Who do you say I am?

About a year and a half ago, God called me to a new ministry.  A ministry of setting the captives free from the chains of oppression from past hurts (if you need help recovering from the pain of past abortion, reach out to me at surrendingthesecretvaldosta at gmail dot com).  It has been a challenging yet rewarding ministry.  God has been faithful to equip me, to train me, to prepare me for the challenges (and yes, the rewards) of reaching His hurting daughters. As I prepared for the very first night, I spoke with a precious God-fearing, God-hearing friend about how to start the dialogue with these precious daughters.  God had given me the tools to walk these women through the process, but I didn’t yet know the words to begin with. She shared with me three of the questions God asks in his Word.

Where are you? (Genesis 3:9)
What are you doing here? (1 Kings 19:9,13)
Do you want to be made well? (John 5:6)

These questions went straight to my heart, and they proved to be a wonderful launching point for this ministry God had given.  As I pondered the questions and continued to study His Word, I was struck by the many questions God asks throughout His Word. He has been calling to my attention many of these questions.  He has had me meditate on the questions and be stirred to answer.

One such question comes in the Gospel of Luke.  Luke 9 starts with Jesus sending out His 12 disciples, having given them “the power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases”, and he sent them out “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick”, according to verses 1 and 2. Faith.

Upon their return, the Word goes on to tell us of Jesus compassionately telling His disciples “you give them [the 5,000 people who had gathered as Jesus “welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing” (verse 11)] something to eat (verse 13).” With 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Yes, YOU give them something to eat. Faith.

Then comes the question, the one that stopped me reading, that penetrated deep in my soul… the question as Jesus asks His disciples privately who the crowds say He is.  They give various answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets returned from the dead.  That’s when Jesus asks,

“But what about you?” he [Jesus] asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Who do you say I amPeter answered, “God’s Messiah.” (Luke 9:20) Faith.

But what about me?  Who do I say He is?

I believe as Peter believed that Jesus is God’s Messiah, the One God of all creation sent to redeem us, to save us from our sin and ourselves, the One who always was, always is, always will be and was sent from the glory of heaven to face nothingness here on earth, for me, for you, to walk among us, God with us. I believe He came to make a way, the Way, to be THE WAY we could not make for ourselves.  I believe that in Him, I find peace, joy and salvation. I believe that He cures diseases, heals the sick, drive out all demons and so much more.  Faith.

This world is struggling right now, focused on a virus, a deadly and contagious virus, watching the news, listening to statistics and sliding into a slippery slope of fear and panic. I can understand that.  I am following the guidance from medical experts, out of my love for others and love for self.  I am washing my hands vigilantly, mindfully socially distancing myself, not visiting my mother-in-law in her senior living environment, admittedly enjoying my introverted happy place (sorry, not sorry).  I have gone out and bought enough for my household to survive in isolation, not forever, just for a couple of weeks, in case.  I am intelligently preparing and mindfully avoiding. I am heeding the advice of professionals and avoiding too much of the news and social media.  I am trusting and retrusting and trusting again when anxiety tries to well up that He [GOD: Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit] is all those things He says He is, that He is my redemption, my deliverance, my rescue, my shelter, my healing, my peace, my righteousness, my salvation.  His perfect love casts out fear. Faith.

And when anxiousness tries to creep in again, I trust again.  I remember that according to Philippians 4, I should let my gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near!!!   I am commanded to not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, I am to present my requests to God. And I am told anew that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. Faith.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me {Paul, via Jesus}, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Faith.

And I am OK with that, in faith,

Dear Village. Thank you.

Dear Village,

We made it. She is grown. Tomorrow, she will marry a man who loves Jesus and loves her. We couldn’t have made it without you. You know who you are. You were instrumental in her becoming who she has become, and we are eternally grateful.

When Ashley was born, as women came alongside me with food and prayers, as people helped me learn how to care for this fragile, dependent little gift, I was made quickly aware, it truly takes a village. As we have walked through all walks of the growing up experience, everything from Girl Scout cookie sales to shooting on the soccer field to scoring out in gymnastics meets to back support on the pyramids to pirouettes and leaps, to college, to youth leadership, to professional career development, it’s been the village in the side lines, the front lines and leading the charge who have been encouraging, teaching, loving her and me, in countless ways, many I don’t even know and certainly couldn’t list.

As I ponder the years past, countless faces flash before my eyes as I remember impacts, big and small of the lives that have influenced Ashley {and me} on her journey. It’s been a collective influence, a collaborative effort, a joint venture that has formed this precious young lady. As I think about the spiritual mothers and fathers who have poured their light and love into her as she found her way to her own understanding, I am in awe of God’s handiwork, His masterful tapestry, woven together into the life that is Ashley, the woman she has become. When people congratulate me for a job well done, I ponder and whisper a heartfelt thanks to all of these and the so many I don’t even know about who have made her into who she is.

Dear village, it was a group effort. A God-given collection of hands-on, behind the scenes, cheerleaders, people rallying, teachers, encouragers, supporters, mentors, bystanders, leaders, helpers, friends… who have loved her alongside me, loved her into becoming the woman she is today, the woman who is ready to marry the man of her dreams and step into more of the good works God has prepared her for!

She loves Jesus, loves people, loves adventure and beautiful things. I am in awe.

Dear village, I couldn’t have done it without you. She wouldn’t be who she is without you. Thank you to all of you for your amazing support and love in the process. I am forever grateful for all you have done to get us to this point.

From the bottom of my heart.

Thank you.

Abundant love,

Mama J

The grey – where the Grace is

We tend to see ourselves in certain ways.

Others tend to see us in certain ways.

We find suitable labels that match us, some that match what our families, friends, and  society would say about us and some that don’t quite line up.  Sometimes they have their own labels for us.  Sometimes, we want to wear those the labels as signs, whether our signs or theirs, but signs that present who we are, how we want people to see us, how we perceive how others see us, as warning signs or signs that justify.  We get comfy-cozy behind the signs and the labels, using the sign as a shield, thinking it will protect us.  Unfortunately, in that regard, we can begin to let our labels dictate who we are.
I’ve carried those signs.
I’ve carried many different signs.
Alerting. Celebrating. Degrading.
One of my heaviest signs, yet strangely the most comfortable would be the one of a ‘type-A, control freak perfectionist’, and even though I have mostly put that label sign down, I find myself quickly picking up the one that reads: ‘recovering type-A, control freak perfectionist’ which seems to help keep me comfortable, but it’s simply a justification sign excusing those tendencies before they happen.

“Well, you know, that’s just how I tend to be.”
“I’m just that way.”

I could just boldly carry the ‘loved by God… anyway’ sign.  Sounds like another preemptive justification sign.  It’s true, but why the label?  Shouldn’t who I am, better yet Whose I am, be glaringly obvious to those around me?  I shouldn’t need a sign.  If it’s not, I should work on my way of living, not the sign.

I will say, one thing about my tendencies is I generally see things in black and white… right or wrong, good or evil, perfect or not perfect.  I tend to see elements of life, people, circumstances, places, outcomes… through that black and white lens.  It’s a great quality for my aptitude in mathematics and for proficiency in accounting, which I am paid to do so I might as well be good at it and have the matching skill set.  Even my weather passion benefits from the way I see things.  That black and white lens is great for analytical stuff.  I see clearly and decide, whatever needs to be decided.

I find it also leads me to speak truth to those seeking it and sometimes to those who aren’t really looking for it, but happen to stumble into me… or I into them, but I try to be gentle and loving in my sharing. I may or may not be successful at that. But I try.

Yet, there’s that other set of people that see the middle, the grey.  I often admire the ones who see the grey, the not-so-cut-and-dry, and I must admit it is a struggle for me to see grey, but I search for it.  I seek the grey.  I yearn for the grey.  In fact, it’s extremely unnatural for me to look at a situation, bypass black and white and find that hidden grey {hidden from me anyhow}.  It’s truly a challenge for me to see and find the grey.  For those of you who easily see the grey, it might be difficult to understand what I am talking about.  I see the grey as the ambiguous place where the edges are fuzzy and the facts are guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.

The rules, though, they comfort me.
The extremes offer clear boundaries that offer protection, perceived protection, at least.
I know what I am looking at, and it makes clear sense to me when I am looking at the black and white, the right and wrong, the good and evil, the perfect and the not perfect.  I see things clearly and concisely, with sharp edges, and I feel like truth lives there. But I believe grace lives in the grey. My hard and fast, ‘this is truth, so it must be’ way of seeing things… takes on powerful perspective in the lens of grey – where Grace lives.

Just add people to my black and white perspective, people who don’t see things the same way, circumstances that aren’t cut and dry, outcomes that are good for some but not good for others, mix it all together and you’ll find yourself in a beautiful grey mess.
Life has so many colorful ingredients, but people are one of the main ingredients… We’re here, in this world, doing this life thing, as different people, trying to make it work out together.
We are so different.
But here we are. Together. In life.

Grace is inWhat I have found though, is it’s in that grey swirly people mess, where I find our sweet Jesus.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 NIV

Jesus is a combination of {grace} and {truth}, the grey AND the black and white.

That’s where I find Him anyway.   Perhaps the grey-lens-people find Him when they seek Him in the slightly out of reach {for them} black and white.
{I love that He meets us in our need, right where we are.}

Really, in all honestly, when I seek Him, I find Him in both the grey and the black and white.  It is in the moments when a friend sends a perfectly timed sweet note of encouragement seemingly out of the blue, the blur of subtle encouragement, that’s when I see God’s grace.  When a friend reaches out because they heard a song on the radio and they thought of me, there is God’s grace.  When I open a package and it’s a thoughtful gift from a friend around the globe, someone my heart has been missing, that is God’s grace.  In the embrace of a new friend who took the time to know my name and smile and offer a hug, there is God’s grace. Friends cheering me on that I am on the right track, and even though it’s hard, stay the course — God’s grace. When the sky lights up with His splendor and people start sending me pictures, or better yet when I am in the hospital and receive video after video of the storm my friends know I am missing, beautiful grace.  When I receive a random smile from a stranger, at a time I am feeling a bit down, God’s amazing grace.  Pulling up at the drive-thru to discover my order has been paid for, His glrious grace.  I find God in the various gatherings, encounters, laughter, hope, silliness, seriousness, dinners, games, church, small group,  God-incidences, each moment, I see God. So He’s not just in the rules and the obedience and the submission.  He’s in the kindness and the forgiveness and the encouragement and the GRACE.  He’s in the easy and the hard.  And the thing is, it’s richer and more beautiful when it’s diverse and dynamic and colorful and fun-filled and hope-filled.  His Grace abounds in all of it.

He gave us relationship, interaction, connection… to reach each other, to answer prayers, to walk out this crazy grey life thing.  Because without those relationships, without those interactions, without those connections, it’s hard.  Even though they might bring their own challenges and hurts – without the relationships, interactions and connections, it’s hard.
His Grace exists in community, where the grey lives.
His Grace is delivered through diversity’s embrace of all the grey.
His Grace grows in fields of together, in the grey mess.
His Grace multiplies in the grey mess of unconditional love.
His Grace leaves room for the different and loves it anyway.

I pray I will continue to hunger for and pursue the grey.  I can always bring the black and the white, but I hunger for the grey – where Grace lives.

And I’m OK with that,



Sometimes, real life is {messy.}

Walking it out. Life. I know it may surprise a few, but sometimes my steps are taken in weary desperation, almost feeling as if I am having to lift my leg to hesitantly place it in the next spot. Sometimes my chest is heavy, trying to contain an anxious, overwhelmed spirit, where my heart is all aflutter and my nerves want to crawl out of my skin.  Sometimes I just want to curl into that quiet spot, turn off noise of the world and sit, and breathe, and wait. For what, I am not sure, but just sit, and breathe, and wait, in quiet.


I know I am not alone in these feelings.  I know I am not the only person who – sometimes – feels isolated. lonely. anxious. messy. I know I am not.  I am not the only one, who in this crazily connected and technologically advanced world, feels less connected than ever, at times.

I guess I must present myself to the world as some sort of strange super-human who has it all figured out, has it all together, has everything under control… because people tell me that, and honestly, I don’t know how they miss the real, how they see something I really don’t feel so much of the time. Sure, I am guilty of posting highlight reels on social media and leaving the ugly cries off your news-feed (you’re welcome) because I don’t feel like anyone really wants to see my really sad parts while they are scrolling. It’s real, but it’s depressing. I certainly love adventures with my husband, quality time with my family, laughter with girlfriends, seeing new places, exploring the world around me and can always enjoy a lovely soy toffee nut latte with dark chocolate curls from Starbucks. I guess I am guilty of putting on a smile and accessorizing accordingly and planning ahead and thinking about details much of the time. I guess it makes me look like I have it all together.

So if I give off that perfectly together appearance and people think I am good because I seem to “have it all together” {then I must, right?}, then, the people who see that make that a sort of standard, and then they think they should present themselves as “having it all together”.  So they smile and accessorize and plan and think, and as a result, we bury all our isolated. our lonely. our anxious. our messy. our disconnected feelings.

How are we really helping each other to feel true connection?
How are we, while hanging out in that pretend perfect world, helping one another to rise above those feelings of isolation and loneliness, creating togetherness and compassion and connection?
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Oh, my soul…

Oh, my soul,
You are not alone.
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.
One more day, He will make a way.
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down.
‘Cause you’re not alone.
-Casting Crowns, “Oh, My Soul”

If I were being honest, and I think it’s necessary that I be honest here, I would say the above affirmation, the declaration to my soul that I am not alone, touches a spot so deeply in my soul, it almost feels raw and exposed, like a festering wound. The part of me that yearns to have it all under control feels somehow failed to admit that feeling alone feels incredible heavy and well… lonely.  It’s so cliche, but there are honestly times when I can be in a room full of people and feel somehow invisible and isolated. I’m not being a victim, just being real.  I realize I am probably surprising some people because they see me in a different light from that.  I am, after all, the social one, aren’t I? When I push through the inner turmoil, the apprehension, the discomfort, to be part of whatever it is I am involved with, I appear to be somewhat of a social butterfly {be cautious when believing things are as they appear}, but I would be so much more comfortable crawling under a table and hiding, from everything and every one. Interesting how you can see things a certain way, and it be such a far cry from reality?

But my soul.

The cry of my soul is for someone to see past that, reach into my invisibility cloak and offer me a deep sense of belonging.

I know.  It’s a paradox.  I can’t have it both ways.

Introversion is a comfortable place for me. It’s a safe place.  I get things done in my quiet solitude.  I like to get things done.  It gives me great joy to mark things off of my to-do list.  It satisfies that goal-orientedness gene in me. However, what I’ve been learning lately {in every direction I turn} is that introversion is actually my hiding place.  I don’t have to be vulnerable when I am alone.  I don’t have to put myself out there.  I don’t have to worry about looking or sounding foolish or feeling awkward.  Introversion gives me respite from potential hurt.  I’ve learned at the same time, we were never intended to go it alone.  We are made to be relational, to belong to something, someone.

In Genesis 2:18, we read the Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” {Relationship}
But, it’s also true, Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed {Luke 5:16}, to have alone time with the Father, but He still had His core group, the 12, the 3 for very special moments. Even in that solitude He sought, though, He had intimate connection with the Father. He was not alone.

One Sunday morning, while speaking to a man at our church service, I asked him (again, forcing myself out from under the table), “How long have you been coming here?” He told me he’d been coming for a few months, but then he elaborated, “I really enjoy it here.  I feel like I am part of something bigger than myself. I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged before, but here, I feel like I do belong.”

“I feel like I do BELONG.”

oh my soul 051617
Sure, introversion is a comfy spot for me, but truth be told, I long for belonging.  And to add more truth to the matter, the comfort of isolation is instigated by a fear of not belonging or not being accepted because my deepest desire is truly to belong. Introversion feels comfy, but it can be so lonesome. I know in my knower that I don’t belong in isolation. In the depths of my soul, I yearn to feel not alone. As much as I may try or just think I want to hide, my soul wants connection.  My soul craves belonging.

There’s just this matter of protection. The isolation born in the fear of not belonging, not being accepted… being possibly rejected, since I have been in the past.  That was real, and it hurt. Bad. Stepping out of isolation becomes a matter of trusting God with the outcomes, trusting Him with my heart, being assured of His sovereignty and trusting His good for me, being secure with the even if, as I wrote about in my previous blog.

What I have discovered though, is at the perfect moments, in the perfect ways, He provides people, my people.  Old friends and newly discovered ones, placed in my path at the perfect moment, for them, for me, a wonderfully orchestrated masterpiece, put together piece by piece. Will I be hurt along the way, stepping out of isolation? Probably.  People are just trying to figure things out, and in the same ways I mess up, so do they. Will some friendships not work out? Possibly.  He has a beautiful way of filling those gaps and holes and broken places.

But trusting Him.
Trusting Him to provide what I need when I need it.
Trusting my heart to God enough to give Him the chance to heal the broken spots.
Even if that means making myself vulnerable to the hurt people bring to the table…

That feels right.  It feels like the community God has designed for us. It’s one of the  ways our loving Father binds up our broken hearts and heals our wounds. He gives us people, families, friends. It is not good for man to be alone.

And I can declare, Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. {Psalm 62:5}
And my soul finds rest in belonging.
In not being alone.
And I am OK with that.

In case you are interested in hearing my inspiration: http://vevo.ly/9G1RP3

Even if…

Loss.  It’s so personal.

It’s unique to the one experiencing it.

It can literally consume a person.

I’ve seen it happen.

It can set a person free.

I’ve seen that happen, as well.

My husband and I, we’ve been in a season of exceptional loss.

Loss has been a significant part of the raging storm I’ve talked about.

Loss has a way of changing life on its heels, shifting priorities, changing perspectives.  There can be varying degrees of loss.  There are different types and categories of loss.

Our family has experienced different degrees, types and categories of loss. It’s been downright hard.  My {step} father lost his battle with cancer in October, but he had been lost long before then, struggling to engage with anyone, depression had robbed us of him long, long ago. In March, my father-in-law lost his life to apparent cancer, but his mind had been stolen from us to the perils of dementia years ago. So much loss. So much more even. Walking through the refining fire, as my husband says.  Sometimes it seems unbearable. No matter how I prepare for the storm.  No matter how I study the storm. No matter how much I know that my God controls that storm and is, in fact, bigger than that storm, when the storm hits… that storm. There is an impact. How could there not be?

A song was recently released on the radio, a song by MercyMe called “Even If”.

The lyrics of the song begin with a man, a worship leader, singing about how in life sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and he confesses to being in a season of loss.  He shares how easy it is to sing God’s praises when things are going well (our way), how it’s especially easy to share that message with others, but when the storm hits, and we’re held to the flame, it’s not so easy when things feel so not right… but this singer wants to be able to sing anyhow.

I think the hardest part of the storm, the flame as this man describes it, is we don’t control the outcome. As people of faith, we are called to rest our faith in our sovereign God and lean into Him when the storm rages, when the refining flames swell, when life throws you loss upon loss.  We are asked to trust God, with the hurt, with the hard, with the loss, with the outcomes we didn’t ask for… with those times when the mustard seed faith doesn’t budge the mountain we wanted to move because maybe it’s not the mountain God wanted moved or perhaps even the one He is moving, at that very moment.

This song.
“Even If”.
It speaks to my soul.

even if used

Through it all, I’ve become quite the observer of people during times of loss.  I find myself intrigued by the different ways people process loss. All the stages, all the different ways they manifest.  How other things tend to surface during loss, other issues that may have been dormant or even dealt with… somehow reemerge to become somewhat of a current issue.  Past hurts long ago buried swell up and beg to be addressed, right now, as hard as that may be. How loss can have a sort of compounding effect when combined with other substantial losses. Dealing with loss we thought we were OK with only to discover we weren’t as OK with it as we thought. A loss of something we think we should still have can be downright excruciating, agonizing even.

I am guilty of so often stepping into the role and position of lord of my own life. In my prayer life, I have caught myself issuing God a demands list of “Jennifer thinks things would be just fine if You (Lord of all, Creator of the universe, Knower of all things there are to know) would just _______________.”
Then everything would be… just… fine. Right?
HA! As if I know all things and how this affects that and what needs to happen to result in the good that is promised to those who love Him and are called to His service. I am one who has built a life for myself rooted in perceived control.  I’m not proud of that.  It’s just a matter of fact.  Perfecting my completely detailed to-do list and executing each step precisely as described according to my infallible plan, and everything should turn out exactly as I expected. Shouldn’t it?

Each moment of chaos, each crisis, each life-change, each loss is really just a reminder that we aren’t in control. Control is an illusion, a deceptive tool to push us toward self-reliance, so our lives will spiral out of control and we will be driven further away from the One who really is in control. We aren’t promised the next moment. There aren’t guarantees. And we, as much as we may have it all planned out, do not have authority over the outcomes.

As the storms rage around me, stirring up wind, destroying structures, shaking the very foundation I stand on and demolishing the tight grasp I thought I had on my own life, the lives of loved ones, family, friends and the circumstances which surround those lives, it is all put into perspective just how small I am.  It’s not up to me.  Who do I think I am?

I don’t control the outcomes. I get a choice of the steps I will take, of the responses I will offer, of the reactions to the circumstances that seem to creep into that so-called infallible plan. All the worry over my perfect plan, though, is in vain, because ultimately I don’t decide what happens in the end.

So often, I find myself wrapping my joy, my peace, my hope, my feeling loved, my definition of success in a neatly tied package of if-only.  If we’ll allow it, though, if-only turns into but God. If I truly trust Him to be sovereign, as I profess He is, I should trust God with the outcome as well. Whatever that may be.

In the song, the singer ultimately gets to a place where he submits to God and despite the season of loss and his implied hope of a particular outcome, he wants to be able to be OK with the actual outcome even if it looks nothing like he expected.

So, my goal, since this song reaches deeply into my soul and tugs at the very essence of me, urging me to hear what my heart should already know, is to truly allow my if-onlys to become even-ifs.  He promises peace and rest to those who ask and come to Him. The route to peace and rest is the path of even if.  Even if life doesn’t turn out the way I asked or wanted or planned, each step has a purpose.  Though I grieve loss upon loss, my hope rests in His outcome for my life and for the lives of my loved ones. Even if it looks nothing like I thought it should or would, I can rest in His promises of the plans He has for my life for good and not harm. If He doesn’t pull me from the fire, I trust that the fire has a purpose.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

MercyMe – “Even If”

It is well with my soul.

And I am OK with that,

When the storm comes…

Certainly, you’ve experienced it.  That storm. You know the one. That horrifying, part-the-blue-skies, ominous clouds, raging winds, growling thunderous echoes roaring from its belly type of storm. The one that seems to come after you. The one that intensifies the closer it gets. You can’t help but feel the tingle of anxiety in the pit of your being as you wonder, will this one get me? What kind of disaster will this storm bring into my life?

Having been a storm chaser, I know this storm all too well. I don’t fear the storm though.  For some reason, I never have. I’ve always been fascinated by its very nature, respectful of the power, the force and the potential for destruction it carries. I’ve seen with my own eyes and heard many survivors’ horrendous accounts of what that storm can do.

It was just another day for me, and I was leaving work.  To the east, crisp, clear blue beautiful skies, birds chirping, light breeze getting a bit more wispy, but I could smell it.  I could smell the storm in the air. As I faced the beautiful blue, winds picked up at my back and I knew, a storm, a big storm was coming. As I turned to face the inevitable, I was blasted with a gust and the cloud formation was an awesome display of His Creation, declaring His GLORY. The storm carried with it, a whale’s belly of tumultuous skies, steadily shifting and sifting and stirring up angry unstable skies just to my west.  Ah, yes.  The storm was coming. As I mentioned already, I don’t fear the storm. I know Who has me in the midst, but alas, I was hardly interested in getting drenched before my coffee date, so I raced the storm, watching it chase me down in the rear view mirror.

No matter which direction I turned, the storm bubbled up from every direction in hot pursuit of me.  Arriving at the coffee shop, I stepped from my car to be assaulted by another blast of wind from this raging monster. I stood to face it, allowing the howling wind to assault me, almost as if telling the storm it was no match for the One who controls it.

It was at that point I heard, in a crisp clear voice, perhaps from Spirit deep inside of me, perhaps buried in a clap of thunder, perhaps whispered in the breeze, but the message was clear and the words were, “This storm is coming for you.”

Immediately, that proclamation uttered for me incited a twinge of pulse flutter as it planted itself in my soul as a warning of things to come. This storm that I faced in the physical represented something I was about to face in the spiritual, and it was coming for me. My knower knew. It was so much bigger than this storm before me, but His warning, His proclamation helped me somehow feel more equipped, somehow secure.  I whispered this prayer to the Wind, “Lord, make me ready.”


I didn’t ask He take the storm from me.
I didn’t ask, why me?
I just wanted to be ready.


It’s funny how storms so easily figuratively represent trials people face in life.  If I tell you, I faced a storm in my life, you most likely understand that to mean a rough patch, some level of suffering, some circumstance that was beyond my control and raked me over the coals.  Well, the storm has most definitely arrived in my life.  Life has turned on end many times over, as if caught in a rip current.  The compilation of life situations have been a whirlwind of astronomic proportions, yet each step, He has used the storm, the larger than life trials, to teach me, equip me, grow me, stretch me, ready me, and show me how He would have me navigate. He placed me in a private IC(see)U room {borrowed from a dear kindred},  just Him and me, where He has offered tender care and guidance, shelter and refuge. I have found during that time with Him, wrapped in His gentle and assuring loving Presence, the Peace that surpasses understanding.

I’ve shared in previous blogs my nature is to take control, be the leader, be the one who has answers, solutions, fixes for all the problems.  My nature is to figure out the way, if I don’t already know it.  It’s to be decisive, maintain control, step up to the plate and swing. The problem with the storm is, I am not in control of the storm. I might understand the science of the storm. I may be able to discern which way things are going. I may be able to show scientifically where and when and how, but in reality, it’s not up to me. It never has been. Sometimes, we just find ourselves there, in the middle of the storm, and all the knowledge in the world won’t spare us. We just have to batten down the hatches and hunker down.

This is where I found myself over these past several months, in the eye of the storm, in the middle of the {spiritual} war. Life. It does tend to get tedious. It can become for us a valley of the shadow of death. I find it at times suffocating how all-encompassing it can become. I had heard in that Wind on that stormy day “the storm is coming for you!”, but now through loving guidance and kind teaching from a loving Father, I believe instead He was saying “The storm is coming, for you.”  It was coming for my sake, to give Him opportunities to teach me, to stretch me, to grow me.  It was all part of His plan. He didn’t take away my storm; instead He used it for my good, in ways only He could.

Genesis 50:20(ESV)
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Through it all, I have learned so much about my God, myself, my relationships, my place. He has taught me. He has shown me.  The storm was coming, for me. For me to learn, be equipped, grow, stretch, be ready,  and see some things I needed help seeing and only the storm would make me see. I do not fear the storm.  I am thankful for it.

I am not afraid of the storm; I know the One who controls the storm.
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
And in the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm
Ryan Stevenson – “Eye of the Storm”

And I’m OK with that,

P.S. This song has been powerful for me during this stormy season.  Perhaps you can be comforted by it in your own.
Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson

Do you want to be made well?

Do I want to be made well?

Seems as if it should have such an obvious answer that it doesn’t bear asking. Doesn’t it?

Shouldn’t it be a quick resounding yes! I guess the quick answer at the shallow end of the pool is easily yes, before plunging into those deeper spots, before exposing those deep roots.
Absolutely, I don’t want this illness.
I can’t wait for this issue to heal so I can resume “normal life”.
I am so ready for them to figure out a cure for this {fill in the blank} disease.
I no longer want to cling to fear and insecurity and rejection and control… I want to give up those things and be whole.

Oh wait…
Sure, it seems a rhetorical question with an obvious answer, but if that is so, why did Jesus ask?

Do you want to be made well? NKJV
Do you want to get well? NIV
Would you like to get well? NLT
Do you want to be healed? ESV
Do you desire to become well? BLB
Wilt thou be made whole? KJV

Yes!  Of course I want to be made well. I want to get well.  I would like to get well.  I want to be healed.  I desire to become well. I want to be made whole!  Don’t I?  Don’t you?

It has really caused me to pause.  When I plunge a bit deeper, where my fears and my insecurities and my anxieties and problem solving nature kick in, I want to take care of it myself.  I have the perfect solution.  Yes, I want my brokenness fixed, but if I am going to be completely honest, I want it fixed on my terms, at my pace, my way. I want my disease, my brokenness, my situation, my fears and insecurities, my hurts made well, but what will it take? I want these parts to not be this way, but can I hold on to this little piece? I’m rather attached to this little piece of unwell me.

made well aug 2016

What do I have to give up to be made whole? 


Take, for example, the woman I wrote about in my previous post titled Desperation, she wanted to be well and sought after it with everything she had, risking death; she was made whole. Prior to that point, she was, in fact, desperate and wanted healing at whatever cost.  Do we?  Will we sacrifice anything, will we sacrifice ourselves to become whole? Will we give up our right to be healed on our terms, in our timing, in our way?  Will we give up our right to be right? What are we willing to sacrifice for wholeness?

The following story has been pressing on my heart lately. It comes from a recounted story of Jesus’ encounter with a disabled person at a pool called Bethesda, which means house of mercy. John 5:1-15 takes place some time after He had healed an official’s son in Galilee, his second sign after coming from Judea to Galilee.

The Healing at the Pool

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, Do you want to be made well?

Let me stop there for a minute. Why would Jesus ask that? For up to 38 years, this man had been carried or otherwise found his way and eventually apparently slept there in a bed at the fancy porches of the “house of mercy” pool in hopes he would be healed. He lay among a “great multitude of sick people, blind people, lame people, and paralyzed people”, each focused on their own disability, no doubt. Thirty eight years is a long time to have an infirmity (some translations call him an invalid) and sit by this highly acclaimed miraculous pool waiting to be healed. Of course he wants to be made well, right?  It’s such a simple question.  Yes or no?  Do YOU want to be made well?? His response:

The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

There it is.  The excuse. The blame-shifting.  He didn’t even answer Jesus’ question! Granted, he had no clue it was Jesus asking, but still.  I am all alone, he says. No one helps me to the pool, he accuses.  I can’t do it all by myself, he moans. When he tries on his own, someone always beats him to it, he declares.

It’s not my fault. I’ve done my part. I’m here; aren’t I?  I obviously want to be made well, but… I have all these excuses.  If I am made well, what will I do with my time? Where will I go each day? Not only is this man an “invalid”, he feels in-valid.  He feels somehow that he is being robbed of this blessing. If only he had someone to help him.  If only someone didn’t beat him to the blessing first. For 38 years, this man has been a prisoner of this thinking that he is in-valid, passed over, unimportant, alone. I suspect he has reached a point where he thinks he cannot be made well.

 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

This man was made well after 38 years and is walking! It’s a miracle! He should be praising this man before him, who happens to be Jesus, for the miracle that happened in his life.  Instead… immediate attack.

And that day was the Sabbath.  The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”

The group referred to here as “the Jews” did not proclaim, “Praise God!!  This man who was with infirmity for 38 years is walking!!”, but rather insinuated, ‘you horrible rule breaker!‘ Then, this man who is in the habit of being infirmed, who has grown accustomed to blaming others for his prolonged condition, who has had no one until the very point Someone came and healed him, immediately falls into old habits.

He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’

It’s that Man’s fault,  you know the one that changed my life forever, healed me of a lifelong illness, made me well.  He’s to blame!  The man had no one and now he has Someone who has just changed his life forever, yet, the man who was cured broke the rule because of Him that cured him. That Healer told me to pick up my bed and “work  on the Sabbath. That is a far cry from “thank You.”

Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

Even though accused instead of thanked, Jesus sought this man out.  Jesus urged this man to see.  See what has happened??  You have been made well!  Open your eyes, sir.  You have been freed from the chains of bondage to illness and blame and abandonment and rejection and helplessness.  Jesus had done that! Jesus found this man in the temple (since he no longer needed to hang out by the pool) and urged him to change from his ways.  Stop those habits.  Be free.  See that you are well.  Be well.

The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

And instead of seeing, the man, the healed man chose to go against Jesus and told those Jews exactly who they could blame for his being made well and carrying his mat on the Sabbath.  The man stepped right back into bondage.  I believe he did answer the question Jesus asked at the beginning of the encounter.  “Do you want to be made well?”

No, I don’t believe he did WANT to be made well.  I believe he had grown quite comfortable in his unwellness in his 38 years of infirmity.

We have this opportunity to be freed from the bondage and hurt and the brokenness that would keep us trapped in our infirmity. We have this opportunity to seize all that is offered: complete wholeness.  Just answer the question.  I am choosing YES! I want to be made whole.  I want to be made well. REALLY.  I want to change my habits. I want my heart changed to match His.  I want to allow me to see myself as whole, give up myself and my right to be right.  I desire to be made well.  It is a choice.

I pray you choose the same.  Wilt thou be made whole?




We find ourselves in that place sometimes. Sometimes we find ourselves drowning there.

It’s that point existing just beyond the extreme end of pretending we have it all together. It’s that point where you have somehow managed every stress, every hurt, every crisis, every storm until this point, but that one thing, that one unexpected thing, whether it be an unbudgeted expense, a terrifying diagnosis, an out-of-the-blue confession, a dreaded phone call, the unimaginable situation… or perhaps that juggling act was so extreme that it took only something as trivial as your child coming home from school saying they need a plain white shirt for school tomorrow to send you sailing over the edge into that pit of “there’s-nothing-left-I-am-at-the-end-of-myself!!” Perhaps, though, it is just one situation, one thing that is so big, so impossible, so unexpected, so unbearable, it sends you soaring off the cliff of desperation. The mask comes off. Desperation.

Desperation [des-puhrey-shuh n] noun 1. the state of being desperate or of having the recklessness of despair.; 2.the act or fact of despairing; despair.

That’s not helpful unless you know what desperate means… Desperate [des-per-it, -prit] – adjective 1. reckless or dangerous because of despair, hopelessness, or urgency; 2.having an urgent need, desire, etc.; 3. leaving little or no hope; very serious or dangerous; 4. extremely bad; intolerable or shocking; 5. extreme or excessive.; 6. making a final, ultimate effort; giving all; 7. actuated by a feeling of hopelessness. (Reading the phonetic spelling of that word made me see the root.  De-Spirit.  What a hopeless place. Yes.  I have been there. You are not alone. There are others.)

But when you reach that point, and you cross that line, every breath becomes a challenge.  Every step takes effort.  The world seems to spin either incredibly fast or gravely slow.  I’ve ridden the line.  I know it’s a tight-rope with a  steep drop off.  You are not alone. Desperation is a place.

If you know this place, if you’re close to this place, if you are climbing out of this place, I am compelled to try to give you a message of hope and encouragement.

As I read, The Day I Met Jesus, by Mary DeMuth and Frank Viola, I was moved to share the stirrings in my heart (I definitely recommend that book). A common thread I see in many recorded Jesus-encounters (especially the ones involving healing and transformation) is desperation. Desperation is the place we find and encounter the fullness of Christ.
desperation blog

Let’s just take the woman with the disorder where she had been bleeding for  12 years (if you’re unfamiliar, I share it below. No worries). Let’s dive into that time and culture to better grasp her situation, see her, if you will.  She was a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years straight, making her and anyone she comes in contact with ceremonially unclean.  In our culture today, the disorder would be a health issue, but her level of uncleanness is not that big of a deal to us, but in that culture, it was criminal and punishable by death. Since she was a threat to literally everyone, she undoubtedly lived a life of complete isolation and solitude, after all the failed doctors’ visits.  She couldn’t be married because her husband would also be unclean. Physically, she must have been anemic and incredibly weak and tired. Emotionally, she had no community, fellowship or support.  She was alone with her haunting illness. In a culture where men were the ones who worked and provided, she was left with nothing, doctors expenses had left her poor and unhealed, in fact her condition was reportedly worse than before. This poor, desperate and very lonely woman… my heart just aches for her.  I know she was desperate because only desperation could have compelled her to do what she did.

This unclean, weak and lonely woman, knew that Jesus was the answer.

Let me repeat that last part, she knew that Jesus was the answer.

Do we know that?  We need to… desperately.

She knew if she were to just touch the hem of His garment, she would be healed.  She didn’t need to be touched by Him.  She didn’t need to sit with Him.  She didn’t need Him to say anything.  She just needed to touch the hem of His garment. Her desperation gave birth to faith. As a by-product of her suffering, she knew in faith that to just touch the hem would heal her, His hem would be enough.

There was one really big problem.
Jesus was exceptionally popular at this point, and crowds had abundantly gathered around Him, thick crowds of many undoubtedly ceremonially clean men. This desperate, unclean, weak and lonely woman would have to plunge through a crowd of people who most likely knew that she was “that woman”.  Having been to many doctors and suffered as long as she had, there is little room for doubt that she had the reputation as being “that woman”. I don’t doubt they knew she was “the one with the bleeding disorder”. That very woman had to plow through that crowd of people who knew her and what she was doing to them, risking her very life, to touch His garment’s hem. That’s how I know she was desperate.  This was a suicide mission. If only she could touch the hem of His garment. Just the hem.

I’m sure she knew the likelihood of her being punished severely for her choice.  Her pain (desperation) outweighed that fear.  That’s desperation, when the pain becomes that unbearable that you would risk it all to no longer have the pain.  Jesus was her goal. Whatever the cost.

Here’s the story from Mark 5:24-34

So Jesus went with him (Jairus, whose daughter was dying), and a large crowd followed and pressed around Him. And a woman was there who had been afflicted for twelve years by an issue of bleeding. She had suffered greatly under the care of many physicians and had spent all she had, but to no avail. Instead, her condition had only grown worse.

When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up through the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she kept saying, “If I only touch His clothes, I will be healed.” At that instant, her bleeding stopped, and she sensed in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

At once Jesus was aware that power had gone out from Him. Turning to the crowd, He asked, “Who touched My clothes?”

His disciples answered, “You can see the crowd pressing in on You, and yet You ask, ‘Who touched Me?’

But He kept looking around to see who had done this. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him trembling in fear, and she told Him the whole truth.

Daughter,” said Jesus, your faith has healed you; go in peace and be free of your affliction.”

He was aware, and He wanted to see her. He felt her healing take place. She felt her healing take place. Her goal had been accomplished.  She had touched His hem. She had been healed, but He wanted to give her {more}. This terrified, desperate, unclean, weak, lonely and just healed woman was being called out to the open. She had done what she did still shrouded in a veil of secrecy, coming from behind Him to touch His garment.  She didn’t confront Him like Jairus, trying to desperately help his daughter; she dug through a crowd and touched His hem, hoping to go unnoticed, hoping to just be healed of this horrible illness.  BUT JESUS had so much {more} to offer her.  She confessed and believed, and Jesus offered her complete healing.  He announced to this very crowd – her would be prosecutors and executioners – that she was healed, she was no longer unclean.  He offered her peace and freedom.  He called her daughter. I know this is far {more} than this woman could have dreamed of ever happening.  She was called His daughter. She was healed. Her reputation was cleared.  She was given peace.  She was given freedom.  This woman experienced complete sozo healing.

That’s what He offers. I see so often that our prayers ask for just this, or maybe Lord, if you could just do that, putting Him in that box, limiting our thoughts of His capability… but we have Jesus who can do immeasurably MORE than we can ask or imagine! (That’s Ephesians 3:20-21 paraphrased.) Have faith, my dear friends.  Have faith that He can do what you want and so much more than you can even imagine.  You don’t have to hide in it.  You don’t have to be afraid.  He wants to free you of your desperation completely.

Let Him. Just touch His hem.


It’s not you. It’s Him.

And then, occasionally, you get launched from the boat, into the tumultuous waves crashing all around you, and the wind roars through your weary, war-worn bones,  and it seems a hopeless situation, threatening to drown you in an unforgiving sea of life’s chaos. A big gulp before going under, as the churning waves crash over your head. You flail your arms and beg for someone to see you, to reach out to you, to let you know that the storm will not win. To let you know you’re not alone.

I know I am not the only one who gets there.
There are many of us.
We are His warriors.
We are being trained.
We are not alone.

I know the waves are big and scary,  the debt seems insurmountable, the disease seems to persist, the hurt seems like it will never heal, the child seems to challenge everything, the loss seems too great, the burden feels too heavy, the past seems unforgivable, the people seem too harsh, the memories seem too vivid… I’ve been in those places. I’ve been nearly consumed in those very waves. It’s real.  You’re not imagining it.

This is not all there is.
There is {more}.
All hope is not gone.
You are not alone.

I see you.

More importantly, He sees you.

This.  All of this.  Is just a season. It is temporary.

Your focus is on the circumstances, and I get it.  I really do.  I’ve been overboard.  I know how hard it is to NOT see the waves and the storm when they are crashing all around you, threatening to take you down.  I know how hard it is to take your eyes off the mess before you and focus on something, Someone greater.

I’d like to take a little detour.  You see, as I read the Word, I always feel a {kindred-ness} with the apostle Peter. Leave it to me to pick the impulsive one, the one who leaps recklessly, wildly chops off ears, and blatantly denies and doubts Jesus, after spending years by His side, witnessing the very miracles and walking in the very power. Yep, he’s the one I “get“.

I want to share just a part of Peter’s story from Matthew 14 with a few of my own {notes} (25-33).  It might be familiar to you.  It might not.  I pray you read it as if for the first time.:

During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went out to them, walking on the sea {wow!!}. When the disciples {including Peter} saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified {I can only assume that means Peter was one of those terrified, as well}. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus {can we just pause after that… so many great things start with But Jesus.} immediately spoke up: Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.

{Here comes my guy, Peter} “Lord, if it is You,” {Doubt. I recognize it all too well.} Peter replied, “command me to come to You on the water.” {Willingness. I recognize that too.}

“Come,” said Jesus. {Take courage.  It is I. Do not be afraid and now, come.}

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus.{I can totally see myself in this place. I doubted, yet He said come, so I went. I’m sort of a weather freak, so it works that I would connect with the one stepping out from the safety of the boat onto crashing, stormy waves.} But {uh oh, I hear more doubt.} when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid {fear is not from God, the One who tells the wind to blow.}, and beginning to sink, {his very doubt/lack of faith interrupted the miracle} cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately {Jesus was right there!!  He was right there!! Peter reset his focus and boom, IMMEDIATELY} Jesus reached out His hand and took hold of Peter. {He was right there!!} “You of little faith, {Ouch!}” He said, “why did you doubt?” {why indeed?}

And when they {Jesus and Peter} had climbed back into the boat, the wind died down. {the wind was no longer useful. Jesus who could have stopped the storm while Peter started floundering in the waves could have, yet He waited until they were safely back in the boat. } Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are Son of God!” {revelation}

but jesus 2Oh my golly.  So much in this story.  There are so many aspects of this story that speak to me powerfully. I can relate on so many levels.  I can literally see myself as Peter, seeing, doubting, going, worrying, sinking, begging, refocusing.  Since I am currently working on an issue of control with my Father, I feel that He wants me to look at the doubt and lack of faith aspect of this situation. Peter, amidst the storm and the waves, asked Jesus to call him out upon the water.  He looked at the waves before he got out of the boat, but he wasn’t seeing them.  Why?  Because his focus, at that moment, like the rest of the disciples, was set on this Man walking on those waves.

Christine Caine, during a recent night at Unashamed (which a dear friend invited me to attend with her, and it blessed my soul in so many ways), spoke extensively on the distinction between looking and seeing.  You can look and then look away, virtually unchanged, but you can never see and then unsee, she shared. What a powerful truth!!

Peter looked out and saw Jesus, not the waves. He saw help. He did not see the storm. Sure, he doubted, but when called, he stepped out, in faith (for a minute). Jesus said come, so he went. He saw Jesus. Not the waves. Until that moment when he saw the waves instead of Jesus, and he began to sink, even though Jesus was right there!!!

You see, Peter forgot that he was walking on the water because Jesus made him able to.  He forgot to focus on Who was in charge of this miracle taking place. He saw the waves and thought, I’m in danger, I can’t save myself, I will drown in this storm, I can’t do it!!


When Jesus told Peter to come, in that moment, despite the waves, despite the wind, and despite the fact that Peter, a former fisherman, most certainly knew he was not able to walk on water, Peter stepped out.  He trusted {boldly} for that moment that it didn’t matter because Jesus. How quickly we forget! How quickly the waves and the storm and the debt and the illness and the kids and the hurt and the whatever crisis (insert yours here) causes us to lose our focus and see just that crisis/situation, instead of the very One who defeats it.

Put your eyes back on Jesus, friend.
Let Him call you out onto those deep waters.
Look that storm in the face and tell it, but Jesus.
Don’t lose your focus.
Don’t see at the waves and the storm.
See Jesus.
He sees you.

That’s all I got.