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Fullest Potential

Priceless… My story in art…

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She stood under the dark and confusing sky of her past, searching for meaning to life, for truth, for something greater than herself… and Truth replied. She turned her face to the light that illuminates the path into her destiny. A branch once broken by the storm, now breathed back to life and grafted into a living and fruitful tree.

Her feet no longer move to the enemy’s lies for now she dances to the song written for her. The rocks that once cut her feet now lay crushed as soft sand for her feet to walk in. The altar to the unknown gods was shattered for now her hope is anchored in a beautiful, solid and unbreakable foundation laid for her to walk before the beginning of time.

Her defiled feed sack dress was replaced with the pure garment of praise. From a crushed bud to a rose in bloom, her life is a testimony of what Perfect Love can do. On her head she wears the crown of princess. “Daughter of the Most High God” her birth certificate reads.

Her heart that had been shattered by abuse and foolish choices, all the pieces scattered through the years of her life, she now holds up restored and protected by her Creator who can redeem what is humanly impossible.

She may look alone, but make no mistake! She is surrounded by heaven’s armies who fight for her. Her value is no longer defined by what happened to her or by the reckless choices she made, but by what was done for her. In response to what was done for her she worships the One True God who was willing to die to pay for her sin, her healing, and her total redemption.

Pearls along the way remind her that beauty and joy are found even in the darkest places and that her value is not based on her circumstances or her choices, but in what her Creator says about her.

I ordered this piece of art to remind me who I am and whose I am. Every element of this piece of art is a reminder of my story of redemption. I haven’t even named all of them because it’s hard to describe all of them and this would be much longer if I told you the entire story all at once!

During one of the darkest nights of my life, I cried out to God and He personally answered my prayer and that’s why I didn’t take the pills I intended to end my life with. Another time as I was alone and in a bad place praying for answers and a sign that He cared, I opened my eyes and looked into the dark sky just in time to see a star fall. On clear nights I like to tip my head back and gaze at the stars drinking in the intricate beauty and remembering all the promises of my Father that were shown to me as I wept under the stars on some of the roughest nights when the pain and nightmares kept me awake.

One day, I was running along a beach, just running… wishing that I could somehow outrun the demons of my past… and I came across a bunch of broken shells. As I knelt there a wail pierced deep through me at how shattered they were beyond repair… and I realized that it wasn’t the shattered shells that made me weep, but my own shattered soul which I felt was beyond repair. That’s when I heard that gentle whisper, “I know where every broken piece is whether here, a distant shore, or even at the ocean floor, and I am fully capable of putting it all back together again.” I struggled to really believe that for a while. Thankfully our God is a very patient Father who never gives up on me. When I finally took that leap of trust, He began to gently restore my heart to be exactly as He created it to be. He doesn’t waste pain or our mistakes, but neither does He inflict us with pain. Our God is a restorer of what is broken. A protector of our hearts and He gives us a new name.

Seeing this piece of art reminds me of how far the Father has brought me. It helps me to visually solidify my identity. While it is a priceless and unique piece of art, it is also man made, and that fragility is a constant reminder to me that while the things around us can fall apart, our identity and what has been done for us never will!

My prayer is that not only will this art work remind me who I am, but that my story would inspire you to trust the Father and embrace the process of His perfect redemption.

Tina, with Tina Jewels Creations Her Instagram  has been awesome to work with. She not only listened to the word pictures I gave her, but prayed for me as she worked and sometimes she had an idea that totally fit my story that I hadn’t even thought to mention to her.

An example of that would be the dress… During a pivotal breakthrough the words of the song “Priceless” by King and Country “I see a rose in bloom at the sight of you, Oh so priceless” came to me… I wasn’t certain how to incorporate that specific concept. When Tina bounced the idea of making the dress from flower petals it immediately hit a chord in my heart and made total sense.

Music has also been a tremendous blessing to me. I could list many songs that I have listened to along the way that have soothed my heart. A few that are depicted in this artwork would be… Here is a youtube playlist…

Beauty for Ashes by Rosie Joy, Priceless by King and Country, He Has Time by Jamie MacDonald, We Dance by Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger & Bethel Music, This Little Light of Mine by Addison Road, Flawless by MercyMe, Stars by Skillet, Known by Tauren Wells, Remind Me Who I Am by Jason Gray

The Broken Branch

Psalm 118

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A storm had swept over the land. It was a terrible storm. The wind blew, lightning flashed, thundered roared. People huddled inside waiting for it to pass, wondering if their house would stand.

The next morning she woke early. Large drops of rain still clung to the world around her. A gentle breeze blew and the world smelled clean and fresh. The sun shone gently between the remaining clouds. The heaviness of departed danger along with the joy of new life lay heavy in the air.

Suddenly in her path she spotted it. A broken branch! A wail pierced through her spirit as she observed that it was covered with tiny buds just waiting for the moment to bloom. “Pick it up!” But why? What was the point? But she did, tenderly caressing the broken branch and mourning the life that should have been. And then, as the branch came into the warmth of her hand every bud opened and blossomed.

What could it mean? How could a broken branch blossom when the violent storm had ripped it from its source of life. It was far from home blown here by the winds. Could it be that a tiny bit of nurture still remained. How could she keep it alive?

As the heat of late spring beat down and beads of sweat glistened on her forehead she stopped for a moment and looked around. The branch had miraculously survived. Small peaches basked in the warmth of the sun softening and growing sweeter and bigger. She smiled as she remembered…

Later she visited the orchard to find that the beetles were tormenting the tree. Its fruit was badly bitten and it could barely produce anything good to eat. She cried, then drying her eyes she grabbed the spray and set to work attacking the beetles. Sometimes she removed the beetles with her bare hands and killed them, determined that this tree would be free.

Time passed, the peach tree needed constant watching and protecting from diseases and beetles, but it was bearing fruit and had borne seeds for more trees…

Every spring she walked through the orchard, looking at the peach blossoms and smiling as she remembered the year of the broken branch. Sometimes she found broken branches and wept for the buds that never had a chance to blossom… Sometimes she danced in celebration that death was defeated and life won…

I don’t know what storm in this life may have broken you to the point that you believe there is no hope. I don’t know what beetles and diseases you may be fighting off. I don’t even know if or where you see yourself in this little story… But take hope in the ONE true God who can restore broken things to order and function. Take heart, child. One day you will dance in places where there was once death, but you will dance and sing a song celebrating life and resurrection.

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly. The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things! The strong right arm of the Lord is raised in triumph. The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things! I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the Lord has done. -Psalm 118:14-17

God, Can I Trust You?

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I’m going to be really real about something that I struggled for years to break through in, but didn’t know how to talk about. In my head, I knew the answer, but getting the answer from my head to my heart was another matter.

It was a simple question, Can I really trust you, God?

I had experienced His love, I had experienced His presence and His loving arms around me. I truly knew He loved me. I just didn’t quite know if I could trust Him.

I tried spending time in His presence but then I began to be afraid of the intimacy with God idea because all I knew was that about seventy-five percent of the time, when you get that close to people they end up requiring something of you, and then using your pain to control you.

I remember telling God how scared I was and then proceeding to fill a trashcan with teary tissues when He said, “I do not violate or control because I am love, anything that violates you is a violation to me because you are my daughter and my spirit is within you.”

I rejoiced for a long time in that truth, but then I began to have a few doubts. I didn’t want to, I just did. Would God abandon me in my darkest moments? If I said yes, to whatever He asks me to do, would He really go with me? What if He asked me to do something I just couldn’t do. What if He loved me just so that He could use me and control me? I hated that I had so many doubts in the presence of His overwhelming love so I shied away from spending time with Him.

Then one day the darkness closed in. For three days and nights, it was a blackness and a fog so deep I didn’t know if I’d ever find my way out. I would have a few moments where I sort of went into an auto-pilot mode and functioned, but then I’d feel myself slip away again. I knew truth, but the more I reached for it the more the blackness tried to consume me. All I could hear were the sounds and voices of control. I tried running to God but His face kept being blurred out by faces from my past. I wrestled so intently that I saw nearly every hour of every night, and felt no rest because even my dreams tormented me. I had to force myself to eat and I cried uncontrollably. I read truth and spoke truth to myself, but I struggled to believe it. I was angry, and the angrier I became the more desperate I became.

I went outside at night and paced, and talked. I wrote. I sang. I tried to tap into the love I knew was there, and I prayed. I battled once again with the question of just ending my life rather than fighting, but I couldn’t, so I fought. I ran, even though I didn’t know what I was running to, hoping that somehow if I ran long enough and hard enough I could somehow outrun the torment in my mind.

I didn’t know how to talk about what I felt. People came, they loved me, they asked me if I was okay. They stood with me, they held me, they let me cry. I tried to talk, but I didn’t know how to tell them in any sensible way what was wrong. I battled the darkness. I reminded myself that the sun shines even behind the clouds. I tried to stop it. I felt and actually heard people praying for me while I lay in that darkness. I could not make out the words they said, but I physically heard the sound of many voices praying for me.

Early on in this battle as I lay there musing over the 23rd Psalm, God spoke in the middle of the torment, and this picture carried me through the darkest points when I could not see Him anymore. I believe it is a picture that He wants you to see and carry with you as well…

My dear lamb, I hear your cries. I found you tangled up in the brambles. I see your pain. I stood by as you fought my rescue, so afraid that I would hurt you. I waited. I whispered comforting words. I sang to you. I chased away the wolves and stayed by you so the wolves that hurt you would not be able to come back and kill you, and when you said, “I need help.” It was like music to my ears.

I untangled you, and wanted to bring you back into the sheepfold with the other sheep, but you were scared because you still bore scars from the time wolves dressed as sheep took you out of the fold and hurt you. Seeing your fear of the fold I took you to a safe green pasture and fed you by a gentle stream and allowed you to frolic in the water and drink. Then as the night approached and the wolves began to howl you began to shiver and suddenly you realized you were alone with me and the wolves and far away from the fold.

You tried to be brave, but I could see the fear in your eyes as you wondered if I was a trustworthy Shepherd. You watched as I built a fire between you and the stream and made a soft bed for you to lie on. The howl of the wolves came closer and you shivered at the sound. So I lay down between you and the woods placing my own body between you and the wolves. Then finally you looked up in my eyes and I could see you felt safe.

As the wolves tore into my back, you began to cry as you realized that I turned my back to the wolves and my face toward you so that you would not feel alone. You told me over and over how sorry you were that the wolves were tearing at my flesh. I did not respond, but just stayed there and comforted you.

As morning came and the sound of the wolves died away I told you we could stay here as long as you needed but we both knew you needed the community of other sheep. You said you were not ready yet. In that long second night as you cried, I spoke and  asked you how desperate you were, and you told me you were desperate. Then I asked you to do something really brave. I asked you to tell another sheep you needed help. I knew it was time for you to trust another sheep. It was time for you to tell another sheep you needed to be rescued instead of another sheep seeing you needed to be rescued and stepping in. You were terrified that the sheep would peel off a mask and be a wolf in disguise so I promised I’d be with you and would protect you.

I was so proud of you when you whispered to another sheep the words, “I need help.” I knew that was hard for you, but you did it and it was so freeing, but you were still terrified. You now knew you could trust me, but you didn’t know if other sheep could be trusted. Then to your amazement those sheep surrounded you and lead you right back to me.

It was then that you realized that I had already defeated those wolves a long time ago and that they could not stand the sight of me anymore. It was then that you realized that the wolves had already torn into my flesh years ago so you could be healed. And that was why I stayed silent and simply protected you. You watched as those wolves were bound and banished from your mind never to scare you again as long as I stayed with you. And then you collapsed at the foot of my cross and wept as you realized for the first time in your life that trust and surrender were absolute freedom.

If you find yourself asking God, if He can be trusted- ask Him. Allow Him to show you. He is Love and has no desire to hurt you. Rest in His loving arms, allow Him to hold you and whisper truths to you. Allow Him to protect you in the wilderness, and lead you to gentle streams. Allow Him to show you that He can be trusted.

Be blessed!

-Jenni

Where was God when….

There are few things more confusing to a person than to be told that God is a loving God who is just while also being deeply wounded by people who profess to believe in God.

That was one big hang-up I was left with as a believer. How could a loving God have allowed… If God is all powerful where was He when… I did not finish those statements because there are a lot of things that could fit into them. Likely you have some of your own….

I remember the exact moment and place when that question hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been trying to process through a very difficult time in my life where I was being haunted with flashbacks of my past, and was fighting some specific triggers. There were people within hearing distance, but I remember putting my head up against the wall of the room I was in and wondering if my head was going to explode from holding back the scream in my heart that was threatening to come out of my mouth. Up until this point in my life I had been using coping methods to get by, but then came a few triggers and as each trigger was squeezed I would be hit with a blinding flashback. Sometimes so terrifying I didn’t know how to function or thought I was losing my mind. I was constantly feeling like I was in the passenger seat of my life and someone was driving me somewhere I didn’t want to go. I had terrible fears that went alongside the flashbacks.

One day I voiced this question to someone who lead me in prayer to God, and I asked God where He was that night… the night I don’t like thinking or talking about… God lead me right back into the scene, only this time I saw the heavens opening and I saw God weeping and I knew those tears were for me. I also knew in that moment that God’s perfect will and plan does not include pain, trauma, loss, grief, and sickness. All of those are a result of sin. That my friends, is exactly why Jesus came, died, and then rose again to bring us healing and restoration. While we live on this earth, we will all be effected by the results of sin in some way, but it does not need to define us, because it’s already been paid for, and we are not slaves to the power of sin and death.

Every bad thing that has happened in our lives is a resurrection waiting to happen. The enemy kills, steals, and destroys, but guess what, Jesus didn’t stay dead! He conquered sin and death once and for all, and then gave us access to that resurrection power so that what the enemy attempted to kill will live abundantly by the power of Christ. What the enemy robbed from you will be redeemed in full measure and running over. What the enemy intended to destroy your life with will be built into a strong tower in the kingdom of God that will shine a light for others who are searching.

Going into 2019, can we just take a pause to hear God’s heartbeat for us, to invite Him into areas of pain and confusion in our hearts. He is faithful and just. He weeps for our pain, loss, and sickness, but He doesn’t just weep, He already writhed in death, and then roared in triumph as He arose and breathed healing and life and resurrection power into all the desolate places. Will we allow God to nurture us to wholeness and restore our needy places? The power is available. The choice is ours.

Blessings for 2019!

-Jenni

 

Raw, Vulnerable, & Honest

Word ArtAs I was driving home from an errand, I listened to the devotional thought of the day put out by Family Foundations. Craig was talking about the signs of a hardened heart. I listened as he described the signs and symptoms of a hardened heart, and I realized that it described so much of what I am walking through in my life….

In the past year, God has really been breaking down a wall in my heart. A wall that was put there to try to protect myself from ever being hurt again. God took me back into some of the darkest times of my life to expose a deep trust issue that has been holding me back for years. There were some circumstances that occurred when I was very young that had shattered my very basic trust in people, especially in adults and Christians. Along with that was a deep trust issue with God. Through those circumstances came a tremendous amount of shame, fear, and a fierce anger. Each incident that “confirmed” the lies in my little heart was like another brick in the wall I began to build to protect myself.

One night, God very gently peeled off the blinders as I was seeking answers for the block I kept sensing in my heart, and I saw and realized that I was afraid of being completely known and loved. This fear was holding me back from fully loving and understanding others in healthy relationships. I was afraid to be vulnerable or indebted to anyone for fear I would be used and betrayed. Although I tried to drown out that voice in my head it kept yelling that something was wrong with me that made me beyond love. In my head I knew these were lies, but in my heart it didn’t take the hurt away. Forming new friendships and relationships are exhausting when you are afraid to be loved or vulnerable. I was holding everyone at arm’s length and wait for them to prove to me they could be trusted. It was like I would reach a certain level in relationships and then suddenly be gripped with an overwhelming fear that I couldn’t understand and every fiber of my being would scream to get as far away as possible from that feeling.

You know it amazes me how God can use painful circumstances to rid our hearts of walls. I had just come out of a toxic situation that had left me feeling emotionally exhausted and wondering how I could have been so blinded and deceived. While the betrayal I experienced in that situation hurt, what hurt me more was the fact that I didn’t see it coming. I felt like I had betrayed myself by not protecting myself from being hurt, and that if I had just been more careful I wouldn’t have been hurt. All of that agreed with the lie in my head telling me there was something wrong with me. As painful as that situation was, when I invited God into the pain, His truth flooded my heart with healing.

In coming out of that situation, I realized there needs to be boundaries, yes. But when we lock ourselves away for fear of being hurt, we will miss out on all the fullness life has to offer. Toxic friendships or relationships can exhaust you, but in the end being vulnerable and real even if it hurts is still better than isolation. I also saw where I had allowed the toxicity to attack the core of my self-worth and identity. It revealed not only who my true friends really are, but also areas where I had placed value on what people were saying over what God says. I had listened to the lies the enemy was trying to plant in my mind and had turned all my confusion inward to “what is wrong with me?” instead of running to Jesus who is the source of my identity and healing.

I think many of us have these walls that we begin building early in life. We get hurt, and to avoid feeling pain we pick up a brick and place it between us and the source of pain. In time we lay it down with the mortar of self-pity, and every hurt becomes another brick in our wall. We might call it a good wall. A safe wall. But it doesn’t change the fact that we are left walled up inside and the walls around us grow taller and thicker with every hurt.

God, in His love for us, continually tries to reach our hearts, and when we reach out and receive His love it comes into that place with us. The love of God can not be contained by the walls we build. His love begins to chip away at the walls we built. We can protest and hold back for fear of being vulnerable and exposed or we can join God in the process. God is a kind father and He will nurture us along the way if we choose to allow Him to tear down the walls. He does not force us to get rid of the walls. He loves us whether we remove the wall or not. It is us who often hold Him at arms length out of fear that keeps us from fully experiencing His love. He always leaves the choice to us. He is not a dictator and He will not force us into something we don’t want.  He will stand beside us as our eyes adjust to the sunshine coming through the walls as they begin to crumble. He understands the moments when we fall in a heap and cry from utter exhaustion. He pours ointment on our blistered hands when the ax begins to dig in. He holds us close as the bricks crumble and shelters us with His wings of protection from the flying shards. He takes the pain for us, allowing those bricks to hit Him. It’s a painful process because in order to remove the lies we have to allow Him to heal the circumstances that opened the door to the lies. Yet as another wall crumbles, He tenderly holds us close whispering His promises of love and reminding us about the gardens of fruit that will grow where there once was only a cold barren land surrounded by bricks. From the dust will arise a beautiful song of praise from the river of Life that now can freely flow without being dammed up by the wall. This process is a choice. It’s not a feeling. It’s not something that just happens. It is a conscious decision to dethrone the lies of the enemy and to put Truth in its place. It is us deciding to align to truth. God does the work, but we have to give Him permission. God is a loving Father who allows us to choose.

No matter where we come from, we are not immune to pain. Life is going to be full of messy, painful experiences and relationships. We are going to hurt. What we do with the pain, however, will define us. In my life that has looked more like a process and less like an overnight change. Yes, I cry when I remember the painful things. I still battle with fear. I’m not perfect and I’m tired of pretending to be. My Father is perfect and His perfection is all I need. How would this world change if we would be okay with vulnerable, messy, and honest? I’m sure glad Jesus is okay with it. He came to this world as a vulnerable baby and was spat upon, beaten, and then killed in a horrific manner. He suffered. He cried, and then He defeated death, defeated sin, defeated the lies when He rose so that we can also live undefeated, fearless, and bold lives.

I struggle to post this because I feel it is vulnerable. It is very much a part of my current journey and isn’t really a “happy ending feeling” blog because honestly being vulnerable is more about a lifestyle than a one time experience. I’m going to post this anyway and I invite you to be vulnerable too. So far I am finding that being vulnerable can be painful because there will be people who will slap you in the face for it. Just remember that every blow in the face you get is from someone who is hurting. Raise your sword toward the enemy, pray to Jesus for healing and be kind to the person who hurt you. I know it’s hard and I’m not going to bother to pretend that I have done well at this. I have likely been found running the opposite direction when that happens. (All grammar aside for a moment because I feel like this statement needs a southern mama twist!) “Ain’t nobody been truly saved from being hit in the face with a Bible.” It’s the vulnerable, reckless, messy, and amazing love within its pages lived out in everyday shoe leather that makes the message within the pages come alive. I’ve been around vulnerable, every day shoe leather people, and I’ve been around slap your face with a Bible people, and I can assure you that the former is what made me develop a hunger and thirst for God that I didn’t know was possible, while the latter left me more hopeless and confused than ever.

Here’s to learning more about being okay with being vulnerable. This is very much a #goals post than a #achievements post in my life.

Go out there and spread you glitter!

-Jenni

Small Things… Big Impacts…

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This morning I was reminiscing with my mom about a time in my childhood… We were discussing some of the details of the most trauma-filled years of my young life. I shared with her one memory that I can not talk about to this day without crying. You would think it was a bad memory, but it’s not. Even as I write about it, I have to cry… Maybe because it was one of the moments that defined something greatly important to me.. kindness in the small things….

You see, due to circumstances beyond my parents’ control I spent a lot of time in other homes in my early childhood. I don’t blame them for it. My mom could not help the fact that she was in the hospital and we nearly lost her, or that she was physically too unwell to lift a baby.

But one week in particular is still etched into my young mind. It contained some unpleasant incidents and probably the worst case of  me feeling abandoned or orphaned in my life… But in the midst of it all there was one girl… she was much older than me, but she was in the same home I was. While she couldn’t be with me all day, when she was there she was my sun and my hope. I didn’t sleep well, could barely choke down my breakfast, and couldn’t leave the table until I choked down my plate of food… and that pressure only increased the size of the lump in my throat, but every morning she was assigned the seat by me and she noticed my predicament and took charge. With kind words she took my plate and cut my breakfast pancake into perfect squares. She carefully counted them…”Eat it just one square at a time,” she said, and I did. For the rest of my time there she always helped me find a way to eat my food before she had to leave for the day, and a hundred times a day I would ask WHEN she would be back. She always took time to spend with me in the evenings before we’d be separated again at bedtime.

From then on I thought pancakes cut in perfect squares tasted the best, but somehow no one could cut them to taste right like she did… I have since come to realize that it was the simple act of kindness, love, and caring that made the difference, and not the perfect squares.

Sometimes we do not really fully realize just how much a kind word, a small act of service, or a gentle touch can change someone’s life for the better, but it can, and it does. We might never see the fruit of the seeds we plant, but Someone does.

Just as God allowed that girl to be there to cut my pancake into perfect squares to help me eat and feel loved, so He delights in caring for His children through us in ways that may to us seem small. I know He delighted in the willingness of the girl to care and do something for me in my time of need.

What about me? What about you? Are we willing to do something as simple as “cutting a pancake into squares” for that whining, possibly annoying, homesick, child at the table? Just some food for thought on my Saturday…

Writing… (My How, Why, Pros, Cons, and Random Observations)

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Words… Spoken words… or written words… I’ve been thinking a lot in the past year about how words impact our lives. Today I’m going to talk about written words.

A bit of a back story: When I was a little girl traumatic incidents left me feeling like I had no voice, and that even if I did speak, no one would believe me. Lies. All lies! I remember entering my school years with a determination to learn how to read and write. I remember the first time I was given a creative writing assignment and my own diary. Suddenly through written words I felt like I had an outlet for expressing my deepest feelings. I was terrified of someone reading them though, so I destroyed most of my diaries by tearing out pages and shredding them after I wrote. With creative writing, I could write a story about a fictional character and weave my feelings into my writing. Somehow it made me feel better. Pen and paper became my outlet for the things I was too afraid to speak, and when I lost the use of my right arm for a length of time I learned how to type left handed, password protect documents, and hide the writing on the screen from other people. I would sketch out a stick figure representing me and little bubbles with words of what I was feeling or facing surrounding my head while my feet stood on rocks filled with the facts and circumstances that put me there. Writing became my way to try to process what I felt, and it was my preferred method of communication. Writing left little room for error or misunderstanding. Writing felt safe and happy because no one could try to silence what they did not hear and I could control how much they saw. Sharing my writing or speaking about how I felt was scary and vulnerable. I did not like scary and vulnerable. But that’s no way to live! I am so thankful that caring people reached out to me and walked alongside me, ever pushing me into the scary and vulnerable areas, which, by the way, are not as scary and vulnerable once you know your identity! Writing was a tool that helped me find the courage to speak. I remember the first time that I read something I wrote to a group of writers; my knees and voice shook, my palms were sweaty, my head throbbed, and I wondered if it was going to explode. Tears pushed their way out of my eyelids, blurring my vision, and I thought I would pass out. Although everyone was kind and supportive, I sat down afterward and vowed to myself that I would never speak to crowds. I could write, but I would adopt a pen name, and hide somewhere so I wouldn’t need to speak! While speaking to more than 5-10 people does still make my knees feel weak, it is a fear I have confronted, and continue to confront. Whether public speaking is my gifting or not, the fear of it does not need to define or control me!  And that’s a bit of how and why I got started writing. Today I still enjoy time alone with a paper and pencil or a clunky, noisy keyboard. I have lots of writing goals, but life is busy and I’m also working on a bigger project that consumes much of my writing time which is why I have not posted much for a while. But today, I decided to do something spontaneous and write down some of the thoughts about writing that are rambling through my brain!

So without further ado here’s what I like and dislike about written words.

  1. Written word leaves little room for misunderstanding as long as your word choice is precise and well thought out. It is far more binding than spoken communication, and is best used for businesses and agreements wherever possible to avoid error. Written or spoken– words have impact. One big problem with written words is that the tone of voice is missing which can cause misunderstandings. Depending what you need to communicate it is still better to speak it so it can be heard and received in its intended voice tone meaning. Social media is largely written, or recorded voice, and we tend to feel “safe” because we can post words and pictures and keep our distance from the real issues. Because we feel so safe we tend to forget that we still have to give account for the things we say on social media. I believe that written word, once shared with an audience holds as much weight as saying it to a person’s face. I wonder how Social media would look if we all stopped and read our post out loud first, and then asked ourselves how we would feel if we heard someone talk this way to us or a loved one. Just because something is true does not mean it needs to be gossiped about or even spoken about in anything less than an intentional and loving way! If it is an issue between ourselves and another person we should be grown up enough to pick up the phone, meet face to face or at least open our email and work it out with those involved. Words can damage or build up, and if we wouldn’t want it said to or about our loved ones, then we would do well to forget about posting it and work through the real issue at hand. (Social media and cyber bullying is really another topic on its own!)
  2.  A written list of goals helps give me a visual of the things I want to work toward. If I am planning an event or have a dream or vision of something to be brought into fruition, it really helps to sketch it out and make a list of things that I will need in order to be successful. While making lists and goals are great ways to start a project or solve problems they can also be unrealistic! I often tend to think that if I can write it on a piece of paper I can get it done in a day, and that simply is not always a possibility. I also tend to forget that just because I can hold five lists in my hand doesn’t mean that I should do it all by myself. In fact there may be five people who can do a much better job at taking over parts of a project than me! I have really had to work with being okay with asking for help. (Yet another topic.) Most importantly we should pray about our goals and seek God’s plan above our own. If He gives us the dream- it is for a reason, and He can bring it about!
  3. Writing helps me de-clutter my brain. My mind probably most closely resembles either a jumble of wires or a browser that has many tabs open. I like to have variety in my life. I like to think of it as cooking a meal. I’m constantly fussing over one kettle, but have several more simmering on the stove. There does come a time to complete each thing though, and that’s where my struggle lies. I would love to just hand half cooked kettles over to the next person walking into the kitchen and go light another stove in another kitchen, but life simply does not always work that way. So if I have 2,001 things to do in a day and I hardly know which way to turn first, it helps me to grab a cup of coffee, a pen and paper and write out everything I need to do. Next I reorder the list, putting the tasks in order of importance and with other tasks of similar type where I can multi task. While the sight of a well ordered planner, notebooks, flair pens, and freshly sharpened pencils make me feel all squirmy and happy inside some people want to run the opposite direction. Planners and to-do lists do not work for everyone and for every situation. I know of some people who can accomplish a mountain of work without writing out a list, and that’s okay. Most of the people I know who do life beautifully without a planner also have the amazing ability to pick one project and stick to just that one thing until it is finished. I love to have friends who have this amazing gift. I need people like that in my life to bring some order into my chaotic bunny trails, keep my feet on the ground, and help me bring my half started ideas to completion! I do not always plan my days, and still get things done, but it helps me stay focused if I have a list of the things I hope to get done as well as the events and deadlines that I have approaching. If I am not careful, I will easily plan to meet for two separate things on the same night! I am more of a spontaneous dreamer and by writing things on paper I can free my mind to think about something else and check my list to keep me on track with deadlines and appointments. However when writing out a plan, it is easy for me to get a picture in my head of how my day should go and then get frustrated when it does not go to schedule. I like being available to drop things and go somewhere at a moment’s notice. At one time that nearly derailed me, and I was constantly frustrated that my plans wouldn’t work out. Since then I have found that it is so much more rewarding to write my plans and be okay if they change. I do still occasionally get frustrated, when I can’t just drop things and go somewhere else. What helped me was to write down what I did instead of the things I had to cross off my list. In time, I was able to look at my planner at the end of the day and laugh, before re-writing a list for the next day. As a teacher, I sometimes felt like crying when I looked at my plan book at the end of a long hard day. One day I took the challenge of sitting down and writing what I did do, and suddenly I  realized that what I did get done was so much more important for that day then what I had planned to begin with. So when I write my schedule I want to write it in pencil not in concrete! I want my schedule to allow spontaneity.
  4. Writing something validates it. I can not stress this enough. Writing is often the first step in making a dream a reality. Seriously folks! There is so much power in writing the things that God reveals to you. There is a place for speaking them too, and I don’t want to downsize the importance of speaking them, but there is so much power in sketching out the dreams God gives you, and the vision you have. This is one thing I am trying to be better at- to write the things that are impressed upon my heart from day to day. I have seen where a small moment that was impressed upon my heart that I took the time to jot down tied into something later and became a useful tool in my life. I have a note book app on my phone, and I also try to keep pen and paper with me. If it makes an impression on me, or stirs my spirit, I try to capture it in words, or take a picture and write about it later. By recording it I can capture it and retrieve it so that I can remember it when I need it.
  5. Writing is a tool that helps me to spill out anger and pent up feelings, or difficult circumstances. After I have written and cried out all the feelings, I pray through each detail, forgive the person or persons, and destroy the paper. Forgiving without releasing the pain is really rough because it is like putting a band-aid on top of an infected cut. The wound needs to be cleaned, and allowed to heal! Writing is not the cure. That being said, Writing alone is not always enough, there have been times when I wrote it out, cried it out, and prayed about it, and still needed to just pick up the phone and call a friend and ask her to pray with me about something. Sometimes it needs to be spoken. Writing could be a tool in your healing process, but don’t feel bad if it isn’t. Also just as you don’t want to carry a grudge around for the rest of your life, if you do write it, don’t carry the paper trail of grudges with you! When those things have been processed, dealt with, and taken care of, get rid of those papers! Besides it really is a satisfying feeling to see those things you have forgiven and all the bad feelings you have go up in smoke or be scattered into tiny bits. It’s like giving it to God and allowing Him to take the broken pieces and ashes to form into something new and beautiful.
  6. Where would we be today without the Bible having ever been written. God inspired men to write about the things they saw, heard, and observed as a record for the generations to come. Writing it validated it, and while opinions abound the original writing is still there and as unchanging as ever. If someone who did not live in that time wrote about it now, we would question the validity of their writing. Even today we measure things by the written Word. The record was kept, and the promises haven’t changed. I took the challenge to copy a whole book of the Bible making it personal as if it was written for me, and it was really a game changer in my mind. Writing it, and seeing it in print as written for me helped my mind to absorb some powerful truths that I struggled with.

Well, that sort of sums up my ramblings about written words. I feel like it was really a scattered topic that tied into so many other topics that would warrant a deeper look at. Whether written or spoken, words contain power, and we do well to allow God to guide us in how we use the voice He gave us. If you have ever felt like your voice was choked- take heart! God gave you a voice to use for His glory that the enemy wants to silence or distort. Amazing things happen when we allow God to use our voices to bring light and hope into the world!

Be blessed!

-Jenni

 

 

David vs. Goliath– The Spiritual Battle

So…. yesterday morning as I was driving to school I was hit with a thought that hasn’t left my brain yet so I took to writing it… You know those Aha! moments you have now and then when you teach a Bible story to kids and suddenly re-discover yet another truth in the story that you never noticed before. Well, that was me. Except I wasn’t teaching the story to kids at this time. I was simply on my way to school and praying about some difficult circumstances and things that are on my heart right now.

In 1 Samuel 17, we see the account of how David went to the Philistine camp simply to carry food to his brothers. He was a shepherd. At least that’s what everyone thought. David had an identity that had not yet been discovered by many around him. You see just prior to this David was privately anointed to be the new king of Israel, yet he continued caring for the sheep. He even killed a lion and a bear to protect his flock. No big deal right? Just the life of a shepherd? Then he was ushered to the palace, but not to be honored as a king. No, instead David played his harp for the king! Soon he would face the ultimate battle. The battle that would define David’s character and reveal his identity. This battle would also be a test.

David was doing a simple every day task. Certainly not a task that a king would be doing! As he approaches he sees a problem. The problem has a name– Goliath! The problem is intimidating and breathing huge threats making even the most experienced men tremble. David begins to see that his time has arrived. David knows the answer. It was time for David’s identity to be revealed.

Then David took the first step. He did what I like calling “breaking the sound barrier”. David spoke. He was not about to stand around and allow a giant to defy the Living God. When David “broke the sound barrier” he faced what many of us will face– cold faced accusation and resentment. This time from his own older brother, Eliab. Eliab did not see David’s identity, he even tried to place David back with the sheep, but that did not stop David. He kept right on asking and speaking and breaking through with his words until the king heard and asked to see David. Even King Saul tried to stop David by trying to remind him that he was only a boy. Once more David rebutted the words against him by declaring the faithfulness of God in helping him conquer a lion and a bear.

Finally Saul consented, and here is where something interesting happens. Saul orders an armor for David to wear! Not just any armor. This was the king’s armor. How fitting right? But no, this armor was too heavy for David. This is the question that hit me yesterday morning as I was trying to pray and reason through some difficult circumstances. “Why did David not wear armor?” And that was when I saw the spiritual similarities. We are in a spiritual battle. We are constantly making it about the physical. When we fight a physical battle we will try to equip ourselves with the best armor possible. But it’s the wrong kind of armor. We need God’s armor to protect us. The physical armor is too heavy; it trips us. We can’t run our race efficiently because we are always tripping over our own feet. The spiritual armor allows us to be active in the kingdom we have been called to. Our spiritual weapons just like the stone and the sling will fell the biggest giant.

Why did David choose five stones? It only took one! I don’t know for sure, but I like to think that David was preparing to stay at his task until it was accomplished, and that God always equips us with more than we need to fell our giants. If David had taken the armor that Saul provided him, it would likely not have ended well for the Israelite army. This way there was no doubt in David’s mind WHO had won the battle!

What we see manifesting in the physical is directly related to what is happening spiritually. In order to be successful in felling the giants we need the correct armor. (Ephesians 6) Way too often I find myself fighting against symptoms instead of felling the giant causing the symptoms.

While there are many more applications that could be drawn from that account, I think I will conclude there.

Blessings as you stand tall wearing your physical armor and remembering your identity! Don’t be afraid to break the sound barrier! It is the first step into victory!

Identity and Purpose

I love this song for so many reasons! Before any one of us ever even existed, we were God-planned for “such a time as this”. Each one of us represents God in a unique and irreplaceable way. The enemy knows this and he will do his best to steal, kill, and destroy in order to stop us from fulfilling our calling. When we give in to those lies we begin to live out of them and question our existence.

Quote: “I believe that the attacks on your life have much more to do with who you might be in the future than who you have been in the past.” -Lisa Bevere

For too long we have been answering to the wrong name. We have been listening to the voice of the enemy for so long that we have begun to answer to his names for us. It is time that we cry out to God and learn to respond. It is time for the church to awaken and it must start within our own hearts. We are all a part of the body, but each of us must have a personal encounter with our Creator and hear Him speak His truth into the very depth of our hearts. He alone fully and completely understands us and our needs and wants to call us by a new name and whisper His truths into our hearts until all the pain is gone and the lies are destroyed and replaced with truth. He sings over us and delights in us. Only when we have personally encountered this love can we walk in full freedom and confidence as the body of Christ.

I love the words of Isaiah 62:1-5. The whole chapter is really great and well worth a read. (Actually the entire book of Isaiah is!) This chapter is a picture of the yearning of the heart of God for His people.

Knowing and walking in identity is a game changer! Suddenly instead of walking in defeat and living our lives based on lies, we walk in identity as a child of God. If we believe we are worthless, we will begin to live out of that lie. Actions follow belief. We are not worthless and will never be worthless. But the enemy does not want us to know our true identity so that he can use us to do his work. When we believe and know our identity is in Christ, we will begin to live as a child of God. No power of hell can stop a child of God who knows his authority and identity!

Surrendering to the call of God in our lives is not a promise of a comfortable life, but most great things happen outside of our comfort zones! When we step out in total surrender to the call, in faith believing that His arms are around us and holding us up, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is Him doing the work and not us! When God says “Speak.” We can open our mouths in obedience and the words will be there. When God says “Move.” We can take the first step in obedience and know that the walls in the way will crumble. When God says “Give.” We can give knowing that we won’t run out. When God says “Go.” We can go knowing that the transportation will be provided and the destination will be shown to us at the right time. Oh, the enemy will try to stop it from working. But set your chin, do what you are called to do anyway because that liar knows just exactly who he is up against and that he holds no authority over a heart that has is sold out to Jesus Christ. This makes the enemy tremble. In great fear he cries out lies and threats to try to stop us. But just like Esther we can walk boldy into the throne room and make our request known.

I believe it is time for action. Maybe we have been holding our tongue and keeping our head down for a season, but the season of release has come. The things we have learned need to be spoken. The calling and gifting within us needs to be fanned into flame and awoken. Our tongues need to be loosened and fear needs to be slain by perfect love so that we can be unshakeable in our calling.

Women of God: for too long we have been silent or have misunderstood our role. Maybe we have believed the lie that our voices were robbed from us and as a result have kept it locked up inside. Maybe we have tried to fill a role we were not born for and as a result have cut down men in the false hope that we would feel better. We were gifted with voices for a reason, we were intended to be answers, to be voices that birth life in the hearts of others. Our voices were not made for death and destruction. We were created for unity and not division. The enemy has been robbing, stealing, and destroying and we have been listening to his lies for far too long. It is time for us to break past the sound barriers of the enemy and shout the voice of triumph. We represent the bride!

The fence is broken. We can not sit with one foot in the kingdom of God and the other in the kingdom of darkness. There is no middle ground. The middle ground is all a lie. Which side are we on? For too long we have attempted to sit between the two kingdoms bound by religion and held back by fear. We have attempted to look good on the outside and have resorted to dressing in filthy rags in an attempt to hide our nakedness and need. When our filthy rags have failed us we have wildly grabbed for fig leaves in an attempt to hide our nakedness and sin hoping that we will be acceptable to God. We need to be washed in the blood of Jesus and put on the wedding gown of righteousness that God has for us. We need to answer to His call and live under His righteousness knowing that He alone is our righteousness.

Many of us have felt the heat and the darkness of the battle weighing on our spirits. It is time to stand and declare that we are on the side that has already won instead of hiding our heads hoping that when we surface it will all be over. We have an entire armor and a sword for battle, and it is time to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow soldiers and wield our swords in battle. We will be provided with all we need to fight, but we must always remember that the battle is not physical, but spiritual.

Recently I found myself in a situation I could not find a solution for. One day as I was praying and just weeping from the weariness of it all, I cried out to God and for a while I just told Him how frustrated and upset I was, then I asked Him why this just wasn’t working and that’s when I heard God say, “The problem is that you have been fighting this battle in the physical when it is a spiritual battle.” Suddenly all the pressure evaporated as I realized that the battle was not mine. God has already won the war. We lose time and valuable energy when we fight spiritual battles in the physical.

About a year ago, I got a phone call. It ended with something like this “Please pray! Can you come?” I could hear the despair dripping from the voice. I said “I’ll be there soon!” I got my things together and got into my car. I was praying all the way. I didn’t even know why I was supposed to go, what to pray or what to do, I just knew I needed to go and I needed to pray and that all I could do was trust God to handle it. As I was driving and praying, God gave me a picture of the situation. I saw a heavy curtain of darkness hovering over the area, then I saw two angels from heaven’s army pulling at the curtain, and as I prayed they suddenly gained a new strength and the curtain began to move. I was not the only one motivated to pray right then. The Spirit of God had laid it on the hearts of more than one person. We do not often see just how much impact our words, actions and prayers have in the kingdom, but they do have impact. When God says to do something, do it. If you don’t know what His voice sounds like, allow Him to teach You. There may be times that God asks us to do something that makes no sense to us. We may never even see the results on this side of eternity, and that’s okay. We are His hands and His feet. He lives and moves in us. We must only be surrendered and willing to do what He calls us to do. That calling and purpose, the story of our lives written by the hand of God– It is the most fulfilling thing we can ever do and be with our lives.

Blessings!

-Jenni

 

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