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.