Jen's Journal

Jen's Journal

Choose the Crown over the Ashes (when you’re not sure which one to wear today)

Are you a victim, or a victor?

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Several years ago I shared my testimony at a luncheon for Christian women in business. At the time, I had just moved from California to Texas, and felt unusually emotional in front of the audience. In those days, I nearly always shed a few tears when telling my story. That day I was a raw girl with raw emotions.

Little did I know that behind those tears was anger, and beneath my hard-core honesty were roots of bitterness

A few weeks later, the hostess, Deborah, invited me to lunch.

Over a salad in a corner booth, she told me many women were impacted by my story. Then she slipped a fifty dollar bill across the table to let me know she believed in my ministry. 

“Thank you,” I said, surprised.

Then she asked if she could offer me a correction.

“Absolutely,” I replied, inching forward in my seat.

“The daughter of the King is not a victim, Jen. She is a victor.”

As much as I loved Jesus, I was still giving more weight to the ways I’d been hurt, let down and disappointed than to the ways I’d been helped, healed and delivered. Why did I still shed tears? Was I still living as a captive of man’s sins against me and carrying around all my anger in a vault, heavy-laden and heavy-hearted, reflecting the past instead of the future?

“You are angry,” she told me, and I cried again.

I was angry!

It took years for me to sort through my past, to reconcile it, and to release it so that it didn’t hurt anymore. And in that process, I learned the beauty and power of forgiveness. The journey created a new pattern of understanding how to look at sin, name it, claim it, and let it go — be it mine or someone else’s.

Over a few long nights with my beloved husband, we burned piles of old pictures that represented my victimization, and carefully preserved the ones that represented the part of my life that I could be proud of.

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It takes time to sort — but the sorting is essential. “Test everything,” the Word says, “and hold onto the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

As you work through forgiveness, make sure to list the good others have brought to your life. Separate the bad from the good – and let go of the bad. Hold onto the good! Because in every difficult circumstance, there are the hidden treasures of blessing.

When you lay your burdens at the throne of Christ, He will turn them to dust. Take your crumbled dreams and unmet expectations and disappointments and defeats — and hand them over. In exchange, he will give you a crown of beauty — the honor and authority worn by the children of God who do not live captive to others’ behavior — but reign with Christ.

The journey from “wearing my ashes” to “wearing my crown” required the work of forgiveness. Alone with God, I had to face the impact of other’s sins on my life. I had to own my own sins, and burn it all beneath the star-speckled sky of my Savior.

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If you need help with this process, I’ve created the Three-Day Forgiveness Worksheet to help you. It’s a way I can hold people’s hands to help them sort through their bitterness and release it to the One who turns our sins to dust. You can grab it here.

In the middle of this process you may feel like you are choking on the ashes — like they are such a bitter gall you can’t swallow.  Ask yourself, which weighs more, the crown or the ashes? The ashes are the debts owed us, the past, the trouble. The crown is our future: the cancelled debt, the grace, the authority and inheritance of being God’s chosen son or daughter.

Look at your ashes. Take the time. But don’t look too long! The more you look at something, the more you will reflect it. When you are done looking, make the conscious choice to look UP at the one who transforms the dust into your destiny.

Lay hold of your crown. It carries the weight of authority and purpose that no bucket of ashes could ever outweigh.

If you need help with forgiveness or are in the process of working through it, please leave a comment on the blog here and grab that free worksheet (corrected and updated)!

I am for you!

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About the Author: Jennifer

Jennifer Strickland is a wife, mom, TEDx speaker, and former professional model. She is the author of Girl Perfect, More Beautiful Than You Know, and Beautiful Lies, among other books and Bible studies that teach women their worth in God’s eyes. Since leaving the modeling industry, she founded URMore.org, a non-profit ministry that provides resources to hurting women and girls. Her favorite moments are found working on the family ranch with her husband, who she calls “the Cowboy”; in her kitchen, concocting a new version of her famous spaghetti; or spending time with their three precious children.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

Jennifer is a captivating speaker. She keeps the listener hanging in wonder of what’s coming next! Her presentation is not only absorbing, it reveals the truth of God’s power to heal a wounded spirit.

Barbara Brown

Barbara Brown, Former Stonecroft Ministries Regional Representative, San Diego, CA

“The ‘P’ word [perfection] may be the heaviest burden women bear. All the misguided things we do to attain it can keep us away from what we need most – the unconditional love of God the Father. The Girl Perfect Study Guide gives you a map to the wholeness you were created for.”

Nancy Ortberg

Nancy Ortberg, author and former teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church

“The Girl Perfect Study Guide shatters the lies girls and women believe and points to the ultimate truth, which really does set us free. I am confident that this study will help thousands discover a beauty, purpose, and worth that truly lasts. Thank you Jen for exposing the ‘perfect life’ and inviting girls to experience God’s ‘perfect love.'”

Allie Marie Smith

Allie Marie Smith, Founder of Wonderfully Made

One of the best testaments to what Jennifer is doing for the young girls and women of today is a comment from my eleven-year-old granddaughter: “Grammy, I want to read this book and hear her again. She’s good and I learned a lot.” This is exactly what I experienced from a grown-up perspective when I was introduced to Jennifer Strickland’s amazing story. Read it and see if you don’t get the real story from an icon model and a powerful speaker of truth.”

Thelma Wells

Thelma Wells, D.D. (Hon), President of Woman of God Ministries
As a teacher, participator, and observer of public speaking for most of my life, I’ve come to realize that many speakers make one of two mistakes when interacting with their audience (especially when that audience is mainly teenagers.) They either expect their audience to climb up to their level (which feels unattainable to the crowd) or they step down to the level of their listeners (which feels cheap and pandering.) The best speakers meet their audience where they are and lead them up to where they want them to be. This feels genuine. This is what Jennifer did over the last few days at our school.
Jennifer Strickland is a funny, engaging, dynamic speaker. She shares truth with authority and credibility that comes from both experience (her story is powerful) and an obvious depth of study in the Bible. The ideas she presents about Value, Identity, and Purpose are truths everyone needs to hear.
I heartily recommend her for your conference, school retreat, or any event where you want your people to be encouraged and challenged with deep, impacting truth.

Andrew Doan

Andrew Doan, Concord Christian Academy, Concord, NH

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