Vulnerable Hearts

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Last week Dave Frey from Sidewalk Prophets was in studio with us talking about his new single “Keep Making Me” and the story behind the song. He quoted C.S. Lewis “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” Those words stayed with me for days.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of guarding our hearts, of keeping them locked up and secreted away. But love can’t grow there. I remember sitting in the studio listening to Dave and asking God to make me vulnerable, to make me willing to be vulnerable so that I would be capable of giving and receiving love. Just a few short days later I got the opportunity to put in practice C.S. Lewis’ words. I was at lunch with a group of ladies that I meet with on a fairly regular basis. They are my safe group, girls I trust with my heart, girls that don’t sit around and talk about surface things, but are willing to dive into the deep places of the heart with you. Our conversations are those without filters, and I love them for that.

It had been a rough week for me, and I sat quietly during lunch, listening to the other ladies share about the exciting things God was doing in each of their lives and their ministries. They talked about big dreams they have for the future and how God is opening doors for those dreams to become reality. I felt like I didn’t have any exciting news to add to the conversation because my heart was hurting and I was afraid if I opened my mouth what would spill out would take the conversation from a direction of excitement and rejoicing to one of tears and concern.

I had all but decided to just put on a smile and keep my mouth shut when I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ words “to love is to be vulnerable”. I knew if I didn’t say anything I’d be passing up a gift. A gift from the hand of God, who had placed in my life three women who knew me and loved me, women who wouldn’t judge me or tell my secrets, but would simply listen and encourage and pray. To have friends who love without trampling your heart is a gift, to not be vulnerable with those friends is to snub your nose at that gift.

I finally got up the courage to speak and the minute I opened my mouth the tears fell from my eyes as fast as the words fell from my lips. None of my friends were mad at me for changing the direction of the conversation, none of them were upset that I was having a bad week and needed to process. I was hugged and loved and prayed for. That day I received healing and strength to carry on because I risked being vulnerable.

The truth is… vulnerability scares me. It didn’t used to, but being vulnerable has taught me when you give someone access to your heart odds are pretty good that they will break it; at least that’s how my history has gone. And after one too many times of experiencing a broken heart it’s all too easy to lock your heart up and throw away the key. But I’m realizing that there’s something more dangerous than a broken heart… a heart that’s unbreakable. A heart that’s hard and cold and closed off. A heart that’s afraid of love is a lot more damaged than a heart that is hurt by love.

We have to be willing to risk. Part of our healing, part of our finding wholeness on the other side of brokenness is taking a chance to risk again. We have to learn how to let go of the pain that love has brought us so that we can receive the love that God has for us. So how do we do that?

This week I was watching one of my favorite shows, Call the Midwife (it is serious British drama, and I love it!) when these words grabbed my heart:

“Next time there’s a storm leave open both doors. Don’t let your misfortunes find a home.

History needn’t be a trap, we can escape its web and shake off its weight of pain.

We can change our minds and open up our hearts.

We can let forgiveness speak and allow it to be heard, let friendship flourish,

and let love in so it might feed and sustain us all our days.”

 

There it is… the secret! Don’t let your misfortunes find a home. Don’t let the pain of the past take up residency and live in your heart. Let it pass through. Open the back door and let it free. Don’t hold the hurt hostage. Because if we do we don’t leave room for forgiveness and friendship and love to enter in and find a home.

The sad truth is, not everyone can be trusted with your heart, and not everyone should be given full access to your heart. God gives us wisdom and discernment for that reason. But He also places us in good community and surrounds us with brothers and sisters in Christ who want to love us and be the hands and feet of Christ extended to us. To reject them because of the hurt inflicted on us by someone else is to reject God’s healing for us.

We need to ask God to give us eyes to see the people He’s placed in our lives that are safe, and when He shows us who they are we need to ask Him for the guts to open our mouths and speak the vulnerable words, to uncover the hiddenness of our heart, to reveal the hurting places.  To let love in so it might feed us and sustain us all our days.

With love~

Keri

Image by Chelsea Rustad, used with permission.

Lock Shields

“in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16

Lock shields.

If you’ve spent much time around Jennifer or I you’ve likely heard those words come out of our mouths on more than one occasion. We believe in locking shields around here at Broken Girl.

But what does locking shields mean? I’m glad you asked.

Locking shields started several years ago. I was going through a really rough season. I felt like I was being attacked constantly and from every angle. I’d do good for a while, but then I’d get weary from the battle and felt like the enemy had the upper hand and was going to do me in.

About that time a movie was released called Troy. There’s a scene in the movie that literally took my breath away. You can see it here. I’ll warn you, it’s bloody, gory, warrior stuff. But Brad Pitt’s in it so it’s not all bad. If you just want to see “the scene” watch from 1:20 to right at 2:00. Seriously, go watch it, I’ll wait…

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Locking shields is powerful stuff y’all.

 And as powerful as it is in a movie theatre with surround sound, buttered popcorn, and Brad Pitt with a bunch of sweaty warriors storming a beach, it’s even more powerful when played out in real life among warrior-sisters.

I have a circle of friends who are warriors. When you ask them to pray, they do. And they do so fiercely, with boldness and confidence, and sweat and tears. When any of us gets a text message with the words “lock shields” on it, we drop everything and go to battle.

We’ve learned throughout the years that going into battle alone is always a bad idea. Being by yourself while arrows fly past you is enough to send the strongest warrior packing. But when you look to your right and your left and above you and all you can see is the back of your sister’s shields… There’s a strength that comes from knowing you don’t fight alone.

Together my shield locking friends and I have faced death and divorce and cancer and prodigals and infertility and unplanned pregnancies and job loss and foreclosures and depression and anxiety and fear and anger and abuse and just flat out really bad days (sometimes really bad weeks and months).

The battle is real. We have a real enemy who is hell bent to steal, kill and destroy us. The flaming arrows coming our way are REAL! That’s why it’s so hard. It’s a fight. But God doesn’t leave us to battle alone. He covers us in His armor, gives us a shield of faith and warrior friends to fight alongside us. Calling for backup is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of military strategy. A soldier alone and isolated is easier to pick off than one who remains with his troop.

Girls, sometimes I see us with swords drawn and shields in hand turned towards one another and it breaks my heart. We have a common enemy, and it’s not each other. We don’t have time for gossip and petty jealousies and competition. We’re on the same side. And we’ll be a million times more effective if we can put aside our differences and do battle together. It’s time we start fighting for each other. It’s time to lock shields.

Photo credit: Debbie Thurmond

Photo credit: Debbie Thurmond

The battle is real. The arrows really pierce. But there is strength in numbers. Our prayers are mighty. And the God we cry out to is well able to deliver us from whatever the enemy throws our way. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in the battle then maybe it’s time to call for backup. Ask your prayer-warrior sisters to lock shields with you. Do the same for them.

Let’s fight the good fight together.

Locking shields with you my friend.

Love,

Keri & Jennifer

 

Friend, can we lock shields with you today? Let us know what fiery darts the enemy is hurling your way so we can pray specifically over you. 

Risky

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I ordered a London Fog, she ordered an iced mocha. We sat across from each other sipping our respective drinks wondering if it was safe to just unload or if we needed to do the whole “small talk” thing first. Thankfully, neither of us are all that good at small talk so we just jumped in.

She started, “you know that blog you sent me? Yeah. I feel that way too. Why are we like that?”

She was referring to a blog I had sent her earlier that morning. The blog itself was about singleness, but there was one paragraph that jumped out at me that I just had to share with her:

Typically when I have a bad week, I hate to burden anyone around me so I keep it to myself. Part of how I walk in pride is that I compare my situation to others around me, and to the onlooker if my trials are seemingly small and trivial, I tend to play down my emotions and feelings. (the rest of the blog can be found here)

Why are we like that? Why do we feel like we’re a burden when we unload on the people who love us the most?

After an hour or so of conversation my sweet friend and I decided that the main reason we downplay our feelings is because we’re afraid. Afraid that you’ll reject us if we tell you all the ugly. Afraid that you’ll grow tired of us. Afraid that our bad day will infringe upon your good day and you’ll be calling us “Debbie Downer” in your mind.

The truth is; we’re afraid because we have faced that kind of rejection. You too? A child learns not to touch a hot stove by being burned. And women learn not to trust people with their emotions the same way. Sadly, the world is full of people who will reject us, or grow tired of us, or just flat out stab us in the back.

Thankfully, the world is also full of women who will love us fiercely! Women who will walk through fire with you and pick up the phone every time you call no matter what the hour. Women who will guard secrets and share tears and hold hands and lean in close and whisper words that give life to weary souls. To keep these women at arm’s length because of fear is an injustice. To choose safety over vulnerability is a disservice to yourself. To choose isolation over companionship is just plain foolish.

We need each other. Plain and simple. We were created to live in relationship. And relationship means the messy days too. It’s not easy. It’s really hard to interrupt the dinner conversation with a quiet “y’all, I’m having a really rough week and need encouragement”. We convince ourselves that whatever it is that’s troubling us isn’t really a big deal, and that no one really wants to be bothered by it anyway. And instead of opening up our hearts and risking transparency with friends we smile and nod and wait until dinner is over to cry alone in our car.

And I don’t want us to live like that anymore. I don’t want us to consider ourselves a burden just because we’re wrestling with the deeper issues of life. Life is hard, and complicated, and sometimes frustrating. Let’s rejoice in the fact that God allows us to have relationships where we can love and support each other through all we walk through.

For me to act like I’m okay all the time doesn’t do me or anyone else any good. How can I minister to others when I fail to minister to my own heart?

Letting others walk with me and love me and know the real me ministers to my heart. It makes me healthy. It fills me up so that I can be poured out. It gives me perspective and strength and encouragement. Why wouldn’t I be willing to risk for that?

Friends, let’s be safe places. Let’s be vulnerable. Let’s risk being real. Let’s love each other well, even when its hard.

~Keri

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Wounds of a Friend

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Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me;

It is oil upon the head;

Do not let my head refuse it.

Psalm 141:5

 

We sat across the table from each other in silence; me with wounded pride, her with fear that she’d offended. In the silence I asked myself some hard questions. Questions like: is this truth or a lie? Is she saying this because she loves me or because she’s irritated with me? Is she righteous and trustworthy?  The words she said to me were truth. I couldn’t deny that. But they still stung. And the woman sitting across from me was a faithful, trustworthy friend. A friend who had walked dark valleys beside me and taken me to the feet of Jesus on many occasions. I knew it was the voice of kindness rebuking me.

In my twenties rebuke and correction sent me into a tailspin of defensiveness. When someone pointed out sin in my life I responded with anger. My pride would rear its ugly head and I’d instantly erect a wall to shut that person out. After all, how dare they judge me?

Thankfully in my thirties I began to believe the truth of the Word of God that says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6) And now, as my forties is quickly approaching, I’m so thankful for the men and women in my life who have permission to wound me with their words of truth.

The reality is I am often blind to my own sins. Other times I’m well aware of my depravity, I’m just unwilling to do anything about it. I’m perfectly content to continue in my comfortable cycle of disobedience. But when you’re confronted by a lovingly-harsh reality check you can no longer plead ignorance. At that point you have to make a choice.

It’s been the wounds of friends that have so often led me to sweet repentance. It’s when I let them get past my pride and when I give them access to confront the dirty places of my heart that I can finally see the light of healing. James 5:16 says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”

Confession is good for the soul. And confession often follows confrontation. When it’s done right a loving rebuke brings a deeper intimacy to a relationship. After all, when someone sees your junk and still loves you enough to be willing to help you break free of it that’s a person worth having in your life.

When I think about where I am today in my walk with Christ, I know that I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for the people God strategically placed in my path who loved me enough to reprove me. That doesn’t mean that I now welcome words of correction. No, they still hurt. Proverbs does say the wounds of a friend. It’s supposed to hurt. But I have gotten to the point where I’ll at least stop and consider their words before defending myself or getting angry or offended.

I wish I could just work out all my stuff in private with Jesus. But that’s not how the body of Christ was created to function. We were called by God to live in community with one another. We are called by God to sharpen one another. We are called by God to build friendships that love enough to speak truth, even when truth hurts. And to receive truth, even when truth wounds.

Today I’m praying that you will be brave enough to let people love you like this. And that you will be brave enough to love others this way too. After all, we could all use a little help from our friends.

Much love to you,

Keri

And, Jennifer, thanks for calling me on the carpet in the middle of Starbucks… and for being a friend who is faithful… and for not being afraid to get all-up-in-my-business when I’m acting a fool. ;o)

You’re not alone

“Pray for each other” James 5:16

I had planned to post a short devotion earlier today but never got around to it. I had several thoughts running around in my head about a particular passage I’ve been studying and wanted to dive deeper into. But when it came time to sit at the computer no words came.

Now, here I sit hours past my bedtime with a heavy heart. Tonight was hard. Some days just seem to weigh more than others and today was one of them. It seems like everyone I came in contact with was carrying a load too heavy. A friend who’s aging father lives far away and she feels torn between parenting her child and parenting her parent. A child caught in the limbo of the system who just needs a family to love him. A strong, godly man who’s heart is losing strength. A dear friend who will go home to an empty house tonight and lay awake wondering what tomorrow holds. Days like this I can’t help but think the enemy of our souls is working overtime.

I also can’t help but think of all the times in my life when I was the one carrying the too big, too heavy weight. Of the sleepless nights I faced wondering if I would survive. Wondering if I really was as alone as I felt. And always in His mercy He would send a whispered reminder “you’re not alone!”

We aren’t meant to walk through life alone. It took me a long time to learn that lesson. To learn that I don’t have to be strong and do it all by myself. God placed us in the body of Christ so that we could carry one another’s burdens. Even if only through prayer.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

Maybe tonight you feel alone and heavy burdened. Maybe you’re up late checking Facebook because you know the silence of your pillow will be too much for your overwhelmed heart to bear. Maybe you’re wondering if you’ll make it through this thing.

You will!!!

You are not alone. And you don’t have to carry this alone. This night won’t last forever.

Life isn’t always fair but God is always faithful. He loves you and He is holding you.

I am praying for you tonight!

Love~
Keri

Confession

“I need to tell you something”

Words I’ve heard a thousand times.

Confession.

Is there anything scarier than confessing? Yet something inside us compels the lips to give voice to the heart’s secrets. There is a deep knowing that all that hides in darkness must be brought to the light.

It takes different forms, confession. In my many years of youth ministry the conversation usually begins with a teenager telling me that what they are about to disclose will shock me. Sadly, after more than 15 years of youth ministry not much shocks me anymore. Still often times their confession is stated brashly, with as much shock value as they can throw in. A false bravado to hide the terror in their hearts.

Other times with those of us older, wiser, more seasoned, the words come in stops and starts. Between long pauses and silent tears. Eyes downcast, hands wrung we whisper out the admission of our guilt.

Earlier today I read a profound question posed in another blog that keeps rolling around in my mind. The question:

Do you want relief? Or do you want to be healed?

Most of the time I think we want relief. We want the pain to cease. The guilt to go away. The fighting to stop. The bills to quit arriving in the mail. The memories to quit haunting us. We just want relief.

Healing on the other hand seems too difficult. It involves pain and pressing through. It requires us to sacrifice and seek. It demands confession and surrender.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other

so that you may be healed. James 5:16

 

I’m not quite sure why God ties our healing to confession, but He does. I think when we confess what was hidden in darkness it loses its power over us.

Knowing that doesn’t make confession any easier. I distinctly remember sitting in Jennifer’s car late one night after a women’s ministry meeting as I whispered secret struggles to her. My heart pounded in my chest as I wondered if this new friend would offer condemnation or grace. Thankfully she not only extended grace and love to me, she went one step further. She offered confessions of her own. “Confess your sins to each other”. That night Jennifer didn’t leave me to drown in a sea of guilt. She offered me a life preserver, her own sin. Her own failures.

There in that raging sea confession became a lifeline that started these two broken girls on their journey to healing. No longer alone in our struggle we found a life raft, climbed in, and starting paddling for shore.

Girls, this journey is hard. Sin and temptation sit around every corner ready to pounce on us. None of us live outside of the grasp of temptation. God’s word tells us that ALL have sinned. Why then are we so fearful to give voice to the sin in our hearts?

We so desperately need each other. To confess to. To encourage each other. To give us a swift kick in the pants when we need it. This thing was never meant to be lived alone!!!

Do you want relief? Or to you want to be healed?

Because healing will require confession.

It’s scary stuff. But so worth it.

 

Praying that God will surround you with safe people who will jump in your lifeboat and help you paddle through your storm!

Love you~

Keri

Code Adam

I was at Wal-Mart last week, in a hurry trying to get to my son’s baseball game. I had everything on my list and was headed to the front of the store towards the registers when I heard the store manager come over the loud speakers “Attention Wal-Mart Associates, we have a Code Adam. Attention Wal-Mart Associates, we have a Code Adam” I froze. I know what a Code Adam is; it means someone’s child is missing.

My mother’s heart sank as I stood there watching to see what would unfold. What I saw amazed me. Wal-Mart associates appeared from every direction, dropping what they were doing. Leaving shelves unstocked, leaving customers waiting, with one mind and with laser focus they turned from their jobs and set out to find this missing child. From the store manager to the door greeters every Associate participated. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

As I stood there watching this army come together to pursue a lost child I heard a gentle whisper “Oh, if my church would respond like this.”

And I wonder why we don’t. Is it because we are too fearful to call our own “Code Adam” when our lives fall apart? Are we worried what others will think if we open up and ask for help? Or do we think we don’t need help? That whatever it is that we are facing that we can handle it on our own?  Or is it because when we have called a Code Adam in the past no one cared enough to show up?

What would it look like if we responded to need like the Wal-Mart Associates respond to a Code Adam? What if we dropped everything and went to God in prayer with that same determination when someone is hurting? If we determined to fight for our families the way we would fight for a missing child? What if we considered another’s pain as important as our own?

Being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves ; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Phil. 2:2-4

It’s time to call a Code Adam. It’s time to come together in prayer, in support, in love.

Do you have your own personal “Code Adam” right now? Is there something heavy on your heart that we can pray with you about?