Life Changing Grace

This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.  -Colossians 1:6

This may come as a shock to many of you but I can be hard on myself at times. Okay, understatement of the year perhaps, but what can I say? Sometimes I like to pretend that I have life and faith all figured out…

Yes, I am hard on myself. I get mad when I stumble over the same things over and over again. I get mad when I don’t do the things I want to and say I will do, and when I do the things I swear I will never do again. I get frustrated with my inability to get my priorities in order, or even know what the order should be. I get frustrated when I waiver in my faith. I get frustrated by the feeling that I should be doing more, or doing something different, or for not believing that I am enough right now in this moment.

Exhausting isn’t it? I am exhausted by typing out my frustrations let alone living them. I know in my heart that I am too hard on myself, but there are many times when my thoughts and my emotions do not line up with what I know in my heart.

During the moments when I feel like I am still so far from being the Girl God created me to be, I think back to the girl I was before I knew Jesus. That girl was lost and hurting and full of pain and anger. That girl had habits more destructive than sugar. That girl had no hope and no future.

Then  Jesus came into my life. He did as today’s verse says; He changed my life from the day I first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.

I may not have fully arrived as the Girl God created me to be, but I am closer to her than I am to the girl I was before I understood the truth of God’s grace. I now have hope and a future. I now have an excitement for tomorrow. I now have something to believe in. I now have Someone to bring my past pains and hurts to.

It’s so easy to forget how far we have come. I know not everyone has a dramatic story of change in their faith journey. Some of you have been raised in faith and stayed with it your entire lives. Others were not introduced to Jesus until they were older. Many, like me, grew up in a home of faith, but it didn’t become real and personal until later in life (after trying to do life your own way and failing).

Regardless of your faith journey, God’s grace is a life changer. When you compare God’s holiness and the standard that were established by His law, picture what your life would be like without it.  I know I require even more grace than I am even aware of (and I am aware that I receive a lot 🙂

If you find yourself feeling like your life needs changing, rather than trying to come up with a perfect self-striving plan, I encourage you to focus on the truth of God’s wonderful grace. I know when I find myself focusing on my lack, my faults, and my shortcomings, it is because I have forgotten the truth of His grace. Returning to the Good News of God’s wonderful grace helps my thoughts and emotions line up with what I know to be true in my heart. Then we can get back to bearing fruit and sharing this wonderful grace with others!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank  you for your wonderful grace. Thank you for loving me each and every day right where I am at. Give me a fresh revelation and understanding of your grace that I may bear fruit and share the Good News with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Love, Grace, and Life Changing Fruit Bearing Days For Us All,

Jen

 

 

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Prodigal Cat

Remember the cat I wasn’t going to get attached to? Let me tell you a little story about her…

I finally found time in our hectic schedule to bring her to the vet for an initial check up. This was about two weeks ago. Her check up went great. She received two vaccines and some ear drops for the dead mites in her ears-GROSS!

Two days after her vet visit she was not herself. She was lethargic and would not get up off the couch. She was swollen and her little face was so puffy that she could barely open her eyes. She didn’t want to be pet.

I went into an internal panic. I felt bad for the cat, but the real panic was for my kiddos. They have lost three pets in the last four years (stories for another time) and I knew they could not handle losing Cat right now.

We went back to the vet. Cat had a fever and some kind of infection. I personally think she got a bad vaccine but what do I know? They kept her for the day and treated her with fluids and sent us home with an oral antibiotic and new ear drops.

Have you ever tried giving oral antibiotics to a cat? Think back to when you have had to give your kids the pink liquid penicillin. Remember how they cried, fussed, shook their heads, and let the medicine run down their chin? Now picture your kids with sharp claws, lightening speed ninja moves, and a strong clenched jaw hiding very sharp teeth.

Twice a day I engaged in this battle. First the penicillin and then the ear drops. By day two the cat did not come to me for attention. By day four the cat would run and hide whenever I walked into the room.

I hate to admit this, but it really started to bother me. I couldn’t stand the thought of Cat not trusting me and fearing me. She wouldn’t even come to me for food. I hated that she no longer followed me around the house at night when it was bed time, meowing at me until I got into bed so she could jump up and get snuggled in. I hated that I could not explain to her that I was trying to help her, not hurt her. So much for me not getting involved with the cat…

This morning at 6:26am Cat came into my room meowing. For the first time in almost two weeks she jumped on my bed and snuggled in wanting me to pet her and then feed her. We were back to our old routine. Even though I was planning on sleeping in today (in preparation for the youth conference I am heading to) I was so happy to have her back!

In my barely awake state I thought “The prodigal cat”, and smiled.

Ridiculous I know. Trust me-I am not over spiritualizing my sick cat. Sometimes God speaks to our hearts through simple things.

The joy I felt at 6:26am when Cat deciding to trust me again (even if it was for selfish reasons like affection and food), is NOTHING compared to what the Lord feels when we trust in Him and return to Him.

I am not even talking about the major “prodigal moments” in our lives; the ones where we completely run away from God and immerse ourselves in the world. I am talking about the little prodigal moments we have throughout our faith walk.

I am just coming out of a prodigal moment. I never stopped believing that God is good. But once again I have been tormented by doubt, frustration, and unbelief when it comes to the plans God has for me. I have praised God from a safe distance over the last few weeks, not fully trusting Him. I have even avoided him a time or two.

We are a lot like Cat at times. God is holding us close trying to do a work in us, for our own benefit. However, we don’t understand it at the time. All we know is that we don’t like it. We try to ninja move our way out of it. We pray with clenched teeth, and try to claw our way to a more comfortable place. We begin to doubt and even mistrust what God is doing in our lives. We eventually start avoiding Him.

If you find yourself in a prodigal moment today, take some time to be still and let the Lord comfort you and speak to your heart. He may reveal the work He is trying to do in you. He may remain silent and simply comfort you in a way that reminds you that even when you don’t understand, He does. He knows the plans He has for you, and they are good!

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess I have been running from you. I have been filled with doubt and unbelief regarding the plans you have for me. Thank you for loving me and pursuing me in the midst of my unbelief. Thank you for the gift of faith. Thank you for rejoicing in my return. Thank you for rejoicing every time I return! In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Love, Grace, and a Prodigal Return,

Jen

 

 

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Lay Down Your Scissors

I have a fantastic widow’s peak.  I love it. However, when I was a kid, I did not think it was fantastic.  I hated it.  I referred to it as my Eddie Munster.  I didn’t know how to manage it and I often walked around feeling like my forehead was an advertisement for McDonald’s Golden Arches.

When I was about eight years old my mom and dad went on vacation and our grandma came to stay with us. I took this as an opportunity to deal with my Eddie Munster. I was finally going to have a normal hairline, like everyone else. I went into the bathroom with a pair of scissors, climbed up on the sink, and cut that bad boy right off.

Imagine my surprise when I realized I could not cut it all the way off! True, my golden arches were gone, but in it’s place were these short hairs sticking straight out from my forehead. I was horrified. This was far from the expected and desired outcome!

I decided the best course of action was to cover up my mistake. I strategically placed a large bandaid across my forehead. “There!” I thought, “No one will suspect a thing.”

My older sister came home later and ran right to me to ask me what happened. She assumed I must have had some sort of traumatic head injury. In a way I did. In a way I still do.

When I think back to that funny story I realize that in many ways I have not changed. I am still trying to fix my “imperfections” and hide my mistakes. I often deal with my perceived imperfections harshly rather than patiently allowing the Lord to gently prune them. I would rather hack them off and pretend they never existed than learn how to live with them, work with them, and maybe even use them to my advantage.

The bandaids haven’t gone away either. They just look different. They are the things I hide behind when feeling insecure. They are the ways I try to over-preform in one area to cover my lack in another. They are the fake smile I give when I am screaming on the inside. They are the “I’m great” responses I give when someone asks how I am doing. They are all bandaids to cover my mistakes, pains, and secret thoughts I don’t want anyone to see.

We all have Eddie Munster areas of our lives. Those annoying imperfections that get in our way. We all try to deal with them on our own and then try to cover up our mistakes when we fail to do so. The older I get, the easier it gets to embrace the Eddie Munster areas of my life. Oh I still have a few that can trip me up pretty good, but for the most part I have learned to work with my Eddie’s, and even use them to my advantage.

It says in Psalm 139:13-14 For you formed my innermost parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 

In other words, when God was knitting me together He at some point determined that I would totally rock an Eddie Munster. He also thought my enthusiasm and passion would be good things (even if they required some training). And believe it or not he allowed me certain weaknesses so that I could use them to help strengthen others. How cool is that?

I am trying real hard this week to let God deal with the Eddie’s that I can’t. I am climbing down from the bathroom sink, and laying down my scissors. Anyone care to join me?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for faithfully loving me. Thank you for creating me so precisely and delicately in my mother’s womb. Help me to see myself as you see me. Help me to use my strengths and let go of my weaknesses. I surrender all areas of my life to you so you can prune the things that are preventing me from bearing the fruit you have planned for me. Thank you for patiently loving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Love, Grace, and No More Scissors,

Jen

 

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Self Pruning Disaster

Last week I wrote about Jesus being our Master Gardner. He is the one who prunes away all that is dead in our lives. He does this in His personal tender way. As I wrote that message I felt the love of God in my heart. I felt encouraged and excited for the work God has begun, and promises to finish in my life.

I started the week feeling so free, so confident, and so full of hope. Then something happened. I didn’t realize it at first. I just noticed that the freedom and peace were gone and in it’s place was the usual angst, frustration, and weariness I am trying so desperately to avoid this year.

Every day I had a list of things I believe God wanted me to tend to, and get back on track. They included things like eating healthy, exercising, and writing. However, each day I drifted further and further from these goals. The further I drifted the more miserable and frustrated I became.

This all came to a head Saturday night. My daughter and I were going to go to a special church service at our old church. I have been excited to go hear this guest speaker for months. I had great expectations for this service. It had been a long day and if it were anyone other than the guest speaker we both would have opted to go home and rest.

My daughter was late in meeting me which meant we were going to be late to the service. Mind you she was only 5 minutes late but something within me snapped. I spent the car ride to church lamenting about how I make sure to get everyone to their events on time and I put everyone’s needs first, and on and on like a mad woman. I tried to tell myself to shut up but I just kept ranting. (Since I know my sisters and mom are reading this and thinking “Oh poor Charley! Please know we had a great talk after and I fully apologized when we got into church and she is not emotionally scarred in any way 🙂

Truth is I wasn’t mad at her. I was mad at myself. I was mad because it was Saturday night and as I looked back on my week I felt once again as if I had failed. Not only did I not accomplish any of my personal goals- I actually got further from them and self imploded.

As praise and worship began, I couldn’t raise my hands as usual. Instead I hung my head and started sobbing and praying. My prayer went something like this “Jesus, I am so sorry. I know I am supposed to be worshipping you right now but I can’t. I am so sick of failing. I am so sick of falling short. I am so sick of believing big things and seeing nothing. I am so sick and tired of dealing with the same issues year after year. I want to quit. All of it. But where would I go? I give up. I don’t have it in me to try anymore.”

Sometimes it really boils down to that. It’s not that we have great faith. It’s that we have nowhere else to go. We have sought the world and all of it’s comforts and promises and repeatedly came up empty. We feel unsure of all the promises of God, but we do know that the world has nothing to offer. Even in our worst moments we have a little flicker of hope burning somewhere down deep.

It says in John 6:68-69 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

I have come to know that Jesus is the Holy One of God. I don’t claim to understand all that that means, but I do know that He is good. As I walked into the restroom to wash the mascara off my face (I looked like Alice Cooper), I heard in my heart “He prunes with a tender and gentle hand.” I scoffed at the words, thinking they were my own thoughts poking fun at me.

I went back into the service and cried some more and left feeling just as bad as when I got there. I reverted to my old behavior and crawled in bed with my two boyfriends, Ben and Jerry, polished off a pint of Tonight Dough, and went to bed feeling depressed and frustrated.

I did not want to get out of bed on Sunday. I did not want to go to church. I wanted to lay in bed lamenting about my failures. I got up and made my coffee. While in the kitchen my daughter started giving me tips and suggestions on how to achieve my goals. Bless her heart she is a go-getter.  I have never met a fifteen years old with such conviction and determination. She inspires me everyday.

I thanked her for the pep talk and went outside with my coffee. Again I heard “He prunes with a tender and gentle hand”. Being a little thick headed I still didn’t get it. I did however start feeling as though the frustration and depression were lifting. I actually looked forward to going to church.

Don’t you love it when you go to church and you feel as though the entire message was put together just for you? That is what it was like for me yesterday. Again, I heard “He prunes with a gentle and tender hand.” It took me awhile but I finally got it. I had once again come up with a self-pruning plan. It my excitement to have the Lord begin the pruning process in the dead areas of my life, I jumped the gun (so unlike me) and came up with a master plan of my own, assuming it was the way God would do it.

God’s ways are tender and gentle. My ways were not. Though I would love to rip off all of the ugly branches  of myself, such as insecurity, doubt, negative body image, impatience, food struggles, etc. God has a gentler way. Not only is it more gentle, it is longer lasting.

I am so quick to try to hide the branches of my life that I don’t like that I take short cuts in dealing with them. The thing about short cuts is they never lead to lasting change. Eventually you revert back to old ways and habits. God’s tender, gentle, and often gradual process is painful in a different way. It can be painfully slow at times. However, in the end we have lasting change rather than a temporary fix.

If you find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle of defeat, perhaps you are trying to do your own self- pruning. Self pruning has worse side effect than the average pill advertised on tv. Self pruning side effects include, but are not limited to: frustration, depression, anger, irritability, and complete disdain for anyone that seems to be enjoying a care free life. If you experience any of these side effects please go straight to the Healer and let Him treat you to an antidote of lovingkindness, tenderness, and mercy.

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess I cannot do life on my own. I keep trying to make changes in my self and I continue to fall short. Thank you for loving me enough to help me be the best me I can be. Help me to see myself as you see me. Help me to love myself as you love me. Help me to receive your gentle pruning and help me see when I try to prune myself. In Jesus’ name, Amen,

Love, Grace, and Gentle Pruning For Us All,

Jen

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Master Gardener

Master Gardener: Someone who has been trained in the science and art of gardening with the intent of educating and advising others 

A Master Gardener I am not. I never had, nor intend to have, a garden. Those who know me know I don’t even like getting plants or flowers. I appreciate the gesture, and my first thought is always “Oh- isn’t that nice and thoughtful?” followed next by “Great- one more thing I have to keep alive”.

It may sound ridiculous, but it’s true. I do not have the time or the desire to change the water, pull out the dead leaves, and nurture a plant. I often give my flowers away as I know they will last longer in someone else’s care.

One of the final analogies Jesus gives his disciples is of Jesus being the true vine, and his disciples as the branches. It says in John 15:3-4 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

I have heard many sermons on these verses, and I am sure you have as well. Sometimes when you hear a message over and over, it loses impact, rather than solidifying it. I feel that way about these scriptures.

How many times have I heard the focus of these verses and the ones following it in the context that God will “cut away” all of the sin and hindrances in our lives so we can be of use to Him? How many times have I heard how painful and difficult the pruning process is? How many times have I heard that God will have to take some things away in order for us to be effective in doing his work?

How many times? Enough to make me want to avoid be pruned! Why would I want to subject myself to pain and torment? Why would I want to spend time faced with all the reasons I am not yet qualified to do His work and be of service? No thanks. Not today.

Instead, I will try to clean myself up. Once I have pruned myself I will go to God. Once I have cut off my bad habits and grown some new Christlike leaves I will draw nearer to God. Kind of like losing ten pounds before I join the gym…

Ah, but as I mentioned before, I am no gardener. I cannot keep a cactus alive, let alone prune myself. I find myself in a dilemma.

Unless, I let go of the sermons I have heard before and meditate on these verses myself. For when I do, I see things differently. First of all, I see that Jesus says we have already been pruned by the message He has given us. What is the message that prunes us? It is Himself. It is his Word. It says in John 1 that the Word became flesh.

When we accept Jesus and his word, we are pruned. The greek word that they have translated to read prune is also translated to the word clean in some translations. We are washed by the blood. We are pruned by accepting and receiving his Word.

Yes, this is a continual process. As we abide in Him, as we spend time in His word, we undergo a continual cleansing and pruning process. The things that were once of great importance to us often fall away as we experience life with the Lord. The Word speaks to our hearts and brings us to a place of surrender and a willful letting go of all that would hinder our race.

It is not always easy, but it is not as painful as many sermons would say. When we surrender something, as difficult as it is, the difficulty is overshadowed by the joy we have in knowing that the end result of letting go is the feeling of a fresh beginning. A new bud of hope. A flower about to open and say “Look at what Jesus has done with my life!”

I have watched people prune their plants and tend to their gardens. They do not rip off the dead leaves. They tenderly pick them off and rearrange the branches to show off the most beautiful ones. Then they stand back and smile at their treasure.

We have a Master Gardener that loves us deeply and fiercely. He wants nothing more than to take away the dead areas of our lives and show off our most beautiful parts. However, He is patient. He will wait until we are ready. And when we are, any discomfort we experience will be overshadowed by his love and tender handling of all of our branches.

I encourage you to draw near to our Master Gardener. Do not be afraid of the pruning process. It is truly one of the sweetest experiences you will have with our loving Father.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce love. Thank you for loving me enough to want to take away all that is dead in my life. Thank you for being patient with me. Help me surrender to your will so I am no longer hindered in running my race. Thank you for your tenderness and compassion. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Pruned Life For Us All,

Jen

 

 

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Don’t Let It Get Away!

Last week I wrote about the amazing peace I felt regarding the outcome of my job application. The peace I felt wasn’t only for the job, it was for my life in general. I had such a calm, solid peace about where my life was heading, even though I had no idea where that was.

I am still at peace with the outcome of the job. Each day something I enjoy doing happens at work, and I also see how the other job would have ended up being just as many hours and probably more stress than my current position. As far as work goes, I am at peace.

Though I am at peace, I have not felt as though I have peace the past few days. Not the kind of supernatural peace I experienced for a couple of days last week anyway. It’s one thing to accept the outcome of a situation, but what I had for a few days was a complete peace about life in general. It was amazing. It was comforting. It was exciting. Now it’s gone…

It says in Psalms 34:14 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

That verse has been running through my mind the last few days. I have been meditating on the work to maintain it portion. What does it mean to work to maintain it? Do I pray harder? Study more? Get up at 4am to write and workout so I feel better about myself? What kind of work do I have to do to keep my peace? Somebody please tell me!

Today it finally made sense to me. We are not to work as in earn our peace. God freely gives us peace just as He gives us all good things. The work is not in earning. The work comes in not letting anything steal it. The enemy of our faith hates nothing more than a Christian at peace and rest. He will pull out all the stops to rob us of our peace and get us back into worry, anxiety, fear and frustration.

As I look back on the last few days, nothing happened in my life. The circumstances of my life looked exactly the same. Nothing happened to cause me to lose the peace I had. The only changes in my life were the thoughts I had. I realized I had gone from excitement, hopeful, and confident to discouraged, frustrated, and weary. The feelings of doubt and discouragement crept in so sneakily that I didn’t even notice them until I was in full blown depressive and apathetic mode. Once I was there, it’s been hard finding my way back to peace.

I like the Message Translation of Psalm 34:14. It reads Embrace peace—don’t let it get away! I picture myself standing on the street with my purse and suddenly someone tries to grab it from me. I hang on for dear life, clutching it to my chest, not letting it go- and definitely not letting some punk get my goods!

If you find yourself struggling to find peace, I encourage you to take a moment to look at the thoughts you have been having. Has the enemy been filling you with doubt and discouragement? Is your head filled with “what-if” and “worst case” scenarios? Are you burnt out and weary? If so, you need to clutch onto Jesus and tell that punk satan to get his hands off your goods! Kick those negative thoughts to the curb and embrace God’s promises. I am finding my way back to peace. I know you can too!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce and extravagant love. Thank you for the gift of peace. Help me maintain my peace by keeping my eyes on you and your promises instead of entertaining thoughts of fear, and discouragement. Speak to my heart when I say things that contradict the peace you want to give me. Help me to remain strong and hold on to the peace you give. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Peace For Us All,

Jen

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My Way Made Plain

This morning I didn’t have clear direction as to what I was supposed to read in my Bible. Many times I will study a specific word, book, or person, but today I didn’t really have a plan. So, I did what I normally do when I don’t have a plan. I read the Psalm for what day of the month it is. Today it was Psalm 5.

Knowing that I would most likely hear about the job today my spirit clung to Psalm 5:6 Lead me in the right path, O LORD, or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow.

I did not have the time or mental energy to waver about the job. I refused to overthink it. I refused to entertain doubt, confusion, or worry. I refused to let it steal my joy or rob my peace. As I meditated on the verse I asked the Lord again to close the door if it not what is best for me, and I promised to walk through the door without doubt should it be opened to me.

I am blessed to work with so many people that truly care about me. Many people asked me today if I heard anything and how I was doing. I had such a strange sense of peace about the whole thing. I really didn’t think about it. I wasn’t excited, anxious, upset, or concerned. One of my friends said I seemed defeated. I thought for a second and said “No, I am just strangely at peace with whatever happens- to the point that I almost don’t care.”

I didn’t mean it in an “I don’t care” bad attitude way. I meant it in a without care way. It was like I was walking in a protective bubble of peace all day long. It was strange. Most of all, it was AWESOME!

I got called into my boss’ office at 2:15. I sat down and she started in with the “I wanted you to know we hired someone for the position, yada, yada, yada…….” I just looked at her and said “That’s okay. I am really okay with it.” She just looked at me like maybe I didn’t understand her. I am sure she was expecting me to be upset, or even cry a little (I cry at at the worst possible times and half the time it just happens without me seeing it coming).

There were no tears. There was no feelings of not being “good enough” (that right there is a sign that I was in a protective bubble). There really wasn’t anything except me knowing deep in my spirit that I had probably dodged a bullet and that there is something awesome and exciting down the road for me.

God is so good. I learned so much about myself over the last two weeks just by going through this process. More importantly, I got to know the Lord better. I got to experience His fierce love for me, as well as His guidance and protection. I know He was teaching me many lessons in this one event. I hope to retain the lessons and carry them into the next chapter of my story. The peace I had all day and still have tonight is a peace I want to carry with me always, it is so awesomely strange and supernatural.

If you find yourself wondering if you are where you are supposed to be, I encourage you to meditate on today’s verse. If you genuinely ask Him to make your way plain, He will! The key is to accept whatever and wherever that “way made plain” takes you.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce love! Thank you for making my way plain. Thank you for watching out for me. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for knowing what is best for me. Thank you for surrounding me with your peace. You are good! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Our Ways Made Plain,

Jen

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The Ultimate Labor Day

As I sit here tonight I feel relaxed, refreshed and restored. I had a great Labor Day. I was able to go on not one, but two, “walk and talks” with girlfriends. Walk and talk dates are my favorite thing to do on a beautiful day. Other than the two dates, I did absolutely nothing. I did no work. I truly rested from all labor.

I spent some time this morning reading about our Ultimate Labor Day. It says in Hebrews 4:9-11 So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.

There will come a day when we all get to rest from the labors of this world. No, we won’t be floating around on clouds with a set of wings playing a harp. I firmly believe we all have assignments in heaven as it says we will rule and reign with Jesus. However, we will no longer be laboring. Webster’s defines labor as expenditure of physical or mental effort especially when difficult or compulsory.

Work on earth is hard. We get tired and weary. We get headaches and backaches. We feel stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed by our overbooked schedules. We long for rest. We count down the days until we can sleep in. We keep ourselves caffeinated or hyped up on sugar just to keep us going. Our earthly bodies cannot keep up with us.

I can’t wait to get my new heavenly body. A body that does not grow old, get sick, or get tired. A body that can keep up with the things I want to accomplish. A body designed for work, but not labor.

I love to imagine what heaven is like. I have read numerous books from people who have died and gone to heaven. I am fascinated by them. I love to get even a glimpse of what my future holds. I can’t wrap my head around it, but I am smart enough to know it will be more than I could ever imagine. Best of all, we will no longer wrestle with the difficulties of this world, we will enter our final rest. A working rest, but not a laboring rest. Side by side with Jesus. I can only imagine…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this day. Thank you for giving us this day of rest. Thank you for the eternal rest you promise to those that put their faith in you. Help me to keep my eyes on you when I am worn out and weary. Keep me focused on the rest that is to come more than the labor we endure on earth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and An Ultimate Labor Day For Us All,

Jen

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His Purpose Prevails

A couple weeks ago I went walking at a county park that I often walk at. I am very familiar with the paths at this park as I have been there many times over the years. However, earlier this summer on the way back to my car, I noticed a path that I had never noticed before. I walked down it just a little ways to check it out but had to turn back before I got too far in as I was supposed to meet my kids back at the car.

So a couple weeks ago when I went for my walk, without thinking about it, I headed straight to this new path I had discovered earlier this summer. I wanted to know where it lead- especially because it headed in the complete opposite direction of the paths I normally take.

I liked the new path. It was hard packed dirt instead of pavement like the other paths. I enjoyed the sense of adventure as the trail turned throughout the woods. I liked that I didn’t really know where I was going. It was fun being somewhere new.

This was the same week that I applied for the new job. I thought about how my new job would be like this path. It would be new and full of unknowns. Though I would be on a path, it would be new to me and I wouldn’t necessarily know exactly where I was going or what I was doing. The new change could be fun and exciting. I became even more excited (and nervous) at the thought of a new job, but I still wondered if I had made the right decision in applying.

I was on the trail for about forty-five minutes when I suddenly recognized where I was. I realized I was going to end up in the EXACT SAME PLACE I always do when I am on the other trails! I started laughing to myself. I felt as though the Lord was speaking to my heart and saying that regardless of what job I have, or what path I am on, I will end up at the exact place He has planned for me when the time is right.

It says in Proverbs 19:21 Many plans are in a man’s mind, But it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand (be carried out).

I have had two interviews for the new job. The longer the wait goes on, the crazier I feel for wanting to subject myself to something new and unknown. I have spent the last three years getting to a place in my current job where I actually feel like I know what I am doing. At least with my current job I know everyone. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I know what I am doing.

As I waited to go into my second interview Thursday afternoon I thought “What am I doing?”. I was tempted to get up and leave. I didn’t though. I did my best at the interview and felt like it went much better than the first one did. On my way home I prayed (for the millionth time I think) to God and asked Him to make the decision for me. I prayed He would shut the door if it is not what is best for me and my family. If it is the right path, or an equally good path, and the job is offered to me, I will accept it.

Most of all, I will trust that the Lord’s purpose for my life will be carried out. In the end, that is what truly matters to me.

If you find yourself struggling over a decision in your life that you have already prayed about, I encourage you to meditate on today’s verse. I believe it will bring you comfort in knowing that regardless of the plans we make, God will bring us to the place we need to be and His plans and purpose for our lives will be carried out!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for the plans you have for me. I want to fulfill the purpose you have on my life. Thank you for your Word that promises that you will see to it that the purpose for my life is carried out. Increase the gift of faith in my life. Give me courage to walk on whatever path you set before me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Carried Out Purpose For Us All,

Jen

 

 

 

 

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Is Your Heart Purring?

Despite me saying there is no way we are getting a pet anytime soon, we now have a cat. I won’t go into the details of how we permanently acquired the cat, as it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that now we have a cat- complete with a cat box, kennel, and living room floor full of various cat-stimulating toys…

I informed my kids I would have nothing to do with the care of this cat, other than to pick up the cat food and liter from Target when the kids informed me (with at least 48 hours notice) that these supplies were needed. I would not feed the cat. I would not tend to the liter box. I would not even pet or play with it.

That may sound harsh but I have my reasons. The first one is the fact that we have buried three pets in four years, and I simply do not have the heart capacity or emotional capability for another pet right now. The second reason is despite the kids claiming responsibility of the care of the last two pets, I am the one who ends up caring for the pets (mom- I know you are probably smiling a little bit as I believe the same thing happened to you as us girls were growing up :).

For the most part, the kids are keeping their promise and doing a great job with the cat (somehow the older one has put the responsibility on her younger brother). Here’s the problem though- I am the first one up in the morning. As soon as I get up, despite how quiet I try to be, the cat comes running and crying. It wants breakfast. Good luck trying to ignore her, she is relentless. So despite my pledge to not care for it, I am going downstairs to feed her.

Feeding her takes only a minute so it’s not a big deal. However, after breakfast she seems to want some love and attention. As I sit down with my morning cup of coffee, Bible, journal, and laptop, the cat starts crying again. I present her with all of her toys but she is not having it. She wants love.

She jumps up on the couch and confidently walks across my laptop which is on my lap. SHE STEPS ON THE CAPS LOCK BUTTON or worse, the page top or discard button. She doesn’t care. She is oblivious. All she knows is that she wants some love. She will walk back and forth across my laptop, Bible, or whatever is in the way until I move it. She doesn’t mind dipping her tail in my coffee either.

This morning as she stood in place on my laptop I did what I always do. I gave in. I stopped what I was doing and made room for her. I then started petting her in a way that got her pur motor going (the fact that I even know how to get her purring bugs me as it violates my “no bonding” rule).

As I listened to her pur I thought about how we, as daughters of the Most High God, could learn a thing or two from this cat. We need to be as confident as she is when she wants love and affection. We need to approach the Father’s throne with the assumption that there is nothing He would rather do than drop everything else to love on us, especially because it is true.

It says in Hebrews 4:16 Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].

God loves it when we come confidently to Him despite our flaws, weaknesses, and failures.. He loves it because it shows Him that we understand his fierce love for us. We understand that his love for us is not based on us. It is not about what we do or what we achieve. It is not based on a points system. We do not earn more love when we do good, just as we are not disqualified from His love when we fall short.

Oh that we would start our day walking back and forth across the lap of our Father until we have a full revelation of His love! That we would wait upon Him until our pur motors were running- our hearts filled with the overwhelming sense of forgiveness, completeness, love, and grace. Imagine the confidence we could head into our day with by having fresh revelation of his love for us, as well as a fresh blessing upon us!

To think a stray cat could remind me of such Truth.

I encourage you to take some time today to go boldly to the throne of grace. Bring your flaws, fears, worries, concerns, and failures with you. Let His love and grace turn them into things of beauty that will be used for good. Let Him love on you until your heart is purring.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for wanting to spend time with me. Thank you for inviting me to come boldly to your throne of grace each morning. Give me a fresh revelation of your love and grace towards me. Fill me to the overflow with your love so I can carry it out into the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Purring Heart,

Jen

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