Create + Write + Inspire
by Jennifer Kelly on February 25th, 2016

Something in my soul feels like it's jilted and hyperventilating a bit. I don't need to cook or clean or run. My heart doesn't need to transfix words on a page; it needs to pour out sounds and release itself in prayer.

Prayer = the unsolicited and underused power that connects me with the Holy of Holies.

I stand up and head over to my golden, brown ottoman. My family's craigslist steal, has hosted strangers, family and friends, but in the last year and half I'm particular to this piece of furniture in a more spiritual kind of way. During the evening-time our 'new-to-us' ottoman is the place for my family's feet to glaze, but more often than not, it has been a refuge for my weary elbows and arms to pray. In the early morning hours, mid-afternoon, or late night times when I can't seem to sleep or eat, my wearied head burrows and tears often ensue.

"Dear Jesus..."

I find no coincidence that our ottoman doubles for dirty feet to feel comfortable AND acts as a prayer bench for a much dirtier, sinner-girl like me.

More words have been lifted up to Jesus about (this-and-that) and (that-and-this) than what I could even begin to describe. Our brown, sectional couch will be with me one day in Paradise. Where it will host friends and family once again in a much grander/heavenly sort of way, but it will be the ottoman that holds the secrets. More than functionality, comfort, or golden hues it displays, it is the place where Jesus gently strokes the top of my head, like a father to his daughter, listening and guiding, even when I wasn't fully aware of His presence. Only proving that prayer can turn any ordinary piece of furniture, or place, into an intimate, loving and exceptionally (rare) space of 'holy ground'. 

My stance always changes after "Dear Jesus". I usually end up curling into a ball somehow. My spine no longer straight but bowed. Begging for Jesus to come, to help, to save, to forgive, to clean, to heal, to give, to come again. This begging (of and for) Jesus today is no longer an issue as it once was. If anything, with our growing age and friendship, it's more frequent. Give me Jesus today; I only need Jesus today - because one day without Him is just no good at all.

I understand why the Syrophoenician woman went straight to Jesus when she heard of His arrival, fell at His feet and begged. "If only the crumbs - I'll take Your crumbs Lord" (Mark 7:24-30). Or how about the woman who bled for years and knew that she just needed to reach and touch Jesus' garment? Just a fingertip act of desperation in faith (Mark 5:21-43). I wonder if during their journey they thought, "Just give me Jesus today, I only need Jesus today".

For this woman, it's a desperate/jilted kind of day where I know I need to get to Jesus. Not that it's a bad or good type of day, but one in which my soul is stirring. Right now. In this very moment.

"Jesus, would You come, help, see, forgive, clean, heal, give and come again Lord? Please. Whisper something. Touch something. I'll take the crumbs if you'll accept my frantic act of desperation to experience you today Lord."

Because nothing else matters. Nothing. The house, the bills, the worries and cares. His presence consumes everything.

And my soul breathes.

I wipe the tears from my puffy cheeks and stand up slowly. What was once so jumbled and frantic is now calm and released. Because of prayer. Because of my time with Him. And I'm thankful and hopeful. His Spirit lives in me and whispers, "Daughter". I am accepted and loved and called His very own.

And that's what happens when we beg for Jesus, today. 
Presence, purpose, hope and renewal. 
Just give me Jesus today.

by Jennifer Kelly on January 28th, 2016

"The problem begins when people who know God, do not worship Him as God, but become proud in their imagination." Ravi Zacharias ( Who is Jesus? Part 2 of 2 RZIM Podcast)

My mentor once hypothesized that she could trace each and every one of our sin's root - back to pride. It is an interesting theory, and one that I am slowly beginning to not only understand, but also believe.

Our family moved to Denver, Colorado over Christmastime. My husband, Mike, got a thrilling opportunity to come and be on staff at Colorado Christian University as their Network Administrator. We had prayed and prayed over the last couple years that Mike could find a job that challenged him cognitively, while engaging him spiritually, all the while providing for us financially. This triad is harder to come by then one might think. Mike's brain is gifted in a world that pays handsomely for his technical skills and abilities. Unfortunately, spiritually and morally, his struggle to be away from his family had become a strain. It's a problem that resonates with so many families who love God, want to provide, and be present - all at the same time.

We ended up here as surely as Jesus called Peter to come and walk with Him on the water. It was audible and miraculous and FAST. We picked up our home and traded the desert for snow, the brown for green, and scorpions for geese. And, Just-like-that, we were in Colorado, one wave at a time.

It would be such an awesome thing to be able to write and give you a testimony of my humbleness and grace and patience through this transition. I wish I could tell you that I was this Proverbs 31 wife who said "good-bye" gracefully and supported her husband and family with strength and perseverance, all the while keeping my eyes on Jesus.

I-did-no-such-thing.

Something started brewing underneath. A mound of pressure and change and unknown. What was once a definitive "call" from God, so audible and clear, quickly began to drown in gurgles of anticipation and doubt. I started hanging, cleaning, moving and doing to saturate my uneasiness and jealousy. Here, my husband was blessed with a job that he immediately LOVED, and his passion spilled everywhere. I was still mourning my church and friends and all the areas I was of use, only to find myself in a place where it seemed I was of no use at all. Except laundry and cooking and cleaning. 

Anticipation, doubt, fear, and jealousy can all be traced back to PRIDE.
It all comes back to ME.
Why is this happening? God, are you sure about this? Can't I do something of worth (like tending to a family is not worthy enough)? Why do I have to do the freaking dishes? What about me, Lord? Do you see me here - struggling? And so on. I quickly took the strings back from God and started placing the pins where I wanted them to be. Kingpin.

The great and not-so-great thing about God is He allows us to do these things. Like Jonah or Saul, God allowed my own form of disobedience to swell and run, watching and waiting for my temper tantrum to subside. When it didn't (I've been known to get even more indignant than the best of them), He sets a bowling ball down a greased lane for a perfect strike.

****

All of sudden I am sent spinning, and quickly reminded of His sovereignty and my very fickle existence without regard for His will and His way. I immediately am reminded of what a life looks like without worshiping Him or without even a slight regard toward Him. Because pride takes ME (where God once was), and diminishes everything down to my pleasure. It feels good in the beginning, but leaves you wanting in the end. It is lucrative and destructive. 

Especially when I know better. I know the million little pieces of pain and a shattered mess He has glued back together again. I know of my family torn and sewn, stitch-by-stitch, in the grace and redemption of the cross. I know of mercy and forgiveness and love when I didn't deserve it. 

I was diagnosed with bronchitis recently. The bacterial kind that knocks you off your feet and requires an inhaler, antibiotics, cough syrup, and some other medicinal concoction your body so desperately needs - It also provides a whole heck-of-a-lot-of-time.

Time of quiet.
Time to process.
Time in Scripture.

Spiritual time (with tears and silence and prayer) is one of the best remedies for pride I know of. It places you at Jesus' feet and whispers, "Repent, move on and be thankful".

"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son" Hebrews 12:5-6

How many times do I have to learn that this life is not about me?
Pride always makes it about me: Kingpin.

One of my favorite hymns is "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing". Robert Robinson penned the lyrics in 1758 so eloquently and truthfully when he wrote,

"O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, 
Seal it for Thy courts above"

A 'fetter' is a chain used to restrain a prisoner, either tied around the ankles or wrists. Otherwise known as a shackle. Robinson is beckoning (through the goodness of God) that He chain his wandering heart to Him.

They sang this song at church this past Sunday. (Bowling ball down a greased lane).
I asked God to do the same thing Robert Robinson did in 1758. And then I cried. (Strike).

Shackle my prideful heart to you, O God. ​

I'm feeling better now. Yes, the antibiotics have kicked in and I'm not coughing or hacking or feeling miserable, in the physical sense, but it's more than that. I don't have all the insecurity underneath emotions anymore. The jealousy, the doubt, the PRIDE. The dangerous kind of sickness that eats away at your soul is so much more important than the physical kind. 

Here's some truth - when I get frantic and scared or envious, I'm like an ally cat that hisses and scratches like it's demon possessed (I have suspicions that this has a lot to do with my past and trust issues). When transitions occur, my survival skills (or lack thereof) flare up and I have tendency to go back to past behaviors, but God's love is deeper and wider than my cat-like behavior to transitions ever could be (thank the good Lord) and I'm slowly learning to live differently.

Even at 33. 

And God's mercy and patience to deal with me through all of it is amazing. It's actually the point. His love is new every, single morning. 

"...But God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" Hebrews 12:10-11

So this transition is training. This move, this job, the cleaning, and finding a new church, and meeting new people and supporting my family is TRAINING. Jen needs training, a better way of living and a heart that is more like Jesus. AMEN SISTER? And the only way I know I'm on par, is to sit at His feet every morning, read His Word, pray, and let Him change my heart. One stubborn wave after another. He always reaches down and pulls me out of the water.

I don't mind the dishes so much, and I am SO proud (finally - in the good way) of my husband. I'm also learning that a heart of thanksgiving starts to cultivate when your life is aligned in the correct posture. It's a wonderful start in the opposite direction of prideful dissatisfaction.

IF Pride = Kingpin
Then Thankfulness = Servant

What a better way to live, in the in-between.

by Jennifer Kelly on December 10th, 2015

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" Psalm 37:3

I have been running on "pretend" sleep. You know, where you close your eyes and go in and out of a consciousness for about three to four hours, wake up, get stuff done, and do it all over again. I always try and convince myself that "pretend" sleep counts. Kind of like credit cards. Credit cards feel like cash, can be used like cash, but in the end are two very different things. It's a type of self induced hyperbole that tricks me to function on a much higher level. Or so I think it does. Just-like-sugar-pills.

Anyway, I had been participating in this world with copious amounts of caffeine, curiosity, and adrenaline (a mixture I love and regret all at the same time). I had flown from PHX to FWA (the cutest place in Indiana known as Fort Wayne). Did you know, #1 - that FWA is considered an international airport and #2 - you get an oatmeal cookie as a welcoming gesture? I mean, c'mon now. HOW-DARLING-CAN-YOU-GET? I had literally time-travelled from the unrelenting heat of the desert (somehow, Phoenix was still managing to hit triple-digit-torture in October) and miraculously, I entered the glorious, autumn filled temps of the Midwest. (Side note: Heaven is almost always 72 degrees with shades of orange, yellow, brown and red that falls like glitter from trees). Just so you know.

My October visit to Indiana included the following: 
Huntington University - Where my brilliant aunt gets to work and play with some of the most amazing people on the planet. I mean, there is just-too-much-great-things to say about this University, but even more to say about the heartfelt love and gentleness that the faculty and students seem to naturally exude while being in their presence. 
Victory Noll - Just entering upon this sacred land will make you shut-your-mouth because of its beauty and peace. (I am quite sure that the good sisters of Victory Noll have a much more eloquent explanation of their ministry and spiritual retreats). It's quite literally, a little piece of heaven on earth.
McClure Orchards - Located in Peru, Indiana - north of Mexico, Indiana by the way?? Where picturesque rolling hills DO exist and you find yourself eating melt-in-your-mouth apple dumplings, while shopping for jewelry. ALL-AT-THE-SAME-TIME.
The Purviance House - Is the most exquisite little bed and breakfast I have ever visited (recently renovated by the most jubilant and hospitable owners EVER). The name alone is magnificent but the accommodations are sure to knock-your-little-socks-off and make you want to live there.
Brick House Grill - I am a girl who likes to eat good food. A lot of good food. This little, hole-in-the-wall place (which by the way - always seem to be the best) does not disappoint! Not only were my Maryland Style Crab Cakes delicious, but they offer Fried Green Tomatoes and Maple Dijon Mahi Mahi (making it very difficult for me to choose). Plus, my company that night was a young couple making a huge impact in Huntington, and awesome conversation. LIVING IS SO FUN SOMETIMES.
The Party Shop - This place is my dirty little secret. I didn't have too much time in Huntington and I came here twice. I love chocolate covered pretzels, but these are out of this world, PHENOMENAL. I don't know what they do here that makes them so-freaking-delicious. My mouth is melting right now just writing about them.

I was also able to tour Huntington's Love, Inc (a fascinating non-profit organization who's primary goal is to help churches, help people in need) and attend Sunday Service at College Park United Brethren Church. If all of these things don't make you fall in love with small town America, I surely don't know what will. Did I mention ANTIQOLOGY? It's this small business that's located downtown Huntington with the LARGEST selection of craft soda found anywhere in the Midwest - AKA: best root beer of your life.

So obviously, I could go on and on about the places and charm Indiana seems to carry around it's neck, but you will just need to go and find out for yourself. Much more exciting than the Midwest's charm and delight are the generous souls of the people found in every nook and cranny of Huntington, Indiana. Literally, these people were THE most gracious, hospitable, welcoming, loving people known to man. Just to (sit) and (chat) and (talk) about THINGS. And not ONCE feel rushed or inconvenienced or guilty about taking up their time. This is a gift. A Midwestern, God-given, gift.

During the very last night of my visit in Indiana, I got the opportunity to share my story to small group of girls at Huntington University. More particularly, how God had come and picked up a million, little pieces of a broken soul and slowly placed them back together.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I mean these women on campus, are making such life-changing, God-honoring decisions every day (that are SO much different from my own at that age). I was slinging back drinks and experiencing black outs while their - PRAYING?! I was busy bar hopping and flirting with strange men in dark corners while their spending their evenings experiencing the true lover of their soul and planning mission trips. So, there's that. What could I possibly have to say to these brave, wonderful, faith-driven woman about God?

"Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday" Psalm 37:5

As I sat and started to speak (in a customary white rocking chair on the 3rd floor of a female dormitory) , I nervously shared my own story of overcoming past hurts, grief and pain. I talked through some of my very-bad decision making skills at their age, and how I came to the end of myself. I told them about church and counseling and how Jesus likes to put together marriages and people. I actually read part of a blog I wrote, almost a year-to-the-day, and was amazed at the difference a 'life' found in Christ can be. Reading my story out loud, felt like reading a tale about another Jennifer that lived a very long time ago...

Suddenly, my nervousness settled and I realized some very important things: 
Yes, our stories are different, but life found and shared and experienced in Christ is the same. Yes, these awesome students are making strikingly different decisions than I did at that age, but the same blood that spilled on Calvary for them, was the same blood spilled for me. The righteousness that clothed them - is the same righteousness that now clothes me. What bridges the gap in all our stories is Jesus. What Jesus has done, is doing, and will do, when we give our lives to Him.

I found out (in a special, little dormitory room at 9:30pm) that Christ does bring righteousness to pass, even in the most unlikeliest of places. Chains break, the lame walk, and the blind do see. Because when you find your life in Jesus and learn to trust Him in all areas of your life, the dead come to life. Dry bones are dry bones, no matter what stories are buried underneath, but God is the one who raises them.

It's so inspiring to learn from the body of Christ. It's truly one of the most brilliant and unexpected experiences you will ever be able to have. ESPECIALLY, when a group of women, devoted to Jesus, come together of their own accord to (meet) and (learn) and (talk) and (share). These honest moments together becomes one of the most meaningful places on earth. You could say that this girl got to experience the real-deal fellowship of the Church. Not some "pretend", hyperbole kind, with fake smiles and sugar pills. I got to experience the absolute uplifting kind. Where messiness and forgiveness meet. Where true faith in Jesus brings all types of people together, to give Him glory for what He has done. 

I couldn't have asked for a better trip.

To all my family in Huntington, Indiana: It was truly a blessing to visit with you and have an opportunity to see your families after so many years and - GO MSU!

To the girls on the Third Floor that made me sit in a horrific white rocking chair: It's December and I find myself still thinking of our short time together. Thank you for listening to my story and welcoming me in. You all are so bright and shiny and I just love you to pieces. Lifting you up in prayer as you dedicate your future to the One that matters the most.

And Aunt RuthAnn (AKA: Auntie) This post is dedicated to you. Your consistent commitment and unwavering love for Jesus (is rare) and has effected more people across the entire globe (literally) than you will ever know. You have been one of the greatest influences of my life and I could never thank you enough. Thank you for your generous hospitality during my stay and being such a rockstar to so many young girls. I love you tons.

by Jennifer Kelly on October 29th, 2015

I am one of those people that journal religiously.
I have since I can remember.
And I keep them (which is miraculous considering how much crap I throw away).

I used to think that buying a new journal was like New Year’s Eve: A new chance at life. But now I’m learning that it doesn’t really work that way.

I went and did what you should never do—I pulled out all my old journals from a dark room to read them. Before actually getting the gumption to sit down and review them, I had a pretty honest conversation with myself, “Jen, this is either a very brilliant idea or just plain stupid.”
There are no in-between feelings when you are reading about your 15 or 25 year-old self. Plus, it’s really awkward. Why did I do that? Oh, I remember that and the list goes on and on.
I knew that I would either love myself for this moment or hate myself for being so stupid.
What the hell was I thinking?


by Jennifer Kelly on September 17th, 2015

​The orientation of autumn is here, and we are in the cusp.

Summer is gently fading, the nights are cooling, and it's time to pack up all our favorite memories and head-on-over to fall. Pictures get placed neatly in albums, but the memories get tucked deep-down inside our hearts and minds.

It's time to say "goodbye" to summertime.

The end of a season always turns out to be an awakening. I quickly run-through the events of May, June & July and am satisfied with half of it. Honestly, I wish I could go back and fix the other forty percent... but my mind is preoccupied with the list of "things-to-do" before the end of the month.

And-just-like-that, It's time to say "hello" to fall.

It's September and the kids are back in school. All bright-eyed and lit-up on the outside, only to try and cover the nervous tension that simmers on the inside. Between managing a new grade and settling into routine once again, many of them are feeling overwhelmed and tired. But our children walk the halls with remnants of summer found all over their beautiful faces. Sun-kissed cheeks and the smell of sunblock are still in full effect. Mostly due to last minute trips to the pool, beach, and lakes as a last-ditch effort to hang onto summer as-long-as-humanly-possible. 

Parents are caught of guard with facing a calendar that has suddenly consumed the rest of the year; bombarded with holiday preparations, school functions and planning meetings. All of THIS is happening while the breath, the outside temperature, and the sweet ease that is summertime looms. The scenes of vacation, family, food, and rest are now savored only in an exhale. Too fond to be gone, too close by to let go. 

And yet we do, we say "goodbye" to summer and "hello" to fall.  

Fall holds the possibility of new friendships, crisp weather and rich flavors. Truly, the meeting place of summer and fall is bittersweet. We find ourselves saying another farewell to (sand) and (sun) and (slow), yet at the same time, giddy to greet October with a warm embrace.

The breeze and smell of autumn is always a nice surprise; like cashmere and caramel. It's warm and rich. Scenes of football and pumpkin spice lattes re-enter our lives with anticipation and ease.

The changing of seasons is my favorite, specifically the transition to autumn. For me, this in-between shift is the most vivid and textured. We shift from summer blues to autumn browns, water and sand for farms and apples. It's no longer hot, but cool and cozy. Autumn time fills our interests (and closets) with new boots and sweaters and books, but September eases us into that transition. The seasonal cusp is always the time where both exist. In September, summer passes the baton to fall.

I love when people talk about the changing of seasons. For me, it's always evolutionary. Any of the seasonal cusps are filled with adjustments, shifts, and revisions of time expressed through nature that mystifies. Nature gives us in-between grace. 

God knew you needed time to say goodbye, all the while saying hello.
​But, it's the transitions of seasons that IS so much like the work of God in all of us. 

Aren't we filled with adjustments, shifts, and revisions?
Isn't our transitions expressed through the moments of our days that end up being memories that mystifies? 

The older I get, the more I believe that the events of our lives, the major transitions of opportunity, or the death of something (or someone) IS the realization of God's promises coming true. Because transition is the subtle reminder that this will not last forever, but the Kingdom of God will. However easy or difficult the season might be.

Out of all the seasons, I like to think that God designed autumn with me in mind. Fall sees me for who I am, more than any other time of the year. I was born in October and over the span of thirty years, I've finally come home. This wonderful realization has come slowly and through much pain and joy. But my Father in heaven knows, just as He knows the number of hairs that are on my head. God isn't just IN the details. He creates and orchestrates them. 

I hope you're able to wrap up your summer with one last trip to the beach or pool or lake. But more than that, I pray this autumn is full of grace and truth for you and your family. I hope you notice the transition. It's slow in nature, but instantenous when no attention is given. Kinda like life.

May God's presence cover your spirit like the leaves of fall cover the earth. May you be blanketed with warmth and love - the rich kind of textured love that you can feel - like cashmere and caramel in October.