You tell me that You’re pleased and that I’m never alone.

What am I learning right now?

  1. Simple things. I feel a draw towards minimalism. It’s more in my thought life than anything else, which is strange. I think I try to make up for the chaos that is my thought life by striving to cut other things out of my physical life. It’s an interesting cycle.
  2. He’s never going to let us out of His embrace, so it’s time we stop running and shoving away. He wants us. And that is really awesome.
  3. Anxiety is still a thing, but not if you relinquish control. Not if you decide you want Jesus to do His will in your life more than you want to control things out of your control.

As You call me deeper still. As You call me deeper still. As You call me deeper still into love. You’re a good, good Father. It’s who You are. It’s who You are. It’s who You are. And I’m loved by You. It’s who I am. It’s who I am. It’s who I am. You are perfect in all of Your ways. You are perfect in all of Your ways. You are perfect in all of your ways.

This song has been an anthem for me for quite a while now. And I was reminded of that as I sat into the balcony of our college chapel, photographing our first church service of the school year. I was completely prepared to navigate the night, have some awesome time with this community, and have little emotion involved. Wrong. I sat in the balcony as Brad & Lisa started to play this song. And I just sobbed. The tears just flowed. The tears just washed me clean. And I felt the comfort of a hand on my back and just let the tears come. It was so beautiful. I think this song with always cripple me in the best way possible, as if He’s saying, “Remember your dependency on Me. Remember that’s where you will find your strength. In Me. Always. One hundred percent of the time, in Me.

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” // Psalm 30:11-12

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And today, I started my sophomore year at Berry. How weird is that? SO surreal. I’m just like, “Hey God, if You could make time stop and speed up all at the same time, that would be awesome.” Transition phases twist my mind into weird things. I can’t get anything straight at all. And it’s awesome because God is awesome and if that’s the only thing that will get me through this Monday, then we’re going to be okay, friends.

I have a tendency to overplan. I get it stuck in my mind how I want things to be and that’s the way it’s going to be, especially when big things are happening, like the beginning of the school year or the first day of anything. I try to plan and prepare and map everything out. I’ve noticed a pattern though: nothing ever goes the way it’s “supposed” to go. And I have finally realized I think that’s God trying to show me that when I try to control things, that’s when I steer myself wrong.

I always think of those lyrics, “I’ve lost control but I’m free,” in times like these because THAT is so true. When I’m just like, “Here God. I’m sorry I took this situation or time from You and tried to control it myself. Forgive me for it,” then I can see His perfect plans. It’s almost like taking off foggy glasses.

There’s a really beautiful song a friend showed me at the beginning of freshman year, and I just refound it, and it may have been the greatest thing to find on an overwhelming night like tonight. Jesus, You’re beautiful.

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful

And I can tell you that even as my first day of sophomore year is coming to a close, there is this little storm going on in my heart but a huge settling peace all at the same time. It’s so overwhelming that it makes me want to run and find a hiding place to cry and rejoice and speak alone. But then I remember, He is a hiding place. He is a beautiful hiding place for me.

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And this mountain that’s in front of me will be thrown into the midst of the sea.

I have a really bad habit of wishing time away. No matter the season I’m in, I keep wishing and waiting and dreaming of what’s coming next.

This is especially true when anxiety creeps in. It causes me to shove it back into suitcases, make my to-do lists, and push through to the next season.

Behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.

Allow yourself to feel these things. Allow yourself to feel.

And I’ve been resistant to that. It wasn’t until last night, two cups of Sleepytime tea in, that I found myself, knees-on-the-floor, face-to-the-ground pleading with Jesus to show me where He fit into this situation.

Where are You in this?

I’m right here.

Where are You?

I’m right here. I’m right here. I never left you.

Anxiety is a real thing. So close to tangible it’s ridiculous. And you feed it by denying it’s presence. It’s actually a monster. And he sneaks in when things seem the most likely of a situation for him to fit into. Happiness is a good hostess for him. He makes himself right at home with her. Everything’s going well for you? Not so fast, I can fix that!

And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

I sat at my computer yesterday and went through all of my signs that I’ve been able to call out before. Caffeine intake? Only 1-3 cups a day, which is better than ever before. Eating healthy? Definitely. Staying active? Yes. Sleeping enough? Yes. All of my relationships are healthy? Yes. Taking care of myself? Yes. And then I just sat there, got confused, and the walls started slowly moving in and it got more difficult to breathe. I sat on the couch in my boss’s office, a place I hadn’t found myself in a while, talking to her about it immediately after recognizing how I felt, and she compared it to fear and anxiety tapping on the glass reminding me that, while I may be happy, they were still here.

And I thought I was going back to January. Dark, pull-the-sheets-back-over-my-head, running-until-the-air-in-my-lungs-feels-like-solid-ice, I’m-on-my-8th-cup-of-coffee January. I felt the same feelings I felt at the beginning of January. I think that’s why the anxiety attack happened because all I could think was, “No, not January. Not January. Not January.

It’s transition phases. Change. These are my triggers. I get knee deep in how over-the-moon happy I am at the new things coming my way, and before I realize it, the water is closing in around me and I have no control over it anymore.

And I’ll be honest: I haven’t figured it out. I think that might be a chronic thing for me, trying to figure things out that actually aren’t solvable. It’s great. And so often, figuring out the very thing that’s driving me crazy ends up taking the throne and pushing God into second place, without me even realizing it until it’s happened. I think trying to make sense of things and feelings can become an idol.

And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remember by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground.

I guess what I’m saying in writing all of this is that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Anxiety is a thing and it will always creep up when you least expect it and sometimes it walks in where you wouldn’t think it fits. That’s just the kind of guy he is. The best advice I’ve been given is to just allow myself to feel it, even when I don’t want to. Especially when I don’t want to. The more I resist it and try to cover it in cups of coffee and to-do lists and friend dates, the harder he knocks on the door.

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And right now, I’m still in my season of recognizing the Father’s sweetness, and anxiety won’t rob me of that.

I’m going to feel all of the feels, ride this like a roller coaster, and take it one day at a time. Sometimes it’s as simple as looking at a picture and remembering how happy it’s possible to be because that’s how I felt in that moment, and sometimes it’s as hard as waking up and staring at the ceiling and forcing myself to get out of bed. But I can rest in the fact that anxiety isn’t from God. God doesn’t send things that trap you. In Him is freedom, no chains or captivity.

And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.

It was strange though. In the midst of trying to explain my feelings, I could hear “It Is Well” playing in the background and I was overwhelmed with this feeling of solid peace wrapped in anxiety. It was so strange, and that’s the only way I can think of to describe it. I find Him in the chaos, and I know that He is good. I need to be able to lean into God & not pull my anxiety around like carry-on luggage. Am I allowed to have both? Can I have anxiety and a relationship with God? Can they coexist?

I feel voices saying yes, yes, and no. Fear and God cannot coexist. I feel that truth all the way to my bones. Fear and God do not live in the same place. Then how do I intensely feel the presence of both? Why are they both so evident in the way I live my life?

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.

I cried when I typed that out. What a promise. What a promise. I am at a loss for words. I will always come back to Hosea to be reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness. As if it isn’t already evident in His actions, He proves it to us with His words. He comforts us and covers us in His promises. How beautiful is that? Our Father is so faithful. He is so gentle with me in the way He speaks, and I love Him for that.

 

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P.S. Here’s a playlist of all the songs that are currently a) stuck in my head, or b) rocking my world.

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He picks me up and calls me qualified.

Things I’ve learned just this week (and it’s only Wednesday morning):

  1. topknots are not overrated
  2. if you haven’t eaten gluten for an extended period of time and just one day decide to go for it, don’t do it. Your body will probably hate you. No, it will definitely hate you.
  3. sometimes you realize how much you need to hear God’s voice. and sometimes you understand how much you needed encouragement when you give it to someone else, read your own words, and think, “Dang, I actually think I needed that more than she did, which is awesome. Thanks, Jesus!

Girl, I have totally been there & I understand what it’s like to not feel like yourself or feel connected to God, but I challenge you to let that fuel you to lean into Him even more. Talk to Him. Our God is one who listens and relates and He is constant when our circumstances are not. Lean. Into. Him. And He will answer in His timing. Just talk to Him. Write to Him. Listen to Him and read His Words. He is a good good Father who will never let us fall too far from His loving embrace. That’s the good news.

And you know what? I feel totally unqualified to challenge her to do that. That was more of a challenge to myself, a voice somewhere way way way deep inside that says, “Jenna, I challenge you.

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He picks me up and calls me qualified.

Early Monday morning, I was sitting at my computer thinking, “You know, I love photography. I love it so much and because of that, I don’t want the added pressure, so I don’t think I’ll continue to move forward with the business side of things.” And I have no idea what God is working me into right now, but Monday afternoon, I received an email asking about doing a family photo shoot (which would be my first). I talked to a couple friends about those unqualified thoughts that morning and this new opportunity, and I was finally like, “I’m doing this. Here we go. Taking it.”

Not only that though, I woke up Tuesday morning to a message from an awesome family friend asking me to shoot her wedding. WHAT!? Yes, confirming that she did want me to shoot her wedding, even after I told her that I had little experience with that. Obviously God’s doing something, but He is so good and I will continue to follow where He’s leading. That led to more confiding in dear photog friends which then led to me shadowing 2 weddings this fall to prepare for April. I’m not sure how many times I can repeat how faithful He is or how He’s moving in my life. He is active. I’ve got all of these potential things coming down the pipe and I’m just like, “Wow, God, You are so good.

“He’s not overwhelmed by your questions, He feels loved that you want to know what’s true.” – Steffany Gretzinger

He’s doing some big things and I’m grateful I get to be a part of them.

“The same person who wrote the story of the Bible is writing your story.” WHAT!? Yes. We are having our very story traced and written by the Author of our salvation. That’s crazy to me, that we’re worthy enough to hear the voice of God and have Him hear us in the process. And not only does He hear us, but He listens and takes His desires for our life to shape our own desires for our lives, when we ask Him. How cool is it that God is so sweet in the process of us getting to know Him? Come to me. Love me. Lean into me.

He’s such an awesome Dad. Seriously, think about it: He just wants us to come and sit with Him sometimes. That’s not all He calls us to do, but when we live in relationship with Him, sometimes we just have to sit and recognize how sweet He is to us. He wants open communication. Not just grocery-list prayers where we ask Him for things and He gives them to us. That’s not how it works at all. He wants to provide for us because He cares for us, in the most tender form of that phrase. He wants to hold onto us and help us throw off what hinders to run directly toward Him. He split the sea so we could walk right through it. He drowned our fears in perfect love. He tore the veil for us to come close. And He did all of this, not just so we could tear up when we declare, “I am a child of God,” but He did it because He loves us.

He’s got me on my knees, thanking Him for His faithfulness and His sweetness in His provision. I feel like this will be a season of sweetness and “WHAT!?”s, and that’s pretty freaking awesome. He is so cool. I love Him. I wish there were more intricate ways of saying that, but seriously, the simplest ways are sometimes the best. He is good, and I love Him.

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P.S. This version of “Good, Good Father” is so dang good, so you should give it a listen. Kalley Heiligenthal is so cool.

 

I’m feeling like a gardener with all this uprooting going on.

Wow, it has been a minute since I actually sat down and typed out a blog post all in almost one sitting (coffee included). The past 9 days (from Saturday 7/25-Sunday 8/2)  totally blew my mind/rocked my world/all the good modifiers. I went into this discipleship program, LifeCast, thinking I would learn how to facilitate a small group and get some awesome new curriculum, but as always, God was like, “Yeah, no. I’m going to mess you up in the best way possible.” I’ve had a little bit of time to process last week and my mind’s just exploding with all of the goodness God had in His plans for me to receive. It was honestly a culmination of a ton of little moments that He had me present & taking advantage of, which rarely happens, so here we go:

An understanding of a new nature. A new favorite (fight) song. Way too much coffee. Lots of teaching. Even more learning about who Christ calls me, which was weird and awesome and new for some reason. Awesome heart-to-hearts. INCRED people. Lovely sleepovers & way too many tender moments to count. Literally pulling up lies and walking straight through them to the other side of truth (hardest part). And the funniest part: whenever they told us we’d be uprooting lies and walking through them, I thought, “Nope, not me. I already played that game and lost at the beginning of this year. I’ll let other people do that and reap the benefits by seeing how sweet it is, but I don’t really feel like being a mess this week.” Funny thing: it happened anyways. God always does what you think He either 1) won’t do, or 2) cannot do because of your own willpower and stubbornness.

And all of those things I didn’t say, wrecking balls inside my brain. I will scream them loud tonight. Can you hear my voice this time? This is my fight song, take-back-my-life song, prove-I’m-alright song. My power’s turned on. Starting right now, I’ll be strong. I’ll play my fight song. And I don’t really care if nobody else believes ’cause I still got a lot of fight left in me.

A tiny bit cheesy but still so good and so catchy.

I was told this week that it was normal to be questioning every relationship in my life after learning something so radical about who I am. I didn’t like that, but I learned to receive it. I walked through every past relationship, walked through frequent thoughts that were basically like a cancer just sitting there and growing without my knowledge, and I walked through what it meant to truly be living out of the new nature Christ has gifted me with.

The very first night of this trip, we had a blindfolded dinner. I kid you not, it is exactly what it sounds like. We all sat down, without food, and had to tie our wrists to the people next to us, then 2 people were blindfolded and 2 people weren’t allowed to use their hands. God knew me and knew I legitimately hate to trust because of how uncomfortable it can be, especially when I’ve recently met the people to my left and right. Therefore, I was blindfolded and had to be guided around to actually get my dinner (I didn’t actually know what the kitchen looked like until the end of the night), still with these other 2 people attached to me and having to do things for me because I had no idea where I was, what people were laughing at, what was going on my NACHOS (yes, the most difficult food to eat in these circumstances), and what was going on in general. We all got our food and sat back down, and “like life always does” the circumstances changed and my blindfold went to the person to my right. Sweet relief. But also a crushing realization of how much I hate trust. It was a pride and trust and vulnerability issue all wrapped into one. God crushed me with this early in the week for obvious reasons, I think. It opened me up to being my vulnerable for the remainder of the week and some of these awesome conversations wouldn’t have happened if this whole blindfolded dinner shenanigans wouldn’t have happened, so that was pretty incredible.

There were also a lot of prayers for patience this week, patience with myself and for the people and circumstances around me. Prayers of “Jesus, please let me stop waiting for this person to mess up just so I can call them out” or “Let me be more patient with myself and the healing process in You” and “Let me run toward you without hindrance.” Basically, asking Him to call out anything in me that offends Him or to humble me in the process. That was more a pleading than a prayer. There were a lot of times this week where I could just tell the enemy was trying to work his way into some really awesome and beautiful things that were happening. And I found myself walking to a campfire worship set in the middle of the week with the words “Throw off what hinders,” running through my brain, over and over again.

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He satisfies. He fulfills. And He is so sweet to us in the process. I was reminded of this sweetness on the last couple mornings of this trip (mornings are my absolute favorite still). On Saturday morning, we were thrown a little curveball and didn’t have any high school girls for the lesson we were teaching in the morning. This lesson was my absolute favorite to teach (our new identity in Christ, I mean, come on). However, we had this awesome girl who works at the church we were volunteering at and we basically had the most tender girls’ morning I’ve ever had. Heart-to-hearts, Les Mis references, and conversations about our new identity in Jesus, all wrapped up in some little white-boarded diagrams and bunches of blankets and cups of coffee.

The next morning, we had all slept over in her apartment above the youth part of the church, our teaching for the weekend was over, and all of us girls were getting ready to go to church together. I woke up around 7:15, and the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the sunrise, and I was just like, “Man, Jesus, You are so sweet.” And then we all had coffee together and ate fruit salad from pretty bowls and listened to music and got ready together and it was just another tender morning to put in the books. If I could have that as the atmosphere for my everyday morning, I would be extremely joyful.

I think that was one of my biggest takeaways from this week: when I became a Christian 2 years ago, I began the long journey of trying to figure God out and that’s really what I had convinced myself was the thing most worth looking for. Not who I was, but who God was. And this weekend, I finally came to the realization that it is more than okay to just sit with Him and recognize His sweetness. That’s all. To be present with Him is actually THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I think I’ve ever felt. I always thought I had to be alone to do this, but this weekend, in a group of these awesome women, I was just like, “Wow. Jesus, You are so incredible and sweet and loving and take into consideration all the ways I feel loved and I love that about You.” It was just like a light bulb when on, and I could finally feel my Father say, “She gets it.” And I do, at least another part of Him. I understand His sweetness and how we’ve done literally nothing to deserve these tender moments, but He freely gives them because He’s like, “Look at how sweet I am. Look at what I can do for you. You like to communicate through feelings? Here they are. Here I am.

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I feel like I’m entering a season of being able to actually recognize His sweetness. This past week, there was a lot of curriculum and diagrams and small talk and heart-to-hearts and spiritual practices and laughing and crying and all of the feelings in between, and I think it’s easy to get lost in that if you want to. All I could think about though was how sweet He is. I mean, how sweet is He to bring me this little army of incredible people for 9 days (and for many days after)? How sweet is He to help me and be very obvious to me? How sweet is He to ALLOW me to walk through these lies and teach me what it means to choose between 16-year-old-Jenna thought life and now-Jenna-empowered-through-Jesus thought life? You don’t even know how easy it would’ve been for me to sink back into “I’m inadequate and these are all the unhealthy ways I receive attention and God created me to be used and I’m okay with that.” However, this week I started the break-up of “serving” and “being used.” And a beautiful break-up it was. I could never tell these two apart, and I thought they were one in the same. It wasn’t until I was sitting in a little church office, having a heart-to-heart with one of our leaders and she told me, “You are all the things that God is and He isn’t something that we just use,” that the two finally separated. It sort of felt like a part of my heart was tearing off because of how deeply rooted that lie has planted itself, and I know it’s something I’ll have to continue to dig up, but it’s a start. God is in the business of breaking apart so that He can renew us and reform us and put us back together in His image, and that is so beautiful to me.

Throughout the week, we spent time in Romans 6-8 (a HUGE chunk of so much goodness), and our entire group realized that each time we were reading this, we were taking not just little bits of different things, but HUGE earth-shattering truths that were different each time, and that was so awesome. I think it just goes to show how active and moving the Holy Spirit is. One part that I kept coming back to, which I largely overlooked every time I’ve read Romans 7 up until this point, was Romans 7:2-3:

For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Seems easy to just breeze on by, right? Well, when we looked at it in relation to sin nature, which is what the passage is actually about, being released from the law and not being bound by our sin any longer. Basically it’s saying that Sin Nature is the name of husband #1, and the name of husband #2 is New Nature. If the first husband dies and the woman gets remarried, wouldn’t she always be referred to by her new husband? How weird would it be if your husband passed away, you got remarried, and people still called you by your old husband’s last name? Pretty crazy and strange, honestly. And we do that though. We still live as though we’re married to that old Sin Nature instead of living like we’re betrothed to New Nature.

16 “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

It kind of blew my mind when I realized that this is the way we operate every single day.

And one of the most incredible parts of this week is something I don’t think I’ll be able to adequately put into words, but here we go. This past week was the first time I have ever experienced foot washing. This was probably the most powerful thing I’ve ever experienced, next to my baptism. We were sitting at dinner in this really beautiful church with our little group, and while one of our leaders was speaking, I glanced over at her commissioning night sheet, and all that caught my eye was, How beautiful are the feet of those who spread the good news. And it hit me that that’s what was about to happen and I legitimately almost started crying over my tiramisu (I’m already a super emotional person anyways). And then our leaders proceeded to wash all of our feet and pray over us. I don’t think I have ever felt that oneness of the Body of Christ before or even understood it in the least, and that night was a catalyst for what I know He will continue to work in my life and, hopefully, in the life of the church I work for.

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And this mug was adorable. I mean, just look at it.

And now I’m preparing to take on my sophomore year of college (what the crap), and I’m so excited to see what God does this year. I can feel something stirring, and I’m so excited to see what it is. I’m excited for things to pick back up again and be busy and crazy and just soak in the awesomeness. However, I have to keep reminding myself not to forget what God has taught me this summer because I think that’s really easy to do. I think it’s easy to be like, “God, You’re awesome and I had a great time with you, but now my life’s going to pick up and we might not talk for a while.

I have this thing where I try to label or predict or place a box around what season I’m entering into or recognizing I’m in. And I can honestly say, I couldn’t have predicted this one. I couldn’t have predicted that I’d be running full-force into a season of just sitting in God’s presence and wanting to sit in His sweetness and see it in everything, among other things (like uprooting lies…just a little bit heavier). But here we are and here He is, beckoning me into His presence with His sweetness, and I can’t tell you how joyful that makes me.

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