Tuesday, December 31, 2013

reflections as another year ends.

2013: a year of learning to "choose better."

Developing new patterns of thought, eating habits, and behavior.
Overcoming lies.  Reclaiming truths.
Looking past the easily accessible.
Letting go of some of the "lesser things" that had kept my hands tied.
Searching for the "more" that had remained hidden among the mundane.

2013: a year of uprooted fears.

Looking those deeply rooted fears in the face.
Acknowledging and exploring them.
Facing those insecurities.
Understanding them.
Sharing the journey with others - young and old.
Blessing and being blessed by it.
The beauty of HIS deliverance.

2013: a year of fruits revealed.

Seeing beautiful evidence of HIS work.
HIS kindness in allowing me to see my role in it.
Encouraged.  Honored.  Challenged.
Beautiful breakthroughs.
Blossoming out of years of toil.
New opportunities.
Profound gifts.
The depth far exceeding the passing of their moment.

2013: a year of goodbyes.

Friendships changing forms.
Moves.  Transitions.  Repositioning.
Loss.
Watching ones I love ache with grief.
Aching myself.
Grateful to see past the "ending" and into the eternal.
Grateful for the eternal.
HIS Presence.

2013: a year of dreams and prayer.

Seeing the smallness of my prayers.
The selfishness in my dreams.
Wanting better.
Dreaming bigger.
Prayers without words, for words can hardly contain.
And because I dare not attempt to restrict the stirrings.
Hands open.
Roots deepening.
Untied.
Surrender.

2013.
A year of more Light.
A year of more Love.
A year of faith.
Trust without borders.
A year of mountaintops and radiant faces.
A year of valleys and the darkness of night.
The faithfulness of HIS new morning mercies.
The promise that fulfillment will come.
The waiting.
The meaning.
The wordless whispers.
The uncertainty.
And the freedom to embrace it all.

That is where 2013 leaves me.
And I have this peace filled, beautiful feeling that HE is smiling as this year hands me to over to the next.
Like something is coming.
And it will be good.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

and it broke.

If I'm being honest
I don't even know what to say right now.

All my thoughts are depressing…

--------------------------------------------------------------

That's all I could come up with last night as I sat, tears in my eyes, trying to spend the lonely dark hours of the early evening efficiently by writing.

You see, I've been wrestling with some stuff this winter.  Deeply buried fears and doubts and pains that are made vulnerable by the cold and the darkness.  The winter is a barren and lonely season.  And to quote the Avetts, it must be winter in my heart.

Lonely.
Isolated.
Sad.

All day, I'd felt like I was on the verge of tears.
And on the drive home, I cried.

Alone.
In the car.
In the rain.
The cold rain.

Choking on my tears, I sought refuge in my apartment.

The darkness.
The loneliness.
The aching.
The cries.

I had reached a breaking point.

In desperation, I texted a couple close friends, begging for prayers, and moments later, I received these words from a dear friend and mentor:

I WAS JUST PRAYING FOR YOU!!! Go Holy Spirit!!! He loves you so much:)

And in that moment, I broke.
I fell fully into the crashing waves of pain and fear and sadness.
And I cried.
A lot.

Alone.
It broke.
My heart just… broke.

        Falling further into hysteria
        crumbled on the floor
        face pressed into the side of the mattress
        clinging to the edge of my quilt
        desperately grasping for something to hold on to
        wailing in agony
        screaming to the LORD.

--------------------------------------------------------------

There is a song that has been the anthem of my prayers and the prompter of my spirit for almost a year now: Oceans by Hillsong United.  The lyrics put words to a bold prayer that the SPIRIT has been interceding on my behalf for years.  I so deeply desire to follow HIM with such closeness and intimacy and trust that I will follow HIM anywhere.  I want to allow HIM to take me into the places HE dreamed of guiding me when HE formed me.  I want to be HIS Light in darkness.  I want to speak HIS Love in brokenness.  I want to expose HIS Life in death.

I want to have trust without borders.
I want to walk upon the waters, wherever HE will call me.
I want HIM to take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.
I want my faith to be made even stronger in the Presence of my SAVIOR.

--------------------------------------------------------------

I cried to the LORD, begging HIM to save me.

GOD where are YOU?!
I can't control this!! I can't fix this!!
Why can't I escape this sadness!
My heart hurts so badly, I could rip it out!
Please… 
I've been trying to trust without borders and walk on the waters…
But the ocean is raging!!
I'm being tossed and torn through crashing seas..
And my faith can barely stand.

I eventually ended up on the phone with a good friend of mine.  I was trying to explain my feelings.  Trying to put my spiritual and emotional anguish into words.  And the more I talked through it, the more evident it became that I was under great spiritual attack.

It may sound strange to say this, but I have a lot of faith.
I really do.
I believe it's a spiritual gift I've been given.
And I love it.
I love faith.
I love how I have seen my faith grow and stretch.
Over the past several years, the enemy has intended to harm me.
He has sought to destroy my faith.
But, thanks to the LORD and the way HE has formed my spirit, the enemy has not succeeded.

To put it nicely, I'm thinking that's ticked him off a little bit.

The enemy has been at work this winter, trying to erode my faith.
He has seen that his big, dramatic efforts have only made me stronger.
So quietly, slowly, discretely, he has been making every effort to wear me down.

In a season I am found most vulnerable, the enemy has declared a quiet war on me.

I expressed these things over the phone:
He has made his attack, and he has weakened me substantially.
And for the first time… ever… I feel like…
I feel like I can't get a grip on my faith…
I'm not certain that I'm convinced HE is going to make it better…
I feel like I'm drowning.
And I'm not convinced HE is going to stop it.
I feel… alone… and abandoned.

It was in that moment
Speaking those last words
That it broke.

--------------------------------------------------------------

The lie broke.
The trap broke.
The enemy's line snapped.

My spirit knew without a doubt, that the LORD my GOD would not abandon me.

I sat up straight, an intensity in my voice as I boldly declared the truth.
I am not abandoned!
My GOD is a GOD who saves!
And yes, I may be weak-- but it isn't my own strength that I rely on!
It's HIS strength!
And HIS strength is even stronger in my weakness!

Angry and determined, like that slight spark had unleashed a raging fire, I rose to my feet.
I was overcome.
Overcome with joy.
Overcome by grace.
Overcome with truth.

This, my friends, is how we overcome!!

And let me tell you, what the enemy intended for harm, the LORD got a hold of and brought about such beautiful good.  My senior high girls were at my apartment for our weekly Bible study just thirty minutes later, and I was able to share a beautiful victory story with them.  And together, we sifted through Psalm 91, Psalm 18, and many other powerful words of Truth that HE has left for us.  We allowed HIS Truth to pour over us.

You see, the LORD alone has the right to rule over my heart, mind, body, and soul.
The LORD alone is the ruler of my home and my life.
The SPIRIT is good to illuminate and expose the enemy's lies.
To remind me of the ONE I love and the extent of HIS Love for me.
The enemy may drag me into a pit, but my heart belongs to JESUS.
And HE fights for me.

"If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you… The LORD says, 'I will rescue those who love ME.  I will protect those who trust in MY Name.'"  Psalm 91:9,14

I feel a warrior spirit coming alive in me again.  I suddenly feel strong enough to stand back up and speak the Truth, not trusting my emotions but trusting in HIM.  HE is strength even in my weakness.  In HIM I will not be overcome by the enemy!  HE overcomes for me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

choosing better: on settling.

HE says to me:
Trust.
Blind surrender.
If sight is your judge, such temporal things you trust in.

Well, that's part of what HE said to me this past Wednesday night.  This fall, I had the opportunity to teach a women's class at Mayfair.  It was a scary, exciting, beautiful, humbling, delightful experience.  One for which I am very grateful.

The class was about thriving in GOD's story, and we covered a lot in those nine weeks!  We discussed the enemy's lies, our insecurities, and how comparison is the thief of joy.  We talked about the power of speaking life and truth, to ourselves and to others.  We spent time searching the Word of GOD and filling up on truth.  We talked about choosing better and not settling for the lesser things, and we spent a couple of weeks exploring the beauty and depth of redemption: the hope that is an anchor for our souls.  It was a really special thing to be a part of that class.  I truly believe that GOD guided me as I walked with these women through those two months.

However, I knew that I wasn't intended to have the last word.

HE was.

So the majority of our class time was spent quietly listening for GOD-- writing what HE was whispering to each of our hearts about our own, unique, individual piece of HIS story.

Now honestly, I wasn't really sure how that quiet time would be received, but I knew there was no other way for me to give each individual in the class what they needed...
Only HE could do it.

So I sat-- scared, embarrassed, fighting fear & the enemy's whispers of shame-- and I prayed.

LORD, please speak to these women.

You can trust ME to be all they need.

And then HE said it:

Trust.
Blind surrender.
If sight is your judge, such temporal things you trust in.
The unseen places are MY domain.
The most beautiful things are found there.

And I knew HE was right.
(Of course HE is right-- HE is GOD.)

So I trusted HE was moving in that room in ways I couldn't see, and I allowed myself to enter the conversation I could feel we were about to have...

LORD, why do I choke the life out of the things I delight in?
YOU don't choke the life out of me.

Trust, my daughter.
I do not fear, because I know I AM able.

Trust ME to satisfy
and the things you delight in 
will be free to flourish.

Leaves...
Trees...
Love...
Dreams...

Beauty is when you let go, Jenna.

(Now at this point in the prayer time, I experienced a very special moment.  A sweet woman who has become a dear friend, leaned across the table, absolutely beaming, and showed me what GOD was telling her.  It was beautiful.  All about letting go.  And rest... It was so special... so beautiful that HE would say some of the same things to each of us.)

Let go.
Beautiful surrender.
That is what HE was leading me to.

Our conversation continued..

You are so inclined to get restless, Jenna.
Rest.
Root yourself and rest.

LORD, does this mean I should buy a house?
Get my masters?
Trust YOU as I..... settle...

Jenna, settle isn't always a bad word.

----------------------------------------------------------------

Settle isn't always a bad word.
That got my attention.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the word settle is often used in a negative way.

"Don't settle for less than you deserve."
"Don't settle for a job that isn't fulfilling."
"Don't settle for a guy that doesn't treat you right.  Or love you well.  Or open the door for you..." (and every other thing that people say when giving girls advise about finding "the one" and such.)

It's true.
I don't want to settle for lesser things.
I don't think GOD wants me to settle for lesser things.
But am I supposed to maybe settle for something?

I looked up the definition of settle, and I discovered that the word is only negative if the object associated with it is negative.  Maybe we've just been associating the word with the wrong objects!

There are many definitions for the word settle.
Here are a few:
  - to decide, arrange, or agree
  - to come to rest
  - to gather, collect, or become fixed in a particular place, direction, etc
  - to become calm or composed
  - to become firm or compact, as the ground
To settle down:
  - to become established in some routine after a period of independence or indecision.
  - to become calm or quiet
  - to apply oneself to serious work
To settle for:
  - to be satisfied with
To settle into:
  - to become established in

I belong to a generation that hates the idea of settling.
And we're terrible at it.
We can't settle on a major in college.
We can't settle on a job after college.
We can't even settle on weekend plans!

We hate commitment.
We hate being tied down.
Because there's always the possibility of something "better."
There's always the possibility that we could choose something, only to find that the next thing was going to be what we wanted more.

So guys enter serious relationships, freak out, and bail.
And girls enter serious relationships, freak out, and bail.
So people take jobs, and quit jobs, and leave jobs, looking for that arbitrary idea that there is more.
And everyone is looking for something or someone, and there are seemingly endless possibilities that are oh so seemingly accessible, and we think if we wait long for it enough we can have it all.

BUT THAT IS A LIE!

That is the lie my generation has bought into.
That is the lie that I have bought into.

Waiting for the next best thing NEVER gets me the best thing, because I'm always passing up what I really want waiting for what I think I really want.

I never get to enjoy that which I hope for if I let the fear of missing out rob me of all that is gifted to me in the present.

Do you hear this?
Do you see this around you?
In you?
The flawed logic?
The restless, aimless wanderers that, whether they seem settled or not, they are never settled because they are always looking.

We are a people who never come to rest.
We never seem to decide.
We are scared to establish.
Scared to lose that "freedom."

It is a false sense of freedom.

When I am afraid to settle, I am a slave to my fears.
When I am afraid to choose, I am a slave to indecision.

"To settle for" is "to be satisfied with."
If I settle for nothing, I am not satisfied with anything.

There is a quote that has been hanging on wall ever since I graduated college:

"When you make a choice, you accept the limitations of that choice.  To accept limitation requires maturity.  The child has not yet learned that it can't have everything.  What it sees it wants.  What it does not get it screams for.  It has to grow up to realize that saying yes to happiness often means saying no to yourself."  - Elisabeth Elliot

My heart is inclined to grow restless.
It is easily enticed by all that could be.

But I'm convinced that all the "could be" is making me miss out on now.

So maybe I should tell my restlessness no.

Maybe a lot of us should.

----------------------------------------------------------------

Settle.
Trust.
Rest.

That was HIS Word for me.
And I heard HIM.

So I make my declaration of trust.
Surrendered and waiting.
Trusting HIM enough to choose.
And to live fully now.

I think my heart is ready for the rest that comes with settling.
Settling in my heart, in my spirit, and in my mind.
I want to see what more can come of the seeds we've been planting,
as I let the roots rest in the soil in which they've been placed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

beauty and lies.

Beauty.
It's misunderstood when we limit it to fancy clothes, passing trends, and perfect hair.

Beauty.
It's distorted when we see it through the lens of Hollywood's cameras.

Beauty.
It's cheapened when we cling to comforting catchphrases and clich├ęs.

Beauty.

What a topic.  The word alone stirs up a whirlwind of thoughts, emotions, images...
A question that heavily wraps itself around the heart of every woman.  every girl.

Am I beautiful?

What a question...
The pain.
The conflict.
The confusion.
The heartbreak.

The effort.
The desperation.
The longing.
The lies.

Beauty.

The enemy sees our weakness.
Our wanting.
That vulnerable place within that aches to hear it.
To know it.
Needing the answer.

Am I beautiful?

He hates us.  The enemy.
He despises us for that part of GOD that we received when HE formed us.
Our beauty.
He has been jealous from the beginning.  The enemy.
Jealous and eager to steal.  To take it.  To rob us.
If he can't have it, he doesn't want any of us to have it.
HIS beauty.
HIS image.
HIS reflection.

Beauty.

Oh the lies we've believed!
Oh the battle that rages!
Oh the pain that cuts as we wrestle our doubts and combat the lies and fall victim to the relentless onslaught of whispers and screams that bombard us with more questions and more sources for comparison and more opportunities to hide....

And in the tangled mess of coping and fighting and losing and trying.
We do hide.
We hide away our truest selves.

He did it.  The enemy.
He robbed us.
He couldn't take it.  Isn't capable.
So he scares us.  The enemy.
And we hide.
And the entire world around us is robbed of our beauty.

Devastated.
That's the condition our world is left in as we retreat into hiding.
He rips us apart.  The enemy.
And we believe him.
And the world is devoid of HIS beauty.
That specific reflection of HIM.
That HE put in us.

Beauty.

------------------------------------------------------------------

According to this article, 1 out of 3 women wear make-up "every time they go out-- even if they're only shopping for groceries."  6 out of 10 "wouldn't consider going to work without it."

This next part is heartbreaking to me: 1 out of 10 of the women polled "admitted that they would never let their partners see them without a full face on."  Their own husbands!  So heartbreaking.

It was that statistic-- seeing that the lies have gotten so out of control that women are fearful to let their own husbands see them without makeup-- that I couldn't shake last year when I considered participating in Rave Ministry's No Makeup November (NMN).

I'm just going to be honest: my initial response in hearing about NMN was not a positive one.  This is a flaw of mine: I can be initially very judgmental of something, especially related to girls ministry, that looks too stereotypically girly.  I believe in talking about things as they are with my girls-- not dressing them up with flowers and bubble letters just to make it look pretty and feel good.  And if a book or a song or a conference or a retreat looks flowery and pink, I push back from it.  I want depth.  I didn't see very much depth in many of the things presented me as a "youth group girl" growing up, and I want to provide more than that for my girls.  Good intentions, just sometimes too quick to judge.

I heard No Makeup November and all I saw was a bandwagon movement making a statement about something that had absolutely nothing to do with my spirituality.

I was wrong.  (And I'm sorry for that, by the way.)

The more I listened as I heard my girls talking about it...  The more I listened to the statistics that were being presented...  The more I listened to my very own heart as I considered it....

I knew I needed to be a part of this.

You see, I don't really wear a lot of makeup to begin with.  And last year, I justified my desire NOT to participate myself because I typically only wore powder and eye liner.  If I busted out mascara and eye shadow, then I was dressing up!  Come on, I wasn't depending on makeup for anything, was I?!

A funny thing happened though, when I seriously started feeling convicted to give it up-- you know, for the sake of the teen girls in my ministry-- the more anxious I felt.  The closer I came to committing, the more my hesitation increased.

And then I realized the truth.  I was scared to give up powder and eye liner.  What in the world!?!  I'm pretty sure the powder does nothing in the grand scheme of things!!  Yet the thought of going without it left me feeling so insecure.

I'd bought into the lie too.
Mine looked like a lesser lie, but it was just as gripping.
I seriously believed that my Cover Girl compact and a little lining around my eyes made a difference.  Like, a big difference.  As if those two little things were some magic wand that had the power to save me from.... well... to save me from... my lack of beauty?

WHAT?!?

Lies.
Do you see the lie?
And I had bought into it!!

That was October 30th.
I immediately went home and washed my face.
I was doing it.
I was committed.
I was angry.
I would NOT allow the enemy to enslave me to a lie as ridiculous as that!

So yes, I participated in No Makeup November last year.  I actually spent the first 10 days of November on a special vacation with two of my friends in Australia.  One of the biggest trips of my life-- it was a very significant trip-- and I didn't even pack eye liner.
I felt so FREE.
There were definitely insecure moments.
(Lies aren't overcome easily.)
But FREE.

I will participate in No Makeup November again this year.
Because I believe in beauty.
Real beauty.
HIS beauty.

Because I want my girls to believe in beauty.
Real beauty.
HIS beauty.

And I want to world to see beauty.
Real beauty.
HIS beauty.

And because I hate the enemy and his lies, and I feel like a community of women standing together in defiance against all the crap he throws at us is like punching him in the face.  And I want to punch the enemy in the face.

So let's stand strongly together with unveiled faces, allowing HIS Light and Beauty to radiate from us in a way that can shatter the strongholds and redeem and repair some of our heart's deepest broken places.

Beauty.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

be with ME.

{this post was written yesterday at about 1:00pm.  it was typed today.}

So it's been about a month since my last post.  Oops.

As I write this, I'm on a solo retreat.
That's right.
Solo.
By myself.

I'm at a retreat center that I've been to several times in Sewanee, Tennessee.
It's absolutely beautiful here.
When I've come in the past, I've been with a group of girls for a Silent Retreat.
I know: that sounds like an oxymoron.  Girls.  Silent.
Sounds crazy, but it's true!  I always love a good silent retreat.

Due to babies born, moves made, and other various circumstances, the Silent Retreat wasn't being planned for this fall.  Let me tell you, I was desperately needing one.  I considered organizing one myself, but the thought of taking on that responsibility was overwhelming.
Just thinking through the details left me exhausted.
I needed peace.
I needed to be alone.
I needed rest.

So I booked myself a little one room cottage, and made plans to go on my own!

(Sidenote: I worried that my decision might seem a little bit selfish, especially to those who would have wanted to be a part of a silent retreat.  But I decided that it wasn't selfish.  It was self-aware.  Sometimes we have to do what we need to do for ourselves, so that we are able to be filled to continue to do what we need to do for others.  This is a concept that may one day require its own blog post.)

I've been here for about 22 hours at this point.

I've caught up in Daily Bible.  I've spent some time reading in The Jesus Storybook Bible while swinging in a magical little "bird cage basket swing."  (HE said to become like children, right?!)  I've gone on a hike and did some exploring.  I've been enjoying my quaint little cottage (which turned out to be a creepy little cottage when you're in it alone at night).  It's been a very pleasant retreat so far!

But a few minutes ago, as I was trying to get situated in my hammock, I couldn't fight the anxious feeling of discontentment.

I thought maybe I just didn't like the spot I was in, so I gathered my things and positioned myself in a sunny spot by the bluff.  As I took in the view, my mind continued wandering...
I could not seem to shake that anxious feeling.

Then I heard it.
Faintly.
The words turned slowly in my mind...

If you came looking for clues and answers, you may leave disappointed.

I let the words sit there.
Almost like I didn't want to pick them up.
Scared to hold them.
Not quite willing to claim them.

But they didn't go away.
They just quietly looked back at me.
I knew HE was right.

I'd retreated away in hopes of progress.
And clues.
And answers.
(So much for being okay with the ugly parts, huh?)

HE didn't bring me here for that.

Jenna, I brought you here simply to be with ME.
To remind you of some things you had forgotten.
So you could rest.
So you could have refuge and a little adventure.
Stop constantly seeking answers and progress.
Just be.
And just be with ME.

Even now as I write, I'm trying to release the hopes and expectations I carried with me to this place.
Breathe them out.
Loosen their grip.
And I'm breathing in the freedom.
The joy.
The peace.
The rest.
The simplicity of being.
Just as I am.
With HIM.

My word for this retreat seems to be remember.

HE's reminding me of a lot.
Each remembrance, breaking loose a cord that the enemy has been using to catch me...

I opened up my journal from this summer and started reading through my notes from July 17th: the Wednesday night of MYM Church Camp.  The notes are from a lesson that Matt Moore shared.

Here's what my notes say:

I ate the sandwich.  And I was still hungry.
The god of our age is consumerism.
Nothing fills us up...
We're empty.
What's the next thing?

What am I searching for to fill the hunger of my soul?

John 6 - JESUS feeds over 5,000.
The currency of heaven is abundance.

When you're with ME, you don't have to worry.  
Why are you looking for ME?
Cause I fed you.
You just want to be fed...
but I AM the bread of life.

(If my notes confuse you, read John 6 to see the context from which they come.)

This is what I do.
I take my consumeristic tendencies and make them "holy."
I go to GOD, knowing HE's got the answers.
And I want them.
HE's got what I crave.
And I'm hungry.

And HE looks at me and says:

Jenna, why are you looking for me?  
Cause I fed you?  
You just want to be fed...

Have you forgotten I AM the bread of life?
I AM the answer.
I AM all you need.
I AM enough.

If you came looking for clues and answers...
If you came today for progress, you may leave disappointed...

But if you came to be with ME...

Monday, September 9, 2013

seasons: the ugly parts.

In February, GOD and I had another conversation that led to a revelation of sorts.
I wanted to hear what HE had to say to me, but you can't really force that kind of thing, so I ended up talking to HIM instead.  (You know how that goes...)

Looking at YOUR SON,
I see Redemption.
Endless Love.
   Willing to go to extremes
    to make things new.
HE was not afraid.
HE loved without judging.
HE was not threatened
    by anyone else.
HE was fully confident
    in HIS role.. HIS identity.
HE touched.  HE moved.  
            HE spoke.

I let something block me from ever fully expressing in written words. Why GOD?

And just as naturally as my words flowed from me, HE reciprocated, allowing HIS words to flow into my heart and out of my pen.

You panic.  Perfectionism gives you writer's block.

There was a pause.
(Maybe to allow me a moment to catch up to what HE was trying to say.)

You aren't willing to work in layers, phases.  
You want perfection from beginning to end.

And I knew it was true.  HE was so right.  That's why I'd sit for hours, agonizing over the introductory paragraph of every paper I ever wrote in college.  It had to be perfect.  It had to capture the reader.  It had to be just right.  I'd type and re-type sentence after sentence, carefully considering ever word, so as to express my thoughts flawlessly.  I had trouble moving forward if I wasn't certain that everything was as it should be.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my problem with perfectionism didn't only apply to my writing habits.  It was an issue in my life.

I could not allow something to remain unresolved.
I couldn't stand loose ends.
Especially if they were jagged and rough.
I wanted clean solutions.
I wanted pretty endings.
I couldn't stand the ugly parts.
So I agonized over every incomplete paragraph, and I desperately fought for resolution in any damaged friendship.  Or relationship.  Or work situation.  Or.... (you get the point.)

I would find a way to make it right.
I would make you like me again.
I would analyze every inch of that ordeal until I understood exactly why you felt the way you felt which made you act the way you acted and what I did to make you feel that way and what I would need to do to take away the bad feelings and replace them with good feelings because I don't want you to think poorly of me and I hate when I can't do anything about what you think of me and I really really hate when I can't fix it.

And that's exhausting.
(and a run-on sentence)

Yeah...  It might be an understatement to say that I had trouble moving forward if things weren't as they should be.

But you know what?
Sometimes you can't do anything about the mess.
Sometimes it's not something that can be fixed right away.
Sometimes you have to walk forward with no promise that resolution will ever come.
Sometimes you have to let go.

An amazing thing happens when you release your death grip on a situation:  It can breathe.

It's funny, I have a lot more I want to say about this...
So many more thoughts about the beauty of even the unresolved...
But I just can't seem to figure out how to say it...

So I'm going to follow the other piece of advice HE gave me that day:

Be content with the unfinished.

It seems that even in-- and maybe especially in-- the ugly parts, there is hope.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

choose better: part 1.

This has been HIS theme for me this year.
Choose better: don't settle for the lesser things.

It was January 2nd that the message started being formed for me.  I'd felt it coming.  You see, the year before, I had experienced a great season of intimacy with the LORD.  It was an intimacy that I was led to out of desperation.  2011 had been a very difficult year (to put it mildly), but as I desperately ran to the FATHER for healing, I found it.  And my desperate season gave way to redemption and resurrection and refreshment.  It was beautiful.  But as is our nature, the further I found myself in the new season, the less I felt the need to run.  My pace was slowed.  The sense of urgency had left me. The next thing I knew, my connection with the LORD had lessened, and I felt myself in danger of losing all that I had found.  For months it had been obvious that I had to turn to HIM out of discipline, not desperation.  I would only continue to deepen my intimate relationship with GOD if I chose it.

As of January 2nd, I hadn't been choosing it.

But it was a new year!
I was resolved to do it!
My choices mattered.
I wanted to choose HIM.

Apparently HE was leading my friend (and fellow blogger), Annie, to some similar realizations.  As I read her blog that day, my thoughts were affirmed.

This was a year to choose.

I wanted to choose life.
                               joy.
                               health.
                               freedom.
                               my dwelling.

But choosing better isn't easy.  If it was, more people would do it, and it wouldn't require discipline.  I wrestled a lot with my choosing.  I wasn't sure I had it in me.  Could I really do this?  Had I become too lazy?  Was I prepared for this?

I prayed: LORD, I choose YOU.
I want to prove that to YOU.
Discipline.
Time with YOU.
Balance.
Not wasting the moments that can be cherished.

I looked for clues everywhere.  How am I supposed to do this?  The following week, I just so happened to be at the National Conference on Youth Ministries (NCYM), where I had the opportunity to hear a number of talented speakers.  I was trying to soak up all that I could glean from what they each had to say.

Greg Anderson said, "Practice awareness of GOD's pursuit of you."

LORD, is this the key to the discipline I'm looking for?

David Skidmore challenged us to write out a personal mission statement for our life.
"Jenna Lupo exists to _________________."

Will this help me focus?

Frank Viola spoke words that deeply stirred my spirit.
"Live in the reality of what you are trying to proclaim."
"Be who you are where HE has you."
"The gospel spreads best, not through force, but through fascination."

LORD, I want to be like that.  I want to be YOUR scent.

In one of Chris Seidman's classes, he said something about "a hard year of discipline."  He said it's tough, "but you'll see this GOD stuff is really real."  He talked a little about Psalm 119: "understanding through obedience."  (This part is starred and highlighted in my journal with a note to the side that says, "notice this Jenna.")

As I look back through my journals, it's apparent that the answer I was looking for was not coming easily.  I wrestled with this for several weeks.  But in the midst of a Bible Study that I was working through with a few close friends, HE spoke.  (Interestingly enough, it was a study called "How to Hear GOD's Voice.")

On February 19th, when I asked HIM a few very simple questions about HIS love for me and HIS desires for me and I gave HIM time to respond, HE clarified HIS message in very simple terms.

You have been satisfied with the lesser things, HE said.  Choose better.  Not out of condemnation.  Out of love.  MY Love is good.  Come back in, Jenna.

It was like a breath of fresh air.  Pure.  Clean.  Good.
As I tried to construct my game plan to choose better, starting with how I eat, HE whispered to me again.

What is it that you are craving from back there that I AM not enough to satisfy?  If you keep holding on to what you thought was so amazing, you will never enjoy all we can have.

(I'm thinking HE was talking about more than my eating habits.)

The following Sunday morning in church, I felt really distracted.  I needed to focus, so I prayed.  Push the enemy out, SPIRIT.  Fill this place.  Fill me.  Fill us.  Consume us.  May the enemy not distract from YOUR glory and power.

HIS reply?

Do not neglect the calling.
The urgings in your depths are from ME.
Follow them.
Make space and follow them.

Jason's lesson that morning was on deliverance.  The story of Moses and his enslaved people.  Jason asked the following questions:  "Are you free?  Or are there taskmasters in your life? What are you enslaved to?"

Perhaps I was enslaved to the lesser things...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

seasons: on darkness & light.

Lately, GOD has been deepening my appreciation of seasons.
As if I've been given a heightened awareness of the subtle beauty found in bittersweetness.

I find myself captivated by the slight glimmer of light that peaks its way through a dark room.
Piercing.
Like the first light of morning.

It starts small.
Delicate.
But it holds its own as the darkness of night claims the space.

The little light patiently remains.
And it grows.
Brighter.
Stronger.

Soon it's a fierce light.
And the darkness has diminished.
Forced to give way to the fullness the light now carries.
And that fullness continues through the day.

Eventually evening comes.
The light's source continues on, turning a corner.
Slowly fading.
And the darkness fills its void.

It is quiet then.
Still.
Small.
But the light waits, certain that its source will return.

And it does.

There lies its beauty.
In the trusting.
In the waiting.
And in the brilliant gleam of morning.

She has no reason to fear.
Morning always comes.


write.

"Write," HE says.

But I don't really have a blog.  At least not one that I want to use...

"Write," HE says.

But I don't know how to make a new one.  At least not a pretty new one.  I want the blog to look like "me", YOU know?  I don't want it to look cheesy.  I want it to be appealing to the eye... good fonts, nice layout... not too trendy..  I don't want to start writing a new blog until it looks good...

"Write," HE says.

But I don't really have anything all that special to say.  I mean, I know that we have good conversations, but who really wants to read that?  I know that YOU've shown me a lot of stuff that I think is really cool!  But I don't want to look like I think I'm something special or something...

"Jenna," HE softly speaks to me as HE leans in closer.  "Write."

I really want to LORD... but...

That's been the conversation.  Back and forth for a couple of years now.  HE says write.  I can't seem to figure out how.  Or I can't make the time.  Or I don't have the skills.  Or...  You know how it goes. The list of excuses is forever long.

But in the still moments, when I dare to ask what more do YOU want from me LORD?  HE whispers, "Write."  I know the words before I even finish the question.

So here I am.
My blog isn't all that appealing to the eye.
The fonts aren't what I would want them to be.
I'm not really all that qualified.
But HE's calling me here.
And I promised I'd follow.

So these words will come from the outpouring of our conversations.

Mine & HIS.

And maybe-- hopefully-- they will be a gift to you.

I'll tell you one thing:  HE really likes to talk.