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?

Trusting God in the Storm

I vividly remember responding to an alter call at Summer camp when I was about 10 years old. I stood among my peers, hands held high belting with all my heart these words as a promise and declaration of devotion to the Lord…

“I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all”

To surrender means to “abandon oneself entirely.” It’s an act of submission to the authority and will of God wherein we cease resisting and hand over control of our will, our plan, and ultimately our lives. If we have never met in person, let me tell you a little bit about myself. Hello, my name is Jen and I’m a control freak! Plans are a safety net where I abide and thrive. Surrender does not come easily for any of us, especially a Type A, Enneagram 8w7, commanding personality like me.

Little 10-year-old Jen had no idea what surrender meant. My beautifully naive heart must have imagined the call of God as a “tip toe through the tulips” as my husband loves to say. But there have been many storms. Each storm has been used by God to produce life, character, & endurance in me. In hindsight I wouldn’t change a thing, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy. I’m learning to trust the authority and will of God as I navigate the storms of life.

Recently I added a daily chapter of Psalms and Proverbs to my morning time with Jesus. The striking imagery in Psalm 29 has captivated my heart this week, especially as it relates to trusting God in the storms. In this chapter David demonstrates the power, authority, and strength of God over water, nature, trees, mountains, fire, & flood. His symbolism culminates in verses 10 and 11 which read…

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned, King forever.
The Lord gives his people strength;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29: 10-11 CSB

No matter what you and I are facing in life at this very moment we can be encouraged that we serve a God who sits enthroned over our storms. There is nothing in heaven or on earth with the power to circumvent His ultimate authority and power. He is King forever and He is trustworthy!

The promise David relays so eloquently in verse 11 is that the Lord gives strength and peace to His people in the storm. As we abandon ourselves entirely to His perfect will and authority (aka. surrender), we can rest confidently that our God is in control. He hasn’t abandoned us or been surprised by our circumstances. He is allowing the storms in our lives to produce endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope (Romans 5: 3b-4).

As you navigate the storm you are facing, rest in the strength and peace that God provides and trust Him. Abide in His presence for He is faithful to restore, heal, and equip. Memorize these verses and remind yourself that He who is King forever has all authority, dominion, and power over all circumstances. He is trustworthy!

Questions for reflection, prayer, & journaling
-What does surrender look like in your life in this season?
-As you meditate on Psalm 29, what encourages you the most?
-How do you see God moving in your storm?

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!

Our Journey to this Crunchy Life

Crunchy blogDo you ever sit back, take a good hard look at your life, and giggle? It brings such joy to my heart to think about our health journey over the last decade, through all the ups and downs God has certainly been by our side teaching and guiding our steps. Today I want to share a little bit about our journey to this crunchy life!

According to urbandictionary.com, crunchy is an adjective that is “used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental (and I would add health) reasons.” Yep that’s us and let me tell you we are all in!

It all started when I got really sick with a fungus called aspergillus in my lungs back in the summer of 2011.  That illness led to 12 cases of bronchitis/pneumonia and 55 weeks of bedrest over the 2 ½ years that followed. At my worst I was 36 years old, on 24 prescription medications, and my husband and I genuinely didn’t expect that I would ever work again. This cycle of illness was crippling to our family and our future. Desperately in search of anything that would break the cycle, we took matters into our own hands and began to do a ton of research. We read many books & articles online, watched documentaries, and talked to friends who had been through health issues. We quickly discovered our unhealthy lifestyle needed a serious overhaul.

Crunchy blog 1Honestly I’m so eternally grateful for the information we found, because prior to my illness I would have TOTALLY rolled by eyes and snickered judgmentally at “crunchy” families. I fully and completely trusted that things sold in the U.S. were safe and not harmful for our family, oh boy was I wrong. The truth is that there is very little regulation on household, hygiene, & beauty products. Not to mention genetically modified foods, pesticides, and processed food loaded with chemicals. The more we learned the more appalled and overwhelmed we were. So we made changes little by little, starting with the laundry room.

One of the things we quickly discovered was that our laundry detergent was giving me a horrible rash all over my body, an almost constant yeast infection (sorry guys..just keeping it real!), and contributing to my daily headaches. We had used this detergent for years and I never had a problem, but my now weak immune system could not keep up with the chemicals and fragrance within the detergent. So over the next year we tried 12 different laundry detergents, we tried all the brands of free & clear, we tried all the so called “natural” detergents and yet there was still something in each of them that gave me this horrible reaction. Most companies hide toxic ingredients using the umbrella of fragrance, a term that can be used to represent thousands of different toxic chemicals. If it wasn’t for the very obvious and unavoidable symptoms that remained I may have never continued this costly experiment. We finally found a solution, and for five years we made our own laundry detergent, which at the time was the only option for relief from my symptoms. Gratefully we currently using Young Living’s Thieves Laundry Detergent which works amazing and I have zero rashes, infections, or headaches from it.

Crunchy blog 2Around the same time we began our weight loss journey and made huge changes in how we fuel our bodies. Weight loss is a journey that is far from over, and has had many ups and downs. It began with two successful years on Weight Watchers where we learned a ton in weekly meetings about healthy habits. That was a time I will always cherish! We stopped eating processed foods, began cooking 95% of our meals at home, ate about 75% organic. It was such an eye opener to see a very primitive truth first hand: when you give your body what it needs, it will heal itself. It’s part of the miraculous way God’s creation works.

Back in 2012 I still struggled with painful headaches and was taking 800 mg of Ibuprofen every. single. day! So a girlfriend gave me a bottle of Young Living Peppermint essential oil and told me to try it for my headaches. I received her gift mainly because I didn’t want to be rude but I honestly thought, what is this plant juice going to do for my headaches?!? I had read a little about essential oils in our hunt for natural remedies and there just started to be a lot of buzz online but I basically knew next to nothing. Nothing about how to use them, where to use them, safety…nothing. So the next day I put a drop or two of the peppermint oil on my forehead, temples, back of neck, and shoulders. I WAS SHOCKED that within 5 minutes my headache completely disappeared. Thus began my love affair with essential oils! Since then we have learned how to use essential oils hundreds of ways. They are a celebrated solution to most of our wellness needs and I am so grateful to share our journey with others through my Young Living business.

Crunchy blog 3Throughout the last 8 years we have learned a few principles that we will live by now & forever, by God’s grace.

  1. God’s creation is amazing & powerful. God provided everything we need for life, health, and wellness in creation.
  2. Be an advocate for your own health & wellness. Don’t believe everything you read or hear. Labels lie and are intentionally misleading. Just because something says natural on it, doesn’t mean it is. Do your own research.
  3. We are the gatekeepers of our home and our family. Everything you put in your body or use in your home/hygiene is an investment in your health – either positively or negatively.

I am happy to report that after wonderful medical care + being an advocate and gatekeeper in our home + removing the chemicals from our home/hygiene/beauty products, my health has returned beyond our wildest dreams. I am currently only on 2 prescription medications.  I am able to serve with my husband in fulltime ministry, own my own business, write, speak, and so much more. All of this was possible by God’s amazing grace and direction!

This is just a snapshot of how our crunchy life got started, I’d love to share more with you guys! Tell me about your wellness journey. Where are you at on the crunchy scale?!? All in or just getting started? What questions do you have about our journey?

Next week I’m going to share a powerful self revelation that “I Can’t Do This”  See you then!