Create + Write + Inspire
by Jennifer Kelly on April 20th, 2017

​I'm still chipping away at odd jobs around this old 1960's brick house. The one my husband and I bought last November. My last note was all about God's providence and what lies in shadows, but it's still a work in progress.

Since then, I've decided to tackle the back yard and put in a vegetable garden. Never-mind that our hallway bathroom is half-way demolished and there is no trim throughout the whole of the house. The downstairs is in-between a full remodel and I have drawers and cabinets scattered on the floor that need painting; but His voice calls me to the back yard.

"Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts" Hebrews 4:7b (NIV).

Every, single part of my life has begun but remains unfinished ... just like this house.
Inside and outside.

I go and grab my pink gardening gloves from Walmart. I find a shovel in the garage and head to the very back corner of the yard. I'm really not sure what I'm doing, but I start digging.

"Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today..." Hebrews 4:7a (NIV).

Jesus sure is interested in us hearing His voice Today. But I'm scrambling around the inside and outside of this house needing it to be fixed. To be finished. I’m pretty sure I’m plumb crazy to start another project outside, but I also know it’s exactly where He's calling me to be. Following Jesus entails going places you never expect to be.

Friends, I am no gardener. I know how to grow and keep plants alive like I know how to put this 1960's brick ranch house back together again. But I like to believe I'm amenable, so I plow my shovel into the hard dirt and lift a weed. I pick it up and toss it in the trash. Hours go by and I've somehow successfully shoveled crabgrass, dandelions and weeds into 6 large, black trash-bags from Walmart. After hours of back-breaking work, I now have remnants of a small patch of weed-free dirt. 

Funny, it looked better in my mind than it does in front of me in real time.
Doesn't is usually though?

Grabbing my weed-filled trash bags one at a time, I slowly move them to the side of the house. They are so much heavier than I thought they would be, but I've learned that all loads that need lifting usually are. I place them along the side of the house with all the other trash I seem to be collecting these days.

I know this 1960's brick house was a gift from God. It just doesn't seem to be on hard days. What if we end up like those other horrible renovation stories of houses beyond repair? What happens if the house never gets fixed up and put back together? Will our children end up despising the very place we bought to make this house our home? Will our marriage make it through all the demo, work, people, cost, time and effort that is required? What if we end up being upside down? What if, what if, what if ...

I track dirt from my shoes as I make my way inside through the back doors of our home. Instantly, I chastise myself for not taking them off at the backdoor before entering. Where is my brain sometimes? I wash my hands with the faucet that shakes if you don't turn it on just right — yet another item to fix. I grab some much needed cold water and sit down at our dining room table.

I grab my Bible and take a drink of water.
It dawns on me that both elements are needed to sustain daily life.
I'm just better about drinking the liquid kind He made, then the Word kind He spoke.

​Do you know what happens if you listen to Jesus' voice and believe?
You enter into His rest.

"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest ..." Hebrews 4:10-11a (NIV).

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV).

Days later, I go and plant my vegetables that I've grown from seeds. I bought special soil from the store and did a lot of watching on YouTube. I left the lights on in my house at certain times and watered my little seeds intently and carefully. I watched them sprout like I've watched my babies grow. All of a sudden I've got tomatoes, bell peppers and banana peppers. It's why I cleared out a small corner of my back yard (hence the 6 bags of weeds) and replaced it with organic gardening soil. Now that I've transplanted my veggie plants from seedlings to the outside, I plant some strawberry plants my daughter begged for from the store and throw some carrot seeds out there as well. What was once so covered with rocks and weeds, now (Lord willing) will produce some crops. 

I read Jesus' teaching about the farmer who planted seeds on his land. Some of the seeds got eaten by birds, other seeds sprouted, but quickly died off from the lack of soil. Some seeds barely grew before they were scorched by the sun and others were choked out by thorns and weeds.

The seeds that did grow and produce a crop were those with good soil and roots.
The crop comes after the work.

I've learned it takes time to produce good soil. A shovel (smart people use a tiller, but I'm slow and old-school), sweat, manure, time, patience and sweet-tea. I love that all good soil has crap in it, because we all have crap in our lives and Jesus uses it anyway. It's part of the story. 

Some of my vegetable plants have been scorched by the sun because I didn't provide proper timely exposure from moving them from the inside to the outside my house. Some seeds have been picked up by birds and squirrels, and some have been broken by the wind. But, I've still got some plants that are living because of good, prepared soil and roots that have grown down deep.

And then I get it.

Trusting Jesus is not only about hearing His voice (good soil), but believing in it too (our root system). 

"For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith" Hebrews 4:2 (NIV).

Today, Jesus was calling me to not only hear Him, but receive Him in faith ...
That’s how we enter into rest.

I dust my hands off and take a picture of my garden. It's a work in progress and unfinished, but so is everything else in my life. I go back inside, remembering to take off my shoes before entering this time and sit down at the table to give thanks. Thanks to a Father who's always so good to me and patient with me.

Friends, I’m really good at hearing and reading about God (from His Word, His people, and all sorts of different ways), but I find that most days, believing who He is and what He claims to be and do (in the crap) is the hard part.

His soil is always good, it’s my root system that lacks the depth it needs to live and produce good fruit.

Anne Voskamp wrote in The Broken Way, “Can I believe in God, in Jesus, in a way that I know Jesus believes in me? Maybe it isn’t enough to believe in Jesus – maybe I have to believe that Jesus believes enough in me to choose me. If Christ has chosen me, can He not believe in me? Can I believe Jesus believes in me? And what do I know about living as if He does believe in me?

Today, I’m choosing to listen and believe. Believe that God does make all things new even with the crap. That growth and maturity and change happen through the grace and mercy of the Holy Spirit. That there is life after death; not only in this life but the one to come.

Most importantly, that God is good and faithful to finish all the unfinished parts in me and my home. Especially on the hard days.

by Jennifer Kelly on April 6th, 2017

Somewhere in-between 34, I got a little stuck ... and my husband and I bought a home.

A 1960's, red brick house on Reed Street. Triangular, wooden beams barge overhead and meet together to form a peak as you walk onto the front porch and through the entryway. Although the main living area is open, your eyes are immediately drawn to the light flooding in from the windows like a waterfall. The brightness from the sun is blinding at first, but allowing time for your eyes to settle in and adjust brings clarity — like most things in life.

Dallas Willard once wrote that, "The very light that makes it possible for us to see may also dazzle our eyes to the clearest of realities and make it impossible for us to see what lies in a shadow".

As you steady your gaze and look beyond the patio and into the back yard, the overgrown vines, bushes and trees take you by surprise. Wild things grow in unnatural ways when not taken care of and pruned appropriately.

But then you'll notice a curious, black lamppost. I imagine the friendly light has shared quite a few days with friends and creatures alike. It’s aged, and a bit tired and worn from its time under the sun. The lamppost reminded me of the very same one that greeted Lucy outside the wardrobe when she entered Narnia for the first time. 

I knew this house was the 'one' as soon as we walked through it. Kaytlin laid claim to the brown and Pepto-Bismol colored bedroom and Mike looked at me with those eyes that said, "We can make this work". There were multiple offers within 24 hours of the red-brick house on Reed Street going on the market. With a fantastic realtor, letter, offer and a prayer, our hope became a reality in a relatively short amount of time.

Was this house the answer to my feelings of anxiety? 

We packed up and started our relocation process. It's strange and a bit eerie to move into a house that whispers stories of souls walking through the hallways. Especially from a neglected home in need of love. 

We move so quickly, don't we? My perpetual stuckness at 34 transfixed to rebuilding and making a home for our family, but the anxiety loomed. Whatever was troubling me, I buried and got to work on my new found home and quit writing.

My uneasiness lowered a bit with so much to do. Whatever unresolved issues were still there got swept up in the noise — but whispers inside my head still loomed. Things remained under the surface of my heart, but I knew God was trying to teach me something.

Both my heart and house exhibited needs of deep restoration in shadows.

Middle-age adulthood is not always what it’s cracked up to be, but neither is remodeling a 1960's brick ranch house. Lots of mold, repairs, patches, leaks, overgrown weeds in the front and back yard, and some walls that need tearing down. We tore down mirrors, ripped up carpet, refinished hardwood floors and the basement flooded. There were pipes and electrical wires and real repairs that needed time, attention, money and sweat. 

​I had no idea how much damage and cost can occur to a neglected house after decades of disregard. I'm not talking cosmetic. The deep-down structural and behind the scenes major restoration processes that needs to occur to ensure sustainable, healthy and enjoyable living.

I started demoing everything around me. Literally. The tile and the inside of my heart. The faux marble that needed to come out of the bathroom and the wrong thoughts I had circling inside my head. The more I worked on the house, the more I discovered what needed to be done — both inside my soul and home. The house on Reed Street was simply a tangible picture God used to gnaw at the inside of me. The more work I did on my home, the more frustrated I grew. I knew God was trying to get my attention, I just chose to ignore it for a while.

When matters of the soul are ignored for other pursuits (no matter good or evil) what was once enjoyable becomes a burden over time, until what really needs to be dealt with is faced.

Somewhere at 34, I started listening to old voices inside my heart and mind that said I wasn't enough ...

Good enough.
Fast enough.
Productive enough.
Mom enough.
Wife enough.
Life enough.
Woman enough.
Redeemed enough.

I think sometimes I wish my relationship with the Triune God would magically speak, do, and repair everything to bright and shiny Jen. But the truth is: discipleship is a life-long process of following, remaining, forgiving, redeeming and reconciliation — that needs to happen every day. Sanctification doesn't happen overnight. Thank God for time and grace to heal and mend; even the most hidden things found in shadows. Most cosmetic issues are easy to fix in the early days, but true restoration takes time, perseverance, hard work and sweat. The longer we follow Jesus, the more rooms in our heart we find that need remodeling. 

St. Teresa of Avila wrote a book called The Interior Castle, comparing our soul to that of a great castle. Early on she tells us to, "Remember, this castle has many dwellings: some above and some below. Others to either side. At the center is the most important dwelling of them all where the most secret things unfold between the soul and her Beloved".

The right materials and true elements that are needed for a house to fully function properly and provide safety and shelter is the same fundamental truth for our minds, hearts, bodies and souls. It cannot be a lofty idea alone for a house to have a solid foundation. Someone actually has to go in there and design, purchase, dig, build, pour and work. It's the same with us. Faith cannot be a lofty idea by itself to work. We are called to go, fight, run, and work it out with fear and trembling.

I’m learning that emotions provide honest red flags, much like a leaking faucet. Both are real and important, but they cannot be left alone to deal with our responses to life. Sure, we can hide them, or act as if they aren't there, but overtime we will either have a massive flood on our hands or a burst in our pipes somewhere. Just like my house on Reed Street.

The most secret places of our soul need light and our response to the shadows has to be truth, not emotions. Allow yourself time to settle in and focus, then get to work. Lean into the uncomfortable smell of lies and mold, rip it out, and replace it with truth. The living, central truths that tells you:

I am a child of God (Galatians 3:26-29; 1John 3:1)
I am a chosen friend of Jesus (John 15:14-16)
I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
I am wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
I am created for God's glory (Isaiah 43:7)
I am victorious in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Jesus is more than enough.

I know these words are as old as time, nevertheless, they are fundamental proclamations that have to become the orientation of your heart and mind. Eventually habitual, where you choose to operate from — no matter how long you've been following Jesus. 

The house on Reed Street is starting to look good. I'm not overwhelmed as to what lies in the shadows nor do I feel unsettled, but I have a notion my sudden lack of frustration has nothing to do with the ongoing renovation of my house as it does with the countenance of my heart. There's still much work to be done.

I think Satan likes to whisper some of the same lies slowly over time, dripping them over and over again like a leaky faucet. Suddenly we’re faced with a disaster that started somewhere in the shadows. But Jesus’ light is there to aid in exposing the darkness. We need but look and respond with the Truth He’s already supplied — and make sure it keeps pouring in every day.

Now, after the fact, I believe trials of transition and uncertainty accompanied with feelings of hopelessness can turn into a blessing or curse. A gift of grace when worked with intention and resolve or a stumbling block when abandoned and left to despair. Two truths that are applicable to remodeling old homes and souls. Both take time.

Be brave; wrestle with what lies in the shadows. God is faithful.

"The eternal, holy and unfathomable goodness of God does not allow us to wander in darkness, but shows us the way of salvation ... This I have seen in others as well as in myself."  Constantine

by Jennifer Kelly on September 7th, 2016

The orientation of autumn is here.  

We are in the cusp. Where the end of summer packs up all it's favorite memories and starts to pass things over to fall.

Children are heading back to school, all bright-eyed with anticipation. Parents are busy filling their school year calendars: attending, planning, doing ... while the breath, the sweet ease that is summertime still looms. The scenes of rest, family and food are now savored only in an exhale. Too fond to be gone, too close by to let go. 

And yet we do.

Fall holds new friendships, memories, colors and flavors. Truly, the meeting place of summer and fall is bittersweet. We say another goodbye to sand and sun and slow. The windows stay open a bit longer, letting the breeze and smell of leaves welcome us in. Scenes of football and pumpkin re-enter our lives with anticipation and ease. Routine and work pick itself back up, in-no-time-at-all.

The changing of seasons is enchanting, especially the transition to autumn.
Where blues and purple turn to browns and gold.
It is the evolution of time expressed through nature that mystifies.
Like God knew you needed time to say "goodbye,” all the while saying "hello.”
A stringed progression; it is essential, but not too fast and not too slow.

It's the passing of seasons that reminds me so much of God's never-ending work in all of us. The reminder of a sacrifice made and the promise to come. The freedom found in Christ moving. The slow and subtle reminder that this will not last forever, but the Kingdom of God will.

I believe wholeheartedly that we have our own seasons.
When the evolution of our faith gets expressed through time it enlightens.
And still God knows that we need time to say "goodbye,” all the while saying "hello.”
A threaded progression; it is overlapping, but not too fast and not too slow.

I find myself in the orientation of a new autumn. Navigating working full time for a nonprofit after three years of being a stay at home mom. Smelling my children’s hair as I hug them off to school. Learning new names, responsibilities and the halls around the office. Trying to determine and understand what "balance" means for my family and I. If there is such a thing? I think in the cusp, there is no such thing.

My babies are no longer kindergarten and under. I've been married for over 10 years now. Whoa. Transition is prickly and sweet. Change is inevitable. Dreams seem realized, yet a chapter is closing. Through all of it, I see the progression of my relationship with Jesus that has brought me here. Overlapping and essential, but not too fast and not too slow.

During whatever transition you find yourself going through. Whatever time of life you find yourself in. If you're sipping on flavors of pumpkin, wiping away salt-watered tears of weariness or resting below the breeze that now needs a blanket, think of this...

It is only for a season.

Seasons are the stringed progressions; essential, but not too fast or too slow.
Eternity is the threaded progression; overlapping, but not too fast and not too slow.

There will be a new one sooner than you think.
Be patient + Stay the course + Heaven will come

by Jennifer Kelly on May 6th, 2016

I am NOT a great mother. 
In fact, I used to be a really bad one.

Now, more than ever, I find it essential to no longer define myself as a "good" mom or a "bad" one, just an imperfect one. Why we need to define roles in hard-line definitions, I will never know. People are not so easily pigeonholed as we would like them to be.

I'm just trying my best as a mom to help shape and cultivate hearts who will ultimately love the Lord. That is my prayer anyhow. I wish I could always say that about my story as a mother to my girls, but I cannot. 

As a mom, I've stockpiled plenty of moments where my words don't align with my actions and my message gets muddled in the mayhem and anxieties of this life. On the worst days, it gets absolutely maligned by my pure selfishness.

I'm not proud to say that there have been times that I've unleashed spouts of horror. Where my voice gets scary and angry, and has the capacity to instantly fill the hearts and minds of my innocent children with fear and trepidation. When I think about instances where I have so easily lost my patience over "spilled milk", I shutter.

When discipline is not expressed in love, but fear and exasperation, guilt always follows. And we would do good to pay attention to that guilt. We all know words can cut deeper than physical wounds, but when they come from the one who is supposed to nurture and protect - whoa. My girls are only 7 and 6 and I've done my fair share of, "I'm so sorry baby. Mommy is so sorry, forgive me?"

More recently, in the last few years, I have experienced plenty of precious times of unadulterated selfless acts of sacrifice and love. When I am their champion, their provider, their one and only defense. My arms and hands instinctively know how to caress my crying child, my voice turns airy and hopeful, and I whisper words of admiration, confirmation and love into the ears of my kids that constantly need to hear it over and over and over again. And when I think of those moments, tears well up instantly and I exhale. I know I'm learning how to become a better mother to my kids; and that has not been easy.

When I think of being a mom to my girls now, grace is neither poor in size, but moderate in daily quantity. For me, motherhood is middling grace. Learning, apologizing, disciplining, cleaning, instructing, loving, adjusting and balancing. My own grace extended is steady, sufficient, sizable, but it is deeply imperfect in every way.

As I find myself reflecting on my own parenting this time of year, I'm so thankful that God's grace is not middling. That if anything, it is abundant. The grace that Jesus extends is so un-steady, and over-the-top poured out for us, it is hard to understand. Yes, it is true that there is discipline and consequences, but there is always arms extended wide. Never abandonment. A God that will do whatever it takes to spend eternity with His children. Only we are left to decide.

And yet, in a world that puts so much pressure in a day - in honoring a ROLE of an imperfect human being, Jesus stands there and offers to take it all away. 

In Staci Eldridge's book, Becoming Myself: Embracing God's Dream of You, Staci eloquently and tenderly writes how to carefully understand your past, all the while allowing God to "rewrite your story". And if you know anything about me, then you know I am a woman with a past, a woman who has committed every sin, abomination, atrocity, (insert any detestable act here) in more ways then one.​ And yet, Jesus changed that despite the worst that was in me.

The Mother's Day propaganda has a remarkable ability to remind me of my insufficiency as a mom, as a wife, hell - as a woman.

It's when I take the time to sit down at Jesus' feet and remind myself that all of those insecurities can only be fully covered and fulfilled in the loving arms of His resurrected life before honor can be given to ANY role. Because it's God's story. It's about His love and glory all along.

To live in Jesus' redemptive light is the glorious Truth I'm offered to operate out of everyday. Sometimes I live like it - and other times I don't. But my Father in Heaven never stops whispering in the ear of His daughter over and over and over again, "Grace child. I love you, there is nothing you can do to stop my love".

It's the most unreasonable and difficult life lesson I've ever had to learn, that I'm still learning. To really trust that all my insecurity, all my sin, all of my insufficiencies, all of my desires, all of my shortcomings, EVERYTHING, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. That my past does not define me. That He can make me different, even better that what I was yesterday. Can this truly be? Yes, and despite me being me most of the time, I find over and over again that His grace is sufficient for me.

In truth, I actually cannot bear to live without it.

​I know Mother's Day is not an easy day for all. The pain of a child gone, or a child not born. Maybe you have experienced a lackadaisical mother's hurtful words or actions that have turned into deep threaded scars over time? Or perhaps you know the emptiness of a mom taken away too early on. There are many, many wounds that this holiday can so easily turn on in an instant. Regret, shame, unfulfilled desires, remorse, pain, hurt and agony... the list can go on and on.

Whatever your facing this Mother's Day, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ wash over you like fresh, living water this Sunday. May you stop and turn to Him and hear His whispers of grace and love and be filled with hope. Hope that He is who He says He is.

Hope that He can and will make you new again.

"Though our past has shaped us, we are not our past. Though our failures and sin have had an effect on who we are, we are not defined by our failures or our sin. Though thought patterns and addictions have overwhelmed us, we are not overcome by them and we will never be overcome by them. Jesus has won our victory. Jesus is our victory." -Staci Eldridge, Becoming Myself

If the only thing my daughters learn from me in their lifetime, is the message of Jesus, then my prayer will be answered and God will have done a miracle. A freaking miracle. Motherhood as truly been one of the largest experiences of grace in my lifetime. And yet, what God promises is true: I am forgiven.

God is rewriting my story; my story as a woman, my story as a wife, my story as a mother. Passing along to a new generation of women who's identity it rooted in His grace and love - despite me being me.

I used to be a bad mom, now I'm not. The only reason that changed is because of Jesus.​
Jesus is my victory. For this ragamuffin. For this woman at the well. For the least of these.

THAT is exactly what He promises and THAT is what He does. He takes the worst and whispers, "Grace child. I love you. Trust me. Come follow me". And then over time - rewrites your story, unlike anything you could ever imagine.

And that is the only Mother's Day message any of us need to hear: Grace through the precious blood of Jesus Christ when you make a choice to believe.

by Jennifer Kelly on March 15th, 2016

"Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths."  
-M. Scott Peck, MD The Road Less Traveled

My Dearest Me,

As I sit here and reflect, a thought keeps bubbling up in my mind. I've been thinking about it for a while now and writing it down (and out) seems like the best course of action. I don't want you to forget my thoughts, or the helpful insight from others on the subject of how to face life's difficulties (and our very creative excuses to escape them). So a letter from me to you seems appropriate. Keep it; read it when you are facing a trial, situation or problem, and use it to face anything life throws your way with tenacity and insight. The goal is for us to start to change the way in which we interact with life itself. Consistently. That's the hope anyway. We both know that words are nothing if not accompanied with change.

I'm not entirely sure what we have come to expect out of life (the very fact that we legitimately expect something from life to begin with should tell you a thing, or two, about our neurosis or if nothing else, much about where in the world we live). What makes us so special, divinely providential (even Jesus came across problem after temptation after test), or a complete tool, Lord only knows. But while I sit here and examine our life, and those around us, two things are becoming frightfully clear.

First: The brave souls that have accepted that life is difficult, or "an endless series of problems" (Peck, The Road Less Traveled) have somehow learned the discipline of resolve. They have figured out what it means to admit, face, and tackle their problems head on; with ferociousness and perseverance. Resilient people have learned that meaning can be found in the midst of turmoil and hold on to that truth - all the while whispering "...a doxology in the darkness" (Manning; Ruthless Trust).

Remember when we read Brene Brown's Rising Strong book, when she wrote, "We need more people who are willing to demonstrate what it looks like to risk and endure failure, disappointment, and regret - people willing to feel their own hurt instead of working it out on other people, people willing to own their stories, live their values, and keep showing up".

Take a look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Elizabeth Elliot, Martin Luther King Jr., Horatio Spafford, Hannah Moore, Saint John of the Cross and Corrie ten Boom. They kept showing up. They are but a few examples of people who experienced legitimate suffering and horrific pain and overcame it. They all have left a lasting legacy for future generations on how to grow and love through processes in which they had every excuse not to. Dearest me, look to them for inspiration, for wisdom, or for some grit to get your through a problem with integrity and perseverance.

Second: The type of scared, victim-prone people (like us), who are experts at denying, escaping, and numbing our way to fantasy land is no way to live. We have this amazing tendency to avoid, manipulate, and run to never-never land; where we remain children for the rest of our incomplete and foolish lives. Actually Peck, again, says it way better than I ever could:

"This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis for all human mental illness. Since most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree, lacking complete mental health. Some of us will go to quite extraordinary lengths to avoid our problems and the suffering they cause, proceeding far afield from all that is clearly good and sensible in order to try and find an easy way out, building the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality. In the succinctly elegant words of Carl Jung, 'Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering' " (italics are my own for you to pay attention to).

Jen, we have lived the second way for too long. And it is crap. The second way is HORSE MANURE. Dung. ****. No way around it).

Thankfully the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is our found meaning in the mess. Jesus, who came to die and save and redeem 'victim-prone' people (just like us) is a wonderful revelation. The fact that you have another day to work on your self-discipline, repentance, values, integrity, and admit the truth about who you are (and who you're not) is grace.

Life is difficult. You have problems. Some more serious than others. BUT we are learning to welcome them, look at them honestly, and figure them out. In Man's Search for Meaning, Victor E. Frankl wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Or remember when Peck wrote, "It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn. As Benjamin Franklin said, 'Those things that hurt, instruct.' It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems". 

Instead of Disney movies or perfectionism or safety, what if we were taught our children that life is painful and hard and it will entail a series of problems in which we need to learn how to overcome and find meaning in the process? We don't hear that one too often now, do we?

Think about it, what do we always go back to? I guess spending that money at that one store on Saturday wasn't a great idea. Or happy hour during that game, or going back to same thing, place, blah, blah, blah, freaking-blah. Pick one, it's all the same. The habit of Escapism = Disillusionment.

I'm not trying to be hard on you. I want you to get better and grow and change. I guess we can do what we normally do, OR we can spend some time in vulnerability and discomfort and decide to BE SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Truth (in the form of love) is the best antidote I know of when it comes to neurosis. I've seen you lift up our sin, our pride, our shame and lay it all down at Jesus' feet. He washes us white as snow and whispers, "Get on up again, Jen. Try, try again". And our ragamuffin soul does. Thanking and praising the only One worthy to be praised.

We are the prodigal daughter 70 times over.
And we know all to well that Jesus forgives 70x7.

As I sit here in a Starbucks, reading my Bible, praying, writing a letter to myself, I can hear a lady behind me say to her neighbor, "if it feels good, do it". And I find the timing of me typing the words and her statement hilarious and sad. How very different the western world's perspective to Scripture is astonishing? Jesus calls us to die to ourselves and the stranger next to me proclaims JUST DO IT!  How we used to live that way, the wide road of selfishness. Our pleasure, our money, our passions, our luxury car, house on a hill, and fancy clothes. The million dollar, fantastic lie that shrivels souls down to the simpleness of the here and now. I wonder if the same heroes I mentioned above only focused on themselves and decided not to carry their cross? How vastly different would their stories have unfolded in the ripples of history if they decided to live for themselves?

How refreshing is the message of The Road Less Traveled:

"Let us inculcate in ourselves and in our children the means of achieving mental and spiritual health. By this I mean let us teach ourselves and our children the necessity for suffering and the value thereof, the need to face problems directly and to experience the pain involved... When we teach ourselves and our children discipline we are teaching them and ourselves how to suffer and also how to grow" -M. Scott Peck, MD 

I know my letter to you sounds very different than what you hear, read or see all around you. If we were to die tomorrow, I don't think it'll be the places we were never able to travel to, or an adventure unaccomplished. When we have the privilege to stand in front of our Maker, I'm pretty sure we'll regret the moments in which we could've been a better person, one that loved more, sacrificed more, served more or showed up more often than not. Because that is what we are called to do.

And lastly, don't get confused or discouraged by the progress you have made in this life when you do stumble and fall. To do so would mean defeat. And Jesus is constantly telling us to REMAIN, because He loves us. "As the Father has loved me, have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's command and remain in His love" John 15:9-10;NIV

Jesus loves you so much dearest me. Remember that truth first and foremost - all the time and every day. And then understand that life is difficult, but you can overcome it with love and meaning and discipline. You don't need to run away anymore. Stand for the Gospel in this life. Tackle issues. Teach your children truth and reach inside your mind, heart and soul for meaning in the midst of turmoil. Because you have a choice, dearest me. And we don't always make the right one. But everyday is second chance to do what is right and good and true. 

Every day holds within it a way. I pray and hope you will always choose redemption, love and service as the way forward.

Much love from your biggest critic,