In The Messy Middle

This post has been a long time coming. A little over 3 months, to be more specific.

I have sensed the Holy Spirit calling me to write for a while now. But I didn’t want to, plain and simple.

I can give it a bunch of names and some pretty good excuses, but at the end of the day, no matter how dressed up I make it sound, it is disobedience.

And believe me, that is really hard for this recovering perfectionist to admit. I chose poorly. I chose my own self-protection and laziness and agenda over the Lord’s, and I have carried the weight of that since.

I thought it would be easier to not talk about things. I thought that I could just process things with the Lord in my own way, that I didn’t need to see in black on a white screen the pain and confusion I was feeling.

And I forgot that when He calls me to do something, it is for my good. Whether I understand it or not, there was something for me in this processing, the laying down words on “paper” that so often in turn opens up my eyes to a great understanding of what the Lord is doing. I believe it’s a place the Lord prepared beforehand for me to meet with Him, where in His gracious nature He chooses to speak and shine a light on what is going on in my heart and mind.

(Have you identified your place like that? A place, a hobby, an activity, where you seem to intersect with the Lord on a deeper level? A place where you leave feeling more like joyful, a little bit more grounded, a little bit more fulfilled, a little bit more like you?

If not, I really encourage you to pray and ask the Lord to reveal it to you. When I have gotten away from writing, or pursued other things that I thought would offer the same, He has been faithful to remind my heart of how He has shaped me to connect with Him, and for whatever reason, writing is one of those sweet places. Our personal spot. And it’s important for me to know that. So I encourage you to find your place, too, and hold on it and guard it.)

So 3 months late, here I go.

I’m in the messy middle.

I’m in the messy middle of a season of transition and change, of struggle and heartbreak and new strength and hope, of loss and new gifts.

I don’t often want to share when I’m in the middle of something. I like those pretty red bows, the ones you see a lot of this time of year that will wrap up my situation nicely and neatly, explaining the whys and hows of the sequence of events we have just walked through. And that usually signify a little less pain in the telling.

I was hoping December would offer me my own red bow.

But it hasn’t.  I’m still very much in the middle. No full circle moments yet to share.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have something to share.

And that is something else I forgot.

That there is beauty and value in sharing in the raw, vulnerable times, if I will let myself do it.

We all need those completed stories, the Bible passages where we can read how God moved in the beginning, middle, and end to accomplish His purposes. But I also believe that we need to hear from people while they are in the middle.

Because it’s really hard on the other side of things to remember what it was really like in the suffering, in the waiting, in the unknown. Some of that sticks with you, but often, it’s easy to forget some of the vividness of those emotions. Time allows those feelings to fade a bit, and we forget that some of it was biting and knock-the-breath-out-of-you hard. And when you’re in it, it’s really nice to know that someone else has been there, too.

I know I have been on the receiving end of several courageous people that have been willing to share while life was happening, right smack in the core of it. I have been blessed and encouraged and strengthened by others who were willing to lead in vulnerability, from the middle.

And oh how I have resisted the middle most of my life. I have wanted to race through God’s preparation and processes to get to the end results, all the time. I struggle with trusting Him when I can’t see progress or change.

But He is opening my eyes to the beauty and value of the middle.


Really, isn’t that what all of life is, on this side of heaven, the middle, the process of the transforming work of our Creator in our lives, if we invite Him in to do it? And so rushing through to try to collect my bows is really just forfeiting a lot of what He has for me right now, in the moment. The bows will come. He is faithful to bring clarity to what we need to know, and healing and He is a God of redemption, there is no doubt about that. But there is also something really sweet that the middle offers us, but we have to be aware and open and vulnerable to receive it.

It was in the middle that God has given me one of the best gifts. (But more about that later.)

And if this is true, that life is all just ‘the middle’, then that frees us up to share, openly and honestly, and find those ” me too’s” that we so desperately need to hear, because there is no shame in being in process. Definitely still offer your ‘bows’ to others around you, how the Lord came through and did the miraculous in your life! But let’s also share how He is still that same good and Faithful God in the middle, too. Trust Him for the bow, whatever that may look like, but also trust that what He is doing today is just as important and valuable and necessary, and someone needs to hear it!

So I’m going to start my journey of sharing about the past few months, what the Lord has done and is still doing in my life and in my family, and it’s going to be hard. But I believe that God will bring healing in the telling, encouragement in the sharing, and freedom in the releasing of my words. And I really encourage you to join me! Whether or not your middle looks like mine or not, let’s choose to proclaim God’s goodness over the pain and sorrow and confusion, the lack of answers or finances or community, and cling to the truth that He is moving on our behalf in it.

Much love.

My Truth Is…

I entered the kitchen this morning to find my daughter sprawled out on her back in front of the refrigerator (not unusual), and my son standing next to her. Our little white tower fan was to his left, now pulled out into the middle of the floor instead of its normal spot next to the wall. Now, the kids know not to touch the fan, this is not a new thing. So my first mistake, perhaps, was asking who moved the fan. In retrospect, I am sure there is probably a way I could have rounded up some information, done a little sleuthing to get to the facts with them unaware of my intent. But it was morning, and I’m not a morning person, and I’m trying to navigate through the kitchen, avoiding various obstlaces placed along my path, hindering from my search for coffee.

Natalie immediately replies, informing me that it’s my son’s fault. And he replies in similar form, shifting blame onto her.  This also is not a new thing. We’ve been ice-skating around ownership of poor choices for weeks now, especially with my daughter. However, in this situation, I felt inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt, as her current position didn’t really lend itself to moving the appliance into its current location.

So I bend down and start to ask my son for the truth of the situation.  In natural form, he sticks with his story. My kids are nothing if not stubborn and convinced that their approach is the best way. We do not have a problem with confidence in our kids when it comes to knowing all.the.things.

Peter continues to insist that he had nothing to do with the fan.  And so he was sent to his room to think about his choice to lie to me, and until he was ready to tell me the truth.

A little time passes, Peter sitting in his doorway, periodically yelling out how he has been wronged in life and trying to rally up support, I guess from the furniture and any other inanimate objects around him that he can find. Again, my kids are committed in pretty much any choices they make, for better or for worse.

Meanwhile I jump onto the computer, messaging my husband to pray for wisdom. I mean, how do you teach your newly 3 yr old about truth vs lying. How much do they understand about this? How can I handle this in a way that is appropriate to his level but also expresses the importance of the issue?

After a few minutes, when he has settled, I come over, sit down in front of his doorway, and try again.

“Peter, are you ready to talk to me about what happened with the fan.”

“Sissy moved the fan.”

“Peter, Sissy was laying on the floor. She didn’t move the fan.”

“The computer moved the fan.”

“Peter, the computer did not move the fan.  Are you ready to tell me you moved the fan?”

“But, uh, the fan wanted to walk to the bathroom.”

“Peter, do you want out of this room?”


“There is only one way out of this room. The truth. You know how Jesus came to die for our sins?”


“He is the only way we can get to heaven. He is the truth. He is our only way. And just like Jesus made a way for us to be in heaven with God, there is only one way out of this room. The truth. You gotta tell Mommy what really happened.”

“The truth is I grabbed the book with two hands.” (He is now choosing that this is time to confess that he had taken a book out of the bookcase, just outside his room in the hallway. He knows that he’s not supposed to have anything when he’s in time-out.)

“Okay, well, we’re not supposed to touch books while we’re in time out. And when you are ready to talk to me about the fan, you can call for me.”

I get up and head to the living room to play a game with Natalie. And as I sit down, I hear him say,

“well, my truth is…”

Yeah, that was exactly what is was. His truth. What he felt like sticking to, no matter what opposition was coming his way, what story he felt would provide the most protection from trouble. But that’s not how truth works, and I think this is his season to learn that we don’t just create our own truth. There is Truth and He is a Person. Fully God. Fully Human, Jesus Christ, Who came and met us in the truth of our sinful, broken situation to save us. And in the same way, today, Peter needed to choose truth to be free. He needed to admit that he had made a mistake and then hid from it.



Peter, caught up in his defense story and unwilling to relent to me, doesn’t even know what he is missing out on.  Once he admits the truth, he gets to come out. AND get the vanilla yogurt that I was going to offer him when I was headed to the kitchen in the first place (after my coffee, of course). There is no other punishment. He doesn’t understand that all he has to do is confess. And then he doesn’t have to earn the yogurt. I’ve already bought the yogurt. I bought it for Him. I want to give it to him and I know that he loves it.

So for a while my son decided to stay in his room. I could hear him rearranging things. And that’s just what we do, right? We stay where we are. We settle for staying in our sin, trying to make the best of things, thinking that we’re fine where we are. But I knew that eventually he was going to get hungry. Eventually he was going to get tired of just being in that one room, his current prison cell, and would want to experience more. He was created for more than just being in that one little room. There is only so much it can offer him.

And sure enough, after a little while, he started to cry. Maybe out of frustration. Maybe out of loneliness. Probably not because he was truly sorry for what he had done. But I went in and we rocked and we talked about his choice.  He finally confessed that he had moved the fan. We talked about how God sees every choice we make, and so there really is no hiding, even if Mommy or Daddy don’t know what really happened. And I just held him and hugged him and told him I loved him.

And y’all, this is new for me. Honestly. The Lord is doing something new in my heart regarding actively, affectionately loving them through the discipline process. Before, it’s been about discipline in the form of time-out or spankings or losing thing they value for a time (stuffed animals, tv, etc.) But with that, without me really consciously acknowledging it, I was also throwing in a relational break, a withdrawing of my affection during this process. And sometimes on top of that, adding a dose of shaming and guilting. It is ugly and I don’t like to admit it. But it’s true.

But the past few weeks, as it has become SO apparent that I cannot make my kids obey, the Lord has been showing me what I can do. I can tell them the truth. I can show them what options are good and inline with God’s Word and ways, and I can give them consequences when they choose otherwise.

But I can also choose to be in it with them. I can choose to continue to hold their hands and hug them and affectionately love on them in the middle of the messy disobedience, showing them that their ability to choose well is not what secures my relationship with them. And it never will. They may lose animals or special trips to Tutti Fruiti, but they will not lose me.

Because that is what Jesus did for me.

AND if that wasn’t enough of a reason right there, it also frees me up from getting caught up in their choices, as if it’s a reflection of who I am or my ability as a parent. God never intended for my kids to be any source of my worth or value or any measure of my abilities. This ’embracing them in the mess’ allows me to focus on them, where the need really is, and ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom in each situation as to what they need in that moment. Do they need the firm hand and a little space? Do they need to be hugged right through this temper tantrum until they get it out? Do they need me to show them mercy, choosing in this moment to take away the consequence and show them how sometimes we don’t get what we deserve, and PRAISE God for that. Because I don’t know. He knows my kids better than I do.

So to wrap this up the best I can, this is teaching me that in the same way my kids need to know that I am for them, that I am sticking around despite their mistakes or outright defiance, because I love them and they are family, I need to know that my God is for me. He doesn’t bail when I get it wrong, even though I ‘should’ know better. I need to know that He chooses to hold me through the tantrums, not withdrawing His presence from me. And He also firmly guides me to admitting the truth, the truth about me and my situation, but also His truth over my situation. That because of Jesus, He has already made the way for me to walk out of my prison cell. I don’t have to stay there, and I don’t have to return. And there are GOOD things for me outside of it. And because of Jesus, there is no condemnation. I don’t have to go earn back His favor. I may need to apologize to some of His other kids, like Peter had to apologize to Natalie for blaming her, but ultimately I have His forgiveness no matter what. This is the truth that has to make its home in my heart for me to really be able to extend it to my kids.

He is so faithful to give me what I need, not just for me, but for them. He equips me for every good work, and they are definitely His good work. He has mighty plans for these stubborn littles and by His grace He is going to get them so committed to His truth that nothing is going to shake them. In Jesus’ Name.

Why We Homeschool

It was a little over a year ago, in June 2015, that I sensed the Lord confirm that our family was to commit to the idea of homeschooling. I’m sure some of you can relate – when the Lord is speaking and you have some resistance in your heart, whether due to fear or unbelief or just plain ‘ole not wanting to hear it. Well, my resistance had been fear – extreme fear. Palms-sweating-anytime-I-thought-about-it fear. But it was to the point that any church worship service, any sermon I listened to at home, any devotion that I read was all through the filter of homeschooling and surrender. It’s pretty hard to deny when the Lord surrounds you.

So, in a moment of His grace, I finally surrendered to the idea of following Him through this journey, knowing that I couldn’t do it. There was no way. But His Word says that He can, and so I was stepping out in faith to trust that He was not going to abandon me in the middle of the ocean of homeschool.
This happened on a Sunday morning. The next day, I woke up and most of the fear was lifted. It was amazing. The first of my own little personal miracles I have experienced since committing/surrendering to this path. My palms stopped sweating anytime I thought or spoke about it. I was still nervous, and still am some days, but it was not paralyzing anymore. That is what the Lord can do to fear – take away it’s power!

One of the ways that my husband and I sensed the Lord’s direction in homeschooling came through a couple reoccurring messages about the passage in Joshua 4, where Joshua is commanded to cross over the Jordan into the promised land, leading the remnant of the Isrealites that were left after their parents’ unwillingness to believe the God’s promises to take possession of the Promised Land 40 years prior. They were finally being led back into God’s Promises, and so they set out on dry land, just like Moses’ and their parents crossed the Red Sea years before. God was doing it again, what only He can. After everyone had crossed over the Jordan, the Lord commanded Joshua to take stones from the center of the dry sea bed, and bring them to the other side to build a memorial.

Joshua 4:2-7
“Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5 And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

I love this story, I love the symbolism of the memorial stones and how God is so intentional to provide for our weaknesses. Despite the miraculous display of parting the waters and leading them safely across – as if that wasn’t enough! – He then calls them to do something in order to remember His faithfulness in it. He knows they will forget, that they will doubt, that they will call into question His power and faithfulness, provision and care for them. And so He provides even in this, a powerful reminder that will call to mind all the ways that He has moved on their behalf in the past. And because He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, to remember that same faithfulness is present with them in each day.

So the hubs and I sensed the Lord telling us that just like these forgetful, unfaithful, HUMAN Isrealites, we needed our own memorial stones. We needed to write down, keep, and revisit all the reasons that we felt the Lord impressing on our heart as to why this journey was for our family.

—Personal Disclaimer
And I want to take a minute here to emphasize our family. I don’t personally believe that God calls every family to homeschool. I believe, in His Omniscience, that He knows what each family needs, according to the plans and purposes that He has for us to step into.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

He knows, for whatever crazy reason (because honestly it feels a little crazy some days), He knows that this is what our family needs. And as I walk in, I can begin to see some of the million reasons for it. I can see how the Lord is using this journey to draw me more to Himself, to remind me of my utter need for Him and to keep me dependent on Him, and to reveal more of the sinfulness in my heart that He desires to root out and transform. I could go on and on…

So, whatever the specifics for you – because they will be and should be different from anyone else due to your unique calling in Christ – I think the general principles still apply. The Lord will lead us along paths that require our dependence on Him, that we will not be able to handle on our own if we are daring to live faith-filled lives, and that will constantly expose our weaknesses and sinfulness and need for a Savior. That’s how He reminds us that we are His, that He is enough, and reveals Himself to the outside world as the Capable One. Not Jenny, not ever Jenny.
—-End of Disclaimer

So our family set about starting this list of ‘memorial stones’ that we will revisit often and run to on hard days to remind us that this is in fact that way the Lord has set out for us.

For now, I will refrain from sharing. These are personal reasons, reasons that I desire to hold close to my heart for this season and allow the Lord to really allow to become part of its heartbeat. And I would never want my stones to become a stumbling block for anyone else, because it’s not about my reasons or what the Lord has spoken to me. It’s about your reasons and how the Lord confirms for your path. And so I encourage you – whether it’s through a mission statement or a little informal scrap of paper, to jot down some things you know the Lord has confirmed for you and your loved ones. Hold it tight. Let it become part of your heart, so that it flows out into your story.

But I am choosing today to share some of the amazing benefits I’ve seen so far along this journey, and to acknowledge the ways the Lord has so faithfully revealed His goodness and His ability to change my heart.

You know how I mentioned that almost immediately my fear subsided after surrendering to the Lord’s path for our family? Well, just 6 months later, where once was fear and extreme anxiety, was not excitement and anticipation for homeschooling! Again, a personal miracle for me. And when we started in January ’15 with our little baby steps into schedules and structure, I discovered that I love it. Something that I wouldn’t have touched with a ten-foot pole and probably the offer of a lot of money I know delight in and look forward to. Only God, people. Amazing.

So here are  a little of the fun things I’ve discovered so far.

These two – It’s my prayer that as they live day in and day out together that the Lord will build an amazing friendship and support system in each other. I pray that they learn to encourage and sharpen and care for each other.

I had never made the connection between homeschooling and how my obsession with school supplies would collide! I love all this cutesy, fun, creative curriculum that we get to use, and it encourages me to think outside the box as well.

11188265_10204467808474868_2411642817823587011_nI would have NEVER believed, if you had told me that the first week into homeschooling both littles, that I would have allowed tubs for sand and dirt into my kitchen! But what I have seen, as I have watched them both be excited and inspired by learning through play, that it has inspired and excited me. And I am now okay with messiness, in doses. 🙂 This is a personal miracle for me, as a recovering perfectionist who enjoys specific things having specific places – none of which accommodated sand before!

13525_10204467846435817_242170804090107025_nI have been given the gift of time, time to witness my daughter’s wonder of God’s creation and the ways that He has given her a deep appreciation for it. She inspires me every day. Sincerely. She loves and enjoys life in ways I don’t think I ever have, and it is changing me to see the Lord’s handiwork in her. I am thankful for the time I have with her, to see her grow into the little girl the Lord is shaping her to be, to Lord willing the woman continue to chase after His heart with the passion and adventurousness I see in her now.

11351365_10204623214599924_5769062961653524113_nI have gotten to see before my eyes how this little one is changing and developing. I have seen the ways that he plays change and evolve as he has watched his older ‘sissy’ creating in her special creative ways. I have been amazed to see the potential that God packs into kids, and how quickly it starts to come out at such young ages. And like I mentioned above, I am so grateful for the time that I get to witness this little man learn and grow. I know that God has amazing things for this one and am thankful to get to watch the Lord’s work unfold.

1508517_10204370939333200_4567031295735826299_n(1)This was a fun little study we did on the Fruit of the Spirit, something that just flowed naturally out of some other things we had going on and was just one example of how the Lord has directed our steps to what He wants to be speaking to our hearts in this season. It’s been neat to see how the Lord ministers to our family, and I believe all families, holistically – that the devotion we read with the kids isn’t meant just for the kids. He has a way of relating a toddler’s devotional about self-control to my adult-sized issues with allowing emotions to dictate too many of my decisions, and reminds me that His Word is for all peoples in all stages and seasons and ages. And it just so happens that my daughter tends to take after my emotional tendencies (insert sarcastic “yay!”), so as the Lord is showing me how He can change my heart, mind, and behaviors, He is also at the same time equipping me to help her to walk in freedom from emotional chains. Although I would choose for Him to perfect me before the kiddos arrived so that I could perfectly offer them Jesus, He chooses in His grace and wisdom to continue to refine me through the process of parenting, and that imperfectly pointing them to Jesus is His plan.

ballon-freedomThe above picture isn’t mine, but I felt it captured this last thought I wanted to share. It came up when I imaged searched “Freedom” and was entitled “Ultimate Goal: Freedom from Self-Imposed Limitations.” I think this perfectly describes what I have seen the Lord doing in my life. The past two years, the Lord has reintroduced the concept of His grace in a way that made me realize that I don’t think I ever really grasped it before. I firmly believe that I am saved by grace, that my eternal home in heaven was secured by what Christ (and only Christ) did on the cross and that I am reconciled to God because of Jesus. But somewhere along the way, I started to believe the lie – a very subtle one – that the rest was up to me. The sanctification part, the perfecting part, the obedience and living up to God’s standards after receiving Jesus as my Savior and the Holy Spirit inside of me – well, that was up to me. And so I have spent years under the bondage and weight of a burden that I was never meant to carry and honestly cannot carry. I forgot that Hebrews 12:2 states clearly that Jesus is not only the Author of my faith, but He is the Perfecter of it as well. It is His work from start to finish. And so with this new-found understanding of grace, I am learning to really step into the freedom that Jesus has for me, to let go of the ‘self-imposed limitations’ I have erected and held onto firmly under the misconception that it was up to me to accomplish and earn. Brene Brown says, “When we’re fueled by the fear of what other people think or that gremlin that’s constantly whispering “You’re not good enough” in our ear, it’s tough to show up. We end up hustling for our worthiness rather than standing in it. When we’ve attached our self-worth to what we produce or earn, being real gets dicey.” Yeah, real dicey.

I now know the truth in a deeper place in my heart than ever before,  not just head knowledge that is still impotent to transform and change a life. I am fully accepted because of Jesus Christ, that there is nothing I could do to earn it and nothing I can do to repay it, and any attempts is just being yoked back into slavery (Galatians 5:1).

And you know what comes with freedom?! You enjoy your life! Right there in the smack-dab middle of the mess there is joy! Right there in the middle of the imperfection and process and incomplete, there is a sigh of relief and rest because I know that Christ finished the work on the cross and promises to bring His work to completion in me. My job is to obey – the results are up to Him. Finally the pressure is off to perform and I’m literally freed up to do the things that God was calling me to in the first place.

So what is your story? What is your risk that God is calling you to or that you’ve stepped into? What have you learned? I’d love to hear!