There is Promise in Pain (Week Twelve)

Week Twelve Study Overview: Today, we discuss Job chapters 22-24, and think through God’s timing.

Key Point of Struggle: When God’s timing does not match our own.

Key Proof of Comfort: Our God of the impossible lives without the confinement of time, and teaches us what it means to wait for His perfect plan.

  • If you’ve not read Job chapters 22-24, now would be a great time.

In my own life, I’ve often struggled with God’s timing versus my own.  His timing usually seems inconvenient and forces uncomfortable circumstances. When we were trying to have another baby, fifteen years passed and not one step of the way was easy. Other people who hadn’t walked a day in my shoes wanted to tell me all about God’s timing. It did nothing but aggravate me.

I was aggravated because they were right. Good, godly people had great intentions and wanted to comfort me with truth. Let me tell you, it’s difficult to accept something might take years to come to fruition, or possibly might never happen at all.

This whole thing about time and space, where God is concerned, is tough to wrap our brains around. He does not adhere to the laws of physics. He’s everywhere at once and yet sometimes it feels like He’s not where we need Him. Or at least, it feels as if He’s inactive in that space. Too often we become caught up in the idea that God should have some kind of magic wand and wave it whenever we call on His name. It doesn’t work that way. It never will.

In chapter 22, we hear from Eliphaz again, and though he mixes some truth within his upside down theology, he really just uses his breath to belittle and persecute Job for sins not committed. In chapter 23, Job talks a lot about judgment. (This will be the topic of our #WordforYourWeekend subscriber only content.) And, in chapter 24 we take a front row seat and watch Job struggle over the feeling that God seems absent and deliverance is coming slowly… if ever.

In one way or another, we can all understand Job’s feelings. We need rescue and when we cry out to God, it’s as if the only voice we hear speaking back is the echo of our own. It’s frustrating. Job begins chapter 24 with yet another question.

“Since times are not hidden from the Almighty, why do those who know Him see not His days?”

-Job 24:1

It seems to me that Job begins to feel as if living a righteous life has earned him the right to understand God’s timing. He’s unsure as to why he cannot grasp the plan of God and see things as He does. All of this is about the divine will of God. Yes, we CAN expect Him to work on our behalf. No, we CANNOT expect it to be according to our timetable.

When we seek a close relationship with the Almighty and feel as if He’s actually our Father, it becomes easy to feel overlooked when enduring trial. We expect our Father to pick us up, hold us, and defeat our foes. And, friends, He does. However, He does it according to perfection. Our time and plans are not perfect, only His. We cannot begin to understand what it means to live according to perfect will. This is why we struggle. Our flesh gets in the way. The enemy wants to whisper lies that God isn’t there, isn’t fighting for us, and isn’t working according to a perfect will. We must be ready to battle.

In all of this, Job couldn’t understand why the righteous and wicked seemed to be treated in the same manner. I believe it’s because we have a tough time comprehending what a perfect will is. We think we understand, but tragedy and trial makes us weary. Job was weary. I’m often guilty of the same weariness.

Faith takes perseverance regardless of how we feel.

I don’t know what it is you’re waiting for. Personally, I’m waiting for a few big things right now. Everyday I’m conditioning myself to remember I need the perfect will of God. I want what He wants. And, I want it when He wants me to have it. It’s like spiritual exercise to tell myself those same words every day. And just like physical exercise, the more I discipline myself, the more results I see.

If you find yourself feeling worried about God’ timetable, let me encourage you to stand firmly in His promises while reminding yourself that His will is perfect. He never fails.

  • In your journal, write a list of everything you’re waiting for God to do. Prioritize it, and then write a prayer to God underneath asking Him to help you find contentment in His perfect will. Ask Him to unveil what perfect really means, and even if you are having a hard time seeing it, allow faith in His perfection to help you carry on. Jesus will help you, He never disappoints.
  • For next week, please read Job chapters 25-31. We will cover a lot of ground!

If you’re a subscriber, I’ll see you Friday on Word for Your Weekend. If not, you’re only an email address away from deeper study!

Love,

Jennifer

 

More Than Enough

More Than Enough - Christin Ditchfield for Jennifer KostickDear Friend,

I’m excited to share a guest post from my friend Christin Ditchfield! She’s not only a successful, best-selling author, she’s a beautiful woman of God who openly shares her heart with women all around the world. She has a word of encouragement for us today, and I pray it speaks to your soul the way it spoke to mine.

I’m hoping to bless someone by giving away a book bundle with some of Christin’s best titles! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post between today and Friday, November 20th. I will be announcing the winner On Saturday, November 21st. I promise that when you get to know Christin, you WILL be blessed!

Enjoy!

Love,

Jennifer


 

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick…”

In my twenties, I used to quote this verse to God a lot. I guess I was not-so-subtly hinting:

“This is YOUR fault. This desperate ache… this gut-wrenching pain. It’s no wonder I feel this way. Your Word even says so — so I have a good excuse for wallowing in my misery and self-pity. If You don’t want me to, if You care about me at all, You’ll do something. Soon. Quickly.”

I could have been referring to many different things. We all have to grow up and face the harsh realities of life eventually – and while our stories may not be the same, we can be sure they all include many kinds of disillusionment and disappointment.

But in this particular instance, I was referring to my childlessness … caused primarily by my singleness… though my doctor kept warning there were signs of trouble ahead, and if I wanted a family, I needed to start immediately.

I won’t recount all the thoughtless and often cruel, but well-meaning (?) things people at church said to me, from my late teens through my twenties and thirties. The ones who tried to be encouraging, the ones who asked nosy questions or made ridiculous suggestions, the ones who’d never had a real conversation with me, but thought they knew what “my problem” was.

Or all the trite clichéd Christian books that promised if I (pretended to) stop looking, wait patiently, fix all the things that were wrong with me, and find a place of perfect peace, contentment, and spiritual maturity, God would bring the perfect man to me.

Or the real grief, heartache, and loneliness I wrestled with — not for two or three years, like so many singles ministry leaders (before they got married — bless them). But for decades. Feeling rejected by God. Cast aside. Overlooked. Wondering why I was denied the blessings He gave so freely to just about everybody?

Hurt and frustrated that – because I didn’t have a husband or children – others seemed to see me as less of an adult, less of a woman.

Like that one church that uninvited me as their retreat speaker when they found out I was single, because I couldn’t possibly have anything to say to married women.

I wasn’t planning to speak on marriage. I was planning to speak on the things we all have in common: Disappointment, hurt, heartbreak, pain. Hopes deferred. Whatever those hopes may be. And what I’ve learned:

That the answer isn’t in a magical or Scriptural formula that will fix the problem or make the pain go away. God hasn’t promised anyone a husband (or a better husband) or a baby (or another baby). Or a more supportive family. Or a friend or a house or a job or a book contract or a ministry. Or physical health, wealth, weight loss, beauty, popularity, or anything we think will bring us happiness or fulfillment in this life.

And if we think everybody else has those things, sisters, we need to look again. MOST people on this planet don’t have a fraction of the blessings you and I take for granted every day.

As for those women who do have it all? I can tell you, after twenty-five years of women’s ministry, stepping off the platform to hold sobbing women in my arms, it’s almost never as good as it seems. Or they may have what you want or what I want, but it’s not THEIR unfulfilled dream…

Whatever IT is you think will make you happy, that thing you just can’t live without – if I may, I’d like to encourage you today: Let it go. Give it to Jesus… for real, not because someone told you that if you do, He’ll give it back to you. Or that He’ll give you something bigger and better in its place.

He might not.

Jesus doesn’t promise to give you what you want. He doesn’t promise you bigger and better. He promises you Himself.

It won’t always feel like it, but you WILL find that He is enough. More than enough. Worth every battle, every trial, every tear you have cried. When you get on the other side of this, the closeness and intimacy with Him, the depth of your relationship with Him… that’s the real gift.

I’m in my forties now and I won’t lie to you. There are moments when my childlessness still knocks me off my feet with a tidal wave of grief. But I’ve learned to tread water, to reach out for the support of my loving friends and family, and to count all the wonderful blessings of the very rich, full life and ministry God has given me.

And when I can come up for air and breathe again, I know that I wouldn’t trade knowing Jesus the way I do – which has come (in part) through that very heartache and suffering – for the life I once begged Him to give me.

ChristinDitchfield2014Christin Ditchfield is an internationally syndicated radio host, conference speaker, and author of more than 66 books, including What Women Should Know About Letting It Go: Breaking Free From the Power of Guilt, Discouragement, and Defeat. She blogs at www.ChristinDitchfield.com

 

What We Are NOT Made For…

Inspiration

The following words from Oswald Chambers have been echoing through the corridors of my mind.

“We are not made for the mountain, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life – those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength.”

-Oswald Chambers

I often joke while walking through fancy, upscale department stores, declaring I was made for all the gorgeous shoes on the shelves. They seem to beckon me with some type of magnetic pull. When I take a vacation and find myself lying on a beach facing the Caribbean Sea, I question why God chose to place my day-to-day life where freezing temps are the norm and dark clouds are known for hiding the sun.

And then I’m thankful for godly men like Oswald chambers who put righteous inspired thought to paper with the leading of the Holy Spirit because let’s face it… Nordstrom might be able to cover my feet with fancy shoes, but it cannot convey where these feet of mine have been. It cannot tell the story of how step-by-step they walked through the valley of the shadow, bare.

The Caribbean Sea may help to relax the weary soul, but the beauty of that crystal, clear, turquoise Sea doesn’t inspire me to stay there. It fills me up to go, to do. I find rest inside living and remembering the valleys from where I came, and the knowing I’m meant to remind others they can make it, too.

And we don’t have to solicit air travel or walk next to a wall of highfalutin Jimmy Choo’s for inspiration…

Inspiration right outside your door

We can walk out our front doors to be inspired by the pinky-orange glow of sunset, or find life in the dead tree losing its leaves. We can close our eyes and remember the kind smiles from loved ones no longer with us, or reflect on a tragedy turned triumph.

We are meant for the ordinary, and to learn that everything ordinary turns extraordinary when Christ is part of the equation.

I wasn’t made for fancy shoes and white sand beaches. It’s a nice thought, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

In 1996, I was made for slowly walking through dark valleys with tear covered bare feet because I lost my baby girl.

Every miscarriage, every loss of a loved one, every hope-filled possibility turned problematic, seemingly impossible situation is not only what I was made for in that moment, but a call to whom I would become.

Every step led me closer to Jesus and gave me power and stamina that bubbled forth inside my soul enabling me to share my story and encourage others to share theirs.

Uncomfortable struggles in the midst of dark valleys shapes who we are. It’s there we find freedom in Christ allowing tears to turn into joy and hope.

I want to encourage you with this today:

If you are in the middle of a dark valley, don’t look at it as a death sentence or punishment. Jesus is there with you and you can and will make it through the depths of despair. What your living through in that place is not meant to keep you there forever, it’s meant to give you strength, endurance, and teach you love in a way you’ve never known before. You can make it!

If you are discouraged because life feels too ordinary, become comfortable with it. Wrap yourself inside the ordinary! Whether you realize it or not, someone else is watching your life and paying close attention to how you deal with everyday, ordinary circumstances. When your faith in Christ shines brightly, you will turn the ordinary into extraordinary because someone else will consider Him because of what they’ve seen in you.

Even in the midst of turmoil, despair, and the boring ordinary of every day, we are meant to point others to Christ!

Listen, there’s nothing wrong with fancy shoes and nice vacations. I’m just saying that we weren’t meant for complete comfort. We were meant to use our difficulties to reach others. We are meant to use our faith through ordinary situations to open somebody’s eyes to the extraordinary of Christ.

We are meant to serve regardless of how much or little we have. And, we are meant to do this ordinary life filled with valley’s and beautiful inspiration the best we can.

This is supposed to be a month of thankfulness. We should start by thanking Christ for placing us where He saw fit, and determine to show His love smack-dab in the center of it.

Love,

Jennifer

PS: Next Wednesday, November 18th, I have a special treat for you! Best-selling author Christin Ditchfield will be sharing with us on a topic near and dear to the hearts of many women. Earlier in the year, I conducted a survey for my readers and a large amount of you asked me to write about singleness. Christin has a beautiful, hope-filled perspective. Every woman, single or not, can gain from what she has to say! I’m also going to be hosting a giveaway of some of Christin’s books! You won’t want to miss it!

Also, Sunday, November 29th begins Advent! I will be sharing a short post each day throughout the Advent season. God has been working on my heart about this for quite some time. There will be many giveaways, including Ann Voskamp‘s devotional The Greatest Gift. Together, we will pursue peace and stillness within the days leading to Christmas, rather than the stress which loves to steal our joy. There will be more details on this at the end of next week.

How Waiting Can Lead to Stillness

The Struggle to Live a Still LifeOctober seems to have flown by. It’s hard to believe we only have today and tomorrow left in this series. Over the last month, we’ve discussed how stillness leads to our gifts and gives us the ability to use them. We talked about it in the sense of moving according to God’s will and never our own, and we’ve even explored when God seems still.

Today, I want to address something I think most of us struggle with: waiting.

Waiting can be a joy killer. Am I right?

I could write for another whole month just on the waiting process. I experienced secondary infertility and it was fifteen years before I received an answer to prayer. When it comes to waiting, I consider myself a professional. I bet you can relate. Your reason for having to wait might be different from mine, but we all walk through the season at one time or another.

Waiting in ministry can also be extremely frustrating. Have you ever felt like God called you to do something specific and then it doesn’t happen?

Maybe you’re called to write, speak, sing, teach, administrate something within a church, start a new program… whatever it is, let me encourage you with this: just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. Everything takes time and it’s always for good reason.

I’ve been thinking about king David. Samuel anointed him to be the future king and then David went back to tending sheep. And not only that, he spent thirteen years running from Saul before he became who he was destined to be. Can you imagine what it must have been like to run all those years knowing there was a greater call? Not to mention… he was literally fighting for his life throughout that time.

Almost five years ago, I stepped down from the position of assistant worship leader at my church. I knew in my heart I wasn’t supposed to do that anymore. I wasn’t saying goodbye to music ministry forever, but for that particular season God had other plans. Had I not stepped down, I would have never began my blog, published my book, began speaking regularly, or be attending seminary. It was a very difficult letting go process, but God gave me something new and beautiful to hold onto during that time.

When we have gifts, we don’t necessarily like it when God says, “Just wait.”

Part of waiting is learning to listen to God, and when we learn to listen, inch-by-inch we will move to the center of stillness. The move won’t be easy, mine wasn’t. However, it was necessary for my calling.

Maybe you know that God has called you to do something but it’s taking forever. Maybe you’re questioning if you heard Him right to begin with. Here is a checklist I go through to make sure if it’s me or God speaking.

  1. Does “it” keep coming to mind?

For me, the general rule is that if I can’t stop thinking about my calling, then it’s He who placed the desire within me.

  1. Am I working toward the goal?

If you’re passionate about something then you’ll want to make sure you are equipped for the calling. A worship leader cannot be a worship leader without practicing their instrument. A speaker/teacher/preacher cannot give a word without knowing THE WORD. It has to be studied. If you want to start a new program then you have to research it and learn everything about it. Most of the time, we are called to wait so that we can properly train and prepare our hearts in the process.

  1. Has it been confirmed?

Whether it’s through another person or the word of God, you will find confirmation. And when it happens, you’ll know if it’s the real thing.

After almost five years, I’m at the point where I’m experiencing the above three points and God is moving my husband and I forward. The waiting is ending.

We often need to hold on through all kinds of emotion and difficulty before we see our visions come to pass. In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter tells us to gird up the loins of our minds. He wants us to stay focused. Waiting can often lead us to a place of discouragement that causes our minds to drift away. Don’t allow that to happen.

Be confident in the gift you’ve been given, pray daily about it, and study the word. waiting is only for a season. We walk through the desert, we don’t pitch a tent and stay there forever.

Keep on keeping on, friend.

I’ll meet you back here tomorrow for the conclusion of The Struggle to Live a Still Life.

Love,

Jennifer

 

Stillness Requires Vision

Stillness Requires VisionEverything that’s human about us requires more than just staying in the same spot. We are eager to move on to the next big thing and usually we have it all planned out in our heads. This is why it’s frustrating when God calls us to a season of waiting and praying.

However, deeply tucked inside the waiting for whatever comes next, bubbles hope.

I love watching my children blow bubbles in the summertime. Each one glistens in the sunlight showing off a rainbow of colors that float into the air just like our prayers.

And I have to think that our hope and prayers, when given with a thankful, repentant heart waiting still in His presence, must translate into beautiful colors reflected off the hope we have in Christ. Our hope glistens in the S-O-N.

Yesterday, I mentioned that God places our desires deep within our hearts and the more we seek Him, the more available we are to His will rather than our own.

I tend to see those desires as tiny bubbles releasing in the air one by one. Those desires translate to hope, and hope leads to visions and dreams of what’s to come.

I’ve said this already, but I’m going to say it again: To be still in God doesn’t mean we can’t move ahead. It doesn’t mean we can’t pursue dreams and passions placed deeply inside our souls. Being still in His presence actually means moving within it. it’s about stepping forward at His pace and never our own.

In order to do that, we must have hope and vision for our future. It’s time to build on a solid foundation of Christ understanding that being still really means listening intently to His voice in our lives, even when we are running full speed ahead. As long as each stride is in Him, we will be okay.

If you’ve somehow lost the vision for your life, if you’ve forgotten how to dream, you must remember hope.

We have a sure hope in Christ Jesus and stillness in Him requires to trust in that hope. Open your eyes to things ahead, and let your dreams bubble forth.

Love,

Jennifer

If you’ve missed any part of my October Series, The Struggle to Live a Still Life, click here.

 

 

Write the Vision

Write the VisionWhen I was waiting for God to bless us with another child, the process seemed to take forever. Fifteen years is a really long time for a woman who longs for the godly desire of life and feels with each passing month that hope is dwindling.

In our society, we race against the clock wanting everything now. I wonder what the time zone in heaven is, because I’ve lived in both eastern and pacific zones and neither one seems anything close to the clock God works according to.

I believe the dreams and desires I can’t shake have been divinely placed, and are meant to come to fruition. The problem is always the question of when...

I have a feeling that most of you are probably nodding your head in agreement. Everything seems to take too long and the process usually has us asking Him at least one of the following three questions.

  1. Is this desire really from You, God?
  2. Do I not have enough faith for You to answer?
  3. Why must I endure so much pain in the process of waiting?

Today, I was reading in Habakkuk. This minor prophet brings a message of hope and trust for a nation who is in need of comfort. Just like any of us seeking divine answers, Habakkuk is one to ask God questions.

After the second question Habakkuk asks God, He waits for His answer. He was confused as to what he was seeing unfolding all around him and was determined to stand firm for an answer.

As usual, God did not disappoint.

Then the Lord answered me and said:

“Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.

-Habakkuk 2:2-4

 

(Just as a disclaimer, I’m always careful to dig into the context of the scripture before I rip it apart and apply it to my life in the way I feel God is speaking specifically to me. I’ve done that in this book and can now use this wisdom and apply it directly to my situation. It’s important to understand that Habakkuk wanted to know why good people were suffering and why evil rulers were allowed to rule. God answered specifically according to his questions.)

For me, writing down our desires from God, dating the entries, and writing prayers to Him concerning the seeds which have been planted deeply in the heart, is extremely important in the process of waiting for growth and completion. The Lord told Habakkuk to write the vision and make it plain.

He also said that the vision will speak and not lie. He told him to wait for it, because though it may seem to tarry, it will surely come. SURELY.

God went on to say, “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.”

Humility is key throughout the process of waiting. It’s too easy to take ownership of our dreams and desires as if they are all about us. We can become prideful and feel as if we hold the rights to them. We don’t. We must remain humble and realize that when the Lord God Himself chooses us to place a beautiful dream inside, it connects directly to Him. He is choosing us to be vessels for a greater purpose, and I believe that most of the time, we aren’t anywhere close to grasping the depth of His purpose. Now that’s the promise of hope, friends!

I’m going to talk more about this in the coming week.

May your Sunday be filled with new hope as you wait on the Lord to fulfill every desire He has placed within you.

Love,

Jennifer

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Balancing Contentment While Striving for Completion

balance between completion and contentmentLast week, I had a conversation with someone where I discussed the possibility of some major changes in my life. In the midst of the exchange I said, “I’m still trying to figure out what to be when I grow up.” I’m sure at some point you may have said something like that yourself.

The apostle Paul talks about being content in every state we find ourselves. He said he learned contentment. Learned behaviors are studied for a reason: they aren’t natural. Contentment needed to be learned by the Apostle, and I’m still learning myself. You too?

Contentment in the middle of growth requires balance. Personally, I need to feel the push and pull of life in order to move me in a direction I may not have otherwise traveled in.

Recently, I wrote a post speaking of something else Paul said: Become complete.

Completion is calling my name as if it were a close friend longing to see me. The problem is that whenever I feel like I’m making progress in my journey, I become weary and worn down, as if I’m too tired to continue making strides in the calling God placed on my life. I’m not exactly content with who I am, and I know there’s something more, yet I find myself discouraged throughout the process of completion.

Now, here’s the hope in all this: regardless of how I may feel, I’m following close behind Him, allowing Him to lead. Are you?

The truth is, I don’t know exactly what my future holds, but none of us do. Am I right? I’m not content with who I am now, but I’m called to become complete, and that means continuing to persevere for Christ’s glory. When life isn’t going my way, I need to rely on Paul’s call to contentment and continue studying the lives of biblical patriarchs who have gone before me.

Today I read Psalm 63:8. King David wrote…

My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.

I see every single answer to any uncertainty we face wrapped up tightly inside that verse. If we follow close to Him, He will uphold us. We might feel as if we are slipping and even standing in the wrong places at times, but if we follow, we cannot go wrong.

Maybe you are feeling a little bit like me right now: stuck. And, maybe you long, just like me, to become unstuck. I’m certain that if we follow where He leads, we will be on the road to completion. We will learn balance and contentment in who we are now, all while knowing and understanding what changes we must make in order to become complete.

Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.

-Psalm 62:8

May there be favor in your Friday and hope in your weary bones.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

Feeling the transition…

True StillnessWho loves to avoid difficult situations? By the way, I’m waving my hand wildly over here. Certain positions we find ourselves in are not always comfortable, and figuring out how to move to a place filled with peace despite our circumstances can be tricky.

It’s a one-day-at-a-time process. We have to allow ourselves to feel the transition even if it isn’t pleasant. It’s imperative that we look to Jesus and say, “It’s Yours. Even if I still feel it, even when it hurts. It’s not mine; it’s Yours.”

Casting our cares can be frustrating because we often think that when we submit our burden, breathing becomes easy. I hate to cut off the flow of oxygen, but it doesn’t work that way. Just like there is a Lover of your soul, there is also an enemy of it. And when we submit everything to the Lover, the enemy works round the clock to waver our trust in the One who frees us.

I want to encourage you with this: If you’ve given your burden and you know deep down that you are holding nothing back from your Savior, then just keep going. Keep walking, praying, and living your life out loud. Peace is found in knowing that even when it hurts, we are doing the right thing.

True stillness of the soul comes from trusting God regardless of how we feel. (Tweet that.)

God is on the throne. He always has been. He always will be.

Love,

Jennifer

Waiting for Change

For When Your Heart is Bursting for that which you do not knowHi, Friend! Just in case you haven’t noticed, I took a little blogging break over the last week and a half. We went on a family vacation where I desperately needed to recharge. It was wonderful. Thank you to those who reached out via email to ask if I was okay. It’s nice to know you care, and I appreciate you!

I’ve been praying about what to write. Sometimes, even after a week of relaxation, it’s difficult to find where to start again. To be truthful, I’m a little perplexed about how I’m feeling. There’s a restless type of determination to run hard after God knowing that He has something in store, but I don’t know what it is.

Have you ever felt that way? Like there is a change waiting in the current flow of life but you can’t exactly put your finger on what? I want to lace up my running shoes and just chase God until my heart is pounding and my lungs hurt. I know that isn’t necessarily the most appealing image, but I want nothing more than to feel alive in the presence of God in a brand new way. I need it. My soul is shouting at me from the inside out to go. Just run.

Here’s the problem: I don’t know where I’m supposed to be going, and if I begin running, I’m not sure what direction to move.

When I was away, I posted the following as my Facebook status:

Life isn’t black and white, and the road ahead isn’t always clear. Actually, right where we are standing isn’t exactly honest and open.


Some say it’s gray, but I don’t buy that either. Life is a palette of colors. They can be vibrant and bright or washed out and faded. If we’re not careful, the colors have a habit of running into one another and separating themselves from what’s intended. If not kept in focus, they can be chameleon-like and cause a divagation of thoughts.


Recently, I’ve been thinking about the blur of colors. Everyone has their own opinions and are taking it upon themselves to state what God’s opinion is. I’m not just discussing the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage. I’m talking about any struggle people are enduring and trying to fix themselves.


We seem to be people who are relentless at working to get things done our way. Maybe it’s a crack in our marriages, relationships with our children, friendships, or inability to see worth in our lives. We work to repair rather than prayerfully wait for redirection and spiritual rescue.


Right now, I’m sitting in a beach chair positioned in the sand. I’m looking around in wonder at the beauty God declared with His voice – thinking of how His breath bellows against the waters and controls the motion of the sea. I’m in awe that His palm is large enough to fit each struggle we face tightly inside. His grip is unfathomably strong.


From where I’m sitting, the sand is tan, the sea is turquoise, the sky is a brilliant shade of blue, and above it all there is One God on the throne watching. And, when I say watching, I don’t mean helplessly.


He’s breathing, living, in control, majestic and as mighty as He was the moment He spoke this beauty into existence. There is no separation or running together of the brilliance He declared.
Whatever your worries, whatever your circumstances might entail, The mighty color of His love is enough to cover it ALL.


Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (See Romans 8:38)


Those who overcome have been given a promise, and nothing has the power to steal it away.
Keep on serving, friend. Keep believing. Keep looking toward the brilliant colors of promise. It’s for you. He created it with you in mind. He loves you.

Today, as I reread the words I wrote a week ago, I’m reminded that His promises hold strong. They are beautiful and worth the restless pursuit of upcoming change. We might have a difficult time identifying it, but His mystery should be held with beautiful anticipation of what’s to come.

The ability to hold faith, trust, and hope in a supreme God who loves us can only be defined as tender mercy. His path is perfect, even if we aren’t sure where to step next.

I know I seem to be unloading a lot of thoughts on you today. Abigail Adams said, “My bursting heart must find vent at my pen.”

My heart is bursting with the hope of following hard after God in a brand new way. I wish you could hear the passion in my voice, but since we can’t meet face-to-face, I pray the passion of my heart cracks wide open and translates His hope to you.

Talk soon, friend.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

Thoughts on Becoming Beautiful (A Guest Post)

Erin Salmon guest postHi, Friend! I love when I’m able to have a glimpse into someone’s heart journey. We’ve decided that the quest to find beautiful begins in the the deepest corners of our hearts, and, today, I’m welcoming Erin to my doorstep. She is going to share what her journey looks like. Please welcome her and take a little time to visit her online space.


 

When Jennifer asked me to share some thoughts on beauty, I have to admit I was a bit nervous and entirely humbled. I have chosen silence on my own online journal over the past couple of weeks, as I’ve been learning the hard way that writing in a public forum, no matter how faith filled, cannot be a substitute for prayer. Fellowship with friends and talking about dreams over chips and salsa cannot take the place of spending time with the Lord.

Perhaps from the outside looking in, I’m in the most exciting season of life. I’m going to be twenty-five this year. I’m married to a remarkable man who I deeply love and respect. I have a rewarding job as a social worker, an amazing friend group at our church, and a reasonably sized following for my blog. I’m wide open to the world and whatever the future holds. But on the inside, the view is a bit different. If I’m honest, I’m kind of terrified.

If I could only use one word to characterize my current state of being, it would be waiting. Of course, the rub is that I have never been a particularly patient person. Surrender has never come easily to me, and anxiety is often paralyzing.

My husband and I have reached the point in our marriage where we’re beginning to discover how much work it takes to keep a relationship healthy and thriving. We’re having to make decisions about where to live, what kind of careers we want, whether to pursue master’s degrees, when to start a family. We’ve struggled to reconcile the desires of our hearts with the sinking reality of doors that remain closed for now.

I’ve been meditating on the story of Abraham. When we first meet him in scripture, God has told he and his wife to pick up their lives and go to a new place that has yet to be revealed to them. Scripture says that they obeyed, seemingly without hesitation. I don’t know that I could ever be so bold. Then, after receiving the child that they have yearned for for decades, God tells Abraham to sacrifice him, and once again, Abraham obeys. He fully trusts God, even though no manual or road map has been provided, and he is always more interested in what God wants to do in his life than he is in his own comfort.

I have spent the past couple of years in a balance between quiet desperation and defiance, saying, “No, God, you don’t understand — I cannot just pick up and go without some sort of direction”, all the while starving for hope, promise, and the abundant life Christ came to give me.

If you’re still here, I imagine you must be wondering what all of this has to do with beauty.

In spite of my wrestling, I’ve always been able to appreciate the idea of beauty being a process. Ecclesiastes says that the Lord makes everything beautiful in its time. I can sense now that He is tending my soul, breaking down the walls of my resistance.

The first chapter in The Book of James talks about the trials of life, saying that we should consider them joy. Verse three says that when our faith is tested, we build endurance, and that the perfect result of endurance is completion.

We are being made beautiful and complete, even in the midst of our trials. Scripture promises that God is faithful to finish the work He has started — he never leaves us, but He does ask us to trust him. This is especially difficult when He seems silent, and the road ahead unmarked.

I cannot presume to know exactly what you are going through today. Perhaps you are in a settled season, knowing exactly what you were made to do and the trajectory of your life. If you happen to be here, can I simply encourage you that God is not finished? He longs to lead us out of the realm of our comfort zones and into a more rich, abundant life in Christ. Or, perhaps you are like me, in the oft painful process of starting out. I wish I could say I have a lot of practical answers to make this season easier, but the one thing I have learned over the past two years is that the Lord is absolutely personal. He is faithful. Where I have demanded a road map, he has graciously offered Himself as the Way. He is our Wonderful Counselor, our Almighty God, our Everlasting Father, and our Prince of Peace. He knows exactly what we need, and He is near to us when we call on Him.

Please, no matter where you are, choose to be still before the Lord. Allow Him to do the hard and holy work of tending your heart. He is making you beautiful.

ErinErin is a twenty-something still in the process of getting to know herself. She is passionate about creating a space where authenticity matters more than efficiency. She has a degree in counseling and a minor in biblical and theological studies, and now works as a case manager for children in the foster care system. Erin and her husband live in the mountains of northeast Georgia, where they play just as hard as they work. She would love to connect with you at erinsalmonwrites.com or on Twitter @erinmsalmon.