What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 25: You Have a Gift!)

31 Days Day 25_nWhen I talk to women about their gifts and talents, I hear many say they have no idea what they are good at. And even if they do know, they are not sure how to use their gift. If this is true then what does this say for the through process?

My dear friend, the one I spoke of earlier in the series, who is taking care of her elderly mother, struggles with this. She feels so wrapped up in her service to her mother that she says she cannot identify one gift in her life. This isn’t an abnormal way of thinking. Why? Because we have been fed a jaded perspective of our talents.

If people aren’t musicians, writers, or artists of some kind then they have trouble identifying their gifts. I think it is because as a society we’ve been trained to notice and admire stardom.

We turn on the radio and identify the voices we hear with God-given gifts – so much so that even local musicians who haven’t made it to that level (and may never) think their gifts aren’t good enough, just because they can’t attain a similar status. We turn on the television to see actors, models, and entertainment hosts who are beautiful, and we automatically think that our pretty faces will never be pretty enough, or that our ability to speak and present in front of an audience will never be worth enough if we don’t end up where those people are. This type of mentality is spoiling our gifts and the through processes associated with them.

We are all called to be “stars” for the kingdom. Not all of us will be the worldly definition of a “star.” And it doesn’t make our callings any less valuable.

You do have a gift and I have no doubt you use it regularly!

A few years ago, my husband and I took the kids on a cross country trip to California to see their grandparents. A couple weeks later we arrived home just before midnight on a Saturday. We had church responsibilities early the next morning and zero groceries in our house. We were forced to take the kids through a drive-thru for breakfast on the way to church and then out to lunch after. We were exhausted and couldn’t even bring ourselves to entertain the idea of the grocery store yet. That morning at church, my friend who says she doesn’t have gifts thought to ask me if I had groceries in my house. I told her no, but that I would eventually get to the store. We switched conversation topics and I never thought another thing of it. A few hours later my doorbell rang. There stood the same friend with a giant cooler full of eggs, milk, bread, fruit, vegetables, and snacks to tide us over until I felt energized enough to go shopping. And she says she doesn’t have a gift?! Well, she does. She is a servant and Jesus worked through her life that day. I’m still touched by it!

Just because we aren’t on stage and receiving critical acclaim for our gifts doesn’t mean we don’t have them. It doesn’t mean God won’t use us! Each of us has abilities, and though some go unrecognized, it just might be because we are too humble to see them. Humility is a wonderful thing as long as you recognize your worth in Christ. If you are willing and able, Christ will use you.

Despite whether my friend sees it, she has a servant’s heart far above most people I know. She might not be pouring blood, sweat, and tears into an HIV camp in a third world country, but that in no way reduces the ability for Christ to work through her life to touch others in a mighty way. She – and women everywhere just like her – must know she has worth because Christ is worthy. And her life and gifts are not small.

If there is anything I want to do through this series and throughout my life, it is to give hope. If we don’t have hope, then no matter what we do or how talented we are, we will still feel a hollowing out of our souls. Without finding fulfillment in Christ we will end up empty. Emptiness brings about a lonely feeling, and loneliness will break us.

If you are going to be broken, let it be for the cause of Christ and not for what the enemy wants to whisper to you. Those awful whispers are nothing more than tactics to stop you from thriving in all Jesus has for your life!

Even those of us who know what gifts we have still struggle to overcome inadequacies. I was once the queen of insecurity. I’m still working on it. Maybe I’m just considered the princess now . . . I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is that deep-seated feelings of insecurity are not of God. I pray God will continue to give me wisdom and knowledge into more of who He is. I used to think that I needed to know what His grace meant for my life. However, what I’ve learned over time is that I don’t need to know the fullness of His grace in my life; I just need to trust in it. Whether I see it or not, I need to trust. And then the ocean of His grace will overcome my entire existence and flood me with exactly what I need. I can’t demand it. I just need to believe in it.

I’m still learning. Even as I write to you, He is teaching me.

People who write blogs and books about God are not experts. No one can be an expert on God. We are all just trying to share with you the beauty which resides in Him – the glimpses we see excites us and we need to share it. I need to share it! When we share His works the through process occurs. He wants to shine His beauty over us and shadow us under His mighty wings. I am called to serve Him. You are called to serve Him. So let’s serve Him well!
Love,
Jennifer

What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 24: A Life is a Life; A Soul is a Soul)

Hand out backgroundI’m sure you’ve noticed a common theme in that every Biblical example I’ve given you to demonstrate that the through process comes with uncertainty, fear, rejection, pain, and denial. I wish I could tell you that when you follow Christ everything is easy peasy. I cannot, because the truth is that when you choose to follow Christ your road is most likely going to become more difficult, even treacherous at times. You will be called to scale major mountains off the beaten path and there will be days when you will cry with every step.

The good news is that you will overcome and other lives will be changed forever because of your choice to follow a God who leads you through the wilderness long before you arrive in the promised land.

You need to know that every moment of your entire life has a purpose.

Big and Small

I have friends who are missionaries in Thailand. They do BIG work. From rescuing sex slaves to feeding mothers and children in HIV Homes, ministering in prisons to traipsing through the jungle with wild animals while carrying food and Bibles, these wonderful people do it ALL for Jesus.

My ministry includes sitting behind computers and writing. I speak at events and teach a local Bible study where hot coffee and snacks are provided. At times I feel small. Last fall I attended the Allume Conference where I heard author Melanie Shankle speak. She said, “I was called to minister to the pretty people.” Now before you take her words out of context and assume what she meant, let me tell you that I feel the exact same way. Christ has called me to do exactly what I’m doing. I’m speaking to women who have clothes to wear, food to eat, and warm beds to sleep in. They shop and get their nails done. They change their hairstyles and go on vacation. They are beautiful both inside and outside. There is no small job when it comes to following God’s will for your life. I am reaching others for His glory. However, like Melanie, I serve within the local church where we are allowed to proclaim the name of Jesus. I pray for hurting women right here in America over cupcakes and coffee. They need to be ministered to as well. A life is a life. A soul is a soul. A calling is a calling and Christ has called each of us to our purpose. If He calls me to a third world country, I’ll go. But right now He hasn’t, and I’m not sure He ever will. We each have a purpose to serve and though mine might seem tiny to some, it isn’t to God. His work is never small.

We live through different seasons with different jobs given to us from the Almighty. They may include taking a mission trip, running a vacation Bible school event, singing on the worship team, blogging, feeding the homeless, or moving your entire family to Africa. Regardless of what the calling is, the goal is to allow others to see Jesus working through your life. Whatever God has called you to do is significant in the kingdom of Christ!

Love,

Jennifer

What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 23: When Was the Last Time You Couldn’t Wait?)

31 days photo 7_nYesterday we ended by talking about Peter and how his through process was only just beginning. Jesus makes it very clear. Here’s how:

Together, let’s take a look at John 21:1-19 and pay close attention to the encounter between Jesus and Peter:

After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself:  Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately] got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”

They answered Him, “No.”

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.

- John 21:1-7

In verse seven we learn of Peter’s pursuit. This proves the overwhelming passion he had for Jesus. As soon as John said, “It is the Lord!” Peter put on his outer garment and jumped right in the water. He wasn’t going to wait a second longer to row the boat ashore. He needed to see Jesus right at that very moment.

There is a comical side we can find in this when we read the next verse.

But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.

- John 21:8

The other disciples were only about 300 feet away, but there was no way Peter was going to wait for them to drag their fish and paddle to the shore. Christ was there waiting and Peter was going to get there as fast as possible.
Oh, friends, there are so many lessons in those two verses alone. When was the last time we couldn’t wait to see Jesus? I know our circumstances are different but just like Jesus showed up on the sand that day to tell them where to cast their nets, He shows up in our lives. He guides. He directs us where we need to go. He pursues us, and we need to pursue Him as well.
When John said, “It is the Lord!” Peter dove right in. He needed to see Him. We need to see Him. It’s just that sometimes we look through the wrong lenses.

After this, they had breakfast together and then Peter had a beautiful moment with Jesus.

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

- John 21:15-19

During that conversation the Lord provided restoration for Peter. He then spoke about the through process of Peter’s life and prophesied of what was to come.

Restoration:

Peter had denied Jesus three times and now Peter was given the opportunity to tell Jesus, three times, how much he loved Him. It was a washing of wrongs made right. And isn’t that just like our God? He forgives and remembers no more. He then makes it possible for us to live with our selves through heart restoration.

Through Process:

Whenever Peter confirms that he loves Jesus, Jesus follows it with a command: Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.
Peter was called to serve others in the way he was taught. He was to present the case of the Living God and His Only Son, Jesus Christ, to bring one soul at a time into the everlasting light of salvation. However, none of it was going to be easy. There was heavy persecution for Christians and Peter would not escape the penalty to follow Christ at all costs.

Prophesy:

Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

- John 21:18-19

When Jesus used the words, “You will stretch out your hands,” he was prophesying Peter’s future crucifixion for the cause of Christ. And then He gave one final command, “Follow Me.”

He was telling Peter to follow Him anyway. In my mind I hear Him say, “Peter, you’ve denied before and I know you won’t again. You say you love Me, and I believe you! It isn’t going to be easy but follow Me anyway. The victory received will be worth the price you pay for it.”
And as the goose bumps run up my arms right now, I want to encourage you that He indeed has a through plan, and the price we might have to pay for it will be well worth it.

I hate even to have to write about a price because it is no fun to experience hardship. It is no fun to watch those we love live through difficult circumstances. Life isn’t fair. Yet in all this we know God is sovereign.

We will hurt. We will experience devastating circumstances. And God will use it! To Him be the glory!

Love,
Jennifer

What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 22: Peter’s Through Process)

31 Days Day 22So what should we do through the pain of growth? Yesterday I mentioned that my husband Paul and I spent lots of time seeking and serving. Seeking is essential – if you don’t seek, you won’t find. And if you want to stay sane through the process of growth, I recommend serving others. It is the most fulfilling distraction from your own woes you will ever experience.

If you haven’t noticed, this entire picture I’m painting for you involves other people. It removes the “me, myself and I” factor completely. The through process of our lives will affect many, and our service to others in our growth process will also have a huge impact. This entire life that God created for us is about influencing lives outside our own.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

- Jesus, in John 13:34-35

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

- Paul, Galatians 5:13

Jesus made it very clear when He chose twelve disciples to grow, teach, and use, that everything was about bringing others to Him. He knew He wouldn’t be staying on earth forever. After His death on the cross and resurrection three days later He would teach most of those twelve men for only forty more days before His ascension to heaven. It was time for the disciples to have their through processes validated. It was time for each to fulfill his ministry. Jesus was about to stamp the tickets. He paid the cost; now there was work to be done.

Peter’s Through Process

When we first talked about the twelve men Jesus asked to follow Him, we saw that Peter was quick to leave everything behind. Throughout the gospel accounts of Peter we see him working overtime to try and understand what was happening around him. He was made painfully aware by the Savior Himself that he would deny Him three times.

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.

- John 13:36-38

Peter not only learned from Jesus. He served Him. He was passionate about who Jesus was to Him, but his flesh still took over at times. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he tried to intervene when he cut off the right ear of Pilate’s servant, but Jesus told him to put the sword in his sheath (John 18:10-11). God’s plan could not falter. Jesus knew he had to drink from the cup His Father placed in His hands. When I picture this moment, I see a confused Peter standing there, watching something he could not begin to comprehend, no matter how hard he tried.

Peter never thought he would be capable of denying Jesus:

Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”

- Matthew 26:33

Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”

- Mark 14:29

But [Peter] said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”

- Luke22:33

As I mentioned earlier in this series, we all want to think we will follow Jesus with complete certainty. Even Peter who was with Him and watched the miracles firsthand was sure he would follow, but he didn’t. Peter did eventually deny Christ three times. He then wept bitterly knowing what he had done, but as you know, Jesus came to give grace and Peter was arrested by it.

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

- John 1:16-17

Because we were conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of His love, grace wins. Even though Peter’s denial was devastating, the through process of his life was only just beginning.

Tomorrow, we will investigate more about Peter’s through process.

Love,

Jennifer

Today, I linking up with Holley Gerth for Coffee for Your Heart.

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 21: Growing Pains)

rainbow blog picThis life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness,
not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it,
the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

― Martin Luther

Many of our days on this earth are made up of opportunities for growth. And guess what. Those growth opportunities often hurt. Sometimes growth is forced, making us able to reach heights we wouldn’t have thought possible. It’s only when that season is over and we see the fruit that came from the process do we have an inkling of understanding.

Often, we tend to think our growth is stunted because we don’t get what we want when we want it. We look around at what we haven’t achieved and measure it next to what we hoped we would. We design our own personal growth charts marked with labels of failure and disappointment. We confuse attaining personal goals, hopes, and dreams with spiritual growth that only comes from waiting, hoping, and praying.

We have to change our perception of growth in order to understand the process.

I’ve been sorting out some emotions lately. I’m not a fan of what I’m feeling. I’ve asked God to take away what isn’t right and remove from me anything which may be unpleasant to Him. The more I pray that particular prayer, the stronger those unwanted feelings become.

I’m doing everything I usually do to help combat thoughts that make me uncomfortable. I pray, memorize scripture that speaks to my situation, and then pray some more. The other day I had an epiphany that these feelings are oddly familiar. And not in a good way.

When I was trying to become pregnant, we reached a point where it just didn’t seem like it was ever going to happen. Paul and I were doing everything we felt the Lord was telling us to do. We were seeking and serving like never before. Feeling tired of carrying that burden, I habitually asked the Lord to remove my desire to have another baby. It was too hard and nothing was changing. I felt like my growth was stunted, and yet, in hindsight, I was growing further spiritually than I ever had. It hurt. It stretched me beyond measure. Through that time, the Lord never took the desire from me. Instead, after years of my pursuing in obedience, He finally answered our cries to have more children.

I’ve asked God to take away the burden I’m facing right now. He hasn’t. I’m right where I was before. Different circumstances, same struggle.

What does it all mean? I’m not really sure, but I’ve been here before. I’m aware that I’m growing. If I weren’t, it wouldn’t hurt this much, and I wouldn’t be as thirsty for His knowledge as I am.

After everything I’ve seen God do in my life, I should be raising up pompoms while praising Him for this opportunity to grow. Instead, I’m feeling rather drained of energy. I feel as if I’ve been there, done that. I want to shout, “Okay, I’ve grown enough! Just fix this already, God!” And of course, He has no problem saying, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Oh for crying out loud!

So I surrender. My pompoms resemble torn and tattered white flags covered with the mascara from my tears as I tell Him I want what He wants for me. And if that means some pain, and even some scars, I’m willing. I want to grow, as long as it means growing in Him.

I’m okay with being stretched, because when I wave the white flags of surrender, He waves a banner of love over me from on high. And when I put it in those terms and take on a new perception of growth, it all seems worth it.

It’s worth it because I’ve seen the fruit He produces. It is the sweetest and it’s nothing this world can offer. And let’s not forget, we have more influence that we think. People will watch us struggle through the difficulties and eventually see the work Christ is doing in our lives. Our growth will become a through process that He will use to change others.

My prayer today: God, I’m willing to accept the plan you have to work through me. Help me to be obedient to you throughout the process of growth. Let my life be used to touch others. And help me to be happy about it . . . (Hey, I’m just being honest.)

And everyone who is feeling the growing pains shouts, “Amen!”

Love,

Jennifer

What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 20: Your Through Story)

31 days day 17_nIf I were to ask you to give me an example of one through story in your life, could you answer me? Can you see where you have made a difference? I bet if you think hard enough something will come to mind. I also know there are plenty of ways in which Christ works through us in which we will never become aware. Some things aren’t for us to know.

There’s something else I want to examine regarding our through process: the pain of control!

Sometimes hurtful things happen, and yet, they cause a through process which flows deep and wide.

A few years ago, I was faced with having to give something up I loved. God told me it was time to move on. I didn’t want to let go. He had been working on my heart in the area for some time but I gripped tightly.

“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

― Corrie ten Boom

Oh my, did it ever hurt! To be completely transparent, it hurts even now. I ask, and I ask for the Lord to take it away. I don’t want to hurt over something He told me I needed to break away from for a while. Or forever. You see, I don’t know. Did I have to let it go forever, or did I have to let it go for awhile? It’s beyond me to understand. And it hurts me not to.

However, there is something I do know. My control has no place in His affairs. Anyway, where was I when He laid the foundations of the earth? It still hurts, but Corrie ten Boom had it right when she said to hold everything lightly. We don’t really own anything. We don’t have control. We only think we do. We think just because we are trusted with certain areas or hold certain talents that we can take up residence and wave the wand. But we can’t. We are here today and gone tomorrow. And when our souls finally leave these earthly bodies our hands open anyway. We are sent back to the Creator into the hands of One who never loosens His grip, because He is the only One who owns it all.

In my situation, God pried my fingers open. It hurt, but then He gave me something I would have never expected. I wasn’t looking for it and didn’t even know it was a dream until He breathed it into me. When He did, my soul reawakened to His goodness.

I write today because of what I let go. I don’t think I would have started my blog, written books, became a Bible study teacher or public speaker of any kind had I not let go.

It often takes very uncomfortable situations to make me loosen my grip. I wish Christ would just audibly tell me, “Go here,” or “Go there.” But He hasn’t. This path is meant to teach me something larger, and it’s a contribution to my through process. So, I’m rolling with it. Perhaps I roll over bumps, cry, and feel beaten up, but I’m rolling!

Can you relate to the white knuckled grip of control? Have you been forced to let go in order to move on to what He has for you? If so, I want you to know you are not alone. I’ve actually begun to think that if my life is going too smoothly, I must be starting to become a bit complacent. When we recognize our through processes, the enemy will often try to suffocate us in hopes to stifle our growth.

And have you noticed that when you grow you often feel it? It doesn’t always feel great. Does it?

We will be talking more about the process of growth tomorrow.

Love,

Jennifer

What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 19: Conveyed into the Kingdom)

31 days idea_n

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. – Colossians 1:13 Recently, while I studied the book of Colossians, the word conveyed in this verse jumped off the page. I couldn’t remove that word from my mind. It was stuck there. I […]

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What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 18: The 12 Men)

31 days Day 18_n

Hi, Friends! Thank you for joining me on this journey to what makes us beautiful. If you missed any days and would like to catch up on some reading, just click here. Today, we are talking about 12 men!   When we learn of Jesus beginning His ministry in Galilee, the Bible gives us a […]

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What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 17: All Things Great and Small)

31 days day 17 part 2_7

Okay, as you’ve probably gathered, I’ve been looking at the through process to mean all things great and small. And I am trying to convey exactly that, but I need to level with you. I’m a dreamer. I have giant dreams in my heart. All of them are pointed at serving Christ, and they are […]

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What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 16: What if I don’t Want Anything to Do With His Everything?)

31 Days photo day 16_n

My husband Paul and I co-lead a marriage and relationship small group. One of the very first discussions we had amongst couples was working to eliminate the words always and never from marital disagreements. For example: You always do____! Or you never do____! The chances of always and never carrying truth within a marriage relationship […]

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