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.

Oh Simple Thing

About 28 days ago I started a new job. I know, I know, you’re probably so sick of hearing me starting something new. But c’mon, I’m just doing everything God has placed before me. Before starting this position I was unemployed for about 2 and a half months- the longest period of me ever being unemployed since high school.

This was difficult for me in several ways. First, it meant I had to live on a more strict budget than usual. Second, that more strict budget meant saying no to some pretty fun things, like a long vacation, or hanging out with my cousins. Third, it was difficult to see my bank account slowly dwindling after every trip to the gas station or grocery store.

I learned to put my trust in God that I would get through it and no matter what He would provide. I learned how to say no to buying some foods at the grocery store that I didn’t really need. I learned how to go without Starbucks for more than three days in a row (this is huge for me).

Now that I’ve started working again, I realized that I also learned of the things I value the most…

Usually over the weekend I begin to search my cupboards and refrigerator to compile an 58532287076__9E6D9D9A-E807-4714-B628-CE6354570ECAorganized list of what I needed from the grocery store that week. Sometimes at night I would use Instagram and Pinterest to find new recipes to try. This particular week I used those to gain some ideas for zucchini recipes because I have zucchini coming out my ears from the garden!

I found a nice curry, zoodles, and a bread that I wanted to make. I noted the ingredients I needed and planned to execute my trip to the store on Monday. However, when Monday came, I realized that I really didn’t need all of these different foods to “fluff” up my diet.

I try to eat pretty healthy, so I usually eat the same foods all the time. I also had decided that I would fly to Ocean City to join my cousins for a few nights on vacation. And this was WAY more important than buying some random ingredients to make a fancy dish.

Now that I have a paycheck, I am more conscious of where my money is going. I would much rather spend less money a week at the grocery store so I can go out with friends at the end of the week for a meal. I value friendship and community over a fancy meal to myself. So what if my zoodle bake isn’t fluffed up with mushrooms and other goodies? I’ts okay.

Friends, I think this might be a true definition of simplicity. I really felt that when I got into my car after leaving Aldi and realizing I only spent $20.46 on groceries for the week. And that included almond flour to make zucchini bread (which is NOT cheap by the way). I also decided right then and there that if this is what adulthood is like, then I can be okay with that.

I don’t mind making sacrifices for something I think I want in order to contribute to a greater goal or value. When it comes to health and fitness, sometimes that means skipping the ice cream at the end of the week, or making my turkey burgers with lettuce wraps, not buns. When it comes to friendships, community, and relationships, it’s making personal sacrifices to spend quality time with them.

I’ve learned to ask the question, “Jenny, do you really need this?” or “Jenny, is this really contributing to what you want in life?” These are such important questions to ask ourselves when making decisions. Sure, you may have the mindset of do what you want, YOLO, it’s your life… But that’s exactly what I’m saying here.

If I only live once, than I would rather live it knowing that I am contributing to bettering myself, staying true to my values, and seeking the Kingdom of God with all that is in me.

I also have found myself being more encouraging to myself when I do make choices that impact my values. I usually say something in my head like “I’m so proud of you for doing that,”  or “great job!” I also tend to just let go when I make a decision that was maybe not so great… This is called positive reinforcement. I do not want to shame myself for being a human and making a mistake. Dwelling on that mistake is not going to change anything either.

A few weeks ago one of my best friends (and first friend) in college preached an awesome message on Luke 10. If you don’t know, this is where Jesus sent out the 72 by twos to spread the Gospel. Jesus states:

Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Luke 10.4-11

Isn’t that such a simple thing? He directed them to not even carry a wallet. When I walked into the building and saw my friend who was preaching wasn’t wearing shoes, I knew immediately that he was preaching from this exact passage.

Lately I have been wanting to buy a pair of Chacos, but man, after reading this passage again I think I might just go barefoot! Who’s in!? Jesus says I don’t need those sandals!

But c’mon reread that passage above. Jesus is telling us to live simple and just do what He called you to do because that is the greatest way to contribute to your values.

He says to eat whatever is set before you, and stay in the house of peace. During this past season of my life I have been incredibly blessed by my servant-minded friends and I can definitely say that the house I live in is a house of peace!

The part of this passage that I really struggle with is the last part where Jesus basically tells us to move on if people do not “receive you.”

Matthew 10.14 Jesus states, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”

In other words, if people do not accept that you are choosing to live for a purpose, a higher calling, and for the Lord, or if they do not respect your values and accept what you have to bring to the table, you need to wipe that dust off your feet and move on!

This may be the therapist coming out in me, but in essence, that’s self-destructive behavior right there and it’s time to put and end to that!

Jesus has called you to be on a mission just like He called the disciples. You cannot let the negative influence of others get in your way! Because let’s be real here, isn’t the negative influence of others technically the enemy?

You’re going to go through rough patches, you’re going to be spiritual and mentally attacked by the Devil. You’re going to ask God “why me?” You’re going to experience deep grief and loss. You’re going to have trials. But, friend, I am telling you to live that. Don’t pray for it to end. Live it deeply and let it teach you the lessen you’re supposed to learn because THAT is what will teach you your values and ultimately bring you closer to Christ.

I could go on and on about how we as a generation have fallen away from the importance of simplicity. Or how we have taken something so genuine and authentic as the simple Gospel of Jesus dying for our sins and rising again and complicated it beyond all measure. But I won’t do that because that might feed into the negativity that the Devil wants us all to believe.

We may have struggled wit simplicity, but Jesus knows we are human and that we would struggle. Jesus is a gracious, compassionate God that would much rather have us pick up our cross, die to ourselves, and try again!

So friends, kick off your sandals and continue on your journey with a simple mind. Be simple. Be like Jesus.

 

Worthy

I did a thing and went to a small local coffee shop to do my work today. I even dressed a little hipster by tucking my shirt into my shorts and throwing on a button up- I still don’t think I fit in though. What’s disappointing, is that I’m not exactly in love with my beverage of choice. This is not a hit on the coffee shop that I am at, but against my taste buds that are used to drinking sugar-free.

If you read my last blog N O T | A F R A I D, then you would understand when I say how unusual this is for me to step out of my Starbucks atmosphere and go somewhere else.

But as I sit here contemplating if I should even stay because it’s such a beautiful day and I can here my hammock calling my name, the Lord reminded me of something truly beautiful and amazing.

If you know me personally, you know that the past month hasn’t exactly been the best thing in my life. That big-girl job that I talked about in my last post? Yeah, I lost it. But, please, I beg you, do not send sympathy my way. This was clearly the Lord’s doing. While I loved the type of work I was doing and the population I was serving, I struggled with the way problems and concerns were handled.

In fact, my mother, who just happens to know everything I think, had been telling me since day one to look for another job because of how stressed out I was. I wanted to try to wait it out, but Jesus was like “no Jenny, you deserve better.”

I will not talk about details of what happened, because that would take a very very long time. The agency I worked for is not a bad agency. It just had some kinks to work out, and unfortunately, while that was happening, I was not valued like I should have been.

I do not mean to sound prideful or anything by claiming that I am entitled or deserve anything, but I did except a position lower than what I had originally applied for, and therefore, I felt I was not being utilized to the full extent of my ability.

Any time I tried to bring up issues or confront other staff members, I always got backlash. But ya know, it’s okay. I’m no longer aching over it anymore and the great peace of the Lord is upon me.

I have learned so much from this experience. And it correlates from what I learned from the previous relationship I was in. Jesus wants me to know my value and worth.

In this previous relationship, I was definitely not treated the way I deserved to be. Again, I will not get into the details, but this relationship took a big emotional toll on my life. I thought God, why are you allowing me to go through something like this? Little did I consider that I had actually chosen that path for myself.

But do you want to know something beautiful about that? Jesus was right there waiting for me with open arms, desiring to just hold me and remind me of my worth and value. He did the same thing when I lost this job.

Jesus knows our value and worth. Jesus knows what we deserve. And Jeremiah 29.11 reminds us that Jesus has a plan for our lives.

Yes, I admit, that in the process of searching for jobs, going to interviews, and basically just waiting, it has been incredibly hard to trust that God is not only hearing my cries, but has that plan in place for me.

So many of my peers and mentors remind me that the job will come in Jesus’ time. The right guy will come in Jesus’ time. Everything will come in Jesus’ time. Not mine. Let me repeat that… NOT MINE.

At first, I had a little bit of fear about that. Why? Because that meant I was not in control of my own life. That meant that I had basically no say in what I was supposed to do. But that’s where trust comes in.

Psalm 37.4 says , “Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart.” That means we have to seek God, and trust that He knows our desires. Trust is the key word here fellow reader. Oh don’t worry, I am preaching to the choir. 

As I continued to express my doubt to those at the Bible study I attend every week, one guy reminded me to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all else will be added unto you,” Matthew 6.33.

And the more I dwell on that verse, or even chapter, the more I want that. I want to see the Kingdom of Jesus. I want to do His work. I want to be of my Father’s business. I want to serve the Worthy King. And the first step to doing that is to seek Jesus and His Kingdom.

I have to lay my own expectations down to Him. I have to push away my doubts and the voices of the enemy saying He has abandoned me and left me. I have to seek and delight myself in the Lord.

Now, I’m sure you can tell by the title that this is not a blog about seeking and delighting in Jesus. This is the point I am trying to make in all of this:

JESUS KNOWS YOUR WORTH AND HAS A PLAN FOR YOU.

To the girl that is reading this who is in an abusive relationship, Jesus thinks you are worthy.

To the employee at the agency that doesn’t value the work you do, Jesus thinks you are worthy.

To the guy that is trying so hard to impress his boss (or maybe the new girl at church), Jesus thinks you are worthy.

To the teen that is on the brink of suicide or running away, Jesus thinks you are worthy.

Our King, King Jesus, knows your name. He knows your heart’s desires, and He wants good things for you. Our Heavenly Father, loves you like no one else can (sorry Mom, but Jesus has you beat here).

It absolutely blows my mind that Jesus thinks we are so worthy that he died for us. He cares so deeply for us, His children that He does things for us that may seem hurtful in the beginning (like take away a job), but always has a plan to replace it with something beautifully orchestrated by His hands. Like the story of Job. . . I’ll let you look that one up.

The last point I want to make is about Jesus’ deep affection for us. Jesus loves us so much it’s unfathomable. Again, He loves us so much that He died and defeated death itself just so we can be with Him forever in Heaven. Wow. He not only thinks we are worthy, but also loves us unconditionally, meaning, we do not have to “do anything,” for Him to love us.

Now, this wouldn’t be a true blog about how Jesus thinks we are worthy if I did not mention how Worthy Jesus is of our love and trust in return.  His name, His being, everything about Him is worthy. And to think that someone that Worthy, a King, in fact, loves us so deeply and thinks we are worthy enough to be called His children gives me goosebumps.

Friends, please remember this no matter what heavy task is in front of you, Jesus has not forgotten about you. Jesus thinks you are worthy. Jesus loves you more than you will ever know. Seek Him friend. Seek Him first before anything else in your life.