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

Worthy

I did a thing and went to a small local coffee shop to do my work today. I even dressed a little hipster by tucking my shirt into my shorts and throwing on a button up- I still don’t think I fit in though. What’s disappointing, is that I’m not exactly in love with my beverage of choice. This is not a hit on the coffee shop that I am at, but against my taste buds that are used to drinking sugar-free.

If you read my last blog N O T | A F R A I D, then you would understand when I say how unusual this is for me to step out of my Starbucks atmosphere and go somewhere else.

But as I sit here contemplating if I should even stay because it’s such a beautiful day and I can here my hammock calling my name, the Lord reminded me of something truly beautiful and amazing.

If you know me personally, you know that the past month hasn’t exactly been the best thing in my life. That big-girl job that I talked about in my last post? Yeah, I lost it. But, please, I beg you, do not send sympathy my way. This was clearly the Lord’s doing. While I loved the type of work I was doing and the population I was serving, I struggled with the way problems and concerns were handled.

In fact, my mother, who just happens to know everything I think, had been telling me since day one to look for another job because of how stressed out I was. I wanted to try to wait it out, but Jesus was like “no Jenny, you deserve better.”

I will not talk about details of what happened, because that would take a very very long time. The agency I worked for is not a bad agency. It just had some kinks to work out, and unfortunately, while that was happening, I was not valued like I should have been.

I do not mean to sound prideful or anything by claiming that I am entitled or deserve anything, but I did except a position lower than what I had originally applied for, and therefore, I felt I was not being utilized to the full extent of my ability.

Any time I tried to bring up issues or confront other staff members, I always got backlash. But ya know, it’s okay. I’m no longer aching over it anymore and the great peace of the Lord is upon me.

I have learned so much from this experience. And it correlates from what I learned from the previous relationship I was in. Jesus wants me to know my value and worth.

In this previous relationship, I was definitely not treated the way I deserved to be. Again, I will not get into the details, but this relationship took a big emotional toll on my life. I thought God, why are you allowing me to go through something like this? Little did I consider that I had actually chosen that path for myself.

But do you want to know something beautiful about that? Jesus was right there waiting for me with open arms, desiring to just hold me and remind me of my worth and value. He did the same thing when I lost this job.

Jesus knows our value and worth. Jesus knows what we deserve. And Jeremiah 29.11 reminds us that Jesus has a plan for our lives.

Yes, I admit, that in the process of searching for jobs, going to interviews, and basically just waiting, it has been incredibly hard to trust that God is not only hearing my cries, but has that plan in place for me.

So many of my peers and mentors remind me that the job will come in Jesus’ time. The right guy will come in Jesus’ time. Everything will come in Jesus’ time. Not mine. Let me repeat that… NOT MINE.

At first, I had a little bit of fear about that. Why? Because that meant I was not in control of my own life. That meant that I had basically no say in what I was supposed to do. But that’s where trust comes in.

Psalm 37.4 says , “Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart.” That means we have to seek God, and trust that He knows our desires. Trust is the key word here fellow reader. Oh don’t worry, I am preaching to the choir. 

As I continued to express my doubt to those at the Bible study I attend every week, one guy reminded me to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all else will be added unto you,” Matthew 6.33.

And the more I dwell on that verse, or even chapter, the more I want that. I want to see the Kingdom of Jesus. I want to do His work. I want to be of my Father’s business. I want to serve the Worthy King. And the first step to doing that is to seek Jesus and His Kingdom.

I have to lay my own expectations down to Him. I have to push away my doubts and the voices of the enemy saying He has abandoned me and left me. I have to seek and delight myself in the Lord.

Now, I’m sure you can tell by the title that this is not a blog about seeking and delighting in Jesus. This is the point I am trying to make in all of this:

JESUS KNOWS YOUR WORTH AND HAS A PLAN FOR YOU.

To the girl that is reading this who is in an abusive relationship, Jesus thinks you are worthy.

To the employee at the agency that doesn’t value the work you do, Jesus thinks you are worthy.

To the guy that is trying so hard to impress his boss (or maybe the new girl at church), Jesus thinks you are worthy.

To the teen that is on the brink of suicide or running away, Jesus thinks you are worthy.

Our King, King Jesus, knows your name. He knows your heart’s desires, and He wants good things for you. Our Heavenly Father, loves you like no one else can (sorry Mom, but Jesus has you beat here).

It absolutely blows my mind that Jesus thinks we are so worthy that he died for us. He cares so deeply for us, His children that He does things for us that may seem hurtful in the beginning (like take away a job), but always has a plan to replace it with something beautifully orchestrated by His hands. Like the story of Job. . . I’ll let you look that one up.

The last point I want to make is about Jesus’ deep affection for us. Jesus loves us so much it’s unfathomable. Again, He loves us so much that He died and defeated death itself just so we can be with Him forever in Heaven. Wow. He not only thinks we are worthy, but also loves us unconditionally, meaning, we do not have to “do anything,” for Him to love us.

Now, this wouldn’t be a true blog about how Jesus thinks we are worthy if I did not mention how Worthy Jesus is of our love and trust in return.  His name, His being, everything about Him is worthy. And to think that someone that Worthy, a King, in fact, loves us so deeply and thinks we are worthy enough to be called His children gives me goosebumps.

Friends, please remember this no matter what heavy task is in front of you, Jesus has not forgotten about you. Jesus thinks you are worthy. Jesus loves you more than you will ever know. Seek Him friend. Seek Him first before anything else in your life.

N O T | A F R A I D

I cannot stress enough how much I enjoy sitting in Starbucks. Whether it is reading, meeting up with an old friend, blogging, or cranking out some school work, this girl is OBSESSED with the atmosphere.

Yes, I have tried other coffee shops. Occasionally I will entertain the thought of a local coffee shop and support the small business, and don’t get me wrong, supporting small businesses is what I’m all about…

But they are always crowded with the same hipster crowd and there are never enough tables next to outlets forcing me to leave after my laptop dies and interrupting a state of productivity that once I am distracted from I will most definitely not ever get back until I have driven around the whole city twelve times, got something to eat, and walked into three different stores for small purchases like cinnamon or a novel that most definitely could have waited until after my paper was written.

action-asphalt-auto-6147Or sometimes these local coffee shops are in locations that are not accessible to someone with social anxiety. I mean, I’m a country girl, parking on the street ain’t no small thing for me. So, I spend my allotted coffee shop hours hermiting in many different Starbucks locations.

No, the baristas do not know my name and order by heart, just want you to know that I don’t go that often. I just don’t want to spoil the experience. It’s like that time when I went to school five minutes from Chipotle and ate it so much I got tired of it. Yeah, that horrific season of my life ended, but c’mon I can’t live without my coffee!!

Today as I sit here and blabber on and on about my deep affection for the world’s largest coffee shop that many would not even classify as a coffee shop, I am so intrigued by the population dwelling here with me.

You have the creeper dude in the corner (yes I just made eye contact with him) that I have seen at other Starbucks locations too. There is the important business man speaking through his apple headphones on a business call, but because he is using his apple headphones and not Air Pods, I am guessing that his business is a startup.

There’s the diligent college students/hipsters/young adult population doing whatever 1527186071.grees_gollum_vodo_mensithey do to occupy their time, more businessmen meeting to discuss a proposal that will score a raise from the big man back at the office, and what I like to call “the passer-buyers”- they come in and get their coffee for some odd reason because the drive thru is not promising enough that they will get their precious coffee (I’m picturing Gollum from the Lord of The Rings here). 

I got up to use the latrine because that’s what coffee does to poor souls like mine and there was a really sweet lady waiting in front of me that complimented me on my hair. We got to talking and from just a small conversation, she learned that I am a traveler and have large ambitions. Little did she know that I haven’t talked about traveling in a really long time (maybe a few months or so).

This is because I have accepted a position, a big-girl job, and know that I will not be doing any long-term traveling for quite some time. But ya know what I noticed in that conversation? I was not afraid to talk to her about my past experiences and future hopes and goals of traveling anymore. I was ready to have the conversation, use my voice, and I allowed myself to dream again.

Recently I have been limiting my goals and dreams because of the fear of not having enough money, not being successful, not being used in a manor according to the skills I have gotten from my education, and the list goes on and on and on.

adventure-blur-close-up-346885I didn’t just put my desire to travel on hold, I completely removed the potential and vision from my life. I narrow-minded my thinking and basically put God in a box. But in this conversation with this lovely woman, I learned that this desire is still quite strong in me. And just like I believe I have the desire to be married and be a social worker because God has put that there, I also believe that He has put the desire in me to travel and see His glorious creation.

When God turns our path a different direction from what we expected (or even what we have planned), that doesn’t necessarily mean He is saying we can’t experience those certain things on that path, it just means God has a beautiful plan in allowing us to have those experiences.

And we can trust that even if we don’t get that desire, then it was not truly aligned with the Lord. The very fact we followed God down the less desirable path that wasn’t part of our plans, and from our viewpoint looks like we will never be able to receive the things we desire proves to God He can trust us.

Luke 16.10 states, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

Can God trust you with the little right now?

My friend, if you are feeling the same way… maybe you are waiting of that special someone to come into your life, maybe you want to change careers, have a child, make a big move, write a book, etc. -whatever it is you feel like God is keeping from you, even though you believe God has placed that desire in you, God is preparing you for that very thing, or in some cases, He is preparing you for something better!

I’m going to use the example of a recent breakup. I remember crying and being so angry about it and my mom, good ole’ faithful Mommy (no Mom I am not saying you are old), sat on my bed and reminded me that it just means God has someone better for me. Yes, it is cheesy, but whether it’s Cheddar or Swiss, that cheesy quote is good! (or should I say Gouda!)

Sometimes God has more teaching and things for us to learn before we can be handed the great desire in us. Bu ya know what, that doesn’t mean we need to fear that we will never ever in a million years receive that desire. Friend, scripture tells us that there is no fear in love and that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4.18).

Jesus is not withholding this one thing from you because He is bitter, angry, or punishing you, for these things are contrary to who Jesus is, but He is doing it out of love! Embrace that! Soak it in! Live in that love! Why? Because that alone will remove your fears!

We can stand confidently in the will that God has for us, knowing that He will not leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13.5), that He has a plan to prosper us and not harm us (Jeremiah 29.11-13), and He does not withhold any good thing from us (Psalm 84.11).

Paul reminds us that Jesus wants us not let ourselves be troubled and anxious but to submit our requests to Him with thanksgiving (Philippians 4.6-7). We are called to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” (1 Corinthians 15.58).

Friends, we are more vulnerable to the enemy when we begin to think Jesus is withholding something from us because of punishment or anger. That allows the enemy to attempt to put a foothold in our life.

And ya know what, over and over and over in scripture we can see how God worked His promises (personal and communal) to come to be in many lives! Sarah wanted a child, but had to wait, the Israelites wanted out of the wilderness, Job wanted the pain and suffering to be removed from him, Jonah wanted out of the whale, Ruth wanted a husband, Paul wanted a thorn removed from his flesh.

And while these things did not happen right away, the Lord orchestrated events with perfection to give them what they desired. So whether you are waiting on the news that the cancer is gone, or that you are going to be a parent, you can trust God and not be afraid that He has forgotten about you.

This song came up on my Pandora playlist while I was sitting here in Starbucks and it was the most amazing reminder that God is in control and we do not need to be afraid anymore because HE has won the battle. He is leading and guiding us! Take some time to get with God today and thank Him for this current season of growing and waiting!

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

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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

 

The Master Recipe

A few weeks ago I went to this cute café called Twisty Tails with some friends. At this place you can order food and play with doggies! Pretty cool right?! (especially when most of the dogs in India have rabies and other diseases so you can’t pet them!)

As I dove into the chicken tikka pizza that my best friend and I split, I realized something I had never paid any attention to before…

In this culture, it is the most normal thing to put ketchup on your pizza. In fact, I evenIMG_1165 started doing this. But on this particular occasion, I realized that the reason the pizza needs more tomato sauce is because there is none on it.

If you order pizza in the Western World, you will look forward to seeing the bright red pizza sauce peeking between the cheese and other layers of toppings. There’s no question about whether there will be pizza sauce (tomato-based sauce) on the pizza. I guess our problem in the Western World is that we drown our deliciousness in Ranch dressing…

Anyways, as we continued to dip our pizza in the ketchup, I also was taken aback by how many other extra things we had to add to it.. chili flakes, oregano, more ketchup… It’s almost as if the pizza was not “up to par” and we have to keep adding things to it so that it meets our standards.

My heart goes out to the poor chef that made this pizza… I hope he isn’t offended that we all thought it needed a little more just to satisfy our hunger.

It just made me think of how the Word of God is our spiritual food.

The apostle John records Jesus sharing this basic fact to the crowd of people that witness Him walking on water in chapter 6. Jesus says:

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6.35)

Because Jesus was the Word that became flesh, we can make the inference that the Word is our spiritual food (John 1.14)

Unlike the pizza I ate, the Word does not need anything added to it to make it more satisfying. The Word and the Word alone is enough to quench our spiritual hunger and thirst, no ketchup necessary!

It’s like Jesus is this Master Chef that cooked up this unfathomable recipe. Not a single person can do better than it. Nothing is needed to improve it… no salt, no pepper, no sugar, no ranch. There is no water other than the Living Water. The water of eternal life:

Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'” (John 4.13-14)

It’s actual pretty stress relieving. To know that there is and always will be this food that I can rely on to satisfy me is just unthinkable. It’s not like wondering if you want Chinese or Mexican, a milkshake or a soft drink. It’s do I want some Old Testament or New Testament? or am I in the mood for some major prophets, Gospels, or letters of Paul? 

I am so happy that I do not have to worry about adding spices to make this more satisfying and hunger quenching because, man, I really don’t know my spices!

Jesus says: Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6.53-57)

IMG_1270Tonight I went to another cafe and I had another reminder of this when I ordered my cappuccino. I took one sip and it was bitter as all get out. Luckily, the nice served had brought me a little boat of sugar.

In order for me to drink my cappuccino and enjoy it, I had to add something to it. How glorious to know that we do not need to add a spoonful of anything to God’s Word.