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

I’m Falling Into A Routine And I Think I Like It

So here we go again. It is exactly one week since I blogged last. I definitely promised myself that I would try to blog twice this week. I don’t even think I was that busy… just lazy. Watching Gilmore Girls seemed more intriguing than writing I guess. Yep, you’re right, that’s something I need to work on.

There are a few things I noticed this week actually that I think are worth blogging about. Have you ever gotten into a routine? Even if it’s on accident. But just because it’s on accident doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing.

As of now, I accidentally stumbled into this grocery shop, meal prep, blog and Netflix routine on Sundays. It’s not such a bad thing. But here is what I noticed about routines… sometimes we get so caught up in the routine that we don’t take the time to notice what’s actually going on in the world.

I was sitting I my favorite place, Starbucks, reading a book about human trafficking. The guy who took my order seemed to be in another world and the barista took a very long time to make my skinny vanilla iced latte. The girl in line behind me was wearing leggings and a long sleeved t-shirt with her hair tied back in a messy ponytail. She looked like she had just left the gym or something. Definitely a college student.

I sat down at one of the “comfy” chairs and pulled out my book. Two kids came in and sat at the two comfy chairs closest to the window to the parking lot. The younger one took his coat off and sat back in the seat while the other one stared out the window waiting for someone. Sooner than later a gentleman with long hair in a ponytail walked in and the kids ran to him. He went to the counter to order and while he was waiting he peeked behind the corner at me and the other chairs.

I think he saw the title of my book  (“Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking”) and sat far from adult-black-and-white-body-271418where the kids could see it. I put the book down in my lap just in case. Then, a middle-aged man came in very swiftly and went directly to the outlet next to me. He plugged in his phone and went to order. Ten minutes later he came back with a breakfast sandwich and a coffee and gobbled it up as quick as he could. He sat there scrolling through his phone for a moment and then hurried up and gathered his phone charger and left.

On my way out a gentleman held the door open for me. We awkwardly headed in the same direction in the parking lot. But what made it more awkward was that he stopped at a car with the driver door wide open and said “oh sorry, this is me.” I didn’t know if he had left it open on purpose or not, so I chuckled and said, “it happens,” and went straight to my car. Poor guy was probably embarrassed.

Do these people know though? Do they know of the injustice of trafficking taking place across the globe and even in our own backyard? Do they know Jesus?

I mean, this isn’t an “it happens” kind of thing. But I’m afraid to think that those who are caught up in their routines actually believe that. Or maybe they are in denial that this kind of thing happens here in their own backyard.

It’s so heartbreaking to see that people go about their daily lives and don’t know these things.

I guess I am feeling convicted in getting caught up in a routine because I don’t ever want to be unaware of injustices happening. I want to be aware so that I can pray and do my part as a social worker/follower of Christ in spreading the Good News that even though these injustices are happening, there is still a GOOD GOD that cares deeply for victims and you and me.

Maybe this means that instead of saying “it happens” I should mention something about an injustice happening. Like, “hey did you hear about the latest statistics on human trafficking in Ohio?” OR “do you know the facts about Refugees?”

These are things I am passionate about. These are things Jesus is passionate about.

I like the way the Psalmist puts it in Psalms 9.7, “But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice.” 

Jesus sits on the throne forever. He has establised it for justice. I also love the way the big man Himself puts it in Luke 4.18-19 when He is rejected at Nazareth.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Yes, yes, yes, and even more yes!!! Thank you Jesus for paving the way in being passionate about social injustices!

So with all of that being said, I think something I want to personally work on, and something I would challenge you to personally work on, is sharing the heart of Jesus about injustices with complete strangers.

Instead of just having a small talk conversation about buying goat cheese and mini muffins with the person behind you at the grocery store and then leaving in the abyss of people and going off into your own separate life, maybe talk about how some people don’t even have access to mini muffins, or even deeper, how some families cannot afford it and therefore they sell their children in various ways to make quick cash.

Jesus does not call us to be silent. Join me in this challenge, friend.

Not-So Knew Year

So here we are. Officially 20 days into 2019. I would like to think that I jumped into this new year like a kid jumping into a pile of leaves, excited and happy to be doing it. But I actually feel more like I did when I was a teenager and my older cousin pushed me into the freezing cold pool when I wasn’t quite ready to get in yet.

It’s not that I wasn’t ready to let 2018 go, but there were so many things that happened this past year that I just don’t know how to begin to process. Unfortunately, it’s things that I can’t even write about to process. I need time. But 2019 just came barging in like a rude neighbor ready to become friends and get to know each other over a burnt casserole.

Thus, either I respond respectfully to the efforts of making friendship with the new year, or I live here being stuck up because the casserole was burnt and a neighbor that most definitely won’t move.

You know how everyone is always like “new year, new me,” or always talking about how excited they are for the things to come in the new year? Well, here’s my argument, what if I don’t want a “new me,” but would rather have a slightly better, more composed, graceful, sweeter me? Okay so I won’t dream too much about being graceful…

Also, what happens when you don’t really know what is to come in the new year and you’re just settling in that pit of anxiousness? I’m not talking about the anxiousness you get when you’re on a roller coaster, no because I quite enjoy those and that adrenaline rush. I’m talking the full-blown, feeling of what-the-heck-am-I-going-to-do-this-year?

Maybe it’s a new form of anticipation I should be welcoming in, but maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s my fears of not knowing that are causing me to not be ready for this new year. When I think to my past, all the new years that I have lived through, yep, all 22 of them, I always knew what to expect.

2018 was a painfully good year for me. I say that because I lived most of the year in a country I loved, but the fact that I’m not living there now hurts. I got into a relationship where I learned that I needed to let go and move on for my own good. I graduated from college, got a full-time job, started my master’s degree, and purchased my first car.

A lot of it was bitter sweet, but I let my heart get so attached to it. The kind of attached a child gets to a toy or blanket. When I was kid I had this Teletubbie pillow and Winnie the Pooh blanket and I would not go anywhere without those things! that’s how I feel about 2018.

The memories, the goals achieved, the future plans that didn’t work out, they are all things that I don’t want to go anywhere without, including 2019. I guess I’m that child that still has the baby blankey at the first sleepover when everyone else matured out of that stage.

If you can relate in any way, shape, or form, I just want to tell you that it’s okay. In this day and age there is so much pressure to have everything figured out. But let me be the first to tell you that it’s okay to not.

If you’ve known me for any period of time, you know that this is so unlike me. You know that I usually have a five year plan marked with specific dates and all. But not this time. Sure, I have options and general ideas of what I want to do, or what God has planned for me, but nothing set in stone.

While at first this was a very freeing thing for me, it has started to consume me. It’s like it’s taking up my time because I’m trying so hard to figure out what I’m supposed to do this year that I forget about the things I am already doing.

Fortunately, Jesus reminds me that it’s okay to not know what’s next, but that He is guiding me every step of the way. Maybe I’m not supposed to know exactly what’s in store for this year, but I least I can know for a fact that there is something great and exciting waiting for me. I only have to trust God on His timing.

I believe this for you too. So, my fellow blog reader, we might be 20 days late and a few dollars short, but let’s jump into 2019 with the expectation that God has something beautiful for us and we don’t have to know what it is.

Faith like a Child

Something odd but interesting happened to me on this fine Sunday afternoon. After church I went to my favorite “me” place, Starbucks, to take some time to get organized for my next semester of classes that starts tomorrow.

As I was sitting there minding my business I continuously kept looking at my phone. I was waiting, waiting, waiting. Specifically waiting for one person to read my messages and finally respond to me.

I knew things were over between me and the guy, and they needed to be, but we were friends before we started dating. And he had even said on the day that we broke up (not even a week ago by the way) that we could still be “best friends.” I use the quotation marks because those were his exact words.

Although despite the concept of being “best friends,” he was not treating me like a best friend should be treated. This doesn’t say much because he didn’t really treat me like a girlfriend deserved to be treated either (hence why the relationship needed to end), but that’s another story, for another time… or maybe not.

About a week ago, Monday December 31, 2018 at 7 am my Fit Bit’s vibrations shot anxiety through my veins like no other, waking me up in a panic. It was him. He was finally calling me, as he had promised he would days ago. I was nervous because I knew this was most likely the last time he would be calling me for a while… because this was it. This was the end, whether I wanted to believe it or not.

In fact, this had to be it. Because it was the last day of 2018 and I needed to make sure I could do the whole “New Year, New Me,” thing on the first day of 2019. How could I do that with an unhealthy relationship hunkering me down?

I answered my phone and just cut to the chase. We both had a mutual agreement that it needed to end, but that we could still be friends. Although, I was still pretty angry with him because I’m not sure he completely understood why I needed to break up with him. I mean, he bluntly admitted that he knew I wasn’t happy and could find someone else, but deep down, I knew he had no idea the amount of pain that he had caused me throughout most of 2018.

I hung up the phone and went back to sleep, waking up later feeling a bit anxious, but a bit lighter. The only problem was that now a huge part of my life had changed. No, not changed. This was my new normal. And whether I liked it or not, I needed to get used to it.

I powered through the week still trying to communicate with him. He blocked me once and continued to just read my messages (or delete them without reading them) and never respond. This hurt even more.

We had big dreams together to get married and live as powerful social workers. Yet somehow, someway, he was able to throw me away like an old, used pair of shoes- used and unworthy. At least this is how I felt.

Finally, I got sick of it. He told me throughout the week that he would call, but he never did. So, I tried calling him. Each time he rejected the call. By the third try, he blocked me. He told me he would too. This is where the story continues…

I was sitting in Starbucks on this Sunday afternoon chugging away at my work, and a skinny cinnamon dolce latte, when I noticed he had, yet again, ignored my messages. I can tell because like Facebook Messenger, with this app you can see when people have come online.

Fed up, but knowing what was coming to me, I tried calling him. Of course, the call was rejected, and about three seconds later I received a message, “Goodbye,” and just like that his little icon picture disappeared and I was blocked.

As tears filled up my eyes I gathered my belongings and rushed out to my car. I could not let myself break down in the middle of Starbucks. Once I got to my car, I tried calling him on his regular number, rather than the app. His phone was switched off.

I checked Instagram and messaged him, asking him to unblock me and call me. By this moment, I had completely lost it. I was upset, angry, confused and so much more.

So I went home and sobbed on my bed with the comfort of my mother and my sister’s cat. But on my way home, I saw something very unusual.

Between gasping for air, screams, and sobs, I was able to maintain my concentration

tenor
If you don’t know what the “floss” is, check out this video of this grandma rockin’ it!

driving. And I was able to do this enough to see three school-aged boys standing at the end of a neighborhood road dancing. One kid was doing the floss.

I made eye-contact with one of them. I’m pretty sure they saw me upset and crying because when I looked in my review mirror they all ran together in complete disbelief– probably that they saw a grown woman crying while driving.

Through the midst of my pain and suffering I was able to let out a little chuckle and remember my days of young walking around town and doing similar things.

Oh the youth and the crazy things they do, am I right?

Well, here’s how their little act of fun impacted me positively today. After I spent some time sobbing and relaxing in a steaming hot shower, I grabbed my bag and headed back to Starbucks. I needed to keep myself occupied and I needed to get my work done!

I drove by the same place where I saw the kiddos getting boogey with it and I was reminded of a Bible verse.

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'” Matthew 18.3. Here we see Jesus stating that to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, we have to change like little children

We have all probably heard the phrase “faith like a child,” too. I was quickly reminded of this.  These children had faith.

They had faith that they would not get hit by a car.

They had faith that they would make someone laugh.

I want that. I want that faith. Not faith that God would restore this relationship, I mean yes, I hope he does unblock me so we can be friends, but in due time things will happen the way they need to for both of us to move on and heal.

Not faith that I would be miraculously healed from the pain, although that would be nice… But that is not necessarily Biblical. We can see examples of suffering throughout scripture, such as, Job, Paul, and the greatest example of all is Jesus.

Peter also tells us: In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1.6-7)

That’s kind of a beautiful scripture isn’t it? That we are being refined and have greater worth than gold. Woah man. That’s pretty neat if you ask me.

The faith that I want like these little guys dancing on the road is that God would protect my heart and keep me emotionally safe through this trial. I understand that my emotions are already somewhat bruised and on the line, but that’s nothing Jesus can’t heal. 

9780718084646As Lysa TerKeurst states in her novel Uninvited, I want the faith that through the mess of this there will be a miracle– it may not be healing right away, but something will come of this.

Lastly, I want the faith that will give me strength to rejoice in my suffering (James 1.2-3; 1 Peter 1.6-7). Faith that will allow me to turn my mourning into dancing (Psalm 30.11). Faith to remind me that God is in control and He still has a plan for me (Jeremiah 29.11).

Through all of this pain and messy relationship situation, I just want faith like a child.

And through that faith, I will receive healing.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5.34

 

Accepting Solitude, Declining Loneliness

It has come to my attention these past few days that within the next few weeks here in India I am going to be forced into a season of loneliness. Those of you who know me, you know this is super difficult for me.

I am an extreme extrovert. I LOVE being around people. I thrive from positive interactions with other human beings. It could even be a total stranger and I’ll leave the conversation feeling more energized and re-focused on the purpose for my life. Almost like a breath of fresh air.

Today it hit me the hardest. I was still in bed when I got the text from one of my best friends asking if I wanted to join for lunch at a place literally 10 steps from my front gate.

Wow. Is all I can say. I had so much fun just sitting there talking for a bit, even with another dude I just met. After, friends came over to help me with a video project for a class I am in.

After laughing our hearts out because it was just too hard to try to stay concentrated, we finally finished the video. One friend left and another stayed to finish watching a movie he started on my phone

So, I did what anyone else would do. I napped. When the movie was over, my boyfriend had to leave immediately to go home. As he was leaving, he told me he couldn’t come back until probably next Monday.

That’s four days from now. YES, I can handle being away from him for that long. BUT, I basically broke down crying because I just knew that all my other friends would be busy between now and then also- thus I would be stranded in my little dorm/apartment style room. All. By. Myself.

After he left I texted some friends and asked if they had dinner plans. YEP. Everyone had plans. Cool. I thought. I hope they have fun. Looks like it’ll just be me and trusty Netflix tonight… at least I can try to finish my Netflix series sooner than I thought… those are good goals right?

After one episode my stomach was growling its way into another dimension. I didn’t want my leftover hillbilly vegetable pasta (derived from my mom’s hillbilly hamburger helper), so I packed my bag with my tablet and my wallet and I hit the road for Café Society– my usual when there is no one else to grab dinner with.

I sat there reading through some other WordPress blog posts and then it hit me. I can use this time of being alone as solitude, not a time of loneliness. I mean c’mon. Though, my cheesy boyfriend would say “But you’re not alone, God is always with you.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe God is doing this to me intentionally so that I will learn how to be alone– and learn to practice solitude. There are so many things I can do in this time that I wouldn’t be able to do if I were with people.

For example, I can focus more on my blog, or finishing the last few weeks of this semester. I can work on reading the two other novels I brought with me. I can focus on praying for the salvation of my friends and family. I can relax and watch Netflix or play Sims (okay you caught me, I’ve already been doing that).

These times of being alone don’t have to be a time of loneliness. They can be a prosperous, productive time of solitude leading to growth and independence. You may even gain guidance on what the next step of your life is (at least that is one thing I am hoping for).

Our dearest Apostle Paul reminds us to “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5.16).

So friends, join me in making the most of the lonely time and accepting the growth that can take place in solitude.

 

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?