My chest constricts in a tell-tale sign that I am processing emotion and it’s difficult to label which emotion it is because I find myself immersed in a world that exudes both joy and loss I see the uplifting stories where humanity draws together in support of the greater good only to be followed by the onslaught of negative, overwhelming news that comes at me nonstop with no clear certainties I am rooting for humanity and all the good we can accomplish yet I feel such frustration at those who sow discord and fear passing judgment with no willingness to listen to others We talk about the new normal but nothing will be normal again and maybe that’s okay The lessons we have learned about resiliency and compassion sorrow and grit responsibility and weariness are anything but usual or expected and perhaps they were lessons we didn’t want to learn But we have a choice now to give into anxiety and hopelessness or to focus on the good to listen and develop to cherish what we once took for granted to look forward to what is to come with hope and expectation knowing we have something greater ahead
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.
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.
Ever feel like you’re getting hit on the head with the same heavy hammer over and over and over again?
Yeah, that happened to me today. The same message kept popping up unexpectedly throughout this lovely crisp November Monday.
First, it sprouted as an idea while I was reading my Bible this morning. Then, it blossomed into a vine of connected thoughts while I was walking around my work building during lunch. Then, it branched out from another post over at the Beauty Beyond Bones blog. And finally, it snaked itself around my mind in the form of a song that randomly played on some stranger’s YouTube playlist.
And finally, I was like, OK, I get the picture. I’ll write about this.
So here it is: If your father truly loves you, he’ll want what’s best for you, right?
I remember when I fell off my bike when I was seven years old. I flew over the handlebars and skidded chin-first across the gravel driveway. Bawling, I proceeded to scamper up our super long, steep driveway to my dad who would know how to fix it. He cleaned my battle wounds and off we went to the hospital.
I turned eight a few days later, sporting a nice set of stitches on my chin and elbow.
A couple weeks later, I was scheduled to have my stitches taken out. Let’s just say one of those stitches was really embedded in my chin and it took a lot of tugging to get it out. Afterward, my dad led me out to the parking lot and took care of me as I heaved in the bushes by the car.
He then drove to a store and bought me a little Aloe vera plant. Most eight-year-olds wouldn’t be too impressed with an Aloe plant as a gift, and I can’t say I was at first either. But my dad told me to smear the Aloe’s goo on my chin and elbow injuries every day and it would help the scars heal. So I did.
I used that gift countless times throughout my life.
And that Aloe plant grew over the years, becoming Master of the Windowsill, spawning other little Aloe plants and still going strong when I moved out of my parent’s house years later.
My dad wanted what’s best for me, so he gave me a gift that was helpful, considerate and a blessing in the future, as well.
So let me ask you: If our dads here on earth care so much for us and want to give us the best Aloe plant gifts, then how much more will our Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him? (That’s a Jen version of Matthew 7:11, in case you were wondering.)
My dad’s great. I know he loves me fiercely, would do anything to protect me and wants the best for me. But even he doesn’t love me as much as Jesus loves me.
God has the best intentions for us. He isn’t holding out on us or baiting us with a gift, only to move it away before we can receive it.
Sometimes, yes, we need to wait for His gifts. Sometimes, yes, that waiting is really hard. But He really does know what’s best for us, at the best time.
I could have refused to use the Aloe’s gel on my scars. It was smelly and sticky and sometimes those pointy ends stabbed me as I tried to glean the gooey innards from the plant. This was a gift?
But I accepted my dad’s gift to me and it helped heal me. If you looked at my chin now, you would barely see the scars where those stitches were.
Sometimes all it takes is trusting that your Father knows best. Because God’s gifts for His children are good. Hope, joy, peace, love, freedom and so much more. Not only do these gifts from God increase along with us, but they also heal and mend — just like that trusty Aloe vera plant.
Every morning, I start off my day with reading my Bible. Recently, I’ve been reading through the book of Jeremiah, and this morning I came to chapter 29.
I’m sure you’re all like, “Yeah, yeah, Jen, you’re going to go to verse 11.”
Yes — but only for some of it.
I read Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'”
Now, if you don’t mind, I’d just like to insert what I wrote down this morning after reading that:
So often, we read and quote Jeremiah 29:11 by itself — and for good reason, because it’s an amazing promise from God and a source of hope. But I know I failed to see it in context before. After reading through Jeremiah, the promise and hope found in verse 11 means so much more.
God had allowed the Israelites to be captured by the Babylonians because they had openly rebelled against Him. He offered them chance after chance to turn back to Him, but they refused and continued to disobey.
So, the Babylonians captured the Israelites and took them away from their city as captives.
But God still offered them hope.
Jeremiah 29:10, “This is what the Lord says: ‘You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.'”
He gave them the promise that they would be freed in 70 years. And not only that, He then told them (in verse 11) that He knew them and wanted to give them a good future. That’s beautiful.
Even now, we know that we’re going to go through some hard times, but God lets us know that He has ordered our steps. Even though we may not know how long it may take to be freed from the struggles or chains, He has promised us freedom and this good will, if we choose to follow Him.
But don’t stop there — verses 12 and 13 are so good too! Jeremiah 29:12-13 — “In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”
Let me just say I had no idea I would absolutely need those words today — and let me tell you, I absolutely needed those words today.
But God knew.
And let me just say: Even if you find yourself in one of the worst storms you’ve faced, God still knows where you are.
More than that, He knows you.
He formed you for a purpose, and He won’t just leave you hanging.
No, if we choose to love Him and follow Him, He promises us a future filled with hope and good plans.
God isn’t the only one involved here, though. We have to make the choice to follow him. We, as humans, can choose to disregard His promises and follow our own paths, like the Israelites did in the verses above.
I realized today I really wanted to write something on my blog, but had no idea what to write about.
And honestly, at first, onions popped into my head.
My mind eventually turned to where I was around this time three years ago. In September 2014, I hurt my left knee during a flag football intramural game. I drove back home and had my dad assess the already swelling and throbbing injury.
The next couple of days, my knee didn’t get better and I was scheduled for an MRI. The MRI results came back and the doctor confirmed our suspicions that I had torn my ACL. I would need reconstructive surgery if I wanted to be able to play basketball or other sports in the future.
One thing you should know about me: I hate needles and get pretty squeamish at the thought of a scalpel cutting into my flesh. So, surgery was pretty much my worst nightmare come true.
But I wanted to actually be able to play sports again.
In November 2014, I went in for surgery, where the doctor replaced my torn ACL with a portion of my own hamstring muscle combined with muscle from some person I’ll never know (I’ve dubbed him Stefan).
Let’s just say this was a hard time for me. The injury had happened early in my junior year of college, so I was missing that entire year of basketball and other sports. Physical therapy was a long process of re-learning how to walk correctly, trying to reach full extension with my knee and leg strengthening.
I remember searching Google, reading about other people who had torn their ACLs and promised it would get better in time. And I remember having a hard time believing them.
But I did believe something else. I knew God was there with me, throughout the entire process. My injury hadn’t come as a surprise to Him. No, He didn’t prevent it from happening, but He didn’t just abandon me when I was hurting.
I would not have been able to walk into that hospital, have the IV stuck in my arm and lie down on that hospital bed, while the doctor marked my knee with an X, if I hadn’t known God was in control. Trust me, I would have been freaking out. But I prayed for peace, and He gave me a quiet assurance that everything would be fine.
Maybe I will come back to the topic of onions.
Sometimes we have our lives planned out exactly as we think they should go. But just as Shrek said there are layers to ogres, there are also layers to life.
Often, we see only the outside layer — the immediate circumstances that surround us. And in life, those circumstances sometimes stink.
As we get deeper into life’s layers, however, we realize there’s more than just the immediate. It might be painful as we peel away those outer layers to get to the core of a situation. There might be some crying involved. There might be some chopping and dicing away.
But just as those steps are needed to prepare an onion to fulfill its part in a recipe, sometimes those steps are necessary for us in life — to grow, to mature, to develop into the type of person we choose to be.
What can you learn from these difficult times?
I would have never planned to tear my ACL and have surgery. But I can tell you that I now rarely take for granted my ability to run or play basketball. Sometimes that twinge in my knee is a great reminder of the journey it took to get to this point. And it reminds me of how God not only promised to take care of me, but how He followed through on that promise.
And if that was the only lesson learned from that particular moment in my life, I think it’s a pretty solid one.
Besides, now I have that much more in common with Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Sorry, not sorry, I’m a diehard Patriots fan.
I think it’s an understatement to say the world is a pretty depressing place right now.
Each day, we’re besieged with news of terrible occurrences seeping with so much hate, pain and death. It’s hard to keep from being weighed down by it all (and I know I have barely the slightest of an inkling of an idea of what some people experience in their day-to-day lives).
Not to get all hippy-dippy on you, but it makes me realize the importance of love. Not just an exclusive love for certain people that we’ve grown to like and accept. Not just a love for people similar to us. Not just a fleeting love for Klondike Bars and Cheetos.
For every person.
And let me say I know there is nobody on earth that can have completely unfailing love.
Let me also say I know there is a God that is unfailing love.
Before anybody scoffs at me and exits this tab, please, just read on.
Jesus loves every single person no matter what. It doesn’t matter what family we’ve been born into, what country we originate from, what we look like, what we’ve done in the past or whether we like Star Wars or not.
Jesus still loves us.
But He didn’t just love us from afar. He wanted us to personally experience that unfailing love. So, He made a way for that to happen.
Jesus entered this world only to face the hate, shame, discrimination, rejection and pain of a world that wanted Him dead — the same hate and discrimination that so many people still face today. And you know what? The world got its way and killed Him. It seemed that hate and death would win.
Jesus didn’t stay in that tomb, though. He rose again to live. By living, He defeated death, hate, shame and pain. In their stead, He offered unfailing love and abundant life to each one of us. And, in turn, He gave us hope.
But we can’t just take those gifts of unfailing love and hope and hoard them selfishly for ourselves. We need to extend those gifts to everyone else.
In a world that’s so enveloped in anger and pain, how much of an impact can one welcoming, encouraging and loving act be?
In a world so entrenched in darkness, how much more can one light shine and welcome the people around it?
Even when the world does its best to make us think hate is pulling ahead, let me remind you of something:
Love already won.
And it’s unfailing love.
Note: My inspiration for this post was from Psalm 69:13