The End All

It was a warm Monday afternoon with a slight breeze shifting the sun’s rays from beating directly down on my already sun-kissed skin. I was trying to figure out what I did to deserve the blessing of getting off work early on a Monday afternoon. I had two and a half hours to spend doing whatever I wanted. After stopping at the LifeWay store to check out good deals on books, selling a pair of old jeans to Plato’s Closet, and using my buy-one-get-one coupon at CoreLife Eatery on two healthy-as-all-get-out salads, I had a decision to make.

I could either go to my grandmother’s house and accompany her in her scorching living room and do nothing, or go to the Starbucks that I basically live at to finish, yet another, assignment for my graduate classes. I chose neither. Instead, I went to a park with a river. I wanted to just rest. I wanted to spend time with myself. I wanted to just breathe for one moment before I had to go to yet another commitment.

I got to the park, grabbed one of the books I just bought (and the free journaling notebook with my purchase!), a pen, and my aqua blue water bottle and headed for the shaded bench along the riverside. There were several dads walking along the river with their young children. It was so precious watching the little ones laugh and giggle while walking in the smooth river.

As I sat there, I breathed in and thought this is it. This is what I need. A moment for me. I opened my book and began to read, but only made it through the introduction before the wind sent goosebumps up and down my spine. I got up and walked to another bench in the sun. Perfect.

I continued reading and sipping my cool water. I was in such unbelief that on a Monday afternoon I could actually take time to just be. This was a moment I longed for more of. No rushing. No cell phone. No worrying. A moment of pure bliss, I would say.

I kept reading and observing the beautiful wildlife around me. God had such an imagination when He created. I had enough time to read through four chapters of this new book I just got (the chapters were less than 10 pages!). The book seemed to be exactly what I needed. It was like the words sprang right off the page and into my heart.

The book, An Intentional Life by Karen Stott began by talking about passion and pursing the things that God has called us to. Karen shares her own personal testimony to help readers relate. And boy, could I relate! The words that she probably put her heart and soul into were some of the most empowering words I have ever read.

Eventually, I put the book down because I needed to process what I had just read. You see, we all have so many hopes and dreams, so many desires, so much passion. She described this one moment where she was doing something she absolutely loved and she could tell it was what she was called to do because she was thriving and just at complete peace. Have you ever felt that?

I felt that once, when I was in India. I loved the work I was doing. I loved the people that I was surrounded by. Sure, I missed home, but this was it! This is what I was passionate AOAM0562 (1)about! Someone even captured a candid of my pure joy of me doing what I felt called to do. But now, now I am home. I am back in the States, living with my parents while I finish (hopefully) the rest of my education in my masters program.

There is not a day that goes by where I do not think about India or my time there. I miss it. Even though there were so many times when I was so frustrated and did not understand anything, I miss it. Because that was clearly where God had called me to. I feel like one day, hopefully sooner than later, I will be traveling back to those not-so-foreign grounds that I fell in love with.

Eventually, it was time for me to leave the peaceful moment and head to my church to serve at our summer sports camp outreach for children. As I walked to the car I had only one thought: this is not the end-all.

After getting home from India, an experience that changed my life and that could never be topped, I graduated college and did what any other college graduate does, I got a job (and started my masters program). I started working full-time, getting re-engaged in my church, catching up with friends, going to school full-time, heck, I even picked up Tennis as a hobby! But something was just not right. I was not happy. I was not happy with where I was career-wise, or several other areas of my life.

I had this aching and passion to do other things. I wanted to move to Washington D.C. and work for the International Justice Mission or move to New York and work for the United Nations (I still do!). But I couldn’t. Not yet. It wasn’t “my time” to do that. Even though those are my dreams and passions and goals for myself, they were not what God had in mind for me fresh out of college. God had something else in store for me. He wanted me to work and get this other college education and focus on bettering myself (maybe I should say “becoming” myself?)

This meant, once again, putting my dreams on hold. I even had to recognize that I had to put a really important relationship on hold, trusting that if it were meant to be, God would make a way. This is a time where God wants to transform me. God wants to lead me to still waters. God wants to plant a yearning so strong in my heart for the things that I am already so passionate about that I will not ever be able to give up on my dreams.

This is my season of growing.

I was talking to my best friend (my best friend for over half of our lives now). She is also in a season of growing. We talked about how difficult it is. We are both in places where we don’t want to be, but where God has ordained us to be. It comforts me to know that my closest friend is in this with me.

Before recognizing this (and even after), I realized that at some point along the lines I lost my fear of God. I lost my reverence and awe for the one who created me, the very thing that connected me with God on a level I couldn’t even begin to describe. My heart hardened. My well was dry. I was in a desert. I was so stubborn, that I did not even recognize this.

I was angry with God. I was confused at why I had just experienced something so incredible and so life-giving that I loved doing, but was brought home to something I was not passionate about. I was upset with him that I met an amazing man, but the relationship was put to a halt. I asked God if He was punishing me, but He did not answer. He was silent. All of this warped my thoughts and made me question if I should even continue pursing the dreams I have. Should I even trust God that if it is His will, He will make a way with this relationship?

I felt like I would be stuck in this rut for the rest of my life.

But after this moment at this park, I felt renewed. After reading a few words of encouragement from another sister in Christ, I felt that it is possible to get through this. Even though right now, in this day, I feel like I am getting no where, or achieving any of the goals I have set for myself, God is taking me everywhere and I am achieving the goals He has set for me.

So while I am not living the “perfect life” I thought I would be right after I graduated from college, I am living the life that God has called me to live at such a time as this. And in this time, come hell or high water, I want to be so immersed in what God has for me that I will never be distracted. I want God to mold me, transform me, prune me, make me new. I know it will be painful, but it will be worth it. He is preparing me for something mighty ahead. He is answering my prayers in His own way, in His own timing.

This is not the end all and the best is yet to come.

Now, it is time for me to allow the Holy Spirit to soften my heart and to submit to what He has placed before me. Are you ready to join me on this journey?

Hunting for God’s will

{November 6}

Do you have a favorite pair of shoes? I do. They are TOMS brand Cordones. My mom got them for me for Christmas my junior year of high school (that was four years ago). They were not cheap shoes, even with the coupon I had for Journeys (one of the most popular shoe stores in the mall). This was my first pair of shoes that I had ever gotten from Journeys. This is the shoe store that all the cool kids shopped at. It’s the shoe store that when I was a kid I thought I would never be able to afford a pair of shoes from.

Well, my favorite pair of shoes have just about had it. There are holes everywhere, the inside soles have just about ripped out, and I cannot wear them on just any occasion anymore.. I have to wear them when the ground is not even the slightest bit damp or else I will have wet, cold (probably smelly) feet. That being said, last weekend I set off on an adventure to buy a new pair of shoes.

Now, I was not looking for anything too significantly expensive. I had a specific pair of shoes in mind, however. There is a pair of black, ankle high, slide on booties. I thought, those would be perfect for the upcoming fall/winter season. Plus, they would look adorable with my flannels and cuffed jeans. So, I began the search that ended up being the search for the impossible.

First, let me tell you how rainy it was. That automatically put a “damper” on my day (no pun intended). I thought that maybe I would get lucky and find a nice pair at a hand-me-down store before I went to a more expensive store. So, I started at Goodwill. Apparently, I did not read the sign, because when I walked in I looked about as lost and confused as a polar bear in the middle of Hawaii. It was a distribution center and I did not know how to “work it” or shop there. I did a quick loop and was on my way.

Next, naturally, I went to Plato’s closet. Surely, they would have SOMETHING. Well, I did end up getting a new pair of New Balance tennis shoes because my Nikes have also just about had it (if you are guessing that I probably hate shoe shopping you have guess right). I took that visit as a win.

There was a Burlington Coat Factory right around the corner, so I thought maybe I would stop in there and see what they had. As I was browsing the shoe selection, I noticed how anxious and anticipating I was. Everyone knows that you have to start at the beginning of your shoe-size section, look through every shelf and shoe, and then work your way down the aisle. I was just so excited that this might be the place that has the shoes I want. I wanted to peek ahead, but I didn’t want to spoil it for myself, and I didn’t want to miss anything.

Eventually, I got to the boots section. And low and behold, they had my shoe. But there was one problem, they were in the wrong color. These shoes were brown. I wanted black (because everyone knows black matches everything). So, it was a no deal there. There was a TJ Max next door and I thought, well, while I’m here I might as well look. Now, this store also had my shoes. BUT they were like $150. That was certainly well over my budget. So, again, another no deal.

I proceeded to go to Target, where I had done previous online research and knew they had a pair similar to what I was looking for. But once I tried them on, I was not impressed. This simply would not do. The price was right, but my overall satisfaction in the shoe was not. They were not what I was expecting. So, I continued on my hunt for the pair of impossible shoes.

I went to Kohl’s, which usually has every shoe known to man, but apparently, not mine. Then I went to the mall, where I looked at Sears, Payless, Journey’s (where the store clerk commented on my now drenched TOMs), Bath & Body Works (obviously I did not find shoes here, but I did get a new wallflower for my dorm room and a car air freshener that smells like flannel), Macy’s, and then accidentally stopped a skater store and almost bought a $15 hat and a long board for $150, but realized that if I did that, I would most definitely not get my shoes. I left the mall disappointed.

Then, I drove to 5-Below, looking for some type of hope that maybe they would have a cheap pair of rain boots that I would make-do with. But, again, I left in disappointment. That’s it, I thought. I had decided to go to a somewhat expensive shoe store. I looked at Famous Footwear before heading into DSW Shoes. They had nothing, so I proceeded to the store that I knew I would gasp at the prices, but I thought maybe, just maybe, if I found the right shoe I would be willing to put the money into them.

In DSW Shoes I was getting to the end of the aisle and getting worried, but then I saw them. In the flesh. The exact pair of shoes I wanted. Another lady was looking at them. Immediately, I marched right up to the shelf, pulled the size 8 off, found a seat and tried them on. I stood up, took one look in the mirror, and I gasped.

I did not like these shoes one bit. They did not compliment my legs like I wanted them too. They made me look shorter than I already am, even with a cuffed jean. They were what I was looking for, but they were $59.00 (on sale). I was not in love. So once again. I walked away empty handed.

Sad, full of disappointment, near starvation, and ready to give up, I thought I would give old faithful Walmart a try. But, that was a quick in and out. Now, my focus had changed from “get these exact boots” to “get the shoes that are going to keep your feet warm and dry”. I did not like Walmart’s selection of rainboots. So, just as I was about to give up and head back to campus, I thought it might be worth the slightly distant drive to the nearest Shoe Dept. I walked in, praying to our God who created all things, that they would have shoes I would like. Sure enough, they had a decent pair of paisley black and white rainboots. I was so content, that I even bought two pairs of socks to wear with them. Now, I could sleep at night.

SO, you’re probably like okay, is this post just a rant about your horrible shoe shopping experience on a rainy Saturday? The answer is no.

You see, shoe shopping is kind of like trying to figure out God’s will for our lives… except one is a little more important.

We might go out on this hunt, knowing exactly what we want and being willing to go to the ends of the Earth  (or for me Canton, OH), to get what we are looking for. We tell God that we are open to anything and willing to abide by whatever He says, but in the back of our minds we know exactly what we want to happen.

Sometimes, we want to peak ahead and anticipate anxiously what might be up there, but then we are scared that we might miss what is in the moment, or directly in front of us. We might find what we are looking for, but not be satisfied. We might think we know what we want and need, but then when we finally get a glimpse of it and see what it might be like, we are instantly dissatisfied.

I thought these booties would be perfect. I thought they would do their job and would mesh well with my style, but when I saw them, I was not happy. I was disappointed that I let myself get so carried away trying to find these “perfect” shoes that I didn’t even like once I saw them. But then, eventually, I found an alternative. I found a pair of boots that did the job. They were also satisfying when I wore them through puddles and a rain storm.

Sometimes, we think we know what we need/want in our lives. But then we might get a taste of that and not like it. If we are so open to go to the ends of the Earth to seek God’s will for our lives, then we need to be accepting of what the will might be, no matter what. We need to just give up control and trust the God of the universe with the outcome.

Because He knows just what we need. He knows how to fulfill those needs. God is all knowing and all powerful, so why not put our trust in Him?

Be a Winner 

// October 8 // 

Today I feel defeated. 

I have a stack of school work so high it’s taller than me (but I guess that doesn’t say much because I’m so short). I am scheduled to work everyday this week with both of my jobs combined. I feel drained and empty of all my energy. 

I went to bed late and had plans to go to church with two of my favorite friends. I did not want to go and was secretly hoping my friend would sleep through his alarm (he’s known for that). But he didn’t, and I had already committed to driving. 

The service went later than I expected and we got back to campus later than I thought we would. I had about 30 minutes to grab lunch before I had to head off to my next event. I knew that I would be out late (Pssh, is 8:30PM late?). I was dreading the night because I have to work at 7:30 in the morning and have so much school work to do. 

I feel defeated because I have so much to do, but not enough time or energy. Did I bite off more than I can chew? Did I get myself involved in more than I can handle? 

I was reminded, however, in the midst of my chaotic day that God views me much differently. He sees me as a winner. Even though my human self may fail by getting myself caught up in more than I should, He sees me as precious in His eyes. 

He sees you the same. Even though you may feel weighted down and burned out, the Lord still sees you as victorious. 

And how can we say that we are anything BUT victorious when JESUS is the great King that reigns in victory? My prayer tonight is that our Father in Heaven would touch each of us with grace and restore our energies. Also, I pray that He would remind us and still in our hearts that we are winners in His eyes. 

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Just a Draft

// October 5 //

In my Intro to Creative Writing class today I had an interesting thought. As the first part of the semester is coming to a close, we are finishing up the poetry section of class. To do so, we are each required to write a poem and workshop it with the whole class. This means, reading it out loud and then accepting feedback from other students and the professor.

In other words, this would be the first draft. The goal is to get enough feedback to edit it and put it in a writing portfolio at the end of the semester. So, today we learned about revisions and editing. We talked about certain techniques that we could use to make our work of art the best it can be and bring it to perfect completion.

I immediately thought of all the other papers I had drafts of. In middle school I remember having 1-2 drafts of small papers that we had to turn in. Last semester I had a first draft of a 15-20 page paper to turn in.  Without the feedback from those I had read the first draft, I never would have concluded with the final product. I cannot recall the grades I got on the papers in middle school, but I can tell you that I had a 97% on the 15-20 page paper that I read at least 3 times myself, let alone what I asked others to read.

I also write for our school’s newspaper. Each week I am assigned a topic and interview several students on the topic. By Friday at 5PM I am to have sent my first draft to the copy editor who then makes corrections and sends it along to be published. He has to read the first draft and correct mistakes before it can actually be published.

As I was sitting in class and pondering the idea of drafts, I thought of this: maybe we are all just drafts that God is continuing to edit throughout our lives. Each day, God works at creating us to be more like Him. He makes revisions and eventually, our final product will be perfect.

One thing we talked about was how difficult it is to make revisions on a poem or short story. That is because we may have spent hours upon hours of writing it to begin with and think it is already perfect in its first form. However, once we go through the editing process, the work of art is so beautiful in the end that we forget about the pain of revising.

This is how I imagine it to be when we are in Heaven. If we, as humans, can never achieve perfection, but God is constantly working on us, making us whole and complete in HIS image, then one day, we too shall be perfect with Him in Heaven.

It is painful to undergo some of these changes and revisions, but in the end, we will see that it is well worth it!

James reminds us of this in chapter one verse four of his letter: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Walking in Your Own Shoes

Do you remember as a kid when you would try on your mom or dad’s shoes? Maybe mom had a pair of heels or dad had a pair of work boots that just intrigued you because you wanted to be just like mom and dad. Sometimes, I would try to put them on my dog too. He deserved to be just as fashionable as the rest of us. We wanted to be like our parents because of how awesome they were to us.

My mom and I share this song called “Watching You” by Rodney Atkins. The lyrics go:

I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool? I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you And eat all my food, and grow as tall as you are We got cowboy boots and camo pants Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we dad? I wanna do everything you do So I’ve been watching you.

Except, I always change the word “dad” to “mom”… and I’ve accepted that I’ll never be taller than 5’2 1/2.

I always wanted to be like Mom. When I was a kid I used to go with her to work. It made me want to be a nurse too. I wanted to help people just like Mom did. However, as I got older, I realized that maybe the nursing profession wasn’t for me. Maybe the reason I can’t stand the sight of blood is because I am not supposed to be a nurse.

As God worked in my life and in my heart I learned that I had my own calling. I learned that I am my own person. I read in scripture that God has plans for my future, to prosper me, according to Jeremiah 29.11. It’s not that I didn’t want to be like my mom anymore, it’s that God had a single plan JUST for my life, as He did for my mom too.

God has called each of us to something greater within this fallen world. For my mom, she was called to be a nurse. For me, I am called to the field of social work. You may be called to be a firefighter, policemen, teacher, bus driver, mailman, or stay-at-home mom. All of these occupations are worthy of the Kingdom.

Beyond the idea of a career, however, God has a single plan, a story, for each and every one of us. The problem with my thinking growing up was that my story was going to look just like my mom’s. But truth be told, no one’s story is going to be the same. We may share experiences, but God has a set of shoes for each of us to wear. I am not created to wear your shoes and walk your journey just as you are not created to wear and walk mine.

God prepares us for these journeys. He gives us gifts and talents to help us along the way as well. Have you ever seen a gifting in someone and just thought, “man, I wish I could do that!”. Most of the photos you see on this blog are taken by the best photographer I know (including the one for this post). I wish I had that gifting. A close friend of mine has the gift of prayer. I wish I was anointed in that way to lead others in prayer. But God has gifted me elsewhere. God has anointed me in another area.

Do you ever find yourself getting jealous of a friend’s gifting? Or maybe you find yourself getting upset because you see how successful they are becoming and that the Lord is working such great things in their lives, yet you are just sitting there, practically begging God to move in your life, and the same old, what seems like status quo continues… We have all been there at one point in our lives.

I want to share a vision with you that God gave me almost a year ago. In this vision, everyone is playing an instrument in an orchestra. Jesus is conducting. He points to a certain section and motions for them to play louder while using the other hand to quiet the other sections. Sometimes everyone is motioned to play quietly, and other times everyone is playing forte. Occasionally, someone will have a solo and everyone else will be quiet.

You see, when Jesus is conducting the orchestra of life, sometimes one person is going to have a solo where you have a rest. Other times we are all going to be playing loudly together. It is not a matter of them being more faithful to God, but rather God orchestrating HIS plans into our lives, creating the most beautiful story and harmony during HIS timing.

If you feel that you are being left behind by all of those around you, jealous that they are succeeding, or that the Lord is silent, let me tell you, brother or sister, God is surely working! He is preparing you and equipping you with what you need for your next big solo. He wants you to be prepared. He wants you to be ready. God does not set us up for failure, so He is taking the time to shape you and mold you into what you need to be to take on the next big step of life.

Do you know the greater thing God has called you to? What work is Jesus asking you to participate in?

When I am trying to find what God is calling me to do, I often look at what those around me are doing. And then I try to do that too. Unfortunately, when I get into it, I find myself frustrated that I am not as successful. Sooner or later, I realize that God actually has something else in store for me. It is something the Lord crafted for me, and only intended for me.

It is not always easy to see what God has before us, but if we fix our eyes on Him and continue to be obedient, the calling will come. And when it does, we need to continue to be obedient and recognize that because God is calling us to do it, we are adequate for the job!

I urge you, dear Child of God, continue to press in. Pursue HIM. Ask Jesus to show you His next step for your life. Ask Him to prepare you for what is to come.

God has a story for you. God has a plan. He has crafted a pair of shoes that fit your feetimage better then any man-made shoe. Walk in them, my friend, walk in them!

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

– Ephesians 2.10

 

In His Grip,

Jenny