Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Eat Mor Chikin and Pray!



Hey All!

I know it's been a long time since I last wrote anything on the blog.  Life has been crazy busy and I haven't found much time to sit and write here, although God has been so good to me and I have MUCH to write about!  I plan to share some of those God-stories with you as God leads me to, and in fact that is why I am back.

It may seem like such a small and silly thing to write about - especially as my first time back on the blog in a year and 1/2! - but alas, this is what God impressed upon my heart to share, so share I must...

Last month, I was driving home from having a minor medical procedure done in which I was left feeling a little light-headed.  To top it off, I hadn't eaten much that day and I knew that if I got some food in my stomach that I would feel a whole lot better. I was ravenously hungry and craving Chick-fil-a, so I asked Siri where one was and to my dismay, there were not any located anywhere close to where I was or where I was headed.

I was on a rural road where I had not traveled before, and there wasn't much there to begin with other than some cow pastures on either side of me.  I finally caught a glimpse of a McDonalds up ahead and was not all too thrilled with that option but knew it might be the only place available if I wanted food any time soon.  As I got closer to the McDonalds I half-jokingly said to the Lord out loud in my car, "Lord I really don't want McDonalds.  I know there is no Chick-fil-a around here, but could you please just make one appear on the side of the road for me?"

 I was not at all expecting what happened next.  Immediately, after I said those words, I looked up, and lo and behold there was a Chick-fil-a on the side of the road!  In fact, I came upon it so quickly that I almost missed it!  Can you believe it?!  I sure couldn't!  I just started laughing hysterically in my car and just kept telling God, "I can't believe You just did that!  I can't believe You just did that!  You are too much!"  I'm sure He was laughing too right along with me and probably got a real kick out of surprising me like that!

After I got my heaven-sent awesomeness of a meal at the drive-thru, I asked the Lord why it was that He would answer such a small, insignificant request like that in such a big way but why it seemed like He wasn't working like that in some of the big circumstances where I really need Him to come through.  He responded not in an audible way but very strongly in my spirit and said, "I AM!"  He reminded me that He IS in fact working in those big areas, and He had answered this silly little request of mine to show me that He hears and He cares even about the small stuff.  In His time, He will reveal to me what He has been doing all along in the big stuff too.  The Lord didn't have to answer my prayer that day, but I am thankful that He was sweet enough to use this as a lesson to remind me that He is able to do ANYTHING and that He hears me when I call.

No matter how big or small your need is, God cares and He is there listening every single time you cry out to Him.  We may not always see how He is working behind the scenes, but we can rest assured that He is working all things together for our good.  In fact He is able to do IMMEASURABLY more than all we could ever ask or imagine!





Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Daddy Loves Me!

I feel so blessed to be the aunt of three of the most precious children in the world!

Here are Riley (5) and Joel (3)

And my sweet little Hannah Joy (almost 1)
Aren't they adorable?!  I can hardly stand it!  It is so hard living so far away from my babies, but I am blessed to get to see them every summer and Christmas.

I remember one particular night two years ago at Christmastime when our whole family was together, and my parents had a house full of family and friends over for dinner.  At one point during the evening, I was lying on the couch just observing everyone so happy with their spouses next to them and my heart began to hurt for what I so longed for but did not yet have.

I suddenly became very aware of my feelings of loneliness in this crowded room and although I was surrounded by people who loved me, I began to feel insignificant.  No one knew about the internal pity party I was having for myself, and I continued to watch as everyone carried on in laughter.

After awhile, I watched as my nephew, Riley - who was 3 at the time - started walking my direction with a candy cane in his mouth and a big grin on his face.  He walked right up to where I was lying down, turned his head to the side so that he was looking at me square in the eye, and with candy cane still in his mouth, he mumbled, "I love you Aunt Jeny!"  My eyes started tearing up as I said, "I love you too baby."

He then proceeded to do something that he has NEVER done before to this day.  It is important to note that at the time he was a very independant little boy and wasn't one who liked to snuggle much.  He has since become a whole lot more affectionate, but I want you to know that this was NOT something that happened all the time - what he did next was EXTREMELY out of the norm for him.

With everyone still talking and unaware of what was going on, he proceeded to hop up on the couch and positioned himself in between my back and the couch cushions.  He then took that candy cane out of his mouth, and with his sticky little peppermint lips began to kiss my cheek over and over again.  Every few kisses, he would stop, look at me and say, "I love you Aunt Jeny" and then would begin kissing me again.  Tears started streaming down my face when all of a sudden I caught a glimpse of my other nephew, Joel (who was just 1 at the time).  He had grabbed on to the coffee table, pulled himself up, turned around and looked at me with a smile that would melt anyone's heart.  As he stood there looking at me with that big smile on his face, my eyes were drawn to the words on his little onesie he was wearing.  In bold letters, it read, "My Daddy Loves Me."

Just then, like a wave - it hit me.  My heavenly Daddy had orchestrated that whole thing.  He knew what I was feeling in that moment and chose such a precious way to remind me how much He loved me.  My feelings may have been hidden from everyone else in that house, but not from Him.  It was like He was saying, "Baby Girl - I know your heart is hurting, but I want you to know that you MATTER to Me!  You are NEVER alone, and I love you like no one else could ever love you!"

On this Valentine's Day (and every day), God wants you to know how much you are treasured and loved by Him, precious one!  No matter if you are single, widowed, divorced, dating or married - know that HIS love is like no other!  No human love could ever compare to the love your heavenly Daddy has for you!  He LOVES YOU with a perfect love.  He doesn't just feel love towards you or even choose to love you - He IS love! (I John 4:8)  That is the very essence of who He is!

Listen to just a few of the things He has to say to you straight out of the love letter of His word:

"Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you.  I've called your name.  You're Mine.  When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you.  When you're in rough waters, you will not go down.  When you're between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end - Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.  I paid a huge price for you...That's how much you mean to Me!  That's how much I love You!  I'd sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you."
Isaiah 43:2-4 MSG

"Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?  But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!  See, I have written your name on the palms of My hands."  Isaiah 49:15-16a NLT

"I have loved you with an everlasting love.  That is why I have continued to be faithful to you."
Jeremiah 31:3b NET

These are just a few of the MANY expressions of love God wrote directly to you from His heart onto the pages of scripture.  His biggest display of love was when He gave His life for you on the cross.  If you are feeling unloved today, picture His arms stretched out in this beautiful act of love and hear Him saying, "Your Daddy loves you!"

You are loved precious child of God!



Happy Valentine's Day!




Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I am the Moon - He is my Light

One of the reasons I love living in Florida is that I am just about 7 minutes away from the beach.  I am a romantic and love having my "Jesus and Jen" dates out by the water.  His creation always draws me so close to Him in a way that I just can't explain.  One night this past summer, I went out to one of my special places by the water where I meet with Him often and watched as He painted yet another beautiful sunset on the tapestry of a deep blue sky while multiple shades of pink and orange danced on the clouds.  It absolutely took my breath away! 

This particular night as I sat still in awe of the moving artistry all around me, my heart was mixed with emotions.  Part of my heart was filled with wonder as I gazed upon God's beauty, and the other part of my heart was extremely heavy.  I remember not being able to say much at all to the Lord except telling Him that even though I didn't understand my situation that I was going to trust Him.  As I sat there breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sound of waves crashing against the rocks, I watched until the sun finally disappeared beneath the horizon.  I took comfort in knowing that God was still God even in the midst of my mess and that He still had a plan for my life.

After awhile, it started getting dark and suddenly I noticed a bright light was shining on me from behind like someone had just turned a spotlight on me.  I turned around not knowing where the light was coming from and was taken back by it's source.  What had happened was that the clouds had parted and revealed one of the most brilliant, brightest full moons I have ever seen!  As I sat there mesmerized at the sight I was beholding I was reminded that the light I was seeing was not from the moon at all.  The moon is really nothing more than a big dark round rock in the sky with craters all over it.  In itself, it is actually kind of boring and ugly.  What gave the moon it's light was the sun - the very same sun that I had watched paint colors throughout the sky just about an hour or so before.  The sun made something that would otherwise be useless become a beautiful beacon of light shining brightly for all to see.

As tears started streaming down my cheeks, I told God that I wanted Him to make me like that moon. I knew that I was useless without Him and that I couldn't produce any light on my own.  I told Him what a mess I was, but that if He was willing I would give Him my ugly mess so that He could shine His light upon me and turn my life into something beautiful.  I so wanted to be someone He could use to boldly show off His glory for all to see just like that moon that night.

When I got home, I immediately grabbed my Bible and opened up to the next chapter in Isaiah, as I was reading through this particular book at the time.  I knew it was no coincidence when the very first words I read were, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and His glory appears over you." (Isaiah 60:1-2)

I love how the Amplified version states this passage: "Arise [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you--rise to a new life]!  Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and dense darkness [all] peoples, but the Lord shall arise upon you, and His glory shall be seen on you."

Wow!  I just love how God speaks straight to our circumstances from His Word!  We do live in a dark world, and it just seems to be getting darker with time.  However, God has called each of His children to ARISE and to allow His beautiful light to shine brightly from each of us into this darkened world.  People need to see that there is hope - they need to see that there is something more than what they are chasing after - they need JESUS!  The thing is that none of us can be a light on our own - we are only going to shine as bright as we allow ourselves to get close to our Heavenly Father.  The closer we get to Him, the brighter we will shine.  It doesn't matter how ugly your situation may be or what kind of mess you find yourself in - as you draw nearer and nearer to your Heavenly Father, His light will shine brighter and brighter in your life.

Well - that's not the end of my story.  You see, our enemy - the prince of darkness - does not want us shining the light of Christ.  He loves the dark and will do everything he can to dim any light that may begin to shine from your life.  He wants nothing more than to convince you that God could never use you.  If he can get you to believe this lie, then he can keep you in the dark and keep you from having any impact in this world for Christ.

He tried to use this lie on me and was successful for awhile.  He tried to convince me that God could never use someone like me and that I would never be like that moon.  My life was just too messy.  I had blown it way too many times.  There were significant people in my life who had given up on me, why wouldn't God give up on me too?  The enemy tormented me with these thoughts until I finally decided I was going to believe what God said about me instead of what the enemy was telling me.

Within a week of making this decision to believe God over how I felt, a sweet woman walked up to me at church and handed me a CD.  (Keep in mind that I had only met her once before and had never shared my moon story with her).  She proceeded to tell me that there was a song on that CD that made her think of me and she wanted to share it with me thinking that maybe it would be a good song for me to sing.

After church, I hopped in my car anxious to hear the song.  I had never heard this song by Sara Groves before and I sat there and sobbed as these words came through my speakers:

"And I am the moon with no light of my own
Still You have made me to shine
And as I glow in this cold dark night
I know I can't be a light unless I turn my face to You.
Shine on me with Your light
Without You I'm a cold dark stone
Shine on me I have no light of my own
You are the sun, You are the sun, You are the sun
And I am the moon"

May each time you look up in the sky and see a bright full moon that it will remind you to draw nearer and nearer to God so that He can shine brighter and brighter through your life!

Love you all,



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Shopping Trip to Remember

Ok, so I recently shared on my Facebook of a shopping trip to Old Navy in which I bought $430 worth of clothes and netted $9 in profit. Many have asked how I did this, so I thought I would share some of my shopping secrets with you...

Honestly, although I do profess do be a bargain shopper - I have never been able to pull something like this off to this extreme before (especially with clothes). So - if you're looking for instructions on how you can go out tomorrow and do the same thing, I'm afraid you might not like my answer. However, maybe you can take some of my tips and it will help you save some money on your quest for a great deal!

It all started with Groupon. They emailed me a special promotion for $10 towards a Groupon. Around the same time, I found there was a $20 Old Navy Groupon for only $10. I used my $10 credit towards that Groupon and got it for free. Groupon also has a referral program which allows you to refer friends and earn $10 credit for each person who creates an account and buys. I ended up with $60 in Old Navy Groupons to spend.

I waited to use these until there were some good sales going on in the store so that I could get more for my money. However, I never expected the deal to be as good as it was. Sunday afternoon, my sister texted me and told me that Old Navy was having a big sale and all of their clearance was marked down an additional 50% . On top of that, for every $20 you spent, they gave you $10 Old Navy bucks to come back and use.

I headed straight to Old Navy the moment I got her text in hopes that I would find me some good stuff. And find me some good stuff I DID! You know how it is with clearance - it can be very hit or miss. Most of the time, for me at least, it's a miss. You are usually left with the clothes that no one else wants to buy, or when you find something cute it's not in your size. Well - not this time! I felt like a kid in a candy store as I pulled item after item off the rack to try on. Most of the items were $5 or less! I'm sure it was a funny sight for the rest of the shoppers to see as I attempted to haul half the store in my arms to the dressing room to try on.

(Now I have to stop here and say that I know there are much bigger needs out there in the world, and I do not at all want to minimize those things with a silly little post about such a minor need in my life. However, I believe that God not only cares about the big stuff in our lives, but also the little stuff. Honestly, other than a small amount at Christmas that was paid with another Groupon - I have not really been clothes shopping in well over a year. I cannot even recall when the last time was. This girl that years ago once frequented the mall so much that the workers in my favorite stores knew me by name has learned how to live with less).

The thing is that I was really coming to the point that I needed a few items, like some jeans. I only have one pair that fit me right now and I wear that same pair ALL of the time - I can't believe I just admitted that - ha! Anyways, as I began to try on my ridiculously ginormous pile of clothes, I began to hang the items up in 3 categories: "HAVE TO BUY", "WANT TO BUY" and "MAYBE". After I had finally tried on my last item, which seemed like hours later, I got out my phone and started adding up the prices of my found treasures, so I could figure out what I could keep and what I would have to part with. Keep in mind that I only had $60 in Groupons to spend, so I was trying to keep the total right around there.

I started with the "HAVE TO BUY" group, thinking for sure I would rack up my $60 there. I literally had tears in my eyes when the total only came out to around $27.   Every single one of those items were things that I really needed (like 2 pairs of jeans) and prayed that God would help me to find.  I was then able to add all of the "WANT TO BUY" items as well!!!   I stopped and thanked the Lord right there and jumped up and down in the dressing room as giddy as a 5-year-old little girl who had just been given a pony! Seriously - I wonder what the sweet young Old Navy employees were thinking as they saw my feet below the door as I did my happy dance. I am laughing out loud right now just thinking about it.

When it was all said and done, with my Groupons, sale prices, an extra discount for a hole I found in one of the tops, and a sweet cashier who allowed me to combine my Groupons with the store promo of Old Navy bucks (they normally don't allow this), I paid $21 and got back $30 in Old Navy bucks for a net of $9!!!  PRAISE THE LORD!!!

I know without a doubt that God orchestrated all of this in order to provide for me in a very practical way. He truly does care about our EVERY need no matter how big or small. This doesn't mean He is going to give us everything we want. He knows what is best for us and what we truly need. The truth is that in the big scheme of things, I didn't REALLY need new clothes - but just like a loving earthly father takes great delight in giving gifts to his children, our Heavenly Father loves to do the same for us. He chooses many different ways to do this, as each of us are special and unique, but I think His heart bursts with joy every time He gets to shower us with undeserved blessings like this. I honestly think He was in that dressing room jumping up and down with me! ;0)

Okay - so there you have it. One very long post with a very long explanation - if you are still reading this at this point, I applaud you. I will be back with some posts that have a little more depth to them soon. :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy New Year...(a tad late)

Hello my dear brothers and sisters!
I don't know if I am too late in saying this, but "Happy New Year to you all!" I said this to someone the other day and they actually rebuked me and told me that was old news. Well - old news or not, I do hope that 2012 is off to a good start for you!
I know I have not been faithful at keeping this blog updated, and so one of my New Year's resolutions is to be better at that. God is teaching me so many things along this journey, but I don't write about it often because of fear to what people might think. I do not claim to be a gifted writer by any means, and I have no idea how many people actually read this blog. However, the Lord has convicted me that I cannot just keep what He is teaching me to myself. When God produces fruit in your life, it is not just for you to eat but also for others. Therefore, as God continues to produce fruit in my life as I seek Him, I will pass the plate around gladly in hopes that you will find something nourishing to your soul as well.
That being said, I am SO very excited about all that God has in store for this year. I love fresh starts - being able to just wipe the slate clean, learn from the past and set my sights on what lies ahead. It was so refreshing to start out this new year with a blank calendar, not knowing what would fill each of the 366 days this year (leap year). Not knowing can be scary and thrilling at the same time! As I spent time praying over my 2012 calendar this year asking God to bless in very specific ways - there was one thing above all else that I wanted. I asked Jesus to fill every single minute of every single day with more of Himself! No matter what lies ahead, I want to experience more of Him! And that my friends, is my prayer for you too! May this be a year that you experience your Heavenly Father more than you ever have before!
"The LORD says, "Forget what happened before, and do not think about the past. Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don't you see it? I will make a road in the desert and rivers in the dry land." Isaiah 43:18-19
May 2012 bring You glory, LORD!!!
Love,
Jen

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lessons from the Valley

Hello dear friends,

If we were to sit down across from one another and I was to ask you how you are doing, what would you say? Would you give me the common Sunday-morning-church-act-like-you-got-it-all-together answer of "I'm fine" or "I'm good"? What if I leaned in, looked you square in the eye and said, "Now tell me how you are really doing." Maybe things in your life truly are great right now, and you are on top of the mountain enjoying God's blessings in your life. If that is the case, I celebrate with you! But - I know there are those of you who would say that things really aren't so fine right now. Maybe you have found yourself smack dab in the middle of a valley. I have heard this far too often from some precious brothers and sisters in Christ lately, and God impressed upon my heart that it was time to share with you some things that He has been teaching me, a fellow sojourner presently traveling through the valley myself.

Let me preface this by saying that I definitely did not start out in the valley believing all of these things. I have had my share of questions and doubts just like many of you. I have had moments when I wondered if God had forgotten about me. There have been many times I felt like throwing in the towel and giving up because it was just too hard. However, in the midst of all the confusion, unknowns and uncertainties, God has been using this season to teach me. He has been opening my eyes to see the real beauty that lies in the valley.

You may be wondering how in the world you could ever see your valley as beautiful. I am not saying that the circumstance that placed you in the valley is beautiful. Let's face it - life can be downright hard and unfair sometimes. The only view you may see in front of you right now might seem dark, scary, long and lonely. However, God promises to bring good out of every single thing that happens in your life (Rom. 8:28). He alone can take the barren, dusty groud you tread upon and turn it into something beautiful, lush and green.

God also promises that you will never have to walk alone. Psalm 23:4a (NLT) states, "Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me." Even when you can't feel God's presence, He is there. He hasn't abandoned you, precious one. In fact, these are the times that He draws us in close - near to His heart.

Another beautiful thing that God can do during this season is to speak to you in ways you have never heard Him before. I personally have never been so sensitive to the voice of God as I have been while in the valley. It is here that I have learned how to listen to the voice of my sweet Savior. Ezekiel 3:22 (NLT) says, "Then the LORD took hold of me and said, 'Get up and go out into the valley, and I will speak to you there.'" If God has led you to this place, dear one, He has something He wants to say to you - something He wants to teach you. He is speaking - Listen to Him!

That next verse in Ezekiel goes on to say, "So I got up and went, and there I saw the glory of the LORD...". God's intention for leading you through a valley is ALWAYS for the purpose of His glory. There is something so glorious He wants to do in all of this! This is an opportunity for Him to show you and those around you what He is capable of.

A common fact about the valley is that this is where the fruit grows. Another purpose for God leading you through the valley is to produce fruit in your life. It is to your Father's glory that your life bears much fruit (John 15:8). To experience this growth, however, you HAVE to stay connected to Jesus. In John 15:5 (MSG), Jesus said, "I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with Me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing."

Yes, precious child of God - a harvest will come if you stay connected to the One who breathes life into your very soul. Psalm 126:5-6 (NIV) says, "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." The Message says that they "will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing!" God promises to exchange our tears for laughter! Each one of your tears is a seed that God can produce a crop from. The more tears you have had to endure, the more seeds that can be sown. The more seeds that are sown, the larger the harvest is going to be. Before you know it, that barren ground isn't going to be so barren anymore. Eventually you will begin to see the results of what God wanted to bring about in your life in this season. In fact, you might turn around to find that your valley has produced a crop that looks a little something like this one found in a valley in Israel:
That's right! A harvest is coming my brothers and sisters! God is who He says He is! He always keeps His promises! If you feel like quitting - don't! Allow God to lead you while He tightly holds onto your hand.  For at the proper time, you're gonna reap a harvest if you do not give up! (Gal. 6:9)

Love in Christ,

Jen