what you lost

 The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost…” Joel 2:25

I woke up this morning with a strange feeling ; peace. The sun is (finally) shining through my window and God’s grace is shining in my life. Five years ago today, I was preparing to array myself in a beautiful white dress, hair in curls, ears flanked in simple jewels. My entire life was all figured out. The wedding was perfect and I walked down that aisle pledging my heart and soul to God and to that man. 
Five years later, my life is not as I would have pictured it. My “world” came crashing down seven months ago. I woke up today, alone… BUT, do you know what the beautiful part is? I have peace in my soul and a song in my heart! Why? Because I serve a God who is so much bigger than my problems. He is so much stronger than my weaknesses and sin. He promised before that He would restore what was lost, and I know He is shouting that to me today. 
He has already started picking up the debris from my shattered heart and He is putting it back together again. He is making a beautiful masterpiece. Beauty for ashes.Today, I live in darkness of the unknown, but there is a very big God who has lit up my darkness. What I lost, will be, IS being, restored and it will be deeper and stronger than it ever was before. What I lost, will be renewed. Because that is the God I serve. When all seems lost…He is still there. I believe He delights in sweeping in when all hope is lost, so He can prove that miracles can still happen. Anyway, that’s the God I serve. How about you?

just another tuesday

Spoke at Blue Valley West’s (my old high school) FCA this morning. They have some great kids 🙂

And my current status in my Dekker book…

I need more time to read, because it is so good!

Some highlights from “Plan B” by @pwilson so far:

“Not my dream, not my picture of the way my life should be, but your dream, God”
“God’s power generally gets released when somebody trusts Him enough to obey Him.”
This book has been so encouraging to me. It’s an easy read. Read it if you feel like you are “off the map” of where you thought you should be in life right now. It’s nice to know that God always has a “Plan B” for you and me. And, I happen to like the way the “Plan B” is turning out in my life.

i’m praying for you

James 5:16 “The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.”

This weekend I went to see Water For Elephants (great movie), and I ran into one of the students who graduated from the Rock Youth Ministry two years back. We caught up and laughed, but she made it a point to repeatedly tell me, “I just want you to know I’ve been praying for you.”

As Christians, we almost overuse this phrase – “I’ll pray for you.” Honestly, there have been times I’ve said it just to shut someone up so I can hurry up and get out of church and get to lunch. It’s the “brush off” comment that seems to finish up conversations and cover all the bases.

BUT, this year, I can’t even begin to count how many people have texted, facebooked, emailed or looked straight into my eyes and said to me, “I’m praying for you.” It hasn’t been a “brush off”, but people legitimately having compassion for my situation and praying for me. I don’t even feel worthy to have so many people consistently praying for me. It’s really humbling – who am I to have so many care?

So this post is simply to tell all those people, whether I know you or not, whether you’ve said a 30 second prayer or 7 months worth of prayers – T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U. It’s not always easy growing up as a Pastor’s daughter. It seems as though people watch my every move and expect me to be perfect. It’s frustrating “sharing” my father with 2,000 other people (who all seem to always “need” him) since I was 11. It’s rips your heart out when people come to the church only to leave a year later. It’s sad when the media lies. It hurts when people believe those lies. Sometimes, it’s just plain hard to hold your head up and keep going with so many people judging you and your family.

BUT, it’s all worth it for times like these – when you realize that an entire church family loves you, and is holding you up in prayer. And the Bible says that prayers from those living holy lives are powerful. Throughout this whole struggle, I have felt this unreal strength that is not of myself. I know it’s bigger than me. And I know it’s because of your prayers. I am MORE than blessed. Thank you.

P.S. Easter was Amazing! What an incredible day. FFC was packed, the music from @philstacey was incredible and @Jerry_Johnston brought the Word and people’s hearts were changed. Here’s some pics…

We were practicing our trio before services started and LESLIE broke the piano. Bahaha. Wonder if anyone has noticed yet!

I just love the behind the scenes action at church that no one ever knows about. Five minutes before the first service started Deej’s song got cut for time sake. Then Dad decided he wanted it so they threw it back in at the end of worship set. Talk about being ready at any minute! Dresses falling down…me chilling out in the bathroom when I’m supposed to be on stage, sweat dripping off Phil’s head – ha. I love it.

We sang Kari Jobe’s new “O the blood” – it was a blast.

The grandchildren with “O” and “Papa” at brunch! Gotta love Easter brunch. I think I consumed more than I did at Thanksgiving!

I LOVE being an aunt! And I love Lily’s face in this picture, ha. These kids affectionately call me “Gigi”, and I really don’t know why. I love spoiling them, especially if it’s on O and Papa’s dime. I also adore teaching them life lessons such as how to ding-dong-ditch someone and how to properly apply mascara. Can’t wait to have my own one day 🙂

The newest member of our family, but hopefully not for long. We’re hoping for a boy from Jer and Audg next…

Could she be any cuter?

“No, Lily, Jeff definitely would not mind if you borrowed his Visa.” 😉

Ah, siblings. Can’t live with ’em, but definitely can’t live without them!

How did you spend your Easter?

good friday

I LOVE this weekend of the year. Eggs filled with candy, spring time (unless you live in Kansas – still looks like winter), almost everyone goes to church, people dress their best and might actually sport a smile at church, Easter brunch, great music…ah, I just love it.

But today, before I celebrate His resurrection on Sunday, I want to pause and remember the price He paid on the cross for me over 2,000 years ago. Reading the Crucifixion story, there’s always one verse that rocks me like a punch to the stomach.

Matthew 27:45-46 46From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Yes, He endured the betrayal and desertion from His closest friends. Yes, he endured the public humiliation and mocking. He even suffered through the brutal flogging and carried His own wooden cross for some time. His wrist and feet were pierced with nails. He was battling suffocation with every second that crawled by, lunging skyward, reaching for each breath while tearing the nails further through His feet.

But, I know the physical pain wasn’t the worst thing He had to go through. It was this stretch of hours – from noon to three, when the whole earth went dark. Jesus Christ, the perfect, sinless lamb of God, had taken upon Himself ALL the sin of the world. Every past sin I’ve ever committed and every sin I will ever commit. What an enormous weight. Scholars believe that the earth went dark because God, in all His holiness, could not look upon His son, who was carrying the sin of the world. So God turned His back. The emotional pain Christ endured was far greater than anything the Romans could do to His body. Because, at that moment, He was utterly…alone. His family had forsaken Him. His friends had left Him. And now God turned His back. Can you imagine the depth of His sorrow?

This has obviously been a lonely time in my life as I’ve not only lost a friend who was my husband, but also his family which I was very close with. One day they were a part of my life – a mother-in-law, a sister-in-law, a grandma; and then they were gone. Yet, it is so encouraging to know that I have a Savior who understands and who endured far greater loneliness than I have or will ever face. Hebrews 4:15 describes it best, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin.”

It’s difficult to wrap my mind around all He did for me that day, but…What a Savior.

I invited one of my co-workers along with his wife to church this Sunday, and he said yes! I am like little-girl excited. They do not go to church, so this is a big deal! Maybe God put me in this position for this reason…

I’ll be singing on Sunday with my girl, Leslie! Dress Rehearsal is tonight. Can you tell how excited I am? I LOVE Easter. Now, if only Dad would decide to buy me a new Easter outfit…

good reads

What you probably don’t know about me, is that I’m a HUGE bookworm. I love to read! (Pretty sure I got this from my Dad, and if you’ve never seen his collection of books, you are seriously missing out. We’re talking 8th wonder of the world.) A few months ago, when I packed up everything from my house, I sold all my books and I’m still a little sad about it. But hey, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I had to pay my lawyer somehow! So here’s what I’m currently reading…

Plan B by Pete Wilson
I seriously feel like this book was written for ME. The tag line is, “What to do when God doesn’t show up the way you thought He would.” Wilson writes about what to do when your dream from the Plan A life you were banking on is shattered and how God is still in the redemption of Plan B. This book is simply about when life doesn’t go as planned and it’s been a really encouraging book. I’m sure I will be tweeting (@jenileenicole) many lines from this book in the next week or so.
Buy it here on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Plan-What-Doesnt-Thought-Would/dp/0849946506/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1303308572&sr=8-2

The Priest’s Graveyard by Ted Dekker
Dekker is my all-time favorite fiction writer. He doesn’t waste time on meaningless details, but jumps right into an action packed story. His books remind me of the Bourne movies or the TV show, 24. I got this book as a gift yesterday, so that person is definitely on my good side! 🙂
Buy it here on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Priests-Graveyard-Ted-Dekker/dp/159995334X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303309267&sr=1-1

Other than that…
Remember my broken windows? Just found out that I have to replace the ENTIRE roof. Ha. I literally laughed out loud when I heard that one. Safe to say, nothing shocks me anymore. So, here we go again… There’s an open house upcoming for my house so pray for a buyer! Alright, that’s it. Have a good one.

what they think

Last week, I stepped out on faith and applied for a really cool opportunity for my future. It’s completely in God’s hands and now I just wait. When I sent in my application I also sent with it some recommendation letters from a few of the kids I have worked with in the Rock Youth Ministry for the past 5 years. I simply asked them to write how God used me, if at all, to contribute to their spiritual growth. In the midst of a letter from one them, I read this:

 “This past year Jenilee went through a divorce with my former Youth Pastor, and at the time I was close to both of them. I expected Jenilee to be broken, lost, and to not know how to pick up the pieces of her life. Instead Jenilee has been an influence to everyone around her. Jenilee has given God so much glory for allowing her to go through such a tribulation, and being more in love with God then she ever was before, through both celebrations an tribulations.”

Wow. I won’t lie- at the end of his letter, I was in tears. I hadn’t asked him to comment about my divorce, but he did, and his comment was a huge encouragement to me. Because, if I was honest, this whole time in the secrecy and quietness of my at-times very scary mind, I wondered what the students thought of me. Did the failure of my marriage hurt them? We led the youth ministry for years. I know they looked up to us and as students so often do, put us on a pedestal. Did it make them doubt God? Did they still believe in the sacredness and commitment of marriage? Did they lose respect for me? At times, it’s felt like the big elephant in the room. I’m sure they see me alone and wonder exactly what happened. I’m sure they’ve heard plenty of rumors. I know they know how hurt I’ve been and how betrayed I’ve felt.

I remember going back to the youth ministry on September 22, 2010 to lead worship for the first time since the breakup of my marriage. It was an incredible feeling. For the first time, I was onstage worshipping, and the glass house had been broken. I was simply an imperfect human, just like every one else, worshipping a perfect God. I sang the words, “It’s just You and me here now,” and it’s never felt more real.

I don’t know how everyone views me now, but I know at least to that one kid, I’ve been able to be an example – to trust God and have faith that He can make something beautiful out of all the debris.

One last thing – after reading their letters, I realized that the most spiritual students from the Rock had faced some of the greatest harships – one boy’s dad died a year ago in a motorcycle accident, one girl’s family lost everything when the economy tanked, etc. There’s just something about God testing those who are strong. It’s like He’s never content with where we’re at because He always sees a far greater potential and He will use WHATEVER it takes to get us to that greater place.

this too shall pass

I’ve finally said goodbye to David in my devotions, and as always, his life has spoken volumes to me.

He’s on his deathbed and I can see him so clearly, only a shell of the handsome, ruddy young man he once was. I imagine his vision clouded over, wrinkley skin like leather from years of living in the wilderness, muscles screaming in pain from the results of hundreds of b attles. Every breath is a chore. He calls for his wife. And in the midst of his final commands, he says something in which my eyes stopped instantly and rested on.

“…the God who delivered me from every kind of trouble…”

This from the guy who went head-to-head with a giant nearly twice his size with murder in his eyes?
This from the young man who was nearly killed by a lion protecting his sheep?

Is this the same guy who ran for years from a king who was determined to kill him and wipe away his memory from the earth?
This from the man who was forced to sleep in caves and tents for hundreds of nights?
Is this the one whose father-in-law gave his first wife away to another man?
This from the man who committed adultery?
Is this the same man who got another man’s wife pregant?
This from the man whose baby died?
From the same man whose daughter was raped…by her brother?
This from a man whose son would later kill that brother?
This coming from a man who nearly lost his Kingdom to his own child?
Is this the one whose rebellious son betrayed him and was later killed?
This from a man with so much blood on his hands that God would not allow him to build the temple?

If anyone knew that life wasn’t easy – it was David. He knew what it was like to lay awake at night, heart beating out of his chest, jumping at every noise. He knew what it meant to feel guilt and deep conviction. He knew solitutde and lonliness and he knew fame and abundance. Countless nights he cried himself to sleep, asking God “what if“. Yet, before his body decays, he sums it all up by proclaiming that God had DELIVERED him…from it all.

This too shall pass. Today, I am reminded of something so simple…God is good Jen. He will get me through every problem of today. Every worry, fear, doubt. And one day, near the end, I too will tell that God delivered me and He is…so good.

hello, my name is…

Just got to love it when you wake up to this…

Nope – the cute neighbor boys weren’t playing baseball in my backyard. 100% hail damage right there! So, alas, the drama of fixing up the house and getting it back on the market continues. (Oh, did I mention that this happened to several of the windows? Yay!)

Yesterday, the message at church really challenged me. The subject was Rahab (not to be confused with rehab people), a woman who just happened to be a prostitute. So yeah, men paid her for sex. What a way to make a living. However, somewhere along the way Rahab turned it all around. She decides to be on God’s Team and leave her old ways and a life of prostitution far behind her.

But, the crazy thing is – every other time Rehab is referred to – I mean every time, she is called, “Rahab, the prostitute.” Talk about embarrassing. Like, thousands of years later even, in Hebrews, the Bible alludes to her as “the prostitute“. It’s literally like every time God introduces her, He has to mention what she used to be. Do I think God was trying to stick the knife in and twist it? Not at all.

The point is simple, but profound. God isn’t ashamed of your past -whatever it entails.

I love this. It’s like He wants us to wear our past as a badge of honor. Because it’s what we USED to be. And it is what has made us WHO we are. And it’s WHY we will help others in the same boat.Why do I love this? Because I’ve been thinking lately, “Okay, once I hit the 6 month mark, I won’t be considered the divorced girl anymore. I won’t be the one with the very public failed marraige. I won’t be the one who let down so many kids.” But, you know what? Six months came and went…and it still hurts sometimes. And I still feel like I have a big “DIVORCED” stamp pasted on my forehead. Because, for me, I never wanted to be divorced. I wanted to get married and grow old with that same person, just like my parents and my grandparents. That didn’t happen. But…I’m believing that it will happen eventually 🙂 I’m all about second chances.

So, I’m going to choose not to be ashamed of who I am. I’m divorced. I’m dealing with a lot of anger and hurt. I’m sick of people who lie to me. But, I’m me, and I’m real.