Significant Mark

Last week I wrote about the guilt I sometimes feel when I decide to take time away from my family to pursue my love for writing.

A few days after I posted this blog, I received the following comment from a friend of mine:

“Thanks for writing, Jennifer. Many thoughts were stirred tonight as I read a lot of your writings. I haven’t allowed myself to dream in a really long time…still not quite there but it is more positive than it has been in a long time.”

I’m new to the world of blogging, and this comment and the encouragement it brought me spoke volumes to my heart.

There are so many days in which I question whether or not what I’m doing with my writing really matters at all. In addition to the guilt I sometimes feel, this question is yet another way that Satan plagues me and whispers lies.

When I think of my friend and the kind words she sent in response to my post, I think of her story. I can’t claim to know all that she has been through, but I know her road has been long and hard, and I can understand why it’s been hard to dream and pursue the things that make her heart sing.

Knowing that God has used my writing to stir her heart means the world to me. It affirms what my heart knows to be true, that my work matters. Even when the lies and questions try hard to convince otherwise, my writing matters. It matters to me, it matters to God, and it matters to others as well.

A few months ago I read the The Shack by William P. Young. One of my favorite quotes from this story is “Love always leaves a significant mark.”

This quote has stayed with me. I remember it at times when love comes hard, when I don’t feel like doing the loving thing. I remember it too, when the love it give isn’t received, when hearts are hard and loving hurts. And I remember it when I write, when the work I do for me and for God doesn’t seem to make sense or have any value at all.

If love is in my writing, it will make a mark. A significant one.

Sometimes I have the pleasure of knowing the ways in which my writing has left a mark on the heart of someone else. Other times I’m left to wonder, but always I trust.

If God has given me the will to write and I am faithful to obey His call, love will seep through the words and pages that ink from my heart and leave a mark of its own.

The same is true for you. Whatever it is you do, if love is at the heart of it, it will leave a significant mark. And what are these marks really, but the fingerprints of God?


In my bathroom sits a small plaque that reads: Do what makes your heart sing.

Many things in this world make my heart happy, but as for the things in life that make my heart sing? This list is a bit different, and at the very top rests two of my greatest loves which are being a mom and being a writer.

When I became a mom, I entered into an ongoing struggle of figuring out how to pursue both of these loves. As a result, my heart began to feel increasingly divided.

In my own wisdom I concluded that my writing would have to wait for another place and time. I was certain that to pour any part of myself into anything other than my children would rob them of something they needed, would rob them of me.

On May 12, 2012, less than a week after Mother’s Day, I sat on the floor of my room, hurting and confused. The chasm in my heart had become unbearable. So badly I wanted for both my loves to live and grow wild. So badly I wanted to be a good mom, to give my children everything I possibly could. So badly I wanted to write, to lock myself in a room for a week and pour out across the page.

“God,” I cried. “Is it time to give up on being a writer? You’re the one that created me this way. That gave me a heart for both of these things. How in the world do I do both, successfully, without screwing something (my children) up?”

“Jennifer,” He said. “You don’t have to choose.”

“I don’t?” I asked as something in my heart began to shift, as divided parts began to move.

What God said next changed everything. “No, you don’t. When you write you are not stealing something from your children. Instead, you are making yourself better for them. I have created you to be a mother, and I have also created you to write. If you will but follow me and keep me at the center of both pieces of your heart, your heart for mothering will enhance your writing and your writing will enhance your mother’s heart. The two will go hand in hand to make you complete.”

Complete. Whole(Hearted).

My writing group met tonight, and as I rushed to put groceries away and dinner on the table, (two things that do not make my heart sing), I found myself thinking, I can’t wait to GET. OUT. OF. HERE!

As soon as this thought crossed my mind a feeling of guilt tugged at my heart, and the sly voice of Satan began to whisper.

“What kind of mother thinks such thing? You mean you’d rather be out with your writing friends than here with your two little girls? Look at you, anxious to get away. What kind of mother are you?”

I’m learning that all mothers at some time or another feel just that way. I’m not alone, or awful, or crazy. I’m human, normal, and in need of a chance for my heart to take a deep breath and find a way to resume its song.

In the car on the way to writing group I thought about that day last spring when God met me in my heart and showed me the way, His way, and bonded the divided parts of my heart together.

I’m still learning, but I know enough of His truth to know that it’s okay to pursue both my love for my family and my love for writing. In fact, it’s not just okay; it’s good and needed. When the guilt clings and Satan whispers, I remember what my heart is for, I remember my girls, my writing, and the call He has placed on my life.

The feeling I had tonight, just before leaving, that real-life mommy feeling of desperately wanting to get away from the stress and the frazzle of real-life mommy moments… could it be that this feeling wasn’t pinpoint proof that I’m an awful mommy but rather a sign that my heart is gasping for breath? That my heart needs to find it’s song once again, not by being mommy, not by being a writer, but by being whole.

When I got home from writing group my girls piled on me, happy to have me home. We exchanged hugs and kisses and giggled at being together again. As I carried them to bed and tucked them in tight, I felt something swelling inside. It wasn’t desperation. It wasn’t guilt. It was the curl-your-toes, this-is-the- good-stuff feel of a song inside my heart. 

Think of Me

When my dad asked me what I wanted for Christmas I knew exactly what to ask for. “Dad,” I said. “All I want for Christmas this year is to go see Les Mis (the movie) together, just you and me.”

Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, has always been something special that my dad and I have shared. If I could find the words to describe what the story of Les Miserables means to me, I could fill a whole slew of blog posts. The themes of love, grace, and redemption that run through its storyline strike deep at my heart no matter how many times I see the show, listen to the soundtrack, or read the book.

I wasn’t sure how the movie version of Les Mis would resonate with me, but when the opening scenes left me teary-eyed over Jean Valjean, I knew that this newfound version of Les Mis would leave its own mark upon my soul.

All of this being said, something new and different struck me after this viewing of Les Mis.

The first time I saw Les Miserables I was 13 years old and I sat on the second row of the Palace Theater in London between my dad and my best friend, Nicci. The Palace Theater is where the stage production of Les Mis originated, and even though I didn’t realize it at the time, this experience was one of the most perfect moments of my life.

My family was enjoying the trip of a lifetime touring Europe at Christmastime, and my dad, generous beyond belief, extended this gift beyond family lines by inviting my friend to join us.

I remember the afternoon before the show, how Nicci and I being young and clueless, had no idea what we were about to see. I remember how we dreaded sitting through the ‘boring’ program for hours and hours on end, and how we complained that we couldn’t just stay in our room and watch T.V.

I also remember how later that night we sat transfixed, captured by the music, the words, they story. I remember how we cried and were changed forever.

At 13 I thought that Nicci and I would be friends forever. Oh, how I loved that girl.

But time passed, my family moved, and we both grew and changed. Despite many attempts on the part of me and my dad, I eventually lost contact with my childhood friend.

Now close to 20 years later, I wish I knew where Nicci is, how she is, or how to find her.

I know that these things happen, and are so called ‘natural’ progressions of life, and seasons, and friendships, but somehow the ending of a relationship, so dear to my heart, feels anything but natural.

Since losing contact with Nicci other relationships have come and gone in and out of my life. Some, like my relationship with Nicci, have dwindled with time and distance. Others have broken like a bone with pain, heartache, and the harsh division of differences that could not be overcome. Regardless of its end, each and every relationship has left a history in its wake. A book of memories all its own.

When I watch Les Mis, I think of Nicci and that perfect moment we shared 18 years ago,  and I wonder, somewhere in this expansive world, wherever she is, whatever she’s doing, does she watch Les Mis and think of me? I like to believe she does.

One of my favorite songs is When You Think Time McGraw, by Taylor Swift. It is a song that speaks of the desire to see the happy memories of a relationship survive even when the relationship itself is dead.

I think this is a hope and desire we can all relate to. No matter how a relationship with someone you love comes to an end, there are always moments of happy tucked away in our history. Moments that we hope will linger, survive, and keep us connected.

Nicci, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whoever life has made you, when you think Les Mis, I hope you think of me.

And to my dad, a special thank you, not just for the Christmas gift of seeing Les Mis together, but for all the Perfect Moments you’ve given me.

“Oh, Child”

Yesterday morning as my family circled around the breakfast table, my youngest daughter Tenley, was in a fitful mood.

At 15 months old, Tenley sat in her highchair and fussed profusely over everything I offered her. Not even her favorite combination of blueberries and cinnamon toast could appease or coax a smile.

“Oh, child,” I said, feeling a bit exasperated. “What is it you want that isn’t being given to you.”

As the words left my mouth, I wondered at how many times God has spoken the same words to me. I know there are moments and days in which my own posture before Him resembles that of a little child. Times when I fuss, complain and refuse to be satisfied with what He has given.

Sometimes Tenley’s fussiness comes when she doesn’t get her way or when she sees something she wants but cannot have, (Marshmallows for breakfast.) Other times, her fussiness is born out of a legitimate distress, such as swollen gums from teething, a bad fall, or a shortage of good rest.

Despite my age and supposed maturity, the same is true of me. Sometimes when I fuss and complain, the fault is purely mine and an attitude adjustment is what I need. These are the times when my complaints come petty over small and insignificant things that just don’t go my way. Other times, my fussing, complaining, and discontent are steeped in that which matters. Life creates wounds, hurts, and sorrows, that make me cry, “Why?”

As a mom it’s often easy to see this distinction in my children, but how often do I take the time and discernment to determine the motive of my own heart?

Parenting my little ones is a delicate balance of determining the root of their struggles and lending the care and comfort that is needed. Being parented by God is much the same. As a daughter of the King, I am continuously learning to trust what God is giving, even when it’s not exactly what I want, and even when life hurts. I’m learning the delicate balance of determining the root of my own struggles and accepting what is given with thanks.

When my little ones hurt and in their own way cry, “Why?” they run to me and seek the embrace of mommy’s arms. When I run to God, the “Whys?” and hurts I bring to Him are not always met with answers, but He welcomes me into His arms and cradles me just the same, always giving me just what I need, always giving me comfort.