Taking off the mask

I remember sitting in my bedroom with my siblings rewinding the tape on the stereo pumped up because that rap song hit the right spot. The words meant a lot to me I because they reflected my own life.  I grew up seeing drugs all around me. I saw violence first hand on a regular.  I grew up listening to Tupac and Eazy-E hearing their music brought words to my feelings.  You see I knew more about them and what they stood for than my cultural leaders.  I do remember seeing Jackie Bird and thinking she is beautiful I will be a Native leader like her one day.  She stood for Native beauty but other than her there was no one who affected me more than those rappers. 

I struggled with my identity growing up I guess that is what happens when your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are stripped of their identity through pain and heartache. What is left is a young beautiful rez girl not really knowing her own identity and not knowing how rich and beautiful her people are especially the ones who endured the assimilation before her. I didn’t hear about the abuse that my relatives endured in the name of Jesus. I didn’t read their stories nor were they taught in schools. When I learned about leaders in school it wasn’t the ones who looked like me.  I learned about somebody else’s history and believed for years that was my identity. 

I met the Jesus of the bible one day and my life of heartache in pain changed. I felt complete but I still had to learn who I was in Christ. I learned of His word and fell in love with everything about Jesus. If you knew the stuff I saw and the things I been through finding Jesus was a game changer for my life. 

In this process of searching out Jesus, I begin to pray for truth to be revealed to me.  I lived off the rez at this point and begin to attend church. My music changed to contemporary and I had to learn to understand the American and church culture.  I was no longer apart of the rez life. I wasn’t fully ready for this as a young rez adult. But at this point, there was no turning back.

I tried to fit into other people’s idea of what my identity should look like. Is it contemporary Christian music? Or is it rap? Is it the American culture? Is it those inside the church? Who am I? Where do I fit in? I would look around me and think no one gets me. I mean how many in American even know that Natives still exist? Do they know the hardships we endured and continue to endure? Who am I? These are the questions I asked Jesus many times.

Then He answered my questions that is when the mask came off the mask of searching for my identity. He showed me that while I am His child created in His image He made me a beautiful rez girl. One who was born in raised in the poorest place in America yet comes from a family of survivors. One whose identity is a proud Lakota woman. One who has worth and value in her people and in His eyes.  He showed me that I am Jenny with Jesus and that my life and my story is unique. He showed me that I am a fighter and a leader for those around me. I am a leader for the woman who has been hurt and knows her need for love. I am a leader for the next generation of Native’s showing them it is possible to love Jesus, get educated and still love your culture. I am a leader for the young girl or woman trying to find her identity. 

Since the mask came off my identity has begun to form into an even more beautiful godly woman who will stand for justice and fight for truth.  My mask tries to come back on every now and then but Jesus keeps me from putting it on. He consistently brings like-minded people into my life who love Him and people who fight for truth just like He calls us to.  

My mask is no longer on I am one proud Lakota woman full of Jesus and love for His people. I am a woman who loves listening to Lecrae and NF. I love to listen to people who are able to speak the truth in love. I am a woman living in two worlds one that I call my home and where my family is and one that I live in learning the culture and the norms of this place called America.  

I am a woman created for a purpose and who has a specific calling in life that only I can fill. I am the one and only, Jenny Andrews, daughter of Herb Big Crow Sr and Nicole Crazy Thunder both proud Lakota warriors who are in heaven waiting for the beloved daughter. I am a wife and mother to 3 amazing boys but most of all I am a daughter of the King.

How leading impacted my leadership

I remember being asked to start the mentoring program in my church at the age of 28 years old. I thought how in the world am I going to do that.  I knew I wanted to make an impact in the lives of others and now that I was given an opportunity to teach others to follow Jesus I was frozen with doubt.  

I spent 6 months praying about doing a bible study with a woman before I even asked to mentor this woman.  So when I was asked to start a whole program I thought to myself how did I get here now? I just wanted to do a bible study and teach her how much Jesus loved her.  

This begin my journey on leading women.  I prayed and prayed asking the Lord for guidance. I clearly remember thinking to myself, how would I want to be led? 

Which lead me to these 3 top areas of leadership that I felt were important to me as a young women.  

1. I wanted someone to help me navigate my gifts and talents in the body of Christ.  I felt I needed someone to be intentional on affirming me where they seen God at work in my life.  So I decided that’s how I will lead. I will begin to challenge other women to find their gifts and talents.  I helped them do spiritual gifts test and asked them questions about their passions.  I was grateful to help them see what God was doing in their lives.  

2. I wanted someone to check on me and pray for me.  Even if all seemed well on the outside of my life.  I wanted others to make sure I was doing okay and to randomly give me a call, text or email just to let me know they were thinking of me.  I begin to do that for others.  When God would lay someone on my heart I disciplined myself to say a prayer and a text letting them know I was thinking of them. I wanted them to know they were loved and prayed for so I did it.  

3. I wanted someone to resource me, teach me and challenge me in my spiritual growth.  I wanted someone to teach me the word of God and how to rightly divid it. I begin the journey to be a student of the word so that I could teach others.  I got a degree in Practical Theology so I could be equipped on teaching others what I have learned.  I begin asking women how their spiritual lives where and challenging them to grow with me. I resource the women I lead as often as I can so they can be equipped. 

I am still learning and growing in leadership.  I believe until Jesus takes me home I will continue to learn. I am also growing in all the areas listed above.  I am thankful for Jesus our number one leader in life He set the great example.  I want to be like Him so I strive to lead how I see Him leading in His word.  I also watch other godly women and ask them to teach me.  Lastly, I remain teachable. 

My prayer is that I would be faithful to lead how God designed me to lead and to lead after God’sown heart.  He knows what His women need so I press into Him like a child anticipating His next move so I can be a better leader.  

My children made me the leader I am today.  

I have been leading a women’s mentoring program for over 5 years now.  Before that I was your typical homeschooling mommy.  But even before that I wasn’t a believer and quite honestly didn’t want anything to do with motherhood or Jesus. (that’s a long story and a different blog post). 

By the grace of God He saved me and when my oldest was 5 years old I felt called to homeschool my boys.  My husband was on his second tour in Iraq and I had just moved to South Florida with 3 boys under the age of 5. I was 26 yrs old and in college.  

I had moved from Los Angeles, California where I left my friend who exposed me to homeschooling.  I remember thinking I could never do what she does. A few weeks after my move I found myself pondering homeschooling and it would not leave my heart.  Believe me I tried to deny it and push it under.  I tried to tell God how I was ill equipped to teach my son’s.  I even said I only have a high school diploma how can I teach them? I am in college myself striving to get a 2 year degree when will I have time? 

Well as you know when the Lord leads you to do something He will not leave you until you are miserable or do what He is telling you.  At least that’s how I feel. 

But against the prompting in my heart to homeschool I enrolled my oldest in kindergarten. I dropped him off for his first day of school and it was miserable.  We weren’t sure what to do or where to go as we had gotten to Florida in September when school had already started.  There was no one there to help us navigate the system.  

After dropping him off I went to my first play date with my 3 yr old and my 10 month old baby.  I met with two women and was enjoying getting to know them when they begin talking about homeschooling their children.  I was like serious Lord of all the playdate women in this area you send me two that are going to be homeschooling.  I felt chased down at this point and wondered if this was how Noah felt when he disobeyed God. I mentioned I would like more info about a homeschool support group that they were talking about.  I went to get my son and that’s when I felt overwhelmed with choas I didn’t know how to go through the car loop and almost got pulled over by the police plus someone yelling at me that I was doing the car loop wrong. I found a parking spot called the homeschool support group leader and said what do I need to do to start homeschooling? 

She told me how to start and after hanging up with her I marched into the school building went to the front desk and told the lady that I needed to get my son out of school. I also told her that I needed the paperwork to begin home-schooling my son and that he would not be back the next day.

This began my journey into leadership, dependence on God and obedience. 

I learned my first important lesson as a leader and that lesson is prayer. Prayer would be the foundation to everything that I did for my children and my family. Prayer was how I picked my curriculum. Prayer what how I asked the Lord to reveal to me how to teach my children. Prayer got me through the hardest days of my early years of motherhood and homeschooling. Prayer sustained me as I waited patiently for my husband to come home.

The second lesson that I learned as a leader was putting God and His word before everything. I taught my children Bible verses. I taught them how to read the Bible themselves. I also had to learn to study the Bible for myself so that I was able to answer my children’s questions about the Bible and God. This taught me to depend on the word of God and His word daily as to set an example to my children.  

The third lesson that I learned as a leader was recognizing the gifts of others and their learning styles. My children were created all differently and were all gifted differently because of this I had to learn to be flexible in the how I taught them stuff. I also had to learn how to relate to them according to their learning styles. I had to assess them and figure out what works for them so that they could be better educated. The Lord showed me we are all unique and that’s ok. 

I often share with other leaders that being a homeschooling mom was the foundation to my leadership skills being sharpened, strengthened and challenged. If it weren’t for my children I would not be the type of leader that I am today for my boys, women and others. My children have taught me many lessons throughout our homeschooling experience and they continue to teach me lessons daily as we are all still growing as a family and learning each other’s strengths and weakness.

My boys are now 14, 11 and 9 years old.  I no longer homeschool however, the public school has given me different types of teaching lessons. I wholeheartedly embrace this new experience because I saw how God used my obedience to His calling in the past and I get to see how He will use this season for our future. I am extremely thankful that I get to be a leader first to my children and then to those around me.

Remember the Lord can use anyone to teach you how to be a better leader in His kingdom.

When pain stays too long…

When pain stays too long what are you to do? I ask myself this often. I am sure some of you don’t really get what I mean with that question but I give me a second to explain. You see I grew up on the poorest reservation in America. A place that I carry most of my happiest moment’s but also most painful moments.  At the age of 13 years old I lost my first friend to suicide and from there on one after another tragedy happened around me. This people who were dying or murdered all had a name and place in my life. But here’s the thing I am not the only one to feel that pain. All around me on the reservation people are dying. When a person is beginning to get over the shock of a death another one happens.  The pain feels unbearable at times.

So what do you do when you get that phone call at that your dad had a stroke at the age of 50 years old and is in ICU, and dies a couple months later? Or the call you get from your moms doctor that she has less than two years to live because her cancer has came back? The pain is still there healing from all the other deaths that have taken place. What do you do when you a text at 3:00 in the morning saying the young woman you mentored committed suicide? This is the reality of the brokenness and pain my family and the reservation deals with almost monthly. A place where everyone knows everyone and when one is hurting the whole community is hurting.

When pain stays too long what is one to do? When you get the call that your childhood best friend is murdered. Or the call that the young woman your mom helped raise was murdered? What do you do? You weep and you cry out for help.

What about the call that you get when you hear your nephew was in a car wreak he seems to be okay but his friend died.

The pain stays too long because of trauma after trauma, death after death. Where do you go what do you do?

When pain stays too long you begin to think that this is normal and that this is what people endure. But the reality is that it isn’t normal. My people the Lakota have faced many years of pain and heartache at the hands of those who wanted to destroy us and yes, even at our ownhands.

But you know what I have come to terms with in all of this heartache? That only Jesus can comfort me in my pain even when it stays too long. Only He can wipe away the tears as we bury our dead. I don’t know how it will work out. I don’t how much pain one must endure but I do know that where there is pain Jesus can heal. Where there is brokenness Jesus can heal.

As I sit writing this in tears thinking of all the pain and hurt that I have endured as well as my people I pause and say a prayer to the Lord asking Him to heal our land and our people. Asking the question when oh when will be a strong people and see our value as a people group? When we will say we are tired of watching those around us die young so we much change.  When will we see the the pain is staying too long?

My prayer is that the Lord will rise up a generation of strong men and women who will say I am tired of seeing the heartache around me. I will change for my children’s children. I pray that we as a Lakota Nation can come together and encourage each other to be all that God has called us to be. I don’t know what this all looks like but I do know I don’t want my pain to be used to hurt others but rather that it be used to bring about change. When pain stay too long we all must decide to walk together in healing and asking Jesus to lead us.

Will you go where He says? 

The last few months I have struggled to see what God is doing in my life.  There are days where I tell myself I got this.  Then there are days when I think to myself how in the world did I get here? 

I hate that I don’t get to see into the future of my life because if I did I think that I would be able to make better decisions about my life choices today.  

Maybe if I could see into the future I wouldn’t get so frazzled when things don’t work out how I planned or how I thought they should work out.  But nope that’s not how life is and it will never be that way as long as I am in this earthly body. 

I am sure I am not the only one who struggles with a need to see what lies ahead.  I am so glad I am not alone in this struggle.  

When I find myself thinking this way I sit and speak to God about my struggle. I share with Him that I don’t know what is going on and I am unsure of what to do about somethings in my life.  I ask Him to show me how to move and which why to turn.  You know what I have learned about God is when you ask Him for answers He will answer.  His answers may not be what I want to hear but nonetheless it is an answer.  

While praying I read a passage in the books of Acts chapter 20 that hit me like a ton of bricks.  The passage in summary was about Paul and what God has called him to do.  The verses that jumped out at me were,  “22And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, 23 except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.”As I read it it stopped me dead in my thoughts as I pondered where I was in life and where I was going.  I reread the passage and thought who am I that I think I can escape a life of suffering? 

I mean Paul the Apostle one of the greatest men that walked the earth knew that ahead of him was a life of jail and suffering.  He knew that when he chose to follow Christ it came at a cost.  But what made me weep was the next verses that says,  “24But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Paul says his life is worth nothing unless he does what God called him to and that is to share the good news.  

I cried because in that moment the Lord was reminding me that I too am called to a life of suffering.  I may or may not end up in jail for sharing the good news but I do know that I will suffer.  Paul was abused by the people who claimed to know God and some who didn’t but that didn’t stop him.  Instead he counted his life as worth nothing if he wasn’t able to do what God called him. 

I begin to pray as the Spirit of God showed me what lies ahead for me if I walk in obedience to Christ.  The questions that I saw in front of me were, am I willing to do follow Jesus? Am I willing to be abused and suffer for God’s kingdom? And if I am will I let God do what He needs to do in my life to bring glory to Christ? That is a hard pill to swallow. Then I looked back at my life and saw the many answers to prayers.  I saw the times He healed my heart and mended my brokeness. I saw the cross that Jesus endured so I didn’t have to be eternally separated from Abba Father. 

I cried and said, yes Lord I will do it.  I will lay down my life for yours.  I was humbled and reminded of the plan He has on my life.  A plan I don’t see clearly but one that I know Jesus will be in moment by moment as I strive for obedience.  And yes a plan that includes suffering.  I know that I can count it all joy when I suffer for His namesake because James said I should.  

I really don’t have any answers for my life in detail but that’s okay because no matter what it will be God’s plan and guess what He can see into the future!! That is exciting but I must continuously learn to trust in Him as He leads me.  

My prayer is that you to will know that you can rest in Jesus.  

When others hurt you and God uses it to teach you.  

The last few months have been an eye opener for me I am learning about emotional abuse and the aftermath the abuse leaves a victim in. You may wonder how I begin to study this to begin with.  Well let’s just say I have never thought I would be a victim of emotional abuse but it happened.  After months of getting my footing and understanding of what had happened to me I started to see the pain and hurt it caused me as well as others.  

I am not going to share my story just yet but I feel compelled to share what I have learned as a result of being in such a relationship.  The relationship I had was with a person my husband and I had trusted and allowed into our life for years. 

I went through many ugly emotions that I never experienced and ones I never want to feel again.  The emotions caused me to look at my life and reassess what was going on with me in this relationship because I knew I shouldn’t have these feelings of fear, insecurity, doubt and uncertainty. God never calls me to have a spirit of fear so I knew that what was going on wasn’t of God.  

So I begin to dig and came across emotional abuse.  I begin to see the what I was experiencing had a name and it happened to me.  After much prayer and seeking the face of God for truth.  He showed me grace and mercy by giving me answers.  I begin to read and learn so much about this area of life.  I begin to heal and feel better about my life.  I also learned to never diminish what someone is feeling when they are hurting and in pain. 

I learned that in order to grow I needed women in my life who validated who I was in Christ especially since I felt so worthless at times.  I learned that my calling in life isn’t to always have an answer but that I needed to listen and pray instead of speaking. 

I learned that women are created in the image of God and that He will never allow me to go through something without using it to comfort others.  In hindsight I am thankful for all of it because what that person didn’t realize was I was being molded into the image of Jesus.  That He was using them to purify me and my heart. What they meant for evil I know now God meant for good.  

I realized that evil really truly exist in places I least expect. But I also was reminded that greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.  I learned to truly care for women in ways I never would have unless I went through what I did.  I also learned to never let any person define my worth. I learned compassion on a deeper level.  A level that I am thankful for because I know God wants me to have compassion for others.  

I also learned that there is a whole world of godly women out there who have walked similar paths and who are brave enough to walk with someone that is new to this.  Those women have been a life saver for me.  They listened to me while I cried and shared my pain.  They showed me what true discipleship looks like by just being there for me.  They didn’t give me a time line and say to me “get over it already.”  That’s also something I learned to not say to someone on the healing journey.  You don’t just get over pain it takes time. Yes, the Lord can heal immediately but sometimes He doesn’t sometimes He uses His children to walk along side one another in the healing process.  

So when others hurt you remember you are not alone.  There are woman out there who walked down a similar path and are willing to help you walk yours.  Remember that when Christ is at the center of your life He will always lead you in the right path.  Yes, even on the days you don’t want to pray or read your bible He will still be there.  He loves you unconditionally and wants to see you healed more than anyone in this world.  He understands that your pain is at times unbearable and doesn’t hurry you to heal.  Remember He is long suffering and will persevere with you everyday all day. When you are ready to read and spend time with Him He will honor that.  He will give you the strength to take the next step to heal.  He will be your guide each step of the way.  And when you don’t even know what to pray His Spirit will intercede on your behalf.  That’s the God we serve one who cares and loves.  When you are hurt by others press into Jesus He is waiting. 

Jesus does wonderful things in your life when you draw near to Him.  No pain or hurt is to big for Him.

Psalm 73:28
But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person…

James 5:16 b says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” This is a wonderful prayer to pray but we can’t disregard the passage before that.

You see many people take this passage and apply it to pretty must every prayer however, when taken in context the text before that says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16a

How often do we take that first part of the passage and put it into practice? I am guilty of not always confessing my sins to my fellow believer. Recently, I did confess to several of my friends the fear I had in my heart over a situation. I hadn’t realized how fearful I was until the truth of my situation was brought to life. Many questions ran through my mind about my situation. Will God really work this out for my good? Do I trust Him enough to work out His perfect will in my life?  Why am I doubting Him when I have seen Him do so much in my past? Did I really just experience what I went through? Maybe I deserve this because of something I did. Why am I so afraid? 

All of these questions raced through my mind one day while talking to a sister in Christ.As I thought this to myself I realized I really needed my friend to hear me say, “I am scared and fearful please pray for me.” So with that I shared with her how I was truly feeling and how much I was afraid.  I said this to her several times in our conversation, thankfully she reminded me of who God was and then she prayed for me.  I was able to confess my sin of fear, doubt and worry. I was able to be honest and say I need your prayers. As a result, I am writing this blog because not to long after that the Lord reminded me of who He was and what He has done in my life. He reminded me that the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. It brings healing to the soul of the believer.  The sin of unbelief was brought out and my sin was laid on the table.  The truth came out I didn’t trust God to redeem my situation but in His mercy He answered the prayer of my righteous sister’s praying for me.  I know that He can and does answer the prayers of those who love and obey Him. I know He does not turn His back on His children when they are seeking Him obediently.

How about you? Do have sins that need to be confessed so that you can be healed spiritually? We don’t always need a physical healing rather our hearts need to be healed from the many sins that are brought to the surface. God loves us too much to leave us in our yucky sins. He wants to answer prayer of spiritual healings. He wants to cleanse of all of our sins. I pray that you will ask the Lord to search your heart and that you will confess your sins to a trusted sister in Christ so she can pray for you. Her prayers will bring healing to a heart that needs much healing.  God desires to make us into the image of His Son and He wants us to be holy as He is holy. God will come through in His healing we must trust and believe.

Prayer: Father, I thank You that You have given us sisters in Christ who will go to the throne of grace for us and intercede on our behalf. Sisters who will see truth and point us towards You. Father, I pray that many will be set free from sins. I know You word is true and Your promises are real.  I thank You that You don’t leave us the way You found us but that You see our brokenness and want to heal us from the inside out. Father, You are amazing! I want You to know that I love You.  In Jesus Name, Amen!