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_nHe 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 thought about it constantly. So one day, I sat down and decided to look up some other translations and get to the root of why the word seemed so profound to me.

Several translations use the word transferred. Some say translated, others use the word brought. After I looked these up, I searched the definition of the word:

Convey – To take or carry (someone or something) from one place to another; to make known to someone.

But here is the one that got me. The third definition says this:

Convey – To change ownership or property from one to another.

Yep, that’s it! Lights flashing, heart racing, hit you right between the eyes kind of it!

I reread the verse using that particular meaning in place of the word conveyed.

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and changed ownership or property from one to another into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”

We now belong to Him. Where there was darkness there is now light: the eternal Light. He paid the highest price for our souls just so we can be with Him forever! And don’t you think that the One who paid the price can do anything inside our small existences?

He paid the price for us in order to work through us! The Father reconciled Himself to us through His Son, Jesus, on the cross. No greater “through story” has ever been told. No greater “through story” will ever exist. He conveyed us into the kingdom. And now our lives have a through story to tell.

Your dreams are intentional. Your dreams were planted intentionally so that you would embrace passion and welcome your through process. Jon Foreman of the band Switchfoot is known for his song “Meant to Live”:

Dreaming about providence
And whether mice and men have second tries
Maybe we’ve been livin’ with our eyes half open
Maybe we’re bent and broken, broken
We were meant to live for so much more
Have we lost ourselves?

-Jon Foreman

Often, while dreaming, our eyes are half open and we most certainly are bent and broken. There is a danger in losing ourselves in the middle of all of it because we confuse His everything with our own definition of everything.

What is most alarming is we tend to forget that God seems to move through the bent and broken. Like orphaned Esther, fatherless Abraham, rejected Joseph from the Old Testament, and confused Joseph from the New Testament, it often takes being bent and broken to become the beautiful He intended.

Straight from Stephen directly to Paul, and looking back at suffering Job, we learn we have opportunity for our brokenness to beckon freedom.

And right down to the twelve men whom Jesus personally and tangibly chose to call disciples, we must remember our greatest dreams become realities when we are, in fact, bent and broken.

There is no easy way to say it. Our spiritual growth and the through processes of our lives will be birthed from difficult circumstances. So keep going, friends. It’s worth it!

Love,

Jennifer

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

31 days Day 18_nHi, 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 visual of Him walking by the sea enlisting certain fishermen. We first learn of Simon-Peter and his brother Andrew. They follow Him. Next Jesus approaches James and John, who were mending their nets with their father. They also go with Him. I absolutely love the irony in the fact that these fishermen who were mending nets ended up mending lives. The Holy Spirit drew them to subjugate their lives to a man they didn’t really know yet. What happened through their obedience was a through process that rocked Galilee – and everywhere else they stepped foot.

Twelve men said, “Yes.” And, in return, their lives were forever changed, but it was the through process of their lives which made the difference. I want to make something crystal clear as I speak about these men. Yes, they followed when Jesus said, “Follow Me,” but it didn’t stop there. The through process could not have worked adequately in their lives if all they had to do was say, “Yes,” and walk behind watching the Living God. They were called to not only follow, but to do.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

- James 1:21-25

After choosing to follow Jesus and the dreams He plants deep down inside of us, we then need to make a choice to learn. In Matthew, chapter five, we find an account of Jesus teaching important principals to the multitudes. Notice that His disciples were seated with Him listening, and learning. They were there for a purpose – to learn and do.

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them.

- Matthew 5:1-2

We have to be willing to learn. We often say we need God to speak to us, and we need his guidance and direction inside our circumstances. But how many of us sit down and take the time to listen and learn? We might not be able to see Jesus in the physical, but do you realize what we have? We can sit down, open up our Bibles to Matthew 5, and read the same words He spoke that day on the mountain. If you want Christ to speak to you, open His word.

I talked earlier about my worry and anxiety. Fear accompanies both of those. So many times I’ve thought to myself that if Jesus was tangible, I wouldn’t have to fear. And then I remember that Jesus was tangible to the disciples and they still feared.

Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

- Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus was right there with them and these men were practically scared to death. So they woke Him up and consequently, He said, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?”

We Have to Believe What We Learn.

In faith we must believe that even though we cannot see Him with human eyes or hear His voice with our ears, He still can, and will, call out to the winds and seas for us.

You see, we cannot do until we learn, and we need faith for both. It’s about believing. And it also takes action to make a choice to follow behind Him on the “paths of Galilee” and not veer away. It’s a recognition that this call we have and these dreams which have been planted are so much bigger than we are!

And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.

- 2 Corinthians 4:13-14

And when you’ve chosen to follow, learn, and go after it in faith, then power comes into play.

And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.

- Matthew 10:1

Just like He gave the disciples power, He has given it to us as well. What He wills we can do. It’s a series of choices which lead us there.  Over and over I’m faced with thoughts telling me I can’t. He continually tells me I can. I can because of my faith, my choice to learn, and my willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to work deeply within me.

To this point in my life, I’ve already done so much more than the world told me I should have been able to do. And sometimes, I still doubt. Much like the fearful disciples on the boat with Jesus, I become worried that the sea will become wild and the wind too fierce, even though I’ve seen Him answer my prayers time and time again.

I mentioned earlier that I struggled through stillbirth, miscarriage, and secondary infertility. Well, after much suffering, struggling, and medical professionals telling me, “No”, my God said, “Yes.” We had twins. I’ve seen miracles in my own life and yet sometimes I’m too fearful to keep pressing onward. Why? It’s human nature. Jesus desires us to see through a Holy Spirit Nature. I strive for that. Sometimes I cry out and hear Jesus saying, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” In my ignorance I hear my Father God say, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” And then I remember.

I remember I’m created for more than what I see when I look in the mirror. I’m created for more than what I hear when I speak, or think, or question. I was created with purpose: a special intent to spread the gospel through my life in the unique way which only He could have created me to do. And you were created with purpose too!

Start dreaming! Make a decision to open your eyes to the nature of the Holy Spirit and recognize you are created to touch other lives through the dreams He’s planted deep inside you. Start nurturing those dreams and ministries by learning and then doing. Put aside fear and remember that Jesus is right here with you. Follow Him.

Love,
Jennifer

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

31 days day 17 part 2_7Okay, 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 things my soul craves. And so I dream. I pray. I live expectantly. Why? Because He did enormous work through the lives of twelve men. So, why not me? Why not you? Why not all who thirst for Him?

I grew up attending a private Christian school. It is where my thirst for Christ became unquenchable. It is where I learned to strive for the righteousness of Jesus Christ alone.

The founders of the school are husband and wife. Both are extremely educated teachers who started out wanting to do exactly that: teach. I’m certain that if you were to ask either one of those people if they thought of founding their own private school, the answer would be a big, fat NO! The responsibility and stress of being solely responsible for every child walking through the doors is enough to keep me awake at night, and it has nothing to do with me!

However, they were presented with the idea by someone else and God planted a dream. After seeking the Lord, they put aside their fears and leapt into the water. It was sink or swim. They never sank, but they did spend a lot of time treading water. They are a pure example of a couple who welcomed God’s everything.

The through process of their lives is why I’m serving Christ today. The school has been open for more than thirty years now. They struggled financially then and they still struggle now, but the Lord always provides. Today, their son is principal. He is continuing the through process. God asked a family of teachers to follow Him, and they did.

Holy Spirit Led

I happen to be writing today’s post on a Sunday. I’m not feeling well, so I’ve sent my family off to church while I lie on the couch with my coffee in one hand and my Bible in the other. Even though I’m sick, this is living! I love a good, hot cup of coffee, and soaking up the words of the Lord is a passion of mine. Mix the two together and it’s like a day at the beach for me.

I tend to be filled with anxiety and worry. I picture the worst before the conviction of the Holy Spirit forces me to see God’s best. I’m working on it. It’s a process.

Taking those tidbits of my life into account, I wonder how I would have reacted if Jesus had walked by me in the flesh and said, “Follow me.” Would I have missed it because of the worry concerning not having my nets mended properly? Would the financial responsibility of paying for my iPhone have weighed me down so far that I couldn’t have stood up to go? (Bear with me; I’m mixing old with new. You have to admit it’s fun . . . right?)

Or would I have left my boat, nets, and earthly father behind and said, “If anyone texts me, tell them I’ve gone to follow Jesus! Oh, and my phone will probably be shut off soon”?

I really hope it would be the latter. With my whole heart I want to tell you that I would leave it all behind. And knowing what I know about my Savior now, I can confidently say I would. But hindsight is always 20/20. However, these twelve men didn’t know much or anything. What they must have felt was the Holy Spirit. And once you’ve felt that draw, it’s nearly impossible to say no.

I’m going to tell you a story. You might think it crazy, but it’s one of my first Holy Spirit experiences. And it’s true.

I was probably six years old. My parents were looking to buy a new home on the same street where my grandparents lived. The house happened to be right next door to a little boy I knew from school. I was at my grandparent’s house when I saw my friend playing in his front yard.

He invited me over because he wanted me to meet his mother. We walked through the side door into the kitchen where she was doing dishes. She had her back to us. When he brought me in to meet her, she turned around and her eyes (brace yourselves.) looked like they were bright lights. It was as if they were on fire, but in a beautiful, peaceful way. Something in my soul changed that very instant.

This woman is one of the dearest Christian women I’ve ever met and the Lord was working in her life. She didn’t know what I saw in her eyes, but I will tell you this: I saw something dramatically different. I saw the love of a Savior who had the ability to change my entire existence. Though I was a child and unaware of what it meant at that moment, I knew it was good – very, very, good.

Throughout my youth, I experienced a few other instances like that as well. I’ve learned the Lord will show us He is real. In the example I just told you He was doing some serious through work in a woman of God all with the intention of pursuing me. And she didn’t even know it!

Tomorrow, we are going to talk about the twelve men.

Will you meet me back here?

Love,

Jennifer

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_nMy 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 is slim to none. Those words usually apply to the way one half of a couple sees things, not the way they really are.

This is why the last word in my BRAVE acronym was so difficult to write. I’m telling you, I could feel little beads of sweat dripping when I used the word everything. I mean seriously, can anyone say with certainty that they will be bold, ready, and available, vying for everything God has for them?

What if I don’t want anything to do with His everything?

A prime example for that question would be Job. God clearly allowed Job to suffer what he did; however, Job learned something brilliant and mighty through it.

Job is caught up in lamenting his hardships (and trust me, I’m not judging him. I’ve lamented a few times myself to the Almighty!) when the Lord finally comes to Job in a whirlwind and has several questions for him. One of my favorites catches the breath in my throat –

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.”

- Job 38:4

Eek! Usually my lamenting is one sided with the occasional reminder of a scripture. Conviction often follows, but I can’t say God ever came to me in a whirlwind and put me in my place – at least not the kind of whirlwind Job experienced.

God continues making His point for quite a while and then Job says:

“Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.”

- Job 40:4-5

After this the Lord keeps pounding in His theme and then everything changes for Job. He finally gets it:

I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

- Job 42:2-6

The art of humility took form within Job. The fact that God is God hit him square between the eyes and forever changed the course of his life. The Bible tells us after this occurrence that Job lived 140 years. Can you begin to think what kind of awesome through process must have taken place in Job throughout his last 140 years on earth? I only wish it were recorded. Someday, when I arrive in heaven, I’m going to ask! I can’t wait to find out the details.

God’s everything in our lives can only be accepted through humility, surrender, and the throwing up of our earthly hands to allow the holiness of His mighty ways to spark something anew within us.

When we allow Him, He will do the work. However, we have work to do as well.

We cannot continue to grow closer to the Lord and live out the through process of our lives without action. There must be a constant pursuit of all things holy that drives us. There is mystery in hidden treasures which lie within Him, and when we are walking close with Him we should have a deep passion to unlock exactly what they are.

The third chapter of Colossians is a wonderful example of the active pursuit we should be living. This chapter has the ability to transform us!

We learn that we must seek Christ and set our minds on Him. Paul tells us what to put off and what to put on in order to live out the commandments Christ has for us. The entire chapter is a guide to opening up the parts of us which are capable of allowing “the everythingChrist wants to work in and through our lives.

Here are the facts: There are days I don’t want to put on tender mercies, kindness, meekness, humility, and longsuffering. There are days I want to be angry because I feel wronged and betrayed. And my heavenly Father in all His glory says, “Uh uh, no way, no how! Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” And then I become aware of how vile this earthly heart of mine really is and recognize I need open heart surgery by the one who did lay the foundations of the earth.

I have endured five miscarriages, a stillborn daughter, and years of infertility. I’ve been through deaths of family members I loved; I suffered watching the hand of addiction on the lives of people I care about. Those things, my friends, are not “the everything” I wanted. However, they allowed the pathways for the through process of my life. And God has done a magnificent work in this woman writing to you today. I’m not saying I’m magnificent. I’m saying that despite who I am and what I’ve done, He chooses to work through me anyway. And that is what is magnificent.

He chooses us anyway!

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been there. You’ve suffered, felt alone and haven’t wanted anything to do with “the everything” you faced. But you are here. You are standing. Do you know why? Because you are loved. Because you are brave. Because you are strong. And because YOU are beautiful! He has made you all those things in order to carry out the through process of your life!

I implore you to crave His everything! Crave His salt and light. Let them flow out of you and become a gateway for Jesus to change another life.

Love,

Jennifer

What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 15: The Man Who Knew)

31 Days day 15n

The apostle Paul was a man who knew what it was to vie for his eternity. He knew what it was to race with certainty. And he knew what it was to suffer. In the Bible we are introduced to two very different sides of Paul. He started out Saul, persecutor of Christians, before he […]

{Continue reading…}

What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 14: Sticking To Those Dreams)

31 days pic corn field

I’m a competitive person. If you want to find out the truth in that statement, just try being a fly on the wall during a game of Catch Phrase – wives versus husbands. I’m telling you with an honest and sincere heart that marriage counselors would no doubt solicit us for business after watching just […]

{Continue reading…}

What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 13: The Pursuit)

The Breath of God Hovering

At the time we are born into this world begins an amazing chase. Throughout human imperfections and soul-fought spiritual wars all around us is the breath of God. Hovering. He’s just waiting to make us aware of who He is. He’s waiting for us to claim Him as our own. Now, don’t ask me why […]

{Continue reading…}

What Makes You Beautiful? 31 Days of Living Brave (Day 12: You or the Stones?)

31 days flower and vase

Yesterday we discussed Joseph of the Old Testament, but there is no way I can talk on the topic of availability without bringing Joseph of the New Testament to light. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with […]

{Continue reading…}