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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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Wednesday 17th December 2014

#TellHisStory: Buttons

I’m sitting in the soft glow of my Christmas tree. The lights look like creamy buttons scattered on canvas. Outside, the sun has dipped below the horizon, leaving a slash of orange where Earth meets sky.

I sit with pen in hand, writing a longhand list of graces. My pen makes a catalog of the obvious good in my life.

joy, christmas

Yeah, I write the good. But I write down the not-so-good, too. I list painful parts as graces, not hindrances, because of trust. I am actively trusting that God redeems all things. Maybe I’ll have to wait all the way until heaven to know how it all turned out.

But I write them all down anyway — good, bad and ugly. I choose to trust God anyway.

I trust Him with all that I am, because I believe He is all who He says He is.

He hasn’t done all that I wanted, but He has done all that is right. And that is enough for me.

Sitting here, by button-light, I feel a peace, somewhere deep inside of me, a peace that I don’t always have. But I have that peace today, and so I pen the word “peace” at the bottom of a grace list, like an anchor. I write it in big letters.

I feel, perhaps, a bit like Mary, treasuring it all up in my heart.

gratitude list, god, trusting baking girls baking Christmas ornament Christmas ornament DSC_0305

I’ve spent the better part of a year challenging all of us — as the great Prophet Elsa would say — to “let it go, let it go.” I’ve spread my whole self out on this carpet time and again, flat out on my face, praying that we’d all know we are preapproved. I’ve never been more passionate about any work I’ve ever done, in all my life. I had no expectations of what “success” might look like. I had no sales goals, no slick marketing campaign, no fifteen-point plan, and sometimes, I had no clue.

But God…

But God — those are two words that change everything. Always. But God.

We’re all a mess without Jesus, … without the but God. I’m thinking about that this Christmas.

Tell me about your “But God.”

Mary had one. She had a “but God.”

Behold her, in the button light.

mary, jesus, christmas, willow tree

She was a poor teenage girl. But God sent an angel to her, telling her not to freak out. Yeah, she was a virgin, but God was asking her to follow through.

Imagine the gossip in Nazareth. Imagine what Mary’s family might have been thinking.

If I were Mary, and an angel showed up in my teenage life, I would have said, “can I have a few days to pray about this?” I would have counted the costs. I would have immediately asked myself, “What are people going to think?”

It would have been totally understandable if Mary would have tried to talk her way out of it. Here was a woman who was getting ready to lead a normal life, with the man she loved.

But she risked it all. She risked her reputation. She risked the approval of her friends. She risked being ostracized by her family. She risked losing the man she loved. She risked her own dreams and plans.

But Mary knew she was PreApproved.

She knew she had the approval, love and protection of God.

Mary knew that she didn’t need the approval of people.

preapproved christmas

Mary lived for an Audience of One. She didn’t ask for a few days to think about it. She didn’t run away from God’s call on her life.

Liz Curtis Higgs says that’s why God chose Mary. He knew that Mary would say yes. “God did not have Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. Mary was The Plan,” Liz writes in The Women of Christmas.

The Women of Christmas, Liz Curtis Higgs

 

Instead of counting the costs, Mary said this: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

And God is asking the same of us. Will we be the Lord’s servant? Or will we chase after the approval of people?

Mary’s “yes” changed history. Because she believed in the “but God.”

Later, Mary’s son would grow up to model what it means to live only for the approval of His Father.

Jesus went to the cross for each of us, arms spread wide.

By the soft glow of my tree, I imagine Jesus upon the cross, whispering over us: “Preapproved… Preapproved … Preapproved!”

So many of us are walking through our lives thinking to ourselves: “I’ve got something to prove.”

But God is saying, ‘You’ve got nothing to prove.’”

He is saying, “You want approval? How about you take a good long look at the cross today. If you want to know how much you’re worth, gaze upon the nail-scarred hands of your Savior.”

In the biggest act of validation over your life, the child who came at Christmas grew up to die for you.

And here in my living room, where lights gleam like buttons in air,
I keep on counting every grace,
every peace,
every preapproved proof,
every “But God” —

all of them buttons that fasten truth to my soul.

I needed to know it. Maybe you did, too.

Book Recommendations

Amazon.com can still ship in time for Christmas. Included below are a few of my favorites from 2014, with special attention on Liz Curtis Higgs’ Women of Christmas book, referenced above, and Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, which beautifully makes a case for cataloging all graces, even the hardest ones.

#TellHisStory Linkup

Share your stories here. Be sure to visit and encourage someone else in the linkup! (Details on the linkup here.)


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  • I keep a list of gifts and graces from God too. Like you, sometimes I list the “not-s0-good” and thank God for the grace I needed to persevere. I enjoyed reading your thoughts today, glad I found your blog. Our lives would be disasters but for God.

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  • What a beautiful, beautiful post! This has been such a different year for me. I am also saying, “He hasn’t done all that I wanted, but He has done all that is right.” At times, I haven’t understood His plan, but rest in that He holds the plan. I love what you shared from Liz Curtis Higgs – “Mary WAS the plan.” Oh for the courage to follow Him no matter the plan. Thank you for this reminder today! Blessings to you!

  • Just beautiful, Jennifer. But God . . . two of my favorite words in the Bible because they are always followed by good news. I can’t tell you how often the words “pre-approved” come to my mind and what an encouragement you book was to me this year. It can still be a daily struggle . . . to seek approval in the wrong places . . . but God . . . He’s at work in me. Always growing me.
    You are a blessing. Thank you.
    xoxo

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  • Danise Jurado

    Sometimes I am afraid BUT GOD is my courage…
    Sometimes life hurts BUT GOD is my healing…
    Everyday I lack something in some area of life BUT GOD fills every void.
    Thank you friend for a beautiful post this morning! xo

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  • Abby

    Yes, I did need to know it and need to be reminded again and again. For a season, I forgot and felt like I was swimming in a sea of “no” and striving for approval. Thank you for your words, Jennifer. They always hit my heart in just the right place. Your book is on my list to read for 2015. Can’t wait.

  • Kate

    Love this perspective on Mary .. thank you for being faithful to write about the good and the not-so-good, and for the continual reminder to view ourselves (and others) as preapproved. Blessings on your Christmas!

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  • KristinHillTaylor

    I love how this preapproved message continues to teach me. Thanks for sharing your heart and His truth. xoxo

  • I have been spending a lot of time in the book of Luke 1-2 these last weeks as I prepared to share with some sweet Momma’s about the importance of keeping a Silent Night. Mary’s words, her song, her reaction to the angel’s announcment and Elizabeth’s confirmation all keep me pondering this heart that God sought to carry His Son for a time…to bring for the promised Hope. And then in Luke 2:19 the Word says, “Mary kept all this in her heart”. She pondered all she saw, which means she meditated on it and prayed about it (according to Matthew Henry’s Commentary) 🙂 and the more I considered this art of prayerful contemplation I came to see that this is what that quiet journey to the stable really is.. a pondering prayer filled path to hold that tender promise in our hearts and to hide it there. To spend time with the babe that broke the yoke upon our hearts is the focus.

    Like you, I love to sit in the dark and let the light of the season softly fall upon my gaze and just take it in.
    Blessings as you prepare your heart for more of Him.
    Dawn

  • Laurie Collett

    Praise God for His perfect plan! May we each have Mary’s willingness to be His handmaiden. Thanks for the great post & for hosting, & God bless!
    Laurie

  • We aren’t enough. He is always enough. Beautiful substitution, him for me. Thanks for this, Jennifer.

  • Mary lived for an audience of one…tears I tell you. I.needed.this. If all He wanted you to do today was to be His voice to reach one…you have. Good work Jennifer.

  • Anita

    I love your photos and your imagery, but especially the words–‘but God.’ He’s waiting for each of us, every single day. It’s ok to list our insecurities, but they should always be followed with ‘but God!’ Thanks for the reminder!

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  • I needed this reminder today, Jennifer–how Mary knew that God’s one plan was better than any other plan. I need to lay my down, again and again, seeking His before any other. Thank you.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    I love you so! Gorgeous photo’s… and I love the encouragement to write it ALL down – the good and the hard! (I have learned that not all things that feel/seem/look ‘bad’ are bad – they are just hard!) …but God, indeed!

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  • “all of them buttons that fasten truth to my soul.” Love this.Beautiful words, Jennifer.

  • Jillie

    Just absolutely love all of this, Jennifer! Beautiful, simply beautiful. Especially looking unto the Cross for my pre-approval. And Mary…oh, Mary.
    This one’s going into my ‘Jennifer File’ to saturate my soul again and again.
    Have a Blessed Christmas Season with your beautiful Family.

  • Just beautiful, Jennifer. You have filled up many a shadow with your pre-approved light and for that I am so grateful. I’ve walked a path of uncertainty and in moments loss of identity this year and while I have seen evidence of His grace, I have often wondered what my life, what I would look like when He was done. Above all else, He has sealed my heart with the promise that in the end I will always remain His precious girl. Thank you for your heart and for willingly laying it bare for us. Blessings & Hugs!

  • “Tell me about your ‘but God’…”

    What a year it’s been. It seemed to fly by and crawl all at the same time. Shoe sizes went up for the little ones and their pants became shorter, but my days were long and hard and filled with questions going up with silent pleas of rushing to get an answer. I think God senses when we’re impatient and he uses that time to teach into us something that was greatly missing.
    At least for me. He taught me to trust.

    I honestly didn’t know it was missing. I felt sound in my faith. Strong in my faith. But I’d become incredibly complacent and so misguided by my own desires – thinking I was doing myself a favor – when in reality I was walking in disobedience. I was unknowingly defiant and I turned my head from my Guide in lieu of walking my own path.

    I began the year with ruffled, one-sided relationships that I felt I must keep, ‘but God’ knew the
    changes He was making in my life and who to place around me to embrace and encourage those changes.

    I clung to the status of my job, working my way up and being proud to do so, ‘but God’ stripped me of this desire and put in me a heart for stepping back and reevaluating my true
    blessings in life.

    I covered up my words for so long, keeping them away from the public eye, ‘but God’ told me to share and grow and fall into community with women who felt the same as me.

    I live in a quiet, middle-class section of the Midwest. I’ve spent time enjoying my comforts and foolishing thinking I deserved those comforts, ‘but God’ showed me how to ache for those across the world and how to start using my resources and my own blessings to step out in making a difference.

    2014 has been such a ‘but God’ year for me that I feel almost raw at the end of it. Pleasantly raw, if that makes any sense. It’s been a year where he’s softened me up, making me pliable again. But I’m excited to see what shape I take in 2015. I know He has something special planned. And that just makes all of this enlightening…all of these ‘but God’ moments so worth
    it.

  • In bed with a nasty cold and just getting around to reading and am blessed, as always, by your words.

"There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over al… ift.tt/2sZh3Gw pic.twitter.com/NnstSc9ZzA