Kicking in the Barbie Dream House

December 1, 2016

IF Flower

The post below is an excerpt from Nothing to Prove (coming Jan 31st!). You can pre-order a signed copy here AND get a free NOTHING TO PROVE hand-stamped brass necklace if you order by December 10th. To grab a necklace, head here, fill out the form, and we’ll ship you a necklace and Christmas card.


I was full swing into a wrestling match with happiness when Zac and I received an invitation to spend a week at our friend’s lodge, which sits adjacent to a Young Life camp called Malibu Club up in the middle of nowhere Canada. If I am honest, I wasn’t miserable and feeling intense sadness; it was more that I had chosen to be numb.

For months I’d mulled over the obvious culprits behind my struggle: spiritual attack so blatant at times I have laughed out loud at how obvious the devil can be, pressure to protect the purity of this “great work of God,” the chaos of all the hard work mixed with four kids growing up at turbo speed and me feeling like I was missing it.

I remember one night in particular lying in bed and saying, You know? If this is what it means to follow You, God, I don’t know if I am up for this.

As we approached our time at the lodge, coming to any understanding about the root of my unhappiness felt impossible, and coming to some big emotional life change at an actual Young Life camp felt cliché. My highest hopes were to laugh and make some memories with Zac and my friends. But here was the problem: at the lodge, where I was surrounded by a whole lot of happiness, my own unhappiness was impossible to escape or ignore.

I wanted my joy back.

I wanted my freedom back.

I wanted my feelings back.

I wanted my passion back.

I wanted my dreams back.

I wanted my life back!

I had seen God move in spectacular, miraculous ways, and I’d seen God move in quiet, behind-the-scenes ways that could only be His hand at work. I’d witnessed answers to prayer, such as loved ones being saved, individuals being freed from addiction, job offers coming through, ministries being launched, children finding new courage.

One night after dinner I snuck away to spend some time with Jesus. It was as flatlined a time as it has ever been. I didn’t cry. I didn’t read. I sat there looking at the sky, asking God what to do with the weight I felt, with my miserably heavy, invisible pack. My soul was about to be resuscitated, but it wouldn’t be in ways that I could have predicted. God brought me there because He was ready to radically shift the way we were doing life together. He wouldn’t let me miss my life, He wouldn’t let me miss His love, He wouldn’t let me miss Him.

He came after me, and He is coming after you.

A fellow lodge guest stumbled up the path, seemingly lost. He was an older gentleman with silver hair and sincere eyes. I’d heard others around the camp refer to him as a wise counselor. A wise counselor. That is exactly what I seemed to need. Someone to diagnose me, someone to explain this heaviness that had invaded my life.

As he walked up, I said, “Sir, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I think I’m supposed to tell you my problems.”

He laughed and sat down next to me. Over the course of the next hour and a half, the man listened patiently to every significant and insignificant thought about my life, the heaviness of my Barbie Dream Castle life and lack of enoughness. My absence of emotion turned quickly to fanatical emotion, and I found myself crying on this poor man’s shoulder and wiping my eyes and snotty nose on his shirt.

I told him about my overwhelming urge to kick in the Barbie Dream Castle of Accomplishment. I told him how desperately I wanted to hear God say, “Well done.” I told him I was afraid of messing it all up. I told him about my constant not-enoughness. I told him my heart wasn’t pure enough, I wasn’t a good enough leader, God picked the wrong girl. I told him how much I wanted to please God.

He listened and smiled and nodded, and can you imagine what he said?

“Jennie, kick it in!”


“Yes, kick in the castle. If this is God, you cannot mess it up and ruin it no matter how hard you try. And if it isn’t from God, then you just did Him a favor.”

My brain was spinning out as freedom and peace seeped into every part of me. I pictured myself kicking IF in…all the expectations, the pressures, the dreams realized. And I pictured it popping back up like one of those inflatable jumpy castle things.

He said words like:

“Jennie, God doesn’t need you, He loves you.” …“No wonder you are so tired, that is a lot to keep up.” …“I’d rather be watching Netflix than be with Jesus, too, if I lived afraid of failing Jesus all the time.”….“God couldn’t care less about successes, failures, visions, disappointments. He will just use all of it, whatever means possible just to get to you, to be with you.”

I laughed out loud at the absurdity of all the lies I’d been believing and the seemingly noble aspirations I had inflicted on myself to prove I was capable to lead such a thing. How silly to think I could manage this God movement. How arrogant to believe I could hold this thing up if my heart could only be pure enough.

I realized that night that I have been living a lot of my life for God instead of with God. And that is a lot of pressure on a girl.

That night, as near to heaven as I have ever felt, God whispered, What if all you ever wanted, all the happy you have craved, just happens to be found in loving Me and people wildly?

Of course that. Of course. I knew it; I just didn’t believe it. And it turns out there is a difference.

He whispered, You know your soul is craving Me? Only Me. That is what you crave. That is life. That is peace. That is hope. That is joy.

I pictured Jesus calling me to this great adventure but saying to me, Jennie, come to me, you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Jennie, I want you to stop doing things for Me and start doing things with Me. We have some fields to plow and your eyes have been straight ahead, working and striving and pulling this heavy thing.

You see, God has called us to His huge vision. He is calling us to go and make disciples of the world and to show people Jesus and to see people transformed. He has called us to feed the poor and bring hope to the sick and love our families through the hard days. He has called us to lives that set people free and to invite them into the family of God. While sometimes we miss the wonder because we daily live out our calling in mundane ways, He has called us to an exciting and noble and awesome task, and if you are not a part of it, I can promise that is one reason that you feel like you are missing something—because you are.

We can’t make light of the vision, but we also cannot accomplish any of the purposes of God unless we do them with the power and the resources and the energy of God.

To read more of this post, pre-order Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So HardAnd if you order a copy by December 10th, you can get a free custom hand-stamped NOTHING TO PROVE necklace from Robinson Lane! Just pre-order your copy from your favorite retailer and head HERE to redeem your necklace (there’s not very many left)!

28 Responses to “Kicking in the Barbie Dream House”

  1. Elsie Ferguson

    These are life-giving words! I have been here, too. I feel like you are speaking the words of my heart! Thank you for being real and vulnerable. I pray this message sets some sisters free and his Christmas season!

  2. Your middle of nowhere Canada made me laugh, you have no idea. I live in Northern Saskatchewan, I can introduce you to the middle of nowhere. 🙂

    The message of working with and not for has been resting on my lately. I tend to get caught up in the working for and get lost in what exactly I am doing. Then I get frustrated and want to quit everything.

    Working with, seems too easy, but as I continue to learn that it isn’t easy, it’s because I am walking with and holding on to the One that guides and walks with me. It’s the only way.

  3. Shelly Howard

    This is truly God’s Word for me today-It just pierced my soul! I have been feeling the words you wrote for months and also thinking some days, that I want my life back, my husband’s life back, our marriage back, as we are serving in a ministry together for over 15 years. It’s so easy to know we are doing it with God and not for God, but so hard some days too-in spite of all the times He reminds me it’s all by His power and I/we don’t have to, nor can we, keep it going by our own. I’m going to pray & meditate on this and prepare my heart to “Kick It In” too. Thanks for the blessing of your blog and for all you do!

  4. Janice Haury

    Emmanuel -God with us! Thank you for the reminder of the relationship God wants to have with us. He wants to walk through this life journey alongside us. I often get busy “doing life” I forget to invite him to do it with me. This time of year is a great time to make the change.


    Greetings from Embu Kenya! Am from a prayer meeting this day and I have been convicted to write this email to you. Am pastor Elias Mugambi and I have been receiving your emails updates from you and I felt the need to know you by knowing that I communicate with real people not automated system. Am from Kenya and I have few issues to ask you.

    1)How can you help us to propagate this gospel of kingdom?
    2)Do You have any resources that you can give us, things here are not well
    3)Next year we are believing God to do more outreach, trainings etc. How can we partner to do this! Maybe you have teams that are looking for opportunities to minister. There is a open ground here or maybe you are planning for mission you can consider us.

    In Christ service.
    Pst Elias Mugambi

    • Pastor Elias Mugambi,

      How can we be praying for you and your community? What are your specific needs?

  6. I love this so much! There are so many great reminders tucked in here. Thank you for being real, for being open and for sharing your struggles with us. It helps to know we are not alone.

  7. Mary Beth

    Thank you for sharing. Just the reminder from God I needed.

  8. Vivian Matheson

    I love this blog entry! I’m so there WITH you! I ordered a copy of your book, Nothing to Prove from Amazon this morning. I wanted to receive the necklace, will wear it with joy, so I copied the order information to a MS Word file and tried to upload it, your website will not accept it. I do not know how to make a jpeg, etc from it. What do I do now?

  9. Est Rasmussen

    Oh my goodness this post is timely. I am in the midst of what you describe, just exhausted by life and my desire(pressure) to do the right thing. In the last few days I have realised I can’t hold my guilt/shame of relentless failure, can’t be held alongside Grace. That Grace is the only way to go. That sentence with God not for him – it’s brilliant and perfect. Do you know if your book will be published in the UK, would love to order it from the library.

  10. Tracey Mathis

    Thank you that Word was for me today!!! Not working for God but working with Him.


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