The Flower Bed Failure that Changed My Life

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“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

As I pulled harder and harder, it finally broke and I fell with a thud to the ground. With stickered vines surrounding me, I cried. I had been pulling at them for what seemed like hours and they only seemed to be multiplying. They were deeply rooted and I had to dig and pull, and dig and pull some more to free one single root. It was maddening! This flower bed around a beautifully established shade tree near the front of our 5 acres had been neglected far too long and the weeds had taken over. It didn’t happen overnight but a little at a time, this once vibrant garden had reduced to a big pile of overgrown weeds, choking out the beauty and life. As I sat on the ground, with scratched up arms, frustrated, I felt a gentle whisper through the breeze, “This is your life. And this is your struggle.”

Over the last year, I had turned my life back to God and was seeking Him again. I was trying to clean up the mess I’d created but still hadn’t internalized that I couldn’t do it. Pulling up my own weeds, I wasn’t getting anywhere at all. In fact, the thorns were hurting me, piercing me with regret. I realized in that moment as my Father wrapped me in His arms and gently spoke, that I needed Him to use His supernatural gardening skills to make me beautiful again. He was my only hope. He was the protection from the pain of the thorns. He had forgiven me and was waiting for me to allow Him to have complete control. I could think I’d pulled up a weed but the root was still there, festering and growing, waiting to rear its ugly thorns once again.

When sin is rooted deep in your life and you’ve left it there for long periods of time, it chokes out the beauty. We can pull it up, but most of the time, there are still underlying roots that lie dormant for a time. We can feverishly work at cleaning our lives up but if we don’t let Christ do it for us, the weeds of sin will at some point come to the surface again.

In that moment, I released all control. I asked my Father to take the reins in cleaning up my life and acknowledged that He was my only hope.  I asked Him to plant in me good roots and to nurture them as they grew deeper and deeper, so that I would stand firm in all seasons of my life. The tension released and a calm come over me that is unexplainable. Sobbing, I sat in silence for a long while thinking about what I’d learned. What HE had taught me.

As I sat on the ground, dirty, sweaty, and in need of Him, He found me and loved me where I was.

Peace. It had been a long time, but I was finally at peace.

I picked myself up and cleaned up the mess around me but I never worked in that flower bed again. To this day, it is a reminder to me of the damage that weedy roots can have in my life. Sin, anger, bitterness, hopelessness, and depression have NO room to take root when the life of Jesus completely fills me. So every day, I give my life to Him. I pray for protection. I pray for Him to have complete control.

And I thank Him for the the flower bed failure that changed my life. 

What roots have you bound?  Jesus is the only one able to pull them up. Will you let Him?

When All Seemed Hopeless

My back’s up against the wall. I see no way out. I feel as if the oxygen in the room is leaving as quickly as a criminal leaves a crime scene. My world is falling apart and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I’ve kicked and cried and screamed for way too long. But it doesn’t help. I can barely breathe now and the fighting fire has left me. What do I do now? I can’t live like this but I don’t know how to escape it. I look around me and see the chains. They are thick and entangled around me. The weight of them causes me to fall on my face. My face is now bleeding but I don’t even care. I don’t care about anything. I am hopeless. Why am I even here? Why do I even keep trying? It’s more than I can handle.

Suddenly I see a light in the distance. It is coming towards me and I am afraid. What now? What pain will I have to endure next? Hasn’t there been enough?

As the light gets closer however, I start to relax. It’s beginning to wash over me with a calm I haven’t felt in a long time. And then I see Him. The light is so bright I can barely make Him out at first but it is the figure of a man. His face… oh, His face. It looks at me with more love than I have ever seen. This man, who sees me at my worst in this moment, who sees me in this darkness and bondage. My hair is disheveled, my clothes are torn and my eyes are wild. Yet, there’s something about Him that draws me in. I can’t take my eyes off of HIm. Our eyes are locked and He gently speaks. “My daughter, my beautiful daughter, I see that you have yourself in quite a mess. Your actions have caused you to be so bound by the weight and chains of sin that you are now beyond recognition by others. But I see you. I see inside to the person I created you to be. And you are beautiful.”

As I lay there on the floor, in my worst moment, He just called me beautiful. How is this? I recognize Him. Do I know him? As I look at Him and hear Him speak to me, His voice is familiar as well. It’s all coming back. The good times we spent together. I’m starting to remember the closeness we once shared. He was my Father and I followed Him.

What had happened to me? I didn’t plan for this to happen. Will He ever forgive me?

“Yes,” He said. “I will forgive you. I already have.”

“I never meant for this to happen.” I told Him. You see, this didn’t just happen in an instant. It started with one decision. One decision that veered off the narrow path just a little. And then another and another. Each time, it was only a small thing. “No big deal,” I told myself.

With tears streaming down my face, I told Him that I was wrong and all the things that had landed me in this place. This place of bondage. He listened so intently and I knew that He still loved me. I told Him that I didn’t know how it could happen, but I wanted Him in my life again. I wanted to be free again.

With love in His eyes, He explained that He paid the price for my freedom a long time ago. He told me that I could be free and have a relationship with Him once again. And I’ll never forget it when He said, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole. Go and sin no more.”

Immediately, my chains disintegrated. He gave me a new set of clothes and filled me with hope. He wiped my tears and gave me a new name. He told me that I was His and that no power of darkness would ever have a hold on me again. He told me to look up and keep my eyes firmly planted on Him.

I conceded. I could not live without Him another day in my life.

 
Jesus, I will forever praise Your name for Your hand in my life. Thank you for freeing me from a life of sin and breaking my chains forever. You are the true Healer and have healed my hardened heart. Please continue working on me and molding me into the person you created me to be. I know that you want what’s best for me and because you know the future, know exactly what that is. Please help me to continue trusting you with my life and to remember what happened when I took my life into my own hands, not to criticize myself, but only to remember that my best path is the one you have for me. I love you Father and I will never leave you again.  ~Angie

The Spirit of Transparency

Transparency

I will talk about it often. I will use the word frequently. It is my calling. And when I write or talk about transparency, I am referring to who we are as a person, not the external appearance.

And… We should be real. We should stop pretending to have it all together all the time. We, ALL of us, struggle during life and true Christian community only comes from authentic relationships with each other. It is within this community that we should be free to open up our insecurities, fears, hurts, and failures.

However… being transparent with everyone about everything is not always advised. There are some people, sadly, that will only take what you have shared with them and use it to launch an attack on you. They will use your vulnerability to hurt you.

There are 2 major ways in which you can be transparent.

1. You can be transparent about your past. If your past is painful, whether it be how you were hurt by someone else or your own destructive behavior, you should consider talking to someone or a small group of people that would show you understanding and grace and be trustworthy.

However, you would need to pray long and hard before you shared on a public platform. It would be a brave step and could be used for God’s glory, but only when you are ready and under the right circumstances. God knows where you’ve been and He understands if you are not ready.

Being transparent in this matter is important but you don’t have to share with the public in order to “be transparent”. It is your PAST and ultimately needs to be let go. It is only after letting it go and the effects it has had on you as a person, that you can find true healing. Then, maybe you can share with the public, for the right reasons.

2. You can be transparent about your present failures, inadequacies, and weaknesses. I think this is important within a Christian community of trustworthy people. Because of the nature of some struggles, it is usually best to find a community of people within your own sex. (Vulnerable conversations should never be held with someone of the opposite sex unless it’s your husband.)

 It is comforting to know that other women have the same struggles as I do and that I am not alone and I want others to feel the same. It is through these authentic relationships that we can draw closer to Christ and work on the things in which we struggle.

Living as if we have it all together in front of everyone is pretending to be someone we are not. However, we don’t have to share all of our struggles with the world in order to “be transparent”.

 The Spirit of Transparency

 The spirit of transparency deals with your heart. You are being transparent if, in general, you are being authentic about who you are with others. This does not mean that you should air all of your dirty laundry and share all your struggles with the world. This does mean that you readily admit that you are not perfect, that you fail at times, and that you do have weaknesses and things with which you struggle.  It really depends on your story and it details as well as your position in the healing process.

 There will be times that God calls you to share specifics with certain people. Listen for His calling and His lead. Your story and experiences might be the story that could lead someone to the healing waters only God provides and you should never let your fear of sharing hinder those conversations. There may be a time when He wants you to make public your story. This is between you and God and is about using your experiences to help others.

 For me, today, I can share some of my life story with you, the public.  I am at a point in my life that I could personally share more than I do, but I choose not to at this time because of the nature of my story and the other people involved in it. I am praying about how and when I should share more and waiting for the undeniable approval of God.

 Maybe someday, I will be able to share more. But until then, I admit to you that I do not have it all together, I make mistakes every day, I have made poor decisions that have had a huge negative impact on my life, I have fears, I struggle with thoughts of inadequacy, etc…. and the list can go on and on. I can also confidently share that I have never been more determined to be a better person, wife, and mother and to follow Christ more diligently. I am, after years of hiding behind secret doors, doing my very best to live transparently.

And THAT is what Christ wants from me.

Baggage – Let it Go

I am wounded. Deeply. And I am still healing. One day I think I’ve come a long way in the healing process and another day something happens to remind me that I still have a good distance to go. There are still those things… past “baggage” that I cling to, or pick back up, that affects the here and now. It comes from several sources, including my own mistakes and poor decisions.

Merriam Webster defines this type of baggage as “intangible things (as feelings, circumstances, or beliefs) that get in the way.” And do they EVER get in the way! They get in the way of joy, peace, relationships, faith, and a whole host of other amazing words to describe good things.

My baggage was once again brought to my attention again the other day with my husband. He is an amazing man full of grace and patience (he has to be with me or we wouldn’t have made it this far). He has never given me reason to believe otherwise. Yet I still question it. At times, deep within me (because I try to ignore it), I still question him and his integrity. I wonder if he truly is the man that I see every day. Part of the reason for this is my own lack of integrity in the past and part of it is the lack of integrity of other people who have hurt me.

This “baggage” and transference of my past to him “GETS IN THE WAY” of us having a solid relationship. I am quite honestly struggling with it.

We attended counseling for months before getting married. One thing that sticks out in my mind from our sessions is that we are to “assume the best” in each other. That is easy to hear and think “I can do that” until you get in the moment and what you “see” and “hear” contradicts what is truth. Our past and our baggage shapes how we view things and hear things, despite what we want to believe. When you have experienced a traumatic situation, your view of reality can be somewhat skewed at times.

Take for example the woman who lives through a house fire in which she was afraid for her life and the lives of her family. They escape but she has nightmares about the experience for years and occasionally even smells smoke when there is no smoke. Or the child that lives through abuse from his dad. He grows up thinking that men cannot be trusted and is suspicious of even the most noble people. Or the woman who lived through an affair in her marriage who is suspicious of everything and everyone.

Our fears and experiences can sometimes alter reality. It is up to us to figure out what these are and work to see things as they truly are rather than how our emotions and/or fears lead us. It is up to us to decide to give those to Jesus and let His healing waters flow over us.

So here is what I am going to do today. I am going to let go, again, of all my past. I am going to show myself grace. I am going to show others grace. I am going to show my husband grace. I am going to keep fighting my emotions and tainted reality and seek to see others through Jesus’ eyes. I’ve done it before but when I let my guard down, the baggage creeps back in. So I will do it again. It will be a continual process until I no longer have to worry about it. This may be the time it sticks. But it may not. And I will keep working at it.

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

…a time to search and a time to give up;

a time to keep and a time to throw away” Ecclesiastes 3: 1,  6

This is is the time to give up up our baggage and throw it away. Will you join me? What is your baggage? Is it “getting in your way”? Take some time right now and drop it. Let Jesus take the weight from you and give you peace. And if it comes back, do it again. We can do this with His help! I am confident that through Him, we can do anything (Philippians 4:13). We just have to be aware of what is going on inside of us and be real about it.

It is so good for me to write these words. Being transparent is freeing. Find someone you trust and share your heart with them. Share what is deep within you so that you can let it go. Share it with Jesus and share it with someone else. Together, and with God as our lead, we can do this!

I am saying a prayer for you today… the one who is reading this with pain in your heart because of the past you carry with you. You are loved and you are special. God’s grace can cover all your past failures, hurts, and betrayals. Let Him take it from you.  If needed, daily give it to Him until it’s gone for good!

Keeping it Real,

~ Angie Jenning

 

The Sun is Always Shining

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;

I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.

These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.  Isaiah 42:16

I was in a pit of despair. The lowest of lows in my little mind. I had made some terrible mistakes. I had been involved in a sinful and secretive life. My marriage was dissolving. I was realizing how battered I was. I had lost friends. My family was questioning me and my decisions. Except for a few friends and my counselor, I felt like the whole world was against me. I wondered if the sun would ever shine in my life again. I didn’t know how it would. My life had been dark for so long I didn’t know if it were even possible to see light again. I was in too deep. There was no way out.

This is me just three years ago. I knew in my mind that God was there. Somewhere. But I wondered if I would ever find Him. I wondered if I would ever see His light again.

As I reflect on reasons why there is darkness in someone’s life, I believe there are two reasons the sun might not be shining.

1. Sometimes bad things just happen to people who are living the best they know how in God’s graces. Like the story of Job in the Bible, there’s no good reason it seems for the trials. It just is. It’s hard to understand sometimes but resting in the fact that God has it all under control and trusting that good will come of it is the best way to cope.

2. You have made bad decisions in your life and are living through the consequences of those decisions.

The reason the sun was not shining for me is primarily because of bad decisions on my part. There were some things out of my control that just happened to add to the misery I was already in, but my decisions had landed me in a place in which I was very deep in the pit of despair and darkness.

I started to realize how much my actions had affected where I was in life at that moment.
(It starts small and you think it’s no big deal… but sin has a way of building and building and you don’t even realize what’s happening. It only takes a series of small decisions to eventually lead to disaster). My sin had led me to continual suffering and the weight of it was on my shoulders.

Over the course of the next three years, I allowed God to start working in me. It took baby steps and failed attempts at learning how to live life again with Him in the lead. I wanted to return to the God of my childhood. I wanted to bask in the glory of His light once again. It had been so very long and I sincerely and passionately longed for it to return.

After giving it all over to Him again and living life on my own for a while, God started showing me glimpses of His light again. Even though there were clouds still thick above me, the sun was starting to shine again. I could see it peeking through the clouds. I was grateful for it because it had been so long.

I am newly married and we were on my honeymoon last month flying to our destination. My thoughtful husband instructed me to look out of the window, then told me “The clouds are below us but the sun always shines up here.” Wow! I just sat in deep thought for quite some time letting that sink in.

Let this sink in for you…

Above the clouds, the sun is ALWAYS shining. No matter the cloud cover that we may see from the ground, the brightness of the sun is always there. We just may not see it at the time.

I look back on my life and see how much this is true. Though I felt like the sun was no longer there, it really was. It was just waiting for the perfect moment to peek through the clouds. I was needing to change and needing to be refined by fire. What happened to me and because of my actions was a catalyst of change and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I am a better person because of it.

Sometimes, we go through darkness for reasons that we do not know. Sometimes it’s clear to us later in life. Sometimes, it’s not. But God is always there, even if we may not see Him at the moment.

If things are rough in your life, know that the light will shine again. It’s there, above the clouds, just waiting to shine in all its glory into our lives. Believe it! That hope can take you a long way in your journey.