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

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.

 

My Job Season

For those of you that know me, you know that the last few months of my life have been extremely trying and difficult. It just happens to be one thing after another. Forget the saying when it rains, it pours, in this case, when it rains it freaking storms. There’s hail, thunder, lightning, the whole dang shabang.

In January I accepted a position with a ministry that I thought would lead me to my “dream job.” It was not the position I applied for, but I was trusting God that He was opening a door. In February I quit my current job, moved out of my parent’s house, and started working at this ministry.

At first, I was clearly excited and nervous about this new experience. But you know that feeling of truly knowing that something is exactly for you? Just like a peace from God that you are right in your prime time. I felt this about a year ago when I was in India. Check out my blog post “A Beautiful One” to read more about that.

Needless to say, in this new job I did not feel that. I barely had peace and I always felt anxious and as if I were being judged. I had several encounters with my supervisors that left me feeling empty, unwhole, and crushed. If there’s anything I know, it’s that those feelings are certainly not of God. I began asking God if this is really where I should be.

Soon enough, he answered that prayer when the supervisors called me into the office and let me go. This was a shock to me. Other people lose their job, not me. Other people, are considered bad workers, not me. It took me a decent amount of time to realize that it wasn’t that I was a bad worker, but that God had something much better waiting for me (still waiting for me actually).

That same week, my car broke down. It was a $1300 repair. In the midst of waiting for my car to be repaired, grieving from losing my job, and discerning if I was supposed to move back in with my parents or not, I found peace. Yeah, call me crazy! I remember just laying on my old college futon in my new apartment sobbing and thinking thank you Jesus.

I started the never-ending search for a job, and eventually took the licensed social worker exam, which opened up more opportunities. I had a lot of leads that seemed promising, but everything fell through. Everything except a job with the agency I previously worked for. I was offered a full-time position with them.

You are probably thinking “that’s great!” and sure, it was, but the problem was that I also have an internship 16 hours a week and adding 40 hours of work and a few hours to complete school work meant 60+ hours of work a week! I was praying and waiting for another opportunity to come, but nothing did.

It was one gloomy Tuesday morning at my internship where I let my mind slip away during a mindfulness activity with our group patients. I realized that all of these problems I was facing were not from God. You see, at some point, that peace from God drifted. That feeling of being protected and having such deep faith in Jesus disappeared. I felt abandoned, left out on the ship to navigate the raging sea all on my own, and, to be blunt, forsaken.

I knew these feelings to be contrary to God’s character, but it was so hard to think of anything else. I just wanted to blame God for everything. I pulled the “I did everything for you!” card. I complained to a lot of spiritual friends that God was punishing me for something I did. I repented over and over and over again, but this feeling still did not go away.

Then, that morning when I realized God wasn’t actually punishing me, I realized this is not a battle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6). This was not a battle against the ministry that let me go, the employers that did not want to hire me, or my vehicle. This was a problem against the “spiritual forces of evil.” This, surely, was Satan’s handy work trying to take me down. He wanted to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10.10) not only my worth and value, but my purpose, my trust in Jesus, my love for the King of Kings.

Just when I saw the light, I began having more problems with my car. I took it to the same mechanic, and they “fixed” it for $700. However, the problem was still present. I took it back and they did actually fix it, but the next day I had a major oil leak. I ended up taking it to the dealership and the other mechanic paid the bill for that one! (PRAISE GOD!)

Prayerfully, I realized that maybe God was opening a door for me with this full-time job, so I accepted it. I thought I was on the up and up and I wouldn’t have anymore issues. However, about a week later I drove an hour and a half to visit my parents and my car overheated. This time, I laughed and told Satan his games aren’t working anymore because my God is bigger.

My step-dad graciously helped me get it running enough to get it to the dealership again. I prayed and worshiped the whole way. I said to myself  Okay God, you have my attention. Here I am. The dealership looked at it, told me what was wrong, and in some miraculous way, the problem was still under warranty and I was getting it fixed for free! They put me in a car and told me to have a great weekend and they’d call me next week.

C’mon now! If that ain’t God then what is? My dad said, “the Good Lord is protecting you!” Yes He is Daddy, yes He is.

All of these bits of suffering and trials pushed me to study the book of Job. I felt like he was really the only person I could relate to at this point. I was curious in his response to the suffering he endured. Now, I’m honestly only on chapter 6 or 7, but from what I have gleaned so far, God is speaking in the silence.

Many attribute the sufferings of Job to past sins, punishment from God, etc. All these negative things. However, these things are mostly contrary to the nature of God. God does not punish, but disciplines and we are set free from our sins when we repent. In fact, the reason Job went through all he did was because an Adversary of Satan was lookin’ to get into some trouble.

Job was seen as a righteous man. Job 1.1 says that Job was “blameless and upright.” This Adversary came snooping around saying even though Job was righteous he would most definitely “curse God” when the trials came (Job 1). God responded by saying “sure, go ahead do whatever you want (just don’t kill him) to my faithful servant and I bet your bottom dollar he won’t curse me.”

Thus began the start of Job’s suffering. The Adversary took his family, livelihood, health… He was basically out for blood. At one point Job’s wife straight up told him to “curse God and die.” Woah now. I’m not married yet, but dear Jesus, please send me a spouse that will refrain from using such harsh words with me. And ya know how Job responded? To sum it up, he basically said, “nah fam, good is is God and we are going to endure suffering in the world” (Job 2.9-10).

Later, in Job 3  Job begins to lament over his own birth. He curses the day of his birth. This man was in such misery that he couldn’t stand the thought that he had been born to endure such misery. But still, he sought God. The book of Job ends with repentance and God returning Job’s fortunes. God restores.

My home church had a guest speaker that shared about another Biblical character whom endured much suffering, but maintained integrity. The disciple John was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching. He had plenty of reasons to blame God and say I served you my whole life and this is what you did to me.

But you know what God did to John on the island of Patmos? Do you now how God used him? Read the last book of the Bible, Revelation. It was there that God revealed to him the visions. It was there where he wrote to the seven churches. John could have easily given up. He could have thrown in the towel confessing “I can’t handle this anymore.”

Actually, if you are there right now, I want to invite you to do that. Throw in the towel if you’re trying to handle this because we are not supposed to handle this on our own. Jesus is our strength. Jesus asks us to put our burdens on Him and take upon His yoke instead (Matthew 11.28-30).

John let God use him in the midst of a season that could be potentially damaging to his mental, spiritual, and emotional health. Instead, he relied on God and trusted. Easier said than done? Oh heck ya. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Friends, if you’re like me and you can heavily relate to the sufferings of Job and the exile of John, I want to urge you to not take this season lightly. I want to remind you of the importance of living out your faith, seeking spiritual community, and digging in the Word.

God is not finished with you yet. I believe you when you say life is hard right now. But aren’t we giving the enemy what he wants when we give up, blame God, and become sluggish in our faith? Aren’t we giving the enemy a foothold to come do more damage?

We need to stay the course, endure the suffering, and let Jesus be our source of life, strength, and truth. Take a deep breath and go serve the Lord. This is only a season, a Job season.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. . .

Ecclesiastes 3.1-8