Why I’m Tired of the Prosperity Gospel…

Gracie with hands on her facephotoFirst, let me say this: I’ve been pursuing Jesus with my whole heart. I’ve been listening for the still, small voice and trying to remain right in the center of His will, which means dying to myself and coming alive in Him. OUCH!

I write to encourage others to do the same and often receive personal emails from readers who say they admire the way I’ve dealt with tragedy. Those emails are hard to read because, friends, I’m a mess! My heart is trying to heal and it’s one step forward and three steps back in the process of working to be healthy and whole again. But then I have to wonder if I was ever healthy and whole in the first place… Are any of us, really?

You see, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. I’m imperfect, and I grapple with God. Very regularly! I need you to know that It isn’t about being perfect. We all have bad days and it’s okay. You see, the bad days lead us to the good ones. And regardless of how bad the day is, there is new mercy in each one.

We can’t pretend the bad days don’t exist. If they didn’t, how would we learn anything in life?

Sometimes, I get tired of the “prosperity Gospel.” The Gospel is meant to be prosperous on the whole, and overall, as it pertains to the hope of glory: Jesus. However, it doesn’t mean we won’t have moments when we want to scream, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” and then head straight to bed where we pull the covers over our heads and sleep. If you don’t believe me, read 1 Kings chapters 17-19. Elijah, who is one of my heroes, will prove my point.

Elijah was living smack dab in the center of God’s will doing everything he was supposed to do, yet, he still found himself overwhelmed by the situation he faced. Running for his life just wasn’t cutting it anymore. He was exhausted. He was pursuing God with all his might and then he broke. Now here is the good news, and this is why I’m taking courage no matter how I feel…

In the story of Elijah, we have a front row seat to watch him chase hard after God. He was doing everything He was supposed to do, and then when he felt as if he wanted to throw in the towel, God pursued him. Hard. Yes, that’s what I said!

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a boom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” Then as he lay and slept under a boom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again.  And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.”  So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.

-1 Kings 19:4-8

God provided an angel to feed him and give him strength not once, but twice. The first time he went right back to sleep. It was the second time that he was refreshed, renewed, and ready to go after all God had planned for him.

Sometimes, pulling the blankets up high is necessary. We need to rest so that we can reevaluate our situations and allow God to provide what we need. We might be anxious about our problems, but God is anxious for us.

I lost someone I loved very, very, very much, and I’m hurting. No matter how happy my Instagram pictures look, underneath is a girl counting on God to send an angel to minister strength to her. And that is the difference between the bad days that lead us to God and the ones that lead us away from Him. No matter how difficult the day, if it leads us to the Almighty, then I would define it as prosperous. It’s perspective!

And something else, if you’re enduring a struggle, it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything to cause it or that you are outside the will of God for your life. Bad things happen to good, godly people. The end!

Dear Hurting Friend,

Your day might be difficult and your life might be upside down. Count. On. God.

It’s okay to have a bad day and pull the blankets up high over your head. As long as you are praying for strength from the only One who can send it, you’re going to be okay.

When we allow God to work in our difficulties, our weak moments lead to His supernatural strength. (Tweet that)

May you find grace in every moment as you live counting on Him. He is pursuing you. You might not feel it, so please choose to believe it.

Love,

Jennifer

If you are interested in reading my book, Nothing to Hold but Hope, you can find it here.

 

 

 

 

Because Mothers Have a Hard Time Letting Go…

They walk in the front door bundled up from the snow and cold. As they take off their gloves and hats, they chatter about everything from art class to letter books and wrap it up tightly with confessions of candy eaten on the bus. Life excites them and everything is shiny and new.

snowmanIMG_5428Even the hard issues that happen are rolled up in resilience and fortitude to forge ahead. They are protected and unscathed by the world. I will fight to keep it this way. Why? Because I’m a mother.

me and kids 466553_4658894080703_1778383401_oI will battle on my knees, as long as I’m living, to make sure they stand secure. The world might mark them, but as long as I mark them with Jesus first, they will stand upright. And I pray, “Lord, let them hold tightly to You. Forever.” It’s my job to fill them with love and hope and the promise of security. Why? Because I’m a mother.

There is only so long that kisses on boo-boos and warm hugs can ease pain. I know for a fact this is true. I know that I’m meant to let them go so they can grow – to build the fortress and then leave it for them to guard.

I constantly tell them how much I love them. I tell them they are smart and wonderful and made for things so great, that only Jesus could have designed the plans for their lives. I build them up so strong that only God Himself can allow the walls of their fortresses to fall.

pauly and grace and guitarAnd then I get a lump in my throat at all the walls He has allowed to come down around me. All the wounds I’ve had to carry and how much each one hurt. Yet, after the battle, I’m better. I’m stronger. I’m closer to the living God because the safe walls fell.

And I know that someday they will experience a fallen wall…

To know that I can’t shield them forever is a mother’s burden. But to understand that God is their shield is a mother’s reward.

They were made for holy work and sometimes holy is hard, tear-stained, and lonely. They were made for the kind of true joy that only comes after the mourning. They were made to give their hearts to a God who is always sovereign and provides security, even when every wall falls down.

I know this because I was made for the same.

And so were you.

And, as mothers, our prayers should be that every hurt would lead to holy love from our children’s hearts to the heart of their Creator. We must stop working so hard to keep them safe ourselves, that we forget to teach trust in the only One who secures them safely in His hand.

When I lost my baby daughter at almost 35 weeks gestational, my mother and grandmother could barely stand the pain I was forced to suffer. But God… I made it, and whatever my children might face, they will make it too. I don’t like the fact that there will inevitably be tears I can’t catch, situations I can’t fix, and hurts I might not even know about. But just like God works in my life, I know He is working in theirs.

So, today, I give Him my children to hold and love and keep safe. I will continue the battle on my knees in prayer and will never ever stop teaching them His promises. Why? Because I’m a mother.

May you give your children into the hands of the living God, and may He give you strength to do so…

Love,

Jennifer

To tweet this post and encourage someone, just click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For When You Wonder Where the Light Is…

I would have lost heart_nIn the middle of chaos we have a God who pursues us. When tragedy strikes and we think we’ve had all we can endure, we have a God who provides. He brings us new purpose, even in the middle of fire. There is power in His name.

We’ve been watching people we know walk through thick, dark clouds of tragedy. It’s easy to feel abandoned when horrific circumstances occur. To not be able to see in the middle of the dark, and to feel nothing but the weight of sorrow usually leads us to the center of fear.

I’m overjoyed I serve a God who continually commands, “Fear not.”

The other day I saw an Instagram picture from Ann Voskamp. It was taken from the window of an airplane. Above a blanket of thick clouds was the sun shining brightly. With the picture, she posted the words, “Above the clouds, light never stops shining.” I took a deep breath and thanked Jesus when I read that statement because truth holds those words tightly.

Light is always shining somewhere.

I’ve faced my own share of tragedy; I know what it is to hurt – to feel it so deep inside that my bones ached. And To actually feel the slight break of the human heart as grief penetrates it can lead not only to brokenness, but also bitterness.

Brokenness propels us to find the light, bitterness shackles us to the dark. (tweet that)

My first thought is to tell you that I’m in a season of deep prayer for so many who are hurting, but the truth is, prayer should never be for just a season. Regardless of whether we are facing the blessing of abundance or despair that comes from the lowest of places, our prayer life must stay consistent.

The consistency of a prosperous prayer life leads to an overflow of the Holy Spirit.

May our brokenness lead us straight into the arms of Jesus. And may we stay consistent in prayer as if it’s our mission – to help strengthen others and to send praise from our lips up to the heavens. May our voices echo throughout eternity, and may joy overflow even when we can’t see light. Because, after all, even if we can’t see it, it’s shining somewhere.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

I Need to Ask You a Very Difficult Question…

fall road_nThe other day I had my first television interview for my book Nothing to Hold but Hope. The interviewer asked me about a question I posed in the introduction: “Are you ready to hear what God is speaking to you?”
It’s amazing how after enduring a trial we can look back and see the fingerprints of the Father on the situation. I remember that girl all covered up in grief – the one who wasn’t sure what God was doing. She didn’t really know if she wanted to hear what He was speaking, because , after all, what if she didn’t like it?
It becomes very difficult to submit to His will when we have our own agenda. (You can tweet that.)
In the midst of suffering and begging for God to intervene, we often have our minds set on one thing: The answers we want. We find it cliché that He knows what is best and His timing is perfect. We become so wrapped up in the answer we desire, that we stop desiring God. When it comes down to it, we are often begging for a magic wand. “Just give me what I want! Just give me what I need! I’m desperate.” We need to become desperate for Jesus, rather than desperate for the answers we need from Him. (Tweet that.)
Remember that old worship song that says, “And, I, I’m desperate for You. And, I , I’m lost without You.” Let me ask you something: When you sing those songs in the middle of your deepest needs, are you focused on God or on the outcome? It’s a difficult question, I know.
I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you from my own experience that many times I was desperate for what I needed. And though I loved God, I wasn’t focused on needing Him as much as I was focused on what He could give me. It hurts to type those words. I can literally feel my chest burning as I think about it.
Sometimes, we need to regroup. We need to look at our situations and work to align our will with His. We have to choose to be ready to hear what He wants to speak. It’s discipline. Just like we make a conscious effort to eat right, exercise, or ___________ you fill in the blank, we need to be disciplined enough to say every single day, “Speak to me, Lord. I’m ready to listen.” We must stop looking for giant signs and start listening for the still, small voice.
If you want freedom, listen for Jesus. Through His word, He actively speaks to hearts every second of every day.
After my fifteen year struggle through miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility, I can tell you this: I wish I would have started listening sooner, because once I did, even though I still felt pain, the door to freedom blew wide open.
Today, I want to urge you to condition yourself to hear the still small voice of God in your life. You’re going to get through this!
Love,
Jennifer

What Covers the Mud…

snow IMG_5423Hi Friends! It’s been a few days and all kinds of God things are happening here. I will tell you about them soon. I know… the suspense must be killing you! :)

The snow is falling outside my window. It’s a heavy snow covering everything bright white and beautiful. I love days like this. I have the blinds rolled up and am watching it cover the wintery ground. The snow has a way of making everything look peaceful. Even the sound of the crush under a warm boot sounds like a symphony. The lovely white has power to cover everything.

When we first moved into our house, twelve years ago, the yard was nothing but a mud pit. We built our house and because construction didn’t wrap up until November, landscaping wasn’t an option. I prayed all winter for the snow to fall because the house looked so beautiful when the gorgeous, gleaming powder fell. But when it melted… yuck!

Now every time it snows, I think about that first winter in this house and the way I prayed for God to let beauty fall from the sky and cover the shame of the mud hole. If only we could all see our hearts with that same view…

I don’t want to call you out, so I’ll do it to myself. I’m a sinner! every single day I think things I shouldn’t, say things I shouldn’t, and even act on things I shouldn’t. And I’m someone who loves Jesus with my whole heart.

But I’m still human.

I still make mistakes.

I am a work in progress.

As God has been digging deeper and deeper into the muddy corners of my heart, I find myself praying more and more for Him to cover it with the beautiful blood of His forgiveness. You see, the harder we follow after Christ, the more He will show us what needs to be fixed. Not in a guilty or condemning way. There is no condemnation in Christ. (See Romans 8:1-3) It’s a quiet, gentle reprove that speaks softly to the soul and directs us into paths of righteousness. (See Psalm 23:3) Sometimes, it hurts and we don’t want to go down the path He’s called us to walk. However, when we can bow in humility, the snow falls. It’s clean and glorious. It changes lives and ushers in hope.

2014 was a rough year for me, but I’m seeing so much favor, promise, and blessing in 2015. He is the God who sees our hearts, and nudges us to ask Him to clean them. He is the God who wants us to serve Him. He wants to pour blessings. He wants to comfort us in the moments when we feel we cannot make it any further. And He is the God who allows the snow to fall and make everything beautiful.

May everything in your life be beautiful today, friends, and may you desire a clean heart before the Almighty.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

-Psalm 51:10

Love,

Jennifer

 

How You Can Conquer This Weekend…

comforts us 10_nThere are days I worry because I still don’t feel like myself. I’ve endured a lot of changes in the last six months, and I often wonder when I’m going to feel good every day rather than just some days. When will Jennifer resurface for good?

And then I remember back to 1996 when I lost my baby girl. It took years to truly feel whole again. I didn’t think I ever would, but one of the miracles of God’s peace and protection is that we really do walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The key word in that last sentence is through. We keep moving. (See Psalm 23) Sometimes, He drags us kicking and screaming; sometimes, He carries us. All the time, He comforts us.

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-Romans 8: 37-39

Nothing that happens to us can separate us from His love. We are conquerors because He conquered the grave. And that means that even though this world can be unkind and downright evil at times, God is bigger than any problematic situation we face. Not even death can hold us back. Why? Because it couldn’t hold Him.

This weekend is my mom’s birthday. Her first one without her sweet husband. And, do you know what we are going to do? Regardless of how we feel, we are going to celebrate. He has done great things and will continue to do great things, EVEN STILL. He deserves praise, EVEN STILL. His love is the same, EVEN STILL.

So… if you are facing a situation that seems dire and makes you want to pull the covers up over your head. Don’t give in. Get up, stand on your feet, breathe in new mercy, and thank Him for the conquered grave. Enjoy some retail therapy or a great dinner with friends. Whatever you like to do, do it. Make yourself smile and then let the laughter bubble up. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 “O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

1 Corinthians 15:53-55

There is a lot of talk that says it doesn’t matter how we feel. And, friends, when it comes to Jesus, that is so true. We must depend on what we know is absolute rather than how we feel. But, I will be the first person to tell you that it still hurts. It hurts down deep. But when our Savior died on the cross, He gave us everything we need to fight. So fight today. Fight like you’ve never fought before.

Today, I pray strength over you. Enjoy your weekend, and each day after, in the freedom of Christ’s victory.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

Here’s to Unlimited Melodies and Hope-Sewn Souls…

unique melodies_n

This morning, as I was watching a T.V. talk show, a musician took the stage. My oldest son walked in the room and said, “Isn’t it amazing how there are an unlimited amount of melodies in the world?” I pondered that for a long time. Music is a gift. It’s miraculous how each musician can […]

{Continue reading…}

Don’t Feel Too Bad About the Muffins!

doughnut muffins_n

Hey Friends. It’s Monday. I know… If I could, I would share a delicious Brown Buttered Snickerdoodle Doughnut Muffin with Brown Buttered Buttercream Frosting! (Say that three times fast!) We would have a heart-to-heart and enjoy a cup of coffee together. I pinned the Brown Buttered Doughnut Muffins months ago and finally made them last […]

{Continue reading…}

What Your Life Depends On… (Some Sunday Encouragement)

boots_n

Hi Friends! On this second Sunday of the new year, I want to give you a word of encouragement. I’m amazed at the fire God has lit inside me for His word. In regards to speaking, writing, and teaching, I would have never thought that Christ would choose to use me in this way. And […]

{Continue reading…}

For When We Can’t See…

Sammy at Eye Doctor

I took my youngest son to the eye doctor this morning. They assured me that the weak muscles in his eyes are improving and he will probably grow out of his glasses sometime between the ages of ten and fourteen. I sat next to him as he read the chart. He is only able to […]

{Continue reading…}