From Consumer to Creator

Day 69 of my COVID-19 quarantine.

God began to convict my heart about the amount of media I consume a while ago. My husband would tell you that I have a long-standing sensitivity in this area. Over our 15 years of marriage I have regularly taken inventory of what I’m putting in my mind, body, soul – a healthy habit that I highly recommend. But this year was different. During our fast at the beginning of the year, I fasted TV and movies for over 40 days and the most remarkable shift happened: I moved from being a consumer to a creator.

As image bearers of Christ, we were created to create not merely consume.

In Ephesians 2:10 Paul encourages us that, “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (NLT) God desires that we use the creative gifts He has given each of us. As we create, we are walking out His purpose for in lives, for His glory. I recently really enjoyed reading Rebekah Lyons new book, Rhythms of Renewal, and I love how she defines create “using your specific talents, skills, and callings to live deeper into your God-given purpose, to create something that blesses him and the world around you” (page 221).

We live in a culture with an insatiable hunger for entertainment. It is so easy to fall into the gluttony of the “Netflix & chill” mindset and completely miss the purpose for which God created us. What’s worse is often this mindset trickles into how we view our relationship with God. Many desire to be entertained more than they want to be transformed. Attending church solely to be entertained with their favorite type of music, speaker, décor etc., rather than desiring to use their gifts in obedience to Christ and in service of His call and purpose. Getting bored with reading the Bible or prayer because it’s not exciting enough. Constantly seeking entertainment and consumption.

It is impossible to create when you are constantly consuming. Think about it! When we are too busy consuming the creations, lives, and stories of others – that is time taken away from creating big or small for the glory of God. Don’t get me wrong, I love to enjoy the beautiful creative works of others but I’m advocating for balance and a season of introspection.

“No matter our age, dreams get squashed when our lives are consumed with entertainment and technology” (Rebekah Lyons, Rhythms of Renewal, page 227). Consuming was literally robbing me of fulfilling my dreams and walking in my God given purpose. Unplugging the TV for 40+ days allowed the space in my brain and in my life to dream again. I began to use my hands and mind to make things, write, and dream like I haven’t in such a long time. To use Rebekah Lyon’s analogy, this time allowed me to build a creative rhythm back into my life that was long overdue.

As I stood in the kitchen for hours yesterday prepping our meals for the week, I stood back and thanked God for the opportunity to create meals with my hands, for His glory. I thanked Him for the necessary shift that has taken place in my life. Creating isn’t limited to arts & crafts. It is using the gifts God has given you, in the way He has wired you, for His glory. I’m convinced that our ability to create is limited more by our own over consumption than any other circumstance. Over consumption is literally robbing the world of what you and I were made to create. I pray that my own journey will be the catalyst you need to seek balance and move from a consumer to a creator.

Journal & Process

-What are the dreams that God has placed within your heart?

-What adjustments to your consumption need to take place in order to walk boldly in your purpose?

-What is limiting your ability to create?

5 Daily Actions

Day 62 of my COVID-19 quarantine.

Last year I heard a powerful talk by John C. Maxwell that made a huge impact in my daily habits. Within his talk he shared what he calls “The Power of Five”, and of course he has a whole book about it that I cannot wait to read, here’s the link in case you want to dive in. During his point on the importance of consistency he shared with the audience 5 things that he does every single day of his life. Five essential, invaluable actions that he repeats over and over and over again. These actions in and of themselves were simple & straight forward, yet they are critical in helping him accomplish his call and purpose.

After hearing his talk, my husband and I were challenged to pray about and write down our own 5 daily actions. These are 5 actions unique to each individual that are essential to our mental, spiritual, & physical health. They are also invaluable to our purpose and calling. As I share mine, try to think about what your 5 daily actions might be. Some might be the same, but some might be totally different which is to be expected. I have noticed that as I engage in these 5 daily actions, they make a HUGE difference on my sanity throughout this crisis. My mood is happier, my hopes are up, and I’m able to be patience, kind, and loving toward my family. Y’ALL these 5 daily actions are a lifeline from Heaven that are making such a big difference for me. I wonder if yours would have the same affect for you???

First, I pray! My prayer time begins with a few moments of silence & stillness in the presence of God. I focus my mind and heart on Him, surrendering my fears and receiving His love. Then I pray through several lists of needs from our church, family, friends, ministries we support etc. As I intercede for these loved ones, laying their needs in the capable and mighty hands of Jesus, an interesting thing happens. I feel lighter & happier – like the burden I was carrying was literally transferred to Jesus and now I’m not weighed down by it.

Second, I write. If you’re new around here I’m a very big advocate for journaling. Throughout the quarantine I’ve begun each journal entry the same – partially to record this amazing moment in His-story and partly because I wake up each day literally not knowing what day it is, lol! Here’s what today’s entry looked like:  Thursday, May 14, 2020 at home QD 62 (quarantine day).

As I journal, I share a summary of our activities from the previous day – to be noted I don’t normally treat my journal like a diary, although you totally can but each day is so unique during this crisis and I want to be able to go back to this time years from now and reflect on this season in greater detail. I will also write a prayer to the Lord with anything on my heart that day. Then as I continue my time with Jesus, I use my journal as a space to record all the many things He speaks to my heart through His word. I’ll write verses that pop out at me, even whole passages. Something powerful takes place in my heart when I’ve not only read a verse but read it out loud and written it down. Those extra steps seem to cement the truth deep within my heart and memory banks. This space in my journal is precious to me, it’s like God’s love letter to me, beautifully crafted from our time together. Lots of times this writing becomes a blog post or is used as I serve others.Third I read. While reading my sole motivation is to PUT TRUTH IN. Listen, there are millions of things coming after our minds each day, it is critical to our sanity throughout this crisis to be vigilant with what we are putting in our minds. You are a gate keeper, choose wisely my friends. I begin with reading the Psalm & Proverb from that day’s date, then continue to whatever book in the Bible I’m studying at that time. I am currently devouring the fascinating truth within 1 & 2 Kings. As I read, I sit with my journal, my Bible, and The Tony Evans Bible Commentary. Whenever I have a question, don’t understand what something means, or am curious about a detail from the Bible I whip out Dr. Evans Commentary and look it up. It’s like having the greatest Bible teacher in the world as a personal mentor – I highly recommend it.

At the beginning of 2020 I committed to read at least 1 chapter in a book per day. To date I have completed 16 books by staying consistent with this tiny little habit. What happened was a love for reading was birthed in me, after my 1 chapter was completed, I found myself longing to read more later in the day. There have been many times that I’ve chosen reading over watching the TV at night, who am I? John C. Maxwell says, “consistency compounds” and he is totally right.

Fourth I move. God beautifully designed movement as a vital part of our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Moving is one of my favorite ways to relieve stress. My hubby and I walk at least 30 minutes daily (weather permitting, while social distancing of course) and I can tell such a huge difference in my mood when we do. Moving allows us to think more clearly, talk through the day, and dream together.

Fifth I connect. Last but not least, I try to connect with family and friends every day. This looks like texts, calls, messages, video chats, and even Zoom hangouts. God created us as relational beings and connection with family & friends brings a level of perspective and hope that is much needed. Often, I am able to encourage someone who’s having a tough time, which then encourages me as well. Connection speaks truth to the lies of isolation, reminding me that I am not alone, and I am deeply loved.

As I pray, write, read, move, and connect I am grounded in God’s love and truth. I am building health habits that will compound, serving my calling & purpose. I am taking the best care possible of my mind, body, & soul. I hope these inspire you to pursue 5 daily actions both now and far beyond this pandemic.

Journal & Process

-What are 5 daily actions that are essential to YOUR purpose?

-What adjustments will you need to make as you begin to walk in these actions?

-What is your mind, body, & soul craving in this season?

Speak Truth to Lies

Speak Truth to Lies BLOG rev2Day 16 of my COVID-19 quarantine.

I woke up this morning and processed my online grocery delivery order via a handy little app I was recently introduced to, only to find several items that I needed were unavailable, and I found myself wallowing in self-pity. At this point in the COVID-19 crisis we are all feeling a lot of emotions, and there is no doubt we are just beginning this marathon. If you are wrestling with anxiety through this crisis I know  you’ll be blessed by the tools I shared in my recent post 10 Tools to Win Your Battle with Anxiety.

I continued to meal prep, cutting up a bunch of veggies I had over bought in bulk and needed to cook before they go bad, listening to Mark chapter 13 on my Dwell Audio Bible app. As the words of Jesus rang through my smart phone, I felt Him tenderly nudge my heart toward truth.

The truth is that I am safe, sound, and have everything I need.

The truth is I enjoy the freedom and privilege of being a citizen in the wealthiest country in the world.

The truth is I am wealthier than 95% of the world’s population. A population that is also enduring this global pandemic without the luxuries of grocery delivery, access to exceptional medical care, the ability to video chat friends and family at whim, Amazon Prime, etc….

The truth is my loved ones are safe, abundantly provided for, and healthy.

The truth is I was born in the most technologically advanced era in human history, with entertainment, education, and connection literally at my fingertips 24 hours a day.

The truth is I lack nothing.

The truth is I am loved by God.

But Jen, if we are loved by God why would He allow something like this to happen to us. That’s an honest question that a few people have asked my husband and I recently. As I stood in my kitchen cooking up an amazing frittata and veggies that will top 3 different delicious homemade gluten free pizzas, I couldn’t help but wonder what God’s up to.

God never promised us a life without suffering, however Paul’s writing to the church in Rome in Romans 5:3b-5 demonstrate how God uses suffering in our lives. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Speak Truth to Lies VERSE rev2As a Pastor’s wife I have a front row seat to what my husband calls the “Big C” church, that is, the people around the world that love and serve Jesus. Y’all it ain’t always pretty!

The truth is people who claim to love God often don’t live lives surrendered to Him.

The truth is the people of God have made soccer practice on Sundays, more important that gathering as a family in their local church.

The truth is many people who claim to love God haven’t talked to Him in years.

The truth is the average American family attends church 1x a month, which reflects its priority in their lives.

The truth is this generation is moving further and further away from God.

The truth is we’ve been sleeping, and we need a wakeup call.

In Mark 13: 32-36 Jesus is teaching his disciples about the end times and says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

COVID-19 has brought tremendous sorrow and tragedy, there is no doubt about that.

But could God be using this crisis to draw the hearts of His people back to Himself?

Could He use this crisis to reset families into healthy sustainable rhythms according to His original design?

Will this be a wakeup call for you and I?

I pray that now more than ever you and I will seek the face of God, surrender our lives to His perfect will, and trust Him. Friends, as fear rises in your heart over the next few weeks and months, speak truth to lies. Instead of spinning out in fear, take back control by sitting down and listing what is true about your actual reality, then read those truths out loud!! Ground yourself in truth, allowing God to use this circumstance to produce endurance, character, and to renew your hope.

Journal & Process

-Use this statement to identify what is true in your current circumstances: The truth is…..

-What do you need to surrender control of to God today?

-What lessons are you learning through this crisis that you will remember years from now?

10 Tools to Win Your Battle with Anxiety

10 Tools Anxiety BLOGThere is an epidemic of anxiety happening in our world. Almost daily friends reach out to us for prayer, desperate for support completely beaten up by anxiety. So, I am going to war! I am fighting for and with you friends and I want to share a few powerful tools that are currently being used by God to help many (including me) win the battle with anxiety.

Each tool that is linked below is a Christ centered resource to encourage you on your journey. I know when I am wrestling with anxiety I am not always in a place – mentally – to read. So, I’ve included a variety of types of resources: books, audio, music, podcasts, etc. I pray that each of these resources will point you to Jesus and given you the strength no matter what you’re facing to “cast all your cares on him, because he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 CSB

God’s Word

There is no greater tool against fear and anxiety than the truth of God’s word. Psalms 55:22 says “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” But it’s one thing to read a verse like that and it’s another thing to live it. Allow God’s word to become life to you, abide in it, and use it to combat every fear.

#1: Author & Bible teacher Rebekah Lyons has put together a list of 30 scriptures you can print, memorize, and soak in. Here is her FREE download:  30 VERSES ON ANXIETY

#2: I have been reading Rebekah’s new book: Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose and it is fantastic! You can grab a copy HERE to dig in.

#3: Or if you’d rather just listen check out her & her husband’s podcast: Rhythms for Life by Rebekah Lyons & Gabe Lyons at this LINK

#4: I have recently fallen in love with God’s word all over again through the Dwell App. This app is an audio Bible that allows you to listen to the words of scripture. The calming music and amazing voices are uniquely and wonderfully different than any other audio Bible I’ve tried. You can access a portion of the content for free but like me I bet you’ll fall in love so quickly that you’ll be totally willing to pay the annual fee of $29.99 ((worth it!!)). I want God’s word to be the first & last thing I hear everyday and this has been a great tool to make that happen. Here is the LINK to the Dwell App.

Worship

“Worry and worship cannot exist in the same space. One always displaces the other. Choose worship.” — Louie Giglio

#5: Worship is a powerful tool to battle anxiety. I recently found out there are entire playlists on Spotify (and I’m sure other platforms) all dedicated to battling fear & anxiety. Check out this playlist or make your own. Here’s a link to my favorite “Fear is a Liar” Playlist on Spotify.

The Psalms of David were often songs filled with truth and powerful tools to fight anxiety. “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:3-410 Tools Anxiety PS56Let Others Fight for You

There are times in the battle with anxiety that we need others to fight for us and with us. You are NOT alone, and you are deeply loved. If you need someone to fight for you in prayer please contact me, I’d be honored to fight for you! Here are some of my favorite Christian teachers that are fighting for you and me with powerful truth. Each of their own personal experiences with anxiety speak so vividly into our own circumstances. Check them out!

#6: Y’all Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants by Louie Giglio is a MUST READ!! My husband and I both read it last week and WOW! It was beyond fantastic with so many relatable and simple principles to apply. Get you a copy and thank me later! Here is the LINK.

#7: Next on my list to read is Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts by Jennie Allen. I had a chance to hear her testimony about overcoming toxic thoughts at a conference and it left me in tears. Here is a LINK to her book.

#8: Jennie also has an Anxious Thoughts Guide that is available for FREE on her website. I love that it not only provides scripture, but a few activities designed to help you process your thoughts and regain control. Here is the LINK to that resource.

#9: My favorite podcast right now is Jennie Allen’s Made for This podcast. Season 3 is all about her book (above) with some amazing guest speakers. It’s available on all the podcast apps, here is the link for Spotify: Made for This

Journal & Process

#10: Last but certainly not least is my 10/10/10 Exercise! We are seeing breakthrough in so many lives through this simple and effective tool. Print the template and sit with Jesus, allow Him to give you the strength to acknowledge 10 gratitudes, surrender 10 fears, and declare 10 truths. This process carried us through one of the scariest seasons in our lives. I pray it’s a blessing to you! Here is the LINK to my previous blog post with the 10/10/10 Exercise. 

I pray these tools are a blessing to you! Please share this post with a few friends and let’s fight this battle together by God’s grace and strength.

 

 

 

Dependence + Obedience

Dependence + ObedienceAs I look at the life and ministry of Jesus two of His most remarkable attributes are His dependence on and obedience to His Father. I shared a few weeks ago that I have been studying the life and leadership of Jesus in the New Testament since the beginning of the year. I am in awe as I read that repeatedly Jesus took time away to pray, recognizing His need and utter dependence on His Father. Think about it, this is Jesus, the God Man – fully God and fully Man, lives completely dependent. Not only is He dependent but He lives in intimate communion with the Father. It is through that communion and connectedness that obedience flourishes. Jesus lived in obedience to His Father’s will, always doing as the Father commanded Him (John 14:31). You guys, our Savior beautifully modeled perfect dependence and perfect obedience so that we might follow His example!

In my opinion there is no greater illustration of these attributes than Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36-46. Here we get a tiny glimpse into the agony of Jesus’ life just hours before the cross. The incredible relationship Jesus has with his Father led Him to the garden to pray. He was sorrowful and troubled (vs. 37) when he prayed “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (vs. 39b). Yet in obedience, demonstrating his great love for us, He allows the guards to take him rather than calling down legions of angels to his defense (vs. 53). Christ’s obedience resulted in him being falsely accused, mocked, betrayed, beaten, and brutally killed in order that He might secure our salvation and bridge the gap caused by sin between God and man. Wow! How can we do anything but worship when we really think about what His obedience cost.

Dependence + Obedience MATT 26As modeled by Jesus, it is through our dependence (via communion and connectedness to Him) that our obedience grows and our lives flourish. Although the cost of our obedience isn’t usually death on a cross, there is a cost to walking in obedience to Jesus. Far too often we opt out of paying the cost. Independence and disobedience are costly. By choosing them we’re missing the beautiful communion and abundant blessings that come with being fully dependent and obedient on Jesus.

My writing this year is coming from a place of dependence and obedience. I have felt God tugging at my heart for quite some time to write consistently and have reasoned His voice away with busyness. I have been disobedient and really had to repent before Him. As I seek His face, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3b. I am so grateful for His merciful and consistent presence leading me back to His will in this one of many examples.

If you find yourself humbled by the awareness of your own disobedience, you are in good company. Be encouraged by this truth shared by Priscilla Shirer in Awaken: 90 Days with the God who Speaks:

“Even when we’ve chosen unwisely, even when we’ve relished our stubborn resistance, He remains eager to express these beautiful elements of His character to us. He longs to receive the rebellious back into His welcoming arms. He loves seeing His grace exalted and watching it change us into His image. Nothing we’ve done, no matter how devastating or devious, can push us too far out of His love to reach us, rescue us, and restore us. When we call to Him, He hears us.” (pg.135)

Call upon Him today, allow Him to restore your soul, to lead and guide as only He can!

Questions for reflection, prayer, & journaling

– What is one thing you feel God asking you to walk out in obedience?

– How does Jesus’ relationship with His Father inspire you?

– Are you willing to pay the cost to walk in obedience?

Distracted.

Distracted BLOGWe began the new year with 21 days of prayer and fasting with our church family. Daily I sat at the feet of Jesus with an open heart & open Bible longing for Him to speak. During those few weeks something changed in me. I could feel it, like a fire was lit from deep within. There is something about fasting that provides tremendous clarity and purpose. Years from now we’ll remember with awe and wonder how God transformed our lives during the prayer and fasting of 2020.

One of the areas God continually addressed throughout the fast was how distracted I have been. Distracted by the “good” but not the “best.” Distracted by the constant noise of a busy life. Distracted by my to-do list that I had consistently put as a priority over Jesus.

In the quiet of the fast, God spoke.

With great intention I began my days with 2 hours of silence, stillness, prayer, bible study, journaling, and reading. I kept my cell phone on the other side of the house determined to not let anything distract this sacred space. The adjustment to being without my phone was both brutal and revealing, wow I had given it so much power over me.

Halfway through the fast we traveled to Ohio for a family visit and attended Oasis Church in Norwalk. Pastor Vince Cooper spoke a timely word titled “It is Possible to have Clarity” about Mary & Martha in Luke chapter 10. Let’s take a look at the story…

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 ESV

I can relate to Martha, can’t you? She was focused on caring for her VIP guests, stressing over hospitality, while missing the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet. She was allowing her to-do list to rob her of the privilege of intimacy with the Master.

Here are some insights that Pastor Vince shared that were so powerful!

“Details are important, but they are not the most important.”

“Distraction disables relationship.”

“Martha not only missed what Jesus was saying, she was also trying to get others distracted.”

“Don’t be distracted & don’t be distracting.”

“You will always have distraction. You have to choose; will you be divided by the distractions or will you put them away?”

“What are you going to do when Jesus says, nope?”

Pastor Vince Quote BLOGY’all I’m all about the details, if you need details, I’m your girl! But my, oh my! I am learning that details are not more important than Jesus. If you’re a recovering Martha like me, let’s say that out loud together: details are NOT more important than Jesus.

I am learning that living a distracted life will disable my relationship with Him. I am learning to not live in such frantic constant movement that I am unable to hear His still small voice. I am convicted by the countless times I have been not only distracted but distracting to others. Oh Lord let this be a lesson that transforms my life forever.

One thing is necessary friends, one thing. Let’s sit at the feet of Jesus and not allow distraction to rob us from His very best.

Questions for reflection, prayer, & journaling
– When was the last time you sat quiet & alone at the feet of Jesus?
– What one distraction is God calling you to surrender today?
– How have you been both distracted & distracting?

Friends if my brief notes from this message ministered to you, I highly recommend checking out the replay from Oasis Church Facebook live at this LINK. Thank you to Pastor Vince Cooper for permission to share my take-aways from his message.

Fear Not

Fear Not blog (1)Last year I shared our journey through a particularly difficult season + a tool the Lord gave us to navigate that season. It was one of the most popular posts I’ve ever shared, if you missed it, check it out here. Throughout the journey and still today, fear often shows its ugly head in our lives. Don’t you wish these lessons were one and done? Anyone else find themselves circling the same mountains over & over again?

Apparently, I’m not alone as evidence by many popular worship songs, Spotify playlists, and books dedicated to the theme of overcoming fear. My favorite is the song “Fear Is A Liar” by Zach Williams. These lyrics absolutely nail the subtle, sneaky depth where fear takes hold, then battles those lies with bold truth. Fear IS a liar! Check out the chorus below…

“Fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar”

I recently walked through the 10/10/10 Exercise and journaled my 10 gratitudes, fears, and truths. It was interesting that my fears were a spectrum of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It was so life giving & revealing to take pen to paper and write out my fears. I actually had to laugh out loud. Wow! The enemy had me walking in fear and believing all kinds of lies. If you’re feeling that way, you’re not alone!

The phrase “fear not” appears in the Bible 158 times (ESV, Bible Gateway). It is most often used by God (or angels) to console those being addressed and encourage them to trust in God’s plan no matter their current circumstances. Many times, this phrase is accompanied by humans falling on their faces in holy reverence before God or angels, which seems perfectly appropriate. Fear has often had me on my face before God.

“Fear not” is used three times as Jesus instructs his Apostles about ministry in Matthew 10: 26-31. Check out these verses:

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10: 26-31

Fear Not Quote blog revDr. Tony Evans makes these observations on this passage, “What motivation does Jesus offer to enable them to become fearless? First, there is nothing hidden that won’t be made known (10:26). No persecution of God’s people, then, will remain secret forever. God will turn the tables. Second, there’s no need to fear those who have temporary power in history; believers rightly fear the one who has limitless power in eternity (10:28). Third, God the Father has great love for his children. He’s sovereign over the events of your life. Nothing comes to you that hasn’t first passed through his fingers. His children are valuable to Him (10:29-31).” (The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, page 882-883, emphasis added)

Let’s say that again: NOTHING comes to you that hasn’t first passed through his fingers. You & I are valuable to Him.

I am encouraged through this text to fear not: in the complex and in the daily grind of life. God cares. He sees all, knows all, and is in control of all. He cares so much about the details that He has given a number to each of the hairs on my (& your) head. He is a good, good Father and He is trustworthy. As I combat fear with truth I hold on to these verses for life.

Questions for reflection, prayer, & journaling
– What are your 10 gratitudes, 10 fears, & 10 truths?
– How does Matthew 10 encourage your walk of faith?
– What truths sustain you in difficult seasons?

Transformation Tuesday featuring Monica Simpson

TT Monica BLOG

How many of you have been inspired and blessed by these amazing personal journey’s of transformation? I know I have!! Today’s Transformation Tuesday is featuring a beautiful friend of mine, Monica Simpson. Monica and I first met during our counseling internship many years ago. In this post she shares her incredible transformation journey to becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor. Enjoy!

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My Journey to Becoming an LPC – Inspiration to Motivate and Give Hope

by Monica Simpson

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anais Nin

I never saw myself as a risk taker. I never dreamed of running my own business. Speaking in front of people or even confidently helping people through their difficulties was not on my radar. In fact, I’ve played it safe for most of life; I followed the rules and did what others expected of me.

When I began college, I had a deep desire to break out of my self-imposed box and blossom into the person I felt God wanted me to be. Looking back, I can confidently say that this was the beginning of my journey. I didn’t know it would take me another 30 plus years before I truly felt that I was walking in my purpose…in my truth.

Blossom Quote BLOG rev

In those formative years I had glimpses of the woman inside of me waiting to blossom-a tight bud on the verge of blooming. After college graduation, and before international travel became mainstream, I worked in several different countries as a single woman, I started a small bookkeeping business, had two wonderfully strong and resilient daughters, and people came to me with their problems seeking advice or just a supportive ear.

But there were also years when I lost track of myself; I became pregnant while in college. I got married because I was afraid of being a single parent but became a single parent anyway for 17 years after our divorce. I stayed in unfulfilling jobs – too scared to leave for financial reasons, but also too unfulfilled to shine and progress in my field as an accountant.

I was discouraged and I knew God desired more of me, but I didn’t know what that looked like or what I was supposed to do. Four years after my divorce I took a leap of faith and decided to make a career change, which I knew would entail returning to school. My daughters were 5 and 15 – one ready to begin kindergarten and the other one entering high school.

I felt I had a natural talent of helping people – many of friends sought my insight. I returned to school to become a counselor with the vague idea of working for a company that helps people. Sounds good, right? I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had a business undergraduate degree. The only psych class I had taken was Psychology 101. Now I was surrounded by concepts that I had not been exposed to before. My learning curve was steep, but I was both confident and determined that I could be successful in all the arenas of my life: single-parent, full-time employee and master’s degree student.

Just when I felt I had it all figured out I was thrown a major curve ball. As part of the master’s program, students were required to complete 500 counseling hours prior to graduation. Where was I going to find time in my already stretched-thin schedule? How could I possibly do it all? I couldn’t see a way and knew that God would have to provide because I was all out of ideas. He blessed me in a way I never saw coming – I was laid off from my job, with full pay and benefits for 6 months. In one fell swoop, He afforded me the time and money to complete my degree. God was gracious and I had never felt more encouraged to finish the task before me.

I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Southern Christian University (now Regents University), the same year my daughter graduated from high school. Pride welled up inside of me thinking of us, together, on the brink to our futures. I believed that all my career desires were at my fingertips. And I was reminded, once again, that God’s plans were way bigger than mine.

In order to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in Texas, applicants are required to complete 3,000 supervised counseling hours. I was back to working full-time and as a single mom with a family to support I could not imagine taking a drastic pay cut in order to complete my hours. I was overwhelmed with the weight of discouragement. I added hours to my full time job and began seeing clients in the evenings after work and on weekends. I prayed for God’s intervention, but once again I was wanting God to follow my plan: I’ll get married, my husband would support me, and I could quit my day job or at the very least work part-time. I know now that I was leaning on my own understanding and ability and not God’s. I had learned, again, that His way is so much better than my way.

I didn’t get married. I didn’t quit my full-time job. I prayed and relied on God to show me how this obstacle would be overcome. I became discouraged as I saw some of my fellow interns complete their hours in as little as 20 months while I was still slogging through my journey with no foreseeable end in sight. I held on to the belief that God would not have brought me on this journey just for me to abandon my calling. The longer my journey lasted, the more convinced I became that something bigger was happening. My journey could not just be for my benefit.

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Five years, 70 months, later I finally completed 3,000 hours. Finally. During that time, while I worked feverishly to meet the deadline set before me, my prayer life and full surrender to God was the strongest it had ever been. That was 4 ½ years ago. Last year, I stepped out on faith and left my full-time corporate job to work in my very own private practice full-time. What a beautiful, perfectly packaged gift God has cushioned and prepared each step that I have taken. I thank Him for each new client that calls my office because I know this is the client that God has for me. I’m often amazed and grateful for all that He has done for me, the opportunities that have come my way.

I believe that had I not stepped out in faith and courage; I would not be where I am now. I’m living in my purpose, in my truth: to strengthen families by helping, exhorting, and encouraging individuals and couples.

Above all else, seek Him always.

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Wow! Monica’s story is one of perseverance and hope. It encouraged me to never give up, keep holding onto Jesus, trust in His plan, and to not compare my journey to others. Thank you Monica for sharing your story with us today. Your transformation is truly inspiring!

Share in the comments what encouraged or challenged you the most for your own journey? How would trusting in God’s plan for your life change your current outlook or circumstances? What is holding you back from blossoming?

Anyone else struggle with selfcare? Join me next week as I share some powerful insights that have transformed my life!

I Can’t Do This

I can't do this blog revI can’t do this.

I can’t achieve this goal.

I can’t conquer this addiction.

I can’t forgive this person.

I can’t overcome this hurt, pain, & loss.

Maybe you’re like me and you have a similar phrase that cycles through your thoughts at times. This self-defeating monologue visits most often when I am weary, overwhelmed, and physically and/or emotionally exhausted. It’s a punishing unwelcomed guest that produces nothing but hopelessness and frustration. Ughhh! Have you been there too?

Let’s be honest, we ALL have these toxic momentary thoughts from time to time. Some of us have them more often than others but at some point in your life you will have an, I can’t do this thought/feeling/moment. It’s the kind of moment where you want to throw in the towel and give up, maybe not on life, but definitely on whatever stressor is beating you up that day. The kind of moment that taunts you to quit before you even start. The kind of moment that causes you to crawl back into bed and cover your head with blankets readied to hide from the world. Oh my friend, I’ve been there and done that! Life is hard and no matter how capable, or accomplished, or strong you are…we all have I can’t do this moments from time to time.

A few months ago as I was sitting across the kitchen table from my beloved husband having a meltdown about an upcoming event I am responsible to lead.  As I uttered the familiar defeated phrase “I can’t do this” aloud to my husband I had a major AH HA revelation! My thoughts immediately shifted as if God whispered into my heart – you’re exactly right, YOU can’t do this, but I can!

You see the benefit of hiding God’s word in your heart (aka. memorizing scripture) is that it is available to swiftly draw upon like a sword when you’re in the heat of battle mentally. Over the last year I have been captivated by the truths in John chapter 15 and have studied it several times. Since then, verse 5 has been playing like a record over and over again in my mind,   “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

I can't do this blog 2In this verse our responsibility as branches is very clear: to abide in Him. We are called to remain in, join with, and stay connected to Jesus. When we do that, He handles everything else. My whole job as a Christian at any given moment is to wait on, pursue, and listen to Jesus. His job is to produce the fruit, manage the plan, create the outcome…and so much more.

I don’t know about you but WOW that is so liberating for me. You see I like to bear fruit, fruitfulness is kind of my thing. In fact if I’d let it, my entire existence and self-worth would be centered on how much fruit I am bearing. When I think about bearing fruit I think about being productive, accomplishing something meaningful and tangible, and contributing to my family and ministry. None of those are bad things, however many of us, myself included, struggle with centering our identity on how fruitful we are, rather than how well we are abiding with Jesus.

The Message paraphrase gives us another look at this verse, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.” Our relationship with Jesus is to be so intimate and organic that the only results possible are abundant fruit. It’s the only outcome available when we are joined to Jesus. HE is just that good!

In that weary moment my focus was on my own lack rather than connecting to Jesus and relying on Him to produce the fruit. The lesson I am learning through all this is that when those, I can’t do this moments come – because we are all human and they will come, to press into Jesus and fully rely on His ability and strength rather than my own. The phrase > I < can’t do this is completely 100% accurate! In my own strength and abilities I can’t, but I am NOT alone and together with Jesus ALL things are possible (Matthew 19:26)

I can't do this blog 3

My She Reads Truth Bible has a devotional titled “Walk in Them” (page 1990) that begins with this powerful thought: “Maybe the secret to doing big things for the kingdom is in making peace with the sentence “I can’t do this!”” Making peace with the fact that apart from Him and in our own strength we are incapable, incomplete, and imperfect.

It’s a beautiful thing when God can teach you a powerful lesson from a thought that was formerly toxic and defeating. Among my morning affirmations I have now included the phrase “I can’t do this” referencing John 15:5. It is my daily reminder that apart from Him I can do nothing. A reminder that the responsibility of my life is to remain in a beautifully intimate and deeply rooted relationship with Jesus. Everything else is up to Him! I choose to begin my day not by focusing on myself, my plan, and my agenda but rather by connecting to Jesus and all that He wills to accomplish in and through me.

If you are in an “I can’t do this” moment or season in your life right now I want to encourage you that you are not alone. In humility and gentleness I want to encourage you to connect with Jesus acknowledging your need for Him in your circumstance. Apart from Him – in your own strength, ability, & might – you can do nothing. But in John 15:7 Jesus tells us that, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.” Together with Jesus all things are possible my friend. In the comments share how we can pray for you in this season.

I pray this glimpse into my journey has been an encouragement to you today! Next week I’m going to share a post titled “Change Starts with You” looking at how to produce meaningful change in relationships (marriage, family, work, friends). Have a blessed week!

When God Says No

When God Says No blogLet’s be honest, there is no one on the planet that enjoys hearing the word NO. Myself included! Does anyone else have a rebel personality that when someone tells you no, it lights a fire within you to battle to the bitter end in order to get your way? Ughhh, that is totally me and I’ve been this way since childhood.

I was the oldest child (& grandchild) in our family until my older step brother Ryan came along when I was fourteen, and my younger brother Keithan is just 15 months behind me. Keithan and I spent the bulk of our early childhood at our maternal grandparent’s home while Mom worked multiple jobs and put herself through college. I have always been fiercely independent with a cunning tongue, so fights with Keithan often looked like me battling with words and him responding with action (aka. fists). Although younger, my brother always had the advantage in physical strength. My Mom would famously say, “If you’d stop running your mouth, he’s stop beating you up.” HA!

I vividly remember childhood scolding’s from my beloved grandmother. She would seat us separately down on the couch, then after we calmed down she would pour into our lives. Essentially she exerted her authority and influence to say no. No to the fighting, no to the nasty words, no to the hurtful actions, and no to whatever harmful thing our wills desperately longed for. In wisdom, strength, and purpose my grandmother no’s were a necessary part of leading us toward growth, maturity, and truth.

Couch blog revWhen God says no, I am often reminiscent of that rebellious child who would kick and scream to get her way. There are times in my life that God has said no so clearly and yet I still pushed forward, plowing my way through and making a huge mess in the process. Over the years I have learned the wisdom of hearing God’s voice and trusting His no’s, but it hasn’t been easy.

When we moved in New Jersey six years ago my health was at its lowest, my husband and I truly did not expect that I would ever work again. I’ll share more with you about my recovery in next week’s post “Our Journey to this Crunchy Life.” As I got stronger and was able to work again, I began to pursue licensure as a Professional Counselor as well as a Marriage and Family Therapist here in NJ.  I jumped through all the required hoops, submitting documentation about my education, internship hours, passing tests, supervisor recommendations etc. After months of waiting and multiple appeals the answer to my pursuit for a career as a licensed Therapist here in New Jersey was a solid NO. Long story short the NJ state boards rejected reciprocating my licensure from Texas, rejected several of my Dallas Baptist University classes, and in order to move forward with licensure they shackled me with requirements that would be far too costly both in time and money to ever be feasible for our family.

JP grad blog revIn my wildest dreams I could have never imagined a scenario in which God would say no to this request. Never. Why would He allow me to fully recover from my health crisis and then not be able to pursue the career He so gifted & called me in? Why would He direct me to get a Master’s degree, take on student loan debt, and work my booty off in 2,900 hours of internship? Nothing about any of it made any sense to my brain or my heart. I had worked so hard and my health crisis robbed me of so much, why would God allow this no, how was this possible?

Maybe you can relate to praying hard for something and God, in His sovereign authority and wisdom, says no. Ughhh! Dealing with the disappointment can be SO heart breaking. Whether your no is about a career, health issue, infertility, relationship struggle, or some other deep desire. No’s are not fun but at times they are necessary. No’s are often God’s way of protecting us and preventing us from going down a path that is outside of His perfect plan for our lives. But it’s also troubling to often never get the answer to those haunting “why” questions.

Actions blogIf you are experiencing a no from God right now, here are the actions I recommend.

Continue to Ask, Seek, & Knock!

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” Friend I want to encourage you to continue to ask, seek, & knock in prayer. What may seem to be a no from God, might just be not yet or not now. God isn’t obligated to do everything we ask Him like some supernatural genie in a bottle. But He tells us in his word that when our desires line up with His will they will be done. Jesus says in John 15:7-8 says “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.”  Ask, seek, & knock are verbs, that means they require a bold action on our part, so never give up praying and believing.

Press into Him!

Next I want to encourage you to press into Jesus. Press in, don’t pull away. So often when we are working through hard emotions like disappointment, fear, grief, and confusion our tendency is to run away from God. In my experience nothing good comes from running from God. As hard as it may be, I want to encourage you to press into God. Matthew 11: 28 if one of my favorite reminders from Jesus, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Our rest, our solutions, our futures reside in Jesus. Maybe you’re mad at God, not a problem – He’s a big boy & he can handle your anger. Press into Him. A loving Parent doesn’t always give us what we want, but our Heavenly Father does care about every tear that we have cried (Psalms 56:8) and He is the solution for our aching heart.

Choose to trust God, even when He says no!

I still have no idea why God would completely shut down my ability to become a licensed counselor here in New Jersey, but I trust Him. I pressed into God with my shattered heart and He comforted me with His peace. I choose to trust that God is directing my life according to His perfect plan, even if my life looks different than I expected. Trusting God and pressing into Him renews my hope!

Nothing about your situation may make sense to your brain or your heart right now friend, oh man I have been there. I want to encourage you to trust God, even when He says no.  He is trustworthy, and He has a plan and purpose for everything He allows to be part of our story, press in & trust Him – He will renew your hope!

What no’s from God are you currently wrestling with?

How can I pray for you as you press into God this week?