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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The Dangers of Loneliness

Webter’s defines loneliness as being without company, or sadness from being alone.  Though that may be accurate, there is a loneliness that hurts more than the loneliness we can experience when we are alone. It is the loneliness we can feel when we are in the midst of many.

I have no problem being alone. I am pretty independent and can entertain myself for hours :). But to be surrounded by a group of people and feel no connection is the loneliest feeling for me. It it almost like a physical pain for me. The only way for me to alleviate the loneliness is to get away by myself and be truly alone.

Have you ever experienced that kind of loneliness? When I experience it I often assume there is something wrong with me.  As a look around the group they all seem to be connecting and enjoying themselves. I am the odd woman out. If the majority is connecting than the issue must be with me. So now in addition to the loneliness, in comes it’s evil brother isolation.

I was suffering from loneliness yesterday. Yes, suffering. Connecting to others is one of the things that makes me tick. I can only engage in so much small talk and surface conversation. After awhile I disconnect. My soul needs heartfelt, truth seeking conversation in order to flourish. I do not have that here, and it’s a struggle.

I have spent a lot of time alone on this trip. Last night I asked the Lord why I was feeling so lonely and emotional. I mean come on- am I seriously going to spend each day of vacation experiencing a painful emotion just so I can blog about it?!

I got the sense God was allowing me to feel this way to teach me a couple of things. First of all, though loneliness is painful, it is sometimes necessary. Being like everyone else is not the way of those that truly follow Christ. In fact, when you live as Christ has called us to live, we will often find ourselves as outcasts; alone, and sometimes isolated. He also assured me there is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with the others either. They simply don’t crave the deep connections that I do.

He also reminded me that I have many amazing people in my life that He has connected me to. I reached out to a couple of them in my distress. Having them share my pain and assure me they understood got me through the worst of it.

The most important thing God is teaching me about loneliness is that even when I feel lonely, I am never alone. He is always with me. Though I was in emotional distress last night I could sense He was with me and that He would not allow me to spiral downhill- as long as I remain tethered to Him.

If you find yourself in a state of loneliness, please fill out a prayer request. I would love to pray for you. Or pretty much just text me. I think it’s only my dear friends and family reading this. You all have my number 🙂

You are not alone. God promises us in Hebrews 13:5 “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” Though you may feel alone, if you sit still and quiet yourself before the Lord, He will make himself known to you. If being lonely every once in awhile is what is takes to remind me to sit in His presence, I assure you, it is worth it!

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess I often find myself feeling lonely. I know you promise to never leave me or forsake me but sometimes you feel so far away. Please bless me with your presence. Let me experience your love in an intimate way. Thank you for setting me apart for better things. Thank you for giving me the desire to live in connection with my brothers and sisters in Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Reminder that You Are Never Alone,

Jen

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The Dangers of Jealousy

I went out on the deck with my morning coffee to enjoy the quiet stillness of the lake before the weekend recreation boats came out. As I looked out on the lake I saw off in the distance a man on his paddle board. Once again the thoughts began.

“His form is horrible. Does he even know what he is doing? I wonder if he even realizes he is going with the wind and he is going to have a heck of a time paddling back. In fact, I can’t wait to see him try to fight his way back.”

Woah! Put on the brakes Jen! Is this seriously how you are going to start your day? Two sips into my morning coffee and I was already having negative, critical thoughts. Where are these coming from anyway?

Jealousy. They stemmed from jealousy. The initial thought that didn’t even register at the time was “Oh man- I sure wish I had my paddleboard”. Instead of acknowledging that feeling, my mind went into overdrive with jealous thoughts.

Jealousy is dangerous. Even more dangerous than offense. It says in Psalm 27:4 Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.

Jealousy is at the root of many problems in our relationships, our self- acceptance, and our lives in general. I was quick to recognize what was happening this morning and was able to laugh at what a ridiculous baby I was being, but many times jealousy goes unnoticed. We find ourselves having a variety of responses and reactions to someone or something and do not even realize that the source of it is jealousy.

Some of the dangers of jealousy are:

It releases our critical spirit.

It causes us to gossip.

It causes us to become judgmental.

It causes strife and division.

It causes us to become bitter and ungrateful.

It robs us of our peace and steals our joy.

Think I am being dramatic? Read what is says in James 3:14-16 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

Earthly, unspiritual, and DEMONIC? Where you find jealousy, you will also find an evil spirit at work. It’s goal is to cause harm and distress. Think about it. Have you ever felt at peace and grateful while harboring jealous thoughts? Of course not. They are not compatible. Jealousy undermines all of the good in our lives.

So what do we do when we find ourselves struggling with jealousy? We pray of course, and tell God we no longer want to be jealous and ask Him to help up remove this burden. There are also some activities we can do to help overcome jealousy. Here are a few:

Get to know the person you are jealous of. You may find you really like them. I have a friend that has an amazing body. I tease her all the time saying that God brought her into my life to challenge my love walk. My love of her and of our friendship outweighs the fact that often times my first thought when I see her is “I wish I had her body.” What could’ve kept me from being her friend is now a source of laughter.

Write a list of everything you are grateful for. Putting your focus on your blessings and what you do not have will take the focus off the things you don’t. If you cannot come up with anything on your list, perhaps you are in need of a missions trip (I say that with love).

Take action. If the thing you are jealous of is something you have control over, do something about it. If you are jealous of athletic ability, start exercising. If you are jealous of someone’s cooking, take a cooking class. If you are jealous of someone’s marriage, start pouring into your own. The people that have a talent you want did not develop it overnight. They had to work at it also.

Remember who you are! You are a child of the Most High God! Nothing and no one can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:38). What you have or do not have is not what makes you who you are. What makes you who you are is what God says about you. He says you are perfect and blameless!  You are loved! You are His masterpiece! You are the apple of His eye! When you remember who you are in christ, you will find it easier to forget who you are not, or what you don’t have.

Jealousy is dangerous. If left unchecked it will rob you of your joy for today and your hope for tomorrow. Most dangerous of all is that it will derail you from the call on your life. Remember, at the root of jealousy is a demon evil, harm, and ruin. Do not let the enemy snare you with jealousy!

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess I harbor jealousy in my heart. I do not want it there any longer. I ask you to deliver me from this jealousy. Show me what I can do to rid myself of it. Heal my heart. Heal my hurts. Bring me back to the path you have for my life. Thank you for loving me even in the midst of my jealousy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and A Jealousy Free Life To You All,

Jen

 

 

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The Dangers of Offense

I had the opportunity to get offended today. Unfortunately I took advantage of the opportunity. Someone said something to me that both offended me and hurt my feelings. I tried to defend myself once but only received a sarcastic remark complete with an “exit stage left” move that had me sitting there fuming.

Thoughts immediately flooded my mind. Most of them snarky. Thoughts like “Passive aggressive much?” and “I am sorry you are miserable, but I have a life.” I also thought of remarks I could say later. Two can play the passive aggressive word game…

These vengeful thoughts made me feel sick and sad. I did not want my day to go like this. I was just minding my own business (listening to an online prayer service no less) when this interaction went down. I also know that the person that offended me truly cares for me. The comment that was made to me came from their issues, not anything I was doing. Trying to talk myself down I did the one thing I knew to do. I prayed for them.

I prayed that they would have a good day. I prayed that whatever was bothering them would be fixed. I prayed that they would be able to rest and have peace. I prayed every good thing I could think of. As soon as I finished I returned to feeling ticked off. I couldn’t shake it.

It says in Colossians 3:13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

But what do you do when that forgiveness doesn’t come easily? What do you do when you have tried to shake it off and you still feel hurt and offended? I did the only thing I knew to do. I got into the kayak and started to paddle.

I prayed and asked God why I was having such a hard time getting over such a trivial little offense. In my mind I knew it was ridiculous but I couldn’t seem to shake it. The answer I received was more of a lesson than a reason. In fact, I would argue that the Lord allowed me to sit in my offense long enough to see the dangers it brings.

Offense brings out the worst in us.

It brings out our pride, “Well, I will show them!”

It brings out our self righteousness, “They are not living for God.”

It brings out our judgmental nature, “Look at how they are wasting their life.”

It brings out vengefulness, “Oh just wait, I will get even.”

It brings out our insecurity, “Oh they have hurt me so bad.”

Are you convinced of the dangers taking offense causes? I have one more for you. Offense robs us of our joy. That was the big one for me. I had been having the perfect day up until the incident. Within two sentences my joy was gone. Gone!

As soon as I realized the power I had given a ten second conversation, that I would give up my joy that quickly, something in me surrendered. I truly let go of the offense. I also had the feeling that God taught me this lesson because I am going to have more opportunity in the future to take offense. I need to learn the dangers of it now or it could have the potential to derail me and my dreams.

Forgiveness truly is the antidote to offense. Do you know what true forgiveness does?

It increases your compassion.

It takes away the sick feeling in your gut and heart.

It frees you from the need to retaliate.

It allows you to move on to the good things god has planned for you.

It allows you to sit on the dock later and laugh and talk and enjoy time as a family.

It restores your joy.

If you are dealing with offense in your life that you cannot let go of, I encourage you to spend some quiet time with the Lord. Ask Him to show you why you are having trouble letting go. Ask Him to show you a glimpse of what is happening in the offenders life. Ask him if there is anything within you that you need to make amends with. Ask Him to show you your insecurities and to heal them. Just talk to Him like you would a friend and sit still and listen. He will speak to your heart. He will set you free!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all the times you have forgiven me. Thank you for all of the blessings you have poured out on my life. I do not want to offend anyone or hold on to offense. Please take these hurts and offenses from me. Show me if there is anything I need to do in order to let go. Thank you for being with me through every hurt and offense. Thank you for loving me even as I struggle to do what is right. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and an Offense Free Day To You All,

Jen

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The God of Second (and many more) Chances

Today we put the boat in at Pend Oreille River and rode seventeen miles into Pend Oreille Lake. You may remember last year when we did the same thing. You may remember it because the day inspired the blog The Rescue because we ran out of gas and were stranded on the river…

I was so excited to go this morning. The words Second Chance kept going through my head. I was happy that we got a second chance to do this trip again. A second chance to end the trip on a high note rather than a frustrating rescue. A second chance to learn from our previous mistake. A second chance at a perfect day on the water with my family.

Throughout the day I thought about how God really is the God of second (and many more) chances. I thought about all of the second (and many more) chances I have personally had in my life. Even when I was the one to blow it, He has never said “Enough- no more chances!”

It says in Lamentations 3:22-23 The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

If you are feeling like your life is a mess that is beyond repair, let me assure you it’s not. God has not and will not give up on you, your children, your spouse, your career, or anything that is important to you. He is always there ready and willing to give you and your situation a second (and many more) chance. His mercies never cease!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being a God of second chances. Thank you for all of the second chances you have given me in my life. Thank you for your daily fresh and tender mercies. Help me to receive them and trust in your faithfulness for all of my needs. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and A Second Chance For Us All,

Jen

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She’s Living My Life!

I am currently on our annual family vacation to Washington. We are here for twelve days and the forecast is high 90’s every day without a single cloud. I am so thankful we are right on the lake!

We flew this year so I could not bring my paddle board. I was bummed but there is still plenty to do here so I wasn’t too concerned about it. We arrived Tuesday around noon and the first thing I noticed was that the entire lake was pure glass. It is never like that during the day! Usually you need to go out first thing in the morning or wait until after dinner to get water like that, and even then there are usually still ripples in places.

I just stood there on the dock staring at the water. It felt like it was taunting me. How dare it be so calm midday when my paddle board is two thousand miles away? It is never like this in Minnesota either. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity (in my dramatic mind anyway). It remained smooth as glass all day and night. I couldn’t believe it.

I was so thankful on Wednesday to see that the lake was it’s normal rippling self. No more taunting and teasing. Tuesday had simply been a fluke. Or so I thought.

I woke up today and once again the lake was pure glass. It really is something. It is so calm and serene and looks like a postcard. I don’t know why I find it so fascinating but I do. I had come to terms with the fact that I did not have my board and rather than lamenting anymore (probably because no one seemed to feel sorry for me )I sat on the deck marveling at the view in awe. I was content in the moment, appreciating that I had nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Then I saw her. Off in the distance there was a paddle boarder. “How dare she” I said to my daughter who just rolled her eyes at my ridiculousness. I just stared at her out on her board. “Not fair!” I thought. “She is living my life! That is what I should be doing right now!” I was so jealous.

I have felt that “No fair! She is living my life” feeling many times before. Every time I see a woman my age publishing a book, writing a Bible study, or speaking at women’s groups I have that feeling. I will read a book or a devotional and think “I could have written that” (it is not said in disrespect- it is just that often I read something and it sounds like the person literally spent time in my head or read all of my journals) and then I go on to wonder why I hadn’t.

Do I lack faith? Discipline? Did I give up too soon? Did I make this whole dream up in my head? Did I miss the boat? Am I just some egomaniac that craves the stage? Is my writing just for me?

These thoughts used to drag me down into a depressive pit. I would wallow in self pity and jealousy. It has taken me a long time to simply rejoice in another woman’s ability to encourage us women. Thank God for them! I have benefitted from these women and they have carried me through a lot of difficult times. I have come to a place where I know that if it is God’s will for me to write for more than my own benefit it will happen- as long as I don’t crawl back into the tent :).

And what if my writing is just for me? Is that so bad? What if God has given me a creative way of drawing close to Him and seeing Him in everyday life. I think that is pretty sweet. Don’t misunderstand me though- I would love nothing more than to share his sweetness with others :).

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. Galatians 6:9

Love, Grace, and A Right Time For Us All,

Jen

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Big Girl Slide

Yesterday I went to the park with my friend and her two boys. Gibson, who is not quite two and a half was excited to show me how he could go down the big boy slide. When we got to the park I pointed to the slide and said “This slide?”. Gibson nodded his head and said “This slide!” I was surprised, as the slide seemed pretty big and just a month ago I had to coax, beg, and plead for him to go down a slide half it’s size. He had obviously grown into his new role as big brother in the last month.

I watched him climb up the ladder, his mom following him to make sure he did not fall backwards. He was all smiles as he climbed up. Once he got to the top his mom walked to the bottom of the slide to catch him as he came down. “Wave hi to Auntie Jen”, his mom said. He turned to wave at me and suddenly his face changed. He went from excitement and smiles to apprehension. He looked down towards the ground on the left side of the slide, and then to the right. He suddenly realized he was up high, and he was all alone. He sat there still as can be taking it all in, not sure what to do.

His mom was at the bottom encouraging him to come down, assuring him she would catch him. He kept asking her to come closer until finally she was standing with her arm reached as high as she could so he could touch her hand. Once Gibson was assured he was not on his own he went down the slide.

As Gibson sat at the top of the slide looking to the left and to the right, I got an image of what Peter must have done when he got out of the boat to walk on the water towards Jesus. He took his first step out of the boat with confidence and excitement. Then the sound of the waves caused him to look around and he realized that at that very moment he was on his on his own. Even though he could see Jesus, he wasn’t sure he could do it and panicked. As he started to sink and cried out to Jesus, Jesus grabbed him by the hand and pulled him safely onto the boat.

At a recent writer’s conference Susie Larsen said something to the effect of “When God first puts a dream in your heart you want to run after it with everything you’ve got. You keep telling God you are ready for it, but He assures you that you are not. Then suddenly one day God tells you it’s time. You are ready, at which point you panic and assure God you are not.”

I think about that statement a lot. For years I tried to tell God that I was ready for whatever He had planned for me. I was ready to live life big. Lately however, I see myself panicking a little at the thought of my dreams actually coming true. It was all fun daydreams before. What if it suddenly gets real? What would I do? Would I sit at the top of my big girl slide turning my head from the left to the right looking down? Would I suddenly realize that if I were to fall flat on my face it would hurt- bad? Would I trust that God was there to catch me at the bottom?

It says in Psalm 139:5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Just as Lia walked up the slide behind Gibson, and then immediately went to the front to catch him at the bottom, God also climbs with us in the high places, and will catch us in the low places. He even holds your hand on the way down. That verse came to life for me yesterday as I watched the interaction between mother and son. She was all around him, assuring him of his safety and being ready to help him in any way.

What about you? What will you do when you get to the top of your big girl slide? What will you do when God assures you that you have what it takes to make it on your own? Will you trust that He is there, cheering you on and ready to catch you? I know one thing- it’s a lot easier to slide down the big girl slide than it is to try to climb back down the ladder…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for going before me and following me. Thank you that you are with me every step of my journey. Help me to be aware of your presence at all times. Give me the faith to climb and to enjoy every good thing you place before me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Big Girl Slide For Us All,

Jen

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Liar Liar

Yesterday I shared with you all the thought battle I was struggling with. We all have days like what I was dealing with yesterday. Though the specific thoughts vary, the intensity and stress caused by them are the same. I briefly mentioned a couple of the methods, or weapons, I use to fight negative thoughts. If you need help in this area there are many Christian books written on the power of overcoming negative thoughts. Two of them I personally recommend are Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer and Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick.

What’s funny is that today I didn’t feel like I had one negative thought. I am sure I did, but for whatever reason they didn’t seem to “stick”. Here are some fascinating statistics on thoughts. We have around 50,000-70,000 thoughts in a day. That is roughly 35 to 48 per minute. Of those 50,0000 thoughts 98% of them are the same thoughts we had the previous day. That is a lot of stimulus and a lot of noise to process. We have so many thoughts that we don’t even realize we are having them. I believe that is part of why the negative thoughts can creep in unchecked and go unnoticed until they suddenly cause havoc on us.

Here is the most alarming statistic: of those 50,000-70,000 thoughts we have per day, 80% of them are negative! It’s a wonder we even make it out of bed in the morning! Recognizing this natural tendency will hopefully inspire you to pay attention to your thoughts and deal with the negative ones.

Negative thoughts stem from a variety of emotions. They show up as fear, worry, anxiety, and depression. The try to tell you who you are (or are not), what you can and can’t be, and what you can and can’t do. They constantly remind you of your weaknesses why those weaknesses will never let you be anything more than you are right now at this moment. They are debilitating and will prevent you from running your race if you listen to them.

Where do these thoughts come from? They come from a variety of sources. They come from adults in our lives that spoke limitations over us. They come from bad teachers, bullies, family members. They are simple words that stick and then replay over and over again and follow us in adulthood. They come from all of the forms of media that give us a million and one reasons all day long as to why we are not good enough and what we are in need of. They come from our own insecurities as we look around and compare ourselves to everyone else.

They also come from the enemy of our faith. He is a thief and a liar. It says in John 8:44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.

When you look at all of the strategies of the devil they really boil down to just one strategy. He lies. He perverts the truth and tries to fill us with doubt. He tries to steer us away from what is important by tempting us with things that will take us away from God’s best for us. He promises us these distractions and temptations will bring rewards, relief from pain, or success. He tries to get us to believe that God is disappointed in us, mad at us, or simply done with us. He tells us we are not good enough and that grace has limits. Unfortunately, many of us listen and fail to see these negative thoughts for what they are: lies. From the father of lies. Intended for no other reason than to take us away from God.

The next time you catch yourself entertaining negative thoughts I want you to picture your worst enemy telling them to you. Picture that middle school meanie you grew up with. Picture her telling you that lie to your face right now. Picture her standing there in her braces, bad haircut and blue mascara. Maybe then you will realize it is time to let that lie go. Laugh at it and dismiss it. Just like you would if the middle school meanie that taunted you years ago was to show up on your doorstep today.

It says in 1 Peter 5:8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour>. His roar are the negative thoughts he puts into your mind. If left unchecked he will devour you and your dreams. Don’t let him. Instead answer him with a simple “Liar, Liar” and get back to being your awesome self!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your unfailing love. Thank you for speaking to my heart in a tender and loving voice. Help me to catch the lies in my head. Thank you for protecting me from roar of the enemy. Thank you for your promise of unfailing, never ending love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Day of Truth For Us All,

Jen

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Thought Control

This morning I went out for a quick walk/run to start my day. I didn’t really feel like it at the time but I knew that if I didn’t get a little exercise first thing it wouldn’t happen at all today. Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal to skip my workout, but considering I ate a life size bag of kettle corn and lobster tacos from a food truck last night, I knew I needed a little jump start this morning.

I headed out on the road. I really was not feeling it. In addition to feeling gross from the junk I ate, I also didn’t sleep much last night. The trifecta of doom was the fact that I forgot to buy coffee yesterday so I didn’t have my morning cup of life to get me going.

I half heartedly ran and walked my little path, all the while trying to put into practice some of the positive psychology activities I had learned last week. I had to fight an onslaught of negative thoughts this morning. Things like “How many times are you going to overeat junk that you know is not good for you? How do you expect to ever make any progress when you keep sabotaging yourself? Looks like you are going to return to work in the same or even worse shape you left in last spring. Maybe you wouldn’t feel so crummy right now if you were not addicted to your morning coffee. When are you going to take care of yourself? How do you expect to do all the things you need to do when you are stuck in this stupid cycle?”

Brutal huh? I am embarrassed to write these things but I am going to anyway. I need to call them out publicly because when I do I see how ridiculous and cruel they are. I would never in a million years say things like that to another person, not even my worst enemy. Yet, how many times do I find myself ripping myself to shreds over the simplest things? It is exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

So what are we supposed to do when we find ourselves under attack by our thoughts? We have to separate the truth from the lies. We have to replace the story we have created with the simple facts. We need to reframe things. Here is the truth: I made poor food choices last night. I did not sleep well because I got to bed too late and was overstimulated. I am addicted to my morning cup of coffee. That is it. Those are the simple facts. Nothing life shattering.

The danger comes when we turn the simple facts into long term absolutes for our lives. Instead of observing the fact we use it to revisit all of the mistakes we have made in our past. We use them to hate ourselves in the moment. We use them to paint a hopeless picture of our future. Seriously, a giant bag of kettle corn and some lobster tacos has disqualified me from reaching my dreams and goals? I don’t think so…

It says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 I keep every thought under control in order to make it obey Christ. In other words, when I have a thought, if it conflicts with what God says about me in His Word, I need to get rid of the thought. There are many ways to do this. Sometimes I simply dismiss the thought. Sometimes I chose to combat it with an actual scripture that reveals the lie. Some days when I am having a more difficult time overcoming the lies I have to distract myself.

How about you? What do you do when the onslaught of negative thoughts comes? If you are willing to share I would love to post them. It can be a technique or a favorite Bible verse. Please share whatever you have found to work in the task of controlling your thoughts so they do not end up controlling you.

Tomorrow we will take a look at where all of these ridiculous thoughts (mostly lies) comes from. Once you understand this spiritual truth I believe you will be quicker to fight against them.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for your word that promises there is nothing we can do that would ever separate us from your love. Thank you for not requiring perfection from me. Search my heart and mind and bring to my attention any negative thoughts that I am holding about myself. Show me how to eliminate them and how to see myself as you see me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Self Compassion To You All,

Jen

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Presenting God

I received a great question in response to my last blog titled On Purpose The question was “How do you present this to the class without talking about God.” I had been given the assignment to present and facilitate a group discussion on the importance of having meaning in life.

It is a question I find myself answering a lot in my work life. How do I stay true to my faith and my beliefs in a professional setting? I work for the school district and my beliefs and personal opinions often go against the majority. It is not always easy to know how to respond in certain situations.

People at work know how important my faith is to me. They know I love the Lord and that I am active in my church. I am not quiet about that. What I am quiet about is every little detail I disagree with. I do not compromise my beliefs but I also do not preach them to others unless someone seems interested in hearing them. I have shared my personal testimony with atheists and those that say they are simply “spiritual”.

Can I preach the gospel to anyone at anytime at work? No- but I can present it daily by the way I conduct myself. It says in Ephesians 5:1-2 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.I can present the Good News by being kind, compassionate, and positive. I am generally very high energy at work. I often get asked the question “Why are you so happy all the time?”. When they ask that question I feel as though I have permission to share my faith. They may not believe it yet for themselves but I know they are watching me and wondering if there is something to this story I have shared with them.

I can present the gospel in the information I distribute. As science continues to prove the Bible as true when it comes to well-being, I can give them biblical principles hidden in science. I like to throw a little paraphrased scripture in there as well. It makes me smile to think they are getting the Word without knowing. It also makes the other Christians at work smile to see we do have a voice and a platform.

So how did I present the importance of having meaning in life on Thursday? I stuck to the science of it. I presented the information we had been taught in the days prior. Then, for my personal example I shared a story of how God carried me and my family through a very difficult time and that now when life gets difficult I know deep down it will be okay because God has already proved himself faithful to me in the past. I had presented the scientific truth followed by the real Truth. They couldn’t argue that, even if they didn’t believe it for themselves.

It is not always easy leading a life of love, and please do not think for a second that I am perfect or have it all figured out. There are many days I blow it. Thank God for his grace on those days! However, the more we show the same kindness, forgiveness, and grace that has been so generously given to us, the more we are presenting God to the world. The thought of that is one way to make the drive to work a little better each day :).

Dear Heavenly Father, I ask you to give me boldness in sharing my faith. Bring people into my life that need to hear the Good News. Show me how to present you daily to those in my life. Thank you for your gifts of grace, forgiveness, and compassion. Help me to extend them to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and an Opportunity to Present God,

Jen

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