For When You Question Your Ability to Serve…

fallow groundThe words of Hosea 10:12 won’t leave me. Months ago, I read them in all their glory and they keep coming back to my heart.

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.

-Hosea 10:12

Fallow ground is dormant, completely inactive, and unable to produce anything of worth. I wonder just how much fallow ground waits quietly inside my soul, and it unsettles me.

I’ve thought a lot this summer about where my writing should go and what direction I should take in every aspect of ministry. Questions have plagued my mind. Am I at the church God wants me attending? How can I use my gifts to serve? What gifts are for now, and what gifts need to be refined before I can properly serve Christ with them?

Recently, I heard Christine Caine say, “Your gifts will take you places your character cannot keep you.” Ouch and Oh, God, yes. So much truth.

I want to break up the fallow ground in my heart, soul, and life. I want to till it and plant seeds that will grow righteousness.

We’ve been traveling and the other day on one of our long drives from California to Nevada, my oldest son said, “I believe everyone’s purpose in life is to point people to Christ.” He went on to tell me that he isn’t a fan of the famous quote by St. Francis of Assisi “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

He told me that, of course, love is first and foremost, but God gave us words, and using them in love and truth seems to be a dying art. He’s right.

Our actions speak loudly, and they often prepare a heart to listen, but we must use words.

I’ve endured some trials recently. There are things I’ve said through them that I felt were important to say, but there have also been instances when I wish I would have handled particular situations differently. And in reliving those moments I have to be so careful because the enemy wants to whisper words founded on lies, such as, “See, it doesn’t matter how far you’ve come, you’ll never be good enough to serve Christ completely.”

Friend, aren’t you glad “good enough” isn’t a factor in whether we are able to serve Christ?

We will always have moments when we say the wrong thing, act incorrectly, and question our “ministry status’.” The reason being, without the belief and knowledge of Christ’s work on the cross, none of us are good enough. However, when we know who He is and begin to grasp the impact of what He’s done, we recognize that He lives in us and absorbs the weight of our sin, which flows holy blood to cover every piece that wasn’t enough without Him.

His love on the cross makes us enough. The fact is, on our own we won’t ever be good enough. It’s His love and outpouring of blood that qualifies us to fulfill every need He’s intended us to meet on this earth. He makes all things well, and that includes us.

So, for those of you who are questioning your purpose and whether or not you have what it takes to fulfill it, I want you to know…

  • You do, because He did.
  • You can, because He has.
  • The work on the cross is what defines your life in Him.
  • Separate from Him you can do nothing. With Him, you can do everything.

If there is any fallow ground waiting to be tilled, then prepare it. Offer it to Him. He will lead you, guide you, and set you free. And throughout the process, you will produce the fruit of His purpose in your life to be used in nourishing the lives of others. And when you make a mistake, allow Him to pick you up and brush you off. Don’t ever lean on your own abilities. It’s the strength which comes from Him that makes you whole, enough, and loved more than you know.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

For When You Feel Change is Waiting in the Wings…

gracephotoThere is one very powerful reality which has been on my mind: we have words to speak, and those words matter. Our hearts beat to the rhythm of what our souls cry. And the actions we take based on those cries are what will make the difference in the stories of our lives.

The moments that make us whole and happy, and the moments that make us distraught will all fuel action. They will stimulate words spoken out loud for someone else to hear. We have a choice, or maybe I should say responsibility, to use our words wisely.

Recently, I’ve been asking myself how I want to be remembered. Not because I think I won’t live to grow old and gray, but because I want my life, right now where I am, to count for something beautiful. I’m fully aware that the choices I make depend on it.

I’m a passionate person. I don’t always process situations as calmly as I should, because when something matters to me I have no problem battling for it. There are times when it doesn’t appear as if I’ve won. I feel defeated and unable to bring about change in areas where I know God has called me to stand for it. It hurts. It’s disheartening. And yet my soul cries out to go where I must, even when it hurts.

So, my heart continues to beat to the rhythm of the passion where Christ has called me, and what I’ve noticed is that sometimes He closes one door and decides to swing another wide open. When one door closes it usually feels like the sting of defeat. And yet Jesus says, “Follow Me, I have something better waiting.”

Right now, in the place where you are, you might feel called to stand up for something important. God might be molding you like clay in His hands to the point where your soul cries out with passion and purpose. You might feel called to continue walking a road that seems as if doors are closing, even slamming, in your face.

Keep going, friends. Keep walking the road where He has called. When situations don’t turn out how you hoped they would, keep marching on while fighting the good fight. Don’t allow words of anger escape. They can’t be taken back. Let prayer to the living God flow out. Choose righteousness. Choose hope.

Make sure your words and actions convey how you want people to remember you. I promise that though there may be times you feel as if you are walking the road alone, you’re not. He is right beside you.

And, by the way, I’m preaching to myself right now. I hope you can gain something from it as well.

Love,

Jennifer

My book, Nothing to Hold but Hope, is releasing July 2nd! I will be announcing some details about it over the weekend!

 

There is a War Being Fought…

wordsThis morning, while at an appointment, I heard a heartbreaking exchange of words between two coworkers. Words are weapons and used for the wrong purposes they can deeply wound.

We all have an arsenal of words that begin forming in the heart before they escape from the tongue. Will they be used to protect and defend, or will they be used to destroy? It’s a choice.

After that exchange of words this morning, one of the coworkers turned to me and said something nasty about the other. I didn’t say anything in return. My heart was heavy for both women involved.

We are a society that lives in the moment. We Instagram everything and without a second thought we allow our words to be read in the form of status updates for all of our “friends” to see. We’ve become desensitized to negativity and how it seeps into the soul. We are calloused not only to people’s pain, but also to their happiness. We act and react swiftly in real life as well as online. It’s a problem.

When someone shows pictures of their children, people complain they show too many. When someone else expresses their bad day, people criticize them for their depressing perspective. When one coworker makes a mistake the other deems them as incompetent and useless. Where is the balance? And when will we begin thinking about the hearts behind the words instead of focusing on the frustrations of our own quick-tempered thoughts?

The war of our words has been continually fought since the beginning of time. James, the half brother of Jesus, warns us all about the tongue. It’s the most difficult to tame and when it succeeds in doing damage, it is usually beyond repair. Once something is said it isn’t forgotten. Ever.

Today, I saw a women wounded because of someone else’s lack of patience. However, I know I’m not alone when I see impatience and insensitivity online almost every single day. It’s time to think before we speak. It’s time to encourage rather than discourage. It’s time to leave the judging to Jesus, and, instead, start trying to live the life He would have us live. I have to say, if we I did a better job at that, there would be far more women feeling encouraged than not.

Every one of us can make a much larger impact if we think before we speak, and praise before we punish. Even if it’s in the privacy of our own thoughts and hearts, we need to train ourselves to think from a positive perspective. It’s not too late to scrape away the layers of the callous and become soft to the hearts and lives of others.

Love,

Jennifer

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150Today, I’m linking up with Holley Gerth to encourage you through Coffee for Your Heart!

My book, Nothing to Hold but Hope,  is releasing July 2nd!

What I Won’t Say in front of My Daughter…

What i won't say in front of my daughterWe are preparing for a brief winter escape, so today I went bathing suit shopping. Where I live, I can’t remember the last time the temperature was above freezing. My skin is dry and flaky, and I’m carrying one, if not two, extra layers of winter… well, I’ll just say ice cream.  So you can only imagine my joy in the dressing room…

In all honesty, it wasn’t so bad. And do you know why? It wasn’t bad because of the following words… COVER UP. Any bathing suit ensemble is just not complete without a cover up to cover a multitude of weak moments shared between me, Ben, and Jerry.

All crying joking aside, I’m determined to be joyful because though I may need to practice more discipline, I realize there is so much more to life than my vain insecurities surrounding how I look in a pair of jeans, or even worse a swimsuit.

Too many women are trapped in the bondage of despair over how they look. No matter what body type we find ourselves inside, most everyone feels the same. We compare ourselves not only against each other, but also against mannequins that are sized to fit the waistlines of tiny 10 year old girls. We become angry and then we voice our opinions…

Today, while in the dressing room, my 5 year old daughter was watching me try on clothes. With every new garment I tried on, bathing suits included, she told me how beautiful she thought I looked. I refuse to confuse her opinion of me, or even worse her opinion of her future self, by belittling my body as I look in the mirror in front of her. I had to struggle to bite my lip, but I would not give in.

Believe me, I can use greater discipline. A well balanced, Healthy lifestyle is important to the mind, body, and soul. However, we are never going to get where we need to be if we continue to hold unhealthy standards concerning what we “should” look like. And we will never stop the cycle for our daughters if we speak negatively about ourselves in front of them. Our words carry tremendous power…

My husband recognizes my struggle. The other morning when I woke up there was a note written on the mirror, above the scale, that read, “Don’t worry about the number on the scale. You are skinny and beautiful exactly the way you are.”

If you don’t have this type of encouragement in your life then I want to say the same to you. Forget about the number on the scale. You are not that number. You have worth because Christ is worthy. And your worth comes from a place much deeper than anyone, including you, can see on the outside.

I want to caution you to be careful how you speak about yourself not just in front of your children, but in front of your friends, spouses, and everyone else for that matter.

If you need to work on becoming healthy, then do it. But do it for your health and not your waist size. A smaller size will come as a bonus but it won’t bring you happiness. It’s just one less thing to worry about.

Turn a blind eye to mannequins and super models. Focus on the God who made YOU.

Be brave, friends!

Bold

Ready and

Available

Vying for

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

Love,

Jennifer

 

Do You Use a Filter?

rainbow blog picWe returned from our cross country road trip. What an adventure it was! These moments with our children are precious. Chaotic vacations, though sometimes exhausting, gifts us beautiful opportunities to make new memories that will live forever.

While I was away I had the chance to spend some time talking with a group of people about some very difficult topics. Hurts and fears were exchanged in the midst of an outpouring of hearts. We all have wounds and sometimes the insensitivity of others can reopen them. Long after we think the scars have healed, they can begin to seep with a cry of pain from deep within.

In James chapter 3 we receive an education regarding the tongue. James tells us in verse 2 that if anyone does not stumble in word then he is a perfect man. We all stumble over words. We all say things we shouldn’t. Oftentimes, it comes down to the fact that we don’t use our filters. We don’t think about what we say before we say it and because of that, we don’t recognize the consequences of our words.

Words last.

Words hurt.

Words haunt.

I suffered with secondary infertility. During that time period, for those who were not aware of my story, the picture of my family unit seemed to look odd. No one could understand why two young parents, who were deeply in love, would have just one child. The fact there were only three of us seemed, to the outsiders, incomplete.

I can’t tell you how many people would ask, “Just one?” I felt the need to explain myself. It was as if I should have felt shame for having only one, healthy, and to us, more than perfect, child.

I did feel shame. Deep, deep, all consuming shame.

To answer yes to the question “Just one?” brought about more hurt. Rage accompanied the pain. This is why my heart breaks for those who must answer questions such as, “When are you going to start a family?” or “Don’t you want to have children?”

Unfortunately, to the world, two members will not constitute a family. When children are missing from the picture it doesn’t look right to those viewing from a distance. If only those viewers could imagine how it feels to live inside the picture while feeling the absence of those who should be in it, but are not.

I have a friend who told me they think 95% of words that hurt us are from our own interpretation of the way in which they are stated. Only about 5% of people actually intend to hurt with their words. I’m not certain of the numbers, but I tend to agree.

It’s a filter thing. People don’t stop to think there could be a painful back story.

I had a woman recently tell me that she left a gathering on Mother’s Day with tears streaming down her face. This woman was told she wouldn’t understand a particular situation because she was not a mother. The person who said this never stopped to think that the precious woman they were talking to didn’t have a choice.

Hard Truth: Not every woman who wants to be a mother will be one. But it doesn’t mean she hasn’t mentored and loved others. It doesn’t mean she hasn’t mothered someone from a spiritual perspective. It doesn’t mean she won’t understand. And, even if she can’t understand, she desperately wants to. So why then are there some who won’t let her try? Why are we quick to disregard feelings and cast aside our filters?

A few days after processing the conversation I had regarding the pain of the situation on Mother’s Day, I read this by A Royal Daughter. (Take time to read it. It’s important.) She also wrote a follow up. You can read that here.

It is not just suffering the pain from infertility or pregnancy loss that is difficult. What makes the process even more exhausting and heart wrenching is actually learning to live with it. Wherever you go the pain travels with you, and wherever you travel there will be people to ask you questions without filters.

Trying to live through pain amongst imperfect people with tongues of fire is what makes grief almost impossible to reemerge from… but with God all things are possible.

But God…

The picture at the top of this blog post is a rainbow I saw while driving home from California. God sent the rainbow as a sign He would never destroy the earth again, but for me it represents even more.

This was the most perfect rainbow I had ever seen. It surfaced from the dark stormy clouds and remained vibrant with color from one side to the other. (The picture doesn’t do it justice.) I was reminded of this: We don’t have to wait for the storm clouds to leave in order to see all the beauty a rainbow holds. In faith, we have to trust and choose to see the brilliant colors right now. We must look for the good inside the bad.

Grace…

We need to learn to use our filters when we speak to each other. It’s a simple form of grace.

We need to use our filters when we are interpreting the innocent questions or remarks from others. It’s a simple form of grace.

We must translate grace one to another. The translation of grace between two people requires the humble art of praying for Christ to fill us with hearts overflowing with empathy.

When we wrestle with hurt from ugly words grace becomes a distant thought. It usually isn’t the first behavior to rise up. We all need to work on translation of grace.

Filters…

If we use our filters, not one woman should have to leave a gathering on Mother’s Day with tears streaming down her beautiful face. God knows Mother’s Day is hard enough for her as it is.

If we use our filters, grace can take over and help to repair our deepest scars. Even when others seem insensitive and ignorant of our backgrounds, grace will win. However, we have to allow it to win. It’s not an easy concept.

Today, my example obviously relates to infertility and pregnancy loss. However, you can relate it to any situation where people and an exchange of words are involved.

The way we talk to each other and the words we choose whether they are face-to-face, over the phone, in emails, texts, or social media, can make a difference in a life.

We must remember our grace, our kindness, our filters…

Proverbs 22:11

He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend. (N.K.J.V.)

Have you been hurt by insensitive words? Have you given consideration to how you interpreted those words? Are you quick to translate grace regardless of what end of the conversation you find yourself?

 

 

 

Do You Need More Grace?

 "Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Every day I stare at a blank screen with a prayer in my heart. It sounds something like this, “Dear Lord, Tell me what it is you want me to say. Please let my words be yours.” Does that prayer sound familiar? You don’t have to be a writer of any kind to understand. Anyone who has ever had a conversation and didn’t know how to respond to the other person has probably whispered a similar sounding prayer.

Sometimes, the right words are hard to find. We often know what we want to say but have a difficult time communicating our thoughts. We want to be gentle but not pushovers. We long to show grace but not eliminate truth from it. We have to be honest without sounding harsh. We want to show our transparent hearts without being judged. And the words… Just. Won’t. Come.

Sometimes we come into contact with a thirsty soul. Encouraging words have the power to act as water, but our words are dry.  Fear steps in the way. We don’t speak, write, or even give a hug for fear of how we might be interpreted. We question everything we say. And we beat ourselves up over words already spoken.

Spoken words of truth, even in love, will only be received when the one speaking comes from a place of humility. (If you agree with that thought, tweet it.)

James 4:6

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (N.K.J.V.)

Humility doesn’t always come naturally. Pride does. We often have to fight for our humble hearts. We war against the flesh and die daily to pride. When we do the gift of grace fills us up like water, and only then can our words satiate the soul in need.

We should never fear the hope of the “right” words. We need to speak boldly, in love, with truth from a humble heart. Let us not just search our own hearts for what to say, but let’s allow the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and listen to His direction. Words are powerful. We have to be responsible with them. The result will be more grace…

Yes, Lord. I need more grace…

Are you ever worried about what to say? Does fear keep you from watering a soul in need?