Monday, March 24, 2014

countdown to hawaii.

Remember how I said 2014 was a year about being free?
"Free to thrive in the nowwithout worrying about what will be.
Free to run forward, without fear of failure.
Free to continue on in absolute awe of HIS glory and grace."

Well, some of you know this already, but an invitation to freedom wasn't the only gift the LORD laid out for me as this new year began.  HE also opened up an awesome opportunity for me to join one of my close friends (and fellow female youth ministers) to go to Hawaii!! (Thank you Allegiant Air, for such an incredible deal on those plane tickets!) And we aren't just going to Hawaii -- like that isn't enough, right? -- but while we are there, we are doing a marathon.

(Yes, I said marathon. It's a big deal.)

GOD has been teaching me so very much already this year, and I have been overwhelmed by the hope and trust I feel in HIM as each day quite normally and yet so extraordinarily unfolds.

We are 10 days away.

In 10 days, I will be absolutely giddy as I drive to Nashville to meet up with Rachel and begin this grand adventure! 

A lot preparation has gone into this endeavor.
Running some more.
Eating well and exercising.
Fighting discouragement and the enemy's lies.
Trying to save up some spending money.
And praying some more.

And this morning as I begin the final 10 days of my countdown and preparations, I know that I will be better positioned to receive all that GOD has for me if I intentionally include HIM.  So after sitting with HIM at breakfast, I've got 10 things I am praying before we leave.  I'm sharing them, because I'd love to invite any of you who are willing to come alongside Rachel and me as we take hold of some deeper, sacred things that GOD has laced throughout this gift.  


LORD, I know that Hawaii is only the start. 
The kickoff of a new season.
And I want to enter it well, with YOU.

1. Go before us; lay out our path
YOU are the Giver of good gifts, and this trip is a gift.
May we follow YOU and pick up on every treasure YOU leave along the way.
Please prepare each day and position us accordingly.

2. Ready our hearts & eyes for YOUR purposes
For Rachel.  And for myself.  
Thank YOU for our friendship and for allowing our paths to merge together in this adventure with YOU. 

3. the Marathon

We want to do this.
We want to finish.
(And actually finishing in time to get one of those medals would be pretty sweet too…)

Give us strength, LORD.

In our minds.

May our bodies be aligned as they should.

Support our joints.
our heart.
our lungs.
May we each function as we should.

And may we see the profound analogies YOU intend as YOU bring us to that start line and throughout the 26.2 miles. 

LORD, exceed us with YOUR SPIRIT.
Radiant overflow.

4. Expand the hours of our days there

Fill that week in a way where we are filled & full.
YOU did it in Australia.  
It felt miraculous.. 
As if 5 days contained 2 weeks.  
No hope left unfulfilled.  
More than we even thought to ask for! 
A very "5 loaves, 2 fishes" sort of thing.  
Do it here? :) 
(I think YOU intend to.)

5. Prepare home in our absence

For each of us, we leave things.
May our absence be opportunity.
Opportunity for some redemption.
For hopes fulfilled.
For all we don't even know to ask for.
May our absence clear more room for YOUR movement in the spaces we temporarily leave unoccupied. 

6. Rachel

Specifically for Rachel.
(my blog is not the place to articulate all my prayers for my friend)
But in every need.
In every hope.
In every hurt.
In every joy.
Saturate her with YOUR SPIRIT.

7. Me

Specifically for me.
And my new-found discipline.
Help me continue confidently & freely in these better choices.

For the first time I recognize, with far more clarity, the sacredness of my body.  

The temple in which YOU and I are housed.  
I want to honor it and use it well… fully!  
As YOU intend.
And I want to appreciate the wonder of YOUR creation.

YOU know the big, wordless prayers of hope & trust & anticipation that my soul whispers & shouts to YOU.

I pray about those too.

8. People we encounter in Hawaii, as well as traveling to & from

Give us wisdom & discernment.
Help us see opportunities for connection & sharing.
Specifically sharing YOU, YOUR Light & Glory, and how YOU are allowing us to live in it.

Help us see scenarios & situations to avoid.

Give us strength & safety.
Position YOUR armies as a shield from any harm.
We are confident in YOUR provision; free from fear.
Trusting in the wisdom & protection YOU give.

9. Specifically for the cottage owners

May we be a blessing & encouragement to the family that owns the cottage we are renting.
In some way, may they feel refreshed.
Maybe even let us see how?
Even in just a simple way?

And 10. All that follows when we return

For me, that's Girls Retreat.
My 29th birthday.
Mayfair's Service Day.
Grad School make-up work.
Q Nashville.
Graduation for our seniors.
MYM Summer.

It's life.

A beautiful, incredible life with a whole lot of potential.
What a gift!
Keep teaching me how to take hold of it & freely soar with YOU in it!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

the fear of strength.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us."  - Marianne Williamson

I don't remember where I was when I first heard this quote.
I can't remember if I first read it or who referenced it.
I don't even know how long it has been since that day.

But I remember how I felt.

My first reaction was awe!
The words struck me as something so profound.
I felt a rush of excitement! Potential!
Resurfacing dreams!

But in an instant, something halted me.

Slowly nodding in agreement, deep in thought..
My head tilted and brow furrowed with visible pondering...
The more the words turned over in my mind, the more loosely I seemed to hold them.

The spark that initially ignited in my spirit slowly fizzled out.
No… That wasn't how I felt.
That wasn't what I feared…

And the sigh that followed was the settling of my spirit back into the comfortable place she knew she belonged.


Sunday morning I was standing in the bathroom getting ready for church.
Looking in the mirror is a little different lately.
This may sound weird (and I feel weird saying it), but it's kinda fascinating.
Because you guys: I have muscles.
Like, flex my arm and see it take on a new shape and form.

Strong, stretched, lean muscles.
What. in. the. world.

(And maybe you just read that and are thinking that I'm vain or strange or something, but like I mentioned in yesterday's post, I used to think I couldn't be that girl.  So I think it still shocks me a little to raise my arm, touch my shoulder, and feel a rock there!)

I looked at myself in the mirror, borderline dumbfounded, and I just laughed!

LORD: I have lived my whole life having no idea how strong I could be!

And then this sobering thought caught my attention.

I don't think the enemy wanted me to know.


I get the quote now.
I feel it.

I've been freed from my insecurities enough to know that I am not inadequate.
I know and like who GOD created me to be.
I see ways HE uses me in the places HE has me.
And it's exciting.

I've been freed from some of the "lesser" things that once enslaved me.
I know how to choose better.
And when I get distracted and find myself wasting my time,
Or consuming (anything) in excess,
I know what I need to do to return to the better things.

I've been freed.
This is a season of freedom.
Freedom and strength.

In the moments my heart races with anticipation of all that GOD plans to do…
In the moments I stand tall, purpose clear, vision outward, spirit soaring…
I can take on the world.

But not long after those glorious moments of faith and passion and hope, a different feeling approaches.

{Insert new fear.}

In those moments, from somewhere deep in the pit of my stomach, this sickening, aching feeling creeps out.
It's the kind of feeling that makes you want to wrap up in a blanket, slip into a corner, and hide…
It's makes me nauseous and uneasy.

The voice that hates my strength and despises the ONE who provides it, whispers.

Who are you to be that strong?
Who are you to think that?
How arrogant. 
How dare you.
What if they don't see that light?
What if it isn't really there?
You think too much of yourself.
Who are you to think you could be more?
They won't like you, if you keep this up.
You intimidate them.
You'll make them jealous.
How dare you for thinking you might make someone jealous.

And the whispers will go on and on.
Shaming you into a corner.
Shrinking you down.
Shutting you up.
Suffocating the fire.

But the whispers are lies.

Lies from an enemy that has hated us from the beginning.
The enemy hates that we were given HIS image.
The enemy hates that we are adorned with HIS beauty.
The enemy hates that HE wants to give us so much…
Hates that HE even offers HIS own strength to step in and transform our weaknesses.

And I suppose the enemy never really gives up.
When denied entrance, the thief creeps around to the other side of a situation, looking for a different vulnerability to use to his advantage.
But the father of lies has been deceived himself, thinking JESUS might be anything less than victorious in my life.

My SHEPHERD guards HIS sheep well.
And the sheep know their SHEPHERD.

This new fear is a lie.
And though it is one that I do not fully understand,
I will not be deceived.


It makes sense that we're afraid.
Afraid of all we could be…
Afraid of all GOD could do…
In us.
In you.
In me.

It's scary because such greatness is foreign to me.
It's an unknown,
Exceeding my mind's capabilities to comprehend.
Immeasurably more that I could ask or imagine…
I don't know how to hold something I can't measure.

But HE says...

Fear not, little lamb.

Don't be afraid, for I AM with you.
Don't be discouraged, for I AM your GOD.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with MY victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10)

I haven't given you a spirit of fear and timidity.
But of power, love, and self-discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:7)

MY perfect love expels all fear.
(1 John 4:18)


The quote from Marianne Williamson continues on:

Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking...  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I have been set free.
And the freedom and strength that GOD has been leading me to is intended to glorify HIM and serve HIS Kingdom well.
And that's what I want to do.

I don't want to believe those lies.
I don't want to be robbed of all that GOD imagines for my life.

And I don't you to be either.

So let's stand tall.
Don't give the enemy your ears.
Let's know the voice of our SHEPHERD.

And let's trust HIM as we continue to walk forward and see what happens!

I know that is precisely what I plan to do.

Monday, March 3, 2014

rewind and reflect.

If you spend any significant amount of time around me, you may know that I go few places without my trusty Moleskine journal.  To me, it is so much more than a journal.  It is my secret place with GOD.  (Which works out nicely because it's a secret place that travels well.)

In the pages of my journal, GOD and I interact. 
Every word-- formal prayer or scattered phrases-- has a place in our conversations.
For me, it's like breathing, writing in that journal.
I don't have to think much about it.
There's no pressure.
It's an understood place of union. 
Scribbled.  Scattered.  Sacred.

I like to look back at my journals.
It's like leaving a trail that marks my journey.
An effective way to see what ground I've covered.

Today, I looked back into some other places: the old blog.

It started as research to find a specific date to aid me in the writing of a slightly different post.  
However, I think I need to save that post for tomorrow.  
What I found today has taken me in a slightly different direction…  
One that gives a little history for what I am planning to write next. 

So, if you have the time, I invite you to rewind and reflect with me.


I used to think I couldn't be that girl: 
The girl that had a workout routine or was always going on a run. 
I used to think I couldn't be that girl: 
The girl that ate vegetables often and let "sweets" be the exception.

I used to think I couldn't be that girl.
Because I wasn't athletic.
Because I didn't like vegetables.  Or running.
Because I never had been,
I thought I never could be.

I used to think I couldn't be that girl.
But that was a lie.
And over the past several years, GOD has taught me a lot about the enemy and his lies.

It started about five years ago. 
I was finishing my first year of full-time youth ministry.
Wrapping up my first year in Huntsville.
Beginning the process of becoming a "real grown-up."

December of 2008 was when HE started stirring the desire to leap.
And that was scary for me. 
But if HE was guiding me to it, I knew I wanted to follow along.
I had no idea what was ahead.
(And honestly, I still don't!)

By the end of January 2009, I had started working towards being an all-around healthier me.  
I blogged about the struggle to find my motivation from within
Because it was a struggle.
But I knew it was important.  

It's funny. At the time, I had no idea how true my words would be when I said:
"I think all these parts of me are connected, and as I grow in strength and discipline in one area, I think the other parts will be strengthened too."

Young Jenna: how right you were.

In January of 2010, I took some bolder steps toward my goals.
I faced some fears and took some leaps.
By myself.
This was a big deal for me.
I established a routine of 5:30am mornings filled with spin classes and pilates.
In April of that year, I ran my first 5K!
And as I re-read my words during that time, it is apparent that GOD had started planting something in me.. 

HE was solidifying my foundation. 
HE was challenging my faith.
HE was preparing me for things that started five years ago and are nowhere near finished yet!

I could describe so much more…
I could talk about the excitement of that relationship that started in 2010.
And the heartbreak that followed a year later.
I could tell you about the devastation that tore through 2011.
And I could write books about the year of redemption that followed.
2012: The year that GOD revived my barely-beating heart, and resurrection became tangible.

Living through fears.
Finding myself standing strong on an unshakeable foundation.

In 2013, HE showed me how to choose better.
A journey that has, in so many ways, led me to where I am now.

Enjoying a year of being free.
Free to thrive in the nowwithout worrying about what will be.
Free to run forward, without fear of failure.

Free to continue on in absolute awe of HIS glory and grace.
In total surrender to HIM and HIS will.
In confidence. 

Yes: Faith.

It seems my core has gotten stronger.