Sunday, August 21, 2016

Writing the Unwritten

Unwritten.

So many words are unwritten. Unknown things. Things I have yet to pray. Things I have yet to hope for. Things I have yet to thank God for. Things I have yet to know. Things I have yet to love. Things I have yet to be.

Prayer journaling has been such a huge part of my life since I was 16 years old. A friend gave me a journal which in the past I had used for sermon notes. But something or rather God prompted me to start writing down my prayers. My 16 year old prayers were nothing special but they were the outpouring of my heart. In the midst of 16 year old craziness, it was the one place I could bare my heart and my soul with no judgement and no criticism.

As I started to see prayers answered, hurts healed, and miracles happen, I was overwhelmed by the value of my prayer journal. It became a daily part of my life. Prayer journaling taught me that there is power in prayer and that God hears me when I pray.

Naturally, my love for a new journal runs deep. Something I hold in my hands each and every night in order to meet with God and process my day. It is a safe place for me. And those old journals hold in them now my longings, my desires, my surrender, my hopes, my dreams, my heartaches, my prayers, my pleading, my begging, and my interceding.

So when I look at blank pages in my current prayer journal, I know there is so much unwritten. Not my story. God has written my story, but it's up to me to write my part. It's up to me to follow in obedience. To surrender my desires and dreams. To say yes. To say no. To listen. To speak. To pray. To intercede. To love. To become who God is shaping me to be.
Blank pages used to overwhelm me. But now I see them as an opportunity to jump into the life God has created for me. To run through open doors. To learn how to close doors for myself. To go big and love even bigger.

Hope spills over into my heart that I still have 4 more months of 2016 to make the most of my unwritten. To fill in the blanks that God has left for me to live life for His glory because I have chosen to surrender my all and live this life with abandon.

Let the unwritten inspire you to seek God. Go deeper in the things of God. Fill in those blanks with words of peace, hope, rest, love, joy, kindness, and action. Take heart and have courage, God is in your midst and He is calling you to follow. To trust Him and to write in the unwritten. You do have control over how you will respond. How you will react. And how you will love.

This is our challenge. Enjoy writing the unwritten God has given us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

When the Words Won't Come

Nothing.

It all swirls around in my head. Words about life. Words about adventure. Words about experiences. Words about devastation. Words about heartbreak. Words about injustice.

They are all just individual words with no course of action. I think I have a potential blog post, but when I open up the text field, nothing comes.

Nothing.

Silence is usually seen as a negative thing. Someone gives you the silent treatment. When someone is silent, we assume something is wrong. Silence makes us feel ignored. It provokes unwanted feelings and thoughts. Silence has a way of opening up the floodgates for all things bad. At least it does for me.

But at the same time, we crave silence. We long for the chaos in our own personal worlds to be quieted. Moms will go to great lengths to get some silence. Teachers will plead with their students for just a minute of silence.

We love it and hate it all at the same time. Silence. It's either exactly what we need or the last thing we wanted.

Silence is no easy concept. Seasons of silence from God are the hardest for me. Times in life where I'm so wrapped up in me that I continue on in my good endeavors without my great God. Times in life when God is teaching me, refining me, or testing me.

Silence hurts. In this season of life, I have prayed unceasingly for two very specific things.

Nothing.

No answer. No progress. No signs. No clarity.

So I wait. And I hope. I take the silence as a sign to keep pressing on. To keep reading God's Word. To keep loving the people God has put in my life. To keep praying even in the silence.

Silence is teaching me endurance and perseverance and patience. And a host of other things that I didn't even know I needed to work on. I'm also learning that maybe what I perceive as silence is just God inviting me deeper to find him in the smallest of life's moments.

God has never spoken more loudly in my silence than when I'm watching the sunset as I drive through New Orleans. Or when I'm swinging in the park watching the people walk around me. Or when that friend reaches out and asks how I'm doing. Or when the exact song I need to hear comes on the radio. Or when a passage of Scripture keeps coming back to mind. Or when God holds off the rain for you to move.

Even in silence God is all around us. God is in everything. God is here with us. He is here with me. Always.

Nothing. Nothing comes together like I expect it too, but everything comes together the way God had planned all along. Even this blog post.

So when the words won't come, I trust that God is teaching me something through the silence.

Have you ever felt like God was silent? Have you ever, like me, equated someone else's silence in your life or unanswered prayers with silence from God?

I pray that God speaks into all of our hearts today and every day even in what feels like silence.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Learning to Say No When You Want to Say Yes

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Yes, I would love to help you out. Yes, I will pet sit for you while you are on vacation. Yes, I will give you the shirt off my back. Yes, I will be all things to all people.

Because yes feels good. Yes makes me feel like a better person. Yes makes people like me.

At least this used to be true.

But then they weren't. Then saying yes didn't feel so good. Suddenly people started making comments, jokes even, about how much I say yes. I never thought about my saying yes as a problem. I always thought everyone liked that I said yes. All my yes(es) started to weigh on me. They started to make me wonder if this is really what God wants for me. 

I think there are different personality types when it comes to "yes" and "no." None of these are scientifically proven. Just my opinion. First, you have people like me who say yes to everything. Yes to this. Yes to that. Yes to everything. Second, you have people who say no to everything. And third of all, you have people who say maybe and are just flaky enough to never commit to a yes or a no.

But there's also a fourth personality type that I feel is largely lacking all around me. I want to be a best yes person. Thank you, Lysa Terkeurst, for the term/concept. {If you haven't read her book, The Best Yes, you must read it ASAP.} I want to find a balance, and I want to honor God with my yes and my no.

No makes me feel unfriendly, unloving, uncaring, and unkind. No makes me feel guilty. Being someone who feels the need to always say yes, this is incredibly difficult for me. I genuinely have never learned the ability to discern the difference between a yes, a best yes, and a no. It can be such a gray area which has to be taken directly to the Lord.

Maybe you're thinking what's so wrong with saying yes? There's nothing inherently wrong with it, but as I've grown up and began these oh so interesting adult years, I'm learning some valuable lessons about how saying yes can actually be harmful.

1. Burnout. When I say yes to everything, I leave no time or space for myself to recharge, to spend with the Lord, to do things that line up with my passions, gifts, and talents. Burnout makes me less effective for the kingdom and it makes it all the harder to keep going through difficult times.

2. Sin. Yep, you read that right. Please excuse this terrible illustration but yes for me is almost like a gateway drug. It feels so good to be somebody's person, somebody's yes. I want to save the day. Saving the day feels good. Saving the day makes me a hero. But all those yes(es) done "in the name of Jesus" quickly turn south. Burnout leads to bitterness, anger, bad attitude, lying, etc. Saying yes is not a sin, but in abundance leads to an abundance of sin that hides itself away in my heart. And what do we all know about the heart? Luke 6:45 says "For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." And Proverbs 4:23 says "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (NIV).

3. Uselessness. I can no longer be a servant of the Lord when I am actively living in sin and failing to prioritize my daily quiet time, my friends, and my family. When I say yes to everybody, I lose my identity. I become useless. I'm doing things out of obligation to people and not obedience to God. I am so overloaded with the wrong yes that I am useless to do the best yes God has for me.

Yes is my default. This is who I am, but it is not who God has called me to be. Just because this is my nature does not mean that it is God's best for me. God challenges us, tests us, and pushes us. He knows us inside and out, up and down. Yes has served me well over the years. God used my yes personality to shape me into the woman I am today. He used it to break me out of my introvert shell, try new things, go on adventures, travel to foreign lands, and experience life to the fullest.

But now, God is teaching me that saying no does not change who I am. Saying no is a valuable tool that He has given me and wants to teach me how to use now according to his direction and will. There are so many good things. Good, Christian, Godly things I can do. But the question I have to ask myself is whether or not this is what God has for me. This is a process. One I will  not figure out overnight, but it's one that is going to be a pruning and refining process to draw me closer to God and to be more in sync with his will.

I want to give God my best yes and my best no. Anybody else out there need to surrender their yes or no personality to God? Or submit your yes and no to God's yes and no?

Abba, Father, use this season. Use this struggle. Teach my heart to stand firm on the yes and no that you have given me the ability to say equally. Give me discernment to differentiate between a best yes and a no. Show me how to say no with grace and without guilt. Lead me to surrender my people-pleasing ways to a higher calling of glorifying you and you alone. Pour over, in, and through me the peace to keep trusting your plan over mine. Grant me wisdom to know your yes and your no for each circumstance. Open my eyes to see you in the midst of it all. I lay down my yes and my no for your glory, honor, and praise.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What My Commitment Issues Really Mean


I don't have commitment issues. So I said.

But my actions and thoughts told a different story. 

When faced with the opportunity to move forward or take steps back, I retreated. I was scared. There was no trust. 

Commitment is not something to be taken lightly. It is something that requires vulnerability. And sacrifice. And most importantly, trust. 

Commitment meant bearing the deepest and darkest parts of me. Commitment meant there was a possibility that when things go past surface level and into the recesses of my heart, rejection could come. 

Better to run away than to be found not enough. To be deemed unworthy. To be labeled a fraud.  To be faced with flat out rejection. 

This was a real life situation for me. Where I subconsciously decided the commitment was not worth the price I might be required to pay. Fear won. 

But I haven't just done this with people in my life. How many times do I do this with Jesus? How many times do I keep him at arms length or worse resist Him drawing me deeper? Why? Why do I struggle to commit it all? To trust Him with every area of my life? 

Maybe its for fear that Jesus can't possibly love that part of me. He can't possibly know what I've done. He can't possibly know the ugly parts of my heart. 

Because if He did, there's no way He could look at me the same. That He could still desire a relationship with me. That His sacrifice could still be enough for me.

But the beauty of this time of year and the days even weeks following the celebration of Easter, I feel the depth and the breadth and the height and the width of God's love all the more.

Recognition comes. That thief on the cross next to him. Not a shiny good deed to his name. Not a single claim to fame in those last, dark moments of his life. I'm that thief. I'm the man on the cross next to Jesus. At least that's how I feel. I feel I have nothing to give. Nothing to offer. Except my heart. Except whatever moments I have left on this earth. Complete and total surrender. It's a crossroads. Do I believe Jesus' blood covers me or not?

Commitment is scary. But what's scarier is facing life alone. Without Jesus. Without the relationship that has wrecked my soul and given me eternal relationship with Himself. For now and forevermore.

And what I know to be true? God takes even what little I have to give. That minuscule offering of commitment I give. And He maximizes it for His glory. He reveals my weaknesses and uses them to draw others to His glory. His works. His strength. His ability. His worth.

-Travis Cottrell

God loves me just as I am. Commitment issues and all. And He loves you too. Whatever baggage you bring. Whatever hurt you carry. Whatever burden you shoulder. God's in the fixing business. We can't do it on our own. But God ... 

Let's take our all to Him today. Let's give up this fight. Let's tear down those walls we thought were protecting us yet were only hindering us from fully trusting Him. Anybody else ready? 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Go Tell it on the Mountain


Go Tell it on the Mountain.

You've heard those words. In fact, you've probably sang them a few times in your life.

Your thoughts might immediately go to that Christmas song, but that's not where the story ends.

That's only the beginning.

The Christmas story is about the baby. God sending His Son as a baby.  A tiny, human baby. His plan was to redeem the world through this little baby. Jesus was born in a manger. Jesus was rejected by God's own people. He grew up and performed signs and wonders that could only be attributed to God. People refused to believe. And then He did something no one expected. No one saw it coming. He, having lived a perfect life, laid down His life as a perfect sacrifice for us. You and me. Sinners. The Christmas story was more than a baby. The Christmas story was the beginning of our story. And the story didn't end on the cross. A clean, new beginning was given to us. It brought us life. It brought us a story that never ends. Because not only can we experience our Savior here on this earth, but He has gone to prepare a place for us in glory where we will spend eternity. He made a way for us both here and there. He paid the price to have a relationship with us. That's just how much loves us.

How can I keep this story to myself? How can I not go and tell those who haven't heard? How can I not run to the mountain tops to shout and share this Good News?

Isaiah 52:7//"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (NIV)

Certainly, I will go tell it on the mountain. That's what it's all about. That's what I want to do.

& I cannot/will not allow money to keep from going to the mountains and proclaim the Good News of Jesus.

& so that brings me to why I'm writing this ... I would like your help. I would like to partner with you to take the Good News to the ends of the earth. To the mountains of the northeastern corner of East Asia. God has opened the door for me to go for an entire month this summer to serve alongside those who are already working there in East Asia.

 If you are able, I would love for you to buy a t-shirt.

They are comfort colors in Chalky Mint. I am selling them for $20 dollars XS-2XL. I am able/willing to deliver to central locations (New Orleans, along I-55, DeSoto County, Golden Triangle), but I can mail anywhere for $25. Payment options are the same as last year. Cash, check, or Paypal. If you have questions, please feel free to email me at jennamcmurphy@gmail.com. My plan is to have all orders and money by April 25th and pick them up Mother's Day weekend on May 8th, so I can coordinate deliveries following these dates.

If you can't help in this way, I just ask that you pray. Pray that God would use me and many others to take the Good News to the mountains to proclaim salvation. I believe in the power of prayer, and I also believe that God will provide in unimaginable ways.

God calls us all to pray, give, and go. Just in different ways. I want to be obedient in each of these areas. Thank you for your part you play in this.

Until the whole world hears,
Jenna

Monday, January 18, 2016

From Dreams to Idols to Ashes

Dreams.

January 13, 2007. Sure, the dreams started long before then, but it wasn't until this day that my dreams took physical form. Letters, to be exact. Out of strictly pure motives, a letter was written. To whom you may ask? My future husband.  A letter filled with all of my hopes and dreams. One single letter filled with words that poured out of my heart and onto the paper. Sealed up. And not to be opened until the day of my wedding. And by none other than the man of my dreams. All of life was still rosy and brimming with hope of the future. All of my future dreams sealed in an envelope.

Idols.

Between 2007 and 2011, close to 20 letters were written. All for different dreams. Dreams of anniversaries. Dreams of children. Dreams of the perfect ending and happy beginnings. When I was sad, I wrote a letter. When I was happy, I wrote a letter. When I was mad, I wrote a letter. Those dreams that were once innocent had quickly turned into a full-blown idol. Those letters were living, breathing, physical representations of all that I ever wanted. The guarantee of God giving me what I wanted and even believed I deserved. My hope was in the one day of giving those letters to the man who would become/be my husband. I clung to them as if my life depended on it. God could ask anything of me, but He could not have my letters. They were my letters.

Are you starting to see what I mean by idols? God started to warn me that I needed to let them go. He even placed the book, Lady in Waiting, in my life to open my eyes to the realities of my singleness. God has done so much work in my life since 2011. I stopped writing the letters. I started going to God for answers in my confusion, questioning, fears, and hurt. I finally understood that God owed me nothing. Marriage was not my right. God's plans for me were all that mattered. I started seeing my singleness through God's eyes instead of the world's. I've come a long way, but I hadn't let go. Those letters were hidden away. An old prayer journal for safe-keeping, I kept those letters. They were still mine. They were still a part of me. God could not ask me to give those up.

Ashes.

Fast forward. 2016. Exactly 9 years from the weekend it all began. I decided to let go. The flames rising between the logs of wood. One by one. Each letter had its turn in the flames. Crinkling. Burning. Falling. Ashes. It was done. As I read through each letter, each memory blazed through my mind. Knowing the state of my heart in those moments. Knowing that I trusted in my dreams/idols instead of God in those times. The burning set me free. The burning turned me toward Him. The one who wanted to care for my heart in those moments. I saved the first for last. As I held that letter, I knew God was holding me. I thought there would be tears. I thought there would be pain. But I could only smile at the work God had done in my heart. I could only marvel that it took me this long to let go of something that was destroying me.

Sometimes what we’re holding onto isn’t really an anchor for our soul —  


so we know the only unbreakable anchor we have is Him.
-Ann Voskamp



Free. 

I feel free. Who knew ashes would bring such freedom? I had no idea the weight I was carrying by holding onto those idols. I had chained myself down to those letters. I had committed my heart to an imaginary future/husband instead of God. I have been set free. Praise God. I have been set free.

It was in the ashes that God breathed new life and a new beginning into my heart and awakened my soul to the one true love I have had in Him all along.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Being Still in the New Year


Was something I didn't quite know how to go about.

If I picked one word to describe myself, it most definitely would not be still. Or silent. Or restful. Or tranquil. Or peaceful. Or any other synonym for still.

I'm not even gonna list the antonyms, because it does not paint me as a pretty picture. I'm always pretty transparent with what a hot mess I am. No point in hiding it.

I won't bore you with more details of how (un)still my life is. Not only am I a little fearful of being still, but I also have quite the aversion to the idea. Being still for me is something that brings with it emotion, thoughts, and analyzing. So much. If I'm still, everything feels wide open.

But I think that's what God is trying to teach me. Being wide open. Letting down my guard and letting God take all of me.

That happened tonight. Wasn't quite expecting for God to give me a lesson in being still so soon into the New Year, but He did.

Worshiping with my church family tonight at Level Ground, I felt it. The stillness. The music playing. The words speaking to my heart. It was clear to me.

Peace enveloped me. It overtook every fear, anxiety, worry. All of it. God knew exactly what I needed. He knew I needed Him. Not any person or any thing. Him.

It's gonna take me being still to fight off these things every day. Being still before the Lord. In whatever way I can find. Especially when the enemy is attacking. When the enemy is trying to get me to doubt God's character and subtly morph my view of God, something's gotta give.

And my answer. Be still. Be still before the Lord. That's a hard concept for me. But I'm trusting the Lord is gonna show me those moments to just stop. And be still.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 / / DEEPEN


2016, you are a sight for sore eyes. But for real. If you're just joining the party around here at my little blogging corner of the world, When 2015 Ends will give you some insight into why 2016 is so desperately needed. Despite my feelings toward 2015, I don't for one second discredit it for the work God did in my life/heart through it. Not easy but worth it.

Y'all, I brought in the New Year surrounded by a small group of people whom I love dearly. We spent the last 30 minutes of the year singing praises and worshiping God and the first 30 minutes of 2016 sharing testimony of God's faithfulness and praying for the new year, the church, and the lost. I cannot think of a better way to start the new year.

2015's goals were reasonable and despite me picking the word, flourish, and having it blow up in my face, I actually met enough of those goals to call it a win. I'm all about a little grace for myself at the moment.

And now God has given me a new word for 2016.

DEEPEN.

Seems like a weird word, huh? I kind of thought so too, but over and over, I felt God impress this word on my heart and in my mind. When even I don't fully understand the reasoning behind God giving me a word, I can count on Merriam-Webster to help me out a little:

  • : to become or to cause (something) to become deep or deeper
  • : to become or to cause (something, such as a feeling or emotion) to become stronger or more powerful
  • : to make (your knowledge, understanding, etc.) fuller or more complete
To be completely honest, I don't know what this word is gonna look like in my life in 2016. My first thoughts were heck yes, I want to see my love for the Lord deepen. I want to deepen my friendships. I want to deepen my commitment to serving others. I want to deepen my passion and knowledge for the Word of God. I want to deepen my awareness of the things of God around me each and every day. I want to deepen my trust in God, the Almighty. And I hope and pray that those are true. But the more I think about it. I truly believe God has even more planned with this word and in my life.
So of course I also have some goals that I think will help me along the road to figuring out this whole deepen thing.
 
1 // Say yes to things that line up with my core values/passions/gifts from God. But on the flip side I plan to say no to things that don't. There are so many good things out there. I could pack my schedule full of yes(s) but then what's really left of me. Part of this goal is to keep reading Lysa TerKeurst's The Best Yes. Because this is important if I am going to stay on mission with God and deepen my walk and trust in Him.
2 // Which leads me to slowing down. I want to slow down and enjoy life. Somewhere along the way, I got it in my head that the fast life was the best life. If I keep busy and cram as much into my schedule as I can, then I won't have time to think about any hard stuff. But that wasn't true then, and it's not true now. I want to slow down and smell the roses. Yeah, yeah, cliche, I know. But who doesn't love stopping and smelling the roses?

3 // And to top it off, I want to spend more time being still before the Lord and allow time in schedule for soul rest. Things that rejuvenate and give life to those passions God has intentionally and purposefully placed in my heart. I'm still trying to figure out what soul rest and being still looks like for me in this season of my life, but I'll keep you posted around here when I figure it out.

4 // Last but not least, I want to spend more time in the Word. In 2016, I will read the Bible from beginning to end continuing to wake up each morning to start my day off with His Word and not my own. I want to spend more time focused on God and less on me. Way less on me.

To sum up my 2016 plan, once again the Lord has put a song back on my heart. Seeing as it's the same song that got me to New Orleans, I feel like I am in for a heck of a year. So ... Thanks(I hope), Hillsong, for putting words to the call on my heart to go deeper ...

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

That's what I want. I want to go deeper. I'm surrendering my plans for His plans. I'm determined. This year, two thousand sixteen, will be the year that my faith and trust in God will deepen like never before.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

When 2015 Ends

I'm going to be tempted to say // Good Riddance, 2015. Don't let the door hit you. Peace out. I'm done with you. Please don't ever come back.

Note some of my frequently used emojis. Storm clouds, tsunami waves, cover your eyes, thumbs down, tears, broken hearts, and poop interspersed with occasional heart eyes, smiles, and winks. That pretty much sums up 2015.

Dramatic? Maybe a little. But in my defense, this has been a hard year. Rehashing 2015 has not left me with the cheeriest thoughts. Looking back I almost wonder how I even made it all 365 days. There may have been a few meltdowns along the way, but no doubt there were also some exceptionally wonderful moments that got me through the not so good. I started out the year feeling eagerly hopeful for the year to come. I even wrote an entire blog post setting goals and sharing the word God had given me for the year // flourish.

An excerpt from my beginning of the year post:
"Just the word itself just brings to mind a bouquet of flower buds that look so delicate and small but overnight burst open into an array of colors with so much life and vibrancy. When I started to think about the upcoming 365 days, I want to experience growth in my relationship with God. The difference is that I don't want to just grow, I want to flourish."
What I didn't realize is that no flower has ever flourished without rain. I foolishly and immaturely imagined that flourishing would be an overnight process and that I would have the best year yet. That was all fairytale logic {wouldn't be the first time I've gotten caught up in that}. And boy did the rain come. Like I said, I'm not saying there weren't great times had this year, but overall, this year just brought more rain that I had ever imagined. So maybe flourishing looks a little different than I had originally thought.

Nonetheless, God is good. He is faithful even in the rain. I can now say at the end of 2015 that if rain is what is takes to flourish, Jesus, bring the rain. Skipping to the last two paragraphs is advised, but if you're bored, here's a little look into my rain and occasional rainbows:

January // Completed my 1st Half-Marathon. All the praise hands here. Two blog posts displaying not only my hope but also my fear for the upcoming year: Outplanning the Planner and Abide. Started the Beth Moore Bible Study, Children of the Day, as well as my first seminary class and signed up for free counseling at the seminary first chance I got(more on that at a later time).

February // Decided to step out on faith and commit to going on a trip to EA when I knew I didn't have the money. Followed God's leading to post We're In This Together and by the end of the month (actually more like by the end of that day), God had graciously and faithfully provided all the funds for me to go. And also celebrated my 1st Mardi Gras which was an absolute blast!

March // Met with some serious hardships surrounding but not attributed to my 26th birthday. Not to say they weren't hardships ongoing beforehand, but things really came to a head in March. I just couldn't hold the struggle in any longer. My finances and my heart were in complete disarray which was poured out into If My Heart Is Overwhelmed and When the Struggle Isn't Obvious.

April & May // Brought the most extreme ups and downs of the year. Spent Easter at home with my family, excitedly welcomed my childhood best friend's first child into this world, let go of some wallflower tendencies, went to a David Crowder concert, attended my 1st ever NBA Playoffs game between the Pelicans and the Warriors, participated in Secret Church, got to see my best friend for the first time in almost a year, attended my 2nd ever NBA Playoffs game between the Grizzlies and the Warriors, won an Instagram contest/giveaway, and completed my first year of working with Jefferson Parish Schools.

But I also experienced anxiety, stress, heartache, panic attacks, and fear. Hence the post Fear, Foothold, and Flood. On April 22, my mom called to tell me that she had gotten abnormal results back from her annual mammogram. In the aftermath of that news, I could only write these words in One Day. Longest month of my life walking that path with my family until on May 26 when we finally got the final test results clearing her of any cancer. Truly, I can only attribute that to a miracle of God. Praise the Lord. That same exact week, there was some unexpected drama in my life as well as the beginnings of what became an ongoing and chronic {ridiculous} sickness with unknown causes.

June // Started the journey at the very end of May into the beginning of June to my favorite place on earth. But despite being the place my heart holds so dearly, I have never been so sick in my entire life. Again it was only a miracle of God that I made it through the trip, because there are few things as miserable as being sick on an airplane or a foreign country. Aside from how sick I was, I still count that week as a highlight of my year being able to love on those students and share about my own personal story with God as well as His plan for them. There is honestly no greater joy.

July // Spent a week at Garaywa as the camp missionary which is still such a surreal experience to me considering it was a childhood dream of mine fulfilled for the 2nd time. Through the summer months, God put my relational skills to a test, and I failed miserably as noted in I Make Me Crazy. I also reflected on the year thus far in The Joy of The Lord is my Strength. At end of the month, my best friend in the world came to stay with me in NOLA. All of our adventures can be found under the Instagram hashtag #JandKtakeNOLA. I could not have asked for a better week spent with her sharing our love for EA at a church in Mississippi as well as with kids at FBNO's Vacation Bible School. My roomie and I went to Outcry 2015 as drenched rats, but despite that, it stands out as a highlight of my year. The following day I chopped off my cherished long hair as dramatically narrated in Let's Get Real // Hair Edition.

August // Dedicated the entire month to intentionally pray for how to handle a deeply personal and very important matter. Other than that, the month was mostly unremarkable. I started my 2nd year with Jefferson Parish Public Schools with a new SLP coworker whom I love {as I also had to say goodbye to my old SLP worker as she moved to Hawaii}. Went tubing with good friends.

September // Started with a bang (the good type of course) as I made the 2 hour trip north to spend the weekend with some relatively new but amazing friends and their family. As I have mentioned over and over, I am so thankful for families who take me in and make me feel so special and loved. After spending all of August praying, God gave me an answer to my prayers, so I went forward with hashing out some logistics and coming out with an unfavorable answer. I wish it had ended there, but it didn't. Halfway through the month after having to say goodbye to my best friend and send her back to EA without me, I had to sever all ties in another area of my life to protect my own heart. Which needless to say left me reeling and heartbroken as well as writing How to Help a Friend Who's Hurting.

October // Attempted round 2 of the Write 31 Days challenge held every October on Redeeming the Waiting Place. Camping with Level Ground youth, visiting family and friends, attending friends' wedding, and going to a Saints' game. Oh and completely my 2nd half marathon with good friends. Talk about a whirlwind of a month.

November // Entered the holiday season with high hopes for salvaging what was left of 2015 and even wrote the words Let the Past be the Past. Whether I did that or not is still questionable. The IMB's appointment service came to NOLA along with David Platt, whom God used to shape and form me as a young Christian when he came to preach at our church many years ago. Thanksgiving came before I knew it, and it left me feeling pretty sad and empty. Long story.

December // Determined to revive my meager holiday spirit after Thanksgiving which I wrote about in The Unfairness of it All, God gave me a serious heart check with What If Christmas Isn't About Us At All? I knew something had to give or my Christmas holidays would be a disaster in my heart. Finally. I felt some relief from the heaviness of the year. MET RYAN ANDERSON. Still swooning a little over here. Celebrated the true meaning of Christmas with the amazing friends the Lord has blessed me with in this season. Enjoyed my amazing family for such a sweet time at home. Left social media for the last two weeks of the year to protect my heart from the holiday comparison trap. Oh and bed bugs. But I'm not ready to talk about that yet. Another day.

And there you have it, the recap of my year that you never even asked for. For all the hardships, hurt, and pain of the year, I'm still here. I still believe. I still trust God. I still know He has a plan. I still know that He is faithful. He is still good. He is still with me. He is still fighting for me. He is still pursuing me (even if no man ever does). He loves me.

Just done with 2015. Done with the sickness. the allergies. the bed bugs. {insert my cringing, disgusted face}. the dramatics. Just 24 more hours, and I can officially put an end to this not so great year.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What If Christmas Isn't About Us At All?


What if Christmas is about more?

More than presents. More than caroling. More than 24/7 Christmas radio stations. More than traditions. More than Christmas candy. More than Christmas parties.

& more than friends. More than family. More than those candlelight Christmas Eve services.

What if Christmas isn't about us at all?

I can't lie to y'all. Holidays are hard as a single who just so happens to be the youngest in the family with never ending reminders of just how single I am. Oh but I know, marriage and in-laws can be hard too. That's just it. Life is hard. Holidays are hard. For an abundant number of reasons.

But that's when I remember. That's when God stops me in my tracks.

My singleness doesn't change the meaning of Christmas. Neither does your dysfunctional family/frustrating in-laws/struggling marriage/loneliness.

Christmas is about celebrating in the heart. Circumstances outside of me will always try to steal my joy. They will always tempt me to lose sight of the gift. They will always leave me wanting for more. Even the best of things don't measure up to the one thing.

Jesus.

The sweetest name I know. The baby swaddled in a manger bed. The boy who stayed behind his parents to talk his Father's business at the temple. The young man waiting for the time God had ordained for his ministry to begin. The man who shed tears of blood in the garden. The man who willingly and sacrificially allowed himself to be hung upon a tree because of love. Because of me. Because of you. Because He trusted God's will was best. And His story would bring about the salvation of the world. The savior of the world. My savior. My King. My Prince of Peace. My Soulmate.

My singleness pales in light of those things. My hurt. My pain. My struggle. It all ceases in the presence and knowledge of God.

Holidays are hard. But God is good. Loneliness is real. But God wants us to sit at His feet and worship. Disappointments are overwhelming. But God offers rest in His ultimate plan.

It's a balancing act. One I stink at 99.9% of the time. But it's a balancing act I will spend the rest of my life trying to find. The world isn't getting any better. Struggles aren't going away. But neither is God. Neither is His love, holiness, righteousness, goodness, faithfulness, & kindness.

So I fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. With my eyes and heart set on Jesus, I can start this Christmas season knowing that single or not, I have a reason to celebrate. I have a reason to rejoice. I have a reason to live. I have a reason to sing. I have a reason to be joyful.

Because Christmas is all about Jesus.