Our Purpose

Today was the last full day of my Positive Psychology class. Over the last day and a half each of us had to present a portion of the materials we had just learned on Monday and Tuesday. It has been intense and a little overwhelming at times.

I was initially assigned section four for my presentation. The topic was Optimism. “Sweet!” I thought, as this is an area that I feel I know something about. I think part of me is genetically wired towards optimism and I believe others would generally say I am an optimistic person. It also meant I was going to go first this morning and then the rest of the day I could just sit back and listen to the others. I was feeling pretty good about my assignment.

On my way out of class one of the girls asked me if she could switch topics with me. She had to leave early today because her family is leaving tonight for London. There wasn’t anyone else left in the room so I pretty much had to say yes or I would look like a jerk. I know I would have said yes regardless because I generally like to help others. Being how sweet she is, it was easy to want to help her (helping the not so sweet people is a subject for another day and time).

She told me she had section eight but I didn’t think to ask her what the topic was. Later that night as I sat down to prepare I turned to section eight. The topic was on meaning. Specifically how having a clear sense of meaning in life leads to overall well-being as well as physical health benefits. It includes questions like “Does my life make sense?” “What is my purpose?”, and “Does my life matter- is it significant?”. “You have got to be kidding me” I thought.

Those of you that know me well are most likely laughing right now. You are laughing because you know those questions are my kryptonite. They are the questions I struggle with off and on year after year. Now let me start my saying I do know that my life matters and that it is significant. I do know God has a plan for me. I do know I have purpose. I also know to some degree that my life makes sense.

That being said, I often struggle with the idea that my life isn’t significant enough. That I have a purpose, but I am not necessarily living out that purpose. I also often find myself in my mangers office lamenting over whether or not what I do at work matters.

I can’t tell you where these struggles come from. Part of it I believe is because I am simply so grateful for my life that I want to make sure I live it well. I struggle with the years I wasted or the opportunities I walked away from. Again, I know that the wasted time, and the skipped opportunities were no surprise to God. I even know that it all fits together somehow in the end. I have to remind myself of those truths often though or I begin to spiral quickly.

I am pretty sure most of you reading this have at some point given me the “Your life matters” pep talk. Thank you for being the voice of reason when I start to question my life and my decisions. I would like to believe I will come to a place in spiritual maturity that I will no longer need the pep talks (see- I am natural optimist 🙂 but until that day comes (in heaven most likely) I am thankful for you all.

I am also thankful for God’s Word. When I question my purpose I like to turn to Ephesians 1:13-14 And now you Gentiles have heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

There is a common purpose that we all share. That purpose is to praise and glorify God. During those dark times of doubt when I question the meaning, purpose, and significance of my life, there is one thing I can do that I know pleases the Lord. I can praise Him. I can worship Him. I can glorify Him. It may sound trivial, but let me assure you it is not. It is truly one of the most important thing we can do with our lives. It may even be the most important thing.

Sure, the plans, achievements, and good things we do with our lives are important. I am not saying we don’t have work to do. However, no amount of “good things” matter if they are not done for the glory of God and if we do not have a heart of worship and praise towards him. If God had to chose, I believe He would want our praise more than a good work done without the intent of glorifying Him.

On those days when I feel stuck in a rut or question my purpose I now spend extra time praising God through music and prayer. Amazingly enough, when I am done, the sense of meaning in my life is often restored as I have a new perspective. No longer do I focus on how small my life seems. Instead I am aware on just how big my God is. Without that revelation everything is pretty much meaningless.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for who you are. Thank you for creating me for a purpose and having a plan for my life. I praise you for who you are and thank you for the privilege of being able to come boldly before the throne of grace to praise you and worship you. Help me to see how big you are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grave, and A Purpose for Us All,

Jen

Continue Reading

The Science of Faith

I am currently at Carleton College for a week long intense training for work. I am attending a course that is scientifically based in Positive Psychology. Positive psychology has been around for a couple of decades but has been gaining tracking over the last few years. Think of it as preventative treatment for our emotional and mental well-being similar to preventative care we practice for our physical health.

I find the subject fascinating. Partly because my undergraduate degree is in psychology and it is fun to be back in a learning environment using my degree. Even more exciting to me is the fact that science is catching up to, or I suppose you could say supporting and confirming, what the Bible says.

For example, research has determined that their are 24 character strengths. Some of these strengths are creativity, bravery, perseverance, love, fairness, teamwork,humility, etc. We all have these strengths, but we do not all have them in equal amounts. There are tests we can take that rank our strengths in order from our strongest to our weakest.

Here’s the part that I get excited about. According to research there are five strengths that are directly related to satisfaction with life. They are love, hope, curiosity, zest, and gratitude! When they said this I thought “Duh- Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:13 Three things will last forever-faith, hope, and love- and the greatest of these is love.” Science got two out of the three right!

Science still has a ways to catch up with God’s Word. It doesn’t quite understand that the highest satisfaction in life comes when we fully understand just how much God loves us. It is not about how well we love others (though that does improve our well being). It is not about being “in-love” (though that is definitely a wonderful feeling and emotion). It is not about self-love (though it is difficult to be in a loving relationship if you do not love yourself first).

All of the ways we get to love and be loved pale in comparison to the love God has for us. The more we understand just how much He loves us, the more able we are to give and receive love to ourselves and to others. It is the foundation of love, it will bring us satisfaction in life, and it truly is the greatest.

I know I usually end with a prayer but no one has a better prayer for this moment than Paul. It is from Ephesians 3:18-19.

I pray to the Father that you may have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life (satisfaction) and power that comes from God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Scientific Faith,

Jen

Continue Reading

Don’t Quit!

I am currently reading a novel titled Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. It is the story of a young African couple that worked very hard to come to America to live the American Dream. The husband moved to America first and worked for two years just to save enough money to bring his wife and son to America. Though it is a novel, I believe it is very common for many immigrants seeking to move to America to live their dream.

This young couple is working so hard to make it in New York. They both work multiple jobs and the wife is also going to school in hopes of becoming a pharmacist. Though life is tough for them, their excitement of what lies ahead for them keeps them moving forward.

Then a series of obstacles arise. One thing after another goes wrong and despite their best efforts they find themselves moving backwards rather than forwards. It is a very difficult time for them. Then suddenly one day the husband announces that they are moving back to their homeland. When I read this I had the same reaction as the wife in the story- NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I was shocked by the turn of events and I was also shocked by my reaction to it. I was so upset. I felt so sad for him. I especially felt sad for the wife who did not want to give up and go home. With each chapter I remained hopeful that something would happen to change things around. I have 24 pages left in the book, and as far as I can see, they will be leaving America as well as their dreams behind.

There is something so sad about watching someone give up on their dreams. You see them suffer through hard times and you so desperately want them to come out on the other side of it. Often times life gets the best of people and you watch them slowly fade away from the vibrant excited person they once were to a smaller sadder version of themselves. You can’t help but share in their grief, despair, and brokenness.

Even though I was reading about fictional characters I kept finding myself trying to give them a pep talk. I didn’t want them to quit. I wanted them to hang in there a little longer. I wanted to tell them to simply play it through until the end was the end and not to quit until they were forced to. And even though with just 24 pages to go I do not see them turning things around, I will hold on that hope until I get to the end.

Can you think of someone in need of a dream pep talk? Is there someone that has been tossed around by life and they are now a smaller sadder version of who you know they truly are? It says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Now encourage each other and build each other up. The best part of encouraging someone else in there dreams is that you get to share in their joy when they achieve them rather than share in their sadness when they give up. I have been on both sides and I pick sharing dreams every time!

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for putting dreams in my heart. Thank you for putting people in my life to both share in my sorrows and to encourage me in my dreams. Use me to be a light and a blessing in someones life. Show me those that need encouragement. Thank you for your faithfulness and for your promises. Give me increased faith to believe what you have planned for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Tenacious Dreams,

Jen

Continue Reading

Stuck in The Tent

Last week we talked about a couple of the reasons we experience delays in the fulfillment of our dreams. For those of you that have a memory like mine (can remember what I wore to the first day of kindergarten but can’t remember what I ate for dinner tonight) I will briefly review them.

The two reasons we looked at were both delays put in place by God. The first was for our own protection as he prepares us for the battles we will encounter on the road to our dreams. We read how God took the Israelites the long way out of Egypt because if they went the short way they would right away have to go up against the Philistines. God knew the Israelites would most likely run back to Egypt in the face of battle so He took them the longer way. They still had to face battles along the way but God had time to work with them and in them to prepare them.

The other delay we looked at was for practical reasons such as not having everything in place that needs to be in place for us to manage our dream once we get there. We saw this in the plan God had for the Israelites to conquer their enemies and take their land. He told them He would have them do it little by little because if they conquered all of their enemies at once the wild animals would multiple quicker than the Israelites and over take them. God had them take the land piece by piece as they grew in numbers and could fill the land.

When we read the account of the Israelites exodus it is easy to think “I can’t believe they grumbled, complained, and disobeyed as much as they did. God was totally taking care of them and had their best interest at heart.” It is easy for us to see the whole picture because it is recorded with the details and reasoning God had. It’s one thing to read an account and quite another to live it don’t you think?

These two delays were not the only delays the Israelites encountered on their way to the Promised Land. They had many perceived setbacks. As time went on they became increasingly disgruntled, disobedient, and eventually lost their faith. It says in Psalm 106:24-25 The people refused to enter the pleasant land for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them. Instead they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the LORD.”

Those verses always make me feel so sad. After all they had been through together with God. After all of the miracles they had witnessed regarding Gods protection and provision, they still got to a place where they no longer believed God would bring them to the Promised Land. They literally sat in their tents refusing to move any further.

I myself became a tent dweller last year. After years of taking one step forward and two steps back in my writing I gave up. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to talk about it. I tried to tell myself that my days of writing and speaking were behind me, that they were just for a season and that season was over. I tried to find peace and satisfaction in my job, but I couldn’t. I enjoy my job, but I am not doing what makes me tick. What makes me tick is writing, speaking, and encouraging women to live life big. That’s hard to do when you find yourself living yours so small.

The more I tried to run from it, the more my discontentment grew. I complained a lot. I grumbled a lot. I found fault in others more. I tried not to do or be these things but the harder I tried, the more frustrated I got. I knew what my problem was but I didn’t have a solution. I knew I had lost faith in the dreams I once had. What I didn’t know was how to either get rid of the dreams, or restore my faith in them. Having nowhere to go, I stayed in the tent.

It’s not easy getting out of the tent. As miserable as I was in the tent, I was afraid to get out. I didn’t want to “get my hopes up” anymore. I just wanted to be content with where I was at. I finally realized that was never going to happen. I am not meant to live in a tent. Neither are you. We are created to walk by faith one step at a time in the direction we believe the Lord is calling us to. The rest is up to Him.

Are you sitting in your own tent of unbelief? How about you come out for a little fresh air with me as we take a step together? I would be happy to pray for you if you want to fill out a prayer request.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for loving me even on the days I refuse to get out of the tent. Please help me get out of the tent and take a step of faith. Thank you for restoring my faith. Thank you for the plans you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and No More Tents,

Jen

Continue Reading

Shirley

I will never forget the day I volunteered in my daughter’s kindergarten class. It was a Friday which was Bible verse recitation day. I sat out in the hallway and one by one the kids would come out and recite the verse of the week. That particular week it was Psalm 23:6.

The kids were so cute and sweet. Some of them recited the entire Psalm, while others could barely whisper a word. Most of the kids fell somewhere in between.

Then there was Christian. Christian was quite a character. I had previous experience with this young man while grading his spelling test. He told me if I didn’t change his grade his dad would not me happy with me (with me, not him) and his dad was a lawyer so I should not make him angry. He said it so convincingly I almost changed his grade. The kid was a stitch.

He sat down and rested is elbow on the table and started tapping his lip with his finger. He said “Mmmmm…..I know this one. It’s about that lady.” I just looked at him confused thinking “this is not about a lady”. He continued looking around trying to think, “It is like an older lady name- oh what is her name.”

I looked back down at the paper where the verse was written and then it dawned on me. I started to laugh as I said “You mean surely?” “YES!” He said all excited “That’s her name. Shirley”. He went on to recite the verse Shirley your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life”.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was talking about the Lord and not an old lady by the name of Shirley. I didn’t want his dad to get mad at me again :).

Christian had a funny and harmless misinterpretation of his Bible verse. However, many adult Christians still misunderstand God’s Word. They have never been taught how to read something in context or how to rightly divide the Bible. The entire Bible is inspired by God and is important to us today as Christians. However, not every word in the Bible is spoken to us as Christians.

In it’s most simplistic explanation the Bible is speaking to three people groups. They are the Jews, the Gentiles (those that are not Jewish or Christian), and the Church. Though it is important for us to know what is said to all the groups, it is even more important that we do not take something that is spoken to one group and apply it to us. The Jews are God’s chosen people. They have a special covenant with God. The church has been adopted into God’s family but our path and future is still different from the Jews.

I do not consider myself qualified to go into much detail regarding this. I simply want you to be aware when you do read the Bible not every Word should be applied to you. The Word of God is meant to draw you closer to Him and develop a personal relationship with Him. If you walk away from your reading time feeling condemned, guilty, and unworthy, and afraid, chances are you have misinterpreted something along the way.

I encourage you to ask someone you trust, or look into a bible study to help you understand what you are reading. Once you understand the Bible you will see it as one long love letter from God to you. You will want to spend time in it as it will leave you feeling loved, forgiven, hopeful, and encouraged.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your written Word. I ask you to give me understanding and revelation when I read your Word. Help me to see your love in every story I read. Guide me to a new study or mentor that will help me grow in my understanding. Place a fresh desire and hunger for your Word in my heart. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Love, Grace, and A Shirley Blessing To You All,

Jen

Continue Reading

When the Excitement Wears Off

Think of a time when you were excited about something new in your life. A new job. A new marriage. A new home. A new baby. Remember the excitement and anticipation you had about this new opportunity and fresh start? It was all you could think about. You daydreamed and painted pictures in your head of what this new adventure would look like. It was such an exciting time.

And then something happened. You started living this exciting chapter in your life, only to discover that it wasn’t that exciting at all. Once the initial excitement passed you realized it was work. Hard work. And it was full of challenges and feelings you did not anticipate such as fear, discouragement, frustration, and pain.

When the reality of our new exciting adventure sets in we lament about the good old days. We wish we could go back. Remember when I didn’t have so much space to clean? Remember when I could sleep through the night? Remember when I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted? The funny thing about our lamenting is often the good old days were not that good! They were simply predictable, known, and therefore comfortable.

We have all been there. We have all experienced getting exactly what we wanted and then when it doesn’t go as we had planned we wonder if we made the right decision.The Promised Land is never what we think it will be. Actually, the journey to the Promised Land is never what we think it will be. However, if we keep moving forward on our journey I believe the Promised Land will be even better than we could ever imagine. The journey itself is what prepares us for that land, and that is why it is so difficult at times.

Take the Israelites for example. When God delivered them out of Egypt they left on a major high note. God had just protected every household. The Egyptians had just been given them all the gold, silver, clothing, and livestock they could handle. God healed each and every one of them so there was not one feeble among them. After being in Egypt for 430 years, two million strong, healthy, and fully provided for people were on the move to the Promised Land- how exciting!

Well that excitement lasted about one chapter. It says in Exodus 12:51 “On that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt like an army”. In Exodus 14:10-13 we read “As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the LORD, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!'”

Guess how long it took them to forget the miracles God had done to bring them out of Egypt? Twenty five days! The time from them leaving Egypt to camping at the Red Sea was about seventeen days (according to what I found online anyway). The day they crossed the Red Sea was around day twenty-five. Less than a month to forget all they had seen and experienced firsthand. Less than a month of being excited about all they were promised. Less than a month and they wanted to go back to a life of slavery!

If you find yourself lamenting about the good old days, stir your faith up by bringing to mind some of the ways the Lord has proven himself faithful in your life. I am sure looking back you will see many ways he has protected you, provided for you, healed you, and delivered you from the many trials of this life. He didn’t bring you this far to turn His back on you now. Go ahead, get excited about your dreams again. Your personal Promised Land will be seen!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the many times you have delivered me from the trails, temptations, and bondages of this life. Thank you for your faithfulness and provision. Thank you for loving me during my times of lamenting. Thank you for stirring up the dreams you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Fresh Excitement For Us All,

Jen

Continue Reading

Practical Delays

We are currently taking a look at some of the reasons it often feels like we are wandering in the wilderness of our personal dreams. Yesterday we saw that God often delays fulfillment for our own protection. There are battles we will have to face on our journey. Battles that we need to be emotionally, and spiritually ready for. Today we will look at another reason our dreams do not come to pass overnight.

For the last two years I have been a volunteer leader in our churches’ youth ministry. I confess it is not what I would call my “sweet spot”. I have always been involved in women’s ministry and switching over to youth has been a big change for me. The blank stares, eye rolls, and texting while I speak is new to me. I think one of the reasons God has me there is to work out any pride or insecurity I have about speaking, as there is nothing like 150 teenagers to bring out every insecurity. Despite not being in my comfort zone I have loved (for the most part) being a part of this group.

I especially love the youth pastor, his amazing wife, and their sweetest two boys. If God put me on the youth team for no other reason than to get to know them, it is worth it! They have passion, excitement, and a heart for God that draws you to them. While fasting last year, the Lord spoke to JD’s heart and gave him a vision of having 250 students by the end of the 2018 school year. At the time we were at about 130. To double a ministry in eighteen months is unheard of. There is no way we could do it on our own. However, when God puts something in your heart it means you will not be doing it on your own. He has already made a way for us. Our job is to continue to walk by faith, spend time in prayer and in his Word, and seek his wisdom. It’s that easy…

Ok so maybe it is not that EASY. Hearing a dream or vision from God (and by vision I do not mean a trance like vision, I simply mean where you know as you know God is speaking to your heart) is very exciting at first. It is exciting to share with others close to you. It is exciting to day dream about. It is exciting to pray about. It is exciting to talk about.

Then slowly the excitement fades. The desire is still there but as time passes on little things start to chip away at the excitement that was there in the beginning. Little things like when people that said they were all in suddenly can’t be found, or people respond to you in such a way that lets you know they think your vision is “nice” but not really believing it. And then the doubt tries to creep in making you wonder if you really heard from God or if you just made it up in your pizza deprived state of fasting. The worst part- waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Until you get the “next step” from the Lord.

It’s really the waiting that is the hardest part. It is during the waiting that all the battles come our way. It is in the waiting that we are tempted with doubt, fatigue, distractions, loneliness, and discouragement. It happens to everyone. I have never heard anyone say “My favorite part about the fulfillment of my dreams or achieving my goals is the waiting. I wish I could wait a little longer.”

Sure, they may say that AFTER they reach their dreams because AFTER you get there you can look back and see how God was with you the whole time and why certain things had to happen the way they did. However, rarely do we get to see or understand them during the wait.

That is why we need to spend time with God in his Word and in prayer. When we spend time in his Word we see that there are reasons for the delays. Some delays are for protection and some delays are for very practical reasons. Take today’s verses for example. They are found in Exodus 23:29-30. God is telling the Israelites how and when to take their Promised Land. “But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply and threaten you. I will drive them out a little at a time until your population has increased enough to take possession of the land”.

God promised to drive out all of their enemies, but He had a specific plan and a purpose to His plan, and they needed to trust that plan. You might think they had it easy because they knew the plan and purpose. However, just nine chapters later the Israelites are worshipping a golden calf because they got sick of waiting for Moses to come down the mountain from his time with God. Waiting isn’t easy for anyone!

I sent those two verses to JD our youth pastor. I thought it was fitting for us as we seek God this summer for His plan to grow our youth group. It is a perfect reminder that if we feel there is a delay to the progress, it is simply because God does not want us leaders to be overtaken by the animals 🙂

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your perfect timing. Thank you for working in ways that I cannot see. I ask you to give me the gift of faith while I wait for you to speak my next step into my heart. Thank you for your protection. Thank you for your wisdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Practical Delay,

Jen

Continue Reading

No Short Cuts

Do you ever find yourself counseling God? I often catch myself telling God the best way to handle a situation in my life. Of course I disguise my wise counsel as “prayer”, but when I stop and listen to myself I realize I am telling God what I need him to do for me, and how he should do it. For example, “Dear Heavenly Father, please help me in my marriage. Please draw Tom nearer to you and speak to him in a way that he hears you. Please help him to see what I need from him and how awesome I am and how lucky he really is to have me as his wife. In Jesus’ name, Amen“.

Don’t even pretend you have never prayed something similar to that at some point in your life. Well maybe not quite that obnoxious, but we have all “counseled” God in the best way to get things done from time to time. It’s especially tempting when we feel like we have been waiting forever for an answer to prayer- especially when we can see the answer so plainly!

Throughout the Old Testament we are introduced to people that experienced the same frustration. The “Hello God- you said this was going to happen yet here I am in the same situation and nothing has changed” frustration. Like our friend Abraham. He believed God when he promised Abraham that he was going to be the father of many nations, and for many years he lived happily expectant of this promise. And then one day he was like “enough of this waiting, I am going to take matters into my own hands” and he took a short cut to Gods plan for his life.

Abraham found out real quick that there are no short cuts to God’s plans for our lives. He found out that our genius ideas not only fail to fulfill the promise, but often delay it, and at minimum cause strife, grief, and even more frustration than the frustration of waiting causes.

God does not delay his promises because he enjoys watching us suffer. As author and speaker Susie Larson so eloquently puts it “He is making me wait because he is making me ready“. We think we can handle the dreams in our hearts but the truth is we do not know the full picture. We do not know what is happening behind the scenes and what the pressures will be when we get there.

It says in Exodus 13:17 When Pharaoh finally let the people go, god did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt”.

We learn two things from this verse. First of all, God is well aware of the quickest route to get there. In other words He does not need our wise counsel. He knows how to read a map. More importantly we learn that one of the reasons we have to take the “long way” is because we are not ready for the battles that we will face on the road to our dreams.

There will be many battles along the way. We have to fight our own fleshly struggles with pride, fear, insecurity, and all that fun stuff. We will also face spiritual battles as the enemy of our faith hates nothing more than a Christian fulfilling the call God has on their life. He will fight us every step of the way. The Good News is we will come through victoriously, but only when we are ready. And only God truly knows what we will face and when we will be ready to face it.

If you feel like you have been put on the sidelines watching opportunity pass you by, do not get discouraged. God is preparing you. He is making a way for you. He is strengthening you in ways you don’t even know you need. Keep your eyes on God and remember that the only One that wants you to fulfill your dreams more than you is God himself!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the promises you have for me. Thank you for protecting and preparing me. Thank you for doing your perfect work in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and the Long and Perfect Way For Us All,

Jen

Continue Reading

Promise Keeper

Last year was a struggle for me. I felt stuck in a rut. I was way too busy and overcommitted yet I didn’t see what I could walk away from. I had little time or energy to do the things I needed to do for my own well-being, which left me miserable. I often found myself withdrawn, agitated, and anxious. I probably grumbled and complained more in the last year than I did during our really tough years.

It’s not that things weren’t going well. In many ways I had a great year. It just wasn’t the way I thought it should be. I struggled to understand how I am in the job that I am in (even though it is a perfect job fit for me). I kept feeling as though I should be doing something different. Something more significant. Something more purposeful. I had bought the lie that if you are not working full time in some sort of ministry capacity you are not really doing anything “important”.

Feeling as though I had been put on Plan B for my life, I lost faith in the dreams that I was once so confident and excited about. Every Monday as I drove to work my doubt and disbelief grew. I tried to make myself happy in my new norm and put all thoughts of writing aside. If anyone ever asked me about my writing I would tell them I was too busy and I was taking the school year off. It’s true, I was too busy, but the bigger truth was I was out of hope more than I was out of time.

By the time summer rolled around I had given up completely. I now had plenty of time, but no desire. I wouldn’t even think about it. That part of my life was off limits to think or talk about. Nobody seemed to understand that I had given up though. My friends continued to give me journals and cards with dream encouragements on them. Instead of saying thank you I said “Didn’t you hear? I have given up on my dreams.” My friend simply smiled and said “I haven’t”. Even my teenage kids picked out dream and faith items for my birthday all on their own. I couldn’t hide from anyone. Especially God.

About a month ago I felt led to study out the word promise in the Bible. Did you know that in the New Living Translation there are 364 scriptures that either have the word promise or are referencing a specific promise?! Do you think it is a coincidence that there is a promise verse for almost every day of the year (God must have figured we could get by on Christmas or Easter without one 🙂 If you could use all 364 promises go to biblegateway.com and search the word promise.

I have barely started on my promise word study and already I am so excited to share some of the treasures I have found. The first three things the Lord showed me all relate to reasons why there are delays in reaching our dreams. I am not going to get into them today but I will tell you this; two of the reasons are for our protection and one of them is our fault. I hope you are curious enough to stay with me over the next few days :).

Today I want you to think about some of the dreams and promises you believe God has placed in your heart. Or even take a look at a few of the 364 scriptures that talk about the promises God has spoken to us. Pick out a couple of those promises that you are in need of and then meditate on what it says in Numbers 23:19 God is not a man that He should lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?Stand on the Word that assures us He is a promise keeper and the written and spoken promises He has over your life will be fulfilled.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your promises. Thank you for your written Word that reveals your heart towards us and gives us hope each day. Open my heart to your promises. Renew my faith and restore my hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and A Promise Kept For Us All,

Jen

Continue Reading

Prisoner of Hope

About eight years ago I taught a two part series at a large women’s group. It was only my third time teaching but afterwards I knew as I knew that I had found one of my main speaking themes. The first part was titled Dare to Dream. In it I encouraged the Girls to look beyond their current situations and circumstances and to start spending time with the Lord each day dreaming about the big plans God had for them and their families. Many of us in the group had multiple kids under the age of five so our idea of a big dream was being able to take an uninterrupted shower and to sleep long enough at night to actually have a dream.

The following week I taught part two, I’ve Got Big Dreams…Now What?”In it I spoke about the things that happen between the time we first identify our dream and the actual fulfillment of the dream. As most of us have experienced, dreams, especially God given dreams, do not happen overnight. There is a process. I have often heard it described in terms of a pregnant woman and the stages she goes through until giving birth to the dream. Similar to pregnancy and delivery, though all woman must go through the same stages, no two stories are alike. I wonder if dreamers like to tell their dream delivery story as much as women like to tell their labor and delivery story. Have you ever noticed that? But I digress…

I had so much fun preparing and delivering that two part teaching. It blessed me so much because it truly spoke to the Girls in our group. I give God the glory for that, as there was something special about that teaching. It seemed to flow out of me easily unlike some that I have had to labor and struggle over. Over the following weeks and months I would have someone come up to me and tell me things like “I am going back to Grad school because of your teaching”, or “Your teaching gave me the courage to start my own business.” Again I say, to God be the glory!

I was so excited that God would allow me to be a part of these ladies’ dreams. I thought for sure I was going straight to my dreams as well. I was going to be the Dream Lady. I would travel and speak and encourage women to live life big and pursue their dreams. It was a very exciting time for me. I knew the path I was on and where I was heading, and it was good.

And then life happened. I won’t go into the details now but there was a five year period of struggles, loss, pain, and uncertainty. It was one thing after another. Just when I could muster up enough hope that things were looking up, something would come along and knock the wind right back out of my sails. There was no more dreaming for me. My only dream during that time was to wake up from the nightmare we were living in.

Even though we have come through the pain, loss and uncertainty- Praise God- I have found it difficult to build my faith back up in the area of my personal dreams. I have gained momentum here and there but it doesn’t seem to take much to get me off track and giving up. My once feisty and tenacious hope had grown scared and timid. My heart has been fragile and I have been guarding it pretty tight.

As Dr Phil would say “How’s that working for ya?” It isn’t. Not one bit. The pain of running from my dreams finally outweighed the pain of loss, defeat and setbacks. I decided last Saturday that if I had to experience pain regarding my dreams, I may as well chose the pain. I would rather look back on my life and see failures and setbacks than regret. Regret has got to be one of the most painful feelings of all.

So I am back to where I started over eight years ago. I’ve Got Big Dreams….Now What? I don’t know what the end looks like or what the journey entails. What I do know is that I am taking one step a day, no matter how small, towards my dreams. Today’s step is found in Zechariah 9:12 NIV Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. The New Living Translation reads I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles.

I am a prisoner of hope. Now matter how hard I tried I could not free myself from the dreams in my heart. I am returning to my fortress of faith and I anxiously anticipate the blessings that are promised to those who have confident expectations in what the Lord has promised. There is plenty of room in the fortress if anyone would like to join me :).

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being my refuge and fortress in times of trouble. Thank you for holding me safely as a prisoner of hope. Thank you watching over me, protecting me, and for protecting the dreams in my heart. I let go of all the past pain, loss, and setbacks. I thank you for blessing my work and restoring back to me double for my trouble. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Return to the Fortress For You All,

Jen

Continue Reading