A Wasted Gift

This weekend I cleaned out a couple of shelves in my closet. A couple of shelves may not sound like much, but these two shelves were crammed with about ten years of kids papers, cards, and random things I didn’t want to throw away but didn’t know what to do with at the time. Rather than take the time to put the papers away in some sort of organized system, I just continued to push and cram them on the shelf.

I was somewhat forced to clean these shelves as I had torn them apart Thursday night looking for my daughters birth certificate so she could take her driver’s permit test. I found it. She passed. I am sure the forty hours of parental driving supervision I have to do will provide me with plenty of blog material. Like today when she was pulling up the driveway and accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake and we lunged forward towards our other car parked in the garage…

When I walked into my closet Friday afternoon after work I stood there over the mound of papers on the floor and the shelf that was still full. I figured I had two options. I could pick the pile off the floor and shove it all back onto the shelf, or I could finally take the time to go through everything and decide what exactly I should do with it.

I don’t know what got into me because I actually decided to go through the papers. Not like me at all. That did not sound like a fun Friday night. Especially because I was wiped out from the week and really just wanted to veg out in front of the tv.

Turns out it was a fun project. I took a six hour stroll down memory lane. I laughed at pictures of my friends and kids. I cried when I found handwritten letters from my dad from my years away at college. I found cards my kids had made, and cards of encouragement from my friends. It was crazy to think I had all of those memories just crammed onto those two shelves.

I opened a card from Tom. In it was a $200 gift card to a salon and spa! SWEET! I was so excited! “Mama’s gonna get some pampering!”

Then I had this horrible thought. “I think the spa is no longer there”. I googled it and couldn’t find anything. I called the phone number on the card and it was no longer in service. I sat there so bummed. I would’ve rather never found that gift than realized I had wasted it. There is nothing worse than a wasted gift.

It says in 1 Corinthians 12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

We have all been given special gifts and talents, and many of us waste them. We waste them by misusing them or not using them at all. It is a horrible thing to waste your gift. It will cause you to be unsettled, cranky, and agitated. You may not even realize that these feelings are a result of not using your gifts. I know it because I have spent many years of my life off and on misusing or not using my gifts.

I don’t believe we intentionally waste our gifts, just like I didn’t intentionally waste my day at the spa. Like my gift card, I think we often put our gifts “on a shelf” and vow to get back to them when our lives aren’t so hectic, and the time is right. The problem is when she put them on the shelf we often forget about them. Life never gets any less hectic and there really never is a good time for most things.

We may not be able to use our gifts to their full measure during some of the seasons of life, but we can certainly find ways to use them in some way in our everyday life. It’s hard though. We tend to feel that if we can’t go all in with our gifts, dreams, and desires, we should just shelf the whole thing until a later date. When we feel this way we need to remind ourselves that our gifts are not about us. They were given to us, as the verse says, to help each other.

I have a large framed picture of an old typewriter and under it in typewriter font it reads one word can change someone’s day. I bought it almost a year ago. I have it resting against the wall on my writing desk. During the months I wasn’t writing I got angry every time I looked at it. I still haven’t hung it on the wall (or cleaned off my writing desk for that matter).

From now on when I am tempted to put my writing on a shelf until I have more time, a clearer vision, or a postcard from God, I am going to remind myself that it is not about me. It is not about the end or the big picture or what direction I may or may not be heading. It is about what one Word today can do for someone else.

If you have your gift crammed on a shelf somewhere I encourage you to take it down, dust it off, and start using it again. You never know, it may be the very thing someone else needs today. I promise you will lose that sick feeling of a wasted gift and find new hope and excitement for the day!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for giving me special gifts and talents. Help me to use my gifts. Bring someone into my day that needs exactly what I can give them. Help me to remember that it is not about me, but what I can do for another. Give me courage and strength to step out in faith and use my gifts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and No Wasted Gifts,

Jen

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Our Gracious Giver

I have amazing friends. They are talented, gorgeous, generous, encouraging, fun, godly women. They are all unique in their gifts and talents and my relationship with each of them is also unique and very special to me.

One of my best friends’ love language is gifts. Everyone needs to have a best friend that is a gifter! Gifter love language friends are awesome. My gifter friend sends me random gifts in the mail and her actual event gifts like Christmas and birthdays are sick (is that what the hipsters are saying for cool these days?).

Take last week for example, I get a text from my gifter friend that is a picture of her left leg. The text reads “My new favorite pants…I am shipping you some today.” Sure enough three days later in my mailbox are my own pair of amazing new pants. How cool is that?

Now you may think that I am just greedy and want stuff all the time. That is not the case at all. What makes my friends gifts so amazing is that they are always spot on. She knows me. She knows my size. She knows my tastes. She knows my colors. She even seems to know just when I need a little love gift.

The fact that I have friends that know me so intimately is what touches my heart. I am married to a wonderful man who is….how do I say it….NOT a gifter. He is generous. He is kind. He is thoughtful. He is all of these things and more, but he is not a gifter. We have been married for almost twenty years and I still get gift cards for all the holidays. I appreciate these gift cards. I would much rather have them than a gift that is nowhere near my size, color, taste, or plugs into the wall and sucks up dirt off the carpet, or cooks a warm meal slowly over many hours (previous gifts prior to the gift card days).

It used to bother me when we were first married and I would get all of these “bad” gifts from him. What bothered me is that it made me feel as if he didn’t love me or know me at all. “If he really loved me he would know exactly what I wanted.” Thank God for books like the Five Love Languages that taught me that my husband does in fact love me, he just doesn’t show it through gifts. Thank God also that He gave me a best friend that is a gifter to fill that need for me (my friend also has an amazing hubby that is not a gifter so God gave us each other 🙂

God is the ultimate Gifter. It says in Romans 8:32 He who did not spare [even] His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?

I want you to pay close attention to the word graciously. Websters defines graciously as: in a courteous, kind, indulgent and pleasant manner. The antonyms for graciously are: discourteously, inconsiderately, thoughtlessly.

In other words not only has God given us the ultimate gift of His son Jesus, He continues to give us gifts. They are not crummy, haphazard, random gifts. They are indulgent, kind, thoughtful, considerate gifts. Just as my friend truly knows me to the point where she can pick out a gift for me two thousand miles away, God also intimately knows us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows exactly what gifts we need and when. If it feels as though He is withholding a gift from us it is only because He knows it will not be a blessing in the end. It will somehow take us away from Him or destroy us. He is the Giver of everything good in our lives!

Another reason my friend loves to bless me with amazing gifts is the fact that she knows how much I love and appreciate them. She knows I get excited when she teases me with a “I sent you something in the mail” text. She knows I do not take it for granted. She also knows I will never, ever, refuse a gift from her. I receive all gifts freely.

God loves a cheerful giver. He also loves a cheerful receiver. He loves it when we freely receive the gifts He longs to pour out on us. He loves it when we anticipate his goodness, favor, and blessing to fall on us. He loves it when we open our arms to praise Him and also to receive His goodness. It is so much easier, and much more fun to give to an excited receiver!

Please don’t buy the lie that you do not deserve good gifts. None of us do! We don’t deserve any of the good gifts God has for us. It is not about earning or deserving them. It is about understanding the Father’s heart towards us. As it says in todays verse, He has already given us His only beloved Son- why would He not also give us all things? I know Jesus is more than enough- that’s the amazing thing about it. In the Father’s eyes Jesus was just the beginning of an eternity of personal, thoughtful gifts. Oh what a Savior! Oh what a Father!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for pouring out your favor, grace, and mercy on my life. Help me to freely receive all of the good things you have planned for me. Thank you that it is not about how good I am or how much I do. Thank you that I don’t get what I deserve and I do get what I do not deserve. Thank you for knowing me intimately and personally. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Gracious Gifts for Us All,

Jen

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The Art of Being

I confess, I often obsess about whether or not I am living a purposeful life. Though it is good to live a purpose driven life, I often feel as though I am living more of a “purpose drive me crazy” life. I know I need to rest in God’s grace and trust that if there was something I should or should not be doing with my life, He will make it clear to me. I need to relax and enjoy the journey rather than try to figure out the destination. I need to practice what I preach.

I believe we are naturally better at doing than we are at being.  It is much easier to busy ourselves with tasks and to-do lists than it is to be still and wait. I find the world full of weary Martha’s instead of restful Mary’s. I am certain God put the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible because he knew us Girls would struggle with the tendency to do rather than be.

What causes this struggle?  In some ways I think doing is easier. When we busy ourselves  with doing we feel like we have accomplished something. We feel as though we have “earned our keep” or shown ourselves valuable. The check list of accomplishments proves that we are not slackers. We appear to have it all together when we are constantly on the run and keeping busy.

Being takes effort. Being requires us to let our guard down and our hearts open. Being requires us to understand that we are valued even when we accomplish nothing.  Being reveals our flaws, hurts, and insecurities. Being requires us to be humble, teachable, patient, and all of those other qualities that don’t come easily or naturally for most of us.

I see many Christians perfecting their doing at the expense of their being. We spend so much time living for and serving God that we forget to spend time living with God. We forget that Emmanuel means God with us, not “Hey God, you wait here while I go do a bunch of good stuff to show you how much I love you.”

If God had to choose between you working for Him or being with Him, he would choose being with you. That is why He tells Martha in Luke 10:41-42 But the Lord replied to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which will not be taken away from her.”

What was the good part? The good part was sitting at the feet of Jesus and continually listening to His teaching, according to Luke 10:38. The good part is where Jesus does a perfect work in you, reminding you of how much you are loved, treasured, forgiven, and set free. The good part is peace, rest, and joy, rather than weariness, anxiety, and worry.

Paul had it all figured out he tells us in Philippians 3:10 10 And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did];

Seems like Paul would have been a pretty busy guy seeing as how he wrote two thirds of the New Testament, traveled all over the Eastern Hemisphere, planted and taught numerous churches, performed miracles, escaped death multiple times, and also worked along the way making tents so as not to burden the church. As busy doing as he was, he still understood that more than any of those amazing tasks, his most treasured activity was simply being with the Lord. He counted all of it as nothing if at the end of his race he did not thoroughly know the Lord.

If I were to see Jesus face to face would I be more likely to tell him about all of the things I have been busy doing for Him, or would I recount the treasured moments I have spent with Him?

I believe the more we learn to be Pauls and Marys, the more Martha work we will actually get done, minus the bitterness, weariness, and anxiety. I am going to stop being driven by the need to feel as though I have purpose, and park myself at the feet of Jesus. There’s room for you if you would like to join me…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your unfailing love. Thank you for wanting to spend time with me. Help me to walk away from my to do lists so I can spend time with you. Teach me to know, truly know, your hart. Help me to spend more time being and less time doing. Quiet my anxious thoughts and still my restless heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and A Life of Being,

Jen

 

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Butter Brain

Have you ever noticed that it is so much easier to have faith for someone else’s situation than it is for your own? Why is that? Why is it that I have no problem believing God will heal my friend’s broken leg prior to surgery but I don’t seem to believe God has this whole job thing under control?

I say I do. I say I have turned it over to God. I say I trust God to make sure His perfect will is done in my life. I say I believe He will shut the wrong door and open the correct one. I say I will know His voice when He speaks to my heart. I say all of these things. I say them, and I believe them. However…

If I truly believed the things I say, why do I find myself churning the situation in the back of my mind all day long? My mind is basically butter by now- the very thing I said I wasn’t going to do!

I hate feeling like the double minded believer! I picture Jesus looking at me with his compassionate eyes saying “Oh ye of little faith- why do you doubt me so?”. My immediate response would be “I don’t! I don’t doubt you! I know you know what’s best for me! I know you have good plans for me! I know you know the end from the beginning!”

I know all of these things. I do trust God. It’s me I don’t trust! I don’t trust that I will know what to do. I don’t trust that whatever happens I will be confident that I am where I am supposed to be. I don’t trust that I won’t second guess myself every day if I am offered the new job. Oh me of little faith…

I hate to admit the way I am feeling. I want to be super faith woman. I want to be the Girl that says “I prayed with my friend, hit the submit button on my job application, and haven’t given it a second thought.” However, my blog is titled What Real Women Do, and sometimes, real women find themselves over thinking situations in their lives until it becomes butter. It doesn’t mean we don’t trust in the Lord or have faith. It simply means we are human.

As much as we try to let go, it’s not easy. It’s not easy surrendering control of your life. It’s not easy trusting what you cannot see. I do believe God is busy taking care of our lives behind the scenes, but wouldn’t it be so nice to get a glimpse of it? I think so!

So what does a real women do when she finds herself making butter with the situations in her life? She asks her friends to have faith for her situation and in turn she has faith for theirs. I find it easier to pray for others than for myself at times. It feels less desperate and personal. I find it easier to stand on God’s word and pray in complete matter of fact prayer for others because I don’t have all of the “what-ifs” churning in my head. I can look at my friend and say “God says it, so it’s true. End of story. No but’s…”

God is so good. He does not require us to have “perfect” faith. He understands our weakness. He understands that as much as we want to trust that He has it all figured out, we often over think things. He does not get angry with us when we pray one thing, yet struggle to stand on it. He knows we are trying to get to that perfect place in faith, but that sometimes it takes awhile.

All we need is a little faith. It says in Matthew 17:20 “I tell you the truth, if you have faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Sure, God wants us to get to a place where we are not double minded and do not waver, but He also encourages us in our weakness by saying a little faith can go a long way. Imagine what big faith can do!

If you find yourself making butter over a situation in your life, don’t make it worse by thinking God is disappointed in you. When the churning starts, try to remind yourself of the promises God has made for you. Remind yourself of all the ways he has taken care of you in the past. Tell the enemy to shut up and go away. Ask a friend to pray for you. Then try to relax. That is what I am doing over here 🙂

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me in my weakness. Thank you for not requiring me to have perfect faith. Thank you for promising me that you will make my crooked path straight as you order my steps. Help me to rest in your promises. Thank you for the gift of faith, may it increase and grow in me as you guide me in my decisions. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, a Butter Free Day For Us All,

Jen

 

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From a Whisper to a Scream

I said I was going to listen to my own advice. I was going to listen for the gentle whisper of the Lord in the decision I needed to make. I quote “I am going to resist the urge to try to figure it out. I am going to trust God’s word that says he delights in the details of my life. Most of all, I will stay in his Word. The answers to the smallest questions are often found in the perfect Word at the perfect time.

I meant it. I was not going to think about the job I was considering applying for. I was not going to churn it in my mind until it became butter. I was going to “cease striving and relax and know that He is God” as Psalm 46:10 instructs us to do.

As I laid my head on my pillow Monday night I felt as though I heard the Lord whisper to my heart and assure me that everything was going to be fine when I returned to work the next morning. I thought I had my answer. I shouldn’t apply for the job.

As I drove to work I prayed and gave myself the same motivational pep talk I often give myself on my way to work. I assured myself that it was going to be a great year. I reminded myself that reentry is always tough the first week or so returning from summer break. I couldn’t judge the year by the first week.

As I got nearer to the door I felt my steps getting heavier and heavier. I opened the door and took a few steps in. I stopped at the secretary’s desk and just stood there. One of my friends was at the desk also. I just froze. They asked what was wrong. I told them “I can’t do it. I can’t do this again. I want to get back into my car and drive home”. I stood there for a minute feeling as though I might have a panic attack.

Is that what a gentle whisper sounds like? It felt more like a violent internal scream! I just sat at my desk, staring at my computer and my blinking message light on my phone. All I kept thinking is “I can’t do it. My heart is no longer in it.”

I understand this may sound dramatic to you. I understand that many people find a job and stay there content, happy, and thankful. I admire those people. I am not one of them. I get upset with myself for not being one of them but that really does me no good. I am who I am and I need to feel passionate about the work I do and the places I spend my time and energy.

Is the extreme discontent the sound of a gentle whisper, or is it the scream of a big baby that needs to grow up, be thankful for what she has and stop sniveling? I don’t know…

I do know this. I know it says in Proverbs 16:9 A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life] But the LORD directs his steps and establishes them.

Sometimes we don’t hear the gentle whisper because our own desires are screaming too loud. Sometimes the screaming desires are the ones the Lord has given us and that is in fact what is directing us. I know it is confusing. I wish it was as neat and tidy as I made it seem on Monday. It’s not. Sometimes faith is messy, and confusing, and try as we might we just do not know 100% what we are supposed to do.

Here’s what I do know. I know God is good and He loves us even when we aren’t sure which end is up. He knows our heart and if we make a move in error He will bring us back to our proper path. He will not let us go astray to “teach us a lesson”. If we diligently seek Him and are unsure, we simply make plans as best we can as we journey through life, and trust that He will direct and establish our steps.

I applied for the job. I am excited and nervous. My friend and I prayed prior to hitting the submit button that God would open the door if it is right and close it if it is incorrect. If I missed the whisper then I trust He will give me fresh grace for another year right where I am at.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for directing and establishing my steps. Thank you for your Word that promises you will bring us to the proper path and plan for our lives. Thank you for bringing me peace in the process. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Established Steps For Us All,

Jen

 

 

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Moviefone

Do you remember Moviefone? It was the automated phone system you could call to to find any movie at any location? You would enter in the first three letters of the movie title you wanted to see and it would search locations and times for you. If you don’t remember it, chances are you are under forty, in which case you have also probably never seen a rotary phone (which couldn’t be used to call Moviefone)

There is a Seinfeld episode where Kramer keeps receiving wrong calls because his phone number is almost identical to the Moviefone number. He decides that rather than disappointing the callers, he would simply start pretending to be the actual Moviefone.

He is horrible at it. He cannot decipher the sound the numbers make to identify the movie. At one point he can tell that the caller, who just happens to be George, is getting frustrated so Kramer finally says “Why don’t you just tell me the name of the movie you selected?” in his Moviefone voice. It is hilarious.

I have been praying for direction in my work/home/ministry life. As I mentioned in an earlier blog I want to make sure I am doing what God has called me to do, rather than just busy myself with good things. There are many directions I see myself going and there is a potential job change I have been praying about.

This morning while praying I thought of Kramer’s Moviefone experience. I felt frustrated just like he did as I want to get it right, but I can’t “decipher” any clear direction. “Why don’t you just tell me what you want me to do?” I said in my best Moviefone voice, hoping the Lord was also a Seinfeld fan…

I am sure you have been there at some point in your life. The place where you desperately want to live God’s will for your life, but you are not exactly sure what that is. You seek his wisdom and his voice and you wait in expectation, excited to do whatever it is He has in store for you. You pour out your heart and wait. And wait. And wait. Until…..nothing. Awkward silence. Crickets.

There was a time when the prophet Isaiah desperately needed to hear from the Lord. He was worn out, weary, and on the run from Jezebel who vowed to kill him. It says in 1 Kings 18:11-13:

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

The Lord was not in the windstorm, the earthquake, or the fire. The Lord was in the gentle whisper. Now I know you may be thinking “But Jen- Elijah still heard God’s audible voice. We don’t.” It’s true. That is because we have God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, living and dwelling within us. In the Old Testament times, God spoke audibly to just a chosen few. As Christians we all have the ability to hear God’s voice.

Ah- but it is in fact a gentle whisper. So gentle that we can often miss it. Especially if it is crowded by the noise in our own minds and hearts. To hear the gentle whisper of the Lord we need to still our minds and hush our inner dialogue. We need to quit running through all of the scenarios trying to figure it out on our own. Most of all, we need to not stress about it. Nothing tunes out the whisper of the Lord like stress, fear, and worry. Which is probably why the enemy uses these tactics the most.

So what am I going to do? I am going to follow my own advice for once lol. I am going to resist the urge to try to figure it out. I am going to trust God’s word that says he delights in the details of my life. Most of all, I will stay in his Word. The answers to the smallest questions are often found in the perfect Word at the perfect time.

If you find yourself in a Moviefone place in your life, I encourage you to still your mind and quiet your inner dialogue. Open up God’s word and ask him to reveal something to you about your situation. He may not answer audibly right then and there, but He will answer, in is own gentle, tender, whisper.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit that lives and dwells within me, guiding me in my life. Help me to quiet my mind and heart so I can hear you speak to me in your quiet, gentle whisper. Thank you for the plans you have for me. I may not know what they are, but I know that they are good! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and No Need for Moviefone,

Jen

 

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Counterintuition

Counterintutionintuition that is counter to common-sense expectation.

There are a few signs that give away a new paddleboarder. First of all, they have this unsteady, uneasy look about them. Secondly, they are either standing too upright or bent too far over. Thirdly, they are holding the paddle backwards.

You can’t blame them for holding the paddle backwards. The correct way of holding a paddle board paddle is counterintuitive. It looks wrong when you hold it the correct way. It doesn’t make sense. Even when you are told the correct way to hold the paddle it doesn’t really make sense because it is so counterintuitive. You pretty much just have to trust that the person who is correcting you knows what they are talking about. (and then you go home and watch multiple youtube videos just to make sure) Some people can’t get past the fact that it does not make sense and they continue to hold the paddle backwards.

It says in Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. If you think about it, the gospel is counterintuitive. It does not make sense. It does not make sense that God would ask His only son to die for us. It does not make sense that Jesus would so willingly do so. It does not make sense that we have been forgiven and set free and allowed to spend eternity with the Lord, despite what beautiful messes we are.

For those of us who trust this Good News we have been told, what was once counterintuitive now feels right. We can’t imagine life any other way. We are thankful that we are loved by a God that does not make sense to our natural way of thinking. The counterintuitive nature of our faith is what makes it so sweet and precious.

Yet there are still so many people in the world that want a god that makes sense. They want a god that fits into their natural mind. A god that believes what they believe. A god that bows down to them. A god that serves their needs, ideals, and allows everyone to do whatever they want. They refuse believe the Truth, and they will go through life holding their paddle backwards, working against themselves as they try to get to wherever it is they want to go.

I love this counterintuitive life! The fact that God does not always make sense to me gives me comfort. If I could make sense of God, if I could understand all that He is, if I could fully comprehend how much He loves us, He wouldn’t be big enough. I love the fact that I serve a God bigger than what even the biggest daydreamers such as myself can come up with. Don’t you?

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being such a big God. Thank you for having thoughts higher than my thoughts and ways higher than my ways. Thank you for the gift of faith. Thank you for saving me so I could live a blessed counterintuitive life with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Life of Counterintuition To You All,

Jen

 

 

 

 

 

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Homesick

I am officially homesick. If I were away at camp this would be the day I would go crying to my counselor begging them to let me use the phone to call my mom to come get me. I was never that kid when I went away to camp, but I am feeling that way today.

I love it here. It’s just that I miss my people. The people I “do life” with. I know you may be thinking “Isn’t she out there with her family?” and the answer is yes. The fact that they are not the ones that I feel I actually do life with is an entirely different topic for another day…

As I stared out the window this morning looking at the lake and feeling homesick, I thought of Jesus. Talk about feeling homesick! Can you imagine giving up heaven? And talk about missing the people He did life with. He would be missing the people He created life with!

Thinking of everything He gave up for us gave me a fresh revelation of his love for us. Oh how he loves us! He knew that many, including his own family, would reject him. He knew that he would be betrayed by someone closest to him. He knew that the ones that knew him best would desert him. He knew that he would be mocked, stripped, beaten, scourged, spit on, crushed, and nailed to a cross.

Despite it all, he willingly left home to be our Immanuel, our “God with us”. He left his home to become our home. To be our refuge, our shelter, our fortress and hiding place in times of trouble.

Not once do we see Jesus regretting his decision to leave home to be with us. Not once do we hear him say to his exasperating disciples “Are you kidding me right now? Do you have any clue what I left behind to come be with you bozos!?” Even when he was speaking to them regarding their lack of faith, he never made them feel as if there was anyplace else he would rather be than in the midst of them.

Yet we know he was homesick. It says in Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Though he loved the people on earth he came to serve, he missed the people he did life with.  He was willing to leave the people he did life with in order to have all of us to do eternity with. The thought of it takes my breath away.

I have two more full days here. I think I will follow Jesus’ lead on what to do when feeling homesick. I will withdraw and pray and meditate on my future home. A home filled with so many peeps to do eternity with, I will never be homesick again!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for who you are. Thank you for giving me a fresh revelation of your love. Oh how you love me! I cannot fully comprehend it even when I experience it! Help me to show others the love you have for them. Help me make the most of my days and my time. Use me to be a light and a blessing to others, that they may come to know you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Cure for Homesickness,

Jen

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Faith Bank

I have been lazy this week. I sleep in as late as I want. When I do wake up I just lay in bed for awhile thinking about what I may or may not do that day. Sometimes, for a very brief second, I feel guilty about it. Then I quickly remember that in a couple weeks I return to reality where the days of sleeping in are just a dream.

This morning as I was laying in bed I was thinking how nice it would be if we could bank extra hours of sleep. Then on those exhausting days following sleepless nights we could simply withdraw a few hours from our sleep bank. I know my friend with two kids under thirty months is probably nodding her head yes and saying Amen! (or more likely she is nodding off to sleep during a midnight feeding :).

Think about it. Wouldn’t it be fun to spend the rainy, snowy, and cold days in bed banking hours of sleep so on the fun, summer days you could just go go go? Wouldn’t it be nice to not feel stressed out on the long work days knowing you have a couple hours in the bank you can draw from? I think it would be a life changer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. (insert sigh)

Thinking along those lines, wouldn’t it be nice if you could store up faith in your own personal faith bank? Then on the days when you are feeling discouraged or uncertain you could simply withdraw some extra faith to get you through? Never again would you be tossed about by life, questioning whether God truly sees your situation and has a plan to see you through. Unfortunately, just like the sleep bank there is no Faith of America faith bank.

Or is there?

Every minute we spend in God’s Word and in prayer builds up our faith bank. Every time we journal what God has done for us, so we can be reminded of His faithfulness, we are depositing faith into our faith bank. Every time we share our testimony with others and they share theirs, we are depositing faith.

We all have days were we feel spiritually empty. Days when we feel abandoned and forgotten. Days when we second guess the words we once believe God spoke to our hearts. On those days, we need our faith banks. We need to take some time to sit still and bring to remembrance all we have learned about the goodness of God, and all that He has already done for us thus far.

We often feel too busy to spend time in the Bible and in prayer. That seems like a selfish part of our day. A part we can only indulge in when our obligatory to-do list is done. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Spending time with the Lord will not only bring wisdom and encouragement for that day, it will build up your faith bank. Lord knows we all need one!

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33-34 Amplified

When Jesus says “all these things”, He is talking about our basic day to day needs. He knows our to-do list, our responsibilities, and our needs. He promises that if we get to know the character of God- by spending time with Him, we will be taken care of. We will have a full faith bank!

Dear Heavenly Father, I want to know you more. I want to spend time with you. I find my days slipping by and my time running short. Help me make more room for you. Help me manage my time. Help me prioritize my schedule. Help me trust your word that says you will take care of me if I put you first. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Faith Bank For Us All,

Jen

 

 

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The Smoke In Our Lives

One of my favorite things to do at the cabin is to sit outside at night and gaze at the moon and stars. The moon is huge and the stars are brighter than anywhere else I have ever been. It feels like if I took a running start and jumped off the diving board I could grab hold and swing from one.

Due to the forest fires north of us I have not seem a single star in the the nine days we have been here. Tonight the smoke is so bad I cannot even see the moon. It is pitch black outside when there would normally be moon and star reflections dancing on the water. The smoke has stolen my vision.

In Calvin Miller’s book Into the Depths With God he writes “In 1 Corinthians 6:12, the apostle Paul reminds us that while all things may be permitted some things aren’t good for us. Those things that steal my vision for God are not good for me.”

The question I have been asking God  is “Is there anything in my life that needs to go (or needs to start) in order to live the life you created me to live?” In other words “Is there any smoke in my life that is stealing my vision?”

I return to work next week. I also return to being a youth leader, a mom with kids in activities, and all that goes with it.  Last year I was so busy and often overwhelmed that I didn’t even, couldn’t even, think of writing. I also didn’t have much time to take care of myself. I cannot have another year at that pace.

The thing is- I don’t feel like I spent time doing wasteful things. I am not a tv or Netflix person, and this blog is my only form of social media. Those are the two most common time wasters. I am lucky if I can get through a chapter of a book without falling asleep at night. When I looked at my schedule it seemed as though everything I spent my time on was good and/or necessary. I didn’t know what I could cut out.

As my last days of summer go by I am seeking God for wisdom and direction. I cannot afford to have any smoke stealing my vision for God. Neither can you. I encourage you to ask God the same question. The stars and the moon that are waiting behind the smoke are worth a million times more than anything the smoke can offer!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for who you are. Thank you for loving me. Thank you caring about the intimate details of my life. Thank you knowing what is best for me. I ask you to show me anything in my life that is taking me away from the call you have on my life. I want nothing more than to have you be the center of my vision. Speak to my heart and show me what changes I need to make in order to live my life to the full measure you have created me to live. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Smoke Free Life To You All,

Jen

 

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