Monday, November 3, 2014

Fear: The Other 4 Letter F Word

Yep.  I went there. 
 
Fear is a liar and a foul word.  It's used by Satan to bring us to paralyze or put us in a corner of solitude and shame so that no one and nothing can encourage us.  It's something that brings pain in every outlet because of how much we want to hide what we are afraid of.  We limit ourselves because of our fears all too often.  Think about it...we don't say things in relationships because we are afraid of how our significant other will react.  We don't do something we are called to because we are terrified of failure.  We choose to move forward half heartedly living our lives because we are afraid that we will let someone down or that we won't meet their standard of approval.  Think about the things you have wanted to do and felt like God was calling you to but were too afraid to step out into.  See, it's paralyzing and flat out sucks. 
 
What's the common denominator here?  It's the fact that we're looking to other people for that affirmation, approval and encouragement.  I will be the first to admit that I am guilty as can be with this.  The older I have gotten, the more I've realized I fear more than I used to.  There's a fear of growing old all by myself and let me tell you, that's the worst nightmare of an extrovert who has the top love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch.  I am also terrified of failing at anything I set out to do.  College wasn't my strong suit and from that, I have developed the mindset of thinking I won't be able to finish I try...again.  Then there's the fear that my past and the decisions I still fall prey to at times will prevent me from truly moving forward and becoming the woman God created me to be.  Again I say, fear is a liar.  It shouldn't define us but push us to the foot of the cross so we can rest in truth.
 
All of that fear is a result of not trusting God with each and every part of my life.  I'm broken, sinful, and absolutely terrified of screwing up, especially when I leave for Italy but the beauty of this is....it's not up to me.  It's up to Christ to continuously redeem me from who I once was to who He has planned for me to be.  Yes, sins have consequences and those stay with us but thankfully there's nothing that we do that screws up God's plan.  He isn't surprised or caught off guard by our failures and we see that in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  He loves us and created us to walk in confidence that He will provide, redeem, restore and save.  There's a freedom in that.  Oh what joy! The following verse is something I've been trying to dwell on these past few weeks and my prayer is that it encourages you like it has me.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).  He guards our hearts and minds and gives us the peace that we so desperately long for. 
 
What is it you're afraid of?  As cliché as it may sound, ask Christ to show you how to move forward and break away from the bondage of that fear and to stop using the F word.  Walk in the light of the beautiful cross and the salvation of who God is.  Is it easy?  No way but it's worth the journey because we are not in it alone.  He's on our side.  Look back at your life and see that He's never let you down.  He's protected, provided and consistently forgiven and restored.  No need for fear. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Scars

Scars come in many forms.  We all have at least one kind: physical, emotional, or spiritual.  Every type hurts though.  But there is something strangely beautiful about them.  Most aren't intentional but that doesn't change the fact that they hurt and leave a reminder of how we don't add up or how we aren't the person we want or expect to be.  They don't have to be all bad though.  They can be a beautiful reminder of where you used to be and just how far God has brought you.

Not sure why, but I still remember the conversation.  I was on the phone with a friend just weeks after my car accident.  I was thankful to not only be alive but walking.  No 16 year old girl wants to be in an arm splint and a neck brace with not only broken bones but stitches galore from intense glass cuts.  Heck, no one at any age wants that.  My left arm had been cut up pretty badly but my face also had cuts from windshield glass.  The friend and I were talking about my injuries and the stitches and he said something that cut more than the glass.  He made reference to me getting plastic surgery to repair or correct my facial scars.  "You're going to want to get those scars taken care of, Jenny.  Do you really want scars on your face? "  I was shocked at the fact that he was THAT concerned about my appearance.  All I could do was tell him, "Look, I know they won't look great but it could have been much worse."  Chances are, I followed that with some snarky comment before ending the discussion.  It broke my heart because I became paranoid of how people would view my scars.  I was then thinking that they would be off putting and was afraid no man would find me attractive.  That was a lie.

Now, why did I just tell you that?   It isn't because I am angry with him for that or that I'm holding a grudge.  His opinion wasn't the kicker for me but his words left an impact that made me even more aware of my physical imperfections on my face.  Some might think I'm vain for it but when I have ever not been transparent here?  I told you that in hopes that you'll see that we all have scars.  Some are seen by the human eye and others are so deep and buried in us with the fear that someone will see them and find us hideous of foolish.  I've seen people that have been hurt by the church and those in leadership.  There are many who have been physically, verbally or sexually assaulted by someone they trusted or even someone they didn't even know. 

Personally, most of my internal scars are from choices I made in relationships that left me feeling broken and ashamed and feeling that I wouldn't add up or be good enough or whole enough.  That, in turn, led to more poor decisions in hopes that I'd fill some void that can only be fulfilled by Christ.  Most of the physical ones I have are from the accident I mentioned above but I'm thankful for them (most days).  They serve as a reminder that God is faithful and that He is who He says He is. He even used them as confirmation to Thomas.  "Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:27  There was also joy within the disciples when he showed him his side and his hands in John 20:21-23.  That convicted me today when I was thinking about how much I despise my internal (& sometimes external) scars and the way I let them get to me.  Scars can be a reason to rejoice because the children of God have been redeemed.  They are the result of healing that has either happened or is happening right this very moment.  Can I get a WHAT WHAT?!?!  It's a process though, and sometimes within it we are required to tend to that "injury" by being transparent, striving to learn from mistakes and even choosing to forgive. 

When people notice my scars, I see it as an incredible opportunity to talk about God's faithfulness and how He protected me.  When I meet with the college/career ladies and we talk about life, I use the scars from my past to encourage them and hopefully set an example of just what kind of healing God brings to his children.  In the process of getting them, scars hurt like hell but what a beautiful story they can be used to tell. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Last To Know...

Over the last several years I have struggled with singleness and wondering why The Lord hasn't brought anyone to my life.  I also fought the ever changing world around me wondering why I was still in the same sort of stage.  Funny thing is, I've had it pretty good but I tried to put myself on a timeline based on worldly comparisons and expectations.  I made so many mistakes out of selfishness, anger and sometimes just flat out disobedience.  Mistakes that hurt others and ruined my effectiveness as a witness and a believer.  Thankfully, those didn't make the blood of Christ null and void.  Thank God that while he is just, he is a redeemer, restorer, healer, father, pursuer and so much more. Are there consequences to our choices?  Absolutely!  The good thing is, they ultimately end up being for His glory and our joy.  He makes all things, yes...even the vilest being...new! This whole time, I somehow began to believe he was preventing me from certain things because of the sins I had committed but that was a lie straight from the pit of hell.  He wasn't prohibiting or preventing, he was protecting and preparing!  How glorious is that?  In spite of my bratty laments or foolish and selfish sins, He was still preparing and protecting me for something.  Oh what love!  I didn't see the big picture and still don't but I know that His plan is good, His love is deep and His grace never ending.  I'm thankful that I'm single and have no kids because there is a freedom that I have currently that I'm honestly not ready to give up.  I long to go, long to love, long to push others to Christ and to show them that there is worth to their life because of who He is.  


Last Summer, my family and I went to Costa Rica and coming home was difficult.  I don't feel called there but it broke my heart to leave the girls we met and got to love on there.  There was something stirred in my heart while we were there.  Getting to have that happen with my family made it all the more incredible.  It was after that, when Bea asked me to go to Russia because she didn't want to be the only girl.  I said no multiple times but my sister told me I should pray about it before actually saying that.  She made a good point and as God would have it, I joined the team and went to Russia with the Earl Brackin Band.  OH.MY.GOODNESS.  It felt like home.  Not the place necessarily but what we were doing.  We got to really talk to people and find out who they were, what they were about and show them positive attention and get them connected to church plants around the world.  I'll admit that the group I was with made it all the sweeter due to the laughter and was constant and the teamwork that was fluid.  I will always cherish that trip and those people.  I kid you not, I'm tearing up right now as I type because of the memories.

 
Coming home was harder than I had anticipated because I realized more about my purpose while in Russia.  It's something we are all called to do on a daily basis but in various forms.  To love people and to point them to Christ.  There are different ways to show that love such as the 5 love languages and even some extras like sarcasm.  Yes, that is one.  You'll never convince me otherwise so don't even try.  Ok, back on topic....missions.  Talking to strangers has always been pretty easy for me.  As a toddler I asked a total stranger for a bite of their ice cream and that led to my parents purchasing a wrist leash to make sure I stayed near them at all times.  Those of you who have met me aren't the least bit shocked, are you?  Heck, even my own sister took me with her when she would run errands so I would be her buffer of sorts. 


This may make me sound like a horrible person or a "bad Christian" but I never wanted to be a missionary.  I thoroughly enjoy a life of comfort and the occasional massage and pedicure.  I like being able to go out with friends and just make the most of my time with them.  I love to get dolled up occasionally and just go out on the town or catch the occasional concert.  It's not about my wants though.  That's a lesson I'm learning daily...sometimes minute by minute.  Since Russia though, there has been a void of sorts.  Why?  Because I was doing what I was created for.  Some may ask why I can't push people to Jesus in the USA and I'll answer that by saying it's something I strive for and have felt an urgency to do with life in general.  I just know there's a call for cross-cultural missions so that's what I'm moving towards.  That's one of the coming steps...I was just the last to know.  :)


Apparently mom has known for a while this is what I would do.  Dad said he didn't know for sure but isn't shocked and Tammy has consistently encouraged me to pursue God's calling and to apply with the organization I'm in the process with for placement.  There are so many other people that I have sincere respect for that have encouraged me in this and affirmed it and I have to admit, it has been like a common grace and has comforted me as I try to navigate this whole journey (I would love to list them all but fear I would accidentally leave someone out). I even have friends that aren't believers who have said they aren't shocked.  Like I said...I was the last to know.  In the coming weeks and months, I'll be posting about the next steps and the goodness of God with this process as things become more solidified and official.  So here's to the life, death and resurrection of Christ, the pursuit of The Lord and the aid of The Holy Spirit as we all press into Him.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Heart Hurts

Maybe it's the fact that I just finished looking at pictures from the Russia trip in February.  Maybe it's the fact that our world is in complete chaos and disarray.  Maybe it's the fact we were created for so much more....but my heart hurts.  We need Jesus.  Our families need Jesus.  Our world needs Jesus.

Every single time you turn on the news you will see devastation.  No, I'm not being dramatic.  I'm being real.  We all see the impact of cancer, heart attacks, divorce, depression, etc within our own country and even our own families.  We see violence within our country and now the pain from ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the battle of Russia and Ukraine, the fights between Israel and Hamas and the list goes on.  I catch myself begging for Jesus to come back but then I feel such conviction because there are so many people that don't know who God is.  They don't know that Jesus not only died for their sins but also came back and will come back again!  Guys, they don't know what a hug from a believer feels like or what freedom from religion is.  That because of the cross, they can move forward trusting that there is more to life than emptiness and death.  My heart hurts.

I know we can't all go outside of the USA but we can go to our jobs, the streets, our homes, schools and be the hands and feet of Jesus.  We don't have to shove Christ down their throats but we can be intentional about loving them.  Is it easy?  No way.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely.  I'm typing this just as much for myself as I am for anyone else .  No cliche or cheesy sayings, just what I'm thinking and praying about.  So whether it's down the street or across the world, let's go.