Warm tears on 20° mornings.

Hey hey, I bet you didn’t see this one coming, a Wednesday morning pick-me-up.  (Sometimes) I do Monday morning pick-me-ups, but I think we all need one for today. I know I do.

17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.

He is faithful. That’s the first promise I want to remind you of. Jesus will never cease to be faithful & I think that’s unfathomable to us, especially in the difficult situations that we face. It’s simple to say He’s faithful when you’re standing on the mountaintops, but it is much more of a challenge to remind yourself He is with you in the valleys. I will say I don’t know that I have prayed this hard or in these ways in such a long time. There is a closeness with God that I have felt in these past few days that I have never known before. It’s unfamiliar territory, but it’s also beautiful because it’s me learning more about God’s unwavering love.

Recently, I have come to realize the beauty in the people around me even more, as if it’s been heightened in every human being. I think God has started to reveal His character to me through people I know & I know that might sound a little strange, but bear with me. I am surrounded by beautiful people only by the grace of God. Beautiful hearts. Beautiful voices. Beautiful appearances. Beautiful words. Beautiful relationships. And they are all from an outpouring of love & beauty from the Father.

This is my friend. Her name is Lizzie & she possesses a beauty that is indescribable. She is a ray of light from the Father & anyone who comes in contact with her gets that. Lizzie is brimming with hope & an effervescent spirit that you cannot help but notice when you are around her. Lizzie radiates the love of the Lord. You will always smile in her presence because she is a breath of fresh air. Lizzie picks me up when I’m down & eats Moe’s with me when we both feel on top of the world & spontaneous. I found myself sipping free coffee & talking with her in her apartment last week. We were pining over old journals & pulling out notes & cards & sharing stories with each other that helped us connect our personalities & shared experiences & ultimately our love for the Lord even more. We’re crazy around each other & she gets it. We’re awkward around each other & she gets it. We’re weird around each other & she gets it. On Valentine’s Day, we went to this place called Fouche Gap really close to our campus because I had never been their before & she was excited to share this experience with me. Valentine’s Day & beautiful views that can only be described as of the Lord & more free coffee & burritos & endless selfies & happiness that makes you lose track of time. That is what every time with Lizzie looks like. Her spirit is indescribable. The way she loves is indescribable. Her beauty is indescribable.

And for the past 3 days, we’ve all had to try to understand & try to wrap our minds around the pain that shattered her world in an instant. Imagine the worst possible phone call & news you could have received & that was her weekend. Everything gone in an instant. But these circumstances do not change a single quality I just listed about Lizzie. She still possesses an indescribable spirit. She still loves in an indescribable way. Her beauty is still indescribable. Let us not forget that. Her world may be forever changed, but her Lord is the same, yesterday, today & forever. Let us pray for peace in her life. Let us pray for stillness in chaotic circumstances. Let us pray that she remembers she has built her house on a rock & the Lord will not let her be shaken. She has not been crushed or driven to despair or forsaken or destroyed, but there is still life in her. She has life in Jesus. Do not forget that.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” // 2 CORINTHIANS 4:8-12 ESV

These times make me fall even more in love with this community, this family God has established around me. The generosity of people has blown my mind & restored my faith in humanity. I cannot describe the roller coaster of emotions. Tears until our eyes are dry & the hard questions & the even harder answers, or not answers. Lean into the people around you & do not shut yourself off. Ask the hard questions. Cry the hard tears & be prepared to not receive answers. Talk to God. He listens. Pray for discernment because sometimes we don’t have the right words to say, but Jesus does & sometimes silence is more necessary than empty words. To sit & listen in silence or to only weep when people weep is one of the most powerful things I have ever experienced. I sat in a prayer service for Lizzie yesterday & one of the most beautiful things was said. “God was the first to cry when this happened.” To know that this hurt the heart of the Savior of the world was the most difficult & humbling & freeing thing I have ever heard. It tells you that you have a right to feel this way. He cried first. And that means He understands the grief & the pain & the hurt that you are harboring in your heart. Hand it to Him. Ask Him to relieve you & He will. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

A few special thoughts to lead your prayers:

  1. Pray for the leaders in this community, that they would have the ability to comfort. Pray that they are being poured into as much as they are pouring out. Pray that they would have the words for comfort or know when silence is more appropriate.
  2. Pray for the people with Lizzie right now, that their strength would be renewed. Pray for their endurance in the coming days & weeks.
  3. Pray for her heart, that she would understand who she belongs to & who her Father is. Pray that she finds stillness & quietness in her heart in the midst of chaos. Pray for a comfort that can only come from Jesus.
  4. Pray for funds, that she would be supported & upheld by this community, her family now.
  5. Pray for lifted hearts & spirits in this community, that we would lean more into God than we ever have before. Pray that our hearts would be made new in the face of hard times & tragedy, that we would know how to react when she returns. For patience & not pressing & for space when needed.

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Warm tears on 20° mornings. I will embrace them. I will cling to them as the reminder that I am still alive & Jesus has decided to keep air in my lungs. I will relearn rhythms of grace because that is necessary in these times. I will break habits of unhealthiness & cling tightly to Truth. I will understand that these warm tears will not always be a daily ritual, though I am not convinced. I like to walk to class alone some days. I listen to & hum worship music or walk in silence in the freezing cold & it’s actually one of my favorite times of day. Winter is my favorite. I will cling to the peace in my heart as the cold wraps itself around me like a chunky sweater. I will find comfort in the environment Jesus has handcrafted around me today. Don’t forget to stop & soak that in.

Cling tightly to Jesus wherever you are this morning. In bed, over coffee, in front of your laptop at work, at your desk in class, eating breakfast, taking a quick break. Lean into Him & cling tighter than you ever have before because He is good. He is unchanging. He is faithful. He is constant in the storm. You will not be shaken because you have built your house on a rock & that rock is Jesus. Unchanging through the ages. Unchanging through every day & hour & second & breath we take. Yell at Him. He can take it. Cry to Him. Weep with Him. Listen to Him. Silence yourself before Him & humble yourself. His intentions are good. His love is good. His plans are good. And we cling tight to His promises because He is good.

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I’ve lost control, but I’m free.

I think the fog will lift & we will all look around to find that we were never really alone. Others are lost in the fog as well & feel completely alone, but if you would only lift up your head & reach out your hand, you would come to find the Savior of the world.

I went for a run this morning & it was the best run I’ve been on in a very long time. It was 27 degrees outside & I had on a short sleeve shirt but then I eventually lost all feeling & could only focus on how much my lungs were burning. I gave my lungs a chance to remember how much they like the taste of air. My heart was heavy, incredibly heavy. I can’t usually listen to worship music when I go on runs. I don’t know why, but I’ve never been able to push myself harder when I listen to it, but I found myself on one song this morning. Only one part of one song, actually. The build of “In Over My Head” just kept yelling at me through my headphones. My heart was hurting. I was finishing the last stretch of Faculty Row on campus & Jenn Johnson was singing sweet melodies to me & the tears welled up & I didn’t try to stop them. My heart ached & burned & I wanted to scream or collapse or both. My lungs were burning & my mind was racing & I kept hearing:

And further & further my heart moves away from the shore. Whatever it looks like, whatever may come, I am Yours & You crash over me & I’ve lost control, but I’m free. I’m going under. I’m in over my head & You crash over me & that’s where You want me to be. I’m going under. I’m in over my head. Whether I sink, whether I swim, it makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head.

I am free. I am free. I am free. I was bought with a price & I am free.

I felt like I didn’t have the right to grieve because these weren’t my circumstances. But God reminded me over & over again, “You are allowed to feel.” So I prayed. I prayed harder than I have prayed in so long. Every time God brings the thoughts into my mind today, I pause & pray. There is nothing that will happen that will be outside of God’s sovereignty. He is good. He is good. He is good. It is well. Prayer has the ability to let us communicate with God & feel His closeness because He is close. When we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. There is peace in knowing Him & the way you get to know someone’s voice is by communicating more & more with them. The same exact thing goes for God. The more you pray & talk to Him, the more you will recognize His voice & His presence. That is good news. He isn’t far. He isn’t out of reach. He is here. Right at the center of chaos is God. He is the pinnacle of understanding. He is the peace in our troubled sea. And still He is good.

I could sit here & try to make sense of this all, but you & I both know that is near impossible. I just sat through an entire sermon earlier this week about the burning question, “How can a loving God allow evil & suffering?” & I can honestly say it wasn’t answered for me & I don’t think it ever will be. I think that’s part of the mystery of God & it’s what makes our relationship so beautiful with Him. We trust Him even when we have no idea what the hell will happen & that’s what makes us lean into Him even more. And we lean into Him even more when terrible & horrific things happen, as unfortunate as that sounds. I have a bad habit of needing all of the details & statistics & facts of tragedy when it strikes, but this time was different. God said, “Only Me. You only need Me.” I didn’t need the whole story or the facts or the details, but I needed Jesus, so badly. So we fix our eyes on Him because that is what we know. Instead of trying to make sense of tragedy & circumstances, fix your eyes on the sovereign God who is constant & will never let us fall from His loving embrace. We can navigate our days because He is good & He will fight, we need only be still.

He is light. He is more than enough. He is here, with you in the struggles & pain & hurt. He is everything. He knows the deepest parts of your heart that situations like these stir up. He gets it. He knows you. You are known, which means you can never be fully alone. He is the peace in your heart, even when it feels like a little speck amidst a dark & troubled sea. He is here, in the chaos. He is always here. And that can be your comfort today. I pray that He would quiet our hearts in chaos. I pray that He meets you where you’re at & that you can immediately recognize this divine encounter with a God who handcrafts your days. He has written in His books every day before you & every trial you will ever face & every tear you will ever cry. He knows you & you are not alone in feeling this grief. He can quiet your heart in the chaos.

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God created ice cream for Mondays.

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
And my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior.

Just a little tidbit & some food for thought: how many times have you heard this song? Too many? (That’s not even a thing, but yes, it has been overplayed in the past year). I think so often we attribute this song with moving into new seasons where we will be in new territory & seeing new faces & encountering a new environment, but have you ever listened to this song & just thought about everyday life? I hadn’t, until today. We must recenter our focus to Him every single day. Every single morning. He gives us new mercies, we give Him our heart. Day in and day out.

I closed my eyes & listened to it for what felt like the first time this morning. I thought about my college campus & how, for the next three & a half years, it’s sort of inescapable. Not in a bad way, but I know how to navigate it & move throughout my day & it is familiar to me. And I find comfort in knowing my surroundings, so I think I don’t have a trust issue with Jesus because I am comfortable. I’ll go ahead & be the one to laugh at myself. HAHAHA. You, Jenna Johnson, do have trust issues with Jesus. And I think we all do to an extent.  Trusting Him is getting up & moving even when you want nothing more than to lay in bed & let yourself soak in the depths of your sadness. Trusting Him is learning how to let other people love you every single day. Trusting Him is learning how to love yourself. Trusting Him is understanding that He will keep His promises to you. Trusting Him is knowing that He will provide for you, in the ways He sees fit. I do think that trusting Him can come in baby steps. No, this isn’t full submission & surrender, which is ultimately the goal, but I’ve been trying to hand Him little things, one by one. Is this good & do I suggest it? No, but while that isn’t matching the ultimate goal of pure surrender to His love & plans for your life, it is something. It can come one day at a time. Progress.

That brings me to something else I have been learning to take in & let seep into the darkest crevices in my heart: there is no room for fear in love. Fear doesn’t get to rent or buy or store space in your heart. There is no vacancy in your heart when love arrives.

I got a text from a dear friend this morning & it read:

I don’t know if you’ve ever sung the word “magnify” in a worship song or heard someone say it in a worship setting, but that word means 2 different things 1) to glorify or extol 2) to make something larger visibly. Both of those apply to our spiritual lives. We magnify God (glorify Him) but also we should look at Him almost as if through a magnifying glass to make Him appear larger to us until we see Him bigger than all of our problems. That’s one way to rise above circumstances that you’re stuck in… Take your eyes off of the problem and look only to the problem solver. We were made to glorify and look to Him. He is already so much bigger than your troubles, but your reality says something different which is a lie. Our reality SHOULD be that God is bigger and then we would never have a care in the world. Magnify Him. Glorify Him. Praise Him. Look to Him and continue to stay fixed on Him until you realize that He is everything you will ever need. KD.

Take your eyes off of the problem and look only to the problem solver. Oh, hi, hello, truth.


We had about 3 hours of staff meeting a couple days ago, and in the last hour where we were all back in the office, I sat in the corner of the room on the couch & just kind of sank back into myself. This will only be your comfort for so long. Your comfort will change. What makes you comfortable is always changing. And I just kept repeating to myself, “Take this in. Remember this. Remember your family. Remember how these people make you feel. Remember how they have been here for you & how it will not be like this forever.” And tears welled up in my eyes because I hate change. Sitting here typing those thoughts & gratefulness out, I think about a sermon that Beth Moore gave at Passion 2014 & the quote I have plastered on my journal from that time in my life. At the end of her sermon, she says, “You will get one time for this. One time for this. One time to be a benefit to this world. One time on this globe. One time for this to matter for souls around this planet. One time. Take your time.” And when you first read that, you might think, “Yes, I know that. I get one life. So what?” But zoom out. Think about yourself as being a blip on a radar. You are that small. But you are also being used by God for huge things. You are a vessel. Humble yourself. You get ONE chance. ONE time. ONE time for this to matter. Life is too short to live with the enemy telling us that we aren’t good enough, that we’re unworthy.

Your comfort will change. Your schedule will change. Your mood will change. Your surroundings will change. Your relationships will change. Your grades will change. Your job will change. Your love will change, the way you love will change. Your habits will change. Your life will change & unfold before your eyes. The tides will change & the waves will feel like they are taking you under. And God is constant. When everything else is turmoil & defeat & overwhelming, God is constant. And I know, you are probably thinking, “Jenna, why have you written about a constant God so many times in the past month?” Because I need it & you need it. I know that every single day I have to wake up & tell myself that He is constant. If everything else has turned to chaos & I don’t have any control over my thoughts & emotions, He is constant.

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Another incredible thing I learned at staff meeting a couple nights ago: our sins are not our own. They will affect the people around you. BOOM. And I know, when we think sin, we think murder & adultery & lying & all of these things that could land you in Dante’s version of Hell. Sin is simple, actually & unfortunately. Sin is different works of the flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness…” and now I list these things off & think, “I am screwed.” But then, Jesus.

Does your life revolve around a neatly organized planner? Do you thrive in words of affirmation? Do you wish your life had certain aspects of other people’s lives? Do you strive for the approval of others? These are all sins that we’ve gotten comfortable in & just slip the same coat back on every single day of our lives. Throw it out.

Jesus came so that we might have life & LIFE IN FULL. It is already paid for. Washed clean. White as snow. Pure. Holy. Blameless before His throne because He fell in love with us. He traded perfection for brokenness because He loves us. He loves you. He loves me. He loves & loves & loves. Everything He does is out of His love for us. Plain & simple. Embrace your brokenness.

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And that leads me to questions I’ve been asking myself for a while now:

Why are you so afraid of surrender? What are you afraid of? What the hell is it? Where does it come from? Where was it born? Was it born out of the fear of being unloved or unwanted or unworthy? Why do you think weak where Jesus says strong? What do you have to lose? What is it? What is holding you back? Why don’t you love & let people love you? Why don’t you trust? Where is the voice coming from that tells you not to trust? What makes you shut down? What is your biggest fear? What is it? Call it out. What are your doubts? I know you have them, so what are they? Pinpoint them & shut. them. down. Take it in. Recognize it. Recognize that voice of fear, but recognize God’s voice more. Let Him overpower that voice of fear. It pales in comparison to His voice. Learn His rhythms of unforced grace. Where you find Him, there His grace will be, more & more. And more good news: He is unmatched in wisdom & power & love & forgiveness & grace-giving. He is here, now. In your deepest fears & deepest doubts & the hurt in your heart, HE IS HERE. HE IS HERE. HE IS HERE.

I don’t know why He loves us. I know that we are unworthy of His love, but still He loves us. It is the mystery. We are unworthy & broken & dirty & He looks at us with love. Pure pure pure love. Just stop & take that in. We have done nothing for Him & He just scoops us up, orphans, & shows us the most beautiful love this world has ever know. How beautiful it is that He does not expect us to have everything together, but rather we place false expectations on ourselves. Let that free you. He does not expect what you expect of you. He loves you freely & joyfully, like a set of parents to a newborn baby, but even more so. No expectations, not reprimanding, not disappointment. Only unspeakable love.

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Confessions of a pain-hoarder.

I have this baggage, this baggage that I want to shove back into suitcases & shove every last one of them into the very back of the very top of my closet. People cannot & will not see these things I have tried very hard to hide. The suitcases are ugly & what I have shoved inside is even uglier. I cannot deal with the pain that will come from opening them & having to sort through every last ugly & messy & dark thing inside. And the hardest part: I have to. This hurts & my mind does not make sense. I’ve been in this daze for the past couple weeks where pretty much every minute of every day, I just think, “What is going on?” And I suppose I have told myself that this is a better place to be than tears & constant pain.

This past week, someone asked me, “What is your biggest fear?” And I really had to think. I’m afraid of a lot of things. I’m afraid of the dark & spiders & clowns & walking down the halls of our dorm in the middle of the night & being in the hustle & bustle of a big city & the feeling you get after watching crime shows & feeling unworthy & being unlovable or invaluable. But the biggest one, which I had never been able to pinpoint until these moments with a friend: One day, in just one day, I woke up to realize that a person I loved with every inch of my being did not love me back. I had opened up & trusted & been the most vulnerable I have ever been up to this point in my life, and this person did not care about me. He did not love me. I am afraid that one day, I am going to wake up & realize that my relationship with God is the exact same way. I cannot trust Him. He does not love me. He will not keep His promises to me. Because I loved & I crashed & I burned. And not just God, but any friendship or relationship I have: what’s to say they all won’t wake up one day & realize they don’t want to love me anymore? 

These are the things that scare me: that I am unworthy, unlovable, invaluable, a burden, unsubstantial, fill in the blank with any lie the enemy could ever whisper to you. And I know that’s exactly what they are, lies, but I can’t shake the feeling or not hold onto those because my heart says, “Don’t forget that person that never loved you in the first place but convinced you otherwise. This is what happens when you open up & love again & love others & love yourself. You crash. You burn. You cannot be vulnerable. This is what heartbreak feels like. Don’t you dare forget it.”

I know this pain comes from loneliness, and not loneliness like physically being alone, but it goes back to what I said in a previous blog post about how the loneliest place in the world to be is lost in your own mind & I’m still without a map, trust me. And I have sat here & cursed God & questioned & doubted & gotten so unbelievably angry. How could You create me to feel this way? How could You let me be this lonely & this self-loathing? How could You create me to feel like a burden? I have nights (almost every night recently) where I surround myself with friends because it is better to be around a bunch of people & fool yourself into thinking you don’t feel alone rather than sit by yourself & realize it is true. But I had last night & last night I was the most alone I have ever felt before. I laid & cried & shook with anger & wondered how a God I thought I was so in love with could do such a thing to me. And yes, I sound like a selfish brat. God sent His only Son to die for me & I can’t just suck it up & deal with some earthly pain. But that’s how I feel right now in this moment. I feel selfish & alone & like a burden & unworthy & unlovable & the only person I don’t want to be around is the one person I can’t get away from: myself.

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I fear that the caffeine buzzes & shoving baggage into overflowing suitcases will only last for so long. I do not want to deal with painful things. I will be the first to admit that to you. I’ve got baggage. And my heart holds onto it all for dear life, like a hoarder. I hoard my pain. I keep it tucked in every nook & cranny just so I can remind myself what it feels like. When I start to feel again, those little pockets of pain jab & taunt me. Don’t be vulnerable. Don’t be vulnerable. Don’t be vulnerable. You can do this by yourself. You can be your own strength. And those are lies.

And I can’t do this by myself anymore & I let fear dictate my heart because I know that in order for God to be completely my strength, I have to let those things go completely. Full surrender. White flag & all. And I’m not willing to do that.

I still want to be in the wilderness with Him. I want to be able to surrender everything that is within me. Everything in the darkness & hurt & pain, and I have no idea why I can’t just do it, just let it go. I want Him to pull me away & take everything. Every feeling I have ever had, lay it on the table, and show me that He has felt this way before too. He knows it. I want to be reminded of what it feels like to be accepting of people’s love & how to love myself & what it feels like to feel worth something. I want Him to redefine everything about me & tear me up from the inside out. I’ve been letting fear & anxiety tear my down from the inside out, but I want to invite God in to do that Himself & in the best way possible. I need some renovations, for lack of a better term. Completely demolished & built up again. Raw. That is one word I would use to describe this season of life. Raw. And painful. And tearing me up from the inside out. I want Him to deconstruct me just so He can build me up & make me new again.

One moment I did have this week, which was pretty incredible when I have thought that I’ve been getting the silent treatment from God, was during a sermon I got to hear this past Sunday. The last few words of the sermon had the most impact on my heart. “Do not forget who you are.” And in that following moment, my mind went completely blank, and all I could hear was:

I am a child of God.

And I sit here right now, honestly telling you that it was fleeting. It was great to finally feel something, yes. But I don’t let that define me. And it should. It really really really should. I have to tell myself Truths & I have not been doing that. I’ve been constantly repeating lies to myself & letting them suffocate me. I heard someone explain it to me in a way that sounded ridiculous, but it also made complete sense at the same time. It’s like when a person thinks they are drowning & all they have to do is stand up & you tell them that & they won’t. I just need to stand up & I don’t want to & I don’t know why. That may sound super messed up, but believe me when I say you won’t understand it until you’re in the water next to me.

Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.” // Isaiah 43:1-4 MSG

He would sell off the whole world to get me back & trade creation just for me. When I go through rough waters, He will not let me go down. He calls me worthy. He calls me valuable. He sees me. He knows me, in all the darkness, and He loves me. He loves me no matter the circumstances. His love is unchanging & unwavering. And I can’t believe it.

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I’m ready to feel pure joy again. I want to come out of darkness & loneliness & pain. I want to fight. I get little glimpses of joy, but there is an eternal joy that comes with freedom & I know it because I have felt it before. I know it’s possible & I know it’s there & I know that there is no joy that comes apart from the Lord. I am ready for celebration & joy & freedom & I just need the map to get there. That’s the most frustrating thing is that I am wandering through the wilderness & I’m waiting for that clearing. The end of the trees where I come out & look upon the water & know that this is joy. Unspeakable joy from the Savior who came to take away the sins of the world & bring us freedom & write our salvation & break every single chain so that we could taste the Kingdom & bring it here. I can feel it with everything in me. From my head to my toes, something inside of me says, “Do. Not. Stop. Fighting.” And that is the Light.

And you know, I might wake up tomorrow & not feel this way. I might want to succumb to fear & shame & anxiety again, but it’s a process. I will trust the process because He is good. He is always good. I know that to be true. He is good. I will keep walking in the wilderness, with God by my side, even when I think He’s not there at all, and I will find the clearing. I will find the joy & freedom & celebration that only comes from surrender. It’s coming.

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