The Struggle

Sometimes it takes a late night conversation to make you realize that you’ve lost faith in hope.

The other night as I talked to a friend we struggled with the same idea of some of our desires never being fulfilled, never being met. I realized, as I spoke to my friend and she shared her heartache with me that I’ve lost faith that God can still do these things in my own life.

 I lost faith that He is still on the throne, I’ve lost faith that He is still sovereign and I’ve lost faith that I can still hope in these things as long as my hope is placed firmly in Him and as long as I’m walking in His will. We ask for these things (whatever your “thing” may be) and somewhere along the way I stopped asking. I stopped thinking that I should even think that I might be able to have some of these things. I started to believe that I have to sit quietly and not even ask because it was too much to ask for.

I started to believe that I just had to stay right here, where I am and never be moved and to just suck it up so to speak. The idea of that, as I’m sure you can surmise or maybe have experienced, is somewhat depressing and so I’ve stuffed these desires down. I mean deep down, down many layers of who knows what but it’s down there somewhere. Hope will sometimes peer its little head but its dashed by whatever thoughts I have or whatever lies I have been prone to believe or by whatever restrictions I put on my God.

Now, this is where I start to get a little squeamish. To what end do I have to allow this stuff to come up to the surface? Do I continue to stuff those things down? Or do I let them float up and feel them? The weight of them? The hope in them? The disappointment in them? Feel the uncomfortableness of them?

I think we need to bring these things up and allow them to make us feel all the feels.

I think sometimes we need to wrestle with God regarding them. This may be a controversial statement but I think it’s a necessary thing. Last year I was part of a small group of women in my church that went through an inductive bible study. One of the things we learned and that really stuck with me was that when we are stuck on something, when we cant figure it out and we just want to throw our hands up in surrender and wave our white flag that’s when we are on the verge of learning just what we need to. As humans we want to just breeze through things without feeling anything bad or uncomfortable. And I think sometimes we stuff these “things”down so far that we forget. Or we just don’t want to waste the time and energy to wrestle with God because maybe, like me, you have lost faith that God can or will even do anything. Sometimes we need God to touch our hip, just like He touched Jacobs, to break us. We need these things that we struggle with and wrestle with to break us down so we can get to the heart of the issue. So that we can get to the uncomfortable point before the breakthrough.

The other night as I talked to my friend and she shared heartbreak with me we both spoke of just not knowing what the future is going to hold and where the Lord is leading us, the Lord touched my hip. He told me that I don’t have faith in Him. That I don’t have faith that He can do what I think He cannot or maybe what I think He will not.

How dare I think He cant do something. He’s God, who do I think I am? That I, or my situation, or the state that I am in life would be too much for Him to overcome? It’s a ridiculous thought and even as I type the words it seems ridiculous.

I need to work on my faith in all areas, I need to know He is enough. As I sat in church service last Sunday and we sang worship the words, “Jesus you are enough” rang out. As those words drifted through the speakers and as I sat in my seat that line floated down to me and quieted my soul right then and there. These words made me stop and really listen and hear them, “Jesus you are enough”. I had to stop and ask myself Jesus are you enough? Not really asking if He is enough because I know that He is. But asking myself, if I really believe He is enough that He is more than enough for me. That whatever He has to bring to me, that whatever He has for my life is more than enough for me.

Because He will meet all of my needs because He has met all of my needs thus far.

Because He has met all of my desires that were founded in Him thus far.

Because where I am and what I have in life has everything to do with Him and Him being enough and Him meeting my needs and my desires.

So I have to sit back and I have to let those words sink in. I have to wrestle with God and I have to allow Him to come in and touch my heart and my hip and give me a limp. I want to have a testimony of what God has done. If wrestling with Him brings me to the realization that He is enough then I’m game.

The reality is that when I seek Him, He will carry me through. We may be wounded and we may be scarred but He will bandage us, He will put us back together. He will love us even when we are in the state of hurting and feeling and struggling and wrestling He’s right there by our side the whole way. So, I can struggle and I can wrestle and we can call each other and cry on the phone and speak words of truth into each other’s lives. We can go back and forth with scripture and still come up not certain as to all the answers but as long as we’re seeking God I think we’re in an ok place I think we’re fine. So keep seeking the Lord. Keep turning to Him. Keep wrestling.

Keep struggling.

Don’t quiet those things but bring them up to the surface. Search His word, invite in fellowship and accountability. Be where He has you but also wrestle and struggle in that place if you need to because its in that place that we grow and learn and desire more. It’s in that place that we grow closer to Him and it’s in that place that we remember that He is faithful and my faith and hope is safe in Him.

Life is not a romantic comedy but I am Eve.

Life is not a romantic comedy. As much as I would love it to be so, it is not. I think I would get annoyed at some point with a drama or a musical all that dancing and brooding would tire me out but a romantic comedy,that would be great. A fun soundtrack, a love interest that would make grand romantic gestures just to win my affections. My quirks and failings would be charming and cute. In the end everything works out and you don’t have to deal with real life after the happily ever after. In fact you can relive the whole thing over again by pressing play! Sounds kind of amazing right? I mean I really think  people would understand me as a person better if I was a character in a romantic comedy but that’s besides the point.

I am getting to a point just bear with me I get sidetracked sometimes, which you would find endearing if this was a Romcom.

Reality is, life is not a romantic comedy. Life is real. Plot twists and story lines will not propel my story forward. It will take much longer than a series of sad scenes for my character to get over a broken heart and the consequences for my failed actions will have a greater, longer lasting affect on me and my loved ones than just a few minutes and a few flashes of despair only to be redeemed by my true love realsing that he simply cannot live without me and so life is restored to order, the sun shines, birds sing and my wardrobe just keeps getting better.

Nope. Not real life.

So how does our character, how do we get propelled forward? How does our plot change and twist? How do we know when to and how to move forward? What steps do I take and how do I know when to step on the crack and when it’s going to break my mothers back? How do I know when to leave my glass slipper and when I just need to leave? How do I know when to pack up my bags and travel hundreds of miles away to start a new life, in a new town, for it to start out horribly and end fantastically? How do I know? How do I choose? I mean is it Eanie, Meanie, Minie or Moe? And if they choose you does that mean you win or lose?

So many things. So many options. So many decisions.

Holding all of these decisions up to the Word of God I look at the women of the Bible. Eve, Ruth, Naomi, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail and on and on. These women, just like us, had to live life, they had to live real life and in fact they had no idea what a romcom was so they didn’t even know how good life could be if only. What I mean is they had thoughts and pondered decisions, they were tempted and wanted and desired things. They all failed but they all loved the Lord. they made bad decisions but the Lord came in and blessed them anyways or should I say despite them. Eve, well we all know about Eve. Eve was tempted, she gave in to said temptation (no I am not letting Adam off the hook but I am focusing on Eve because I can relate), she gave ear to the enemy and talked herself in to sinning. Eve was punished. I think Eve felt some of the highest highs, giving birth for the very first time, EVER! In the history of EVER! Holding the very first newborn all fresh and warm and snuggly. She got to live in Eden and roam the garden with the Lord. On the flip side Eve and Adam for that matter experienced the lowest lows, the first death and that being her own child who was murdered by her other child. I mean the depths of despair that must have brought. And that is just the tip of the ice burg or the arch of the story. I am Eve, I identify with major failings. I identify with being tempted and giving in to the love of things and beauty and knowledge.

All these women had hard decisions, not all gave them over to the Lord and in those moments they lost. They got in the way but the Lord redeemed them and blessed them because they loved Him and their testimonies, their lives would further His kingdom and speak to us here and now.

Maybe none of this makes sense but the clarity I received tonight as I pondered all of this was that when we try as humans as fallen people, when we step and decide and make a move without setting our story before the Lord we fail. This is not a romcom, I am not the center of it all. The sooner we realize that and succumb to that thought and surrender ourselves and lives to the Lord and be who we are called us to be in the moment. To do what He asks you to do and be and move and live, even when we don’t ask or want that life or situation that’s the moment that His story line will be propelled forward. That’s when the Lord will be glorified. That’s when people will know Him. That’s when life no longer becomes about our happy ending or our story line but life becomes about His. That’s when we know we are right where we are supposed to be not worrying about our glass slipper or when we’re going to get our makeover montage but when we know our life reflects Him and that’s all that really matters.

In the end life is not a romantic comedy, it’s even better because my happily ever after has no end, my happily ever after is eternal.

 

 

A restored hope in hope

Hope. Hope has been a word that has been chasing me the last couple of weeks. Let me start off by telling you a story.

When I was in High School my best friend got nominated for the Homecoming court. We were so excited, as high school girls are about most things. I helped her pick out a dress , a long sequins dress a al Beverly Hills 90210, watched as she got her hair done in a french twist Just like Kelly Taylor and got her nails did, french tip style like Brenda Walsh. Unknown

 

 

 

 

Yes, we were the product of the 90’s.

Anyways, we were excited, just like Kelly and Brenda.

I watched from the bleachers with her family as she was paraded around the football field and propped up on a stage. The names were read off and finally the moment of truth. All of our anticipation had led up to this moment, the moment we both never really spoke out loud but we both knew, the moment her name would be read aloud for all to hear. As she stood on the stage all sparkly and bright a name was read but it wasn’t her own. There was just a deafening absence of a name. Another name was called and a different sparkly girl came forward to receive her spoils and a crowd full of loud accolades. I watched as my friend was escorted off the stage and I ran down the bleachers to meet her behind them and no words were spoken, we just ran to each other (yes, dramatic. What do you expect we were in High School) and hugged and we both cried. We cried because of the loss, the loss of a hope. I cried because of my friends loss and because she cried and because I was in High School and that’s what High School girls do. She cried for all of those reasons but also because she was embarrassed. Embarrassed for being paraded around and stood on stage in front of what seemed like a million people. She cried because she hoped for the win and was crushed in front of a crowd full of people, made to feel inadequate and small, oh so small, in front of everybody. I’m sure by the next day we were out at the mall fixing all of her crushed hopes but for that moment it was tragic and painful.

I tell you this story because I like to tell stories and because this is how I have viewed hope.

I read this quote last week:

“It is ok to hope. It is safe to hope. For my hope is in Christ Jesus.”

When I read that I realized that hope is an issue for me.  I realized that I didn’t think of hope as safe but rather as a liability. And then a read a blog about hope and the fear of hoping because hoping means we put ourselves out there, just like my high school friend did. I think that all of these years I’ve been afraid to hope because I was afraid that my hope would be paraded around in a sparkly dress with a french twist in its hair and french tips and then my hope would be put on a stage only to be crushed and made small and me crushed and small with it. I didn’t want to chance hoping because I didn’t want to chance being put on display for all to see and then being stomped on when my hope was not fulfilled.

A verse the Lord gave me a long time ago is Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart-sick, but when the desire comes it is a tree of life.” For so many years I’ve focused on the first part the part I know to be true “Hope deferred makes the heart-sick” boy does it, I think we can all attest to that. The part I forget and have chosen to forget for fear that I would have to take action is the latter “When the desire comes it is a tree of life.” You see the Lord doesn’t stop at us being heart-sick. No. He goes on to then replace those desires those hopes we have with His hopes and desires for us and when those come to fruition and they will because God put them there then it’ll be a tree of life. Abundant and bearing fruit and life. A beautiful picture indeed. That does mean however that we do have to hope and we have to place that hope in Jesus and sometimes our hopes will fail. Sometimes our hopes and prayers will not come true and we will feel let down and embarrassed we will feel defeated and crushed but then we learn, we learn to put our hopes in Christ and learn to trust that He will do with them as He see’s fit and we have to be okay with that. Let’s hope, those of us who have been casting our hopes aside or pretending like we don’t have any. As we hope let’s surrender those hopes at the feet of Jesus and let’s hope in Him because let’s face it He’s the only one that can turn our hopes in to His desires and then make them fruitful and give them life.

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Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot…

Today many of us, if not most of us, will make resolutions or plans or goals, we will start fresh. We’ll make charts and journal, we’ll clean and write lists, organize and get ready to purchase items that make our new life easier and cleaner. That’s all great! In fact I think it’s helpful that we want to change to start fresh to move forward. Let’s do it!

Today I woke up, made my coffee and sat down to start a fresh in a new book of the Bible. No resolutions to speak of. I sat down and read the first chapter of Jeremiah and as I read I knew what I wanted this year to be about. I knew what I wanted my life to look like and the change I wanted to see take place in me.

Here is how the conversation went between Jeremiah and the Lord:

“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’ Then said I: ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak for I am a youth.’ But the Lord said to me: ‘Do not say, ‘I am a youth, ‘ For you shall go to all to whom I send you and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord.” Jeremiah 1:4-8

I’ve heard this portion of scripture time and time again. But today it caught me and brought me in, it spoke to me. I went through and circled the “I” statements that the Lord spoke to Jeremiah and in turn spoke to me.

“I formed you… I knew you…I sanctified…I ordained” v.5

“I send…I command” v.7

“I am with you to deliver you.”v8

“I have put My words in your mouth”v.9

“I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms” v.10

“I am ready to perform My words” v.11

“I am calling” v.15

“I will utter” v.16

“I command you” v.17

“I have made you this day a fortified city” v.18

“I am with you’ says the Lord, ‘to deliver you.” v19

In all of that what was Jeremiah’s I statements?

“I cannot speak, for I am a youth” v.6

Jeremiah saw his shortcomings, Jeremiah saw himself. God saw Jeremiah as a vessel, a vessel that He created, a vessel He would use to speak His words not Jeremiah’s words. If we, or in this case if I get out of my own way, if I get out of God’s way and allow Him to be who He is in my life and in the lives of those around me I don’t need resolutions, I don’t need plans or charts or schemes all I need is Him.

This year I want to step aside to allow God to form me , sanctify and ordain me to send me and command me, to be with me, to put His words in my mouth, to set me where I need to be, to perform and to utter, to make and to deliver me. I don’t want to be stifled and halted by what I can’t do and know what He can do and will do through me if I allow it.

I used to tell my preschoolers that they could not tell me that they can’t. I used to sit with them until they could. I’m still not a fan of the word can’t but the truth is we can’t, not as humans, not on our own but He can and he will when I step aside and stop saying “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot” and start saying Lord you can.

It’s a new mercies kind of thankfulness

Being that I am me, being that I am 100% human and 100% Jenn I fail. I fail hard. Sometimes I just jump into things and fall. Hard. I like to say I go big or go home and that transfers over to my failings as well. I wear my heart on my face, that’s right, my face not my sleeve. You can almost always tell whats going on in my head by what my face says. Sometimes I spew out my mouth words that can, regretably, never be put back. If I don’t know how or what to do, I just do, I don’t wait. I do. Which, as you can imagine results in many, many failures.

All that to say that I am so, so thankful that:

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“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:22&23

Even though I fail. Even though I am human and have many, many (too many to count really) shortcomings I know that the Lords mercies never come to an end, they are new EVERY morning! I have a fresh start every day to change my attitude, to adjust my heart and to walk in Him. In fact I have the option, the choice to change moment by moment. When I feel my day going downhill or my heart getting all rough and prickly all I have to do is make the choice to quiet my mind, talk to the Lord and get right because He loves me and wants me to get right that’s why His mercies are new every single morning. I always have the option to start new in Him, to receive His mercy and love and to press on.

For that I am in awe. For that I am forever changed and for that I am thankful beyond any words that I could ever utter.

A new anthem for this generation

Today, as I was driving, my mind was racing around as usual, very occupied and cluttered as it often is when I’m driving and all of a sudden six little words poured themselves out of my speakers and grabbed my attention. I promise, they snapped me right out of my traffic induced coma and breathed a breath of  unpolluted oxygen into my soul which woke me up and made me turn up the radio. As I listened to some  sugary sweet voices sing a new anthem for this generation.

Let me take a step or two back. I am very aware of the social/multi/insta-face-tumblr-blog-osphere media that is all around us (I’m missing like ten other sites I’m sure). I see what the next generation is posting, pining, gramming, vineing, booking and listening to and sometimes it makes me sad. It makes me sad but not surprised because 1Peter 5:8 tells us “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil  walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”. Why wouldn’t he go after our young? why wouldn’t he prey on our kids, especially if we aren’t looking. It’s super easy. He just hides it all in pretty melodies and mesmerizing beats, he hides it behind pretty faces and whimsically artistic backgrounds.

Take this for example:

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So pretty right? I mean the colors, the clouds, the sky, the way the words are just not perfect.  We love this kind of stuff, we pin it to our virtual pin boards and post it on instagram which then gets posted on our facebook walls. What is this photo really telling us? Obviously, follow your heart. Innocent enough, right? Well God’s word tells us in Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”

huh? Not so cutesy anymore, right?

Right, because that’s the truth. Follow your heart and you’ll find out how absolutely dark and deceitful it really is. I’m not trying to be a Debbie downer here, I mean I love a good quote board on pinterest, I love a fun and cutesy background. What I’m saying is just like 1Peter tells us we need to be on alert, sober-minded, listening, watching being mindful of what we put into our heads or what we let our brains munch on and what we let infiltrate our lives, virtual or otherwise, all because we weren’t really paying attention or we didn’t think it was that bad.

Folks, it’s that bad.

The anthem for the youth of today is YOLO, Live while you’re young, Only God can judge us, Live Big, Do what you want to do, Be who you want to be, follow your heart and emotions, I can’t change, fall in love, fall out of love, and fall back in love with somebody else, sleep around, drink up, party hard, smoke what you want, drugs are fine too… I could go on and on (and yes I’m pulling all of these sayings and ideas from the music of today) but I think you get the idea.

This is what makes me sad, this is what sometimes makes me feel hopeless for the next generation because the world can look so big and shiny and pretty and I’ll be the first to admit, i love big, shiny, pretty things. They distract me and pull me in if I’m not watchful and submitted to the Lord. I admit that I too can be blinded and that’s the plan. Blind them, keep them occupied and mesmerized.

Let’s read the 1Peter verse in context:

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while perfect, established, strengthen and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1Peter5:6-11

The world tells us to do, to be, to go for it, follow your own way, live now.

Gods word tells us to humble ourselves, be sober, vigilant, resist, be steadfast in faith, give glory to God.

Quite the opposite right? This is why I get sad because it’s hard, I mean it says it right there in 1Peter there will be suffering. The thing that I think the world misses (well, they miss a lot) is that in the end we will be perfected, established, strengthened and settled and ultimately live in eternally in Heaven, which is a far better hope and promise than any little life I can try to make for myself here on earth.

Ok, back to the beginning or the post. The six little words that got my attention were “live for Jesus while we’re young”. What? right?! You never hear that. Live for Jesus? Not for self? That’s right.

Here are the words (sung by 1Girl Nation) that breathed fresh air into my wary little soul:

“Here we go
We’ve all heard people talking
About all the things that they regret
And what they would change to do it again
We know our stories just starting
So much is unwritten, yeah
We’re gonna go right when the world goes left
Cause we don’t wanna waste even one of these days
We’re gonna save
Ourselves the heartache
We’re not looking back
No
On what we wished we’d done
We’re gonna risk
It all for one thing
And live for jesus while we’re young
While we’re young

There’s gonna be some up times
There’s gonna be some real steeps climbs
So it’s here and now that we decide
If we’re gonna be ready for these days when life hits hard
We gotta know for sure now who we are
Cause we don’t wanna waste even one of these days
We’re gonna save
Ourselves the heartache
We’re not looking back
No
On what we wished we’d done
We’re gonna risk
It all for one thing
And live for jesus while we’re young
While we’re young
While we’re young

We know who we are
A chosen generation
We know who we are
This is our declaration”

Go ahead, breathe it in. Let it penetrate your wary little soul. Then go, be vigilant, be watchful, put on your sunglasses so you’re not blinded and peek inside the pretty wrapping before you open the package.

Let’s pray for our youth, and ourselves for that matter,  that they and we would decide to live for Jesus while we’re young. It’s time to practically live out and walk and be a new anthem for this generation.