Tag Archives: Identity

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 18)

She slowly walks up to the front of the room, smiling as she moves past the familiar and unfamiliar faces monitoring her progress. She tries to steady her breathing. Everything rides on this, her entire future! As she turns, the room quiets and all eyes are on her. She silently prays her voice to calm, and then she begins to deliver the most important speech of her 18 year life.

I should know better, for I have been here -in this place- countless times before. Dreaming, pursuing, preparing, envisioning my success.

• The powerful delivery of a presentation or speech
• Hitting my weight loss goal
• Landing that promotion
• Winning back territory from the enemy
• Making the final payment on an old debt
• Arriving at a place of financial security
• Residence in ‘the land overflowing with milk and honey’

At the beginning of the process … the dreaming, pursuing and preparing part … enthusiasm is high. My imagination soars with visions of what life will be like when ______. And usually, if I really pause to examine my thought life, there is an undertone or underlying theme in my visions of victory and success: “Then I’ll be able to rest for a bit.”

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me!” ― Jim Henson (The Labyrinth)

And yet time and time again, even though I know full well it’s not true – I continue to set myself up for the inevitable disappointment that will be when reality smacks me in the face and I’m reminded once again that there is always going to be another presentation, another goal, another challenge, … another mountain/valley/ocean to cross over!

Can anyone else relate?

Admittedly, I was in a bit of a funk the end of last year. There was a lot of change taking place in my day-job, and it was quite stressful. And so I did what I always do … or what eventually I always do. I took my battle-weary heart to the Lord, and received HOPE from Him that 2018 would be a year of favor and blessing. That’s why this particular blog series is entitled “2018: A Year For Hope” … because I knew He was instructing me to keep blogging, and I needed a reminder (and anchor) for the HOPE that He had given me in December.

“I hear the Lord saying, “I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.” ~Psalm 32:8 (The Passion Translation)

In January I spread my wings and took flight on this series, I even began painting again. I had gained a little altitude in February. I soared for a little while in March, until I hit the turbulent winds of April. Some personal disappointments got the better of me and I lost altitude.

Sounds rather like a recurring theme for me, doesn’t it?

Rest and Refresh! Hope! Vision! Expectation! Fearlessness! Boldness! Persistence! Fatigue! Wobbly-ness! (repeat)

And as I’ve been making my way back to the starting place these last 2 weeks, I asked myself “What in the world makes you think life is going to be gumdrops and lollypops when ___ happens! You should know better!”

Sometimes I write my blog posts for you – to encourage you like we were friends sitting across from each other over coffee.

But most times, my write blog posts are for me – something I’m working through and/or need to be reminded of. Yup, I’m a HOPE-filled blogger in desperate need for another shot of HOPE!

And today, the encouragement I’m clinging to comes from the women’s event I attended at my church this past weekend. Through the story of Gideon, our lead Pastor’s wife and guest speaker shared a one-liner that really resonates with me.
“God wants us to be Brave so that He can write our stories.” ~Ginelle Payne

Hebrews 6:19
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Oh yes, that’s right Lord. My story is still being written, by You!

And there is no finish line this side of heaven (because I have an enemy who is always sabotaging me by moving flags and markers, setting traps, etc), and so it is a waste of energy to pine for the day when I can ‘put my feet up and rest a bit’.

Instead, I need to keep coming back (hourly if necessary) to the starting place of Rest & Refreshment so that You can revive my Hope, give me Vision, build my Expectation, make me Fearless, increase my Boldness, with greater Persistence! And when fatigue comes, I would do well to return to the starting place A.S.A.P. rather than waiting for wobbly-ness to set in. (I tend to get into trouble by making poor decisions when I’m wobbly.)

Regarding that enemy – the one who is always sneaking around to steal the Word from me, kill my dreams, and utterly destroy God’s plan for my life? In the words of Jim Henson … let me loudly declare this!

You have no power over me!


I’m working on a new piece … to reflect Miss Hope’s arrival landside. Come back next week (ish) to watch the word-picture emerge.
All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 17)

I had a dream last night. It was so explicit that I felt, as I have at other times, the dream was given to me for a reason. Perhaps it is for you.

“Wearing a mask wears you out. Faking it is fatiguing. The most exhausting activity is pretending to be what you know you aren’t.” ~Rick Warren

Everyone wears masks. Some masks are as simple as answering a no-nonsense “Fine” to the question of “How are you?” instead of giving the long and drawn out honest answer of discouragement and brokenheartedness. Some masks are more complex and worn as a means of self-protection. This was the case in my dream.

She touches up her curls and puts on her mascara. She smiles in the mirror for a final inspection. It will do, she is ready. So is he.

They walk in together, smiling across the foyer to welcoming faces while also being purposeful to stay just far away enough to avoid direct conversation with much of anyone. Too much familiarity puts them at risk of questions they don’t want to answer; and answers most people don’t really want to hear.

There are only a few, a very few, people at this church who know the truth about them. They had expected complete rejection, just like they had experienced at countless churches before this one. But to their surprise, they found understanding and acceptance from people who looked beyond their “differences” and who saw them. Seeking. Hurt. Hungry. And they were welcomed just as they were, just where they were in their journey of learning more about Jesus.

“We all have sin in our lives”, they were told. “My sin might look different than yours, but it doesn’t make it any better or yours any worse. We all fall short – which is exactly why Jesus went to the Cross. To pay the sin debt for all mankind once and for all. If Jesus can be patient with me in my state, who am I to judge you about yours.”

I think it grieves the heart of God when we rank some sins as being worse than others. And let’s face it, we have a very ugly habit of doing so – especially within the walls of the Church. It should not be.

Sadly, I’m old enough to have seen many “messy Christians” (those who didn’t look like or act like they were supposed to) being made to feel so unwelcomed in church that in short order they simply stopped coming altogether. And why? Because they wore jeans or shorts on a Sunday morning? Or they had blue hair? Or they were suspected as gay? Or her belly button showed? Or he had a mouth full of rotten teeth and his breath smelled?

The sin of stealing a few manila folders from the office supply cabinet ranks way below the sin of embezzlement – but both are thievery. Gluttony vs drug addiction. Venomous words vs physical abuse. Somehow, it all too often ends up that the sins that you and I struggle with fall to the lesser end of the ranking system (downgraded with words like “issues” or “struggles”) while someone else’s sins (that are not a temptation to us and therefore with whom we can’t relate) are ranked higher and are undoubtedly more offensive to God.

“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12 (ESV)

As I lay in my bed processing, I felt the Lord invite me to look intently at the woman and the man in my dream. From other details of the dream, I knew the secret they worked so hard to keep concealed from general knowledge.

But I didn’t feel like that was what God wanted me to see. He was asking me to look at each person individually. To see beyond their sin-struggle, and to see the person.

“Who are they?” He asked me.

We all wear masks. I get it. I wear them too.

But God sees each of us from behind the masks we wear. He knows us individually, completely, and His blood was shed just as much for the murderer as for the occasional pencil thief.

“Look closer,” He said. “Who are they?”

A son. A daughter. A creation.
His son. His daughter. His creation.

Who Am I
Who Am I

When I started blogging in 2014, I painted a word-picture for the post “WHO AM I”. I think it is fitting for this post as well, (Besides, I ruined my work in process and so I must now start it all over again) because this is at the heart of what I felt God was pointing me to see or observe about these two people in my dream. Their IDENTITY is not based on the type of sin they struggle with. Their IDENTITY is that of a son or daughter. And if they have reached the point of accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, their IDENTITY is that of His son or His daughter.

When we accept Jesus as Savior, all our issues don’t magically go away overnight. We all know that! But we have so much more tolerance for some kinds of messiness than other kinds. But if the Father can be lovingly patient with me as I continue to work through my food-issues, and temper-issues, and jealousy-issues … can He not be equally as lovingly patient with someone else as they work through their issues – no matter what those issues are?

“Where is the HOPE for them?” He asked. “If not from you, then from who?”

I realize some might read this post and think I’m being “soft on sin”. I am not. I just don’t see it as my job assignment to be the measurer (is that even a word?) of which sin is worse than another. My Bible says that ALL have fallen short of God’s standards for holiness (Romans 3:23). I believe God is well able to do the work Himself of convicting and developing and maturing us individually, so that we can focus on the work of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who are lost and in need of a Savior.

“Beloved, when you correctly understand your identity in Christ, who you are – and what is yours (the power, the authority, the dignity, the calling) as children of the Living God – it will change the way you think about yourself. And that “right standing” will change the choices you make on a daily basis, and will ultimately change the course of your life, and the lives of your children and grandchildren.”

Pretty deep thoughts for a Monday, I know. If this touched your heart in some way, please leave a comment below. And for something a little lighter, follow the link to the first of a 2-series post entitled “Who Am I”. I hope it will encourage you.

 

 


I’m working on a new piece … to reflect Miss Hope’s arrival landside.  Come back next week (ish) to watch the word-picture emerge.
All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

 

But God

I recently attended a fund raiser for women in crisis and watched a video in which several young women shared their stories of abandonment, abuse, and failed relationships.   My heart ached for each woman, and my mothers heart wanted so very badly to be able to give them a long and comforting embrace.    Thankfully, their individual stories are gradually being transformed on a day-by-day basis.

And listening to the stories of these brave women reminded me of my own.  I don’t often stop to think about it, but every so often I’m reminded of the girl I once was.

It took me a long time to get to this place of understanding, but I now know that the people who inflicted the most pain on my young soul were each dealing with their own family histories and experiences as best as they could.  The truth is, when you put broken and wounded people together in a relationship – you usually get a big ol’ mess that often spills out onto others.   I should know, because for a long time, I was broken and wounded … a big ol’ mess just waiting for a place to happen.

And happen I did.   Like watching a train wreck in slow motion, from my current vantage point I can practically pinpoint the precise moment when the wheels first came off the track.  It was during my early teen years, when while watching my parents play penny poker in the kitchen with the neighbors, I came to the brilliant conclusion that all my personal pain and sadness would be solved … by getting married.

Photo by nazreth (RGBStock)
Photo by nazreth (RGBStock)

When I got married, I would have a voice.

When I got married, I would be loved unconditionally.

When I got married, life would be full of roses and lollipops, and we would live happily ever after.

Honestly, I don’t even know where that came from – because my parent’s marriage wasn’t exactly the model of perfection.  But in any case, that’s what I thought, and so as soon as I got old enough to date – I started looking for my future husband.  I met him at 14 1/2.  He was my 2nd boyfriend, and he was almost 4 years older than me.   We married shortly after my 18th birthday.   I’ll give you one guess how that turned out.

I divorced a few years later, and at 21 years old I took another spin on the wheel-of-marriage.  Not a wise move, because all the pain and desperation I felt growing up (and thought marriage would somehow fix) was now multiplied exponentially … making me a prime candidate for the type of man they write country songs about (and not the good kind of country songs).  I stayed in that marriage just shy of 10 years.  It was almost my undoing.

There is a little tiny phrase in the Bible that I love to read.  BUT GOD.

BUT GOD had other plans for my life.  BUT GOD interceded.  BUT GOD rescued.  BUT GOD healed.  BUT GOD transformed me from the inside out and completely changed the trajectory of my life.  BUT GOD!!

Yes, the lives of those dear girls are being transformed on a day-by-day basis, just like mine was and continues to be … all because of those two little words.

Are you in need of a BUT GOD moment?  Drop me a note or post a comment below and I’ll be happy to pray for you.

Blessings,

Jenny

 

911 (Part 2) – When The Enemy Is At The Door

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of this post.  Thankfully, it turned out that my imagination was the enemy that day.  But not all my enemies have been imaginary, and a few of them have been terrifying.

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me.  Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.  I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.  I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”  (Psalm 55:4-8)

There have been times when I’ve found myself standing toe-to-toe against an enemy that (seemingly) had every advantage over me.  I am reminded of a small apartment, and a summer afternoon about 20 years ago.  I had a restraining order against him, and yet there he was – on the doorstep, trying to kick-in the door while screaming horrific things.  I had dared to stand up against him, and he was livid … and I was near paralyzed with fear!

TERROR:  a very strong feeling of fear

TYRANNY:  cruel and unfair treatment by people with power over others

OPPRESSION: unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power

I yelled back that I was calling the police.  Whether I did, or didn’t, I can’t recall.  I do remember sinking to the floor and curling up into ball, wishing I could somehow just disappear. But instead of disappearing, from somewhere deep within spoke a stronger voice (the voice of Himself, my Lord and my God), telling me to GET UP! To STAND UP!

This is a challenging post to write, but perhaps not for the reasons you think.  Sure, when I pause to reflect on darker days, I’m somewhat saddened by the life I had back then.  But praise God, I’m not that woman anymore, so it’s not the memory of those days that makes this a challenging subject.  It’s the awareness that you, the reader of this post, might at this very moment be under a full-on attack by your worst enemy (flesh-and-blood, or spiritual).   Or perhaps you have fought and have emerged the other side of a battle (physical, emotional, or spiritual), and now bear the wounds and scars from all that was inflicted upon you during the fight.   In either case, here you are – reading this post.  And that, beloved, deserves reverence in my writing.

Spiritually speaking, we all have an enemy that is constantly trying to ‘take us out’, and the simple truth is that the more of a threat you are to him, the more vicious and strategic his attack.

But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cushand Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you..     (Isaiah 43:1-4a)

I’ve been blessed to know several spirituals “Oaks” in my life, men and women whose faith is unshakable and can face even the most violent storms of life with barely a blink of the eye.  These are the people I like to surround myself with, and these are the people I turn to for comfort and support when I’m facing an impending fight or am battle-weary during a long and drawn out conflict where victory seems to be elusive.

Now back to my story.  At that point in time, my enemy (who I now realize was not my ex, but the evil that was controlling him) seemed so much bigger than I was capable of dealing with.  And in truth, he was – which is why I’m so grateful that all God asked me to do at that very moment was to GET UP and STAND!

And so I got up.  I took a stand.  And my God stood with me!

Was I still afraid? Absolutely. Did things change overnight? No. Was I wounded in the battle?  Yes, but healing has come and I am now a more skilled warrior as a result of the battle experience.

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.  (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Armor of God
Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18)

In this broken world, you and I will encounter many trials and be called to battle against the enemy many times.   We may suffer some hard hits in the warfare; let us fight on. We may be tempted to ease up off that territory we were trying to overtake, considering it better/safer/saner to find contentedness in dry valleys than to press on to conquer farer pasture lands; let us press on.  We may be so terrified of our foe that we can barely manage to keep a grip on our weaponry; let us then STAND!  

Let us be found STANDING!   Snot-nosed but STANDING!  Weak-kneed but STANDING!   Bug-eyed but suited up in the Armor of God, and STANDING!  It’s His Armor we are wearing, and He is in the battle with us.  If we will be obedient to follow the instructions He gives, then when the dust finally settles – we can be assured we will be found STILL STANDING!

And that is how we grow from acorn to Oak, by standing and standing and standing until those roots-of-faith grow so deep and so strong that we then become a place of solace and refuge for others during their storms.

The song ‘OCEANS (Where Feet May Fail)’ by Hillsong UNITED beautifully describes the mystery of walking by faith when moving into deep waters.

When the storms of life come, may our roots prove deep!

Blessings,
Jenny

Who Am I? (part 2)

When I was a girl, we had 4 fruit trees growing in the front yard. Since I was the youngest of 7 kids, guess who always got stuck picking up the rotten fruit that fell off the trees …  ME!

One day, while picking up rotten fruit, two kids from down the block came by and picked a few apples off one of the trees.  My behavior was terrible – I can admit that now!   But at the time, the only thing going through my 8 year old head was – that was MY fruit, and they were stealing it!

Of course, it wasn’t really my fruit.  It was my dad who worked day after day to pay for that house we lived in.  He mowed the lawn, he tended the trees, and he was the rightful owner of the fruit they bore.   But as my father’s daughter, what is his is also mine.   And so when someone steals from my father, they are also stealing from me.

I acted in response to the knowledge of who I was … daughter of the owner of the property, and rightful heir of all that was his.   I pelted them with over-ripe oranges.  (Oh the shame of that admission! LOL)

The same applies to you and me today. 

As our Father’s children, what is His is also ours!

For those of us who have been “adopted” into the family of God, what belongs to our Heavenly Father also belongs to us!   And we need to stop letting the voices of this world define our worth and value as people, and instead – let God tell us of our identity, of who we are, and who we were created to be!

As a young girl, my identity was shaped by the voices of people who told me I didn’t measure up.  I felt unwanted and unloved, with no voice, no choice, and no power.  As I grew into a woman, I repeatedly chose men who also treated me badly – because in the secret places of my heart, I didn’t believe I could expect any better.  But my life began to radically change when I began to listen to Gods voice telling me who I was.

Beloved, when you correctly understand your identity in Christ, who you are – and what is yours (the power, the authority, the dignity, the calling) as children of the Living God – it will change the way you think about yourself.  And that “right standing” will change the choices you make on a daily basis, and will ultimately change the course of your life, and the lives of your children and grandchildren.

And it all starts with how you answer the question “WHO AM I?”

(since 2011, Matthew West has put out a wonderful song entitled “Hello, My Name Is“.  Take a listen and start singing about your true Identity!)

Who Am I
Who Am I