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.

 

My Job Season

For those of you that know me, you know that the last few months of my life have been extremely trying and difficult. It just happens to be one thing after another. Forget the saying when it rains, it pours, in this case, when it rains it freaking storms. There’s hail, thunder, lightning, the whole dang shabang.

In January I accepted a position with a ministry that I thought would lead me to my “dream job.” It was not the position I applied for, but I was trusting God that He was opening a door. In February I quit my current job, moved out of my parent’s house, and started working at this ministry.

At first, I was clearly excited and nervous about this new experience. But you know that feeling of truly knowing that something is exactly for you? Just like a peace from God that you are right in your prime time. I felt this about a year ago when I was in India. Check out my blog post “A Beautiful One” to read more about that.

Needless to say, in this new job I did not feel that. I barely had peace and I always felt anxious and as if I were being judged. I had several encounters with my supervisors that left me feeling empty, unwhole, and crushed. If there’s anything I know, it’s that those feelings are certainly not of God. I began asking God if this is really where I should be.

Soon enough, he answered that prayer when the supervisors called me into the office and let me go. This was a shock to me. Other people lose their job, not me. Other people, are considered bad workers, not me. It took me a decent amount of time to realize that it wasn’t that I was a bad worker, but that God had something much better waiting for me (still waiting for me actually).

That same week, my car broke down. It was a $1300 repair. In the midst of waiting for my car to be repaired, grieving from losing my job, and discerning if I was supposed to move back in with my parents or not, I found peace. Yeah, call me crazy! I remember just laying on my old college futon in my new apartment sobbing and thinking thank you Jesus.

I started the never-ending search for a job, and eventually took the licensed social worker exam, which opened up more opportunities. I had a lot of leads that seemed promising, but everything fell through. Everything except a job with the agency I previously worked for. I was offered a full-time position with them.

You are probably thinking “that’s great!” and sure, it was, but the problem was that I also have an internship 16 hours a week and adding 40 hours of work and a few hours to complete school work meant 60+ hours of work a week! I was praying and waiting for another opportunity to come, but nothing did.

It was one gloomy Tuesday morning at my internship where I let my mind slip away during a mindfulness activity with our group patients. I realized that all of these problems I was facing were not from God. You see, at some point, that peace from God drifted. That feeling of being protected and having such deep faith in Jesus disappeared. I felt abandoned, left out on the ship to navigate the raging sea all on my own, and, to be blunt, forsaken.

I knew these feelings to be contrary to God’s character, but it was so hard to think of anything else. I just wanted to blame God for everything. I pulled the “I did everything for you!” card. I complained to a lot of spiritual friends that God was punishing me for something I did. I repented over and over and over again, but this feeling still did not go away.

Then, that morning when I realized God wasn’t actually punishing me, I realized this is not a battle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6). This was not a battle against the ministry that let me go, the employers that did not want to hire me, or my vehicle. This was a problem against the “spiritual forces of evil.” This, surely, was Satan’s handy work trying to take me down. He wanted to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10.10) not only my worth and value, but my purpose, my trust in Jesus, my love for the King of Kings.

Just when I saw the light, I began having more problems with my car. I took it to the same mechanic, and they “fixed” it for $700. However, the problem was still present. I took it back and they did actually fix it, but the next day I had a major oil leak. I ended up taking it to the dealership and the other mechanic paid the bill for that one! (PRAISE GOD!)

Prayerfully, I realized that maybe God was opening a door for me with this full-time job, so I accepted it. I thought I was on the up and up and I wouldn’t have anymore issues. However, about a week later I drove an hour and a half to visit my parents and my car overheated. This time, I laughed and told Satan his games aren’t working anymore because my God is bigger.

My step-dad graciously helped me get it running enough to get it to the dealership again. I prayed and worshiped the whole way. I said to myself  Okay God, you have my attention. Here I am. The dealership looked at it, told me what was wrong, and in some miraculous way, the problem was still under warranty and I was getting it fixed for free! They put me in a car and told me to have a great weekend and they’d call me next week.

C’mon now! If that ain’t God then what is? My dad said, “the Good Lord is protecting you!” Yes He is Daddy, yes He is.

All of these bits of suffering and trials pushed me to study the book of Job. I felt like he was really the only person I could relate to at this point. I was curious in his response to the suffering he endured. Now, I’m honestly only on chapter 6 or 7, but from what I have gleaned so far, God is speaking in the silence.

Many attribute the sufferings of Job to past sins, punishment from God, etc. All these negative things. However, these things are mostly contrary to the nature of God. God does not punish, but disciplines and we are set free from our sins when we repent. In fact, the reason Job went through all he did was because an Adversary of Satan was lookin’ to get into some trouble.

Job was seen as a righteous man. Job 1.1 says that Job was “blameless and upright.” This Adversary came snooping around saying even though Job was righteous he would most definitely “curse God” when the trials came (Job 1). God responded by saying “sure, go ahead do whatever you want (just don’t kill him) to my faithful servant and I bet your bottom dollar he won’t curse me.”

Thus began the start of Job’s suffering. The Adversary took his family, livelihood, health… He was basically out for blood. At one point Job’s wife straight up told him to “curse God and die.” Woah now. I’m not married yet, but dear Jesus, please send me a spouse that will refrain from using such harsh words with me. And ya know how Job responded? To sum it up, he basically said, “nah fam, good is is God and we are going to endure suffering in the world” (Job 2.9-10).

Later, in Job 3  Job begins to lament over his own birth. He curses the day of his birth. This man was in such misery that he couldn’t stand the thought that he had been born to endure such misery. But still, he sought God. The book of Job ends with repentance and God returning Job’s fortunes. God restores.

My home church had a guest speaker that shared about another Biblical character whom endured much suffering, but maintained integrity. The disciple John was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching. He had plenty of reasons to blame God and say I served you my whole life and this is what you did to me.

But you know what God did to John on the island of Patmos? Do you now how God used him? Read the last book of the Bible, Revelation. It was there that God revealed to him the visions. It was there where he wrote to the seven churches. John could have easily given up. He could have thrown in the towel confessing “I can’t handle this anymore.”

Actually, if you are there right now, I want to invite you to do that. Throw in the towel if you’re trying to handle this because we are not supposed to handle this on our own. Jesus is our strength. Jesus asks us to put our burdens on Him and take upon His yoke instead (Matthew 11.28-30).

John let God use him in the midst of a season that could be potentially damaging to his mental, spiritual, and emotional health. Instead, he relied on God and trusted. Easier said than done? Oh heck ya. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Friends, if you’re like me and you can heavily relate to the sufferings of Job and the exile of John, I want to urge you to not take this season lightly. I want to remind you of the importance of living out your faith, seeking spiritual community, and digging in the Word.

God is not finished with you yet. I believe you when you say life is hard right now. But aren’t we giving the enemy what he wants when we give up, blame God, and become sluggish in our faith? Aren’t we giving the enemy a foothold to come do more damage?

We need to stay the course, endure the suffering, and let Jesus be our source of life, strength, and truth. Take a deep breath and go serve the Lord. This is only a season, a Job season.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. . .

Ecclesiastes 3.1-8