the Lord for help and felt like I have waited forever for that help. There have even been times when I felt like there may never be a rescue at all. However, time and time again God has proven faithful and has rescued me. Whether I was in distress due to my own idiotic mistakes, or the victim of someone else’s, He has always rescued me.

In the times that I feel I need an immediate tow, but God had a different rescue plan in mind, I often find that my character develops, my faith grows, and ultimately when the rescue does come, my relationship with God is strengthened. Sometimes those lonely cry for help times are the best ways to grow your faith and your relationship with God. If life cruised along perfectly down the river all the time, I have the feeling I would drift away from Him and forget how sweet it is when He is my rescue.

If you find yourself up river without a paddle in life right now, I assure you that God is aware of your circumstance and has heard your prayer. I also assure you that the prayer has been answered and help is on the way. Though you may feel like you need an immediate tow, He ultimately knows the best rescue for your situation, and the answers are on their way!

He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. Psalm 145:19

Love, Grace, and a Tow Rope Rescue To 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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I Quit!

This morning my daughter Charley and I took our one year old Mastiff Nana on a hike. It is 1.5 miles to the top of the hill and back down again. There are some steep parts on the way up where your heart gets pumping pretty good, but overall it is a pretty nice three mile hike.

I wasn’t sure if I should bring Nana today. I had brought her with yesterday and she seemed a little stiff and tired. I thought she maybe needed a rest day. However, as soon as I started to put my shoes on she stood next to me wagging her tail and whining. I took that as a sign that I should bring her with.

A few minutes into the hike I realized it was a little warmer than I had expected. It was a cooler morning but when the sun finally came out it came out strong. There was also no wind at all. Within minutes Nana’s tongue was hanging out and I could tell she was getting warm. She kept running ahead and exploring and her little nub of a tail was sure wagging so I assumed she was doing great.

On the way back down the hill Nana suddenly stopped, sat down, and then laid down. Her face was worth a million words, but all she needed were two- I QUIT! There was no way she was getting back up again. I looked at my phone and it said we still had a half a mile until we were back at the car. Nana weighs about 85 pounds so carrying her was not an option. I told Charley to wait with Nana and I would run ahead and drive back to pick them both up.

We’ve all been there haven’t we? We get to a point where we just can’t do it anymore. We are tired, weary, and hopeless. It doesn’t matter what hike we are on. We could be in a struggling and dysfunctional relationship. We could be dealing with an addiction. We could simply be overbooked and exhausted by all there is to do as a woman these days. Whatever the hike is, we sometimes get to the point where we throw up our hands, sit down, and say “I Quit.”

The Good News is, just as I was willing to run ahead to get the car to save Nana, we have Someone that has already gone before us and knows the end from the beginning. He is more than willing to be our refuge and hiding place when we grow weary. He is more than willing to pick us up when our journey has us worn out. And when we can’t take another step, it is just like Jesus says in the famous Footprints poem “It was then that I carried you”.

Then Jesus Said, “Come to me all who are weary, and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

If you find yourself wanting to say “I Quit” in any area of your life, please know that Jesus is waiting for you, with open arms. Unlike me, who wasn’t strong enough to carry Nana, He can carry you through anything as far as you need him to. All you need to do is ask. If you would like prayer for any area of your life, please fill out a prayer request. I would be honored to pray for you.

Love, Grace, and a Place of Rest To You All,

Jen

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