The Uncounted in the Crowd | Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker and Five Minute Friday

Veteran's Day rememberance

CROWD

GO:

You are surrounded. Crowded by Flowers. Hugs. Cards. Banners. American Flags. Yellow Ribbons.

You are surrounded with support and love, but want to flee. This crowd is strangling you. They cannot possibly understand what you are going through, or how you are suffering.

Then, again, the crowd surrounds you.

Although, it is a bit thinner this time. Some don’t come because they don’t know what to say or how to respond. Or worse, they are afraid your sorrow, grief and loss is contagious.

How you ache and wish your life could just be taken away from you. That you could join those you are missing.

The Uncounted

These are the voices that need to be heard. They are getting lost in the crowd. In the crowd of politics, fiscal constraints, theological legalism.

No one knows you. No one knows what to do with you. It seems fear, uncertainty, confusion is all you have to stand on.

You must feel lonely, so lonely. I pray we can speak for you. I pray we can stand up for you and fight for your voices to be heard, so that others can understand that this war continues to rage in our homes.

Children, Siblings, Spouses taking their lives because of suffering they are enduring due to war. No one is counting.

How can you not count, not matter? How can we not see? We will not let you get lost in the crowd of bureaucracy. This is our problem. We as a nation must hold you up, lift you up, support you as you continue to endure this silent pain.

Grief can be a killer if no one notices. If you think we don’t care, that you don’t matter, it will kill you from the inside out. And, the war will go on.

STOP

Five Minute Friday
……………………………………………….

We must stop and take notice.

There is an epidemic in our midst. Children, Spouses, Siblings are committing suicide as a result of the suffering they have endured by loved ones’ involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This article, while difficult to take in, is absolutely necessary for us to read, watch, and understand. We must know that there are those whose numbers are Not Being Counted.

You will hear from a Marine Spouse who shares her story of wanting to take her own life as she watched her husband suffer in the aftermath of multiple deployments.

A couple whose son was killed in action. Two years later their younger daughter committed suicide when the grief over her brother’s death became too great.

A sister who raised her two brothers in the absence of their mother. Her older brother was killed in action. Her younger brother then took his life as a result of his suffering. She is now all alone and struggling with suicidal ideation herself.

A teenager, afraid of her own father, a war hero. Believing suicide is the only answer for dealing with her pain.

No one is counting the number of parents, children and siblings who are committing suicide after the loss of a loved one due to war. No one is counting. These are the faces of “The Uncounted”. They do matter! And, we must do what we can to give them a voice so that they believe they count, too! Link to the article here:

{The Uncounted}

 

My deepest gratitude,

jana

Lent | Are we idolizing the “giving-up” or the Giver of Life?

Rick WarrenThe 40-days of Lent began a week ago today. I realize I am late with this post. My calendar has been jammed packed with lots of good things. I was hoping to get this out last Wednesday, and was disappointed I had missed my personal goal. However, I believe there is a reason for everything and this post might be timely after all.

We are a week into trying to follow through on our commitment to “give-up” {fill in the blank}. How is it going? Is it getting harder to commit? Have you been tempted? Have others given you a hard time for your diligence? 

It is usually about a week in when I struggle. I crave the chocolate and can’t stand it anymore thinking a little bite won’t hurt. No one will know.

Facebook was very active last week with my friends stating what they planned to give up. Some warned us that they were not going to be on Facebook for the 40-days, and that if we wanted to reach them, we would have to use actual email instead of Messenger. Oh, how times have changed!

I have prayed in preparation for this Lenten Season asking God to show me how I should observe this time. It often becomes a time of silence and reflection, a drawing in and a drawing closer to Christ.

Up until Ash Wednesday, I had been puzzled as to what I should yield In His Name, an emptying of “me” so that I can more fully be filled with Him. Nothing I have seems right. Nothing I crave seems right. Nothing can possibly be enough. He did so much for me. How can I possibly do enough for Him?

But, then I remember. It isn’t about doing anything. He hasn’t asked me to do anything for Him. He has offered me a Gift of His Love and asks me to take His gift with hands extended, knees bowed, and with a repentant heart, mind and spirit.

According to the Scriptures, the 40-days Jesus spent in the desert preceded his 3 years of ministry on Earth. He spent 40-days fasting, praying and intimately connecting with His Father, all the while being tempted to sin by Satan. Jesus had been led to the desert by the Holy Spirit in order to prepare for what was to come.

Ultimately, Jesus knew that his life would end on a cross – denied by those who professed to love him, humiliated and mocked, beaten and spat on. Jesus knew what was coming. Death. His body on a cross for us. For you. For me.

How can my “giving-up” something even compare?

But, you see, we are being asked to give up something not because it can somehow compare to what he gave for us. We are being asked to give up something as a reminder of how the state our hearts, minds and souls should be when we commit to a life in Christ.

Imagine with me for a second the posture you take when giving up something. I see open hands, a leaning into the other person. a letting go, a yielding and acceptance that this thing, person, idea whatever it is, is no longer your own. You have come to a place of acceptance and humility where you can freely give it away.

Are you there? Are you feeling free in your “giving-up” here in this season of Lent? Or, are you begrudging the practice and dreading that moment when you will crave chocolate?

If you are begrudging this time, or gloating about what you are “giving-up” to your friends, then, folks, you are missing the entire point! We are not to gloat about the “sacrifice” we are making. We dishonor Him and the entire purpose of this season when we do this. These 4o days are between you and Him. And, forgive me for saying this, but I do not agree with using Lent as a time to cut out some tempting food in hopes that you will lose some weight.

Let us not dishonor Christ by misusing this time. Giving up a food item, or TV or FB can be very worthwhile, if, when you feel the temptation, you go to the Lord in prayer with a spirit of humility and repentance. We can use those hunger pains as a reminder to draw close to him.

This step, drawing close to Christ in prayer and communion, is crucial and without it we are dishonoring him and idolizing the “giving-up” and not the Giver of Life.

Ask the Lord to lead you to a place of true repentance. Imagine yourself kneeling at His feet, head bowed, hands open and ask Him, “Lord, what do you want me to give up so that I can draw closer to You?”

You might be surprised by His answer!

You see, just like Jesus in the desert, we can utilize this time of Lent to prepare our hearts, minds and souls for what is to come in our own lives. He is calling us to God-sized dreams. He is calling us to use our time, talents, and gifts to serve Him. In order for His light to shine through us, we must become empty of our “selves” and be filled with His Spirit.

I know many of you are being called to do something for Christ that is totally out of your comfort zone. I know, because I am experiencing it and I am talking to many who are right there with me.

If you need encouragement to follow Him and pursue the “God-sized dream” that He is calling you to, you need to go no further than Jennie Allen’s book “Restless”. I am reading it now.

Why not use this season to idolize the Giver or Life, the Giver of God-sized Dreams? Let us be careful that the efforts we put forth to give up something, whatever it is, not become our idol. I would be very easy to focus our attention on the discipline it takes to give something up rather than on the One who gave up everything for us. The practice of giving-up something is a good one if we are diligent in the using it the way it was intended.

May your Lenten season be filled with peace, silent moments with God the Father, and maybe even a few surprises along the way.

With love,

jana

One Word:Nevertheless | It Changes Everything

Be Loved

Photo Credit: Kudos to my sweet friend Annie Barnett for this beautiful sketch. You can find her shop at Etsy and Be Small Studios.

 

I am reading in Psalm 106 today, and I pause at this One Word: Nevertheless.

My heart leaps with excitement, with hope, with encouragement. I want to share. I have to share. We all need this hope, this promise, this truth.

We need this to truth to penetrate us to our deepest parts. The parts of us that deny ourselves forgiveness, love and acceptance. The parts of us that we believe are too ugly, too broken, too used up to be loved. The parts of us that we are too embarrassed to admit to ourselves, let alone admit to our loving Creator. {He knows them anyway.}

Nevertheless. It changes everything!

Read, see what Psalm 106 says:

Both we and our fathers have sinned; {we} did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the Sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power. (vs. 6-8)

And then…

But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert…{they} worshiped a metal image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. Therefore he said he would destroy them – had not Moses….stood in the breach. They despised…they murmured…and did not obey the voice of the LORD. (vs. 13-25)

How convicting these words are to me! Oh, how I have put God to the test, forgotten his works, did not wait for his counsel, and murmured against him in disobedience.

It gets worse…

Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead; they provoked the LORD to anger with their deeds…they angered him…they served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons… (vs. 28-37)

This is a Psalm of David recounting the days of his forefathers –  the Israelites! The chosen people of God!

They turned away from God. Rebelled against Him. Chose their own paths, their own desires, their own gods over Him.

We do this to Him,too! I am not innocent. You are not innocent. Again and again, we rebel and take our lives into our own hands, somehow believing that we know better than the God who created the heavens and the earth. We say “No” to Him. We turn our backs on Him. We put our hands up to Him and push Him away. Again and again. We make a mess of our lives, then expect Him to fix it.

And, you know what? He does…He turns to us and comes to us when we cry out to Him. He loves us that much!

Towards the end of Psalm 106, this is what we read:

Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purpose and were brought low through their iniquity. (vs. 43)

And here it is….that one word that makes all the difference

Nevertheless

Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive. (vs. 44-46)

He heard their cry and looked upon them. He remembered his covenant, for their sake. He relented because of his Abundant and Steadfast love for them. He caused others to feel pity for them.

He loves us! Oh, how He loves us!

We can rebel against him, claim to know more than Him, worship other gods, murder, forget Him, disobey, and speak against Him.

Nevertheless, he loves us.

He will see us in our distress; He will hear our cries for help; He will remember his promises to us and relent because He loves us.

No matter how far off course you believe yourself to be; No matter how winding, dark, or narrow your current path is; No matter all the horrible things you have done; No matter how many times you have pushed him away; No matter how much you believe yourself to be unworthy of his love,

He Loves You!

Let me say that again

He Loves You!

Nevertheless…despite all you have done, all of the bad choices you have made,

He Loves You!

This should give you great Hope. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.  (Romans 8:38,39)

No one is too awful, too dirty, too ugly, or too messed up to receive His love.

Invite Him in now, as you are. Ask, Seek and Knock. (Matthew 7:7,8)

Allow His love to penetrate you and wash you in His Mercy, Grace and Love. We must invite Him. He has already invited Us into His presence, we just need to accept the invitation. The invitation is yours for the taking.

Allow yourself to Be Loved.

Accept His gift of love for you. Accept His extended hand. Take hold tightly. He will not disappoint. His promises are eternal. This I know.

With love,

jana

 

Giveaway Winner Announced | Free Copy of Rebekah Lyons’ “Freefall to Fly”

freefall to fly cover

 

Congratulations, Marian @ inkycoffee {at} gmail {dot} com!! You are the winner of “Freefall to Fly”.

I am so excited to share this book with you!

As I said at the beginning of the Giveaway, it was my wish to be able to give all of you who entered a Free Copy of Freefall to Fly.

Please go out and get a copy of your own, or ask for an early Mother’s Day present or late Valentine’s Day Present :).

How would you all like to participate in a book discussion of “Freefall to Fly”?

Please leave me a comment below if you are interested in participating in a 4-week discussion on Freefall to Fly

On that note…I am off to fly! Headed to spend the weekend with my parents.

I covet your prayers. My father’s health is declining, and I will be seeing him for the first time in almost a year. {My parents had to cancel their trip for Christmas this year due to his health.} This trip to see them has been a long time coming. My heart is heavy as I anticipate giving my daddy a hug and telling him how much I love him.

Prayers for you, too, as we walk this winding road of life together.

xo,

jana

 

Giveaway | Rebekah Lyons’ “Freefall to Fly”

freefall to fly cover

I have been sitting on an extra copy of Rebekah Lyons’ new book “Freefall to Fly” since last weekend when I participated in IF:Gathering and IF:Local {check it out here}.

I am so excited to announce that I have a FREE COPY for one of you lucky readers!

But, first, let me tell you why I am so excited.

The IF:Gathering met in Austin, TX while the webcast was streamed LIVE throughout the US to IF:Local locations where thousands of people gathered to hear from Jennie Allen, Sarah Bessy, Rebekah Lyons, Jenn Hatmaker, Ann Voskamp and many more.

I was so excited to participate with ladies from my local community.

Mostly, I was thrilled to meet some other like-minded women pursuing similar goals and dreams as mine. We all gathered eager to hear from other women whom have struggled to find their purpose and answer their calling, while also juggling the role of mother, wife, friend, and coworker.

However, I couldn’t help but be equally as excited to hear from women whom I have been following for some time.

I recently purchased Jennie Allen’s book, Restless , and Sarah Bessy’s book, Jesus Feminist {yes, that is the title of the book}. Aren’t you just a wee bit curious about what she has to say? I never imagined I would see those two words in the same phrase, let alone have them be the title of a book!

As you have likely figured out by now, I love books.

I love to read them.

I love to collect them.

I love to study how authors write them.

I aspire to write one of my own.

My love for books overflows to those around me. No sooner do I read a book, then I am prayerfully considering to whom to pass along a copy.

Books are for sharing!

So, when I read the title of Rebekah Lyons’ newest book, and heard her speak at IF:Gathering, I knew, even before I had read the book myself, that I wanted to give away a free copy to one of my readers.

Listen to some of what Rebekah had to say last weekend.

The scales began to fall from my eyes. I began to see women all around just like me, gripped in fear, crippled.  1 in 4 women are on anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications. We know we were made for more and we were not doing it. We fade when we don’t know who we are. Women go to college with vision, and then fade. When He knit you, He gave you distinct gifts because He is that creative! We have birthright gifts from HIM! (As a child) What did you do so much that annoyed your parents to death? A calling is when your talents and your burdens collide. A lot of us know our gifts. It is not just about knowing your gifts it is about using your gifts. Burden is informed by the life you lived; the family you were born into; the story you hold. It is born by what broke our heart! Stop copying and comparing (yourself to others). If you do what you do for an audience of One you know that you count. Do not keep score.

Can I hear an, AMEN!

I began reading “Freefall to Fly” (isn’t that a great title?)  just a couple of days ago.

Rebekah has captured me with her words, her raw authenticity, and her ability to capture in print what has been hiding inside of me for so long.

But in addition to that, what is astounding to me is how similar she and I are.

We are the same age. She was raised in St Petersburg, Florida {I was born there and grew up an hour and a half away}. She has watched her father go from a strong, capable, successful man to one who is now confined to a bed in an Assisted Living Facility {that is a post I will write another day}.

She was born in Lawton, OK, just 45 min from where I am now. In fact here I sit in Lawton, OK at the local Starbucks composing this post right now.

She loves crepes with Nutella, a treat I make for my boys regularly. She likes yoga.

Beyond those fun little serendipities, are the more profound similarities.

She has struggled with the same questions I have.

Days full of light and despair. How do both emotions coexist?   And   Would I end up in the same bed {as my father}, my mind unable to sustain my body? I worried that his present might be my future.

She has felt the depth of pain, and struggled with who she is in Christ just I have.

To stay in the free fall meant to stop running. To stop avoiding the pain. To embrace the struggle. To settle in with the lament. To get cozy with the nemesis. Because it was working something out in me that was buried deep. Locked down for a number of years. Wounds that had been planted long ago were starting to show their ugly heads. I was scared. But I needed to give them root to surface. To let them out.

She has lost herself in mom-dom and wife-dom as I have, forgetting what her first passions and callings were.

The demands of life are piled on us from every direction – from ambitious husbands with amped-up libidos to screaming kids wanting the crusts cut off their PB and J sandwiches to in-laws demanding their fair share of holiday celebrations. Each of these things in isolation, no big deal. All combined, the weight is too much to bear.

She has heard God whisper to her in ways that He has to me.

Rest there. 

Stay.

Stay in the free fall.

God is moving mightily in and among women in their 30′s and 40′s.

Can you feel Him moving you? Are you restless to find your purpose? To rediscover who you once were?

We are being called to a greater purpose. To more.

I have been sensing Him calling me to MORE for almost a year now.

I have been so frustrated because I couldn’t figure it out.

But, then I found Jennie Allen, Sarah Bessey and Rebekah Lyons. They are saying out loud and in print all of the questions and frustrations that have been circling in my own mind.

They, just like me, are searching for God in unusual places; Seeing His face among the rubble of our American lives.

I know we are not alone in our quest.

That is why, if I could, I would give each and every one of you a copy of this book.

You will join Rebekah in her journey as she discovers that God was with her all of the time.

Freefall to Fly - Rebekah Lyons

She moved from comfortable, suburbia-life in Atlanta to New York City, ready to embrace the city boldly and with confidence.

But, then her world came crashing down around her. Panic attacks plagued her, her confidence shriveled to nothing, and life as she knew it was forever altered.

But, on a cold, winter morning in New York City’s Central Park, she sees God brightly and clearly.

The little Florida girl falls in love with the bleak, stark cold of winter. That is no small feet, trust me!

If you would like your own copy, don’t delay. The drawing is scheduled for Friday, 21 February.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

I look forward to announcing the winner.

xo,

jana

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