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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Tuesday 22nd September 2015

If Life Has Thrown You a Curveball, Read This. (#TellHisStory)

I spent the weekend with a few dozen women at a retreat in central Iowa. I led three sessions, but also had a lot of time to sit one-on-one with my new sisters, praying with them and hearing their stories.

Over and over, I heard the same theme through their tears: “I never anticipated this.”

Divorce. Job loss. Infertility. Watching your husband fade under the grip of cancer.

For every one of those women, life was heading in the exact opposite of the way they had planned. Yet underneath the tears, their hearts were groping for a reliable God who keeps His promises.

It’s true: Everything changes.

“But You remain the same.” (Hebrews 1:12)

“For I am the LORD, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6)

In the back of the chapel, on Saturday night, I was meditating on our unchanging God. He’s the steady Rock underneath all the shifting sands.

We watched and sang as an artist on the stage painted a picture with delicate strokes.

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What emerged was an exquisite butterfly, with wings open wide, stretching from frame to frame.

Watching the artist, I imagined how — even before the world began — God stood before some great canvas, carefully crafting every detail of every one of us.

Before He painted the Grand Canyon or the most stunning sunset or the blush of trees in autumn, He painted you.

“Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love.” Ephesians 1:4 (The Message) 

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But because we live in a broken and busted-up world, life gets messy. We lose sight of the beauty.

To make her point, the artist grabbed a can of black spray paint. And then she started spraying all over the masterpiece she had created. The audience gasped. I wanted to run up to her and grab her arm, to make her stop. I was so sad to see her wreck such beauty.

I imagined that’s how God feels when I try to cover up the beauty He’s made. When I cover the beauty up with the masks I wear, with my try-hard efforts to get it right, with my feeble attempts at impression management, with my stubborn refusal to obey, with my own sin, with my unwillingness to surrender to Him during the inevitable changes in my life.

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I imagined God wanting to stop us when we cover up the beauty. But He doesn’t stop us. Furthermore, none of this surprises Him. He is not shocked by the mess in the masterpiece.

Because underneath it all, He is still working. No matter what season we are in, God is at work.

He hasn’t turned His back on us. He’s turning something IN us.

Even in the midst of the mess, you are still a masterpiece. You are still the focus of His love.

I don’t know what your “mess” is. I don’t know what season of change you’re in. I don’t know what beauty you’ve tried to cover up, by pretending it was all okay. But I’ll bet you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve been hurt by betrayal, by unmet expectations, by the feeling that you’ve been left behind, by the natural tendency of friendships to change, by children moving off to college, by something you regret doing, by unanticipated change.

There are two guarantees in life: 

1 – Your circumstances will always change.

2 – Your God will never change.

After the artist spray-painted her canvas, she turned the picture around, to show that the painting hadn’t been ruined at all. She had been painting on a window. It was even more beautiful than what we had first seen. What does that mean for us?

It means that the biggest changes in our lives are windows through which we can see God revealing His great glory. Underneath the mess, the masterpiece remains. He’s turning you around. Just watch, and behold the beauty. 

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Last week, I finished a new book by Kristen Strong about change.

In Girl Meets Change, Kristen tells us that change is inevitable. But with Christ, she says, change isn’t something to be feared. It is something to be received as a blessing from a God who is working THROUGH it, not in spite of it.

Sometimes, Kristen says, “you must leave the comforts of what is to embrace the potential of what will be.”

It may look like the masterpiece that God made is a complete mess. It may look like it’s all falling apart. But, like Kristen says, we have everything we need to handle that change, because we have everything we need in Christ.

GirlMeetsChange

Two-Book Giveaway

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To celebrate the release of Kristen’s new book, Girl Meets Change, I’m giving away two copies!

If you’ve experienced change in your life, you’ll want this book. Change is inevitable, but thriving through it is optional. Every woman needs this inspiring message.

You can order Kristen’s book in my shop, on Amazon, or at your favorite book retailer. To enter the giveaway, fill out the Rafflecopter below. (Email subscribers click here to enter.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

#TellHisStory

Hey Tell His Story crew! It is always a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Marcy Hanson. She writes about when brave isn’t easy and I am so encouraged and strengthened by the honesty in her words. Find Marcy here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 xo Jennifer

  • JosephPote

    Oh, how cool! What a great illustration.

    Yes, things often look pretty dark from our perspective…but the master artist uses it all to work out His masterpiece.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Joe! Great to see you here this afternoon.

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  • Anna

    Jennifer, this was such a beautiful illustration of God’s love for us and it reminds me of The Message’s John 5:15, which talks of a relationship that is both intimate and organic. I’ve been meditating on this Scripture the past few days and it strikes me that for me at least this organic nature has been very painful, but extremely important at stripping back the layers…getting rid of the black spraypaint from your story. And the more change and heartache…the more my pride is stripped and the more aware I become of just how amazing our God is and how gobsmacking His grace truly is. Thank you for your encouraging words.

  • Mary

    Thank you for the real life illustration of God’s unending love for each of us. These words sum it up for me
    “Even in the midst of the mess, you are still a masterpiece. You are still the focus of His love.”
    Thank you for reminding us all that God is the unchanging force that holds us through all of our own change.

  • What a great image – black to beautiful. And i love this: Before He painted the Grand Canyon or the most stunning sunset or the blush of trees in autumn, He painted you.
    (I forget.)
    “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love.” Ephesians 1:4 (The Message)

    I know God used to you encourage those ladies. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Laurel Swanson

    I loved the time spent with you at the retreat this weekend, and I loved being reminded of this time in worship. Yes I want the book!

  • Anita

    I resist change–mostly because after going through a rapidly changing traumatic time in my life, I feel as if I could much better arrange my circumstances, thank you very much. But each time I get too clingy to my schedule or MY way of doing something, God always gently reminds me that even though the change was rapid and traumatic, it was GOOD. It was needed. It was ordained by HIM.

  • Kim’s County Line

    I love this post and the butterfly illustration. “I imagined that’s how God feels when I try to cover up the beauty He’s
    made. …” And I’d love to read the book. Thanks, as always, for your insight, Jennifer.

  • Miranda Miller

    I’ve wanted this book since the first time I’ve seen it. My world was turned upside down when my husband was accused of sexually assaulting our two year old daughter. Anybody reading, please pray for me and my family.

    • Caryn Jenkins Christensen

      Miranda, I see your post and am praying over you right now.

    • KristenStrong

      Miranda, I’m so sorry for what you and your family are going through. I’m on my knees praying for you right now. Just know how incredibly loved you are. Holding your hand from afar…

    • Miranda, I’ve been praying for you since I read your comment on my phone last night. I am so sorry for all that you’re going through. I echo what Kristen said. You are loved!

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  • Jennifer, this message is so inspiring and hope-filled. I cringed when I read the artist sprayed black paint over that beautiful butterfly, and I was awed that the picture was still on the other side. Wow! What a comforting analogy! Thank you!

    I would love to win the book. 🙂

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  • jmr224

    Ahhh – so many changes, all bundled together! I graduated grad school, thought I would be moving home after a dry season of applications, only to get a dream offer the day before my movers were coming! I start my new job in just two weeks!

  • I so much appreciate your deep and profound messages — this workshop sounds so rich, what a gift woman could share such grief in the arms of other women and God’s grace. The painting of the butterfly and illustration is beautiful. Thank you much!!

  • So thankful our God never changes. Despite our circumstances, His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. Love this post.

  • Tara Ulrich

    Jennifer, thank you, thank you, thank you! So much THIS: ” It means the biggest changes in our lives are windows through which we can see God revealing His great glory. Underneath the mess, the masterpiece remains. He’s turning you around. Just watch, and behold the beauty.” I totally would have wanted to grab that spray can out of her hands too. I am so glad takes our brokenness. “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”–Psalm 30:5

  • Lynda R

    Thank you for offering this book as a giveaway!

  • Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    What an extraordinary visual reminder that “underneath the mess, the masterpiece remains.” Love it! …and you <3

  • Lauren Hennebury

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time! In the midst of the biggest upheavals I’ve ever experienced, I have found myself looking to God more than ever. Thank you!

  • R H

    Change. It has been the theme for us for 2015. All we had/have determined to be for the bad. A tractor fire in March; straight line winds in June ripped the tarp off a hoop building and the biggie: Land we/ my in-laws had rented for 30 yrs was sold at auction in July. Now trying to get last cutting of hay cut and it looks like it will be an early harvest. No corn = no feed for our dairy cows. They will probably be sold next winter. I went back to college; my husband decided a full time job closer to home would be good (he was working PT and drove 31 miles one way). He was all set to start a job when the one he is at now, came to our attention a week before he was to start the other one. This one was a God thing, even the secretary said it. It was a position that the employer had been looking to fill since June 1 and wasn’t even on our radar. Now he comes home today and asks if i want to work there too, in a different capacity! whoa!! So more praying. I once heard someone say at a meeting that “change is inevitable; growth is a choice.” Change is uncomfortable. It can hurt a great deal. It stretches us far beyond where we ever thought we would be able to reach. God is always with us leading our way but it is hard for me to let go, to not be in charge. I read once that God gives us enough light to see one step at a time, not the whole staircase. I often read your posts and feel like you are speaking to me, or another friend may come to mind. Blessings to you. 🙂

  • I would like to win this book because I’ve never handled change well. After losing my grandma last December, I’ve felt I’ve slowly woken up to change you can’t resist, you have to go through it. I really would just like more encouragement.

  • Michaela Morrison

    Change… the story of my life… abused and unwanted as a child…left home at 17 … married too young… each relationship brought more and more abuse… lived in about 10 states… moved about 30 times withing each area… make more mistakes than I can count. And yet, Jesus still loves me. Oh how I would love a book and is it possible to get a print of that painting ???

    • Oh wow, Michaela … I am so sorry to hear about all that you’ve gone through. Sending hugs and prayers!

      I am sorry to say that it’s not possible to get a print. It’s a one of a kind painting, on glass.

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Jennifer,
    Oh so many changes I’ve gone through in life…some welcomed…some my worst nightmare. Through it all, God was always faithful to reach out His righteous right hand and to hold me up, even when I couldn’t hold onto Him. So thankful I have an unchanging God when the world around me is continually shifting. Would love to read Kristen’s new book!
    Blessings,
    Bev

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    “Impression management……” guilty as charged. Thoughtful post, Ms. Jennifer. Thank you for ministering with your gifts to the Body of Christ.

  • Deborah Will

    The books look awesome. A change in my life – retirement and then I decided to substitute teach – always wanted to be a teacher and now I am a grandmother too. Love my new life.

    • How wonderful, Deborah! Celebrating with you. 🙂

  • Kristine Brown MTY

    I absolutely love worship artistry like what you described here, Jennifer. Such a visual picture of how God sees us – beautiful, wonderful, and full of potential. Thank you for sharing this!

  • STEPHANIE

    I would love to win this book because I need it.

  • Heather Fineisen

    The post is so timely as I have been separated from my husband for a month. The butterfly created a visual that is etched in my mind. Now I just need the book to have the words etched in my heart!

    • Oh Heather … Lifting you up in prayer this morning.

  • Did you hear me gasp when you got to the part about the spray paint? I keep reading about this book in various places, and I think God is trying to tell me that I need to read it. I have been through a job change this year. Both of my kids are now in college. We just lost our 7.5 month old puppy last week. I’m trying to see where God is leading me, but I feel a little bit like that “complete mess”. I’m trying to embrace it, but I don’t know that I’m doing such a great job. Thank you for this post. It was very timely. <3

    • So sorry about your dog, Beth! Wow … you’ve gone through a LOT of change in the last year. Praying for you this morning.

  • Jennifer

    My sister is going through many, many changes! What a lovely gift for her to help her navigate her new waters.

  • GELSIE

    I would love a copy of your book!!!

  • Sophia DeLonghi

    This is a great reminder of God working on our behalf, before, during and afterward! Thanks for this beautiful blog post! Would love to read this book.

  • Angela Howard

    Love this beautiful message of an unchanging God in a broken world!

  • Oh my!! What an incredible way to remind me of the me that God created and is still working on me! A ministry that touches us each and all. Thank you for sharing this. I have been blessed…and touched.

  • Kim Bedwell Garner

    I never dreamed i would have two sons with chronic illnesses! Life is very different than what my husband and I planned, and it’s ever-changing. I would love to win and read this book! Thank you for the giveaway!

    • Hi Kim. So, so hard to have chronically ill sons. I can’t imagine. It’s hard enough when they are sick just for a few days! I am praying for you, Kim, and your family.

  • Kristen Marshall

    I’ve been through so much change this year. Some of it welcome, some of it heartbreaking. But He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

    • Hey Kristen … Praying for you this morning.

  • Thanks, Jennifer…This touched me: “Kristen says, “you must leave the comforts of what is to embrace the potential of what will be.”

  • karen

    Change is hard! I’d love to read her book!!

  • KristenStrong

    JDL, this is breathtaking. Every word is just glorious. And this right here: “It means the biggest changes in our lives are windows through which we can see God revealing His great glory. Underneath the mess, the masterpiece remains. He’s turning you around. Just watch, and behold the beauty.” Gah YES. In the middle of hard change, may I never forget how he’s turning me around.

    This post–what a gift to me. I love you!

    • It was my pleasure to share about your book. You’ve give women everywhere a wonderful gift with your words, Kristen.

  • Oh sweet mercy, YES! Change is hard, but even in the hard, Jesus is right there…loving, holding, molding, transforming. Love this post, friend.

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  • Abby

    What a beautiful reminder. Sometimes it’s only in hindsight we can look back and see how he used all of that mess and change for good. I’m so thankful we serve an unchanging God who loves us despite our brokenness. Thank you, Jennifer. Love this.

  • Susan

    I am talking about broken over at my blog today as well. This artwork and the words – well, what can one say? Perfectly God!!!

  • I loved this post, Jennifer! What beautiful paintings! I shared about transition & Kristen’s book as well today 🙂 The book was truly wonderful & will bless your winners.

  • Natalie Wilson

    The times of greatest change in my life have brought pain, but they’ve also brought a sweet new depth in my relationship with God and a tried and true understanding of His goodness that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

  • Sarah Warth

    Such a wonderful weekend with an amazing message. Thanks for sharing your story with us! And I definitely gasped in horror when she started spray painting the butterfly too!

  • Beautiful story and what a beautiful Savior we have. Great reminder that He knows…..

  • Gayle

    So good. Thanks for sharing.

  • Mary Beth

    Big changes in my life for the last 3 yrs. Serious illness and surgeries with my husband, new grandchild, struggling with depression and anxiety, needing knee surgery myself. Some days I just want it all to stop!!!.

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  • Nancy Ruegg

    Your posts often bring me to tears, Jennifer — tears that well up from the depths of my soul where the real me lives — the me that struggles from time to time with doubt, insignificance, discouragement. The tears come as I sense my Heavenly Father speaking to me through your words, words like: “Underneath the mess, the masterpiece remains. He’s turning you around. Just watch, and behold the beauty.” I’m thinking: underneath the mess that is me, my unchanging Master remains. He’s still working, turning trouble to triumph. I may not see the beauty this side of heaven, but I can trust him to work all things for good. Praise God and thank you, Jennifer!

  • Janita Abbas

    That is beautiful. Thank you for a chance to win

  • Kristi Woods

    These 2 ground us so well…
    1 – Your circumstances will always change.
    2 – Your God will never change.

    And the painting? Stunningly beautiful! Sounds as though it was a meaningful weekend, overflowing the Holy Spirit’s touch.
    Kristen’s book ~ just finished reading it and will be reviewing it Fri. on my blog. Wonderful! (If, by chance I win, please feel free to donate the book or pick another winner.) Thanks!

  • Melissa Moser

    Life indeed throws curveballs. Mine was a cancer diagnosis at age 33. The past almost three years have been filled with ups and downs along the way but the change has been grounded in the Lord. I have met so many people that I never would have had the opportunity or circumstance to meet along this winding journey. We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful family, friend, and community network that has kept us in their prayers. Thank-you for the chance to win this book!

    • Hey girlie! How fun to see my in-real-life friend right here in the comment box! I hope you win! But I promise not to rig the drawing.

  • Kristin Sauerbrei

    As a 19 year old college student, change has been inevitable. I have already transferred colleges once and I am completely undecided in my major. Change is hard, transitions suck. But, God is teaching me so many things through it all. The blogpost highlighted lessons that He is softening my heart to. Through the darkness, He is always the beauty. ps: I worked at this Bible camp this summer and I love how God’s speaks to His children in that place. So powerful.

  • Marylyn Gillespie

    something to think about for sure – our circumstances will ALWAYS change – our God will never —

  • I needed this post as I am dealing with some messy circumstances. I’m so thankful for my unshakeable, unchangeable God! Thank you for the chance to win this great book!

  • Karrilee Aggett

    I’m so glad I wrote this morning… before reading this because — Kindred, my friend… and connected to the One who sings over us all, and makes all things new! I love you so! (And that painting!!! Oh my!) I was just listening to a sermon and the guy said that wounds become windows into our souls that tell stories about us and God! It’s so funny because, for some reason (–probably the ‘tell stories’ part!) I thought of you when I heard him say that. And then today, reading this – and seeing the painting, you know, ON a window… just wow! So good!

  • Vanessa

    A beautiful story. Butterfly is the meaning of my name, so I am drawn to them and what they represent. I have seen first-hand the new thing God can build from the ashes x

  • Wow, so impressive and inspiring at the same time. There is beauty in the midst of our mess.

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  • This gives me hope:”No matter what season we are in, God is at work.” and also knowing there is beauty in the mess, and a masterpiece in the making, even when we cannot see it yet. I love the butterfly as a symbol of freedom and grace arising from confining circumstances. Thank you, Jennifer, for this beautiful word. It did my heart good to read it. x

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  • Kristina Notestine

    I really like that analogy! It is such a mindset that I should focus on instead of freaking out. Always enjoy your blog post!

  • Susan G.

    My small group that I first attended, then became co-facilitator for over 10 years is coming to an end… It was a big part of my life, but I can see God doing some big changes in my life lately and He is helping me to see just what Jennifer has written, that I am to “embrace the potential of what will be”. Thanks for the awesome post. So glad our awesome God never changes!

  • What a beautiful, heart-reaching illustration. Even when we feel like we understand how our story is unfolding, our perspective can be so limited. God’s work is never limited by our limited point of view. Praise Him for that! Thanks for this encouraging message. <3

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There are days when you don't know if you can write another book. Then there are days when you remember why you do. Thank you, Tiffany! twitter.com/gulledgetiffan…