Beyond grateful

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Grateful. That’s the word that seems to best describe me at this point in my life.

I’m grateful because God’s mercies and blessings are so awe-inspiring, generous and beautiful.

I’m grateful because His love is unfailing and His timing is perfect — even when it might sometimes feel slow on our end.

I’m grateful for His presence that soothes, encourages, uplifts and transforms, and I’m grateful that His presence is available to anybody at any time.

I’m grateful because He looked into my heart and saw my desire for Him to use me to encourage others and glorify Him.

And I’m beyond grateful that He made a way for that desire and prayer to be met. His answer to my prayer: An opportunity to write as a contributor for moretolifetoday.net.

Click here for the link.

To see and be seen

The verb “to see” has an assortment of meanings. We can perceive something with our eyes. We can grasp something mentally and understand it. We can have an experience. We can watch, examine or notice something. We can visit or accompany somebody. All of these Merriam-Webster definitions refer back to the first verb — to see.

But what does it mean to see someone?

To truly see someone is to see who they are. To understand what makes that person the way they are. To understand what they enjoy, what they dislike, what makes them laugh. To see their pain and to see their joy. To know their hopes and aspirations. To know their fears and doubts.

Realistically, however, there are few people who truly see us for who we are — both the good parts and the bad. We might even sometimes feel that nobody can really understand what we’re going through because nobody sees us, nobody knows us. But God knows, and He sees us.

Hagar probably experienced similar feelings in Genesis 16. She was running away, scared and abused, and she eventually finds herself in the desert, thirsty and alone. And that’s when God hears her cry of distress and meets her.

“The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?'”

God knew perfectly well where Hagar had been and what she was running away from. He knew details of her own life that she herself couldn’t fully understand. He knew her past, and He knew her future. But He met her in the present, and He revealed just how much He saw and knew about her and about her future son, Ishmael.

“Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.'”

El-roi — The God who sees me.

He sees me. He sees my struggles. He sees my desires, my hopes, my joys. He sees me on my good days. He sees me on my bad days. And yet, His love toward me never fails and never wavers. He knows what makes me tick, and He created me to work a certain way.

God created us as unique individuals, each with certain talents and gifts. He saw us and knew us before we were even born.

“You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered.” — Psalm 139:15-17

He sees us. But it’s more than God seeing us.

After God spoke to Hagar, she referred to Him as El-roi, as the God who saw her. But she continued to speak. “She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?'”

Hagar’s encounter with God wasn’t like one of those two-way mirrors you might find in an interrogation room, where one side can watch someone on the other side without being seen.

To see and be seen.

God revealed Himself to Hagar. He allowed Himself to be seen by her. She caught a glimpse of who He was — of His knowledge, power, love and mercy — and that affected her perspective of God. Her experience of being seen by God — and of seeing Him, in turn — changed her life.

God sees us. He knows us. But more than that, He allows us the chance to see Him. Now, God as a spirit is invisible, and no man has seen God (1 John 4:12). But we can know Him. We can can live day-by-day in His presence. We can experience Him. We can see His blessings. And we can know that He won’t stop loving us, regardless of what He sees in us.

A shift in perspective

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Don’t you love it when you get a slap on the head from God? That happened to me today.

I had one of those days at work that was mentally draining, filled with annoying emails — or, more accurately, an annoying person writing those emails — that literally had me pursing my mouth in frustration, shaking my head and laughing in disbelief.

And wouldn’t you know, at that moment, a song came on in my random Spotify shuffle and boldly proclaimed, “I choose joy!”

Long story — and long day — short, I had a choice to make. I could get bogged down in the negative, or I could choose joy. Ultimately, I chose to swallow my pride (although I can’t say I didn’t do it with a few eye rolls and heavy sighs).

I choose to love. I choose to do my best by each person I interact with. I choose to see their point. And I choose to move on.

Challenging the silence

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There are times when silence is a gift. Noises and distractions are gone, and it’s you and your own breath.

There are times when silence is dangerous. Atrocities are permitted, boundaries are crossed, and yet nothing is said.

There are times when a voice is silenced by something or someone — fear, doubt, discrimination, shame, loneliness, uncaring and selfish people.

There are times when we silence ourselves — and that’s what scares me. I can be the one to prevent my voice from being heard. It can be all too easy for me to convince myself that I have nothing to say and that nobody would listen to it anyway.

Full disclosure: I started to believe that lie.

And this is what God told me in response: “Don’t quench the words you need to speak. Don’t sit back and let someone else speak different words.”

God has given each of us a voice and He has placed each of us in a position where our voices can be the most powerful. So, use your voice. Use your talents. Use your gifts. Use them to make a difference in your small corner of the world. Because there are a lot of messed up things in the world, and your voice can help bring some good back into it.

At times, it might seem convenient to be silent — and, certainly, there are times when silence is necessary. The danger comes, however, when silence is our answer to issues that require a clear voice for the right choice.

Don’t let silence be your answer.

In Revelation 2:15-16, Jesus is speaking to one of the churches, and He mentions how the people are neither hot nor cold. They are lukewarm. They are non-committed, dispassionate, tepid.

His response to those lukewarm people in verse 16 is this: “I wish that you were one or the other. But since you are lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

We are most effective and potent when we clearly stand for something. If you’re passionate about something, it should be evident in your words, actions and lifestyle. People will notice. People will hear.

Too many people in the world would love to silence your voice. Don’t be the one to do it yourself. Your voice has more power than you realize.

Thoughts while reading a book

All it takes is a single moment. A thought, a word, a musical note — something draws you in. It feels almost magnetic because, somehow, it understands you. It seems to be expressing the very emotions and thoughts you yourself have experienced and felt. It pulls at this deep cavern within the pit of your stomach, your heart, your soul, your mind. It radiates in soft tingling pulses, spreading like a warm rush throughout your being.

Here, in this moment, someone has reached through time — ignoring its restraints and rebelling against its limitations upon the world — in an attempt to be understood and to understand. Someone else has traversed to the same feeling, thought or emotion, and emerged from it bearing a proof of this experience — a proof similar, yet distinct, from the one you carry.

In an almost exclusive call to those fellow travelers, this individual creates a conduit between their soul and your soul. Others might hear the call, but only those that have felt this same feeling, lived a comparable experience or existed with similar hope can truly respond to the call.

The call with which this individual reaches out takes many forms and morphs among the variants of beings and experiences. But the call echoes through words penned in a book, through music transcribed and performed, through movements designed to evoke a remembrance.

What can you do but respond? So you, too, create a bridge that extends from your soul and reaches out.  Perhaps soon, perhaps in years to come, another being will feel the draw of that moment and construct a response of their own — a conduit that belongs to them and reflects their own being, yet was influenced by yours.

But yours was influenced by the being before you, and theirs by the being before them. This conduit of influence and experience has passed through time and has connected beings throughout history. On and on it goes until, at last, it reaches the original Source of inspiration.

And there — unseen, yet real and resilient — exists a network of individual beings linked together in a single moment that defies time.

Getting real about “Impostor Syndrome”

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Hi. My name is Jen and I’m an impostor. Or, at least, I sometimes feel like I am.

Some of you might be thinking, Ah-ha! I knew there was something fishy about her. But, really, what I’m talking about here is impostor syndrome.

For those of you who haven’t heard the term before, here’s Wikipedia’s definition of impostor syndrome:

“A psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.”

People demonstrate impostor syndrome and deal with it in different ways. For me, it shows up in the form of overachieving and striving for perfection in what I do and how I come across to others — all to avoid the fear of failure.

How’s that for being real?

I struggled with low self-confidence for years. I constantly compared myself to others, judging every little thing I knew about myself against what I could see in others. When, in my eyes, I fell short in comparison, I’d get upset at myself. And let me tell you, it’s all too easy to say harsh, demeaning words to and about yourself.

To cope with all that, I did my best to make sure people liked me. This resulted in the formation of my coping mechanism — make ’em laugh. If you get them laughing with you, then they’re less likely to laugh at or about you.


When I began writing this post and started pondering the idea of impostor syndrome, I realized we’re really dealing with the issue of identity, with who we are at the core. Because if we don’t know who we are, it’s hard to fulfill our purpose.

But that’s the thing with impostor syndrome: We’re the ones who know ourselves too well. We know what no one else knows about us. That sometimes we don’t know what we’re doing. That sometimes we’re crippled with doubt. That sometimes we fake it ’til we make it.

And we’re scared to death that somebody will see through our mask and discover the real us. They’ll see us as impostors.

But really, we’re the ones seeing ourselves as impostors, so we become conflicted about our true identity.


Who are you?

I ask this question, hoping you’ll answer it honestly. Because for me, I realized who I was — and my self-worth — only when I answered that question. But more than just answering it, I had to believe the answer and act on it.

Who am I?

I am a child of God.

He created me, knowing — and forming — my talents and my faults. He knew from the beginning how the good and bad parts of me would be used. He took my coping mechanism and turned it into an intrinsic part of who I am, for the good. Because He knew how much I would love making people laugh — not to make myself feel better or to avoid being laughed at, but because “a merry heart does good like a medicine.”

God wasn’t surprised by the various phases — the dips, surges and plateaus — of my life. Instead, He loved me for who I was, even though I didn’t deserve it. And He chose to die for me so I could become who I was meant to be — His daughter.

“But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12

Showing up for the battle

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You know those moments when you really don’t want to be somewhere, but you need to be, so you go anyway?

I want to talk about that.

Imagine facing an enemy that greatly outnumbers you. Your side has no chance of winning, and you don’t exactly have a warm, fuzzy feeling about this. Nah, we can probably assume worry, fear and anxiety greatly outweigh every ounce of hope and courage you once possessed.

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In Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat of Judah (don’t you wish you had that name) was in a similar position. A huge army wanted to destroy his people and was gathering to battle him the next day.

Naturally, as most of us tend to do when things start to look bad, the king cried out to God for help. And God answered with these words:

“Do not be afraid. Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them.” II Chronicles 20:15b-16a

In verse 17, God continued by saying, “But you won’t even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory… Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you.”

So, King Jehoshaphat obeyed. He went to meet his enemy in battle. He showed up and took his position. And God showed up, too.

Jehoshaphat’s side won the victory that day. And you know how they did it? They literally just showed up to the designated battle area and praised God for His faithful and enduring love. When the enemy heard King Jehoshaphat and his army thanking God, it fell into chaos and defeated itself.

Now, the average person reading this probably — and thankfully — doesn’t have to face a physical enemy in battle. But we each face our own enemy — be it depression, anger, disappointment, fear, anxiety, addiction or whatever. And when we face that enemy in battle, it seems impossible that we can ever win. It’s overwhelming, debilitating and there’s seemingly no way to defeat it.

That’s when we need to remember that sometimes all it takes is showing up and taking our positions.

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t be discouraged.

Just show up to the battle.

Because showing up proves that we’re ready to fight. It proves to ourselves and others that we still care. It proves to the enemy that we still have the guts to face this battle. It proves to God that we trust Him enough to show up, too.

Just show up. And then show up tomorrow. And the next tomorrow. Because the Lord is with you and He’ll help you fight the battle against whatever enemy you’re facing.

Staying in tune with God

It can be easy to base our value or success in terms of numbers.

You know how it is: “I have this many followers” or “I make this much money”.

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I mean, even in the old days, families were ranked on the number of children — specifically, sons — they had.

I’ve been reading through 1 Chronicles, and if any of you have done so, you know it can get a tad dense. For instance, “So-and-so had five sons: Son 1, Son 2, Son 3, Son 4 and Son 5. Son 1 had two sons…” And on and on it goes.

Well, eventually, I reached chapter 12 where it describes how many warriors from each Israelite tribe joined David’s cause to become king. Most of the tribes offered thousands of men to support his claim. Seriously, one tribe had 50,000 skilled warriors all ready to support David.

Then I came to 1 Chronicles 12:32.

“From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.”

Two hundred men. Not 50,000. Not brave warriors or skilled soldiers. But 200 leaders who recognized David should be king. They were aware of the situations happening around them. They were alert, and they didn’t hesitate once they knew what they needed to do.

We need to be like that in our walk with God. We need to understand what’s going on in the world around us, so we can make sure we’re supporting the right cause and following the correct course for our lives.

We should focus on making sure we’re in tune with God. Take time to be still and listen for His voice. Then, when we hear His voice, we need to possess the courage and the strength to act on it and follow through.

We don’t always need to have the largest number or reach a certain number to determine our value. Issachar offered the fewest amount of men — by a long shot — to David’s cause, but the Bible describes them as leaders with wisdom who understood the signs of the times.

So, take a lesson from the good ‘ole tribe of Issachar. And, while you’re at it, Paul has some good supporting advice in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14:

“Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything in love.”

A parable of the bread

You know those renovation shows that take fixer upper houses and completely redo them to make beautiful houses?

Well, if I’ve learned anything from them, it’s that renovations normally take longer than expected and they can be difficult.

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Yep, renovations can reveal ugly things underneath the floorboards, unstable supports and poor wiring. Rarely do you see a beautiful new house undergoing renovation.

Now, I know we’d all like to think we’re the beautiful mansion that doesn’t need any additional work, but I doubt that’s the case. Because most of us — like King David, who wrote the Psalm below — mess up and realize we need some help.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” — Psalm 51:10

I heard something the other day that completely stuck with me: Renew = Renovate.

Sometimes, we need to undergo some renovations — in the way we think, the way we act, the way we speak.

Because maybe while we’ve been busy living our lives, some mold has starting growing in the rafters of our minds and has contaminated our dreams and desires. Maybe some carpenter ants have been chewing away at our hearts and weakening our discretion and resolve. And so, it becomes time for a renewing, a renovation.

“And don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” — Romans 12:2a

As we know from most fixer upper renovations, that transformation and renovation process — and the waiting for the renovation to be done — can be painful.

But let me tell you a story.

On Tuesday, I made bread. Yep, homemade bread. I had to prove the yeast, which meant pouring it in warm water and waiting for it to become active. I had to knead, pound, press and mold the dough, constantly flipping it and disturbing it — all to prepare and develop the gluten.

After kneading the dough and placing it in a bowl, I had to wait for it to rise. An hour later, it was time for… more kneading! Punch. Press. Flip. Repeat.

Then, more waiting. Until finally! it was time to bake.

But baking, of course, requires extreme heat. Thirty-five minutes of sitting on a metal rack, waiting in uncomfortable, almost unbearable, heat.

Why did this loaf of bread endure all of that?

Well, without going through that entire process, the loaf of bread would still be individual ingredients, waiting to fulfill their purpose. It took the process of transformation in the creator’s hands to become something more.
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The same applies to us when we submit to God’s will for us.

Yes, it can be uncomfortable. It might not go according to our plans. We might still be waiting for something. And every now and then, it feels like we’re getting punched in the gut, only to be thrown into scorching fire.

But Romans 12:2 doesn’t just speak of transformation and renewing without any purpose. No, it speaks of promise.

“And don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you might prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.” — Romans 12:2

Just like I had to prove the yeast for it to become active, the waiting and change that comes with renovation will ultimately prove and activate God’s will for us.

And so, I’ll leave you with this reminder that has been a pretty good reminder for me: “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.” — Psalm 37:5

Why I write

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Sometimes it honestly seems like there’s nothing more intimidating than a blank white piece of paper — or, more realistically, the blank white screen depicting the piece of paper humans have traditionally written upon.

Upon that blank page, you’re supposed to spill out your thoughts, your aspirations, your secrets, your mind, your being.

And the paper or screen absorbs those words.

Then what?

Other minds might happen upon the words, read them and take them in. Maybe they’ll remember the words. Or maybe those words will be fleeting black characters that are briefly processed, but which never fully take root within the perusing minds.

And yet, we still write. Perhaps because we think we have something to say. Quite often, because there’s a persistent need that thumps within one’s inner being and begs to be relayed to the external world. The need grows until, at last, it drives the physical body to put itself to work and interpret the metaphysical by actually transferring those messages onto that blank sheet.

And, honestly, it’s easy to ask, after exposing part of your innermost self to the world, “To what end? What’s the use?”

The answer: Who can really tell?

I think it all hinges upon passion and purpose. If I truly believe in something, then wouldn’t I want to show that to others? Wouldn’t I need to?

So, we continue to write, to speak, to relay, because we need to. Because part of our innate human nature is a desire to communicate with and to be heard by others.

But you know what? Other humans will probably let us down in our endeavor to be heard and understood.

And that’s where I insert the source of what drives me to write on those blank screens.

I write because of my love for Jesus.

More importantly, I write because of His love for me.

His ear is always extended to us. He is always there to talk to, to communicate with. He is always there to listen, even if what I have to say feels measly and insignificant or monstrous and looming. And He doesn’t hear only to forget what I said later. He hears, He knows and He cares. And He extends a hand to hold onto.

That’s why I write.