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.

 

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.

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.