Freedom Friday: A Time For War

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

Everyone walks through different seasons in life. Even the weather goes through seasons (in most places, at least!). Here in northern Virginia, the last few weeks have been unseasonably cool. There was one day when I headed to a group run at 5:45 AM, and I had to turn on the heat in my car. Now we seem to be back to the hot, humid weather of late summer. But the nights are getting longer. It was still not fully light when I got out of my exercise class this morning (around 6:25). Soon, the leaves will change, and autumn will be upon us.

If you continue reading in Ecclesiastes, you find there are many types of seasons. There is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to plant and a time to harvest. There is a time to tear down and a time to build up. Have you considered what type of season you might be in?

Read the first 8 verses of the chapter now.

I shared before about a season I walked through in 2004. I was desperate to know God’s plan for me, to know what the future would hold. God did confirm that He had an amazing plan in store for me, but that I wasn’t ready to walk out that plan.

Instead, God called me to a season of quiet (v. 7). He called me to rest in Him, to soak up His heart and His Word and all the amazing things He thinks about me as His adopted child. So rest, I did. It was also a time to tear down some faulty ideas I had about God and about my identity in Him, and a time to build up the foundation of His truth that I needed in my life in order to maintain a healthier relationship with Him.

In the past few years, there have been deep seasons of grief. First, my grandmother and my aunt. Then, the baby I miscarried, Bunny Boo (who was due in August of 2009 and would have been 4 this week). Several uncles, my grandfather, and most recently my dad. It has been a time to grieve and cry, as well as laugh, remembering all the amazing moments I shared with these people.

Yet with all the transitions of the past several years, I am tired. I am in a season where everything seems hard. I just want to return to that season in 2004 and beyond, take time to rest in God and let Him tell me all the things He loves about me πŸ™‚

But He spoke to me specifically a few weeks ago as I lamented about how tired I am. He said, “Brenna, this is not a time for rest; this is a time for war.” It’s time to go to war against all those not-God-honoring thoughts that have crept in during this time of uncertainty. It’s time to take those self-limiting and God-limiting thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. It’s time to think like a free person once again.

What type of season are you in? Is it a season of rest? Or do you need to declare war on some habits and thought patterns that have slowly worked their way into your life?

Exodus Conference Follow-up: Download My Songs

Throughout the next week or so, I’ll be posting some new material and reposting some old material here that is relevant to the various things I discussed at the Exodus Freedom conference.

I stopped emphasizing the fact that I am a singer/songwriter on this blog a while ago, and I’m not positive why. Maybe I was concerned about the quality of the recordings I have, or I let my critics get to me (who at one point called my music “crappy”). I also thought I’d just wait to start sharing my music when I had more professional mp3’s.

Numerous people came up to me at the conference to confirm that my songs could be found somewhere on-line. One woman emphatically said, “I need to have your songs……in my car!!!”

Well, thanks for the encouragement, folks πŸ™‚ I’ve decided to stop caring that the recording quality may not be great and simply allow God to use my songs however He sees fit.

That said, I will give a disclaimer. I gave a concert in May of 2001. Someone put a minidisc recorder in the front row of the sanctuary and recorded it (remember those things?). I made a CD out of that. That whole CD is available for free download here. Simply right-click on the individual files to download. You can also download the CD art at the above link if you want to burn yourself a CD and be all old skool πŸ™‚

I shared several of my songs in the context of my testimony in one of my Exodus Freedom conference workshops. Here they are. These will all play streaming. If you want to download the first three, go here, find the song, and right-click to download.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(downloadable here)

You can also purchase my testimony through CA Tapes. The mp3 is $5 & the CD is $7. The quality of the songs came through pretty well.

You can also download other random songs here, including

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

, the sweet baby we lost through miscarriage.

I will close with the words of thanks to God that I used on the CD:

“[Thanks to] Jesus, for keeping me alive when all I wanted to do was die. Let me never forget what You’ve done for me.”

To Him be the glory forever and ever, Amen.

Good Friday: The Original Freedom Friday

It’s Freedom Friday. It also happens to be the day many in the church celebrate Good Friday.

I wrote this on Good Friday of 2009 in my paper journal:

It’s Good Friday & I’m 8 weeks pregnant.

Today is a bittersweet day. This is my 3rd pregnancy. My 1st pregnancy was relatively smooth and resulted in my beautiful son, Bear. We always hoped to have many children. Being that I was 32 at Bear’s birth, we only waited just over a year before trying to have another. After less than a month, we found out on our 6th anniversary that I was pregnant again- with a baby we called Bunny Boo.

At 8 weeks pregnant, Bunny boo was lost by miscarriage.

I was pregnant again 2 months later with Monkey. I felt peace about my 3rd pregnancy, but felt bittersweet relief when I arrived at 8 weeks.

If I hadn’t lost Bunny Boo, we wouldn’t have been celebrating 8 weeks of pregnancy with Monkey this Good Friday.

How appropriate! This weekend, whether you call it Easter, Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday or Pascha, is also bittersweet. On Good Friday, we can celebrate and reflect because we know the end of the story. We can mourn as the disciples mourned as they watched their leader be arrested, led away, flogged, taunted, punished and murdered by crucifixion. We mourn that our sin put Him through all that. Yet we rejoice in knowing that because of God’s love, He made it possible for us to have abundant & eternal life.

Thankfully, my 3rd pregnancy has a happy ending as well. I have a cute little Monkey, 17 months old, running around the yard as we speak πŸ™‚

That doesn’t erase the pain of the bittersweet reality of Monkey’s pregnancy and Bunny Boo’s loss.

We also know the end of the story we are celebrating today. Just like my 3 pregnancies, Easter does not erase the bittersweet reality of Good Friday. So before before we rush on to the Resurrection, let’s sit here for a minute.

As I type this, the 100 Portraits song, “Around my Neck“, plays on my iTunes. An amazing song. I’ll let it speak for itself.

The cross I wear around my neck
What does it mean if it does not mean death.
Please tell me if it doesn’t mean blood,
or nails, or crying or loneliness?

The cross I wear around my neck
What is if for, if it is not for breaking
And if it’s not for pain, or nakedness, or hammering?

The cross I wear around my neck
is being raised above my head
I think this time it’s wearing someone else
I see it drop into the ground and when it falls
I hear the sound, someone crying, “I love you!”

The cross I wear around my neck
What does it mean, if it does not mean love.
Please tell me if it doesn’t sing of hope and healing,
and forgiveness?

The cross I wear around my neck
Who is it for if it is not for me, if it’s not for sin,
and all my searching for the innocence?

The cross I wear around my neck
is being raised above my head
I think this time it’s wearing someone else
I see it drop into the ground and when it falls
I hear the sound, someone crying, “I love you!

The cross I wear around my neck
is being raised above my head
I think this time itΒΉs wearing someone else
I see it drop into the ground and when it falls
I hear the sound someone screaming, “I love you!”

The cross I wear around my neck
Who is it for, if it is not for us:
the lame, the blind, the ones held captive,
and the fatherless?

What is the message of Good Friday? It’s a message of surrender. Imagine if Jesus had chosen to follow His feelings & desires in the Garden that day. Where would we be? It’s a message of suffering. And it’s a message of hope, abundant life and mercies new every morning.

The message of the cross is the Father God crying out to a broken world, “I love you and I am willing to do whatever it takes to hold you in my arms, love you, heal you. I’m willing to give up everything I have, my Only Son, that you all may have the opportunity to be called my sons & daughters, that You no longer have to live in bondage.”

“Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.” Isaiah 53

We have freedom in Christ because Jesus did not use His own freedom to choose to step outside God’s will. He instead chose to step right into His Jordan for you and for me.

How then should we respond? Take a moment to be silent. What would God have you do in response?

I challenge you today to respond with that same level of surrender. My prayer is that you, and I, will make the same declaration of trust, that we will take the next step toward living in the fullness of abundant freedom that is available to all believers.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Amen.

Freedom Fridays: Choosing to Trust

Trusting God is a hard thing. Understatement of the year, but this is something that has been really hitting home lately as I ponder the future of my children. Surrendering my children to God’s care does not mean things will turn out the way I hope, or even that they will live to reach adulthood. I don’t mean to sound so somber. Or maybe it sounds pessimistic or gloomy.

But it’s reality. I had a miscarriage. I trusted God with that child. The child died.

I’m not saying God killed my child. Hardly. Miscarriages happen for many reasons. If we get hyper-focused on the “why”, we miss the point πŸ™‚

God LOVES you. Just like you wouldn’t wish for bad things to happen to one of your children, neither would the God who does not give us stones when we ask for bread. He has beautiful, awesome, amazing and wonderful things for you and for me. Really. Let that soak in.

The point is that trusting God is a choice.

It’s not a choice to trust that things will work out a certain way; it’s a choice to trust in His character. It’s a choice to believe that He works out all things for the good of those who love Him – and that means trusting that He’s not trying to teach you a lesson in a punitive “I’m wagging my finger at you, little girl” way because you need to learn a lesson.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

I want to share an excerpt from an article I wrote:

And most importantly, I wrestled with God. A lot. In all honesty, I suppose, it was more like I wrestled and He waited patiently for me to realize that He is who He says He is and He will do what He has said He will do.

***

There were times when I was so angry and bitter at God because He could have made my life β€” past and present β€” easier if He wanted to, but He didn’t. He wasn’t working according to my timing, and that wasn’t easy for me.

I’m reminded of something from John 6. Jesus had just given the disciples a particularly difficult command. Rather than trusting in God’s goodness and overall trustworthiness and taking into account their limited understanding, quite a few of the disciples decided it was too tough a command and stopped following Christ. When Jesus turned to the Twelve to ask if they would leave too, Peter responded, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.”

That’s how I feel. In the midst of all the questions and doubts, I already knew that I had tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good, and that I had no other choice but to take refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8), to take my questions and hurts, rest in the shadow of His wing, and trust that He’s always been faithful. And that this time will be no exception.

As I’ve been contemplating the issue of trust and what it should look like, I can’t help but think of the following passage where children interact with Jesus:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, β€œLet the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16 (emphasis mine)

I’m sure there are a lot of things we could pull from this as we seek to understand the passage, but I can’t help but relate it to the trust of a child.

As most of you know if you’ve spent 60 seconds reading my blog, I have 2 children πŸ™‚ I never had to teach them to trust me. They trusted me from birth. Of course as imperfect parents, there are things we can do to break that trust, but at least initially, my children inherently trusted me, and thankfully they still do. They run to me (or their father) when they need food, when they have a question (in fact, all day long, I hear, “Excuse me! I’m telling you a question!”), they come to us when they are excited, and we are the first people they run to when they were hurt.

Why don’t we do that with God? If we are to come to Him as little children, why don’t we trust Him like little children?

Trust is a choice. Again, it’s a choice to take God at His word. It’s a choice to believe that He is who He says He is even when life would try to convince us otherwise.

I’ve been actively choosing to trust God for several years now. Almost every time I pray, I end with, “God, I choose to trust You.” It’s almost another way of saying, “God, if Your will is different than my will & my desires, I will still love & follow You.”

If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
2 Timothy 2:13

Believers are God’s children. We have been adopted into His family. And when we choose to trust God, it’s a picture of how Jesus responded to the little children: He takes us into His arms, places His hands on us and blesses us.

Trust is a choice.

When I think about trust, I can’t help but think of the song He’s Always Been Faithful by Sara Groves, a song that still brings me to tears almost every time, despite 8+ years of knowing it. I chose the picture for this entry based on the first 2 lines. The lyrics stand for themselves. I’ll end this post with them.

Morning by morning I wake up to find
The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine
Season by season I watch him amazed
In awe of the mystery of his perfect ways

All I have need of his hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me

I can’t remember a trial or a pain
He did not recycle to bring me gain
I can’t remember one single regret
In serving God only and trusting his hand

This is my anthem, this is my song
The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long
God has been faithful, he will be again
His loving compassion, it knows no end

Keeping Feelings in Their Proper Place

On Saturday, I started thinking about Tuesday. That’s today, December 14, the day on which in 2002, I married my husband. The day on which in 2008, I found out I was pregnant with Bunny Boo, the baby who was born much too early and straight into God’s arms.

I don’t know why God allowed those two dates to be the same. It’s one of many times in my life that a date has significance for multiple reasons. Another example is the day Bunny Boo passed away: 4 weeks after we learned of his existence. It was on the same date my father’s parents, my grandparents, passed away, except my pebble baby died 1 year after my grandmother died and 40 years after my grandfather (my grandparents died on the same date, 39 years apart). And then my baby JJ, who wouldn’t have been born had Bunny Boo survived, is now 1. He was born on the same date that my aunt, the sister of my grandmother, passed away, just 1 year later.

I can’t say why God allows dates to line up like that. In this case, maybe He didn’t want me to forget. But on Saturday, I started feeling quite sad and very sorry for myself.

Then I decided to take some of my own advice. I decided to allow my feelings to be indicators rather than dictators.

I could allow myself to feel my feelings without choosing to wallow and drown in them.

It is absolutely OK for me to be sad that I lost a child. Absolutely. But often we start to feel bad and then we analyze and rationalize all the reasons we are feeling bad. We stare deeply into our feelings, gazing into each cell and picking apart every nook and cranny. We choose to dive straight into self-pity rather than allowing God into those moments: not only to give us insight but to allow them to be redeemed.

Deeply feeling our emotions is part of the healing process. But it’s not the end. Sometimes we have to stay in that place for a little while in order to learn that our feelings are valid, as many of us have been told time and time again not only to ignore and deny our feelings, but also that our feelings, our emotions, our reactions are just too big and too much.

That said, as much as we do want to recognize how we are feeling, we need to remember that our feelings are valid as indicators. If we dwell there too long, we can allow them to transform into dictators.

Today on this beautiful and painful anniversary, I will allow myself to feel my feelings, but I won’t permit them to engulf me. Instead, I can acknowledge that my feelings of grieve can coexist with my feelings of rejoicing in all this day encompasses.

Article: "When The Darkness Closes In"

I was really touched and challenged by the following article written by Mike Ensley, a friend of mine who also write for Boundless, called “When The Darkness Closes In“.

The title of the article is a line from the Matt Redman son, “Blessed Be Your Name”. I have a love/hate relationship with this song. Don’t get me wrong; it’s an amazing song. But it’s also a challenging one, and since the miscarriage, I cannot sing it without breaking into tears. The Scripture that much of the song is based on is the one that was running through my head as I waited to find out if I was really having a miscarriage. It is Job’s words that he said after being informed he had lost almost everything, included all of his children: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

The article is about many things, including depression – something I’ve struggled with on & off for my whole life. You should really go read it. Here’s a quote.

Depression affects people in unique ways. In times when I’m hit by something much more potent than “the blues,” it manifests in a sort of social anxiety. I’ll get claustrophobic in a place like a movie theater, a mall β€” or church. There’s no real reason, no specific dread that occupies my mind; only the same emotion as if there were. I crave nothing but quiet and solitude. The experience is hard to describe, other than to say it can be very uncomfortable and even disheartening.

Why Does God Let Babies Die?

That’s the question I asked Roy today. A woman on a message board I frequent lost her baby today. He was born not breathing, with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He was revived temporarily, but went to be with Jesus last night. I had been praying for her little baby, for his complete healing, & for her family since she went into labor.

The family seems to be holding up as well as could be expected. They have 2 young daughters. Pray for them.

I look at my beautiful son, and my heart breaks to imagine life without him. It gives me a glimpse into the father heart of God, who spared no expense in sending His only son to suffer & die a horrific death.

Roy responded, “Why does God let anyone die?” Good question. There are no easy answers. The fact is we will all die someday. No one is exempt. Does it seem cruel & unfair to me that a sweet little baby boy should have to go to Jesus so soon? Yes. But at least he is not suffering anymore. For now, their little baby boy has received his complete healing and is resting in God’s arms.

Less than 7 months after this, I lost a child to miscarriage. I wrote an article about that experience: Bye, Bye, Pebble Baby