Friday, December 4, 2015

Glad He Didn't Let Me Leave

I was talking with a dear friend Sunday afternoon about the things God has been showing us lately and the ways we've seen His hand clearly in our lives.  She mentioned how it's hard to believe this time last year, I was heart broken.  Y'all, my heart was in pieces and I was crying "the ugly cry" over the feelings of rejection, failure and not knowing what God was doing.  You see, I had been in the process of applying for international missions and from the way everything looked and what my missions coach had said, everything was falling into place and within the next year, I'd be leaving for Italy to serve.  It all came to a screeching stop when I was told that I wasn't being recommended for service.  I wondered what was wrong with me or if I had been too open about my past.  Did my desire to love on people make me seem too naïve?  I kept getting the same answer, "wait."

I don't know about you, but I do not wait well.  I lament, question, cry, throw the occasional tantrum, etc.  These aren't necessarily done in a public setting but they do happen.  I had even thought that maybe missions was going to be God's way of bringing me to my husband or a new type of ministry since I've never had a problem with talking to strangers.  Did I not hear God at all in this?  Why would He have gifted me like this and used me in different countries if this isn't what I'm supposed to do?  I'm supposed to be doing those things HERE & NOW.  Not just in other places.

I have an incredible job that really was an answer to months and months of prayer.  I do not say that lightly or in the cliché Christian way.  God honored obedience in the timing of this and I am still beyond thankful to be working where I do and with the people I get to interact with daily.  There are often times I find myself praying with different employees throughout a week.  A few months ago, my boss said, "Jenny, this is your mission field."  Wow.  She is right.  God has me here for a reason and I'm glad.  There are opportunities here that are definitely of Him with the interactions I have with people during tough medical situations, losses, births, retirement and pretty much all things in between.  I can't imagine not serving here now. 

It's not just work though.  God had me step up to leading a ladies life group and I was finally obedient.  A buddy of mine said, "uh, it's about time."  Leadership scares me because there's a fear of failure that comes with it.  But, one thing God has reminded me of is that there's nothing I've done that will lessen the power of The Cross and His redemption.  Thank God!  These ladies are such a delight and I'm loving the time to get to know their hearts and walk through this crazy life with them.  Who knew there were women out there of all ages/stages that were just as sassy as me?  ;)

As for relationships, I can't imagine a more fulfilling life than the one I have.  My family is a consistent form of encouragement and spunk but then add in the friends I get to walk through life with daily and I almost can't handle the fun.  There are too many things to name here but this year has held a whirlwind of memories.  The Disney Half Marathon, my 30th birthday celebration (one heck of a party), NYC with the family and the daily laughter and quirks that come in between.  The text threads are hilarious, the trip planning is exciting and the accountability is something I'd never trade.  There have been people that I've met that I wouldn't have had the opportunity had I gone to Italy.  Seeing friends get married and have babies has been such a delight and worth it, even on the hard days.  I'll be honest and say that I'm excited about the last month or so and am waiting with expectancy of the months to come. 

I still have my melt down moments and tantrums about things, it happens.  But I also still have the grace and goodness of a God that loves me at even my worst of times.  It boils down to letting others see Jesus in our lives because without Him, there's no purpose.  It's knowing that even when things are good, He's still better and more fulfilling than even thing things I've wanted all my life.  All in all, I'm glad He didn't let me leave because while 30 started out incredible, it's going to get better!

Here's a glimpse of pieces of the last year and why I'm glad He wouldn't let me leave.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Comparisons 2.0.

Back in 2013 I shared a post regarding COMPARISONS and how much they suck.  While that's still my stance, I'm seeing more and more people battling them and it breaks my heart.  I'm just as guilty as the next person for allowing myself to be defeated by the comparisons I place on myself in regards to others.  Those comparisons shouldn't be a measuring stick for our happiness and joy.  Happiness can be taken away but sincere joy comes from Christ.  We have to choose to see that and believe it at times but it's true.  There's a sparkle that brightens and dims based off our joy I think.  When we are redirecting our goals and our standards towards Christ, that light not only shines on us but also IN us.  Joy is that sparkle and one of the fruits of the spirit that we often lose sight of in the midst of those comparisons.

Men, women and children face comparisons of a wide variety and while it's not fair, it doesn't change the fact that we each have a battle.  We must hold our thoughts captive and turn our eyes towards God and His Word.  Is it easy?  Absolutely not.  But no one ever promised simplicity or ease with this life.  We were actually promised trials along the way but with those trials come character, refinement and a painful process called sanctification.  Y'all, those things mean that He hasn't and won't give up on us!!!!  Did you read that?!  HE HASN'T AND WON'T GIVE UP ON US!  What sweet relief. 

When I find myself smack dab in the middle of comparing myself to someone else for an ability or lack thereof, I can let it break me or push me to evaluate where God has me.  I've shared before that there have been times I felt like God was preventing or prohibiting me from getting to move forward but it's been such a beautiful process to see that He's been protecting and preparing.  I'll admit that it wasn't until I accepted that reality that I was able to step back outside of my circumstances and see truth for what it was.  I want to encourage you to do the same.  Take a step back, breathe and ask God to show you where it is He's refining and pursuing you.  He wants you to find that sincere depth and joy in Him, not in others or their opinions of you.  He's got you and won't be giving up anytime soon.  Keep moving forward.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dearest Chattanooga

I, like many of the rest of you, didn't sleep well last night.  My heart physically aches for the families that lost loved ones yesterday and for those who were injured in Chattanooga.  Hearing sirens isn't all that uncommon where I work since my office is located downtown but today I found myself cringing each time I heard them, hoping it hadn't happened again.  I've found myself on the verge of tears on multiple occurrences today because of the evil in our world, nation and even our community.

I can't even begin to imagine what the families and friends of the fallen are going through right now.  If you are currently suffering or now reliving a loss from yesterday's attacks, I am so deeply sorry and hope you know that you are prayed for.  As yesterday unfolded, my heart sank more and more as I thought of friends with the Chattanooga Police, Hamilton County Sheriff Department, EMS and other County employees I get the pleasure of interacting with on a daily basis.  The fear of "what if it was them" consumed me for a bit.  May we not forget the fact that these men and women are daily striving to keep us safe...they are our heroes. 

People have indicated their hatred for the one(s) behind the attack and I have to admit, it's hard to not choose that feeling.  It's not what will make any of this go away.  I've been so overwhelmed with how officials from Hamilton County, Chattanooga City and the FBI have handled things.  Our park rangers and employees with parks & recreation shared their lunches with citizens and one another yesterday when everything went on lockdown.  People checked on one another and went to give blood as soon as they could because they wanted to help and they wanted to love.  This.  This is what has to continue.  We must band together as a community, as a family, to move forward and to encourage one another.  I don't know how this will look going forward but I do know we still have a sovereign God who has NOT forgotten us or left us.  Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."  He is near us as we all grieve as a community and as a nation. 

May we walk in a peace that only God can envelop us in and a strength that only He can supply.

With Love,

Friday, May 8, 2015

For The Women Who Aren't Moms on Mother's Day...You Matter, Too

Personally, I love Mother's Day because moms should be celebrated.  They do so much for their husbands, children and communities in general.  I have to admit though, when you don't have children (or a husband), you feel as though you don't measure up in a lot of ways in the big picture. 

This post is for:

* The women who long to be a mother but it just hasn't happened yet.  Whether you're married and unable to conceive or single and longing to have a family one day.
* The women who had children but have lost them in any sense of the word.

For the women who have tried without ceasing to conceive, my heart hurts for you.  I never want to say "I know how you feel" because I don't.  I don't have answers as to infertility or why some things just happen for some and not for others.  What I do know is that you aren't defective because of that.  You still have so much to give to those around you, possibly adopted children or little brothers/little sisters and etc.  Just because you haven't become a mother yet, doesn't make you any less of a woman or less of an asset to society.

For the women who have lost a child, I can't fathom what you feel, especially this weekend.  You poured your heart and soul into planning a future for that child.  You bonded with, prayed for and pushed them to be their best.  No one will ever replace them (whether you're separated by death, life decisions, a strained relationship, etc...).  You aren't forgotten and you're certainly no less of a mother.  If you haven't been told that you're loved recently, please know that you are.   

For the single women who long to be a mom.  To an extent, I get it.  Sure, I'm only 30 but the clock ticks on occasion and it's so difficult to find a place to "fit in" when you're friends are getting married left and right and popping out babies.  I can understand the conflict of being so happy for your friends but wondering just when you'll get the honor of being more than just the fun/crazy aunt.  I'm sorry for the days you feel like you'll never know what it's like to have that child run to you or cry for you.  I can't promise that you'll know that but I can promise that you still matter and still have a sweet joy of getting to pour into the lives of kids around you.  Take it from Aunt Jen, it's actually quite fun to leave when the moods of the kids change and to not wake up in the middle of the night. 

If Mother's Day is hard for you, know that you still matter and you still have a calling on your life.  Live out your passion and pursue holiness along the way.  You're still stunning and you do matter.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Life is Hard.

No matter what life stage you are in or age you are, it is a safe bet that you have had many ups and downs.  Most of us have asked the question, "Why me?"  at least once.  Flunking out of college, losing a spouse, dealing with depression, losing a parent or child, breaking your neck, losing your job...I could go on but you get the idea, hopefully.

I mentioned before that no one ever said this life would be easy.  In fact, if you are a believer, it is guaranteed to be difficult.  Candace Cameron Bure said in Reshaping It All that, "Losing weight is hard; maintaining weight is hard; staying overweight is hard.  Choose your hard."  That can be applied to any part of life.  Knowing that and applying it are two very different things though.

For some reason, we allow ourselves to strive and align to this imaginary timeline that says we have to reach certain points by certain ages.  If we don't, we fail or are falling short in certain areas because of it.  Heaven forbid it be because God has a different and much better plan for us.  "Surely I'm doing something wrong because all of these other people are getting to experience these things."  Ladies and gents, this is another lie.  Where are we getting this timeline?  Who said we have to be a college graduate?  Who said we have to be married with kids by age 25?  Ummm I'm 0 for 3 there and it's taken me a while to be okay with that.  In all honesty, some days I still battle it.  That is because I start comparing myself to others...again. We all need to stop and realize that the standard we look to is Christ and our commission is clear about making disciples and loving people where they are. We're all a work in progress.  :)

I have friends that have lost jobs, spouses, parents, children and their reputation.  Yet they still love Jesus.  They know that life is hard and that what we are all owed is hell.  It is only by the grace of God that we are able to get through this life day in and day out.  We all have our own "hard" to face.  It's how we respond and who or what we look to that really matters.  If I put my worth and definition in my job, appearance, social status, significant other or future children, I am putting unnecessary pressure on those things and people while setting myself up for catastrophic disappointment. 

I started writing this over a year ago. I had no clue as to what was in store and just what incredible experiences were ahead. There have been ups, downs, losses, wins and laughter galore. I shouldn't be surprised when things take a turn but in December, they did. I got a call from my missions coach and of was told that I'm not going to Italy (yet). Those reviewing my file said I have some medical things to work on and I later found out I need more experience under my belt. I get it, I do. My heart just hurt because of the rejection I felt. I had been told that they didn't see any way I wouldn't get appointed. My coach was shocked as well. I'm thrilled to tell you that I've seen glimpses of why I'm still here.  God didn't owe me those but he chose to share them. The day my file was supposed to go before the missions board, God gave me the chance to pray with a former employee who is dying of cancer.  There have been other opportunities as well that have no doubt been from The Lord. I'm grateful and excited that it's not the end of those. I'm able to talk about it now without crying (the week I was told wasn't pretty) and I know God has something He is preparing me for. It's not because I'm a failure and I don't have to have this all figured out (oh what a freedom)! So for now, I'll just keep moving forward where He has me and work on the things He has put before me. Easy? Nope. Worth it? Absofreakinlutely!


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

More Important Things

Before you proceed, please note that I am not judging anyone in this or condemning as it is not my place, nor my desire.  Just an observation that broke my heart today.

We all gripe and complain about things that are "first world problems" or that others would be grateful for.  We have moments of selfishness and longing for superficial affirmations.  When is enough considered to enough already?  Guys, we are so consumed in our own crap to even care that brothers and sisters in Christ are losing their lives at the hands of Isis and other groups that hate Christianity, joy, family unions, etc. 

I was scrolling through my Facebook mini feed and saw some posts from Buzzfeed about how One Direction is trending and people are freaking out about one of the guys leaving the group.  By freaking out I mean LOSING THEIR MINDS!  You know what?  That's his choice...let the young man live his life and deal with his stuff.  He wasn't created to complete you.  Yes, the guys are talented but IT'S A GROUP.  It's not a life or death situation for their fans.  As my friend Hannah would say, "RELAX."  I've been trying to watch my language, even in humor, as of late or else I would add in my own extra words with hers.  :) I'm not saying you shouldn't be bummed but let's have/use some perspective here.  We aren't devastated over our own sin (I'm saying we because I'm soooooo guilty) but we are devastated about trivial things that don't determine salvation.  It's been a day full of gut checks for me.

It's happened through the crying because they're seeing their favorite artist or group.  Mom saw Elvis when she was in college (I know, right?!) and she said girls were sobbing and fighting over his scarves.  Heck, I'll admit, I get giddy when I get to see Straight No Chaser and Ed Sheeran but even I have limits.  People panicked when they saw other boy bands over the years but I just don't get it.  There's more to life...many more important things.  I get being disappointed in changes and whatnot but we should be sobbing uncontrollably over the people being murdered, children being sold into sex slavery and those dying to addictions.  We need a revival and we need it now.  We need Jesus. 

I know, the news is depressing but it's good and healthy to be aware as to what is going on around you in your town and in your world.  There are missionaries leaving daily to go to distant parts of the world that need our prayers and our support.  There are people in our towns suffering from loss, depression and much worse that need to see the love of Jesus.  There's something that everyone can do.  Pray for where you should serve and how you can support those around you and around the world.  I'm about to purchase the book, "Defying Isis" that was written by a former college pastor, Johnnie Moore.  He's a gifted communicator with a heart that yearns for his brothers and sisters overseas.  Check it out. 

Again, I said this in love and out of heartbreak.  Let's stop pitching tantrums about One Direction, who will go on, and start praying for those that are literally suffering and dying.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why Did I Wait So Long?

I would be lying if I said I hadn't freaked out at times when I thought about turning 30.  Is it old?  Nope, but it's a milestone birthday.  It's the start of a new decade and I've said before that I'm not at all where I had planned to be but lately I've really enjoyed it. 

It's taken years to get to this point but I'm grateful.  Is every day easy?  No, life isn't perfect for anyone.  And on those hard days, I will be honest and say that it takes every ounce of willpower not to hit a 20 year old that tells me, "oh girl, I know waiting is hard."  We all know that I'm not the best at using my filter on a good day so you know it's grace that keeps my mouth shut then.  And yes, I know we all have experience with waiting whether it be for a job, a miracle, healing, reconciliation, marriage, babies, etc.  Each season is hard though and I'm learning that more and more each passing day.  My married friends have to constantly work on communication, respect and boundaries.  Adding children to that mix is even more chaotic and then there's work stresses, church responsibilities and etc.  I actually have it really easy right now from the way I see it.

For some reason, I took on these expectations of how I thought life should look and where I should be by specific ages and life stages.  I was so naïve about it.  I felt like I couldn't fully live until I was married or had reached some great timeline marking.  Yep, again with that dang timeline.  Where did it come from?  Disney?  Maybe.  My own expectations of a picture perfect life? Probably a mixture of that mixed with society and the dreams of a little girl that somehow took over.  I lost sight of myself in the longing of getting to new and better phases in life.  Most importantly, I lost sight of God and what he would want for me.  I'm not owed anything but hell and it's only by His grace that I can even begin to walk in grace, knowing that I get to spend eternity with Him. 

As silly as this may sound, I thought I wouldn't be able to do big things without a husband.  Foolish, right?  I know I'm not the only one that has faced this though.  We all feel like we aren't supposed to do certain things until we reach specific marks.  Stop it.  We have people that love and support us not just for who we are but in spite of that.  I'm over being stuck in ruts because of the lacking I thought I had.  Some very dear friends (Kimber, Hannah, Em & Ashton) along with my precious family threw me one heck of a 30th birthday celebration and I was so happy to not have to worry about having a significant other there.  I can enjoy where I am because of God's goodness.  Not because of a circumstance that I do or do not have.  Life is a gift and it's time to fully live it.  Not because of this milestone but because it's why I'm here.  To love people where they are and to pour into their lives and He has poured into mine through the incredible people that He's allowed me to know.

I got to thank some of those sweet friends this weekend for being part of that healing process.  They've shown me that we are loved no matter where we are in life.  Their sacrificed time, finances, creativity and etc. spoke volumes to me about the fact that I am worth something and that I'm not defined by those things I looked to for so long.  I'm happy, grateful and overwhelmed by the overflowing of love that I've seen and experienced over my 30 years and have had to repent for being so blinded by my own plans and expectations.

What is it that you have always wanted to do but felt like you couldn't or weren't' supposed to because of a status or lack there of?  Go do it.  You'll regret it if you don't.