just the beginning

Ah the Saved…what happens to them is best described as the opposite of a mirage. What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water…

-CS Lewis, The Great Divorce

CS Lewis was a phenomenal writer. I find that he stretches my thinking and breaks through my stereotypes. This quote is from his work, The Great Divorce, which challenged my views about eternity; Heaven and Hell.  In any season of trial or pain, a fresh perspective eases the pain.

What you’re going through could seem like the end of the world…but as time goes on, when you look back it could be the beginning of a “New Day” for you. I am in the process of closing one chapter of “my story” and beginning a new one. There’s a lot of emotion that comes with that.

This week I’ve been moving back into my parents house to save some money until the wedding. (Funny thing- six months ago I absolutely dreaded living with my parents and now I can’t wait, haha. Free food, free cable, free rent…ah, that is the life my friends!) This is the fifth time I have “packed up” my things in 10 months. I find myself longing for normalcy, a feeling of permanence and home, and of belonging.

The worst part is, as I pack up and move I keep having flashbacks from when I packed everything up at my house in Lee’s Summit and moved in with my sister. I can remember so vividly, snatching random clothing items, so unsure of what I should leave or take. Completely overwhelmed, I fell into my bedroom chair crying. I remember Christian and Danielle holding me. I know as time goes on, that pain will distance itself from me and be harder and harder to recall, but it’s “fresh” now.  I was leaving a man who stared me in the face, eyes cold, saying, “I’m telling our counselor I want a divorce. I don’t want to be married to you anymore,” and yet I felt like I was the one abandoning him.

That day seemed like it was “The End” to my story, but now as I look back, it is only just the beginning. God has done so much in my life. I feel as though He has decided to make me “prove” everything I have taught and preached to the Rock youth students for the past five years. Will I really trust God in the midst of my storm? Can I make it outside of my comfort zone at work? Will I decide to stay pure sexually in my relationship? Will I forgive those that have hurt me? Now is my chance to practice what I preach. And isn’t it true, that it is so much easier said than done?

Today, I am blessed, because when I look back, the desert was, in actuality, filled with water. The ending really was…just the beginning.

(If you have been affected by divorce in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I wish I had more people in my life that I feel as though I could relate with and ask questions of. I write this blog to share my emotions and feelings and to let you know you’re not alone. Sadly, when I looked for books on divorce recovery and re-establishing my trust in people – I found only books on whether it’s “biblically right” to divorce. It’s time for Christians to quit debating over theological issues and start loving people.)

no more blank screens

I was blessed to meet my very best friend, Jessie, the summer before my senior year of high school. We met at youth camp in Florida and like most girls, were consumed with jealously of one another before we discovered that in actuality we had much in common. That summer started a frienship that I believe will last a lifetime.

The best way to describe her is by stealing the words from the author of Proverbs 17:17, “a friend loves at all times“. I’ve learned that it’s an extremely rare thing to find a faithful friend – one who will love you day in, day out, no matter what decisions you make; whether life is heaven or hell. We have seen each other through rain and shine, spiritual highs and times of sin. I will never ever forget the way she dropped everything when I told her about my divorce – she drove in from Wichita and stood right next to my side as my world crumbled. I don’t remember her saying anything profound. But, I just remember her being there.

Since we both work desk jobs I have frequently emailed her this year. She has been like my unseen, invisible angel – the person I have shared every emotion with – from the day I finally received the signed divorce decree after a year of pain, the day the pipes burst in my house and destroyed everything, the day I knew Jeff was going to pick out an engagement ring, and every high and low in between.

It’s brought me tremendous peace to know that she’s literally been one click away everyday. All it takes is to hit the “send” button and I know someone will be there to share my burden and help me keep my head up.

Isn’t this a picture of God in our lives? Unfortunately, most of us forget He’s even there. And regardless, does He even care about the anxieties and burdens of our hearts? I imagine God, like Jessie, sitting in front of His gmail account, desperately awaiting to hear from me. Over and over, He presses the “refresh” button. Not only does He want to hear from me, but He desires to take away my burdens. He wants to reassure me that He’s working all things for good and yearns to overflow His peace into my soul.

How many times have I left Him staring at the screen? How many times have I told dozens of people what I’m dealing with, never considering to come to the Problem Solver Himself? Back in September, when emotionally I was doing everything I could to hold on I prayed continually – passionate, real prayers. I poured out my heart to Him. I have never felt such communion with God. I felt completely stripped before God – I hid nothing. I exchanged Him – my hurt, anger and fear – for His unmatchable peace.

Seeing as I’m about to start a new chapter in my life, I went out an purchased a new journal, which will serve as my prayer journal. Words are powerful and therapeutic in my life. I can’t wait to use this journal to tell God my every emotion and feeling about anything in my life. He truly serves as our best friend and it’s comforting to know I can go to him…with anything.

a master at getting back up

I am almost finished with another awesome book  entitled Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith. Buy it here on Amazon.

In her work, Smith recounts David’s infamous sin of 2 Samuel 11, from the perspective of Bathsheba, the young beauty. I am loving the third book in Smith’s series The Wives of King David. These books have brought David and every person he encountered to LIFE for me. So often, I read my Bible – stories I have read hundreds of times…and they just lose their magic. They go from being real accounts of people with feelings alike to you and I – jealousy, love, passion, lust – to simply robotic people who are so far off; from a different time and a different place. They morph into people who are boxed in by black letters on white pages. They couldn’t possibly relate to us, right?

(I remember feeling this way when I traveled to Israel. I knew about the Sea of Galilee; that place where Jesus did some of His greatest works, like walking on water and calming the storm. However, when at last I stood on a boat in that water, it came alive to me.)

In the past, I read about David committing adultery, getting another man’s wife pregnant, and then covering it all up by having the husband secretly killed. (You know you have really screwed up when it takes a run-on sentence to explain what you have done!) Every time I read this story, I found myself thinking, “What a moron! How could he possibly do something so low?” Yet, while I read this story, astonishingly…my judgmental attitude slipped away. Ironically, I found myself having compassion on David and understanding how easily he fell to massive temptation. When he could do nothing to clean up his mess, maybe out of sheer embarrassment…he covered it and tried to forget.

“…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up…” Hebrews 12:1

The truth is, except for God’s grace, any one of us could be the adulterer or the murderer. Because as the writer of Hebrews penned, sin so very easily trips us up. The most beautiful part of this book, is David’s soft heart of repentance when he is confronted with what he has done.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation…” Psalm 51

David may have fallen harder and deeper into sin than you or I ever will ever venture to go, but what I admire about David – he was always SO quick to repent and come back to God after his failures. What an example. David was the master of getting back on his feet. David knew how to hold his head high, brush the dust off and move on.

Because, if God forgives, why can’t we?

when He doesn’t show up

It was during one of his travels when the shocking, urgent news reached Jesus that one of his very best friends, Lazarus, was dying. As Lazarus’ body grew more weary each day and his eyes seem to sink deeper within his forehead, his sisters, Mary and Martha, held out hope.

These siblings had watched Jesus – with their very own naked eyes – as he had healed hundreds. He could heal Lazarus too! But the clock was ticking, and they were running out of time.

“So, although Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days.”

My heart breaks when I think about Mary, sitting on the edge of Lazarus’ bed, watching the sun fall deeper in the sky as tears rolled down her cheeks. I can see Martha busying herself fetching fresh sheets and water for Lazarus, all the while anxiously expecting Jesus to walk through the door. But Jesus never came. And Lazarus died.

When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Have you ever felt like Jesus didn’t show up when he was supposed to? What do you do when it seems as though Jesus doesn’t care that your heart is breaking?

I’ve been there. I remember laying in bed, as my marriage was literally hamorrhaging – falling apart before my very eyes. Over and over again, I quoted Psalm 29:4. “The voice of the Lord is powerful.” I knew that God created the world with simple commands. If He so pleased, with one word, He could heal my mess of a marriage. He could fix what was broken. But, no break through came. No apology. No restoration. It seemed like Jesus didn’t show up.

You’ve been there. As you watch the pregnancy test says “negative” yet again. When despite every effort, the house gets foreclosed on. When regardless of every prayer, the cancer takes your loved one. Yes, there are times when it feels as if Jesus simply turns his back.

But, the story did not end there for Mary and Martha.

“Where have you put Lazarus?” Jesus asked them. They told him, “Lord come and see.” Then Jesus wept.

These weren’t a few teardrops escaping from the corner of his brown eyes. No, Jesus broke down and uncontrollably wept – shoulders heaving as sobs shook his body. He cried because he felt their pain, their agony, their disappointment and grief. Jesus wept with Mary and Martha over what should have been. He doesn’t sit back and sigh as we endure life’s heartbreaks. No, he weeps with us when we go through life’s valleys – the consequence of a fallen world.

“Lazaruz’ death will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s son.”

With a simple command, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. You see, there was a greater purpose for Lazarus’ death. There is a greater purpose for your suffering.

“For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” Habakkuk 1:5

being real

I’m not sure why I started blogging, but I know for me writing has been immensely therapeutic.

Surprisingly, some people are actually interested in what I’ve been writing. (Maybe it’s alike to the fascination we have passing a car wreck; every car slows down just to get a glimpse of the mess on the side of the road. My life has been messy this year and I know many people have wondered in awe, “What happened? Is she okay?”)

The comment I keep receiving repeatedly regarding my blog is this: “Jen, I love reading your blog. It’s so REAL.” That comment always perplexes me. It makes me pause in bewilderment; because real is all I know how to be. What benefit would it be to me or anyone else if I pretended as though life was perfect all year? If I pretended I never cried, never got frustrated, never wanted to punch a hole through a wall or pull my hair out.

The more I thought on this, the more I realized why I love the Word of God (and especially the Old Testament) so much. These men and women that I grew up reading about and were the subjects of silly songs in Sunday school and VBS; they are SO real. God doesn’t sugarcoat their lives or their stories. Some of them screwed up royally before they met God, and some of them made a mess of their lives when they knew the difference between right and wrong after they met God.

In a way, these people (that God actually used to do incredible things) were such losers. They were murderers, complete drunks, liars, adulterers, deceivers, filled with pride, impulsive, and sometimes just plain dumb. And I absolutely love it. Because they give us the most powerful thing…hope. If God can make beauty out of their REAL-NESS, He can with ours too.

The people in the Bible didn’t wear masks, and it’s time for you and me to take ours off too. I’ve learned that life is messy. I’ve learned that sometimes the people you love, trust and depend upon the most are often times the very ones to hurt you the worst. I’ve learned that in life, I haven’t always made the right decisions and dealing with the consequences is messy work. But, I refuse to give up on God. Through it all.

Proverbs 3:5 “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.”

my engagement pictures

I remember the first time I spoke to him. Laying out at the pool, enjoying life as a recent high school graduate, my cell phone rang. Jeff Mullikin still claims he doesn’t remember quite how he got my phone number, but regardless, that phone call led to friendship which ushered quickly into teenage love. We had so much fun that summer, but August soon came and we headed our separate ways. Jeff to play baseball and study photography at SCAD in Savannah and I began school at Liberty University in Lynchburg. In September, the long distance took it’s toil and after a quick phone call, we split up and wouldn’t speak for six years.

In 2006 I married someone that Jeff once considered his best friend. Four years later, that marriage fell apart. I was left completely broken, hurt and down on myself, with absolutely no idea about my future. Out of no where, Jeff fell back into my life. He had heard about my situation and compassionately reached out to me. We met up for lunch, and then I just couldn’t seem to get him to stop texting me!

Jeff quickly became my best friend, walking me through the hardest experience of my life. Countless times he has let me cry on his shoulder when my situation became too overwhelming. He helped me clean and pack up my old house. And when my pipes busted in the winter and water ran for days, he was there beside me yet again, cleaning up my belongings and wiping my tears.

He has supported me in all of my passions and dreams, coming with me to the AIDS home and sitting through hours of youth band practice. He never forgets to remind me how much he loves me. In such a short time, he has built me back up. He is truly the greatest man that I know (the inspiration for my top ten list) and honestly makes me strive to be a better woman every single day. I trust him wholeheartedly and can tell him anything. He is my rock. Everything that Jesus Christ did to restore me spiritually, Jeff has done physically in my life. When I think of him, I think of Galatians 5:22, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Jeff is all of these things…and so much more.

It is an absolute blessing to spend the rest of my life loving him.