The Blessing

I know I said in the last post I would be more diligent about blogging this year, but as you all are aware of, 2020 is not what we expected it to be. In fact, so far, 2020 has thrown some pretty interesting curve balls my way.

At the beginning of the year, I made it a point to make sure that I found a church home. I prayed and asked God to lead me to the right one. I felt there was one specific church, the very first church I visit when I moved here over a year ago, that God wanted me to go to. Eventually I got up the courage to step out of my comfort zone (side note: this is coming from a girl that quit her job and moved across the globe alone).

I went. I knew this was where God wanted me after the first worship set, based on the presence of the Lord. After about three weeks of going I started to introduce myself to a few people and try to plug-in. Friends, God made this incredibly easy for me to do.

I remember one Sunday morning sitting in one of the back pews alone and two girls around my age introduced themselves to me and invited me to sit with them. I did. And after I had this secret plan that I wouldn’t sit with them again, not because I didn’t like them, but I was afraid to make such close friends. I was afraid of letting my guard down. Can you say trust issues? I can.

Well, long story short, throughout that week I connected more with the young adults that had invited me to sit with them. And, I ended up sitting with them again. Little anxiety filled me continued to build relationships with these new people.

Something was so different about these people. They felt safe. They felt welcoming and compassionate. I started gaming with them, joined the worship team with them, Bible studies, movie nights, etc. These “new people” have become some of the most important people in my life.

I am trying so hard to think of how I am going to write about this. How do I even begin to describe the connection I have with this group of people? I’m not sure what the words are, but here’s what I’ve got…

The Lord, my God, my Jesus, my King of Kings, and dearly beloved saw my need for a home away from home. He saw my desire for community, connection, relationships, and fun. And He brought me to the place where not only would I continue to fall deeper in love with Him, but I would meet an amazing group of people that do things like go for bike rides, make me watch Star Wars for the first time, go on Starbucks runs, offer to mount my new TV, buy couches with, etc.

The most important thing about entering into this new community is that every single one of them love Jesus and have a deep desire to live for Him. Readers, I am in tears right now when I tell you how big of a blessing these new relationships have been to me.

Last Saturday, a few of us got together and made breakfast together and one of my new friends asked me when we sat down to eat, “Jenny, in January did you think this is where you would be right now?” And with holding back tears, I said “nope, not in the least bit.” That question hit me deep.

It reminded me that when Jesus sees we have a need and desire, He works things together for our good. He fulfills it according to His good and perfect will. And it is such a beautiful thing. Remember my last post about restoration? This is all apart of that. That was just revealed to me in this very moment. Jesus is restoring to me my deep desire for being in community with like-minded hearts. Jesus is bringing restoration on my social life after a year of my closest friends being my cousins that live 45 minutes away.

This is part of the healing journey the Lord has me on and I have never had so much peace.

It is healing to know that I have finally found my people. People that accept me for who I am, inside and out. People who are not bothered by my weirdness, like making sound effects in the car. People that want to be around me. I have never experienced such an overwhelming feeling of acceptance and love.

If you know me, you know that this is something I have been looking for (very passively I might add) since graduating college. You know that I am very much a people person that longs for fellowship and community. And I finally have that again. The Lord is incredible when He pours His blessings out upon His children.

If you too have this longing and desire, I ask you to seek God wholeheartedly for it. Lay it on the alter and trust Jesus will bring it to you. He will guide you and lead you to where He wants you. Until then, allow Him to continue to mold you and shape you into the person other’s need you to be. They will be just as blessed by you as you are by them.

Check out this new song by Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes: The Blessing

January: Re-Adjustment

Hot dang, it has been a minute since I have blogged. I wholeheartedly apologize to the readers following this blog, as I took a much needed break without any warnings. It wasn’t until just this morning as I was walking out of a busy Walmart into the slush covered parking lot that I had this idea of blogging again.

I knew that I needed to start when I saw my credit card was charged for my plan. But apparently, $200 isn’t enough to motivate me. No, I guess a trip to Walmart to get Band-Aids, a staple gun, and coffee grounds was what it really took.

Anyways, I had this idea of making sure I blog at least once a month. Sure, that will not get me caught up to speed on how many times a month I was blogging when I left off, but I have to rebuild my endurance. And, in my defense, I started working 40 hour work weeks, on top of a 16 hour internship, and at least two grad school classes. I will be doing that again until May. Wish me luck.

I’ve titled this month’s blog as “Re-Adjustment” for several reasons. Think about it, it’s January and it’s a whole new decade. I know, ya’ll will never catch me on the “new year, new me” buzz, but I do believe this is a time of re-adjustment- for me at least…

What I mean by that is that I am re-adjusting to me. The past few years have just been so weird for me. Ever since I graduate college I haven’t really felt I found “my place,” or at least a place and a people that accept me. That is until now. I have had my big girl job for about 7 months now, and man, let me tell you, the Lord sent His blessing upon me when He provided this job!

Not only do I love my job and all that I am learning in it, but with the job came another provision of something I have been praying for since I moved, a best friend. We just happened to be at the office at the same time (as my job is community-based), and on my birthday I might add! TALK ABOUT THE BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT A GIRL COULD ASK FOR.

For those of you that know me personally, 2019 was a year of pruning and healing for me. In that pruning phase, I lost a lot of really great friends. Some I have been able to re-connect to, others, not so much. But either way, I know God is in control of my social life, and my romantic life (ha ha). Thus, why it is such a big thing that I made a new (best) friend!

However, with the new year, I feel a new season of the Spirit on my life. I feel redemption coming my way. The word the Lord gave me for 2019 was “Newness,” or, “I am making you new.” I am believing for 2020 to be my year of restoration and redemption! Pray it to be with me friends!

There are a few passages in the book of Joel and Jeremiah that I feel are fitting for this new topic kicking off my decade. I remember back when I was a junior in high school and I really started getting serious about my faith I attended this Sunday School class before church that wen through the book of Joel. I learned so much through the teachings of spiritual women in my church. These passages stood out to me the most, as I was just coming out of a relationship that ended pretty badly.

What the cutting locust left,
    the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
    the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
    the destroying locust has eaten. – Joel 1.4

This first passage in chapter one talks about a judgement Joel is describing the literal situation of the land of Judah. If we reread the passage we can clearly see that it does not look good! The land is devastated and destroyed!

Sometimes, I feel like there are times in my life that have been eaten away my a locust. Specifically when I was going through the break up in high school, I felt at least two and a half years of my life were destroyed by these locusts. Yes, I learned a lot from it, but I had regrets that there could have been better things I was doing with my life.

I kind of feel similar to that time since graduating college a few years ago (woah, literally cannot believe it has been that long!). I had a lot of great experiences, like returning to India, the land that I love, working as a case manager for the agency that I currently work for, and trying out a job that ended up not being for me. But now that I have finally found a position of stability (for example, I have been in the same country for a whole year, and on Valentine’s Day I will have to renew my lease on my own apartment), I think God wants to restore to me what I felt I lost.

I will restore to you the years
    that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
    my great army, which I sent among you. – Joel 2.25

WOW! Literally in the next chapter God is faithful to proclaim that He will restore these things! How amazing is that! He will restore the years! What a God. WOAH! It gets me going every time! I’m literally sitting here in this little Starbucks listening to worship music trying to contain my excitement!

Actually, the song I am listening to literally just said “beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, praise for heaviness, for your glory.” What perfect timing that is! I included the link to the song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYRoh6Gx8Z4

But c’mon, isn’t it just so amazing how our God works? Incredible. I have felt very convicted of not praying and keeping up with my relationship with Jesus like I would like to be, therefore, I have started praying this restoration to be! I am a full believer in the “ask and you will receive” concept Jesus shares in Matthew 7.7-11.  Thus, I am asking with strong faith, deep belief, and waiting in expectations for this request of restoration I have laid before Jesus!

Friends, I don’t know what your 2019 looked like, or, let’s be honest, what your life has looked life. I don’t know what kinds of things you feel have been eaten by locusts and left you devastated, but I know that whatever it is, if you lay it at the foot of the cross, Jesus is surely faithful to restore those things.

I dare you this year to take a leap of faith and pray for the change. Pray, with a heart filled in expectation and belief that you will receive, for restoration and desires. Join me in re-adjusting to whatever newness God has brought forth in your life.

 

Oh Simple Thing

About 28 days ago I started a new job. I know, I know, you’re probably so sick of hearing me starting something new. But c’mon, I’m just doing everything God has placed before me. Before starting this position I was unemployed for about 2 and a half months- the longest period of me ever being unemployed since high school.

This was difficult for me in several ways. First, it meant I had to live on a more strict budget than usual. Second, that more strict budget meant saying no to some pretty fun things, like a long vacation, or hanging out with my cousins. Third, it was difficult to see my bank account slowly dwindling after every trip to the gas station or grocery store.

I learned to put my trust in God that I would get through it and no matter what He would provide. I learned how to say no to buying some foods at the grocery store that I didn’t really need. I learned how to go without Starbucks for more than three days in a row (this is huge for me).

Now that I’ve started working again, I realized that I also learned of the things I value the most…

Usually over the weekend I begin to search my cupboards and refrigerator to compile an 58532287076__9E6D9D9A-E807-4714-B628-CE6354570ECAorganized list of what I needed from the grocery store that week. Sometimes at night I would use Instagram and Pinterest to find new recipes to try. This particular week I used those to gain some ideas for zucchini recipes because I have zucchini coming out my ears from the garden!

I found a nice curry, zoodles, and a bread that I wanted to make. I noted the ingredients I needed and planned to execute my trip to the store on Monday. However, when Monday came, I realized that I really didn’t need all of these different foods to “fluff” up my diet.

I try to eat pretty healthy, so I usually eat the same foods all the time. I also had decided that I would fly to Ocean City to join my cousins for a few nights on vacation. And this was WAY more important than buying some random ingredients to make a fancy dish.

Now that I have a paycheck, I am more conscious of where my money is going. I would much rather spend less money a week at the grocery store so I can go out with friends at the end of the week for a meal. I value friendship and community over a fancy meal to myself. So what if my zoodle bake isn’t fluffed up with mushrooms and other goodies? I’ts okay.

Friends, I think this might be a true definition of simplicity. I really felt that when I got into my car after leaving Aldi and realizing I only spent $20.46 on groceries for the week. And that included almond flour to make zucchini bread (which is NOT cheap by the way). I also decided right then and there that if this is what adulthood is like, then I can be okay with that.

I don’t mind making sacrifices for something I think I want in order to contribute to a greater goal or value. When it comes to health and fitness, sometimes that means skipping the ice cream at the end of the week, or making my turkey burgers with lettuce wraps, not buns. When it comes to friendships, community, and relationships, it’s making personal sacrifices to spend quality time with them.

I’ve learned to ask the question, “Jenny, do you really need this?” or “Jenny, is this really contributing to what you want in life?” These are such important questions to ask ourselves when making decisions. Sure, you may have the mindset of do what you want, YOLO, it’s your life… But that’s exactly what I’m saying here.

If I only live once, than I would rather live it knowing that I am contributing to bettering myself, staying true to my values, and seeking the Kingdom of God with all that is in me.

I also have found myself being more encouraging to myself when I do make choices that impact my values. I usually say something in my head like “I’m so proud of you for doing that,”  or “great job!” I also tend to just let go when I make a decision that was maybe not so great… This is called positive reinforcement. I do not want to shame myself for being a human and making a mistake. Dwelling on that mistake is not going to change anything either.

A few weeks ago one of my best friends (and first friend) in college preached an awesome message on Luke 10. If you don’t know, this is where Jesus sent out the 72 by twos to spread the Gospel. Jesus states:

Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Luke 10.4-11

Isn’t that such a simple thing? He directed them to not even carry a wallet. When I walked into the building and saw my friend who was preaching wasn’t wearing shoes, I knew immediately that he was preaching from this exact passage.

Lately I have been wanting to buy a pair of Chacos, but man, after reading this passage again I think I might just go barefoot! Who’s in!? Jesus says I don’t need those sandals!

But c’mon reread that passage above. Jesus is telling us to live simple and just do what He called you to do because that is the greatest way to contribute to your values.

He says to eat whatever is set before you, and stay in the house of peace. During this past season of my life I have been incredibly blessed by my servant-minded friends and I can definitely say that the house I live in is a house of peace!

The part of this passage that I really struggle with is the last part where Jesus basically tells us to move on if people do not “receive you.”

Matthew 10.14 Jesus states, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”

In other words, if people do not accept that you are choosing to live for a purpose, a higher calling, and for the Lord, or if they do not respect your values and accept what you have to bring to the table, you need to wipe that dust off your feet and move on!

This may be the therapist coming out in me, but in essence, that’s self-destructive behavior right there and it’s time to put and end to that!

Jesus has called you to be on a mission just like He called the disciples. You cannot let the negative influence of others get in your way! Because let’s be real here, isn’t the negative influence of others technically the enemy?

You’re going to go through rough patches, you’re going to be spiritual and mentally attacked by the Devil. You’re going to ask God “why me?” You’re going to experience deep grief and loss. You’re going to have trials. But, friend, I am telling you to live that. Don’t pray for it to end. Live it deeply and let it teach you the lessen you’re supposed to learn because THAT is what will teach you your values and ultimately bring you closer to Christ.

I could go on and on about how we as a generation have fallen away from the importance of simplicity. Or how we have taken something so genuine and authentic as the simple Gospel of Jesus dying for our sins and rising again and complicated it beyond all measure. But I won’t do that because that might feed into the negativity that the Devil wants us all to believe.

We may have struggled wit simplicity, but Jesus knows we are human and that we would struggle. Jesus is a gracious, compassionate God that would much rather have us pick up our cross, die to ourselves, and try again!

So friends, kick off your sandals and continue on your journey with a simple mind. Be simple. Be like Jesus.