The Climb and the Cry

photo by the amazing Jess

My sweet little Bekah is at this hilarious stage in her life.  She is constantly climbing up things to get into great adventures, but she isn’t old enough to climb back down.  So about 18 times a day I will hear this little scream, and I’ll get to go rescue her off of her sister’s bed or the train table or some other elevated position.  To illustrate – just now I had to step away because Bekah had climbed into the (empty) bathtub and was stuck – seriously.  Perfect timing, right?  Hilarious.

When I hear her cry and go on my rescue mission, I don’t spank her or reprimand, I always laugh and pick her up and take a few seconds to cuddle her before I put her back on safe ground.  I am totally in love with this child – totally captivated.  She is beautiful and has this vibrant personality already.  It makes me proud of her when she climbs up – I think she is brave.

This morning I was thinking about her climbing and what I think I love best is that she cries out to me when she is scared or overwhelmed or in over her little head, but she still keeps climbing.  I began thinking about us and the Lord and came to the conclusion that I think we are to follow her example in our lives.

Psalm 24:3-6 says –

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ?  Who may stand in his holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.

He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior.

Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.  Selah

I think there there are times, even in our faith, that we can be anxious and feel overwhelmed.  We can have a moment of bravery and climb up to a new level of trust or commitment.  But so much of our faith is a mystery, and sometimes it can be scary to be in a place of vulnerability.  We are still human and by nature our reality is we are double-minded, half trusting and half terrified.

I know so many people, some I am really close to, who once they climb up and feel vulnerable, climb back down and never venture any farther again.  It is like the vulnerable feeling is so scary that they force themselves to become content with the ground.  Or they let guilt over persistent sin and a feeling of worthlessness keep them distant in their relationship with the Lord.  They know they are distant, they sometimes regret they are distant, but for some reason they choose the distance over the vulnerability of climbing to the next level.

I also know others who climb and climb and climb and never call out to the Lord.  It is like in the climb and the search for righteousness, they forget the Object of our pursuit and their life becomes about the mountain and not about the Maker.

Salvation is free, it is entirely based on grace because of the amazing sacrifice of Christ for us.  But growth does take work.  And we can choose to work and climb, or not.  The Lord draws us and woos us, but He doesn’t force Himself on us.  But the work that it takes to climb isn’t our work alone – it is ultimately the work of our Father.  He begins the work and carries it to completion.

So what does it look like to climb up to the next level?  I think it is taking ourselves and our messes to the Lord and asking for Him to take us to the next level, and then being obedient.  Our role is to humble ourselves and bravely desire Him above all.  When we get into that posture, He does the rest.

Ecclesiastes 7 talks about this balance.

In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:  a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.

Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—  why destroy yourself?

Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool—  why die before your time?

It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.  The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.

So what are we to do?  We fear God and seek Him first.  We follow when He leads, we bravely climb higher, and we cry out when we are afraid.  And He rescues us over and over again as we trust in Him.  And each time He rescues us, He draws us near.  He comforts us and cuddles us close.  We get to know His heart, over and over, and we find that He loves us and is absolutely captivated by us.  We are His creation.

Life is about the climb, and about the cry. If we can get those two things right, there is no telling the mountains we can conquer together.

Lead me in the way I should go

I think I am weird.  Really.  Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. (Anybody know what that is from?  Hahaha – Answer at bottom.)

The past few weeks, I have had several people contact me about job opportunities for both fulltime and freelance work.  So many people care for us, precious people who want to see our family succeed, and as they pray for us they see jobs that align with what I do and they send the job to me.  And every time I hear about another, I start to feel sick.  Isn’t that bizarre?  But it’s not the first time that has happened.  I have found, in my life, that if one door appears to open, I am good.  But if several do, I immediately begin to quietly freak out.

Are you like me?  Do options and choices make you anxious?  What is that?

I am in a strange place in life.  Before all of this happened, I felt strongly that my primary role in our family was with our kids.  I also felt strongly that I am supposed to be in school right now to pursue a lifelong dream, so I started back in January.  So, around those two things, I have fit in a job, but it has moved to third in my list of priorities.

But where we are today is that, without Justin or me having a fulltime job, obviously the acquisition of said job becomes a huge priority for us.  We only have benefits a few more weeks, and that deadline is looming.  And there simply is more work available for what I do than for what Justin does, because his is so specialized.  There is a ton of freelance work for Justin out there (he is in the middle of two great projects right now for two different companies), but the fulltime job we desire for him is much harder to find in this economy.  Will we find it?  I absolutely believe so – with all my heart.  I truly deeply and honestly believe that the Lord is not only shaping us for the position but is shaping the position for us.  Justin is so talented and loves the Lord and the church so much – he is a tremendous asset to a church and I know the Lord will open that door soon.  And when the door opens, I believe I am going to see my husband thrive like never before in a position doing exactly and perfectly what God has called him to do.

So, what do I do now?  Until that door opens, what path do I take?  Do I follow the money?  Do I sacrifice what I felt called to do when things were good now that things are difficult?  I don’t think so.   I know that many of you are like me – intensely practical.  And many of you won’t understand that.  I’m not sure I would if I were you.  Why would I, if I could take a job and alleviate the pressure, hesitate to do so?

This is the question that is making me sick to my stomach.  I am a doer.  A firstborn, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, independent force to be reckoned with.  And because of God’s grace placing me in amazing positions, I have a great resume.  I could probably make some phone calls today and have a fulltime job.  But chances are good it would involve a great deal of travel, or necessitate me dropping out of school or placing my girls in daycare, or be at a church where my husband does not serve alongside of me, again putting my family in the position of us being in two different places on Sundays.  And I feel that all of those options negate what I have been called to do.  I get sick at my stomach because I don’t want to do that.  Not because I’m lazy, not because I want to crush my husband under the pressure to provide, but because it is contrary to what he and I believed I was called to do a year ago.

And truthfully, I want the Lord to dramatically rescue us.  I do.  I want to get the phone call that a job has opened for Justin and that our waiting on Him has resulted in tremendous blessing.  I want all of our eggs in one basket, if that basket is depending on the Lord for a miracle.  I want to honor the role my husband is in as provider of our home and I don’t want to step in and take that on.  And I want to be nimble – ready to go in a moment’s notice wherever the Lord calls Justin and me to go.  We could move anywhere and do anything He called us to do because I am ready to go and support my husband in His calling.

So I fight off the nausea and tell people “Thank you but no thank you” and I don’t pursue these jobs I’m being offered.  It scares me – I worry they’ll find me ungrateful or lazy.  How can I truly explain this lack of peace that I have about accepting work right now?  But I know to what I have been called, and even if they don’t understand, I seek to obey.

Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Psalm 31:3

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make straight your way before me. Psalm 5:8

And by the way – if you’ve kept reading, first of all I love you.  Thank you for caring.  The quote was from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride.  Inigo Montoya says “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” Totally cracks me up.

Have a blessed day.  Jen

Headed Toward Healing

It amazes me sometimes the body’s incredible ability to heal. My best friend growing up was the youngest in this big wonderful family. Her dad was recently in very critical condition and in the last week we have seen him turn a corner and his body has healed in a profound way. He has a ways to go – but we have seen a miracle in a situation where there seemed just days ago to be no hope. It reminded me again this week that these bodies we are in are fearfully and wonderfully made.

As I have watched this happen several times in recent years, it seems to me there is a moment where the body goes from reacting to circumstances to fighting to recover. And when that happens, the progression from critical to stable can be very rapid.

I think it is the same for our emotional and spiritual health. We can allow circumstances, consequences of bad decisions, and the weight of this broken world to overwhelm us. And when we react to all of those things, our emotional and mental health can rapidly spiral downward. Have you ever done that? Sometimes we can be in a highly reactive state and a circumstance can happen and suddenly we seem to have been thrown into a crater. We churn on it and dwell on it and can’t seem to break free. It is like all we see is the circumstance.

But there is a moment that can change that downward spiral. In fact, it can change the direction of our life. The moment may be a truth that suddenly gets illuminated for us, or a caring friend confronting us in love, or a turning point in our heart where we simply humble ourselves and turn back to the Lord and ask for help. And in that moment, although our circumstances don’t change – our direction does. Suddenly, things aren’t so overwhelming. And we begin to, very quickly, heal. Now that our direction and focus are right, our attitude and actions and perspective suddenly snap back to center. We begin to feel like we have control over ourselves and our emotions again.

I recently worked with a guy named Josh King and he drew this illustration about people and their relationship with Christ for us in Staff Meeting – I thought it was really powerful. Imagine that each of these dots is a person and the diagram represent their closeness to God.





















He said that we as people tend to want to judge the condition of people’s hearts. So we begin to do this grouping thing. This person is close to Christ obviously because they do this and this and this, and this person – well they are far far away because of all these things they have done. So, we begin to draw a circle. The red area represents people we think are “in” and the white area is everybody else.


The point my friend made, which was so powerful to me, is that what we judge as closeness to God isn’t the important factor. The important factor is the orientation of the hearts of men (which we of course cannot truly see). So if we were able to instead look at the direction people are headed in relation to God, then we would be able to see the entire picture.

Our job then, as Christ followers and ministers of the Gospel, is to encourage others in their orientation towards Christ, as we ourselves continually correct our direction to orient our own lives toward His glory. Realizing that only when headed toward Christ can true happiness be found, we make it our life’s ambition to point people toward the wonderful person of Christ. How close they end up, whether they are “in” or “out” is not something we can ever judge or truly know. All we can do is reflect His glory and point people back to Him, realizing it is all about the direction of our focus.

Just as this amazing illustration represents our overall spiritual direction, I think it also illustrates my point about healing. Emotional and spiritual healing, I think, is a matter of orientation. And when we and the people we love are facing the right direction, with the right goal and the right God, it is AMAZING how quickly everything can change.