no. 74 // answering the call

I struggle. It’s not just in the things that one might think it’s normal to struggle in, but also the things that are mundane. Every day. Simple.

I’m distracted when I should be focused. I’m lazy when I should be working hard. I can’t settle my brain. The slowness has me numbed and sedentary when I want to be productive. I want to be ready for work each day and not sluggish. I want to accomplish school in a timely manner that’s productive and well thought out. I want to be focused and I want to be whole.

I don’t know how to be whole.

Am I whole?

I want to be whole.

Something has struck me in my never ending search for fullness. I cannot provide it for myself. I cannot be the ending I want for my life, because I fall short of the goal. I don’t need more self-help. I’m tired of helping myself. I WANT THE HELP FROM SOMEONE ELSE. I need it. I crave the help. My heart is weak and broken and in pieces that only one person can pick up.

I think he’s been calling me. I am always so unsure, but I think he has. I think he has been with me even in my numbness, and followed me through to this valley of shadow. I think he has heard my prayers. My unspoken ones, the cries of my heart when self-medication did nothing. When I was less fulfilled by what they said would be fulfilling than I was when I did none of the things they said would work. I think he heard me.

I think he’s calling.

Are you calling?

Will I answer?

no. 61 // limelight identities

It is clearer to me now that it is not always wrong to see yourself in view. And I mean to be viewed. There is something in us all that is wondering if we were made for the limelight, and there is something in us that wants to taste it, if just for a moment.

For the longest time, I told myself I wasn’t worthy, that it would be wrong because the focus did not need to be on me. What I see now is, it is not that I am unworthy of the limelight, but that my worthiness is measured by something so much greater than the limelightContinue reading “no. 61 // limelight identities”

winter’s growing pains

There is something about the cold weather that makes me a little more introspective and a little more sensitive to the world around me. So much happens in the winter, but none of us want to see it because our bones are cold and our bodies are tired. A lack of sunshine and warmth makes us curl up and forget to look around and see what is happening more than a few feet in front of us.

Despite the bitter cold, winter is a season of growth. Think about it, the trees and flowers all begin to bloom at the end of winter as spring makes its way into the world, so something must be stirring, right? Something must be reaching down into the deepest roots, finding the strength to push on and keep growing. I want to have this strength, too. I want to push down into the deepest parts of myself and draw strength from the one thing that keeps me going all the time, even when its dark and hard; faith. I want it to mark my life even after I have grown too old for this world and have wasted away. It will be the finest decor that will let the world know who I was and who was with me.Continue reading “winter’s growing pains”

Spilling Tea

The kids these days are always talking about “the tea” or gossip that they can get or share with (and about) other people. They are continually blowing me away with how quickly they can go from one friend to the next, always complaining about being stressed and that friends are fake, etc. As I listen to them share about what is happening, all I can see is the fingerprints of comparison and control all over their lives.

I really need comparison and control to stop serving their tea; it’s nasty.

Quite frankly, many of the things making these kids stressed are problems that just take discipline to overcome, and I am deep in the throws of understanding that kind of discipline for myself. So, if you’ve got a decent sized mug of your favorite drink on hand, I’d like to spill this tea and move on. Shall we?

Comparison is the ultimate evil in the realm of friendships, and honestly, just life in general. It roots itself in jealousy, which leads to bitterness and resentment, neither of which are life-giving. It is so interesting how one person’s life win can feel like a loss for you when you should be rejoicing with them. A dear friend has recently been picking up side jobs that are cultivating creative things that I love to do. One in particular is something I actually used to do with her and I found it hard to not be a little put off by the fact that she was turning something I volunteered to help her with into a business.

I sound horrible, don’t I? Honestly, it is horrible; envy is like that.

Simple as this friends, victories in the lives of our friends are our cue to celebrate. The Lord has blessed them, so why would we not be happy?! We all know that each other’s lives aren’t happy all of the time, so victories are victories, no matter how small. My friend had been struggling to find her passion again and she was branching out to try different things to cultivate it after breaking through fear. That is a reason to through my hands in the air and celebrate with her, not be envious of her!

The comparison comes quietly though, that tiny voice in the back of your mind that says you should have that too, or you should have gotten it first. If we aren’t aware, comparison will breed control.

The devil wants you to see your friend’s victories as your losses, because we are all supposed to be getting to somewhere, right? You won’t be complete, you won’t be enough (comparison) if you don’t get there first (control). There is something better and you have to find it. Oh, and if you get tired trying to chase one thing that is better, and something new comes along, abandon your initial efforts and chase the new thing instead.

The dynamic duo, at it again.

Something that has recently hit me over the head as I’m learning to break down the lies of comparison and control is that our race in the faith is literally OUR RACE. Our life is OUR OWN. God gave it to us because only we are equipped to run it, and friends, we are not in control of anything but our own ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and which one we choose to put on the table in front of God. The only ‘yes’ we seem to want to put on the table though is the one for a big thing (whatever that is) that we feel emotionally pulled to when we are at a big church event or life deals us an unexpected hand. It seems like surrender, but it’s still just control.

I have lived this way for a while, and am slowly recognizing how deadly this lifestyle is. It tells us that only big life moments are worthy of prayer and attention, but if that were the case, then Paul telling us to pray about everything (a God-inspired command in writing, mind you) would be unnecessary.

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

A dear friend of mine recently encouraged me to pray about the little things while we were talking on the phone. “It is as simple as asking God, ‘Hey do you think it would be okay for me to get this glass of wine?’ and Him responding, ‘No go for the americano instead.’ And sometimes when you least expect it, that choice leads to God sending a little light your way and some woman bringing you over a really nice glass of wine you wouldn’t have been able to get for free!”

Now my friend clarified that the point isn’t to always expect a free glass of wine in return for listening to the Lord, but that the idea is to continually invite Him into the finite moments of your finite life. Continually leaning into the Lord with each moment of your life brings a sweet freedom when you do come to the bigger things where the desperation for His help is overwhelming. Trust in the little things sets ablaze the lies of comparing yourself to others and trying to control how well you do in the world.

Comparison and control go hand in hand. My want of someone else’s something leads me to put a tighter rein on what I do have or people’s perception of me. It leads to unneeded stress that I created myself. In the name of Jesus, we cannot walk around in this constant state of comparison. We cannot walk around white-knuckling tiny details that are insignificant in the grander scheme of things. We must learn to release what we think we want in favor of presently living with Jesus and what He has deemed necessary for us. Who knows if you have something in your possession right now that no one else you know would be able to wield in the way Jesus has seen necessary to further the Kingdom?

Stress is real, but it is not a burden you have to carry alone. Comparison and control are best friends, but they do not have to rule your life. You don’t have to abandon all control and become a lazy bum because “control is an illusion.” We must become aware of what God has given us to steward and control that in a way that honors Him. In this case, the stewardship of our life is to live in a way that leaves ultimatums in His hands, knowing that they are well taken care of.

That’s the tea friends. Considered it spilled right at the foot of the Cross and cleaned up in Jesus’ name. Let’s walk in the presence of God today, fully known and loved, covered by grace, and presented with an opportunity to shift the tides of society and to bring something new to the table.

And can we bring coffee? I’ve always been more of a coffee girl.

In the thick of it,

Jess

Know Your Coffee

You know how a good cup of coffee can just make your day? The smell makes you smile and brings your hopes up for the delicious elixir of life you’re about to enjoy. Then the robust flavors of a well roasted bean hit your tongue and make your taste-buds dance with joy as your mind and body react to the surge of energy it has just taken in.

That’s a little dramatic, but oh well.

So what would happen if when you’ve finally got that cup in your hand, hopes high and mind ready (and wallet crying because $5 is still unjustifiable for this), you take a sip and find that the coffee is weak and bitter? The horror! I would be frustrated and annoyed because I was expecting something better. You know what though? I would probably still finish the coffee. I might even go back to the place I got that coffee, order the same drink, and finish it every time because somehow I hope that it will be better this time because I expect it to be something it isn’t. Even when it doesn’t change, I won’t either because I become comfortable with it. Something about that place and that drink is convenient, and I am willing to settle.

This is my fear; comfort and weakness.

I think too often our message is weak, overly saturated with the wrong kind of comfort. We address the same topics (that are necessary, mind you) while forgetting to teach our brothers and sisters to simply understand the Word. It is important to have sermons on understanding our daily lives through a God-centered lens. It is more important to equip the saints to read the Word for themselves, meeting God in a unique way only He displays to His people individually.

I did not need the repeated messages on why I should not have sex, watch porn, do drugs or party, when I was in the eighth grade. I needed a reminder of why those were wrong, then a deep exploration of the Word of God to show me a better way to use my time. I didn’t need pastors to be funny or try and be relatable all of the time. I already looked up to them! I needed them to teach me how to read the Word, then point me to other people who would do the same. I do not need the overly emotional worship leaders and songs or preachers who love a good clap. I need a face-down respect of God, an understanding of Jesus, and a trust in Spirit who will then lead me to a response when He is in control of my spirit and actions when I am in corporate worship.

Listen to me, friends. As a believer in Christ, I know I have the authority to say this. We do not need more hands clapping, more feel good music, more of what we know. We need knees on the ground in repentance.

I am not so naive to ignore the fact that a person’s response to the Gospel is completely out of my control, but what I am aware of is how I use the time I am given to shepherd the people entrusted to me to the water of life as best as I can. God will do the rest.

Oh, friends. The burning in my heart for truth and revival is so fierce that I cannot contain the flames much longer. Do you ever feel the desire to speak freedom over your fellow man, the desire to frantically point back to the truth, falling on your knees in agony for the blindness of those around you?

I have.

I do.

Our generation begs for an emotional something, a feeling that will band-aid their problems and tell them how to live decent lives, to be normal and good. I don’t know about you, but I have never read a scripture that was normal. All of them are supernatural and are encouraging because they present this idea of something that is not normal as a gift to us. The promises of God are wrapped in a costly grace, and Jesus’ death was anything but normal. Jesus died to bring a RADICAL and DANGEROUS love to us! Praise God I do not have to be normal! It would be awful!

Friends, that you and I would open our eyes and hearts to the goodness of the Word as the Word, and that we would not go to it with our own assumptions, only looking for things that will make us feel good.

The truth that God divinely inspired, divinely acted out, and divinely gifted to us is GOOD.

May we all rest, stand, and speak from our knowledge that God is so so good, and that He has called us up out of our childish ways and back to the truth in a firm, but gentle way that only He can.

In the thick of it,

Jess

“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15

(cross references: John 3:3,5 – Luke 8:13, “And the ones on the rock are those who when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in the time of testing fall away.”)

Jesus told them, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

(cross references: Hebrews 10:20 – 1 John 5:20, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”)