Desert Times

It is currently 11:30pm on a Friday night and I cannot sleep. I went to bed about 2 hours ago. I know you are probably asking Jenny, why are you going to bed so early on a Friday night. Well my friend, let me tell you- Fridays have become a night of rest, a night that I look forward to because it means a break from my day to day life is coming and I need rest for such a thing.

That was NOT the reason for this post… After laying in bed scrolling through various social medias (i.e. TikTok, Facebook, Instagram) I finally put the phone down to try to sleep. I tossed to one side, nothing. Tossed to another side, still nothing. Even after taking my de-stress supplements from the chiropractor, I am still wide awake.

My mind continued to go back to various situations and stressors that have occurred over the past week. It reminded me of when I was in middle school and played softball- after every game I would lay awake in bed replaying each play in my head trying to figure out what to do differently. Eventually, I realized that I should probably do something else to get me to sleep.

So I did something that helped me sleep the first week of living in my new home all by myself. I turned out The International House of Prayer 24/7 prayer room. When I first moved into my own house, I was legit scared. I would hear creaking noises and just fear that something was upstairs. I even slept with the light on! The prayer room would play from my phone all night long and I slept so peacefully. Oh how I dream of such sleep now!

Now I sit in my dark living room, listening to the deep cries of the heart’s of our Father’s children over my neighbor’s A/C unit without a lick of fear. Praise God for that! Before I jumped out of my cozy bed and began writing this, I had such an inspirational moment to even push me to do it.

For some time now I feel I have been in a spiritual desert, a dry and weary land where this is no water. Similar to the Psalmists experience in Psalm 63.1. This is something unusual for me. I am a very emotionally sensitive person and can typically hear the voice of the Lord very well. I am sensitive to the Holy Spirit in what He is wanting me to experience in each moment.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case recently and I have truly felt it. A few Sundays ago I poured my heart out to a dear friend of mine sharing my struggle in just wanting to know that God is content with my service, to know that God is content with my career, my living situation, my lifestyle. And that I so deeply felt abandoned and forsaken by God- something SO contrary to HIS being.

This dear friend of mine, just as many times before, pulled me close and just prayed over me. When we pulled away from our hug, she told me that in these moments when we feel so far away from God, or in the desert, it usually means God is preparing us for something bigger and wanting to take us to a deeper level. This was later confirmed in almost the same exact words in a sermon I was listening to by John Mark Comer called “Seeking Jesus.”

This is a concept I always knew to be true and even studied the depth of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert. But I never considered that it would be something God would call me to. Now, let me give you a little glimpse of what my life looks like right now, as it has been quite some time since I have blogged.

About two months after getting settled into my new home, I became bored with my job. Well, maybe bored isn’t the right word- maybe complacent, or even burnt out would be better. So I sought the Lord, I submitted some applications, had a few interviews, and ended up torn with two job offers. This is the last time I can distinctly remember hearing from the Lord.

I was stressed because my dream job was offered to me (being a counselor at a Christian counseling agency) but so was another really appealing job. As I asked the Lord which He wanted for me, I had such a peace in knowing that no matter what I choose, He had something for me and would honor my decision, but there was one that would bring growth, new life, healing, and joy. And that was the position at the Christian counseling agency.

Fast forward to about to months into the new job with the Christian agency and now I see why the Lord told me there would be growth! I was not expecting to get through the first two weeks and then feel the Holy Spirit was giving me the silent treatment! On top of that, my second day at my new job my dear grandmother passed away and I was learning how to experience new life and death all at the same time.

As I struggled with a wondering mind this evening, I decided I no longer wanted to stay in this desert. I no longer wanted to feel held captive by worries of finances and future dreams. And as soon as I turned on the prayer room, the Holy Spirit awakened a soft part of my heart. The team began singing a song that I grew a liking to during my own prayer room life in college.

The prayer room in college is where my dreams were birthed. It is where the Lord gave life to my desire to help people, see the nations move, and know I have a place in the world to add to the Great Commission. It was such a healing moment for me to be brought back to that place. I continued to reflect about dreams and goals that the Lord had fulfilled.

One of those is working at the agency I work for now. Another is buying a house. I never thought I would ever buy my own house, especially before marriage! I always assumed I would be living on the mission field somewhere. But Jesus had other plans and opened such beautiful doors for me to buy my own home, with my own income.

As I bought my home, I bought it with the intention of wanting a bigger space for fellowship. And as this lovely song rang through the memories, I thought to myself, well why can’t I bring that back? Why can’t I use my home for the purpose I intended to? So, I began to plan about monthly worship and prayer nights, that might turn into weekly worship and prayer nights.

My friends, there is something SO beautiful about gathering in such a safe place as a living room to worship our Beloved Jesus. There is something SO deep, healing, and restoring about doing this with our brothers and sisters in Christ. What a beautiful fragrance that is lifted to Jesus in those intimate moments.

There was another song that I learned when I was on my first missions trip in Nepal. The words go, “Lord I don’t want you to be a familiar stranger to me, I want the fullness of knowing you in intimacy.” This is it. This is what my soul longs for. This is what my heart desires as I begin to walk out of the desert season. And even as I write this in this moment, the Holy Spirit is welling up inside of me, a slight tear in the corner of my eye.

I don’t write this to just ramble. I write this because I simply cannot be the only one who has gone through this. I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to blog about this because He wants to remind someone that your dreams are not broken. Nothing is wasted in the eyes of the Lord. He sees you in your efforts, He knows your heart, and He has not forsaken you.

My friend, He wants a deeper relationship with you. He wants to take you to a level you never thought was possible. My question to you is, are you willing to let Him? I had prayed, and even wallowed a bit in anger towards Jesus these past few weeks asking why He has abandoned me. And what He spoke to me tonight was that He has not forsaken me, but that I have not allowed Him to do a work in me. I have been trying to be in control of my own life and Jesus is offended by that.

Open that door, my friend, let Jesus in. You will not be disappointed.

Wide-Awake

It was about 11:30PM on a Thursday night when I realized my eyes were actually open and I was staring into the dark abyss of my bedroom. The whole time I thought my eyes were closed and I was trying to sleep. Instead, I was literally wide-awake with my mind racing a million miles a minute.

Apparently, my mind thought (no pun intended) it was a good time for me to go through every detail of my day, the next day, and the next 5 years of my life. Thus being so, worrisome thoughts crept into my mind. Will I ever finish school? Will I find my dream job? Will I ever find a spouse? Can I really accomplish these goals?

And of course, if you’re anything like me you can relate to being the “midnight goal setter”. Personally, I set high goals for myself late at night that I am supposed to attempt to achieve the next day. Things such as going to the gym in the morning, eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast, or even just doing something different with my hair. Of course, by then I have so much motivation (on top of worry) streaming through my veins that I most definitely will not be sleeping anytime soon.

Eventually, however, my intuition kicked in and I realized I wasn’t super exhausted because I was out of my allergy medicine that put me to sleep. However, even though I did not have to set my alarm to intrude on my beauty sleep the next day, I realized if I wanted to even be remotely productive, than I really needed my beauty sleep! So, I chose the natural approach of coaxing myself to sleep by slapping a dab of lavender under my nostrils. I can still hear my mom saying, “a little dab will do ya!”

While laying in bed and awaiting the lavender’s natural powers to kick in, I considered the following:

When we declare ourselves to be followers of Jesus, we are hyped during that moment. We are so ready for this new lifestyle; ready to be transformed and begin living this new, amazing Christian life. We are on high alert, applying scripture left and right, praying our little hearts out, and even sharing this new experience with some co-workers.

Eventually, Sunday after Sunday goes by. Years upon years of volunteering at VBS fade into distant memories. Reading the Bible seems pointless because you have no time to actually delve into what it means and how to apply it. We become tired and drowsy in our walks with the Lord.

When we sleep, we are technically unconscious. We can’t really hear anything. We aren’t really in control of what is running through our minds (dreams, that is). And in all honesty. We are more prone to being attacked (whether it be by your cat that thinks you’re playing when you move your feet, or something else).

The same is true when we are spiritually asleep, with minor exceptions. When we are spiritually asleep, we are more prone to being attacked by the enemy because we are not on high alert, pouring into our relationship with Christ. Though we technically have the power to control our thoughts, we don’t even realize that they are even toxic and need to be taken captive.

My point is this: we have fallen into a deep spiritual slumber. So deep that it’s like we have neon signs strapped to us inviting the Devil to come and take his place in our lives. We have put our weapons down and left ourselves open and visible for an attack.

But I don’t believe that is what Christ has called us to be. I believe that we are to be alert, praying in the Spirit constantly, fervently. We are to be taking captive our thoughts to the obedience of Christ. Worshiping Jesus in every moment. And spreading the Good News just as much as we complain to our neighbors of how tired we are!

So my question for you is… are you sleeping? Or are you wide-awake in your spiritual life?

It is time to stop hitting snooze and to arise from our slumbers!

The Whole Heart

I stepped out of my air-conditioned room and into the kitchen area. Perfect. The counter was clean, free of any green peppers or grains of rice that may have escaped from the pan when someone was cooking on the hot plate. I set my devotional, Bible, notebook, and novel on the counter in front of the toaster and sat down on the plastic sandstone grey chair. Double checking that the counter was clean, I put my arms down on the counter and slowly closed my eyes and put my head in my arms.

Peace, at last.

It had been a long few days where I had chosen to try to go to bed early instead of spend time with the Lord. From a long day trip learning about Indian music and eating Indian cuisine on Sunday to a Monday filled with an important meeting, a two hour Hindi class, and dinner at my supervisors house. Instead of fighting the exhaustion and trying to keep my eyes open, I chose to lay my head down and try to sleep.

Despite my efforts to go to bed, I laid awake until 3 a.m., two nights in a row, tossing and turning, contemplating my future, what I would have for dinner the next day, and what kind of shoes I would wear to my future big-kid job. Of course, I have woken up the past two mornings feeling even more exhausted and still unsure of what to do with my future.

As soon as I put my head on my arms I hear these words: What does it look like to follow me with your whole heart? 

I began to list out things such as spending time in the Word daily, trusting God with my future, leaning on God for strength, praying, using the gifts He has given me to glorify Him, etc. Soon enough, I realized these were not the answers God wanted from me. Sure, these things are good and Godly, and obviously the Sunday School response, but God wanted something deeper that was personal for me.

God wanted me to answer according to my nitty-gritty, day-to-day life. He wanted to know what specific things I could do to follow Christ with my whole heart. This is what God wants from us. He wants all of us.

Growing up (and still to this day), I remember something my mom used to always say. Whenever we would jokingly fight I would say “you want a piece of me!?” and she would always respond with, “no! I want the whole thing!” That’s the key right there. God doesn’t just want a piece of our hearts, He wants the whole thing. He doesn’t want just half of our attention, He wants all of it.

I am going to do something a little differently in this blog. I am going to start a list of things I feel I can do to live my life with my heart completely rendered to God and I want you (yes you, the reader) to comment and add things you can do as well. Please do not feel compelled to share anything too personal. I have learned that when we voice things, it helps them become more realistic in our lives. It is also important for us to remain in unity, supporting each other, as the body of Christ! So. . .

Following Christ with my whole heart:

–  Think before I speak, as to respond with love, not an attitude 

– Thank God more often (even for the not-so-good things)

– Limit expectations on my days, conversations, and relationships

– Put my phone away and be “present” with the Lord and those around me 

These are just a few things God is speaking to me about to draw closer to Him. What is He speaking to you about?