Monday, June 3, 2019

God is With Us

" and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

A few weeks ago marked the completion of leading 5 families through 12 weeks of a family devotion I wrote. It also marked the week I went back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for the last 7 years. Both of these were huge milestones for me. First, I have never led 5 families to do anything before. Also, after not working for 7 years, I really was not sure what I was qualified to do anymore outside of cleaning toilets.

Stay at home moms are some of the most capable people I know, but when it comes to being in an office setting again and meeting goals and deadlines, it takes a minute before one will feel capable in that setting again. The last time I was in an office, women were still wearing pantyhose! Business casual is the new uniform and I am no longer the spring chicken in the office. Let's just say, I am still adjusting.

When I made the phone call, to what would be my new employer, I had no idea what God had in store. The first sign that this job was not a mistake was finding that the office was literally across the alley from where I live. In fact, I could see the office through my bedroom window. The next confirmation blew me out of the water and left me sitting speechless in my interview. During the interview, it was revealed that the manager and his wife were Christians and they felt this business was a form of ministry for them to help people. It was a franchise that was actually founded by Christian believers. 

So what Jennifer? You found a job close to home and it's run by Christians. There are plenty of places like that. Yes. I agree. However, 2 years ago when we were searching for a place to live in this town where we felt led to go, I asked God for wisdom on which home to settle into. I believed He chose this one. I also worked for a church previously and was conflicted about returning to work in a church again. I was unclear about where God was calling me in this season and if I worked outside of the church could I still remain true to my calling? I was not sure how this would fit into the bigger puzzle.

You see, I believe God is in the details. God is with us. In fact, I believe He wants to be in the details because they show us how much He cares. When I see Him in the details of my life, I fellowship with a God who is personal. Yes, He will always be with me, but what if wherever I go it was because He led me there?

Have you ever spent time working on the details of something?  It takes time. It takes attention. It takes focus. Any time you spend time in the details of something, it is because something is important.  We are important to God and that is why He spends time on the details of our lives. 

Some believe God doesn't care where you go or what you do. Some believe there is a map that we need to follow. I personally have been led step by step and what I have found on the other side of obedience is mind-blowing. Connections to people I could have never made on my own happen. The dots that connect one part of my life to another are so clear. Everything seems to come together like a perfectly plotted story. 

When God reveals to me that He knows my thoughts that I may not always express to others, it creates a connection to a God who knows me intimately. It truly reveals He is with me. He knew I was wrestling with returning to work. Going back to work was a transition for all of us even though my daughter was practically pushing me out the door when I told her I got a new job. 

This blog is all about encouraging people to follow Jesus even when it's hard. Sometimes we need to plug into the Holy GPS to find our way. Sometimes we need to be conscious of His goodness as He leads us down seemingly dark alleys. Even though there may be many ways to get to our destination when we ask for His guidance, He will always lead us in the plan He has for us. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Whose Reflection?

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:29

The "Imago Dei" in Latin means the image of God. So according to this verse, we are being "conformed", or we are in a molding stage. We have not yet arrived, but we are being transformed.

So what can this transformation process look like?

Well, I can only tell you through experience that the times my perspective has changed from the Jennifer I know to an unbelievable extraordinary perspective, it came through suffering. I wish I had something more for you, but I don't. I know this doesn't sound like your "best life" or your dreams of being a movie star coming true, not that either of those are impossible. All I can tell you is that if you seek Jesus in your place of suffering, you will find Him. You will actually do more than find Him, you will conform to His image. People will see Jesus in you and you will look different, act differently, and probably not be popular in some circles. In order for people to accept you, they have to accept suffering as part of God's will, and who wants to do that?

I have heard the stories of persecution of our brothers and sisters in countries where believers are dying for their faith. They are rejoicing till the end through persecution as they sometimes have to flee for their lives.

My good friend has a son who went to Greece recently to bring aid to the refugees. Let's just say, I was on the "emergency prayer team". When he came back, I heard first-hand stories of his journey and the testing of his faith to stand in the face of danger as he experienced verbal threats of his safety. In the midst of all of this, a man came up to him and said he had a dream the night before about my friend's son telling him about Jesus. One of the most memorable stories was of one person who was in their group. A seemingly lucid man charged at him with a weapon and he mustered enough faith to speak, "stop in the name of Jesus!" At this command, the man dropped his weapon.

Do people leave a missionary experience like this and come back home to complain about the worship music or the wrong flavor doughnuts? Probably not.

After hearing these amazing testimonies, I thought, am I really a disciple of Jesus? I am afraid to walk through my neighborhood to invite someone to church. I recognize we all cannot go on life-threatening missionary trips, but what if our mission field is here in our fairly safe country?

What if our calling is to suffer in our daily circumstances and still remain true and faithful to Jesus? I am talking about dealing with a difficult boss or co-worker. I am talking about loving your ex-husband or praying for a difficult spouse. What if we could do this and at the same time still speak about the goodness of God?

Maybe we too can be conformed to His likeness in the midst of suffering with a purpose to share with others our faith in a God that we believe in...even when.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Best Christmas Gift Ever

"...Well done good and faithful servant!" Matthew 25:23

Watching baptisms is like watching a high school graduation. You know this person has been through a journey to get them to this one point where they have decided to not just get wet, but to follow Jesus. Recently, I was watching baptisms at church. I always shed tears during baptisms because they remind me of my own baptism and it makes me think of the adventure that these individuals are about to embark on.

"Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow, no turning back, no turning back."

This is a song I remember singing in the children's choir I was in at my Catholic Church. I attended 12 years of Catholic school and spent the majority of my life around Catholic missionary priests. My parents devoted most of their lives to supporting those on the mission fields. This looked like me riding my tricycle around the rose garden of the mansion where my parents would attend regular meetings for the Verona Missionary League. The priests would lift me on their shoulders and give me loving hugs and kisses. I grew up knowing I was loved.

When I left the Catholic church as a young pregnant teenager, I was scorned by a bad experience when I shared my sin in confession. I walked away feeling more shame and less hope for redemption. Looking back though, I never left God. He was always there. I also realized that my bad experience in confession was the best thing that ever happened to me because it inspired me to search for Jesus. The Catholic church was not bad, but the truth and relationship I needed to find were not going to be found in my 12 years of Catholic school. My journey of searching for truth around my salvation was only just beginning at that point. I walked away from the Catholic church knowing I was missing some major pieces of the puzzle. This is when I began talking to everyone...Mormons, Jehovah Witness...I was searching for those pieces. After many failed attempts to find truth like an Easter Egg hunt I showed up late to, I finally resigned to the contentment of raising our baby with my boyfriend just trying to survive.

However, eventually, our lives would intersect with my husband's coworker who would later invite us to attend the church with his family 20 miles away from our home. It was there that my eyes began to be opened to the truth I had been seeking so many years before.
Everyone's journey is unique and recently, the Sunday before Christmas, I happened to get front row seats to one young woman's decision to follow Jesus. She was the mother of a girl who attended my daughter's school a few years before. Something within me knew her journey to get where she was that morning was not an easy one. I guess that was what made it so beautiful. I knew God was pursuing her just as He had pursued me.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Valley is My Friend

"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4

I have been through a few valleys. If you are a believer, you surely know what I am talking about. It's funny how every time I end up in one I go through the same thing. I get anxious. I panic. I close my eyes and try to pretend I am not there. Then as I hesitantly allow Jesus to guide me out like a child being dragged through a haunted house, I breathe my sigh of relief and move on to rejoice that I am no longer in the valley.

Enough is enough! I am done with running scared from valleys, fearfully and reluctantly trying to make it through the other side. Today is the day I will learn to make the valley my friend. Today I will embrace the valley I am in. Does that mean my heart will not race producing so much cortisol to send my body into bloat status? Of course not. I believe the fear is present to know that we are human and the beauty of the time in the valley is to walk courageously through it reminding yourself that even though you have been through this darkness before, it doesn't always mean it will have the same ending. Sometimes it is different. Also, sometimes the other side of the valley is deliverance into freedom from whatever scared you in the first place. Maybe Jesus is trying to loose the chains around your hands and feet that lead you to avoid your valleys, to get to the other side of your mountain top experience.

Do not let the fear of the valley keep you from the freedom Jesus has for you on the other side!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Do You Hear and See What I Hear and See?

Following Jesus is definitely a separate subject broken up into many lessons. If we look at the disciples and the many lessons they got in following Jesus, they did not all pass with flying colors. Some were better students than others, but sometimes they went home and didn't go to class. In fact, when Jesus went away, most of them scattered and even went back to what they used to do. Peter, the guy Jesus said he would build his church on went back to his old job of fishing.

Recently, I was wondering if God is standing in some room and speaking on a microphone and only those students who are there taking notes and listening pass the test.  Or, does He have individual messages that speak intimately to each one of us like a homeschooled student? I think the answer is both. I believe He speaks a general message that is used to unify us on a bigger playing field, but He also reserves intimate private details for those of us who stay after class.

I think about the sweet conversations I have had with my husband or children. Sometimes they share things that are only personal for us, but other times they share things that they share with everyone. I believe it's those personal messages that are spoken to only us that increase the closeness of the relationship. When we share the bigger messages that we receive with others, we are inviting others into the room with the teacher, but when we share those close and personal intimate conversations, we are inviting them into a view of how sweet He really is. It teaches others to look for the personal signs of His affection from the One who desires to know us intimately.
While out running today, I saw a street sign. It happened to be close to the end of my run when I was exhausted and hot. It was when I couldn't imagine running another block. "Hope St". Isn't this like our Abba Father to send us a message of hope just when we feel like we have nothing left? It usually comes when we are exhausted and feel like giving up. A friend of mine calls it a "ray of hope". She looks for signs that Jesus is still at work. She looks for ways to see that she is not alone and that there is a purpose for all that she is going through and that there is another side to the trials in this life. There is hope.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


They say women are the best multitaskers. I must have been in the line for "super focus" a little too long and missed the line to receive my "multitasking" gift. This has not really come naturally to me. That is why I had two "only" children 12 years apart just so that I could focus on raising one child at a time.
Recently I heard a sermon by my pastor, called "A Days Work". He pointed out in Matthew chapter 9 all the miracles Jesus performed in one day! Wow Jesus! He was an overachiever! The two stories that kept resounding with me were the ones about Jairus' daughter and the woman who was bleeding for 12 years. I heard another sermon in the same week about these two miracles. It was pointed out that there were connections between these miracles. The year the 12-year-old girl was born happened to be the same year this woman who was bleeding contracted her illness. Coincidence? Nothing is a coincidence with God!

The combination of these two stories and the fact that I had heard them within the same week of each other got me thinking about my 12-year-old daughter who was born on the same year that it seemed my whole life was turned upside down. It was the year Jesus came closer and tore off every bandaid I had ever put on. He allowed my wounds to bleed and hurt. He allowed me to be humbled and He taught me to embrace the season I was in. This year for me marked the 12th anniversary of that year.

This year my husband took a job 3000 miles away from home that was supposed to last 6-8 months and we were not going with him. 12 years ago he and I separated because our marriage was broken. I know PTSD is a real and serious thing for men and women who have served in our country and I do not mean to lessen the severity of that. Jesus began taking some bandaids off a few wounds I thought had healed. Jesus is truly the surgeon of all surgeons because He sees our deepest needs and trauma.

In John chapter 4 when the woman at the well went to fill her buckets with water, she met Jesus. What she did not realize was that in an effort to get her physical needs met, despite her shame, Jesus met her where she was at and brought truth to her situation. He took her bandaids off. He let her fetch her physical need and in the midst of it, he met her with her spiritual need. Jesus is the ultimate multitasker. He allows us to go to our manmade wells to get the things we need, but it is there where we are met with something more than we bargained for. It is there we are met with an experience with Jesus that will last forever. The woman who was bleeding and the man who wanted his daughter healed were both seeking their physical needs to be met. Jesus met them there and gave them even more than what they asked for.

This is an idea that brings so much comfort to my soul. As I reach for my tangible needs in life, I am constantly met with my spiritual ones. It is where I meet Jesus every time. My physical need for my husband to be with me always brings me to a place where I see my greater spiritual need to be filled by Jesus every time.

Here are the two sermons I referenced above. Be encouraged!

Thursday, October 25, 2018


"By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you-I Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but bold when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world." 2 Corinthians 10:1-2

Paul, a disciple of Christ, the man who wrote most of the new testament said he could be both timid and bold. When I think of the man who went into towns and preached the word of God, was thrown into prison, beat, and shipwrecked I cannot imagine him as timid. Maybe I am alone in thinking this but the writer of the New Testament, former Christian killer, does not seem as if he has a timid bone in his body.

Paul states in his greeting that he clearly is coming from the perspective of being meek and gentle like Jesus modeled. He is not advocating violence. However, he goes on to say, if it is necessary like he thinks it may be, he will be bold. He makes it clear that's not normally how he is, but if he has to be bold, he will be.

This morning I had a conversation with my daughter about someone at school that made reference to her thighs being big. This girl didn't just say it but she went up to my daughter slapped her thy and said, "wow, you have big thighs!" After dealing with this kind of behavior since she was in the 3rd grade, my first response wasn't to do what any mama bear would do which would be to march to the school, talk with the administration or stalk the girl after school and have a word for her, in Jesus name of course. Instead, I responded in exclamation with, "are you kidding me?"

I couldn't believe someone actually said this to her. My response was not timid this time. Before I have always sat with her in her pain and let her vent her anger and hurt. This time I had bold words for her to speak. I told her if that ever happens again, I want you to respond, not in anger, but in shock like your mom just did, and I want you to say, "I cannot believe you just said that!"

I think we as believers can confuse the meekness of Christ with the times when we do need to speak justly, not timidly, but boldly like a lion. The goal is never to just be a martyr. The goal is to be effective for the Kingdom of God. Even Jesus went into the temple and turned over the tables of the merchants. There is a time and a place for the way we respond. Sometimes people need to be told they are wrong and other times God knows that is not the way they will hear truth. Instead, sometimes He calls us to be meek and says, step back and let me deal with them. I am definitely not advocating a movement of violence, but I am advocating that sometimes we need to speak up in a way people will hear us.

God is With Us

" and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:2...