A Very Merry Christmas.

I am seriously loving life right now. I think it’s a combination of learning to live in gratitude, this amazing season celebrating Christ, seeing miracles in the lives of faithful friends around me, success in a tough semester of school for me and Jess, fun holiday traditions with my family, my wonderful husband serving at a church where he is loved, friends who live simple faithful lives, and two sweet daughters who are living each day in wonder and delight and teaching me to live that way as they go.

Add that together – and it’s abundant life. 

I’m grateful.

Two years ago a group of people were Jesus to our family in a truly difficult time. I can’t tell you the blessing that has been this past two years – how many times my girls would wear something we got that night or play with something someone gave us, and I would remember that the Lord sees us. We are loved with an everlasting love.

I can look back today and say about the Lord my favorite verses:

“I know now that You can do all things, no plan of Yours can be thwarted… My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You.” (Job 42:2,5)

Merry Christmas friends and family. I pray that Jesus would be near and you would live each day in wonder and peace.

The Lord is Pleased with You

I am loving all of the gratitude posts on Facebook. It is beautifully complementing the things I am reading in One Thousand Gifts and it made me think of something that happened to me earlier this year.

Back in April, on a random Wednesday, I received a text message from my friend Stephanie. It simply said, “The Lord is so pleased with you, Jennifer Wells.” When I got it, tears rushed to my eyes and I sat for a moment rereading it over and over.

The Lord is so pleased with you.

I think it was probably one the most grace-filled moments of my adult life. Stephanie doesn’t know it, but she taught me a lot about the Father that day.

We so often focus on the ways we fail our precious Father, but on that day, I was reminded that I also please Him. I write often about our challenges with our children, mostly to lighten the tension of life with tiny people and relate to other moms. But even during all my moments of frustration, vulnerability, and confusion about being a mom I can tell you this, I am pleased with my girls. In fact, I am delighted by them. They captivate me. I could sit down with you for DAYS and tell you their wonderful, beautiful, unique, and most-special-in-all-the-world characteristics.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

Think about this: we are flawed, evil, kinda crazy people who really can’t even love unselfishly, and yet we can be pleased with and captivated by our children. How much more then can our Father, who is perfect and loves perfectly, be pleased with us?

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3

Since getting that precious text from my friend, I will look around at my friends and family who are quietly choosing faithfulness in a world that is unfaithful, and I will think, “The Lord is pleased with you.”

  • My dad, fighting to change lifetime patterns, pursuing righteousness and right relationships with others. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My husband, faithful and righteous, leading his family and his church to worship the one true King, even after facing some seriously challenging circumstances the past few years. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My mom, adjusting boundaries and opening her heart to trust good people in relationship for the first time in her life. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My daughters, learning to obey and consider others when every instinct in their bodies wants to fight for their own way. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My brother, who fights to press into Christ and lead his family in wisdom and righteousness in a world desperate to corrupt. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My sister, who came off the mountaintop to face life in the valley, and still chooses to trust the one who met with her face-to-face, even though she may not feel Him like she once did. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My sister-in-law, who fights for the souls of children every single day with her compassionate and wise heart. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who just lost the relationship with the man she thought she would marry, and yet she trusts in the Lord who loves her. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who works in an incredibly difficult environment that breaks most people, and yet she goes in faithfully and works as unto the Lord even when it seems impossible. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who has experienced more loss this past two years than anyone should have to face, and yet they choose joy and trust in the God who is near to the brokenhearted. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who faithfully picks up and moves across the country in grace and acceptance and jumps in to friendships to be a light in the lives of others. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who trusted the Lord to leave a career and stay at home with her child(ren), despite the changes that would bring to their lifestyle. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who lives in a world of uncertainty and challenge and yet is a light to those around her as she chooses to trust in the God who holds the world in His hands. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who is waiting for the referral of the child(ren) who will change her life and her home forever – choosing to live out James 1:27. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who has opened her home to a broken and hurting child, who has faced trials that demonstrate just how real the enemy who seeks to destroy actually is, and who is everyday seeing victory as the Lord fights for the heart of her child. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who everyday chooses grace as she navigates challenging relationships within her family and continued financial pressure that would overwhelm most people. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who trusted the Lord with his family and his career and gave praise to the God who is faithful in good times and bad. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who is creative and brilliant and each time I am around them, I want to be more free in who Christ made me to be. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who is single years after when their plan had them married, and yet they are faithful and trusting in the Lord to work it all out for good. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who quietly pleads with the Lord to heal and fix the broken places inside, trusting that He is all-powerful and faithful to finish what He started. The Lord is pleased with you.
  • My friend who lived through the terrible thing that threatened to break her heart and spirit, and instead of becoming bitter became a person drenched in grace for the hurting. The Lord is pleased with you.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

I am grateful for the examples of hope, power, grace, peace, joy, and faith lived out by the people around me. You inspire me.

In this season of gratitude, I am grateful for you and for the Lord at work in you.

The sensitive girl

I am sensitive. Not in the “cries at appropriate times” sense (because I do not), or in the “always says the right thing” way (because I am the queen of awkward pauses), but in the sense that I feel things strongly (understatement). So a word, or a tone, or even a look, can absolutely deflate me.

Justin and I talk about it all of the time (sweetest man on the planet) – and he encourages me to guard my heart more than I do.

If only it were that easy. I have tried to be less sensitive my entire life – but guess what? That’s kind of an impossible task.

As a teenager, I saw this part of me as a terrible thing. I believed the worst about myself – that I was an oversensitive drama-queen. I believed my worst critics – hook, line, and sinker. When you are sensitive, and you don’t have healthy boundaries, it is a crippling combination because you give the words of all people equal weight. So the person I admired and respected who spoke words of grace and beauty into my life – I believed them. But the person who was selfish and who spoke words of rejection and critique into my life – I believed those words as well. I let some really terrible things define me.

I forgot who I am.

Fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139)

A daughter of the King (who is enthralled by me). (Psalm 45:11)

A child of God. (1 John 3)

And this was a part of the crippling insecurity I waded through in my twenties.

As an adult, I am slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, breaking those chains of insecurity and rejection and starting to see myself as God made me to be. A part of that transformation is I am starting to see this sensitivity as a gift from the Lord, not a flaw or a mistake on God’s part (as I thought it was for a decade).

I am sensitive – it is an integral part of who I am and there is a purpose behind it.

My sister-in-law, who is a gift from the Lord, recently said something powerful to me. She told me that I represented the heart of our family. Her words flowed over me like a healing river.

A heart is sensitive. A heart is incredibly vulnerable. A heart can be easily damaged. Yes – all of these things are true.

But a heart also pumps life.

I have started to see my identity not in the weakness of who I am, but in the strength. I have tried to let ministry, grace, healing, and peace flow out of me into the people around me who would receive it.

I fail so often. I have to apologize and humble myself constantly. I am a flawed human who battles sin and pride.

But I have a purpose – and I was designed by a Creator who does not make mistakes.

I am sensitive. It is what I am and I’m learning to be grateful for it. I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves me unconditionally. He gave me a husband to protect and guard me so that I can be who I was made to be without fear. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?  Such a sweet God we serve.

Beautiful Colorado

So I am a little obsessed with Colorado. Some (my husband) might say I’m extremely obsessed. Growing up, my grandparents loved it and we camped with them in Cripple Creek, and then my parents carried on the tradition and almost every year we spent at least a week up in the Leadville or Breckenridge area riding bikes, hiking, fishing (dad fished – we distracted him and scared the fish away), and loving time together as a family.

Colorado has a smell – a delicious pine-scented, rainy, smoke-from-a-campfire smell that some days I wake up and I just need to inhale (like a wonderful and not-unhealthy-at-all addiction :)). And the 70 degree mornings and sweaters in the evening, even in summer, don’t hurt at all.

When Justin married me, he had no idea what he was in for. Seriously. I love that place. He says it is where I want to go on every vacation, and I have no defense against that truth. When my brother and sister-in-law moved there, the love grew. When they had precious twins, it grew exponentially, and when I had kids who adore time with their kids, it exploded into an unmanageable force.

Bekah loving hour 12 of the road trip

Justin and I had a few catastrophic trips to Colorado early in our marriage (we tend to attract natural disasters when we travel there – did I mention that?) and so he has never seen or experienced the Colorado that I love. He’s experienced blizzard Colorado twice and snowed-in with a stomach virus Colorado one lovely Christmas.

This year – we were determined to remedy that, break the curse, and take a summer family vacation. As the date drew near though – Justin’s work schedule seemed to close in while mine opened up, so I asked my sister to join me and off we went, two children under 5 in tow.

(By the way – Justin not being allowed to go ended up being the grace of God when one of his closest friends very unexpectedly passed away the day we left for the trip. We were so grateful Justin was able to attend our friend’s homecoming celebration and say goodbye to the man who was such a light in his life. Even in things like this – God is faithful and He knows what we need.)

So my sister and I piled into a car with entirely too much luggage, determined to make this a memorable experience for the kids like our trips were when we were young.

And I think we achieved memorable. Exhausting, but memorable.

We hiked a small mountain. We went to the amazing YMCA facility in Estes and it was beautiful.  As you can see from the photo, hiking was more strenuous on some than others.

We camped (me and the girls sharing a futon in a tent, which really deserves an entirely separate blog post for the funny parts, but the sweet parts included me hearing Grace sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in the dead of night in her sleep and the multiple times I had to get up and move Bekah back onto the Futon because she had scooted off). I was quite busy that night. We quickly realized that camping with kids is SUPER fun… for the kids. For the adults, it’s a ton of hard work and maybe the most strenuous sleep-over ever, where you don’t really sleep at all. This gives me a new appreciation for my parents and grandparents. They made it look so easy!

Sweet Bek off the futon - onto the pillow I placed after the 2nd time I heard a thud.

We swam, and swam, and swam. Joe and Lori live in the plains just East of the mountains so you can see, from their house and the neighborhood pool, an incredible view of the Rocky Mountains. It was amazing. I cannot imagine living with that as my view every day (although it is my most sincere prayer that someday I would discover that reality for myself. Please Lord!) Brody and Annabelle are absolute fish, swimming underwater and bravely learning more everyday. Grace wanders around the pool in her floaty swimwear, meeting friends and swimming/floating by herself, and Bekah terrifies every adult in sight by thinking she can swim by herself when she cannot, in fact, do anything but sink like a rock.

Aunt Jess being soaked (the kids' favorite game in the pool)

We went to an amusement park and rode bumper cars, go-carts and bumper boats, went down a huge slide, played games, collected tickets for awesome prizes, and had a wonderful time.

We ate like kings, thanks to Joe and Lori’s amazing cooking, and laughed until we hurt.

Spidey-Brody and Spidey-Grace rescuing Princess Annabelle

It was a great trip, very much the Colorado I am obsessed with. Family, fresh air, God’s amazing creation, and not taking anything too seriously. It was everything I love about that incredible place and was good for my soul. Again Colorado was the gift to my heart that the Lord knew I needed.

Now we just have to work on getting Justin Wells up there to experience it… sans natural disaster or traumatic illness. Until then, Colorado and the Colorado Sims family, we love you dearly and are grateful for every second we got to enjoy your company. We will see you again soon, I promise…

The four wonderful kids eating ice cream in Estes Park

Team Sims Rocking the World

The Lord is doing a GREAT work in the Sims family (my side of the family), and I am so grateful – so I thought I’d share for those of us who love us and pray for us.

First – My brother, Joe, and sister-in-law, Lori, are expanding their family through adoption! I cannot TELL you what an encouragement it has been to see the Lord call them to this, confirm this call in them, and begin to fulfill it. It has knit my heart with theirs even more to share this calling and to understand the urgency of caring for precious children that the Lord loves. They have faced the opposition we are all warned comes with obedience to this call – but I have loved seeing them handle it with grace and assurance that Jesus is bigger.  So – allow me to “cyber” introduce you to them, and if you can, check out their blog and if the Lord leads, give them some encouragement through comment love. It’s a hard road, and in times like this support from the “church-at-large” becomes invaluable.  http://teamsims.blogspot.com/

Second – my sweet sister, Jess, is coming home from the World Race! If you don’t know what that is – it is an 11 month mission trip through 11 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America.  I’ve written about her before – when she began her journey 11 months ago, and I’m so proud of how she has finished strong.  She returns home next week and if you would, keep her in your prayers. She has big decisions to make, and wants to follow the Lord in courage wherever He leads her. I am so excited to again be able to pick up the phone and call her whenever I want to! She is my best friend – and I have so missed being able to share my days with her. But I am also so proud – she followed the Lord in obedience (like Joe and Lori have) and I know He is going to continue to use her to change the world.

Third – my parents are doing better than I’ve ever seen. The Lord has done a HUGE work in both my dad and my mom’s heart, and consequently in their marriage and our family. They are very active at Gateway Church and I have seen the Lord use that church to do a new thing in their hearts (Isaiah 43:19).  It has been amazing to experience and it has confirmed what I always have known to be true (but so easily forget) – the Lord pursues our hearts and when we surrender, the blessing of His Spirit flows to bring life into death and light into darkness beyond what we ever imagined possible.

He’s a good, good God. We’re blessed and I am very very grateful.