One is Enough

I will confess: one is rarely ever enough for me.

One episode of Downton Abby on Netflix turns into binge watching an entire season. One minute checking email turns into an hour scrolling through social media. One potato chip….I mean seriously, who can do that??

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The concept of one being enough is somewhat foreign to me, yet it is something God continues to press into my heart. There are many times in life where one is enough. Where it should be enough.

  • One step of obedience is all God requires for us to partner with Him in a great adventure.
  • One conversation with a person the Spirit prompts us to talk to can lead to a beautiful friendship.
  • One quiet moment with Jesus before the house gets loud can set our course towards Peace-filled waters that day.
  • One invitation to one person to trust in one Savior can change that person’s eternal destiny.

Yes, sometimes one is enough. Yet, the enemy seeks to stir up my soul and convince me that more is needed. More is required. And that one is pointless. He whispers taunts:
None of those Sunday school kids are listening to you. You aren’t making a difference in their lives.
You write and write on your little blog, but you don’t have many followers. Why do you even bother. Think of all that you could get done if you just gave that up.
Look around you at all those successful people. You will never be able to compete in that space. Why even try?

His tactics can be effective. They hit at my most vulnerable places. Yet, thankfully the more time I spend with the Father, the more obvious the enemy’s tactics become.

Where the enemy taunts, accuses and tears down; God whispers, sustains and encourages:

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God speaks to my heart: “Your only job is to obey. You speak truth. You write truth. But you leave the results to Me. I AM the One who changes hearts. You’re job is simply to trust Me. To follow Me. Where I lead you is not your concern. You stay on the perfect path which I have laid out for you. And you alone. Your path will not look the same as others. And that is ok. You follow Me. You be filled with Me. You keep your eyes on Me.”

And then every once in awhile God will give me a lavish gift. A gift I truly don’t deserve. A gift I feel unworthy to open:

He will allow me to lead a child to place their trust in Jesus. He will allow me to hear feedback from someone who was touched by my blog. He will allow me to SEE a glimpse of the beautiful tapestry He is creating.

I will probably always struggle with the comparison trap. It is one of the “thorns in my side” so to speak. But God is so patient with me and continues to work on my heart to remind me that one can be enough.

While He may use some to reach multitudes, He may be calling us to pursue just one lost sheep.

Numbers should not be our concern. Obedient surrender should.

Today, I choose to allow One to be enough. And what a wonderful, amazing, righteous ONE He is.

Much love,
Jen

ONE is enough

Thoughts from an Author-in-training

The other day a friend asked me if writing a book is really any different from the other writing I’ve done? She knows that I’ve been writing church curriculum lessons for the past four years, contributing to devotionals occasionally, writing weekly blog posts, and getting to do some other cool writing gigs.

At times those projects have felt hard.

And then I started writing a book. A “for real” book. Not the sweet attempt at a book I made three years ago when I was blissfully unaware of writing rules such as perspective, point-of-view, or the fundamental rule of show-don’t-tell. No, back then I just sat and made words fill up a page.

But, by what can truly and only be defined as an act of God, someone in the publishing world saw the potential of the story  within my sad attempt at a manuscript and chose to take a chance on it. To help me write the story God allowed me to see, and then share it with the world.

And then it all got real. Really real. Scary real. Overwhelmingly real. But awesomely real.

So when my friend asked me if there was a difference between “normal” writing and writing a book, my answer was this:

Imagine that everyday you sit in your family room and lift some light weights while watching tv. You are quite proud of yourself for staying so fit and working out. Everyday you lift those 3 lb weights and feel really good about yourself. But then one day, someone invites you to try an advanced aerobics class. “I workout,” you think, “I can totally do this.” But then the class starts and within 2 minutes you realize you are in way over your head. This is nothing like lifting 3 lb weights while watching tv. This hurts. This is hard. This isn’t going to end anytime soon. And you can’t do this on your own.

For me, that sums up the difference between book writing and other writing. Maybe it’s not like this for anyone else. But for me the stakes feel higher. The subject matter requires constant research. My writing skills need beefing up. And I often get up exhausted from my makeshift desk. (Seriously, my “desk” needs help!! But who has time to go desk shopping??)

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Writing is not for wimps! (Yet, who has time to really go workout when you’re trying to write a book while your kids are at school???)

I am so grateful to be working with an incredible collaborator. She is so talented and so knowledgeable. I just love how God has provided me with a team of people to help me do this huge thing He has called me to do.

That is so like Him isn’t it? He calls you to do something that scares you, that is bigger than you are capable of, but then He provides for you. Often through another person coming alongside you.

I am learning so much during this process: How to build a story arc, then tweaking the story arc, developing characters (and learning how to honor real people portrayed in the story), how to show and not tell, and so much more. I am loving every second of this process, even though it is intense and at times downright hard.

And I am so grateful to all of the people who are coming alongside me and helping me write this story.

A writer’s life can get a little isolated at times. I can’t exactly invite people over to watch me write (well I guess I could but that would just be awkward). It’s hard to meet up with someone for lunch, because what if inspiration strikes and I’m on a roll and have to cancel? I am constantly thinking of story ideas and placement and so I’m often there but not there in a conversation.

I had kind of fallen into faulty thinking of “I must do this on my own.”

But God has graciously shown me that writing the story He has laid on my heart is not a call to a life of isolation. It is a call to reach out to others. To collaborate. To allow others to encourage me. To receive that encouragement. To look up sometimes. And to engage in life. And I think my writing will be richer because of it.

It’s just another reminder that we were not meant to live this life alone. We were created to live in relationships. First and foremost with God, but also with each other.

Is there someone you can reach out to today? Encouragement you can offer? Even just a smile for someone? Do you need to allow others to encourage you? It can be hard to accept help, but what a gift it can be. Let’s bless each other in some way today!

Much love,
Jen

Facing a rising storm is a little easier with good friends beside you

 

 

Aren’t We All Still A Little Like Teenagers?

I used to be scared of teenagers—even when I was one. And in full disclosure I still can get intimidated by them. Whereas preschoolers and elementary kids can be easily impressed with you simply because you are older and therefore, in their minds, an expert on things, teenagers are not. A teenager’s motto seems to be: I will not be impressed by you unless you earn it. And earning it is hard work. Earning it leaves you vulnerable to blowing it. Earning it forces you out of your comfort zone and into uncharted waters.

Yep, preschoolers and elementary (even early middle schoolers)—those are my people. But teenagers…not so much.

Until I had one.

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Now that a teenager is one of my people, I am having to figure things out. I am having to interact with a whole new species! But you know what??? I kinda like him 😉

Actually, I really like him. (Which according to my teenager is even more important than loving him. After all, I have to love him, but I don’t have to like him. I guess he does have a point.)

But part of this whole parenting a teenager thing is that we are both figuring it out as we go. Never having parented a teenager before, makes my son a bit of a child-rearing guinea pig. And most days my husband and I are clueless.

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Is he social enough? Is his screen to real life ratio within a healthy range? Is it ok that he really doesn’t like sports that much? Why does he take two 20 minute showers a day? Is it normal for a 13-year-old to occasionally act like a 2-year-old? Will his feet ever stop growing???

But I gleaned some extraordinary insight last night that I just have to share:

My teenager doesn’t know what he’s doing. We don’t know what we’re doing. But God does know what He’s doing, and that’s all we need to cling to.

In fact, it almost seemed to relieve my son last night to hear me say that I don’t have this whole parenting thing figure out. Like knowing that we are figuring this out together makes us the same in some way.

We had one of those talks as he was getting settled into bed last night. Not one of those talks, but a pour your heart out, listen more than you talk, kind of talks. It always takes awhile to get there. These kind of talks can never be rushed. Thees talks require a level of patience that I often do not possess after 9:00pm. But last night, led by the Holy Spirit, I lingered. We laughed. We chatted. And then came the statement. The one that made my heart sink:

“I’ll never do anything great for God.”

Oh my heart. My heart wanted to scream out, “Yes you will!” My mind wanted to recount all the joy he brings to our family. Write a list of his positive attributes in sharpie on the wall so he would read it everyday. My mind began scrolling thru my mental rolodex of books on positive self-talk.

But the Spirt said, “Listen.”

My son explained that because he isn’t comfortable being in front of people, and sometimes struggles to even want to interact with others, that he most likely won’t do anything big for God.

“Do you know what I mean?” he asked, vulnerability written all over his face.

Oh my son I do know. Oh how I know.

He articulated what I struggled with as a teenager and what I still struggle with today.

Does what I’m doing matter? (When you hear numbers like 20,000 likes and 100K views and 50,000 followers it kinda messes with your head and leaves you and your tiny little numbers feeling significantly less than)

What do people really think of me? (Do I even want to know?)

Why is it so hard to talk to someone new?

Can God really use an introverted, people-pleasing, non-athletic person, who turns red when speaking in front of others????

But since this wasn’t about me, I asked God to speak through me and to me as I spoke to my son:

“Buddy, do you know why your name is Andrew?” I asked.

“Because of the disciple guy?” he said unsure of where this was going.

“Yes, because of the disciple guy. Andrew didn’t need to be the guy up front. Andrew didn’t need to have the attention on him. Andrew simply followed Jesus and then ran to get his brother, Peter, so he could follow Jesus too. Andrew was content to walk with Jesus in quiet obedience and trust. And Andrew was the only disciple to go and find some bread and fish for Jesus to use to feed over 5,000 people. Andrew didn’t understand it all, but he trusted that Jesus did. And God used simple trust in extraordinary ways.”

That’s my prayer for you, bud. That you will find your contentment, joy, love and peace in Jesus and walk in quiet obedience to him. You don’t have to worry about the results of your obedience. Just trust Him and obey.”

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My son processed this, and debated a few of my points (as only a teenager can). But he seemed to get what I was trying to convey.

Then as only God can do, He turned my words around to me:

My daughter, are you content with me? Am I enough for you? Are you more concerned with numbers or with obedience to me? If I call you to walk in quiet obedience to me, will that be enough for you? Will you walk with m?. Write for me? Speak for me? And then let me handle the results? You can do great things in my kingdom by simply following me. For I am the GREAT I AM.

We may never hold a crusade for 100,000 people. Our names may never be illuminated above a stage. We may never have more than 10 likes on a post. But God can still use us (as unqualified as we may seem) to do great things for Him. All He requires is our saying, “Yes Lord, here I am. Use me in whatever way You see fit.”

After all true greatness is not measured by numbers. True greatness is measured by love and quiet obedience to a Great God.

True greatness is measured by quiet obedience to a Great God.

I still don’t know what I’m doing with this whole parenting a teenager thing, but I’m so thankful God does! And that He is willing to use imperfect, clueless people to further His kingdom.

Much love,

Jen

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

It’s one thing to whisper your dream to trusted friends. It’s another to have a stranger say, “Yes, we like your dream and want to partner with you in bringing your dream to life.”

At first, it’s magical—no, it’s worshipful. It’s humbling and exciting and overwhelming. You squeal. You cry. You feel compelled to tell the man at the post office that, contained in the large envelope you are mailing, is your very first book contract. You ask him if he is sure you don’t need insurance on it. You take pictures of your first check from a real publishing house. You skip to the mailbox to find a box of books your publishing house sent you—for free because you’re one of them now!!!

But then, Monday comes and your kids go back to school and suddenly your dream becomes your job—your responsibility, and things start to change. Your once intangible dream now has deadlines. Your once whispered hope is now discussed by teams of people. And you feel less than qualified to pursue your own dream.

The panic sets in: What have I done? Am I going to be able to do this?

The ability to form sentences seems to have left you. You stare at a blank screen and are convinced you hear it taunting you.

You begin to wish you could take your dream back. Make it your secret once again.

But no, the secret is out. The story must be told. Yet, you feel like the most unqualified person on the planet to tell it.

Breathe.

You realize that your breathing rivals that of Michael Phelps after finishing 80 laps in the pool. You draw in one slow, deep breath. You then exhale, and feel the cords of anxiety loosen ever so slightly.

You reach for your Bible—your anchor in this emotional maelstrom. Your fingers know where they are going before your mind engages. You open to a passage covered with stars, lines, and scribbled words. You smile as your memory floods with other times you have turned to this passage: the night before competitions in high school, the gripping fear of 9/11, hours before going into labor, the heartbreak of grief, the milestone of sending your babies to kindergarten. Once again the familiar passage provides the balm to your aching soul. You read the words you hold so dear:

“We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are fixed upon You……Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, it’s God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:12&15

Breathe.

Tears spill onto the precious pages of truth.

“God, I can’t. I can’t…..but You can. Will You? Will You write this? Will You take this dream—this calling You’ve given me—and bring it to fruition? I’m scared Lord. Really scared.”

An echo rings in your heart. A whisper tickles your soul.

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of [pursuing this calling]. For this [story] is not yours—the outcome is not yours, it is Mine. And I AM the LORD, your God.

My child,

Exhale your fear.
Inhale My Presence.

Exhale your fear.
Inhale My Presence.

Stay close to Me. Stay in My Word. Listen to my voice.

Exhale your fear.
Inhale My Presence.

Now, let’s get to work.


I tend to think that I am the only one who battles this kind of fear. The paralyzing, make you question who you are, kind of fear. But I am slowly starting to realize that this is not a unique quirk of mine, but is shared by many. If you are in a place of fear today, may I encourage you to stop and exhale. Exhale your fear and inhale God’s Presence. Run to God’s Word and ask Him to fill you with His peaceful Presence. Ask Him to replace your fear with Himself.

Are you starting something new? Are you scared of doing something beyond your capabilities, but something you firmly believe God has called you to do?

I get it. I feel the shaking feeling you have.

Let’s breathe together and then fix our eyes upon the One who promises to equip those He calls.

May you find your strength and your peace today in the One who loves you more than you can ever imagine!

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Much love,
Jen

When You Just Can’t

I’m tired. Really tired. Like I just can’t do it tired.

Usually by the end of summer vacation I am ready. Ready for a new school year. Ready to try out new Pinterest inspired lunches. Ready to be on top of the homework hustle. Ready to put on my chauffeur hat. Ready to get back to a routine.

But this year, I just don’t feel it. I’m not ready. I haven’t even looked at Pinterest. And the thought of homework gives me hives! I just can’t.

When you just can't musterthe strength to pack anotherschool lunch

I’ve bee processing this lack of desire for the school year as I cling to summer like some kind of lifeline. And I’ve realized that it’s not so much the school year I’m dreading as all of the other stuff that will come with it.

Life is going to get busy. I am going to be challenged in ways that I never have before (see The News I Can Finally Share). Ministry responsibilities will resume. Life will become measured by deadlines, school functions, and schedules. Drama will rear its head at inopportune times (inevitable when you have a middle schooler and a almost tween girl 😉 ) And it will start getting dark earlier (seriously can we please do away with daylight savings time???) The list goes on and on and my trepidation grows and grows.

But I realized something this morning as I was spending quiet time with the Lord: summer comes and goes, but Jesus is constant. (I know, big revelation right!?!?) I know it may not sound like anything much, but it kinda changed everything for me this morning.

See, what I love about summer and what I cling to until my fingers bleed is the laid back, restful atmosphere—the lack of stress and the time to rest. But like a refreshing mist that temporarily cools your skin, summer comes and then is quickly absorbed by real life.

Yet, Jesus offers year-round rest. Jesus offers laid back time with Him daily. Jesus doesn’t offer a temporary reprieve from real life—He offers permanent hope in real life. He enables us to get the important things done. He strengthens our hands and minds for the tasks that He calls us to do. And He offers daily rest. Real rest. True rest. Rest that soaks into your soul. Rest that sustains and renews.

Summer may be coming to an end, but Jesus says, “Take My hand and walk with me through this next season. I will be your rest. I will be your comfort, your strength and your safe place. My grace and My strength are sufficient for you. I AM enough. I AM here. Together we can do this.”

Take my hand. Together we can do this.

And while I still look longingly as summer’s shadow grows long, my eyes catch the reflection of The Son and my heart leaps. My soul is stirred and I feel a little less tired today.

And while I still don’t have the desire to pull up Pinterest lunch ideas, I’m am feeling a little more ready to face a new school year 😉

Much love,

Jen

Spiritual Super Glue

Have you ever read the 3 John’s? Those tiny books near the very back of the Bible with the clever names of First, Second and Third John? I will confess that I have never given those books much thought until I had to write several curriculum lessons from them. Even then I remember noticing a theme emerging, but was far too distracted with other things to allow the theme more than a passing glance.

Yet now as I am having to prepare to teach those same lessons to 4th graders, the theme stands out like a blinking neon light. The small yet mighty books call out loudly among the noise and chatter of this world. Most intriguing of all is that our 4th graders are understanding the truths being proclaimed in these books far better than most adult Christians (myself included).

And what is the theme? The blinking, beeping, understood-by-children-but-not-so-much-by-adults theme?

Love, or what I like to call spiritual super glue.

It is Godly love.
Actual love.
Love as it was meant to be.
Love in its most pure and true form.
The Love that is given to each and every one who confesses Jesus as Lord.
The indwelling love of the Holy Spirit who enables God’s people to love supernaturally, even when it’s hard, even in the midst of an ugly and divisive election season.

Love-that when shared the way Jesus intended-can hold His very different and opinionated people together like a spiritual super glue.

My heart plummeted into my chest last night as I trolled my facebook newsfeed.  (Exactly the reason my husband continues to question why I troll my facebook newsfeed. He does indeed have a point!)

Every other post was related to the upcoming election.

Is the election important? Absolutely. Is there a great deal at stake with this election? Absolutely. Is anyone’s mind going to be changed by a passionate rant on facebook. Not so much.

As I read comment after comment I felt a deep sorrow gnawing at my soul. A sorrow over the realization that we, God’s people, are being duped by the enemy. We are being manipulated and are playing right into satan’s hand.

What did Jesus spend His last hours in the garden of Gethsemane doing? Praying for unity among believers.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me……. I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23

Unity among believers is how the world will know who Jesus is and the love the Father has for all. 

So doesn’t it make sense that satan wants nothing more than to tear believers apart-especially now?

Believers have fought about many things since the birth of the church. Yet, these days the fighting seems more intense: racial issues, social issues, doctrine issues and now a heated election.

You gotta give props where props are due. Satan has done a masterful job of using the difficult issues and choices before us to splinter, fracture, weaken and dilute the spiritual super glue holding God’s people together.

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us….And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:12, 21.

Am I saying that we shouldn’t disagree about anything and should instead plaster fake smiles and never discuss anything other than the weather? (OK, so maybe for a day that would be nice!) But no, of course not.

But maybe instead of posting a rebuttal or snarky response we run our words and thoughts by Jesus. Remember the WWJD movement? Can we bring that back???

Think about the heated arguments that surely erupted during Jesus’ time on earth. Can you see Him firing back a scathing response? Trying to convince someone that He is right?

Not at all. Did He over turn a table or two in righteous holy frustration? Yes, but only when dealing with the religious leaders who were leading people astray with their hypocrisy.  But He never belittled. Never ranted.

Instead Jesus lived by example. He loved the unlovely. He helped the broken. He offered sight to the blind. He shined God’s light into our darkness.

He led, He fed, He bled, He raised from the dead.

What if, during these next few months, instead of trolling social media, God’s people trolled His Word? What if instead of going at each other we sat at the feet of the Father? What if instead of trying to convince someone to vote the way we are, we spent time showing them the love of the Father?

And what if instead of allowing satan to manipulate us, we asked God to use us to show His love to others? Even to those who do not agree with us.

It makes me wonder: Is satan working so hard to fracture God’s people because he fears what will happen if we unite?

Wow! Makes me want to unite just to see what he is so afraid of!

 

 

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Much love,
Jen