Thursday, December 07, 2017

Broken Hallelujahs.

35 years ago today I became a big sister. My instant built in best friend, Libby Anne "Joy", was born. Her pale skin and rosy cheeks and blue eyes. She called me her "Gi-Gi" when she couldn't say the word "Jennifer".

A couple years later, Mom even gave us our own baby doll Christopher to play with. We could take turns rocking him in our little wooden rockers. So we had a third partner in crime. All boy. Blonde hair buddy with blue eyes.

As kids we had lemonade stands, played hopscotch and scraped up our knees getting our first "summer stamps" as our Mom called them.

In my teen years she stole my clothes and shoes. She would be indignant that I borrowed her sweater when she would be wearing a whole outfit from my closet.

Her dramatic eye roll and loud gasps of surprise.

Her strumming the guitar.

Her voice lifted up in sweet praise.

Her 21st birthday. She was married and pregnant. I gave her a jewelry box.

I didn't know it would be her last birthday.

I didn't know 3 short months later she and her unborn son Sam, would be in the arms of Jesus.

Missing her today.
Celebrating her life.
Thanking God that I was allowed to be her big sister.

Some times we all have our broken Hallelujahs. This is one of those days.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

On the Days You Can't.

I just can't.

You ever have one of those days?

You feel like you can barely breathe and the thought of doing one more thing leaves you beyond undone. You're paralyzed. And you've hit a wall.

That's today.

Life has caught up with me. All the busyness. The appointments and therapies and specialists. The memorial service. The broken relationships. Bathing the dog. Buying the cats food. The inability to keep up with the needs of my home. The car collision center for estimate. Renewing the library books. The wedding present purchase. The wrestling tournament. The husband out of town for a week and I still have another week to get through. The diagnosis for Mike's grandmother (acute leukemia). Facing the daily realities of dementia for my precious mother-in-law. The weight of all the things that accumulate and build.

So I'm stopping. Resting. Breathing. My legs feel like lead. I hope to get to the Y so I can release some of the pent up struggle but for now I stay under the covers. The kids are fed and fine and safe. And I'm in bed. Trying to hold back the tears but I think the dam may have sprung a leak.

Tears are healing and cleansing. But at this moment I can't even cry. The exhaustion is too oppressive. the lack of sleep. My adrenal fatigue has caught up with me. And so I breathe. Put on some essential oils and take long deep breaths. And cry out to God. For help. For healing. For deliverance. For hope in this broken, shattered world. For peace that surpasses my understanding. For renewal. For grace to be kind to myself and not beat myself up for my lack and inabilities.

I light a candle and still my soul. The smell of pine permeates. I tense my muscles and hold for 20 seconds and let them relax. I put on the sounds of the ocean. I let my mind rest. And let my spirit rest.

Jesus, come. We are weak and needy. But you are strong and able. You are the fulfiller and redeemer. You are the blessing. The hope. The light. We rest and trust in you even when we can't. Even when there is nothing left to give. Even when the hopelessness promises to capsize our small boats. You are enough. More than enough. And we rest in you our Harbor. Our Rock. Our sure Foundation.

And in the moment we are reminded we are not holding onto you... but you are holding onto us.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Out of Hiding. Phoenix Rising.

The frazzle. The beauty. The sweet ecstasy. The terror. When I write. It comes to me. The real me. The real feelings. The depth. The reality. So I seek to avoid it. When I write I know myself… and that can be a very frightening thing.

my days are so full. Medical appointments. Tests and more tests. Therapy. Homeschooling. Follow through. Laundry. Dishes. Washing machine not working right. Garage door busted. The steps that need repair. The lawn that needs mowing. The math problems to assist. The reading a loud. The bathing of 5 kids to oversee and manage. And my best friend and beloved gone over 80% of the time with work.

So to sit and quiet my heart… Please let me do anything else. Let me scrub the floor. Wipe the poopy butt. Distract myself with FB or Instagram. Berate myself for not keeping up. For making a mistake.

To still myself brings confrontation. Damn it. I hate it. The silence that seeps in. Quietening my heart and catching my breath.

Do I really believe I’m enough? In my own of course not… but the deeper question… am I enough in Him? Do I believe that? Do I believe God is enough? 

Why do I strive so hard? To please others. To seek their acceptance. Their understanding. 

My heart bleeding all over these words. Please stop. Stop being so honest. So real. So uncomfortably vulnerable.

There is no going back. It’s coming out. It must. And with it the toxic poison can leave me and maybe true healing can be enough. Maybe I can heal. 

I’m not hiding anymore. Not hiding behind my children or their medical diagnoses. Not hiding behind the pain and struggle of my past.

Being open exposes you to criticism. It leaves me open to failure- the thing I fear most. 

I don’t have it all together. And though all the world knows this I’m so ashamed for it to be seen. To be exposed. The good, the bad, the ugly.

My story is my own. Losing my sister and nephew. My son having cancer. My other son cerebral palsy, a feeding tube for 5 years and now a new genetic diagnosis. The struggle of being a child of an alcoholic. My mental health issues of depression and anxiety. The PTSD. The hard financial struggles. Watching my son in his hearing loss. Endocrinologist. Geneticist. Pulmonologist. Cardiologist. Neurologist. Physical Medicine and Rehab. They are all apart of my story…. but they don’t define me. 

I am me. Jennifer Leigh Napier. Somedays I resemble the ashes more than the rising phoenix but I know my story isn’t finished. It’s not done. I’m being redeemed…. slowly changed more and more into His likeness. Until that sweet day when He calls me home and I see Him face to face. 

I groan. Longing for the world to change. The brokenness and pain to cease. The tears to stop being spilled. The mind numbing suffering and loss to end. We are not there yet. 

But we’re not alone. We don’t walk this path alone. 

God. Breathe Him in. Breathe in His beauty. His majesty. I see it in the mountains. The oceans. The forest. The plains. The wildflowers. The sunset. The sunrise. His reflections of His beauty are left for us to see in His creation. How much more spectacular the Creator.

I see it in the beauty of my children. The giving up of their favorite thing to share with a sibling. The desire to share Jesus with their friend at school who doesn’t know God. I see it in the thoughtfulness of my daughter. I see it in the self-sacrifice of my husband. This God at work. Who is powerful. Who is mighty to save. Who is bigger than I can imagine. 

Let us be consumed by Him. 

I’m not perfect. Not even close. But I’m consumed by His perfection.

I’m drawn to Him as He has drawn me to Himself. My hope is not in my kids health. It’s not in Mike’s job changing. It’s not in my current circumstances. it’s not in a perfectly organized home or a clean car. It’s in God and in Him alone. 

He is the satisfier of our hearts. The only true fulfillment of our deep needs and longings. The only One who can  quench our endless thirst and satisfy our eternal hunger.

Holding onto Him. And In faith, taking this step to embrace my writing. I’m not a perfect writer. But I am one. And it’s going to be okay, even when it doesn’t feel okay.

What do you need to embrace today? How do you need to let Him enter into the deep aches of your heart? He loves you. He’s crazy about you. He was singing over you just this morning and will watch over you as you sleep tonight. Let Him in. Let Him change you. He has good for you in the midst of your pain and struggles. He will restore you… slowly but surely- Our God is faithful!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Jesus in the Dark.

So what do you do when you have a setback?

Things are progressing in a certain way, onward and upward, and then you find yourself tumbling backwards with your pail, falling down the hill.

I find myself in this dark moment. Post concussion syndrome. Apparently when you have had PTSD and then you suffer a trauma (even a minor one), like my car accident it can re-trigger some pretty big issues like increased depression and anxiety and irritability, etc.

I found myself in Target having a panic attack about which spaghetti sauce to purchase. The one on sale? The cheapest one? The organic one? The one that has been more locally sourced? The one that will stretch the farthest? And that's just spaghetti sauce.

Making decisions feels very overwhelming. I feel thrown by the most minor things. I have over 600 emails in my inbox and oh about 20 voicemails... some of them from my lawyer. And I am paralyzed.

Physical pain is debilitating. pain in my legs. Numbness. Tingling. Pain in my shoulders. Neck. Back. Why am I not all the way better? I'm getting migraines behind my eyes and experiencing occasional ringing in my ears. I'm going to the chiropractor 3 days a week and it definitely helps.... but I still feel myself falling backwards.

I'm not myself. Going out to the store wipes me out. 10 minutes washing dishes brings tears to my eyes. It feels impossible to clean my side of the bed right now. Things that I did daily and regularly feel like hurdles I can't possibly jump over.

I have 5 wonderful children that are capable of helping me with laundry and dishes but I realize that there's a lot I haven't taught them to do and I'm too tired and overwhelmed to direct them at times.

Last night I was up til 5 a.m. and I will feel positively grateful if I'm able to take a shower today.

I have felt such shame at my inability to perform. Inability to bounce back. Inability to control my weak body.

But there is Jesus. He's there with me in the dark. In the dark moments of the soul. And in the hours in the middle of the night when I can't sleep. He helps me when I wrestle with my anxious thoughts.

God is gently and beautifully breaking my idolatry of perfection. He is lovingly showing me that my desire to do everything "rightly" and "perfectly" has superceded my desire to love Him.  I would rather be productive, efficient, and as perfect as possible without Him then be weak, broken and prostrate with Him.

What love is this?! That He loves me enough to show me that my striving won't satisfy! His perfection is what I really need!

He loves me in my human-ness. He is not looking down his nose at me and shaking his head in disapproval. He is loving me. Eager to be with me.

The days have felt dark and I have been afraid to share to openly. Ashamed of needing help. Horrified by my inability to pull it together.

I'm trying to take deep breaths.

My Dr. told me I need to slow down and take as much as I can off my plate. That I really need to let myself heal. So step by step. Day by day. Breath by breath.

I am acknowledging my pain. My weakness. My numbness. My ringing in my ears. Pain behind my eyes. But I also acknowledge that it's not too big for God. He's got this. He's aware. He's more than enough.

So as I sit in darkness I pause and give thanks, that I am not alone, Jesus sits here with me, in the dark.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Knee Surgery, Car Accidents, Book Club and God's Goodness in the Midst.

Life doesn't happen the way we plan. I had laid out great plans for this summer. Excited to be getting PT to strengthen my knee after I had knee surgery. Hoping to join the Y so I could start stationary biking, swimming, and elliptical. Was hoping to take some pilates or yoga classes.

In 10 days I have a book club at my home that I'm leading on suffering. "A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament" by Christina Fox. I have some experience with suffering. Loss of my sister and nephew. Loss of jobs for my husband. Struggling helping him through his undergraduate and then graduate degree while having small children. Having 5 kids in 6 years. A child on a feeding tube for 5 years. A child with cerebral palsy. A child with cancer. You know those things... those things in the past. And some things in the present. Still working through grief, 6 hours of physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy a week for my kids. My husband traveling for work a lot. ETC.

But I hadn't intended to be taken deeper into suffering...

And here I am recovering from my knee surgery when I get in a car accident Monday night. My body was fully twisted when I was hit causing the seriousness of the injury. Minimum of 6-8 weeks of intensive therapy to recover.

oh the irony.

Oh the blessing. The blessing that God works in the midst of my pain. That my friends jump up to the bat for me again. helping with my kids. bringing meals. My Mom sat with me 6 hours in the ER and CT scans. She cleaned my home. Took me to my doctors appointments. My inlaws kept the boys for 2 nights!

The pain is very real. The suffering is very real. And in the midst of this... with my husband gone, in my very weakened, very dependent state, with pain so intense it leaves me in tears and crying out I am resting in Jesus. Resting in His love and provision. The struggle is real. I'm not perfect. I hate being alone. Struggle with being scared. Scared the pain won't end. But I'm also surrendering myself to my loving Father who is going to work this out for my good. His plans are better than my own.

I'm on a journey. On a road of pain ahead but I don't walk it alone. I walk this with God holding me.

I am comforted that things are as they should be.

I'm doing everything I can to follow directions and heal faster. No lifting, stretching, bending, pushing, pulling, carrying. I'm lying on my back. Icing. Heating pads. Drinking water. Taking the medication with alarm reminders set on my phone. Going to the chiropractor. On prednisone for my seriously swollen discs. Using deep blue and other essential oils for my very injured muscles.

But I know God is my healer. He has given me tools and resources but He is my ultimate physician. So I rest. Rest in Him being enough. Rest in Him being my husband while my husband is away. Rest in Him caring for my children when I can't care for them.

And as I read A Heart Set Free I ask Him to set my heart free so I can minister to those who have suffered, to those who are suffering and to those who will suffer.

Please join us for dinner and discussion Sunday, June 25th at my home. I'd love to hear what you think of the book and how God has met and is meeting you in the midst of your suffering... you can sign up here.

You also can use the link to sign up and join us in August for how to love and minister to those who are hurting and suffering. I will be leading a book discussion by Dave Furman, "Being There: How to Love those Who Are Hurting".

God knew this would happen. That I'd be in a place of suffering while tackling a book about suffering. That I'd be in a place of needing help while talking about how to help those who are in need. Thankful that I'm always in the right place at the right time- with God as my anchor and sustainer and Redeemer!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Flipped Out By Faithfulness

I love how in those moments... those deep dark moments. The moments that you are afraid will last forever. Those moments that suck you down into the depths of despair. In those moments God breaks in.

His faithfulness is amazing.

I don't always feel amazing... but I'm always amazed by His faithfulness. I'm not always sunshine and roses. Often there is pain, adversity and struggle... but I'm thankful that He has not left me to my own devices. He points me upwards and outwards.

I reach up to Him and reach out to friends and share my emotions and ask for prayer and for help and for love... and I receive it. Friends directing me back to Jesus. My husband reading the Psalms out loud to me while he was in Florida and I was in VA. A friend sending pizza to us for dinner.

Recently I was confronted by my desire to control my image. I was angry that I couldn't exercise because I was not able to make the progress that I had been making and I found my body softening up. Found myself making not healthy choices as I dealt with stress and a husband out of town for almost a month.

I was confronted by God who lovingly said to me, "Is your love for me based on your appearance? Your weight? What if you never lose another pound?"

It hit me upside the head. It hurt. How much of my love for God had been recently... "Well, I will love you if you help me lose these 100 pounds!" Ouch. My love is so conditional. I'm not saying that I don't need to be healthy. I do need to lose weight. I do want to exercise and make good choices... but my desire wasn't out of love for God. Wasn't out of thanksgiving for this instrument he's given me, called my body. It was out of a desire to impress others. To have it together.

And something in me unhinged this week and I was able to realize, I'm beautiful. It's not something I can control. It's the way God made me. And I can rejoice and thank Him and be kind to my body. Be a friend to myself. Or I can berate myself and be angry and disgusted. I'm choosing to rejoice.

I felt set free. I know I won't always intensely feel this relief but I want to remind myself of it. That God is working in me. Setting me free of my own expectations. It sets me free to love others more freely. To put the judgment and criticism away for myself allows me to do the same towards others.

Basking in His faithfulness to me. Thankful for my surgery yesterday. For the repairs made. To realize the damage done to my knee
that was way worse than originally thought. Thankful that I can begin the journey of healing... my body, mind, and thoughts. That God's faithfulness always wins no matter how I feel.

How are you experiencing His faithfulness today?

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Putting perfection on the shelf.

I've been awake for almost 22 hours. I stepped on a vacuum cord plug with my bare foot. It hurt. I made myself a protein shake and left it in the kitchen only to come to the bedroom and wonder where I put my drink.

Sleep deprivation is a crazy thing... it literally makes you crazy. Your brain starts misfiring. I completely expect myself at this point to right something ridiculous, perposterous or horribly misspelled. Case in point... how does one spell proposterous? perposterous? You get the point.

Thankful my worth doesn't come from my ability to be eloquent or poignant. To have the right thing to say... my worth comes from Jesus. I'm so glad I can rest, truly rest. I don't have to have it together. I don't need to be perfect. I can come messy, broken and needy, desperate for grace. desperate for an encounter with Him and He's faithful to meet me.

It's been a month now that I've had to bow out of Crossfit. My knee injury has put my ability to exercise strenuously on the back burner. Today I finally went to my Doctors. I did x-rays and all was fine with my bones. Next step is MRI. Concern is that I've torn something. My knee is swollen and inflamed and the pain wakes me in the middle of the night.... hence being up for 22 hours. And it hasn't gotten better... it's gotten worse.

So I'm letting go of these perfect expectations I have for myself. My trust in my own ability to make me successful or svelte or super.... and instead I will look to His perfection and say that it's more than enough for me. I can't control these things. I can acknowledge my limits and embrace what I'm given. So deep breaths.

And now off to dreamland.