Friday, October 21, 2016

Standing in the Face of the Enemy

Our nation is at a crossroads. We have enemies from outside our borders that want to defeat us. They have been gathering their weapons and battle plans, waiting for the perfect moment of weakness to attack. We have enemies from within that want to erode our foundations. Our economy is stumbling. Our military is underfunded. Our families are breaking up. Our churches are asleep in blindness.

We have options. Some are better than others.

  • We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend everything is ok.
  • We can fight external enemies with bigger weapon and better strategies.
  • We can fight internal corruption through the legal and political system.
  • We can fall on our knees before God and beg for His salvation.

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, found himself in a similar situation. Several nations formed an alliance for the purpose of destroying Judah. The king was afraid. He recognized that the problem was bigger than his military's resources. He could have formed more alliances of his own. He could have run away. Instead, he fell on his face before God.

With fear in his heart, Jehoshaphat gathered Judah together to fast and seek God. He led them in a prayer of praise and petition. He praised God for His past deliverance, for His might, for His control of the nations. The king reminded God of His promises. Then he simply acknowledged their helplessness and asked God for help.

God spoke to them through a single prophet. His instructions were:

  • Do not be afraid.
  • Go down to meet the invaders.
  • Stand firm.
  • Hold your position.
  • See God's salvation.
  • Do not be afraid. (Yes, He said this twice!)

At this reply, all of Judah bowed before God in worship to praise Him for His steadfast love. Then the army did as God instructed. The Lord Himself ambushed the invaders and utterly destroyed them. It took three days for Judah's army to carry off all the spoils of battle.

What can we, as American Christians, learn from this ancient story? We might not be able to see the dust of the enemy's army in the distance, but they are there just the same.

1. We must gather with fellow Christians to seek God.

In this election, we do not need more political opinions. We need more Christians to seek God with everything we have.

"Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD." --2 Chronicles 20:3-4 ESV

2. We must praise God.

When we focus on God Almighty, we remind ourselves that He is infinitely bigger than our problems. We sometimes forget that we pray to the Creator of the universe. Praising God ushers us into His presence.
"O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in Heaven?
You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations.
In your hand are power and might,
     So that none is able to withstand you." --2 Chronicles 20:6 ESV

3. We must claim God's promises.

Search for His promises. Pray them back to God.

"Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;I will protect him, because he knows my name.When he calls to me, I will answer him;I will be with him in trouble;I will rescue him and honor him." --Psalm 91:14-15 ESV

4. We must ask for help.

Ask God to perform His perfect will for our nation. Ask Him to strengthen and grow His church. Ask Him to give us boldness to proclaim His Word. Ask in FAITH.

Jesus told his disciples: 

"Whatever you ask in my name, this will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it." --John 14:14 ESV

5. We must obey His answer.

Just like God gave instructions to Judah after their prayer, expect Him to give instructions to us. He might tell you who to vote for. He may tell you to let go of your fear. He might tell you to begin fasting and praying. He may tell you to run for office. He might tell you to serve the poor. Listen expectantly. Seek answers in His Word. Then obey.

6. We must stand.

God never told the army of Judah to fight. He told them to stand. I wonder if Paul was thinking of these soldiers when he wrote Ephesians 6...
"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm." --Ephesians 6:13 ESV

So don't let current events pull you into a whirlpool of fear and emotionalism. 
Seek God. Pray. Obey. Stand. 

Will you join me?


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Work to Enter Rest

The challenge of having a correct perspective has been incredibly difficult for many different reasons and by far the hardest path I've had to travel is the path of that I never traveled down.

Do you know by looking at me that many days it is such an effort to look you in the eye and smile? The far majority of the people in my life daily and weekly would say no. Sometimes making the incredible effort for most of my interactions to act as if that there is nothing of consequence going on in my life is so outrageously draining that I have spent all of what little energy I do have on looking normal to people who don't even know me. What a strange predicament-what an odd idea to want to appear to have it all together-what an utter fail to attain that lofty goal of "perfectly normal".

Being a single mom I also feel that I have to do this to a large degree with my daughter. Many things I think about and struggle with are not things I would ever choose to burden her with anyway so it's honestly not that hard to keep that continual struggling part of me away from her. There is so much going on in the life of my teenager on a daily basis that the bulk of our conversations revolve around school; her friends, her subjects at school, the extracurricular activities she is in and the schedule for the next couple of days. Thankfully the business of her life in general gives us much to do and many opportunities to have "teaching moments" throughout our time together.

With my mornings starting at 4 and my evenings ending around the time when my daughter goes to bed I usually end up with about 4 to 5 hours of sleep. I find that there is so much busyness, distraction and energy exerted to staying upbeat in my life that the desire for rest is becoming more and more appealing to me.

So it struck me as incredibly ironic that one of the daily devotions that I read popped up with the heading "Your ‘Work' Is To Enter His Rest"

Hebrews 4:10-11a "for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…"

It spoke to me as I read that as a baby learns to sit before they stand or walk. There is a very real time of resting and knowing they are secure as they sit up tall in the presence of their parents. Eventually, the child will walk and run-though first is the resting and being a baby…being taken care of, loved on, fed and nurtured.

Today I feel drained, I feel tired and I feel spent. It's been a long time since I've felt reprieve -instead my priority has become surviving the day-I've forgotten what it means to rest. I find myself continually stuck in the thought that I didn't do enough-not enough laundry, cleaning, cooking of course…though also on a deeper level-relationally, mentally, emotionally and spiritually…

I look over my day and see work and struggle and striving…effort in all things that I can do.

God help me, I need to know what it looks like to rest. Help me daily to trust only you with my day and believe your grace for me will be enough. God give me the courage to take the steps forward when your Spirit prompts me and to know that you've got me when I feel like I'm flailing. Help me in those daunting moments to remember to rest in you, Father God. To rest in my heart, in my head and in my spirit-and just cling to you as a child clings to their mother. God help me to find rest in you first and may the overflow of my rest in you be an outpouring of blessing to those around me.

Joyfully His,

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Unto You

For me, October is a month FULL of birthdays. Both of my siblings have birthdays in October, and so do some of my aunts and uncles. I have a niece with a birthday in October, a co-worker with a birthday in October, and many dear friends with birthdays in October as well. I have friends who have babies with birthdays in October, and even my newest baby girl will turn one year old this October. October is full of birthdays, and birthdays mean life to me. I love birthdays most of the time! I mean seriously...there's cake and ice cream, what's not to love?!

My daughter's birthdays are always bittersweet for me. I am SO thankful that God has given me these children, but their birthdays are a reminder of how fast the years have gone. I look at my girls in awe of who they are, and with a little lump in my throat at the thought of how fast their lives have gone by.

It's true what they say, the days are long, but the years are short.

I can hardly believe that my youngest baby turns one soon. At times it still feels like she was nothing more than a desperate prayer on my lips, and the hope of a child deep down in my soul. Now we will celebrate her birthday and what this first year of her life has meant to her dad and I.  We eagerly await Gods plan for her life to unfold right before our very eyes. 

This season of birthdays has had varied responses from those who will be celebrated this month. Some folks rejoicing over another year gone by, and some are mourning the number of their age. They feel as though they are beyond their prime, and as they grow older, their value in this life is behind them.

That just makes me so sad! I can't help but wonder where they are looking to measure their value? Is our value found in the number of our years? Are we worthless once we reach a certain age? Too old, to aged, to worn out or unattractive to be of any good, or any use to anyone? 

Surely I don't think so. 

I found myself praying for the birthday folks the other day, particularly the ones who were having a hard time with the idea of growing older, and as I spent time in prayer, a scripture came to my heart. 

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Matthew 6:33 KJV

I had a little light bulb moment with that scripture. 

What if we saw our years on this earth as something more than just numbers? What if we saw our years as moments that are full of things that God has added unto our lives? 

Our first year of life God added breath into our bodies, and a purpose into our souls. He added teeth, gave some of us hair, and even allowed some of us to walk. He might have added words to our vocabulary, truly He added all sorts of things in just one little year of life. 

As years went on, maybe He added unto us, siblings and friends.  Maybe He gave us school teachers, neighbors,or pastors who have made a life long impact on our lives.  As we navigated through our childhoods maybe God added unto us cousins or mentors.  Maybe some of us were adopted into forever families and He added unto us parents who have loved us unconditionally.  Maybe in those younger years, He added unto some of us the ability to read and write (which may have turned into a love of books or blogging...) He added unto some of us the ability to play instruments, or sports well.  Maybe He added unto you the ability to paint or draw.  He gave each of us specific gifts, yes those were things He added unto us as well. 

Maybe one year God added unto you a pet that has been the best (or worst) companion you have ever had, and maybe that pet taught you a different depth of love, compassion, or patience you wouldn't have otherwise known without them. 

Maybe another year of your life God added unto you a spouse and/or children. 

Sure there have probably been years that felt like trials, or years that were full of heartache too, but you know, He added unto you in those years as well.  Maybe He added trust, by showing you who He is, in those most difficult times.  Maybe He showed you peace, that only comes from Him.  Maybe He showed you joy in the midst of despair and that joy is the type of joy  that surpasses all aspects of human understanding. Sometimes I think He adds unto us the most, in what feels like the darkest hours. 

What has God added unto you over the years? Has it been merely the numbers of your age, or has He been more generous than that? Surely He gives us more than just another number in our age, each year for our birthdays. 

It is my prayer that you will look at your birthday, whether it's in October or any other time of the year, as an opportunity to celebrate all that God has added unto you. Your age doesn't define your worth in this world anyway.  It doesn't matter if you are 22, or 92 God thinks you are amazing and He has incredible things in store for you. 

My precious friend you're not just another year older, you are on schedule for another year of more blessings to be added unto you.  Just you wait and see.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.”
Psalms 139:14-18 NKJV

And a very special Happy Birthday to you, Yaya! I love you clear to the moon! 

In His Love,

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Do We Fear the Opposition?

Have you ever felt like something was out to get you?

Like you were opposed in everything you do?

That's because we are at war.

Many women cringe at the idea that there is a spiritual battle raging around us. We don't like conflict and confrontation. We don't want any part of war. But it's there, nonetheless.

We can pretend it doesn't exist and go on with our life in hopes that it won't reach our doorstep. But that's not realistic - we are under attack and we need to stand strong to fight it.

Before we take action, we must identify what's really going on. 

As Christians, we are opposed by 3 forces. 

1) The Devil. The Bible is clear that Satan is real. Some Christians claim that he is not active on the earth, but Scripture says he has taken up residence for a while, and he has a certain amount of influence while he's here (1 Pet 5:8). But we have the power to resist him and overcome (1 John 2:14, James 4:7). He is a crafty schemer.  He is a deceiver, the father of lies. He can disguise himself as something good. (John 8:44, 1 Cor 11:14)
And he's out to destroy anything and everything that could potentially honor God. 

2) The World. When God created the universe, He said it as good. But it didn't take man long to mess that up. Because we live in a fallen world where sin reigns, things don't work smoothly like God intended. There are consequences for sin, and we all are affected by the influence and choices of others; neighbors, coworkers, music, Hollywood. The Bible tells us not to love anything about the world, but to be different because God has chosen us to be set apart (1 John 2:15, John 15:19).
Our society today is set against the principles in God's word and integrity is in short supply. 

3) Our Old Nature. When we're born, we don't automatically become good. Our first thoughts are of our own needs and our own comfort. That is a tendency we learn to control as we grow. It looks out for Number One in multiple ways, and that's why the Bible says to deny ourselves and our desires (1 Cor 15:31, Matt 16:24). Because life is not about me - it's about Him.  
Our flesh, or sinful nature, constantly wants to have its way, no matter the consequence.

Sometimes life is hard. We have a lot things coming against us. But God is clear that we don't have to worry because He is on our side. He's watching out for us. We may lose some battles, but we will win this war! We know the end of the story - we get to reign with Christ in Heaven for all eternity. 

Whom shall I fear? The God of Angel Armies, the Creator of the Universe, fights on my behalf! The things that oppose me only get me down if I let them!

And no matter what battles we face today, God has totally got this!

Blessings, Jen

Monday, October 17, 2016

Being Present

Have you ever been in a situation you are concerned about that causes you to start spinning the wheels of worry? That then takes you down paths of 'What If?' I have been there many times. I’ve discovered these paths usually lead to no where good; only add more Worry, Doubt, Fear and Anxiety. Worry creates a vicious cycle that takes away our ability to enjoy life's present moments.

Worry is our way to try to control the situation and to try to handle things on our own. Even though we know worry will never change our situation, we still do it. The only thing worry does is take away our joy and steal our ability to be present in the present.

Our situations will happen whether we worry about it or not. Worrying will never add a single hour to our life (Matthew 6:27), nor will it change our circumstances. There will always be something to worry about.

How we respond to our situations, will enable us to enjoy life's present moments.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34 

It is easier said then done to say 'Do not worry,' but It Is possible to learn how to be Present in the Present and not allow worry to steal your joy anymore. When worry starts seeping in remind yourself of these 3 things.

How to Live in the Moment and Take One Day at a Time-

1. Seek God first in Prayer- Instead of worrying about our situations, start praying about it. If we put the same amount of energy into praying as we did worrying, imagine what God could do with our situations? Worry takes God out of the equation and puts the trust in ourselves, not God. Allow God to walk with us in our struggles, by seeking Him in prayer. Lay it on Him, give God all of your worries, fears, anxieties and doubts. Tell Him every detail. God will use what we are going through for something better, our struggles are never wasted.

2. The Power of Gratitude- A thankful heart is a happy heart. Sometimes our situation can seem somber, but when we look around at all that we have been blessed with, it can make our situation seem not so bad.

Life isn't about picking and choosing all the good moments and Then rejoicing in them, it's about learning how to accept and embrace all of the moments, whether they are good or bad and rejoicing in them.

Being Thankful will help you:

• Live in contentment with what we have, which turns what we have into enough and more than we will ever need.
• Change our focus to something positive keeping our focus away from our worry.
• To experience joy now by embracing our circumstances and not waiting until our circumstances change.

3. Be Present in the Present- Don't go ahead of God. As a mother I am always telling our young children hold my hand in the parking lot. I tell them if they try to go ahead of me, cars will not see them and they could be hit by a car. The same thing with God, when we worry and fear, we are going ahead of God, not allowing Him to be the one in control. The best way to be filled with God’s Peace, is to be Present in the Present. Being Present allows God to fill us with His peace and to live in contentment with what God has given us. Let God handle it, He's got it. Trust in His Ways, I promise they are so much better and greater than ours.

God has designed us for so much more. Not to live a life filled with worry but with His eternal hope, peace, joy and freedom. Allowing God to have our worries, doubts and fears will allow him to turn them into something so much better. When worry starts to seep in, stop to pray about what is troubling your heart, thank God for all you are thankful for and don't allow yourself to go ahead of him. Stay Present in the Present. It will help you to Live life in the Moment and Take One Day at a Time. I promise God is with you and will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)!

Are you a worrier? Do you allow worry to take away life's present moments? How do you get through what you are going through during hard times?

I would love to hear from you, Leave your Comments Below! May the God of Peace Fill you with Hope as you Trust in Him! Have a Blessed Week!

This blogpost was posted first on

In Him,


Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Grief Observed

It has always intimidated me to discuss grief, and by always, I mean since five years ago when I experienced it first-hand with the loss of my mother. What could I possibly tell you that would help you navigate a season that seems darker than the winters of the Northland? I feel at a loss when it comes to loss.

As I was thinking about the reasons behind my lack of words for others, I thought back to the books handed to me when I lost my mom. I read a grand total of 1.75 of them; 75% of one book given to me, and the entirety of another I picked from a used book-store, pages worn from another reader, written by an author I’ll always trust.

The first was a little daily devotional. I don't even remember the name. Someone gave a copy to my Nanny, my sister, and me. Somehow, the short length of each devotional and its authors’ raw acknowledgement that grief is the worst allowed me to keep turning the pages day by day. Ironically, I never finished it, perhaps symbolic of the fact I wasn’t finished grieving in 80 days. I’m still not. Pretty sure I never will be.

The second book was A Grief Observed written by C. S. Lewis. I’ve loved him since my childhood reading of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I finally felt ready to pick up his book three years after my grief began, and I only recently had an epiphany about the title of his story. This epiphany has finally freed me to begin writing.

C.S. Lewis titled his work A Grief Observed, not A Grief Advised. In losing his wife, rather than share a solution to his grief, he only shares his own musings, sometimes so dark, the only light about reading them is in the fact that you’re not alone in the darkness.

In the same way, I cannot advise you about grief, only tell you my observations. I offer this as nothing more than my own process. Perhaps you will resonate with it, or maybe you will have different observations to add to the novel of unique human experiences. God has crafted us so marvelously alike and yet so individually different. The mystery of his creation astounds me and leaves me with the same comfort as Lewis’s work: we are not alone.

So, after that far-too-long introduction about why I’ve never written, here begins my grief, observed:

1. I had grieved with others but had never grieved.

When I was in high school, a close friend of mine lost his dad. This was a coming-of-age experience for me, in that I had never known someone to lose someone so close. My heart was heavy beyond spoken words, and my tears spilled out for this family. When I lost my mom, I quickly realized I had only a vague idea of how heavy grief felt, though I had walked the road with others.

Grief feels like someone has literally stolen your life from you, and then expects you to keep breathing and going to work. The world doesn’t stop spinning, and you see everyone continuing their lives. The whole experience leaves you with the worst kind of bitter, until you, eventually, can breathe again, too, which brings me to my next observation.

2. Grief is long.

We are talking many dark days, and months, and for me, years. People told me I would find a “new normal.” I wanted nothing of this new normal. I wanted the old one back. So for at least a couple years, I lived in a fog that masked my old self, whom I searched for relentlessly but had a very hard time finding. Turns out, I never did find her. I am different, and I’ve finally come to accept that different is the only way I can be. So, like some kind of ridiculous miracle, I actually have found a new normal. Just in this past year, real joy snuck up on me, and I realized that although grief is always a road I will walk, it is not one that will always be so dark. My “new normal” and “new self” have so many good and beautiful things about them.

3. Dates don’t bother me. Daughters holding their moms' hands do.

People ask me if dates are hard. The date I lost my mom? Her birthday? Mothers Day? Yes, to some degree, but not really. The things that still feel like gut-punches are when I’m in the mall, and I see moms and daughters together shopping. Tears and jealousy creep up, and I feel the urgent need to run to all the young girls and say, “Hold her hand! Let her play with your hair until you’re eighty!"

Music concerts get me, too. She sure could teach people to sing, with their voices and their souls.

“Black sheep”— double-gut-punch. My mom had this special way about her that made the unwelcome and outcast feel welcome. And when I meet those kinds of people, I miss her something fierce and just want to take them home with me. She would.

4. God actually showed up in my grief.

To be honest, I had some beef with God for some time. Mostly along the lines of “Why would you do this?!” “Why is death a part of life?!” and “I hate you!” I had some other choice words with him, but that about sums it up. However, somewhere in the midst of my dark night of the soul, his sweet whisper crumbled my defense. His whisper came in the gentlest of ways, through his midnight-presence to my tear-soaked prayers, through the love of my people, and through the sun that never ceased to rise over our gorgeous East-Anchorage mountains. His whisper told me the world was broken, that he hates death as much as I do, and that his redemption and resurrection overcomes it all. I don’t have all the answers, but I have that. It’s what I hold on to when injustice seems to prevail.

5. Life is the sweetest, hardest, most excruciating gift I have ever received.

I don’t know how to quite express what I mean, but Tennyson said it well when he said, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I grew up knowing an unconditional, “I-love-you-at-your-core” kind of love. I’m just so glad I had my mom. I want her for 100 more years, but I had her for 22. If my only alternative was to go without, then thanks to God for those 22 years. They made me.

As you can see, no advice here. Just the sharing of my story and the willingness to listen to yours, and the encouragement that you may be unique in your experience, but you are never alone.

From one sister to another,

Friday, October 14, 2016

Lessons from Hard Times

Life has left me a bit weary lately. To be honest, I really didn't feel like I had a lot to offer. Fortunately, God is never empty, dry, or uninspired. While I didn't have a clue what to write about, the Father had other plans.

As I sat down at the computer to write, I heard a song playing from my daughter's MP3 player. It was recorded by my piano teacher, her husband who was my violin teacher, and several of their family members. It was a song that captured their journey to Jesus, their faith, and their passion. Aha!! Here is a story to be told!

While I was a college sophomore, a Jewish couple from Brazil came to teach at our college under a special contract. They captured our hearts and imaginations immediately. From their melodious Brazilian accents to their mastery of instruments, these concert musicians were at once superheroes yet also irresistibly down-to-earth.

I was fortunate enough to have private lessons with each of them. They each breathed life into me.
From them, I learned how to persevere when times got tough. I learned that music is all about the heart you put into it. I learned that after all the technique is mastered, your music is nothing unless you play with the depths of your emotion. I learned that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. I learned that talent is useless without hard work.

But the most important lesson I learned was in piano lessons:

She reserved her harshest criticism for when I played my best. The most dreaded lesson was one where she said little to nothing about my playing. It meant that my effort wasn't worthy of her energy. Her most enthusiastic instruction was reserved for the weeks when my playing revealed the blood, sweat, and tears that happened in the practice rooms.

Oh, and her praise was glorious! Loud and intense, her sweet accent pierced the room with exclamations of approval and excitement.

Then the instructions began...
"Fix this passage!"
"NO! Don't do it that way!"
"That sounded terrible. Try this."
"You are playing with no passion!"
But the criticism didn't sting for long. I had pleased her, made her happy. She was proud of me. The criticisms just meant I was ready for her next level of instruction.

Isn't that the way it is with God? When we are smugly pleased with ourselves, God leaves us alone. We don't really think we need Him anyways. It is when we pour blood, sweat, and tears into humble repentance that He sits up and takes notice. When we seek Him with all our hearts, He begins the painful purifying process.
"Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." --James 4:8-10 NIV

The purpose of piano lessons was to make me a better pianist. They did not exist for my comfort. The teachers who praised me for minimal practice did nothing to help me improve. Why bother? I worked my hardest for my beloved teacher who wasn't afraid to criticize me in love.

The purpose of the Christian life is to make us more like Christ. If our lives are full of comfort and enjoyment, but we fail to be conformed to Christ's image, then we have not accomplished our true purpose. We might be comfortable, but we are no better off than when we started.

When I experience a parade of trials, I know that I am about to see the hand of God. The Father pushes me past my comfort zone. He whispers in my ear:
"I will never leave you."
"Ask me for wisdom."
"I will give you strength."
"Ask for prayer."
The struggles position me to seek God with my whole heart. The pressures that reveal my inadequacy also enable the humility that attracts the power of God.
"For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory." --Psalm 149:4 NIV
So don't be overwhelmed by the hard times. God will use them to accomplish His purpose in us. The treasures we gain from them will far outweigh the pain we suffered.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." --James 1:2-4 NIV