Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cause It's Crazy When Love Gets a Hold of You...

  "And it's crazy when love gets a hold of you.  And it's crazy things that love will make you do.  And it's crazy but it's true, You really don't know love at all, 'Til it's making you do Something crazy"
(Something Crazy ~ Steven Curtis Chapman)

  For the last several weeks I have been so confident and peaceful about leaving my job.  I honestly know, that I know, that I know this is God.  There really hasn't been any question in my mind about it at all.   Until the other night.  I don't know why it was then that I all of a sudden started freaking out ....but laying in bed trying to fall asleep....I was just so overcome with how CRAZY this is!  Who leaves a perfectly good job, that they are actually really good at, which provides them with the comfort of security, and allows them a little cushion to fall back on "just in case"?!?!  It's a bad economy....people are doing everything in their power to find jobs and here I am willingly leaving mine?!?!  This is crazy!  And yet....even in the midst of my freak out....I felt like God was whispering to me...."Don't worry....I've Got this...Follow me.....I have you in the palm of my hand"!
  I can't tell you how comforting that last phrase was..."I have you in the palm of my hand".  I've always sort of struggled with thinking of God has my Daddy....a parent holding me in His arms.  Don't get me wrong....I have a wonderful earthly father who I love deeply and whom I know loves me deeply....but to transfer that kind of relationship to my relationship with God has been hard.  Yet I had this moment in Ecuador that some how opened the door for me to start getting it.
  It was one of the first days we were there and the first time we stepped foot in one of the orphanages.  One of my teammates had offered me this beautiful brown haired little girl that I had instantly fallen in love with from the moment I saw her from across the play ground. I held her for hours...just walking around the play area rocking her and praying over her has she dozed off and on, resting in my arms.  At some point in the midst of the afternoon there was this moment where it seemed as if time stopped....everything faded....and it was as if God spoke to my heart that just like I was holding this little one, He was holding me....I was in the palm of His hand.  
  For most of my Christian walk I feel like I've been a cholicy baby and a fussy toddler.  I've called out to father God, time and time again asking him to pick me up and when he has, I've wiggled and squirmed my way out of His arms.  Yet He's never once stopped picking me up....He's never once given up on me.  He loves me.  He longs for me to just trust Him and rest in His arms while He rocks me and prays over me and speaks His wisdom into my heart.  Holding my brown haired lovely little Girl in Ecuador....and sensing God speak to me in the midst of it....all of a sudden this all started to  make sense....God's is my Daddy...and my Daddy is in control.  And the other night, while I was laying in bed freaking was like God was reminding me... He still IS.
  So while it is honestly crazy what I am doing....and while it is completely counter-cultural and one of those moments when I'm betting it all and going all out for God....I know it's going to be okay.  God's in control...He's my daddy...and He's got this!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cause at Times it Feels Like There Are No Words...

So I was up past midnight last night trying to write out some thank you cards to all the people who supported my recent trip to Ecuador.  I didn't get very far.  In fact the more I tried to write the more frustrated I became... because....there are no words.  I mean how do you explain how utterly thankful you are for the chance to see a smile, or hear a giggle, or hold a little one while she sleeps, when all of that seems so simple... and yet it is so deeply profound to you because you know that in that smile was the face of God, in that giggle was His voice, and while holding that sleeping child you sensed the hands of God holding you.  Things like that....they don't translate well into mere words....and so I couldn't write....I just prayed...

   God bless the children...all of the them....from the littlest whose to small to understand my words, to the oldest whose to "mature" to want to hear them.  Protect their hearts lord.  Guide their minds.  Draw them close to you so that one day they will know you as Lord.  Help them father to understand love.  To feel the prayers of those of us who have come but could not stay.  Allow them to sense you are there even if they can't see you in our faces.  Provide for their every need.  Let your light shine in their darkness I pray. Amen.

...and then… once again… I was reminded that it's not about's all about God.  He loves those children more than I can or ever will and He was gracious enough to allow me to be a small part of what He is doing in their lives.  I am humbled and completely grateful for this opportunity.  How could I not shout it from the roof tops and share with everyone as they ask (and sometimes even when they don’t)?!?  I may not always find the words, my heart may not completely come across in what’s written in a card, but my life is forever changed from that one week…and day in and out I can show it by how I live!  So to all of you who have supported me in this journey and/or will support me in the future….please know….God is moving… I hope you see that...may my life be my testimony!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cause These are the Moments that Make Life Special...

  Every Thursday night for the past year or so, I meet my friend Laura at Panera's for coffee/deserts, fellowship and bible study.  It's always a great time of just Being together with another believer who just gets it and I always leave feeling very refreshed and uplifted.  Well a few months back we started noticing this older (somewhat elderly) gentleman who would come into the restaurant, sit down by himself for about ten minutes and then get up and leave.  At first we thought he might be waiting for someone who just kept standing him up, but eventually it became quite obvious that he was there alone...and probably just lonely.  So we decided the next time we saw him we were going to invite him to join us!
  Well tonite we met as usual, and were graced with not only the presence of two other beautiful women of God (we love it when other friends join us), but sure enough we saw this man and invited him over for a bit!  His name is Joey, he's 86 years old and he is so sweet!  We found out that he lived in Pittsburg for 60 years....that he has three sons, a bunch of grandchildren and three great grandchildren... and that his wife passed away last September 4th, but he still goes and visits her grave every day.  But the best part of our short visit with Joey was finding out he loves to sing...and he's good at it!  In fact he serenaded our whole table with song...and let me tell you, he went all out, when he was done half the restaurant clapped for him!  It was the stuff movies are made of!  I felt so privileged to be there and be a part of it!
  I'll be honest, when I first thought about the idea of inviting him to join us, it made me nervous....would it be really awkward?  would he even want to?  But tonite, when I saw Him walk in the door, this nervous excitement came over I was about to sit with a star...and before I knew it I was over excitedly telling Him to "Come and Sit"!  I'm so glad that for once I didn't just keep my mouth shut!  I feel like instead of missing out on something I normally would have... I got the chance to be blessed by the very person who we were trying to bless!  But I guess that's how blessings work....when you give you always get back more, even when you don't expect it!  So here's to Joey....the greatest and boldest 86 year old singer I know in Glastonbury!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cause Things Don't Always Turn Out How You Planned...

  So I have been talking a lot lately about wanting my faith to be not just something I talk about, but rather something that I am and do.  And so today, being Sunday and all,  I had such grand intentions of living that out in some practical way.  In the center of town there is this corner where it seems every Sunday these handful of protesters set up shop....usually protesting something about the war in Iraq or medicare.  I've mentioned to several people for the last several months  (aka about a year) how one day I should just stop by and bring them something to drink.  I may not share the same political views as them, or really know much about what they are talking about, but after standing in the hot sun for hours they must be thirsty and thus bringing them a drink would just be a small way for me to bless them! Today was going to be that day!
  So after church I hoped in my car and drove down to their corner just to make sure they were there...and...well...they weren't (the audacity!).  Instead there was this larger crowd with signs about re-electing a certain local politician and right in the center....smiling, waving and shaking hands, was the said politician.  My first reaction was....NO WAY God....NO WAY!  There is no way I am going to buy drinks for a politician.  I may not know a lot about politics, but most of the politicians I do know about are anything but upstanding citizens who really just want to help people and make the world a better place!  The LAST thing I wanted to do was serve someone like that!  So I almost drove away.....but I didn't....because in the back of my mind I kept thinking about how God doesn't show favorites, and when we calls us to love all people, he means ALL people!  So instead I parked, walked into our local paneras, and bought the whole herd lemonade.....praying that God would bless them even in the midst of my not so perfect attitude!  Well, in the time it took me to order and pack everything up so that I wouldn't drop anything, they must have finished what they had planned to accomplish on that street corner, because when I got out there again, they all were gone....vanished....disappeared without a trace!
  This was NOT at all how I was expecting this to go!  Even in my worst case scenario I had not envisioned myself standing on the sidewalk in the center of town with an arm load of drinks and nobody around to give it to!  I was honestly pissed (excuse my not-french!)!!!  Here I am trying to be a blessing, using money I don't really have to give to a group of people who I don't really know or think I'll like....and they leave on me?!?!  How stupid am I to think this was a good idea!  Like offering someone a drink really matters! What kind of idiot am I for trying to step out of the box like this?!?!  This was so not a good idea!  Why did I think it was?!?!  And on and on and on the comments went in my head the whole drive home!
   I was so annoyed with myself and the situation that as soon as I got home I climbed into bed and wrapped myself in blankets, figuring it was better just to sleep the rest of this day away.  But I couldn't I began pouting to God...telling Him how I felt like such an idiot and how I clearly need to learn to listen to HIS voice above my own because I had thought this was a God idea and obviously it wasn't!  And as I sat there complaining, it was if God gently shhhhh'd me and reminded me that it's not about me.  Moments like this aren't about how I feel or look, they are about honoring Him and blessing others.  Sure things didn't turn out as I expected...I didn't get a nice pat on the back for being a good little Christian....But I still stepped out and I tried.  And God was honored not because I looked fact I'm sure I looked pretty ridiculous....but because I trusted Him enough to try something, even though it was just a small thing, in His name.  So to God be the Glory!  

** lemonade was wasted in the making of this story...instead it was used to bless some other people in my life who bless me on a continual basis...aka my family***

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cause Man is but a Passing Shadow...

  I once heard someone speaking on the life of the Apostle Paul, and in the midst of the talk they mentioned how people in ancient times probably heard all these great stories about the he had this dramatic conversion and was now out bringing hundreds upon hundreds to the knowledge of Jesus.  And they would read all the books/letters Paul had written...aka 75% of the New testament.  And then they would meet him....Paul...this Great Apostle and Father of Faith.....and be disappointed.  "This is Paul?!?!  The one I heard about?!?!" they'd say in disbelief.  Not to say there was anything wrong with Paul...but he was after all just a man...a normal his life to God.
  Sometimes I feel like I can relate to that.  Not that I in any real way compare to the Apostle Paul...although to be that dedicated to Christ is a perfect aim...but rather at times it feels like people will meet me after reading my blog or hearing stories from my friends or family, and their reaction seems to be one of disappointment.  "This is Jess...the one I heard about?!" they seem to be thinking.  To be honest, it use to bother me a lot.  I would see the look on their face, know what was going on in their head, and immediately began to feel ashamed as if there was something wrong with me....that somehow I didn't live up to the hype.  Now that I'm older, and maybe a bit more wiser, I find myself caring less and less about whether I live up to other people's expectations.  Ultimately it doesn't matter what people think of me.   I shouldn't be drawing them to myself anyway, I should just be pointing them to Christ.  It's great to have people like me, think well of me, or even want to hear what I have to say, but if I'm only looking for their approval or to give them mine, then we are both "missing it"...and in a terrible way!  The bible says in Psalms 144, "(men) are like a breath of air, their days are like a passing shadow"....something that is here today and gone tomorrow.  So maybe we/I should be living like that is actually true!
   I was reminded of this in a pretty basic way over the past two days, as yesterday I gave my job my official two weeks notice that I will be leaving the company.  As hard as it is to walk away from this job, it's been nice to hear how much people appreciate all the hard work I've put in over the years.  I like being acknowledged in that makes me feel good.  But the reality is in a few months I'll be replaced by someone else who can do the job just as well as I did and my hard work ethic and all the thought and energy I put into this job will be forgotten.  Life is like that.  People move on and are forgotten.  
  So why do I care so much about what people think of me when at some point I won't even matter.  Instead, I should be living my life for something...or rather someone....greater than me!  And isn't that the call of a Christian anyway?!?  Even John the Baptist boldly proclaimed He was not the Messiah but rather was the voice pointing to the ONE who was to come! "Man is but a breath of air"....but God is eternal.  And I would much rather spend the rest of my days living for Him!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cause There Should Be a Difference....

  There's a commercial on TV for some online school, and in it there's all these hundreds....all walking (well more like gliding) in the same direction, and these four people break out of the group and start walking the opposite way...breaking away from the group to find a new way.  And while I am not doing a great job of explaining the commercial (believe me I know, I even tried to youtube it to get a better explanation and even youtube didn't understand me!), I think in a lot of ways this commercial gives a great picture of what it should look like to be a Christian in this world!  So many people are just walking the path of life, following the crowd to the "American dream"!  But I think there's a different way....a better way....God's way...and to get on His path you have to step out of the crowd !  The bible says, "small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." why would we expect to find Him by fitting in?!?!
  And Honestly, I'm just preaching to myself here!  In fact, lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to really give God everything.  I wonder what does that look like in every day life.... on an individual level....for truly live for Him.  I don't want my faith to be something I just talk about....big words with no real meaning to back them up.  But that being said, when I look at how I spend my time, my money, my resources....I realize not a lot of that reflects what I truly believe....and there's something wrong with that!  If I truly believe in God and I take what He says in The Word seriously, then my life should be different!  I shouldn't fit so easily into the world around me!  My life should set me apart!  I should walk against the crowd!
  And I know that "looks" different ways for different people...One person might live out their life to God by being an executive in a high profile company while another might live it out on the dirty streets of a third world country...But no matter how it looks individually, there should still be a clear difference in it.  The world should be able to look at our lives and know we are different, even if they can't put their finger on why that is!  And so, even though I find myself wrestling with questions like these that only seem to be turning my life "upside down", I'm grateful to God for them...because I know that ultimately it's leading me closer to Him!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cause Sometimes You Can Pick Just One....

  This summer my church is going through a sermon series about praying our emotions to God.  Our pastor has been preaching from the book of Psalms and then each week different members of the church have been sharing on our church blog different songs (our version of a modern day Psalm) and how/why those songs connect them to the heart of God.  Honestly at the beginning of summer I thought there was NO WAY I could pick just ONE song that did that.  I cannot sing to save my life, but I love music.  In fact on an average day I probably have anywhere from 10-20 songs that run through my head and have some sort of meaning to me.  To pick just one would be like having to decided which of my children I loved more ( maybe it's not that drastic....and, well, I don't have any children....but... )!
  That being said, one song that I find myself connecting to time and time again is "Magnificent Obsession" by Steven Curtis Chapman.  If you've never heard it before here are the lyrics....

Lord, You know how much
I want to know so much
In the way of answers and explanations
I have cried and prayed
And still I seem to stay
In the middle of life’s complications
All this pursuing leaves me feeling like I’m chasing down the wind
But now it’s brought me back to You
And I can see again

This is everything I want

This is everything I need
I want this to be my one consuming passion
Everything my heart desires
Lord, I want it all to be for You, Jesus
Be my magnificent obsession

So capture my heart again

Take me to depths I’ve never been
Into the riches of Your grace and Your mercy
Return me to the cross
And let me be completely lost
In the wonder of the love
That You’ve shown me
Cut through these chains that tie me down to so many lesser things
Let all my dreams fall to the ground
Until this one remains

You are everything I want

You are everything I need
I want You to be my one consuming passion
Everything my heart desires
Lord, I want it all to be for You
I want it all to be for You

You are everything I want

And You are everything I need
Lord, You are all my heart desires
You are everything to me

  In a lot of ways this song reflects my relationship with God so well.  The more I grow in my faith, the more I seem to understand how this whole world...all of life...truly is about God.  And we were...I was... created to bring Him glory.  It's not about me at fact it's ALL about Him! He is everything I need and I want Him to be all that I want.  Yet, if I were honest, there are so many times in life that I get weighed down by things that don't matter.  I find myself overwhelmed by questions and wanting to understand why things are the way they are.  Or I get wrapped up in what people think of me and/or trying to find my significance in this world.  And before I know it I've forgotten....He is everything I want, Everything I need!  Thankfully God always has a way of bringing me back to Him....and like the song says....I am able to see again!

  And I know that the word "Obsession" has such a bad connotation in our world....especially when it comes to something like Religion.  So often it seems like people...even Christians.... are cool with you "loving"  God up to a certain point.....just don't cross that line! But by definition, to be obsessed is to be "Influenced or controlled by a powerful force", and isn't that what God calls us to when we come to Him?!?  He SHOULD be our "Consuming passion", "all our hearts desire", "the one thing that remains" least that's the desire of my heart, and I guess that's why I connect with this song so much.  I can't help but pray "Lord be my Magnificent Obsession".

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cause I Finally Get it...

  So remember a few months ago when I wrote about my struggles with the "B" word?  Oh you don't?  Well you can check out a refresher  Here .  Basically, for the past year or so I've questioned every thing and anything having to do with baptism...from why we do it, to should I do it, to what is it truly symbolizing....and while it took me a LONG time to come around, today was the day I got baptized!
  The decision to finally go for it ultimately came down to two things.  One, after many...many...many questions about pastor offered me a really great analogy of baptism.  He said that just like a Wedding ring is the symbol of a marriage covenant, baptism is the symbol of the new covenant....or how I understood it, the symbol of my commitment to God and His to me.  For me, that one statement cleared away all the "clutter" and lack of understanding I had about baptism and truly made me want to make this public declaration of my relationship with Christ.
  The second thing it came down to was trusting God...and my dunk me in water.  I don't like to be touched....and the idea of somebody else holding me under water (okay so dunking and holding are two completely different things but in my mind they felt like the same), scared the crap out of me.  And while my pastor was very willing reformat things to make it a little less uncomfortable/scary for me (by pouring water over my head instead of dunking), I realized that if this moment was truly going to be about symbolizing my covenant with God, then I didn't want that symbol to say, "God I trust you right up until the moment I'm uncomfortable and then I'll make my own way".  So I let Him dunk me...and I didn't drown, or get dropped, or hit my head on the stairs...and it was beautiful!
   I think it's funny how so often I feel like God is leading me into something, but I freak out about it until I actually do it, and then I wonder, "Why was I so afraid?"!  I wonder if God's in heaven shaking His head just a bit, grinning and maybe even giggling  as He watches me stumble my way through following Him in the midst of my fears.  It must be like a parent watching their toddler learn to walk in the're excited for them, you know they can do it, but their shaky legs make those few steps feel like an adventure of a life time to them!
  I know that the next few months of my life are going to be pretty interesting....the last few months certainly were....and it seems that God is only continuing to stir things up in my heart.  And I know there will probably be more moments when I'll freak out as I walk in obedience to Him, but I'm still going to chose to obey....because like I said in the testimony I shared at church today, I finally understand that I was created for God's glory and my life truly does belong to Him!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cause a Moment Changes Everything....

  So today was my first day back to work after returning from Ecuador.  To put it simply... it was hard.  The day wasn't bad.  I got my work done and didn't feel overwhelmed by it.  I just would have much rather spent my day holding Orena or trying to make Dion smile.  I longed to yell "No, es tu papel" in a joking manner with "El Ocho", the only kid in the world who would get the silliness of it, or to run around tickling mi pequena amigas at Hogar Valle Feliz as "payback" for laughing at me trying to dance and sing with them.  I want to be there....back with them...DESPERATELY....but alas I'm here, in the states, with work to go to.  So I did...with my heart back in Ecuador.
(The view from the top of the Hill)
  I remember on one of my final nights in Quito I climbed up to the upper part of the property on which "our" house was and looked out on the amazing view of the city lights while worshiping and praying, and literally crying my eyes out to God.  I didn't want to leave.  I told God that.  The trip hadn't been easy for introverted and sometimes extremely quiet and awkward personality, made me feel stretched to the limit....and yet I had LOVED every minute of it.  And sitting up on that stairway, looking down on the city, I felt so close to God.....  Close enough to have a holy moment with Him...a moment that I know I will look back on for the rest of my life and think "That's when EVERYTHING changed"!
  And So now I sit here, back in my "Home" contemplating what all this means, where do I go from here, and how to live out the promises I made to God on that Holy Hill.  It's strange how clearly I feel God spoke to me in that moment, and yet....even after all I learned about God's faithfulness on this trip....I find myself scared to jump into the water. Funny how it was just yesterday I said I was diving in.
  To be honest, I'm more scared about what people will think about me "Jumping" than I am about trusting God in spite of the fact that He's turning my whole life upside down.  I know God will take care of me.  It won't be easy, but I trust Him.  It's just....I want other people to get understand it and to support it.  I want my family to stand beside me in it and my friends to carry me through it in prayer and words or encouragement.  But I fear they won't get it...and thus they won't stand with me in it.  Instead I'll stand alone......with God...but alone in this world.
  I remember while preparing to go on this trip to Ecuador, I was talking to a friend telling her that I was worried because I was going to a country I had never been to with a bunch of people I had never met and I felt like I had nobody to rely on but God.  She turned to me and said, "Maybe that's the rely fully on God"!  And maybe that's the point in all of this......that I would live my entire life fully and completely dependent on the one who gave this life to me.
  So yes.... once again.... I am choosing to dive rely fully on my God!  It's all for your glory Lord!  Amen! 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cause I'm diving In...

  It's my first full day back in the states after spending a week in Ecuador...I miss it so much.  I'm not sure how to process to wrap my head around all God spoke to my heart and allowed me to be a part of.  I went down there completely unaware of what God was about to do, but willing to be used by Him....and God blew me away!

  I thought I trusted God.  I thought that preparing for this missions trip, was my lesson in the faithfulness of God.  I was so wrong!  God proved Himself faithful to me over and over and over again while I was there!  Reminding me that all of this...this whole about Him and we get to be a part of what He's doing when when surrender  to Him.  We don't have to make it work, or figure it out on our own.....we just need to trust Him and step out in faith.

  And as I thought about this while sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting for my ever delaying flight back home to Connecticut, it's like God gave me this vision of a stream flowing down river, explaining that He is the current of the water and we have a choice to either spend the rest of our lives looking at the beauty of the river or we can get into the water and let the current take us where ever it may be....  Sometimes it's through rapids.... sometimes it's to calm places.... sometimes it's to quench someone's thirst... sometimes to carry others down stream....sometimes it's away from the things you love or something you need to get away from...but no matter what, there's always a purpose...God's purpose.  He's the current controlling where the water goes, and we just get to be apart of whatever He is doing!

So as one of my favorite singers Steven Curtis Chapman sings....

I’m diving in, I’m going deep in over
my head, I want to be
Caught in the rush, lost in the flow,
in over my head, I want to go
The river’s deep, the river’s wide,
the river’s water is alive
So sink or swim, I’m diving in"