And All the Parents Pray for Love…

First day of school photoThis morning, I walked into a classroom of kindergarteners on their first day of school. I stood with the other parents watching the little ones find their desks and glance at new faces. Some were timid while others were bold. As I looked at the other parents in the room, I knew we all had the same thought in our minds. We want our children to be loved.

Authentic, unconditional love. We need it and we plead desperate cries to God asking that our children receive it. And do you know why? Because we were created for it.

We were created to love and be loved.

  • Love requires giving without expectations of receiving something in return.
  • Love requires bravery in knowing we won’t always be loved back.
  • Love requires an honest heart to render grace to those who seem undeserving.

It seems an impossibility to love anyone with this type of godly love. This is because as we grow from sweet children to wounded adults, we experience heartache from those who weren’t sure how to love. We somehow get lashed with pain from people who were never loved themselves. It’s a cycle.

I believe we can make a difference by not only showing the love of Christ, but by teaching it to our children first.

  • Instead of retaliation, redirection.
  • Instead of walls, windows.
  • Instead of jealousy, Jesus.

To love with humility necessitates an understanding that we are loved with holy love. We first need to accept the love which was poured out in the form of a savior on a cross, and then learn to live in His presence on this side of Heaven.

We were all made to love. So let us love well.

You were loved by Him first, friend.

  • No matter how you feel, you are loved!
  • No matter who has hurt you, you are loved.
  • No matter what worries you face, you are loved with holy love.

No one can ever take His love from you. Now go pour it out on someone else and teach your children to do the same.

You were made for love.

 

Love,

Jennifer

 

This is NOT the Offering I Planned…

OfferingsAt the beginning of the summer, my pastor greeted me in the hallway of church and handed me the book Blessed Be Your Name by Matt and Beth Redman. He said it was a great book about worship and thought I might be interested in reading it.

I love to read, and so I had every intention of starting it right away, but life was busy. These are the times when I know without a doubt that God weaves every single moment in our lives together like a priceless piece of art.

At the time the book was given to me, life was going along just fine. I had no idea that I would need the words which were poured out on the pages of that book. I didn’t have a clue that, once again, grief was up ahead waiting for me to arrive.

Last weekend, I finally sat down to play the piano. It’s been awhile. When I’m facing difficulties, music becomes repressed deep inside. I can’t sing a note and playing the piano doesn’t appeal to me. But on Saturday, my fingers finally eased over the keys and I heard my voice again. It was during that time of worship when I saw the book out of the corner of my eye, so I opened it wide. I read it cover-to-cover.

In the worship song Blessed Be Your Name, a portion of the lyrics say, “Blessed be Your Name on the road marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering.” Oh friends, recently there has been nothing but pain in my offering. And yet I have some good news: I’m still making an offering.

I came across the following quote while reading the book:

“Mature worshippers of Jesus learn to bring an offering in every season of the soul, for every high and every low, knowing that the worth of Jesus outweighs each and every pleasure in this life.”

-Matt and Beth Redman (Blessed Be Your Name Worship Series)

In every season – good or bad – we have a responsibility to bring an offering before our God. His worth is beyond what any of us can comprehend, and offerings of praise are not just for the times when life is smooth sailing. Offerings of praise need to be found in the middle of the lament- deep in the midst of the soul’s cry for breath.

To give Jesus your tears in an offering of praise shows an urgent need for Him to show strong in your life. It’s telling Him, “Hey, I’m counting on You, because You are God and I need You desperately!” Offerings of joy are beautiful, but let’s face it… it’s much easier to give an offering during the harvest than it is during the famine. And so in every season, EVERY SEASON, we must pour out an offering of praise. It might not be the offering we planned, but it will be the most meaningful…

I wish I could properly communicate the stirring in my soul right now. Through pain, depression, fear, and grief God is moving. I’m breathing again. I won’t lie, it’s still hard. And so I thank God that I find Him most inside the “stills.”

I want to encourage you to give Him an offering today. Through pain or Joy, whether it’s down on your knees in prayer or over a cup of coffee with a friend who needs love, give an offering to Christ today. Believe that He is for you and know that He loves you. His worth outweighs whatever you are facing. Trusting Him in the valley is the only way to find strength to climb the mountain.

I know that many of you who read what I write have found this blog because you’re struggling through grief. I wish I could look into your eyes and tell you that your offering, whatever it is, is enough for Christ. Whatever you have is more than enough for Him. You are enough for Him. Your grief isn’t meant to destroy you, it’s meant to lead you further into His arms.

So pour it out, sisters. Pour out the offering of praise in the midst of whatever your circumstances are. Regardless of joy or tears, empty it all out for Him.

How can I pray for you today?

Love,

Jennifer

PS: We still have Saturday only conference passes available for The Mercy Retreat. And, if you are local and interested in a Friday night only girl’s night at The Mercy Retreat, email me. I am the Friday evening keynote speaker. You can join us for worship, the word, and yummy desserts for a very minimal fee. If you need your soul fed, it will be a great place to spend some time.

 

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Change

Today is Five Minute Friday with Kate Motaung! Lisa-Jo recently handed the baton to Kate to host FMF. The idea is to write for 5 minutes without editing. Just write. Today’s word prompt is change.


 

N.C. Mountain photoWe all face changes in life. Usually, they happen slowly over the process of time. We ease into aging and quietly embrace the inevitable. We learn to enjoy each moment and count our 1,000 gifts with hope.

However, sometimes, change happens quickly. The rug is ripped out and the world we live in refuses to stop. We are forced to go on with life while fighting the desperation to rewind our circumstances. We want nothing more than to reclaim what was once identified as normal. And we can’t…

On July 16th, my life, and the lives of my family, changed forever when my wonderful stepfather went home to be with the Lord from a sudden heart attack. He was only 58 years old. There were no real warning signs. We never had the chance to say goodbye.

And then life kept moving and change swept us up.

Today, life looks completely different than anything I’ve ever known. But God…

  • I know God is with us inside the changes.
  • I know when we are swept up with change, we are also swept up into His arms.
  • I understand He has a plan and purpose for everything and everyone under heaven.
  • I’m choosing to trust in the midst of  change.

Today, I’m praying that you will trust inside change as well. When grief consumes and change calls, I pray you will allow our Lord and Savior to wrap you up in peace. I pray you will remember that you have purpose, even inside the changes of life. And, I want you to know that though the change might hurt, it doesn’t mean it can’t be used for His glory. All things can be used to give Him glory and fulfill the purpose He has for you.

I know you can find grace inside His change.

Yesterday, I tweeted this: Grief has a way of opening the eyes to what’s important. Grace has a way of allowing one to see the upside of grief.

What I mean is that with Jesus, we can always find hope in what seems hopeless. And when Christ is in it, every negative includes a positive. Jesus is in the change, friends. He is in this. I know He is…

Have a beautiful weekend.

Love,

Jennifer

My book, Nothing to Hold but Hope, is available!

For When You’ve Lost Hope

hopeI don’t know if it’s the process of grief I’m enduring or the condition of the world, but just about everywhere I look seems to be shadowed with gray. People appear lost. It’s as if they have gone missing inside tragedy and grief. I’ve even felt that way myself.

But when it comes down to it, I believe we only lose ourselves when we lose our sense of hope. Without hope, what was once gray becomes darkness. Darkness has the ability to scare us into feeling that the light may never turn on. But if we look at light with spiritual eyes, it takes on a different meaning. From a spiritual perspective, the light is Jesus. And He is always with us so we are never really living inside darkness. Not as long as we believe that He is the light of the world.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

-John 8:12

We might feel alone in the middle of a pitch black pit, but our feelings usually are not the best representation of truth. Not of His truth, anyway. And when we find ourselves stuck inside our own feelings is when we need to claim the truth in His word. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy. We need to dig deep to do it. Very deep. It takes gaining just a tiny shred of faith to have the courage to see His light, but that’s all we need. When we remember even the smallest amount of faith, we start to be able to see inside the darkness.

Regardless of what your situation might be, you must dig deep. You need to force yourself to find a tiny shred of faith. It will go a long way. Believing in the light before you actually see it brings miracles. It allows Him to move inside your circumstances. And most of all, believing in His light will cover you in a blanket of hope. And that hope will transform your heart.

Do not allow yourself to lose hope because you can’t see the light. Do not become a slave to the way you feel. Grab tight to faith and allow it to pull you into light and hope.

You’re going to make it!

Love,

Jennifer

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

My book, Nothing to Hold but Hope, is available via Amazon.

I’m Staying in the Center…

Corrie Ten Boom Quote“There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – let us pray that we may always know it!”
― Corrie Ten Boom

The center of His will. Sometimes it’s hard to accept. We can’t see the entire picture the creator designed. Only tiny bits and pieces are visible, so we continue walking blindly by nothing but faith and trust. It’s one step at a time and It’s hard. It hurts. To be honest, right now, I hate it. Every step is painful and feels treacherous.

But I know.

I know His goodness and grace. I’ve experienced the sweet peace from existing right where I belong- in the center of His will. My mind says, “Yes, it’s where I want to be because in the end the victory will be worth the battle fought.” All while my heart screams, “It hurts! Make it stop!”

Yet in all this, I’m thankful for His mercy. I see it. I see it inside the memories I have. I see it inside the compassion of others who are willing to pray for me. And, by the way, prayer is the best gift you will ever give or receive – To approach the throne of The Living God for another soul is sacred and not to be taken lightly.

As hard as my battle is, I’m willing to fight. I need to keep going because God has a place for me inside the center of His will. He expects me to reside there. He has a purpose and a plan  not only to work for me, but more importantly, to work through me. And your place is saved there as well- right smack dab in the center. He wants to use you. Our faith is supernatural, divine weaponry that can be used to help change hearts through love. His love.

I want to love well.

I realize that as long as I continue hating the steps of faith because they hurt, that I am delaying the through process. Last week I received and email from a reader. She said, “Remain faithful and courageously accept what God has allowed to happen” courageously accept. Wow. Those are powerful words.

He has a through process for my life and I must be brave. In fact, I’ve been working for the last six months on a book all about the through process. And now the rubber is meeting the road. I’m putting my faith into action. And even though it is completely unlike me, I’m doing it through tears.

You need to know this:

  • If you hear me speak, expect some tears. I’m staying in the center.
  • If you catch a glance of me during worship somewhere, expect some tears. I’m staying in the center.
  • If you read my blog, expect that tears have covered the keyboard where it was written. I’m staying in the center.

And you must stay in the center as well.

I’m praying that today you will feel His mercy and His call to reside in the center of His will. I pray that though it may hurt, you will see the through process at work deep inside you. I pray you become more alive to knowing that others are watching you because they need to feel they are not alone. I pray you will be brave. And choosing to stay in the center is choosing just that: brave.

Bold

Ready and

Available

Vying for

Everything God wants to do in your heart and through your life.

Love,

Jennifer

PS: We still have some day passes available for The Mercy Retreat. And if you are holding out hope of coming for the weekend, you can contact me and I can see if Antiochian Village Conference Center has any rooms available to sell. I would love to see you.

 

 

 

The Day God Answered (How I Know for Sure that He Hears)

Isaiah 4110Before you read today’s post, I want you to know that though it is a story surrounding very specific circumstances pertaining to my life. It is meant to encourage you and make you aware that God hears us when we call. Our cries do not fall on deaf ears. He reminded me of His mercy last week when He answered a prayer. This post isn’t meant to give myself a pat on the back. That is the last thing I ever want to do. I only want to remind you of His faithfulness. He hears you friends, He hears you! (It’s also much longer than I usually write, but I NEED to share this with you- to give you hope.)


 

Saturday, Paul and I celebrated twenty-three years of marriage. A few months ago, we booked a cabin in the mountains and planned a weekend get-a-way with some of our closest friends. We all wanted a little time to do nothing but enjoy good company and rejuvenate from the hectic schedules of everyday life.

When we first made our plans for a weekend escape, my life was going along as planned. I was happy and content. But four weeks ago, everything turned upside down and when the long anticipated anniversary weekend finally arrived, the last thing I wanted to do was put on a fake smile and go on a mini vacation. I didn’t want to play games with friends and pretend that grief wasn’t choking the life out of me.

You see, I don’t like to cry in front of people. I don’t want anyone to see what is transforming inside this soul. Right or wrong, it’s just who I am. I put up walls. I minister where I’m called and rarely allow myself the opportunity to be ministered to. I know it sounds crazy, but it has always been my personality. However, anyone who knows me well can look inside my eyes and see that I’m different. This has changed me. It’s not only my heart that aches right now, my bones even ache with the feeling of emptiness from losing someone I love so much. Everything hurts. I know God is holding me up, but I’m fighting deep despair. Every day is a battle.

As the weekend trip approached, anxiety set in. I was worried. Even though my mother was urging me to go, I felt guilty leaving her all alone in the middle of her grief. And I especially didn’t want to leave the three children that drive me to keep going. But the weekend was long since booked and paid for. Not to mention other people were counting on us.

Last Tuesday night, while lying in bed, I felt the weight of the world resting on me. We were to leave on Thursday, and I did not want to go. I began crying out to God about everything in my life. I had been considering cancelling speaking engagements, and have even felt like pulling the plug on the blog. Who am I to encourage anyone right now when I feel swallowed up by grief? After all, I just released a book with the title, Nothing to Hold but Hope… It doesn’t seem right. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.

So I prayed a very specific prayer that sounded something like this…

“Lord, I know I should just trust and not ask for some type of sign, but I need one. I need You to tell me I’m doing the right thing. I need You to show me I’m supposed to continue on in ministry. I even need You to release me to go away with my friends. I don’t want to pull people down inside the weight of my own grief. It’s too dark where I am. I’m desperate for You to show me.”

The next morning I woke up feeling despair, but I went on with my day as usual. Later in the afternoon I sat down at the computer to check my email. That’s when I saw it – an email from a blog subscriber- an answer to the prayer I cried out just the night before.

The Lord used her to answer a prayer regarding the direction of my ministry. He spoke to me through her words, and I would like to share a small portion of the email with you. I want you to read some of the lines that were direct answers to prayer. I’m so thankful that she took time to write to me all the way from a different country. But most of all, I’m thankful that she is obedient and willing to be used of God. The Lord even used her to help give me the strength to go away for the weekend.


 

“… I read your blog as often as I can and you minister to me every single time without fail. Honestly, I don’t know what my spiritual condition would have been like without you. Your words were like ‘the eye’ in the middle of the storm, like a light in the darkness that overwhelmed me…”

“…All this to say, Jennifer, you are chosen by God and worth so much more than you would ever know. Satan, is just that, a deceiver, a liar who tries unrelentingly to thwart the plans of God. Don’t give him a foothold, don’t yield to Him. Overcome evil with good, don’t let the enemy ruin your life. Turn to God for strength, trust him in the midst of pain and confusion, you will win the victory and overcome doubt- one of Satan’s greatest tactics. Don’t allow our adversary to silence you. We overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony and your testimony of HOPE and STRENGTH has helped save my life. You would never quite understand the impact that your ministry is having. It’s stretching across the globe, all the way to me…”

“…God sees, He knows and He cares and He only desires to show His love and compassion to you. I know that your heart is heavy. But we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. God is bigger than all your suffering- trust in Him, in His faithfulness and His ability to workout in your life the purposes that WILL BE for your ultimate good…”

“…So, my dear sister, be encouraged. God needs you and so do I.”


 

When you doubt, and cry out to Him, He hears. He hears you in the big and small. He hears you in the loud and in the quiet. He hears you in the calm and in the fierce. He hears. He proved that to me, yet again, last week. And I know He will do the same for you.

Oh, and by the way, I did have a moment over the weekend when I couldn’t stop the tears. I survived, and my friends rallied around me. I don’t know why I try to hide so often. If you’re anything like me, let the walls come down. You will survive too. I promise…

Call on Him, friends.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

Robin Williams – I Have Some Questions…

Robin Williams 140811192127-02-robin-williams-restricted-c1-main

I should probably give a little disclaimer about this post: It isn’t the type of post I usually write. It’s not encouraging. It’s about working out the frustration I feel over the dark illness of depression and the insensitivity of society towards it. Sometimes, you just need to say what you need to say. Today […]

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Holding on to Hope (A Guest Post)

Hi friends. It is  so amazing how God works. Deep down in the mystery of everything, He breathes life. I can’t tell you how often I’ve needed reminded of who He is over these past weeks. Together, His life and breath is a beautiful representation of hope. Every day since July 16th has been a […]

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What I Refuse to Believe…

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I wasn’t planning to blog today. My heart has been heavy, and I didn’t feel like pounding out overly somber words. I want to be an encourager. The last thing I ever want to do is pour out grief so thick that together we find ourselves stuck there with nothing to lift us. Today, I […]

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For When the Superhero Cape Doesn’t Fit…

Superheros

Hey, Friend. If you are feeling pressure to attain perfection in your own home, for your own family, friends, or community circles, then this is for you… She cries the tears of perfection misunderstood. The superhero cape doesn’t fit and the crown she imagined wearing lost its sparkle long ago. She’s tired. She’s worn. She’s […]

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