Celebrate people + love earnestly.

I woke up very aware of the joy within me this morning. And almost immediately, I wasn’t sure why. But Jenna, there are so many indefinite things going on in your life right now. But Jenna, your mind is still so sinful and your thoughts tend to wander. But Jenna, you are prideful and hate asking for help. But Jenna, you’ve held back your ability to feel all of the emotions piling up inside you like the rushing water against a dam about to burst. But Jenna, you’re not allowed to feel that. 

And almost immediately, I was reminded of the freedom we are given in Christ. What a promise. And that means that these thoughts and voices have no hold on me. And even though I can’t describe to you exactly what that freedom feels like because, in all honesty, I haven’t fully felt it myself, I can tell you it’s a promise. And God’s Word will always hold fast and true and just. And especially in times like these, I am continually reminded that one day God is going to come and makes all of the sad things become untrue.

There’s beauty in the vulnerability and there’s freedom in being honest and voicing the lies that are being whispered to you; it makes them lose their power a little bit. I think for a little while there I thought the lies had finally shut up because they weren’t so obvious, they weren’t directly affecting my actions. But the harder lies are the ones that run rampant in your thought life and then manifest into your relationships and the way you navigate every single day, and that’s the best I know how to describe the way the lies work. Like the whispers I heard when I got up this morning. Brushing my teeth. But Jenna, there are so many indefinite things going on in your life right now. Putting my hair into braids. But Jenna, your mind is still so sinful and your thoughts tend to wander. Making my smoothie. But Jenna, you are prideful and hate asking for help. Walking to work. But Jenna, you’ve held back your ability to feel all of the emotions piling up inside you like the rushing water against a dam about to burst. Making the coffee. But Jenna, you’re not allowed to feel that. 

And then you get to pray a bold prayer, one that we don’t realize holds as much weight as it does: Jesus, change my heart. It seems so simple. 4 words. But when I think of the gravity of this statement, I’m literally asking Jesus to change my whole person to make me like Him. Heal my heart and make it clean. You are the Potter, I am the clay. Make me into who You want me to be. Keep me out of the woods. That’s brave. That’s the courage.

On Sunday night, I sat in House Church and listened to one of my bosses give a sermon that was basically everything I needed to be listening to (God’s funny that way). Erin spoke on James 1:2-4:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

She talked about how we’ve reduced this verse to our “grin-and-bear-it” response when we face trials and pain and suffering, when we should actually not downshift into pain management but let these sufferings transform us. It’s not saying to divorce your mind from the pain, as she put it, but to take these definitions we have and let them be redefined by Christ and actually learn from our sufferings, not just make it through. Life isn’t about pain management. Even if we don’t know what, we know that He is working.

Give me wisdom. Change my heart. Keep me out of the woods. 3 biggest prayer nowadays.

I would say, before this summer, I was one of those people that loved the idea of being in love with reading. I loved the old book smell, I loved the idea of curling up with a cup of tea and falling madly in love with the characters between pages, but I had never really done it. Until now.

Whenever I read a book that I fall in love with, I think everyone ought to read this book. When people suggest books, it’s like they know the magic contained in the pages of something genius, something that I haven’t tasted and seen yet. I imagine my loving God is quite a bit like this. If I hand you a book and tell you it will change your life because it has changed mine, you can believe me or you can move on or you can see for yourself. I finally started to pull books and see for myself, and that has made all the difference.

And it all started with the Chronicles of Narnia:

None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning–either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in it’s inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of Summer.”

Today feels worth celebrating. There is a sweetness and kindness in God that I have been able to recognize lately, and I don’t know if it’s because I’ve begun to draw near or if we can see Him in hard times. I’d guess a little bit of both. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you…Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I find myself holding onto these words that seem like small sentences I can whisper to myself and hold in my pocket, but they’re actually HUGE, WORLD-ROCKING THINGS. Our God is an all-consuming, eyes-like-fire, my-dreams-come-from-His-Heart kind of God. Though You ruin me, still I will praise You. You know. And I should find comfort in that. I’m on the edge of tears because of this pain and Your goodness. You are enough for me. My one desire is to know You and be with You. I’m thirsty, my soul can’t be quenched. Come and do whatever you want to. Let that be my loudest prayer.

“One day, we will dance with no restraint, and we will love with no fear. For when the King returns, it will be as though our pain was but a dream, and our hope is the only reality we know.”

One day, we’re going to dance with no restraint. LOVE WITH NO FEAR. What is that all about? There is freedom in simply knowing Him, and there is redemption in loving Him and learning to love like Him. I had it written at the top of my journal page yesterday: Jesus, how can I love better today?

So here are a few things I’ve learned in the past couple weeks:

  1. When you are grateful for people in your life, YOU TELL THEM. We are called to be good stewards to the gifts the Lord has given us, and I think telling people how much they mean to us is no exception. So don’t hold all that good stuff in. Say it, text it, email it. Take your pick, but tell them.
  2. People deserve to be celebrated. Dancing to Backstreet Boys, eating red velvet cake, and blowing bubbles to celebrate the marriage of two of the most joyful people I’ve ever met this past weekend was such a good reminder. So celebrate your people and let them know they are loved because sometimes we all need to be shown instead of told.
  3. Reading is still good for you.
  4. Cool it with the number of cups of coffee because it doesn’t help with the anxiety.
  5. Lean in when people call you by your nickname that they’ve specially designated for you. Listen to the “Little Bird“s. Trust them when they tell you that you will never walk alone. Cry the tears. Let them comfort you. Finish the box of tissues. Embrace the change.
  6. Love harder. Love earnestly. Learn how to love people well and do it.

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He is where my heart belongs.

I have learned more about God in the past few months than I ever imagined I would. You make my footsteps and my paths secure. 

It’s days when I have just come out of House Church and I’m sprinting and dancing and laughing in a summer rainstorm with a bunch of kids that I feel a closeness to God that I can’t describe, remember what a childlike heart looks like, and I am deeply aware of the Truth that one day He is going to come and make all the sad things become untrue.

It feels like a lot has gone wrong all at once or I have been super aware of my own distractions, and it reminded me of a quote from the Anne Lamott book I’m reading.  “When a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born–and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.” They’re also things I haven’t allowed to weigh me down, which is odd because generally I let the dark stuff consume me, but it wasn’t until I told my best friend yesterday, “God tells us what He has told us or shown us in the dark, He calls us to proclaim in the light,” that I truly held the weight of that statement in my own hands. So whether I feel like I’m being consumed by my own sin struggles or I’m frustrated by the confusion and chaos of circumstances way out of my control or I’m allowing myself to be thrown back and forth in the wake of other people’s choices, I know that I am under the sovereignty of a God who calls me His and will never let me run too far. And He knows, I’m a runner. His heart is steadfast and He has invited me to become like Him, which means I have been praying and praying and praying that He would make my heart steadfast and faithful to the end.


So in a way, none of these have been “bad” things, but rather they have been things that have drawn me closer to the heart of God, and for that I will praise Him.

He doesn’t say, “Be still and think about it. Maybe see how you feel after a little while.” No, He says, “Be still and KNOW that I am God.” And that is what I am learning. How to know God better by choosing a dependence on Him.

His goodness has come through in so many different ways lately. When Sarah came to lead worship at House Church this past weekend, we ended up hanging out beforehand and just having this awesome, solid conversation about Jesus and it was one of those where you could just feel each of us being pulled closer to Him with every single word. It ended when we parked outside my townhouse, turned on “We Dance,” and just sat and listened to the words. As many of you who regularly read this blog know, I am a crier. But in all honesty, I haven’t gotten emotional in quite a while. I sat in the car, feet on the dashboard and was so overwhelmed with the freedom and grace He offers us. And I will lock eyes with the One who’s ransomed me, the One who gave me joy for mourning. And I will lock eyes with the One who’s chosen me, the One who set my feet to dancing. Hot tears rolling down my cheeks. A deep, pit of burning desire to be with the One who has ransomed me, to taste and see His Kingdom here. It was so real. I never want to lose that feeling.

And I see His Kingdom in community. Dang, these people. I hardly have the words. I know I’ve talked about it before, but I will say that there is nothing like the closeness you feel to God when you have the people around you who rock your world and make breakfast for dinner and hold hands and bless the food and drink the coffee and hold each other up.

There is an entire new meaning to dependence on God. It’s clicked in a new way. There’s something very special about feeling wanted and I have always valued being wanted by other people, idolized it even. We all want to be wanted. And then I remembered, God always wants us. I know it may seem cliche and like something you would tweet or be told during a youth group sermon, but that doesn’t diminish the truth. We are desired by God. He delights in us. He wants us. We may not get those tangible reminders like having someone approach you to start a conversation or having someone reach over and hold your hand, but He relentlessly pursues us and we often overlook it. Nothing happens without Him. He keeps coming back with our permission or without it. One of my friends wrote in a post near the end of the school year, “You will walk back into the same dark nights of the soul where you’ve been before with those who don’t see that there is hope. But this time, you’ll walk through them with a lantern and a way through to the other side.” It’s like when we read different stories in the Bible and it is so evident where God is and how He is mapping this out for David or Paul and how could they not have faith in Him because look how it turns out, but they don’t see the end result when they’re in it. I have to keep reminding myself of that. Noah didn’t know how his story would play out. Paul didn’t know how his story would play out. David didn’t know how his story would play out. Where would the faith be in that?

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So I’ve gone back and I’ve remembered these huge parts in my life where God showed. up. I wouldn’t have considered myself a believer until my senior year of high school, and that doesn’t mean that everything before that point was just a blank space, but it meant that now I have the opportunity to look back and see what God was doing even when I denied His existence or ignored it. There is power in remembering our stories, and there’s even more power in telling them. I sat at Swift with Katie yesterday, who has been walking me through creating my life purpose statement, and in order to do that I look back at huge moments in my life where God’s presence is undeniable and thread them together to get a better picture of how He has knit my heart and hold a better understanding of what exactly He has created me for. It takes a lot of mind power and a lot of sorting through things and a lot of emotional draining and filling back up and a lot of remembering. I remember sitting there last night telling her about my walk with Christ and talking about some circumstances that God used to slowly show me who He was but I couldn’t remember any one pivotal moment where I was like, “Yes. This is it. My heart is for You. No turning back. I want to chase after You with everything in me, worldly pleasures all forsaken. I just want You.” And as soon as I told her I didn’t know that moment and that it was a steady acclimation of my heart and God reassuring me of who He is, I remembered. It all came back so dang fast, and I don’t think I’ve ever remembered anything quite like that. I wasn’t really in the Word my junior year of high school, to put it lightly, and I had probably opened the Bible a few times within a 4 month span after some things happened that will be embedded in my heart and mind for a very long time. I was sitting at a Starbucks about 45 minutes from my house, end of a long table, reading DBQs and IDs for AP US History (let the records show, I do not miss this. Not one bit). So I’m studying and there’s a guy at the end of the long table on his laptop and he has this Passion City sticker on his laptop. I recognized it because I had gone to that church a few times prior to this moment in a random Starbucks. My best friend took me a handful of Sundays during my sophomore/junior year and I remember being like, “Dang, there’s something more, but I don’t really have the desire to seek it out right now so I just won’t,” and then I took a different path. Long story short, I recognized the sticker. Then his friend came in, and me, being a typical teenage girl, was like man, that is a really attractive guy. And then I just kept working on my homework, and he came and sat down next to me and it was like I had entered this Twilight Zone. And get this, he didn’t even say, “Hi.” He sat down, looked at me, and said, “Do you know Jesus?” I kid you not. I will never forget those words. Do. You. Know. Jesus. Who was this guy? Well, he ended up being a guy that shared his story of redemption with me, and I ended up telling him about the choices I had made that turned my world upside down. I didn’t know this guy. At all. Why was I compelled to tell him about my life? Absolutely no idea. And I remember him saying things about freedom from guilt and forgiveness and life in Jesus, but not the exact words. What I distinctly remember were the words: Do. You. Know. Jesus.

And his friends showed up, one of which I continued to have conversations with even after this encounter, and they wanted to pray over me. That’s when I got awkward. But they did it anyways. Middle of this Starbucks and I had these people I didn’t even know praying bold prayers over me, for healing and forgiveness and freedom. And that was the moment I knew. Life is not going to be the same anymore. This is it.

And ever since then, it has been a journey of learning to be more like Him. Now, I’m in a season where seeing Him looks like coming through the wringer of intense change and into a place where I can know Him more deeply than I ever have before. There are traits about Him that I desire to embody, and this is where I make the conscious effort to embody these traits because He is so good and kind in the way He allows us to see Him. So right now, it’s super evident in everything around me. I’m very aware of the work He is doing, and that is such a gift. I know every season won’t be like this so I am cherishing these days where I get to wake up and desire Him more and learn from Him and know Him.

Kindness.
Boldness.
Goodness.
Graciousness.
Loving.
Steadfastness.

Thank You. I will praise You as long as there is breath in my lungs. I will be secure in You. Thank You, Jesus, for Your kindness.
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Dancing for two decades.

I woke up on my twentieth birthday with Scripture about joyful noise racing through my mind. I have heard Jesus a LOT lately. Every morning, it’s been different thoughts I find Him in, and that’s just the most beautiful thing. A few days ago, it was conviction about what my faith was in. Was it in Jesus or was it in financial aid or anxieties or people? Then, the next day I woke up and felt covered in “delighted in.” There was reassurance all day long. My daughter, I delight in you. I love you. You are delighted in. And let me tell you, I don’t feel that often, so I clung to it. THOSE are words that will rock you to your core. And then I woke up that Monday morning, and I wanted to make a joyful noise and sing to my God because He has been so faithful. Faithful in tangible ways because He knows. He knows that sometimes things go completely over my head, so now He puts them right in my face and says, “Look at what I have done for you.”

That day, I woke up and wanted to dance and sing and felt completely and utterly joyful. I felt like a kid dancing around after discovering a tutu for the first time. And this was all before coffee, people!!! Talk about God’s faithfulness in the small things, am I right? It wasn’t even 10 AM and I felt so freaking celebrated and cherished. My people. God, thank You for the people You have strategically placed in my corner.

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. // Psalm 92:4

I will sing to the Lordbecause he has dealt bountifully with me. // Psalm 13:6

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! // Psalm 100:1-2

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! // Psalm 98:4

Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. // Ephesians 5:18-21

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Now You’re making me like You, clothing me in white, bringing beauty from ashes for You will have Your bride. Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame and known by her true name, and it’s why I sing. Your praise will ever be on my lips.” // “Ever Be” by Bethel Music

I have so many things to say today. Grab your afternoon coffee, settle into a comfy place, and listen to this song to start this all off because it’s beautiful and inspiring and all of the good things you ought to feel and truth you ought to know on this Thursday that feels oddly like a Monday. My eyelids are heavy, and I was on my second cup of coffee at 8AM. It’s all good.

I sat in my bed and sipped my coffee and watched inspirational videos for the morning of my birthday and painted my nails a bright red color and I loved every minute of it. My best friend drove into town and knows how to celebrate people so well. It’s crazy. And we cooked and ate and celebrated and jumped in a fountain that was deeper than expected and I couldn’t have imagined a better way to ring in two decades on this beautiful earth. God is so cool in the way He plans things for us, paying attention to the intricate details of our lives. It’s beautiful, really. Sit and think about it for more than a minute and it will blow your mind. I promise.

Dang, where do I even start? I’ve been MIA for almost a month now, so hello, I am back. The last month has been a whirlwind. When I say this is the closest I’ve felt to God probably ever, that is no coincidence. This past month has been the most beautiful, terrible, gut-wrenching, real, surreal month. It has been filled to the brim, if not overflowing, with experiences, beautiful feelings, summer nights, traveling, angry thoughts, chaos, dancing, and nights I’ve felt the bravest I’ve ever felt in my life. I went to New York City for 4 days and it was like living and walking inside my own dream but for real for 4 days. And I’d had all these encounters with God leading up to this trip, and I spent time talking with Him, asking Him to please show Himself to me in this city, not forgetting everything He’d said to me before this overwhelming concrete jungle took over my mind. And He was faithful (in my mind in these moments, of course He’s always faithful). I distinctly remember standing up at the top of Rockefeller Center, looking out over this city, and feeling so much smaller and more insignificant in the grand scheme of His plans than I had felt in a very long time, and that was exactly what I needed. Remember how small you are, and remember how big I am.

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And then there are these people He has strategically placed around me. Just mentioning it makes me astounded at what a detail-oriented, sea-splitting God we serve. These people know my heart and soul, like they get it deeply. When I talk about wanting to be brave and honest, they get it and encourage me because those are good things to be. When I talk about being genuinely scared, not just anxious and stressed but downright scared, I have people who completely get it because they’ve walked through that Red Sea with God’s provision and a little extra courage and a hand to hold. When I need to be cared for, these. people. get. it. They might not completely identify with the sting of bad news or fresh heartbreak or my flavor of pain and confusion, but they love so earnestly. Those are the people in my corner. Whether I’m blowing out striped birthday candles and celebrating my butt off or needing to cry for a couple hours because it feels like the walls are closing in, they are quick to just be here, and not only that, but they are quick to remind me of Whose I am, and that is the best way to love.

I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages.” // Charles Spurgeon

I have read this quote before, but I read it again a few days ago and have clung to it because that’s something I want to learn how to do. I’m beginning to be less resistant to change (BABY STEPS). It’s still difficult and I still put up a fight, but God has been kind and faithful in teaching me to relinquish control and allow Him to work in change without kicking and screaming (as loudly). If you’ve read the blog before, you’ve probably read something about being completely known and still loved. I think God has been able to use that for me to lean into lately.

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I’ve been reading a lot and writing a lot and listening to a lot of music lately. I’m close to the end of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies and there is so much goodness in this book. God has spoken to me a lot by using this book to teach me about grace and what that looks like to be gracious to myself and not just to other people, because I think that’s really easy to forget. It was cool, I actually got to a chapter on forgiveness the night I needed it the most. It was the night before I left for New York City and there were some pretty messy circumstances that threw me off, so I sat and soaked it in. All of it.  “And it doesn’t even say, ‘Just try.’ It says, If you want to be forgiven, if you want to experience that kind of love, you have to forgive everyone in your life- everyone, even the very worst boyfriend you ever had – even, for God’s sake, yourself.” I read those words, and thought, God, You really are in this room. He felt the hurt. He saw the confusion. He has been with me everywhere I have gone, and these very raw moments were no exception. I didn’t cry. I didn’t scream. I didn’t even get angry at first. I just sat. And I absorbed. And I said, “God, what the hell are You going to do with this?” And the minute I thought the words, He settled my soul and it was already well. The comfort I got came when I had read more of Anne Lamott’s words, woke up at 3AM to drive to the airport and go on a (now even more) much needed vacation, and I realized: I was still me and he was still engaged. I was still a whole person. I was still completely known and still loved. And although I was still confused and hurt and feeling a lot of feelings, I won’t diminish that fact, I also knew that I was never supposed to end up with this person, but I knew who I was and I knew Whose I was, and no piece of my identity was tainted in someone else’s path of choices. And that was when I began to see, I am becoming less resistant to change. And I’ll say, my reactions were purely from Jesus. There is no way in the world that I would have reacted as gracefully if it had been up to me. But it was up to God, and He said no: we’re going to learn about change and grace and you’re going to live it. Get ready. Because it’s happening.

I sat on the plane at 8AM, way up in the clouds somewhere, and every fiber of my being wanted forgiveness. In full. I wanted to forgive him. And now God’s got me alone, and He’s slowly teaching me what that looks like.

But the way I see things, God loves you the same whether you’re being elegant or not. It feels much better when you are, but even when you can’t fake it, God still listens to your prayers.” // Anne Lamott

So I have woken up every morning since then, adventured in my favorite city, sipped from more cups of coffee than I can count, grew closer with some really solid friends, cooked a lot of meals together, ate some kick-ass birthday cake, and felt delighted in through the entire process, even in the valleys. There’s courage in walking through the chaos and joy and mess and sorrow and dancing in order to get to the refined person God has equipped you to be for the next season. And I know that’s happening now. Sometimes it seems like we’re just floating along from one season to the next, but when you stop and think about it, there is so much detail and precision that God has put into YOUR life. Each and every single person’s life. That is crazy to think about. Every dent, every thought, every stupid decision, every feeling, every footstep, God has mapped out before You and knows exactly how it will pan out. Slowly, but surely, God is reassuring me of His kindness and steadfastness and grace, and right now He is being loud with it. And I’m diggin it. I wish I could sum up in only a few words what this past month has looked like, but it’s honestly just so good. Outside looking in, circumstances don’t look 100% because there’s a lot of change and mess, but God has been so sweet and kind and just this constant voice above everything else, and that’s more than I could ever ask for.

Yeah, You lift me when I’m sinking, like the swell of mighty oceans. The power of redemption, yeah, it gives me wings to soar.

So today, I feel inspired (with the help of the extra coffee and some of dear friend’s old spoken word videos). I feel encouraged. And I’m beginning to feel more known, not only by the people around me who invest in me, but also by a Heavenly Father who never stops seeking me out and relentlessly pursuing me. And it’s the most beautiful thing. I love this life.

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