Jolene, Jolene…don’t you want to sing the song?
Jolene and I spent 4 days wandering the banks of the Frio in November. I got to hear how God has worked on her heart and through her love. She’s a girl who has wrangled many hearts on a ranch in Texas. She’s left the ranch but she is still a girl who laughs loud and writes real for Jesus.
She’s a Blue Jean Girl, for sure.
I adore her. You will too.
Brightness: When God is Not Scared of Clouds by Jolene Underwood
My favorite Pinterest boards have no self-imposed pressure to create what I’m prone to never do anyway. I have one filled with just memories. Reminiscence. I’ve included Fisher Price toys, Holly Hobbie, Smurfs & Strawberry Shortcake memorabilia, jelly shoes & other items which remind me of happy, simple days.
I love looking back & feeling the warmth of pleasant recollections.
As memories come to surface I remember this jersey shirt I loved to wear. I’d stand in the closet and just look at it. Words wrapped around a rainbow with a shiny, puffy cloud, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” I remember staring and wondering if it’s true. What would that look like?
Soon I imagined fantastical scenes. My heart danced in beauty. At the same time, I longed for something more. Something deeper. But, what?
I didn’t know then how many days would be spent surrounded by dark clouds. Or, how I would wonder what the silver lining was and if I’d ever see it. A tugging in my heart hinted that I could, and would, see brightness.
Over the years, the clouds came and went. Shortly after high school they hung so heavy I found myself hospitalized in an eating disorder unit with “significant depression”.
I journaled & prayed a lot as God spoke to my heart. The clouds faded away. Then, after a series of unfortunate events, I was again shrouded with their familiarity. As much as I loved God & longed to trust Him in all things, I fought despair often.
God’s spiritual nudging never left me. Eventually I gave in to deeper surrender & deeper trust. In return I felt greater peace & greater comfort. His glory shone rays of hope into a weary soul.
Years later the heaviness of cloud-filled days came back.
After an intense season of moving, serving & fostering, I was brought to my knees. In desperation I found my need for God moment by moment, day after day. This continued as we returned home & navigated through a number of trying circumstances.
Spiritual, physical & emotional battles took a heavy toll. Clouds hung so thick I could scarcely breathe.
One Sunday, as my heart shook with raw emotional turmoil, our pastor called my husband and I to the front of church. He spoke beautiful prophetic words over us.
He began by sharing the story of Perez & Zerah from Genesis 38. He spoke of things we’d been through, how we’ve felt, but more importantly, what God was calling us into.
Then, we were given new names.
In the midst of grief & pain, of fighting despair, I was re-named the most unlikely choice.
Ironic don’t you think? Name me anything but bright.
Our pastor continued, “I’m calling you now to see the brightness of this situation…don’t look just at the underside of the cloud. I’m calling you to see beyond with eyes of faith.”
I had no idea how much these words would affect me, change me. Before I could feel the warmth of God’s goodness again, I was called out as one who did.
I’m reminded of a couple who renamed each of their foster children. The angry child was given the name of gentle one. The dishonest child was named for honesty. Each child named in opposition to current behaviors. This couple kindly spoke in faith & nurtured them into new life.
God named me as one who saw His glory beyond the circumstances of today, before I did. When I just wanted to be held, in the clouds, he called me beyond with Him.
As the difficult days persisted, God’s call went deeper while the battles got stronger. His spirit helped me to see hope, goodness & God’s trustworthiness. Through every fiery dart, he strengthened my shield of faith as I called out in worship, prayer & sometimes guttural cries & moanings.
Today, I don’t need a Pinterest board to remind me of the silver lining because He is ever present, reminding me of God’s glory. Even on the darkest of days, and they’ve been very dark, He draws me near to see brightly again.
I don’t always feel bright, but as I bask in His glory I can live as if I am what He says I am.
Jolene Underwood is a window washer worshipper seeking to live for Him with faith eyes. Though a number of trials she has been challenged to step forward with confidence in the faith she professed to have. God’s grace & mercies continually draw her into a life freed from fear & failure. She invites you to journey with her in this place where struggles are real and faith meets the Father at www.joleneunderwood.com.
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I’m grateful for Jolene and her heart as part of the #ReclaimingBeauty Series.
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