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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