Welcome Friend!

This is a place for beauty and for story, for laughter and for tears, for the serious and the silly. It is a place for pausing along the journey as I learn to listen for God, to wait for his voice, and to tune my heart to sing His Grace.

On Answering Life’s Big Questions :: What Google, Rock-Paper-Sissors, and Grit Can’t Give You.

 

a clear view of God #blog

Dear Friend,

Do you have questions? Not just what-to-wear-in-the-morning-questions or what-flavor-coffee-to-order-at-the-coffee-shop questions. I’m talking like big questions.

Questions like:

What am I supposed to be doing with my life?
What is my purpose?
What am I supposed to be pursuing?
What am I passionate about?
Who am I supposed to do life with?
Where am I supposed to spend my time? My money? My energy?
Who am I?
What makes me different from that person?
Am I supposed to be something else? do something else?

I think we all have questions like that. So how do you find the answers to those kinds of questions? Well, let’s start with this question…Where is your source of Truth?

Perhaps Google has become your Truth…just type in whatever you want and get an answer in black and white. But is that Truth? Billy Bob Joe has opinions…even Web MD or Wikipedia…but is that really what you want to base your life on? Sure there are reliable sources out there, names with PhD next to them…but does that give them definitive authority?

Or perhaps your Truth is experience. You decide based on how you feel.
Or perhaps your Truth is chance. “Rock, paper, scissor shoot….”
Or perhaps your Truth is your own muscle. Grit. Determination. Good old-fashioned work ethic.
Maybe you feel confused and you have deep worries…maybe even anxiety? Perhaps you have come unhinged from Truth.

Can I propose another option?

God’s words.

So here’s the thing…

Yeah, I know it is a big book. I know a good part of it is hard and confusing to read. I know you can’t just open it up and point to a verse and get an answer for life’s questions. I also know it doesn’t seem as helpful as a living, breathing, person you can talk to and ask something face to face.

However, let me remind you that the Bible is how we come to know and understand God. The Bible is not just a guide book, a magic 8 ball, a how-to book. The Bible is living and active and is the source of Truth. We read in Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV)

What does that mean? It doesn’t mean that it will sprout legs and arms and jump off your table and do a dance. (That would be creepy!) It doesn’t mean that it is some mystical spirit that awakens as we read it. No, it means that the words we read are written by a living and active God. The ESV Study Bible says:

Word of God. Usually this phrase in Hebrews refers to the message of salvation (13:7; cf. 4:2), but here the “word” is pictured as God’s personal utterance, livingactive, sharp, piercing, and discerning (v. 12), with eyes that expose (v. 13). The Word of God then acts as God himself, so that one’s innermost thoughts and intentions are exposed. This happens constantly in Christians’ lives.

When we study the Bible, when we commit it to memory, when we purpose to better understand the sweeping story of God’s plan, it is then that we start to see God himself. We see His character, we see His desires, we see His will, we see His plan, we see His wisdom and we see His story of rescue and then we see ourselves as part of that story. The Bible begins to read US.

Friend, stick with me.

Maybe the Bible just hasn’t been your thing. Maybe you love the things that tell about God…you know, like the songs, the good Christian Living books, the religious blogs or articles, the sunsets and the ocean’s roar…but maybe the Bible is dull to you.

Can I ask you…have you been reading it with the consumer attitude that we approach everything else with? Do you (perhaps without even realizing it) read with the question, “What is this going to do for me?…

I know I’ve approached the Bible that way for a LONG time.

Don’t feel bad. Maybe you weren’t taught a better way. Is there a better way?

I think so.

I think that if we approach the Bible looking for a clear View of God it is only then that we can start to have a clear View of Self.

Look back at the questions at the top of this post…never mind… here they are again:

Look at the bold words…

What am I supposed to be doing with my life?
What is my purpose?
What am I supposed to be pursuing?
What am I passionate about?
Who am I supposed to do life with?
Where am I supposed to spend my time? My money? My energy?
Who am I?
What makes me different from that person?
Am I supposed to be something else?

Do you notice anything?

I, I, I, my, my, my, me, me, me….

ALL these questions are asking for a clearer View of Self. Is that wrong? Can’t we look to the Bible for answers? No, it isn’t wrong if we go about it in the correct way. Rather than focusing on ourselves and what we need, let’s read the Bible asking, “What do I see about God…What does He want?” Let’s read with a hunger and thirst to know God. Only when you have a clear View of God can you get a clear View of Self.

Wrapping up…

Maybe you are a writer, maybe a student, maybe an artist, maybe a business professional, maybe a pastor, maybe a mom, maybe a grandma, maybe a teacher, or maybe you are just a little lost.

There is Truth for you. It doesn’t come from more self-analysis, more Google searches, more reading books, more pursuit of passions…

It only comes from knowing God, the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Ruth and Boaz, the God of the Prophets, of Peter, James and John, the God of Paul and Timothy, the God who wants a relationship with you. The God who offers so much of himself, even his own Son.

You have access to that. Like, right now.

So get the app, dust off the Study Bible, call a friend who loves God’s word..ask them to help you get a clearer View of God. Before you start reading, whisper a prayer, “God give me a clearer view of YOU.” Maybe even write down what you see about Him… It is only then that you will have a clear View of Self. The words will begin to read you, and the beautiful life-giving process of God himself exposing Truth in your life can begin.

 

Singing His Grace,

Jess

(Post inspired by Jen Wilkin’s book “Women of the Word.”)

 

 

Songs For Your Soul :: “Restless” by Audrey Assad

51ANJ3ZySkL._SL500_AA280_Some days just need songs like these.
Maybe you need this today? It reminds me how in need of God I am for contentment.

I’m loving this live version. It is real and raw. Enjoy.

“Restless”

You dwell in the songs that we are singing,
Rising to the Heavens, rising to Your heart, Your heart.
Our praises filling up the spaces
In between our frailty and everything You are
You are the keeper of my heart

And I’m restless, I’m restless
‘Til I rest in You, ’til I rest in You
I am restless, I’m restless
‘Til I rest in You, ’til I rest in You
Oh God, I wanna rest in You

Oh, speak now for my soul is listening
Say that You have saved me, whisper in the dark, the dark.
‘Cause I know You’re more than my salvation
Without you I am hopeless, tell me who You are
You are the keeper of my heart
You are the keeper of my heart

And I’m restless, I’m restless
‘Til I rest in You, ’til I rest in You
I am restless, I’m restless

‘Til I rest in You, ’til I rest in You, Oh
I wanna rest in You

Still my heart, hold me close
Let me hear, a still small voice
Let it grow, let it rise
Into a shout, into a cry

Still my heart, hold me close
Let me hear, a still small voice
Let it grow, let it rise
Into a shout, into a cry

And I am restless, I’m restless
‘Til I rest in You, let me rest in You
And I am restless, so restless
‘Til I rest in You, ’til I rest in You, Oh God
Let me rest in You.

Ice & Snow

Though the ice and snow we’ve had in February and early March has been challenging in some ways, it did provide plenty of inspiration and beauty! I had fun with my “big camera” trying to capture the beauty of all the ice. :)

 

On Sludge-filled Hearts :: When the cutting away hurts.

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I don’t even want to write about this right now, but I have to. I just have to get the words out.

There’s been a whole lot of pruning happening in my heart. Like the kind you don’t even like to talk about. Like the kind of cutting away that hurts.

Like the kind where you think, “Oh yeah, everything is great.” Then boom. Nope. I’m face to face with my “issues.” Like the sin nature issues. Like the things you want to say are totally behind you. Like the small issues that Jesus reminds us are really the big heart issues. Man. There they are again.

So yeah. I’ve been reminded that I look pretty yucky. When push comes to shove…I’m shoved into a dirty, mucky, road-sludge pile of yuck. This is me without Christ. Total mess.

John 15 gives a hopeful picture. A vine. That is where I am digging in today.

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Rooted in Christ…abiding in him daily…minute by minute means I find life in him. However, we also see in that passage the branches that are not rooted. The ones maybe that think they are all that and don’t need the vine. Yikes. Those are cut away. Burned in the fire.

Today, I think a few branches have been cut off. Lovingly cut off that is. The Gardener saw fit to show me a few dead places. He’s gently cut away where he sees fit. He’s making room for new growth I hope! I’m feeling the pain, but I’m clinging to the grace of the Gardner because in the process he promises that his joy may be in me, and that my joy may be full. Full of joy!

After the pruning that joy sounds so good!

I am a child of God and though my sin nature has been revealed to me (once again…) I choose to also remember that “though my sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18). I am forgiven. I am redeemed.

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Where are you today? I feel far from perfect. In fact, I feel perfectly inadequate. Maybe you can relate?

But in the these places of inadequacy and failure we learn to submit our lives to the Gardner (our Heavenly Father). And as we daily abide (live in, remain in…) the vine (Jesus Christ), we may feel the pain of pruning, but I pray that as we understand that we can do nothing apart from him, we will begin to see fruit, abundantly and for his glory!

Singing this today…

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

In my weakness…Singing His Grace,

Jess

A Mom’s Identity Crisis :: Starting a Conversation (or at least a thought process…)

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Any moms out there tonight?

I want to start a little conversation (I think). I would love to hear your thoughts…especially you seasoned moms a little further ahead…who have been there.

 

Ever feel like you’ve lost yourself?

 

I mean in all the requests, needs, jobs, and everything “mothering” includes…do you ever wonder, “Wait, who am I again?”

I guess I don’t mean relationally.

I know I am wife, daughter, aunt, sister, friend.

And I don’t mean spiritually.

I know I am redeemed, adopted, and a child of God.

I guess I just mean…like, on a daily basis…what/who am I?

I find myself lately trying to learn myself again. Here’s what I’m remembering…

I am emotional.

I am creative.

I am athletic.

I am 40% extroverted 60% introverted.

I am smart.

I am sensitive.

I am a reader.

I am a writer.

I am a photographer.

I am a baker.

I am a decorator.

I am an adventurer.

I am a homebody.

I am a teacher.

I am far from perfect or exceptional at any of these things. And none of those things completely defines me. However, in the last seven years (almost eight now) of trying to figure out what it looks like to be mom, I sort of lost what it means to be Jess.

I don’t think the two should be separate. But as I find myself coming out of the “survival years” of parenting, I think I’m learning to see myself again.

Am I making any sense to anyone out there?

I feel like I should be embarrassed that I even “lost myself.” It feels weird to even type that… Yet, maybe this whole process is just life. Do we ever really understand the seasons we are presently in?

Through some conversations with my husband along with my kids growing up, I am beginning to realize all this. Identity Crisis is probably too strong of a term for what I’m thinking through. Nevertheless, I’m beginning to remember the things that have taken a back seat for a while due to lack of sleep and time. Of course I’m not the same person I was. I’ve learned many things, I’ve grown up some, I’ve suffered some, I’ve made mistakes…But there are things that are and always will be me. I guess I’m trying to figure those out and re-embrace them. The things that bring me joy the things that bring life and that inspire me. That is what I’m trying to remember.

I’m getting there, I think. Not completely, but I do wonder how God is even using this whole mothering thing to shape me.

And wow, yep…this is where my brain has just exploded.

That’s all I’ve got. This is not something I have figured out…

 

So, anyone want to jump in and help me out? Can you relate? Or should I just delete this and post a pretty picture of snow? :D

Anyway….feel free to share your thoughts.

 

Singing His Grace,

Jess

P.S. I don’t think it is necessarily bad that I’ve “lost myself” so to say. I think good parenting definitely involves “dying to self” to a very intense degree. And I think that is called self-sacrifice…again…help me out. What do you think?

 

A Slushie Day

We are right in the middle of a slushie storm.

Seriously, it looks just like the stuff you get in a snow cone.

Muffins have been made. Movies have been watched. Fights have been refereed (just being honest), and soggy sledding has been the most recent adventure.

The snow gear is now tap tap tapping in the dryer as it tumbles over and over and I sit here waiting for “slush” photos to upload.

This little ice storm is just the blessing my little family needed. School has already been called for tomorrow and we shall see about Wednesday.

I am thankful for this little gift of margin…a little extra time.

 

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Time to just be!

Woohoo!

What does it look like outside where you are? Slush? Mountains of snow? Sunshine?

Either way, happy Monday.

Singing His Grace,

Jess

Journaling :: On English class, peanut butter, toe jam & the beauty of now

 

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When I taught High School English, I started class the same way each day. We began with a daily journaling routine. Students could write about anything they wanted. There were no wrong answers. The only thing that I asked of them was to keep their pencils moving. I told them that even if they wrote, “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.” That was okay because they would eventually find themselves writing something. I would explain to them that writing is like a muscle. We have to work out our writing muscle. We must practice. We must dive in. However, just like in swimming it is helpful to have a wall to push off of… I often times gave them a prompt. Sometimes it was a quote. Sometimes it was something silly like toe jam or peanut butter. The goal was to get their thoughts flowing. They didn’t have to write about the prompt they could let their mind take them anywhere. They only needed to let the words keep coming…almost faster than they could write it down. You see there was no one sitting there critiquing their spelling. No one would comment on their structure or flow of ideas. They had complete control, like an artist and a canvas exploring shape and color. I would say, “Ready, Go!” They students would begin. Some would hesitate. There were always a few who struggled with the open-endedness of journaling. Some would stare out the window. But soon each of them would have to throw out perfection and give in to the rambling nature of their minds. They would have to tune in to the thoughts and emotions they were having that day. My students adjusted to this routine and would come to expect it at the beginning of each class.

I wonder if any of them dreaded this journaling. I wonder if any of them enjoyed it. I wonder if any of them remember this routine we practiced each day. I wonder if they ever find themselves picking up a pencil and paper or sitting to type…free from expectations or judgement and just write what they think. Have you ever tried this? I am in fact participating right now in this type of journaling exercise. You see a few moments ago I was stuck. I wanted to write something. I hadn’t written in a while. Well, I have been writing but to tell the truth, most of my writing has been in email form. There is certainly a place for crafting an email and communicating your thoughts clearly. But journaling is so much more fun! I can write whatever I want. I can drift into the joys of eating peanut butter on a spoon or mention the grossness of toe jam and no I do not have to worry about what you think about my run on sentences or my thought processes. You can simply enjoy (or not enjoy) the journey that this amazing thing called my brain just took us on.

Maybe you should do some free writing. Who knows where it will take you? Maybe you can throw out the pressure to be perfect or polished and simply enjoy the messy process that is living in the present. Maybe that is the true beauty of journaling like this. It is embracing the now of exactly what you are thinking this absolute second. Even if your thoughts take you from memory to memory you are experiencing those memories right now. Journaling can be a tool to help not only your writing muscle strengthen, but also to keep our minds in the present. It makes me wonder how much of my thinking is stuck in the past or anxious about the future. I want more now. I want more journaling. I want more clarity in this moment. I will take present over perfect. I will look for meaning here and now. Or, I will simply enjoy the ride.

Writing is a gift. It is not just for writers. It is for anyone. Let your pencil and paper or the fingers on the keyboard help you embrace now. And I am convinced that God wants us to learn the beauty of now. He gives us now. Grace for now. Peace for now. His presence is in the now. We don’t know the number of our days. We only know right now.

So how are we using our right now’s. I know I’ve wasted so much. I know I want that to change. I know that I don’t want all the distractions. I don’t know how to get rid of it all. But I do know the things that keep me sharp. I want more of those things. More reading. More music. More sleep. More exercise. More deep breaths. More laughing. More creating. More writing.

Your turn.

Just start writing. Set a timer if you have to…just keep the words flowing. See where it takes you. Embrace the now.

 

Singing His Grace,

Jess

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