When it’s Time to Fight

Can I be honest?

It’s been a rough week. One of those “seriously if one more thing…” kind of weeks. It started out pretty subtle. A minor annoyance here, an unwanted thought there, but has continued to escalate to the point of a full out break-down with an ugly cry last night.

Then all the pieces fell together. Last night in the dark I asked Jesus to show me what was going on and He did.

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A week ago I apparently opened a can of worms with a little blog post. I’m not sure what happened but it went a bit more viral then I ever expected it would.

Almost two weeks ago I attended a conference with 800 women in ministry. Friday night Christine Cain started her powerful talk to us with this statement “Our enemy has always hated women, and women with a voice he has always detested.”

I agree with Christine. Satan puts a lot of effort behind silencing us from speaking truth. And when we choose to speak up, when we choose to bravely stand for truth; it seems to tick him off.

Last week I spoke up about something that was heavy on my heart. This week my family has been tormented at every turn. I can’t help but think the two things are connected.

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As soon as I made the connection I got mad. My tears dried up and I was ready to fight. I learned a long time ago how to fight the good fight of faith. I meet a lot of women who think it’s wrong to fight, but it’s not. I believe we are invited by God to fight. The problem is when we forget who we’re fighting for and who we’re fighting against.

For: in favor of; in support of: to advocate, to be on one’s side, to champion, encourage, esteem, to hold with honor, root for, support, value

Against: in opposition to; contrary to; adverse or hostile to; in resistance to or defense from, counter to, facing, in opposition to, opposed to, conflicting, incompatible

It’s time to fight! Time to fight for our kids, our friends, and our families. To fight for love, for truth, for justice. To fight against our enemy (not man, but Satan and the powers of darkness), to fight against sin and oppression and injustice.

God invites us into the battle. He asks us to take up our sword and wield it boldly against the enemy. He equips us for the fight. He is our shield and ever present help in time of trouble. He is our strength and our protection. He fights for us and against our enemy. And when we join Him in the battle we get a front row view of His power and might.

It’s okay to get mad. It is okay to raise our voice and shake our fist and call out our enemy on his sneaky schemes.

We have a real enemy. And sometimes he rears his ugly head and messes with our lives in a very obvious way. He is single-mindedly focused on our destruction. He wants to shake our faith and keep us silent. But… greater is He that is within you and me than he that is in the world.

Yes, it’s been a rough week. Yes, I’ve been attacked on every side. But I am not discouraged. I am equipped for the fight. I’m standing beside the ultimate Warrior, and I am not afraid.

~Keri

Are you in a battle this week? How can we fight for you in prayer? 

Photo by Wili_Hybrid Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by hmmlargeart. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Peter Cave Road

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My car was packed and loaded with teenagers, suitcases, snacks, and one mom who was so beyond ready to get out of town and head to a cabin in the woods for a few days. We were making good time with the cruise control set on 65 and gorgeous scenery rolling by outside of the windows. In just a few short hours we would be at the cabin where there would be no work, no agenda, no schedule. Just days filled with fun.

Then we turned down Peter Cave Road.

Y’all, never in my life have I experience a road like this one, and I grew up in the country. I’ve seen my fair share of treacherous dirt roads, but none of them had prepared me for this. I should have known we were in for a ride when I saw the sign on the side of the road “dangerous road ahead, 4 wheel drive recommended”. I hesitated when I saw the sign, but my GPS told me to turn left, so I did.

I had no idea what we were getting into.

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Five miles. Five miles of dirt road stood between us and the cabin. I know dirt roads well enough to know that five miles might take about 20 minutes, but not this dirt road. This road and these five miles took us over an hour. Several times we came to a complete stop before proceeding. Once we had to get out and move a tree limb out of our way. Every muscle in my body was tense as we headed uphill and then downhill with hairpin turns, steep drop offs, and pot holes like you’ve never seen before.

My daughter was holding my phone and counting down the tenths of a mile as we climbed our way up the mountain. Every tenth of a mile was celebrated as if we’d traveled a hundred miles. I began to wonder if we would ever make it.

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Over an hour later we did. When we pulled into the drive way and saw the cabin the car erupted in celebration. I’ve never wanted to kiss the ground before, but I did in that moment. We had done it, we survived.

The next morning I woke up early and quietly left the cabin to go sit on the porch and watch the sun rise over the Buffalo River. I kept thinking about that car ride and our harrowing adventure. The worst part was; we didn’t have to spend an hour of our lives on Peter Cave Road. My GPS chose for us to go down a road we didn’t have to. If we had only traveled a few miles further down the highway there was another road that would have brought us to the cabin without all the drama.

Isn’t life like that sometimes?

Sometimes we find ourselves traveling down a road we never would have chosen for ourselves. A road so long and treacherous that we wonder if it will ever end. A road that keeps us tense, single minded, and desperate. A road that is so slow going and unending that we begin to question everything. “How much longer?” “Will this ever end?” “Are we lost?” “Should we go back?” “Will we survive this?” “How did we get here?”

I learned a few things driving up Peter Cave Road that I think might be important to remember when life leads us down a dangerous road.

Sometimes experiencing Peter Cave Road is not your fault. The good news about our adventure is that it wasn’t my fault. I’ve made a lot of wrong turns in my life (both in the car and in my choices) but this wasn’t one of them. This time I was following directions. Peter Cave Road was chosen for me by my GPS. I don’t know why God sometimes choses for us to take the long, hard way to arrive at our destination, but He often does. It’s not because we did something wrong, it’s not because we are being punished, it’s not because we are too stupid to read a map, it’s because that’s the road He put us on. Is there a reason? Sure. Will we know the reason before the road ends? Maybe, maybe not. Sorry. I could lie and tell you some deep spiritual thing will only happen to you on that road. That might be true. But we also might wind up standing in His presence one day asking Him; “So, Peter Cave Road. What was that all about?”

Time and distance is relative. We started our road trip on Interstate 49 and ended it on Peter Cave Road. Our trip started with the cruise control set and us covering about 65 miles an hour. It ended with me riding the brake and us going 2-5 miles per hour. A mile is a mile, but road conditions very much affect how long that mile takes to travel. The harder the road, the longer it takes. Slow going is still going. Even when it feels like you’re getting nowhere, you are.

Don’t abandon ship. Multiple times during our adventure on Peter Cave road someone would pipe up with “It would be faster to get out and walk.” It sure felt like that was true. As tempting as it was to abandon ship and head out on our own I knew that as slow as the car was it was still a better option to stay in it. I know my own strength; I can’t walk 5 miles carrying all of our luggage up Peter Cave Road. Well, maybe I could, but I promise I wouldn’t have arrived at the cabin before dark, and being in those woods after dark doesn’t sound like much fun. As slow as the car was, it was our only hope. Colossians 3 says we are hiding with Christ in God. When the road is hard, stay hidden in God. Yes, it’s tempting to throw in the towel and go it alone, but we won’t get very far on our own strength.

Eyes forward. Peter Cave Road isn’t a smooth road. Bumpy would be a drastic understatement. Then there were the pot holes, washed out culverts, muddy holes, tree limbs, big rocks, and many other obstacles. Off the road there was beauty. Lush trees, mountain views, wildflowers, pretty birds, but I didn’t see any of it. I simply couldn’t pay attention to the things around me because I was so focused on the things in front of me. In life, when we are in a season of traveling a hard road it often comes with guilt. We want to focus on other stuff, we want to talk about other stuff, we want to see the beauty, but sometimes we just can’t. Sometimes all we can do is keep our eyes forward. That’s okay.

The best way out is always through. Any chance I can get to quote Robert Frost I’m going to take it, but on Peter Cave Road and in life he’s right. Stuck on the dirt road we kept looking for options; is there another road we can take? Would it be better to turn around and go back the way we came? Is there a quicker, easier route? I wanted to avoid the road, but we couldn’t. We had to keep going (as slow as it was) forward. Sometimes hard roads and the pain they bring can’t be avoided, when we have to travel one the best way out is always through.

Adventure comes at the end. On the way home from our time in the woods (using the alternate, safer route) I asked the kids what their favorite parts of the trip was. Every one of them said Peter Cave Road. They went on and on about how awesome our car was to get us up that big hill, and how scary it was when we had to drive through the river (seriously y’all it was an epic adventure) and how narrow it was in that one place where the trees were pressing in on both sides and how dark it was it the woods even though it was the middle of the day and how we made it out alive! It was an adventure. One we will talk about for years to come; the story of Peter Cave Road and how we made it out alive. There is something in us that loves to celebrate stories of survival; our Feast of Purim. The Jewish celebration of the Feast of Purim was a joyous celebration commemorating a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved by Queen Ester of extermination. They survived, the lived to tell about it, and they remembered and celebrated God’s deliverance. We need to tell our adventure stories and celebrate God’s faithfulness through the hardest roads.

At the beginning of our trip one of the kids was in the backseat singing “Life is a highway…” That’s not true. Life is not a highway. Life is a long road. Yes, parts of it are smooth and straight and sunny and fun, but other parts are bumpy and uphill and dark and dangerous. Whatever road God asks us to travel one thing remains the same; He can be trusted to get us to our destination.

Hang on for the ride!

~Keri

Taboo

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I’m not a really big fan of games, but from time to time my family twists my arm and makes me play with them. If I do have to play a game I have my favorites; Scrabble, Boggle, and Taboo top the list. Notice a theme? I love words and word games.

Taboo is one of our family favorites. A quick refresher in case you haven’t played in a while: each team is trying to get their teammates to guess the “secret word” the only problem is there’s a list of words that are “taboo”. If you say one of the taboo words someone on the other team will buzz you. Buzzing people just happens to be my son’s favorite part of the game. I hate getting buzzed. Just when I seem to be on a role and getting lots of points for my team I’ll let one little word slip, hear that awful buzz in my ear, and be completely derailed.

It happened to me just last week, but I wasn’t playing Taboo, I was filling out insurance paperwork so one of my kids could get some dental work done. I’ve yet to meet a mom who enjoys filling out the endless piles of paperwork for their kids, but it’s unavoidable. I was about finished with the first page when I heard the buzzing… Are you: single, married, divorced, widowed. Ugh. Seriously? Why does it matter? And why do I hear that stupid buzzer every time I have to check the “divorced” box?

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My parent’s divorced when I was a teenager. I was mad for a long time. Mad because they gave up. Mad because they didn’t try harder. Mad because they chose to walk away instead of fix it. I carried that anger into my own marriage. I was convinced that if you tried hard enough and loved Jesus enough that every marriage could last the length of time.

I was the most judgmental person you’ve ever met when it came to divorce. When I heard about someone going through divorce, especially if they were a Christian, my first response was to roll my eyes and inwardly scorn them for not trying harder. Pretty ugly, huh? But I’m being honest. I had zero mercy in my life when it came to this issue.

Then one Tuesday afternoon I came home from work to find my husband waiting with bags packed. He was done, and there was nothing in that moment that I could say or do to stop him from walking out that door. The day my marriage broke so did my Pharisaical condemnation towards divorce. I had created a standard for myself and imposed that standard on everyone around me; divorce is always avoidable and therefor never an option.  Now here I was facing the one thing I had determined I would never face. What do you do with that? How do you cope when you’ve moved from the position of casting judgment to being the very thing you’ve condemned?

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I had become taboo. I was labeled with the one label I swore I would never wear; the one label that I was convinced would bring me the most shame.

There are certain things that we tip-toe around in the church; divorce, abuse, addiction, mental illness, depression, doubt. I understand why we do it, they’re hard things attached to real emotions affecting real people. We don’t know how to broach such difficult subjects so we often stay silent or, even worse, spout off without thinking. I’m not pointing fingers, I’m the guilty one. I’m the one who sat in the seat of the scoffer. And as a result of my own judgment, three years later I still hear a little buzzer when I have to check the divorced box.

There are certain sins, certain struggles that we have deemed “taboo”. The problem is, making something taboo is pretty much the opposite of what Jesus did.

Luke allows us to see what Jesus does with those who have been labeled with something taboo in his gospel. He tells the story of two people, one a religious leader, the other a sinner. One who seats in the seat of the scorner, one who sits in the seat of the condemned. The Pharisee does exactly what I expect him to; he welcomes Jesus into his home and then proceeds to silently judge the sinful women talking to Jesus. He did just what I would have done, elevated himself to a position of “better than” and judged her and deemed her “unworthy”.

The woman, on the other hand, does exactly opposite of what I expect her to. Instead of hiding from Jesus, instead of avoiding the gathering altogether, she marches right into the thick of it. Does she feel shame? Probably. Does she feel like she doesn’t belong there? Most likely. Does she feel like her whole life is taboo? I’m sure she does. But, she doesn’t let that stop her.

“There was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” Luke 8

The Pharisees had a reputation, she had to know they would judge her if she walked into that room. Apparently Jesus had a reputation too. I don’t know what she had heard about Jesus, but it was enough for her to press through the fear of being whispered about to get to Him. Jesus wasn’t afraid of her label. He didn’t buzz her and see her to the door when she bowed at His feet in humble adoration. He didn’t ignore her sin; neither did He condemn her with it. He simply loved her.

He loved the broken, sinful, repentant, humble woman.

There are two places we can stand when we feel condemned. We can stand outside, fearful and ashamed, weighed down with the buzzing we hear, or we can stand at the feet of Jesus.

The woman who came and washed the feet of her savior was washed by His love. She entered condemned, and left forgiven, cleansed and at peace.

The boxes don’t go away. We will still have to put check marks next to things we never dreamed in a million years would apply to us. But the buzzing can be silenced. No. Not silenced, replaced. Instead of the buzz of condemnation, if you listen hard enough you can hear another sound, a quiet, loving whisper, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

~Keri

 

Photo by (cup)cake_eater. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Melissa Emmons Photography. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Allison McDonald. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Holding Hurt Hostage

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Two summers ago I read a story in a blog that has recently come back to my memory. In fact, I can’t quit thinking about the monkeys Fab saw that day…

One time I made the mistake of going to the Austin Rescue Zoo with a friend of mine. It is probably the most depressing way you could spend a day; each of the animals has been rescued from a terrible environment. I was excited to see the monkeys because (a) I like monkeys and (b) because these monkeys had been trapped in tiny containers (barely the size of their bodies) their entire lives and now they had this huge enclosure with room to swing in the trees and finally act like monkeys. I scanned every branch, but there were no monkeys to be seen. Then I saw a little girl pointing to the corner of the enclosure, and sure enough, there they were. The monkeys sat with hunched bodies in the corners of the cage with their faces pressed up against the bars. It was as if they didn’t know that they had been set free and behind them lay this huge open space. I guess they felt more comfortable in the position they had known their entire lives. They didn’t know how to move their bodies the way they were made; it hurt to stretch and move their muscles. So they just sat – looking at the exact same view they’d had before they were ever rescued.

There are times in life when hurt holds us hostage. When misfortune finds its way into our hearts and displaces everything else. When we are so wrapped up in grief and circumstance that we feel trapped by it, enslaved even. Thankfully, for the most part, those are seasons in our life that come and go. Usually they stick around longer than we’d like, but almost always they do end. The problem is, when hurt has lingered long it’s hard to break free from it. Sometimes, long after hurt has let go of us we still hold tight to it. Instead of hurt holding us hostage we hold hurt hostage. We invite misfortune to pull up a chair and stay a while. Hurt moves in and takes up residency in our hearts. And all the while we hold the power to set them free. Instead of letting the hurts go and releasing the pain of the past we hold it hostage. We tie it to a chair and point a gun to its head. The problem is that we ourselves become the prisoner.

I’ve watched too many movies. I know what hostages are like. You can’t turn your back on them for one minute or they will escape. So we live with one eye trained on the hurt. We can’t fully engage in life because we’re tied to watching our hostages; fear, anger, depression, bitterness, mistrust, resentment, cynicism, abuse. They cloud our vision and keep us from being free. We can’t let them out of our sight or they might escape. I hate my hostages, I want to be free from them, but somewhere along the way I’ve taken them on as mine and feel responsible for guarding them. But what if we let them go? What if we put the gun down and untied the ropes? What if we opened the back door and let the hurt leave? What if we made room for something else to occupy that space? What if we emptied a few chairs and risked letting peace or love or joy to come and sit with us?

We live like those monkeys. God has delivered us, but we’re still not free. He has broken the power of the hurt and pain, but we can’t let go of the memory of it. We’re afraid to turn around and explore our new found liberty because we might get hurt again. We feel more comfortable in the presence of pain and sorrow then we do in the presence of life and joy so we hang out with what’s familiar. I get it; it’s risky to leave the cage. It’s scary to head into unchartered territory. It’s silly to think that we’d rather stay tied to hurt than to run out into abundant life and joy and freedom. But when you’ve been hurt too long, and broken too much it’s flat out hard to change.

And we don’t have to. We can keep living like we’ve always lived. Overcome by fear, in the shadow of doubt, with closed off hearts. Or… we can let go. We can chose to cut the ropes that tie us to our past. We can open the door of our heart and let love and life blow in. Scary? Absolutely. Worth it? I think so. (I know the right answer is “yes, it’s worth it” but in full disclosure my heart is still in the “I think so” stage.)

When we hold hurt hostage we live small lives. We live trapped. But we don’t have to. God longs to set us free from the confines of our own fear. He longs to bring us out of the dark dungeon and into the light of life.

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19

Let’s make room in our lives for the spacious places God has planned for us. Let’s take a deep breath, close our eyes, and let go off all we’re holding hostage in our hearts. Let’s live free!

~Keri

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Photo by IKO Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Matthew Paulson Licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

The Shadow of His Wing

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“We spend more time talking about how wonderful it is to hide

under His wings than actually finding refuge there.”

Angie Smith

We sat in the gazebo in the middle of forty beautiful acres with open books on our laps discussing chapter five of “Chasing God”. It was evening and the sun was slowly setting, the only sound was that of birds scurrying about and the breeze on the wind chimes. We sat in silence as the truth of Angie’s words filled the space between us.

Just a few minutes earlier we were at dinner with about thirty Benedictine Sisters inside the hundred year old Monastery that sits in the middle of the property. At dinner Sister Kimberly was entertaining us with a hilarious story. She was at a retreat out of state when several of them decided to make their way down to the lake for a few minutes of quiet reflection. It turned out to be not so quiet after all. On the bank of the lake was a pair of geese with a large brood of goslings. Sister Kimberly was excited to see all of the baby geese, when suddenly a large dog came out of nowhere barking and chasing after them. The momma goose ushered all of the babies into the lake and then proceeded to stretch out her gigantic wings over each of the goslings and pushed them under the water. She stayed there like that for the longest time, hissing at that dog, and nearly drowning her babies. Sister Kimberly said she held them under water so long she was sure that none of them would survive. Eventually the dog wandered off and one by one the baby geese bobbed back up to the surface.

I couldn’t help but think about her story as we sat in the gazebo discussing what it looks like to take refuge under His wings. How brave of that mother goose to gather and protect the little ones. How terrifying it must have been to be one of those babies; thrown into the lake, pushed under water, surrounded by darkness, gasping for breath. I imagine they might not have thought their mom brave or heroic or nurturing. I bet they fought against those strong wings under that cold water.

Maybe this is why taking refuge is harder than talking about refuge.

“I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1) sounds a lot more poetic then “please nearly drown me and hide me in a dark cold place until the disaster has passed”. The truth is; experience is always messier than knowledge, which may be why we shy away from it.

The next morning I got up early and went out to the pond. I found my own pair of geese; these two aren’t keeping an eye on a young brood, but on a nest full of eggs. Their diligence to watch those eggs amazed me. They were willing to take me on the moment I got to close to their precious babies. I understand their fierce protective nature, I am a mother, I would do the same. I even understand why the mother goose pushed her babies under the water. I didn’t make sense to them, but to her it was what needed to be done in that moment.

So many times in my life I’ve felt like that nearly drowned gosling. I’ve fought against God, questioning what on earth He is doing to me. I’ve felt like the darkness would never lift, that the waters pressing in around me would never recede. Like Angie I’m a lot better at studying Him than trusting Him. Because often trusting Him doesn’t make sense, at least not from my perspective.

Job said “though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him”. I love the way the New Living Translation reads: God might kill me, but I have no other hope. (Job 13:15) Sometimes God’s ways don’t make sense. Sometimes it feels like He doesn’t hear our desperate cries and will never come to our rescue, but what if He is rescuing us in a way that feels more like drowning than being snuggled up warm and dry in a safe nest? Can we trust Him in those moments?

He says we can. He promises that His plans for us are for our good and not to harm us. Maybe trusting Him looks a lot more like a defenseless gosling trusting her mother’s wings will not drown her but protect her than believing that trust means we will never experience darkness or fear or pain under His wings of protection.

We know that if one of those baby geese had stood her ground and faced that dog in her own strength she might have wound up as lunch that day. That would be a foolish thing to do, yet I do the same thing all the time. When faced with disaster my immediate response is often to either face it head on and try to figure out a way through in my own strength or to run and hide all alone wondering why Jesus isn’t rescuing me. What if instead of looking to ourselves for rescue we looked for His wings and then stayed put under them for however long it took? Yes, it might be scary under there, but it’s better than facing that dog alone.

With Love~
Keri

Hope Deferred

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Waiting sucks. {I’m not quite sure I’m allowed to say “sucks” here but “waiting is hard” didn’t adequately describe how I’m feeling} I hate waiting, and I’m not really good at it. Patience is not my forte.

It seems as if everyone I know is in a holding pattern right now. Waiting on new. Waiting on change. Waiting on someone, something, somewhere. Waiting for doors to open, and others to close. Waiting on pain to end. Waiting on joy to come. Some have been waiting for years, faithfully serving, faithfully trusting, day after long day stacked one upon another until so much time has gone by that you begin to wonder what it is you’re even waiting for anymore. But the heart remembers. In the dark quiet of the night the longing persists. A prayer unanswered. A desire unmet. An ache unfulfilled. Hope deferred.

It’s even harder to wait when the desire is good, godly even. A child. A job. A friend. Pain to cease. Depression to lift. Prodigals to return. We pray and wait and wonder; why would God withhold good gifts from someone who loves Him?

In the last few weeks a verse in Galatians keeps popping up in my life. And let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. I know this is truth. I know I’m not supposed to throw in the towel. I know I’m supposed to continue doing good in my waiting seasons, however long they may be. But sometimes it’s just hard. Harder still when the people around you don’t seem to be waiting for much of anything. I know it’s a matter of perspective. That it’s not true that God’s coming through for everyone except me, but sometimes it feels that way. You too?

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Hope deferred makes the heart sick… Prov. 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. {can I get an amen?} Our human hearts cannot contain the pain of waiting past the point that we deem reasonable. The longer we wait the more our hearts grow weary. Before too long they succumb to despair and desperation. How do we hold on to hope when all of our strength is gone? When our trust has been stretched past the breaking point? When the womb is still empty and the promise seems dead and the God we pray to is strangely quiet?

When the waiting persists it is hope itself that I need to cling to. Hope… not in the thing I long for, but in the God who (for reasons irrational to me) continues to say to me “wait”.

And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Psalm 39:7

What am I waiting for? Good things? Yes. Godly things? I think so. But ultimately it is not what I wait for that will satisfy me. Even the most holy thing longed for (a child, or friend, or spouse, or job, or ______) will disappoint us eventually. But there is one thing that will not disappoint…

Hope does not disappoint,

because the love of God has been poured out within our

hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:5

I have been guilty of holding out hope for something less than God. I’ve been guilty of getting mad and cranky when I feel like God is withholding good things from me, when I’m growing weary in my well doing for Him. I’ve been guilty of succumbing to depression and despair when I transferred my hope from the Eternal King to earthly things. This human heart of mine simply can’t contain the pain of waiting and I often find myself in desperate need of rescue. Thankfully, the God I serve specializes in just that. He rescues us because He delights in us. Rescues us from deferred hope.

Hope does not disappoint; if our hope is in Him.

It’s hard to hold on to hope. But what if we weren’t made to hold on to it? What if hope was made to hold on to us? What if hope is the rope thrown to us when we feel like we’re drowning? The rope that we slip our arms through and tighten down around our chest… holding the rope in our hands while the rope holds us in its embrace.

Hope is an embrace. It wraps us up. Holds us tight. And we cling to it in the waiting.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Prov. 13:12 

Praying that our longing for Him outweighs all the other longings of our hearts. And that in the waiting we will find ourselves surrounded by hope.

~Keri

Keri Sallee’s Broken Girl Story

We are so excited to share Keri’s story with you today. Keri is a joy! She’s one of the most talented girls I know, has a contagious laugh and is beautiful inside and out. She blogs at The Creative Life where she takes bits and pieces, lots of glue and makes art that will take your breath away, her story will do the same thing. 

We pray you will be encouraged by Keri’s Broken Girl story.

Love,

Keri & Jennifer

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Crushed by Grief. Not functioning. Forcibly separated into two or more pieces. Incomplete.

These are all definitions of what it means to be broken and for most of my life, it was a perfect description of my life.

I grew up in a home many would give their lives for…a mom…a dad… and a big sister. We moved around a lot, but when you’re a kid, it seems like one big adventure.  But in the midst of my adventure, I was forced to find my own way. My parents were still there, but they were so caught up in their own issues, that I felt alone and abandoned in my own home.

I soon realized that the only way I would get noticed was if I made good grades, so I put all of my effort into doing that and tried to be the “good girl” and fade into the background the rest of the time.

When I was 12, we made our first big out of state move to a small town in Texas where, if you hadn’t lived there your entire life, you didn’t stand a chance. My parent’s marriage was rapidly crumbling and so I didn’t add to their stress, I kept everything bottled up. I bottled up my loneliness. I bottled up my hurt. I bottled up the fear that consumed me, when at age 12, the thought of suicide first took root in my mind and seemed like an actual option.

Our next move took us to West Virginia and took me deeper in to the cycle that would be my go-to act for many years: I would be fake happy at school, be the typical vague teenager to my parents and I would lie awake at night hating myself for not being stronger.

I became very easily influenced by others at this time. I had my first cigarette. My first drink. I became so easily influenced by others that I let a friend talk me into running away from home. And when I came home and my parents asked me why I did it, I wanted to SCREAM at them “I’m just so unhappy and I just wanted you to notice me.” But…I didn’t. I told them I don’t know why I did it, they believed me and we moved on.

Upstate New York was our next move and it gave me something I had never had before: friends. It was so much easier to pretend to be happy, but I still couldn’t shake the depression and the feeling that something was missing from my life.  So, I started searching. I began to read my horoscope daily. I began to read tarot cards. I read books on crystals and how they were supposed to bring me love and hope and friends, but no matter how many rocks I wore around my neck or carried around in my pocket, the war inside my head would NOT cease.

By now the war had become a series of battles that played on a loop: I would think about ending it all and when I wouldn’t have the “guts” to do it, it would only add to my feeling of inadequacy and loneliness which would lead me back to suicide.

It was truly a painful, sadistic cycle I lived in.

The battle caused me to loose so much of my life; so much of my childhood. So many experiences that I should have had as a teenager but I was too scared someone would find out my secret and label me “the freak” that I never stepped out and experienced.

Then came Faith…

Faith was the first girl we met when we moved to a small town in Missouri. She was our tour guide at our new school and Faith invited us to church.

For six months, I sat through sermon after sermon and didn’t believe a word of them. God didn’t love me and He sure didn’t have a plan for my life. I sat there waiting for it all to be over so I could have social hour with my friends.

That is until one night in April of 1997 when we had a traveling show come through called Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.

The basic premise of the show was it showed people who did and did not believe in Jesus and what happened to them after they died. And like most other church things, I sat through it, but didn’t really listen. That is, until about three quarters of the way through the show.

The scene came up and it consisted of a girl sitting on a chair on a completely dark stage, except for a single spot light on her. And as she began to talk, I felt like she was telling my story.

She began to talk about how lonely she was. How no one loved her and how no one would miss her when she was gone. And from behind her back, out of the shadows, she pulls a gun and as the lights go out, the sound of a gunshot reverberated through that small church.

That night I realized that I didn’t want to end up like that girl on the stage, where she felt her only option was to end her life and for the first time in a very long time, I cried. I cried for the years I had lost and I cried for the person that I knew I would never become if I didn’t choose to make a change in my life.

So that night I gave my heart to Christ and for the first time in my life, I felt put back together. I was still fragile and I knew I couldn’t hold it together on my own. Only with God as the glue, could I keep the pieces of my life whole.

A few years later, I moved to attend Central Bible College and I thought that I had everything together, but during summer break, my life was, once again…broken.

It was the Saturday before Memorial Day and like any college student on a Saturday I was still sleeping when someone knocked on my door around 10:00 that morning. I opened the door to my little apartment to find my dad standing on my doorstep. .

I asked my dad where mom was and he told me she’s down in the car with Leslie (my sister) and Andy (my brother in law.) I told him to have them come up and he said no, he needed to talk to me first.

We sat on my little thrift store sofa and he said, you and your sister have always joked about being adopted…..and the truth is you are.

And I remember looking at him and asking “IS THIS A JOKE?”

He said “No.” and he hands me a letter and tells me “Your sister got this letter in the mail and you’ll be getting one soon, too.” And I start reading this letter and I always joke that it sounds like an after school special from the ‘80s because it says:  “MY WIFE AND I GAVE UP TWO DAUGHTERS IN 1981.” Gave a name and my sister’s birthday. Then gave another name and gave my birthday. “I think you’re my daughter.”

And in that moment, my perfect bible school world was gone… all of those feelings I had struggled with as a teenager came crashing back on me. I was once again that lonely, insecure and self-destructive girl. And now I had evidence. Look…even your own parents didn’t love you enough to keep you. They gave you away. You weren’t meant to be alive anyway.

That summer…I was shattered. Pieces of my heart and my soul were flung so far and wide that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I would never find them all, let alone be whole again.

Trying to ignore my brokenness, I began to fill my life with self-destructive distractions. I began to drink and party. I put myself in a situation with a guy that I almost didn’t get out of.

I was lost and lonely and I didn’t have any one to turn to because I was so angry. At my biological parents for picking drinking and drugs over us. At my adoptive parents for lying all those years and for not loving me the way they I felt they should have.  And honestly, I was mad at God—I gave my heart to Him…wasn’t it supposed to be safe from this kind of heartache?

Anger and fear colored my everyday life for a long time. It colored my marriage. How I treated my kids. How I made friends.

It colored my healing process three years ago when my sister and I finally opened up about abuse that had happened to us as young teenagers by a relative. In all honesty, I had shoved those memories away, under lock and key. But when my sister decided to open her vault and told me what had happened to her, the lock on my secret box broke wide open and those memories became Technicolor. I remember thinking as a teenager “At least someone is paying attention to me.” For that brief moment, in my messed up, lonely brain, I wasn’t alone.

That is my heritage…I’m a product of abuse…abandonment…depression…anger…suicidal thoughts…hurt…neglect… unworthiness… COMPLETE BROKENNESS.

So why am I still here and how can I call myself an un-broken girl?

I found HOPE.

Being an un-broken girl is as much a journey as being a broken girl. An un-broken girl is not perfect or loved more by God or “has it all together.” The only difference is an un-broken girl has HOPE that a broken girl does not.

Those of us who call ourselves the un-broken have battled the same loathing, depression, pain, hurt, abandonment, abuse and so-on in our lives and the reason we are here and are able to say “I am un-broken” is that we looked up from ourselves, past our issues, and away from our past and current situations and found HOPE in Christ.

Psalm 31:12-14 & 24 says this (bold added by me):

I am ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot. I have heard many rumors about me, and I am surrounded by terror, My enemies conspire against me, plotting to take my life. BUT I am trusting you, O Lord, saying “’You are my God” So be strong and courageous, all you who put your HOPE in the Lord.”

Those verses are my life in 67 words.

I still have cracks…I still have noticeable flaws, but that’s OK because in my eyes now, when the light of God shines through those cracks, it’s even more beautiful.

You don’t have to live broken…God’s life for you has you whole…strong…and courageous.

It will not be an easy journey to un-brokenness…trust me…I’ve walked it, but it can start with just the one small step of HOPE.

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Keri Sallee is a lover of all things creative…from cooking and scrapping to mixed media and music to reading and writing. You name it…she loves it (well…except for sewing). You can join her on her journey of daily creativity at The Creative Life. Or follow her on Twitter @creativelifear