Semi’s of Life

Does anyone else have a fear of semi’s(18 wheelers)? Or is it just me?

The other day I was driving on the interstate and although I had passed who knows how many, when I was passing this one semi, I noticed my fear of them. When you pass by a semi, do any of you stay as far away from them as you can by hugging the line and maybe cross over just a little while picking up speed to get past them as soon as possible? Then, once you pass them, do you feel your chest relax and take a breath like you just avoided a huge catastrophe?

Ok good! I am not alone!

Funny thing is, I have never personally been hit or even had a close call with a semi but still fear them as though I had. I have family members and friends that have been in wrecks involving a semi but other than that my fear isn’t justified by an experience. My fear is due to intimidation. Those trucks intimidate me no matter if I am in our little Chevy Malibu or Ford Expedition because they are still exceptionally bigger and possess the ability to squash us in a heartbeat.

Just because they are bigger, does that make my fear any more reasonable? No.

How many of us have fears like this one? Whether we have experienced for ourselves or know someone who has, is it right to live life in fear and cause such turmoil when we think about it or near the thing we fear?

I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. – Psalm 3:6

Earlier that morning, while at the doctors office, I was reading Fresh Air by Chris Hodges and was reading about relationships. I was pondering how I view people and relationships. Do I fear them or embrace them? Do I have relationships but still have walls high enough to guard myself but still be able to see them and communicate? Do I want to have relationships with people or do I just have them because I feel it is a requirement of me or need them to survive this life?

So when I was passing this semi and realizing my ridiculous fear, it got me thinking about how many others treat their relationships the same way as they do semi’s? Whether we have had broken relationships ourselves or grew up seeing them so we decided to put up our own walls to protect ourselves from going through the same, broken relationships are a choice?

Granted that with every relationship there are two parties involved that have to choose to protect and when things get shaky, we choose in that moment to forgive or hold on to our unforgiveness and let the relationship disintegrate. The good news, you are always in control of your part in the relationship and if you have fulfilled that part of love and forgiveness, then what the other person chooses is out of your hands.

I am one of those people who knows my limits and if their are relationships in my life that are more work than enjoyment, it is easier for me to put less of an effort and let the relationship die. I do try to save it to an extent but I don’t go as far as I would for other relationships that I truly cherish and honestly, that are a little easier to maintain. Is that the right attitude for me to have? I don’t know yet. I am praying and seeking God to show me where I should draw my line for each relationship and the special circumstances in each. I believe that as long as we remain open to hear God and follow His leading with all things, whether we agree or not, then we can remain on the right path.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. – Matthew 18:21-22

There are always special circumstances where it is healthy for everyone to let someone relationships go or have some separation, and others that we could say would be easier to let go but worth fighting for. How do you know the difference? God will give you a peace as you seek him about each one.

There are relationships I have had to let go because we went down completely different paths and our lives didn’t mesh anymore and some I wanted to let go many times but continued fighting for with every last breath and effort because I felt my hurt and pain wasn’t enough reason to abandon them just yet.

Are relationships exhausting, painful, rocky, and risky? Absolutely!

My relationship with my husband are all those things at times but because of the devotion, love and honor we hold for each other and God is bigger than the hard days, we work through the bad days because we have so many more good days than bad. As much as semi’s intimidate me because they hold the ability to hurt me, I can never avoid them all together so with every one I get near, I have to choose to trust that they will see me and do their job to pay attention as I pass by.

Relationships are a choice to trust someone until it is broken. Will trust be broken? Most likely. Can it be rebuilt? Yes.

Although Jesus already knew Judas would betray him, He still chose to choose him as a close friend and trusted him until Judas actually betrayed him. We do not have the ability to see the future like Jesus but because we are human and we ourselves let others down, we can assume we will be let down too. But like Jesus, He still surrounded himself with many who would let him down because to walk this life alone is a lot worse than risking being let down. Why? Because you never know who will be the ones that you live life with, who will be the ones we struggle and rejoice with, who will be the ones we form such strong bonds with and know we have each other backs. Jesus had few he shared this type of relationship with but because he didn’t live in fear, he was able to find them.

The most important relationship that we have to be careful to protect and fight for daily is the one we possess with God. A lot of our relationship struggles come from the lack of connection we have with Him. We have to protect ourselves from seeing God as a semi. Because we know God is so much bigger than we could ever fathom and holds so much power, we can sometime view Him as too hard of a relationship to carry on. We fear that because he has the ability and power to hurt us, that He will if we aren’t careful. Thats when our view of God is distorted by the imperfect humans we see everyday.

As humans, we possess the same power to hurt, let down, and leave as God does. God gave us the ability to choose to use that power for good or evil every single day. Don’t view God as something to fear of what He can do in this life, see him as the Father who loves deeply and wants us to show love in return to Him and others.

Relationships will never be a cake walk, but they are what makes this life so much more meaningful. Even though I want to strangle my husband sometimes, I can’t imagine my life without him. I don’t always see eye to eye with my parents or siblings but living life without them would be harder than living with our differences.

God made us all unique and with every person comes their weaknesses and strengths. I hate to break it to you, but none of us are any easier to deal with as others are to us. If you think that others are the ones with the problems, then I suggest you take a good look in the mirror. Sometimes we are so fearful to address our own weaknesses, we take on the attitude of blaming others for their issues. We need to always remain humble to examine ourselves. My hope and prayer is that you always use Jesus to be the mirror of what you want to see looking back.

Being in relationships with anyone is about letting the walls down and making ourselves vulnerable. Scary? Yes. But with every wall you keep, the less trust can be present. Thats when we may have people all around but hide so much from them that they don’t even have the ability to speak life and love into you because you hide what you don’t want them to see for fear it makes you weaker. That is the lie. Making yourself vulnerable, actually gives you the ability to be stronger. Will it be hard? Yes. Will it get easier? Yes.

I can not choose to avoid semi’s because they are EVERYWHERE!!!! So every time I pass by one, I overcome the fear a little more with each one by making myself vulnerable to them, hoping they will see me and not use their power to change lanes whenever they wish because whatever is in the way will move or be pushed out of the way with little interference for them. Choose the same for yourself and watch how life will change and be filled with so much joy knowing you have people on your side but most of all, God on your side who just wants to know you and love you the way you want, need, and deserve.

Nothing will ever compare to walking this life locked hand in hand with others who struggle just as much as you do and need your strengths to get them through as well.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. -Ephesians 4:16

Lets be on purpose to fulfill our part!

Love

Jessica

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Scales of Paul

So much about Paul(Saul) has always spoken to me and inspired me. He went through so much for the sake of Christ but still held such integrity, faithfulness, and love for God and others.

Today at church, we were singing Broken Vessels by Hillsong United and it got me thinking about Paul’s life when he was more known as Saul and feared by many for his ruthlessness towards those who followed Christ. He actually believed he was doing Gods will by persecuting, arresting, and killing others because up till then he was blinded from the truth of Gods love.

Because people had gotten away from the truth of Gods word and more into their own way, they led people like Paul to believe according to their ways. I believe that because we sometimes don’t see things through the eyes of Gods love and more of the worlds ways, we get lost along the way and eventually find ourselves lost and confused.

When I came out of my confusion and lost state a few years ago, I have pondered many times why I was so blind to the truth. I believe that there is never a true answer that can be given because each persons journey is different and the reasons behind their blindness to truth. I believe the root of it is deception. What caused the deception? That is for each individual to seek for themselves. But I do believe that the only way we can be led to such deception is our view of God.

I still have not reached true understanding of God and His thought process but I am open to seek more and more each day and because of that I can truly trust Him to lead me, provide for me, and protect me. Up until Saul became Paul, His view of God was not a God of love and forgiveness but a God of condemnation and paying for our sins. Gods ultimate goal is not only to love us but be given the opportunity to let us feel that love, grace and forgiveness. If we misconstrue God as someone who sits on His throne and points His finger at us always pointing to what we are doing wrong and have to earn His love, then deception will be evident. His love was never meant to be earned but freely given.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.                                -Galatians 1:6-7

Why can we so quickly desert the things that are good and true, but continue to allow the things that hinder, injure, and confuse to hold us in bondage?

How many of us are following what the world says is the Gospel and forget to go to the source to make sure we are being led correctly?

How many of us live our lives according to lies and misconceptions?

How many of us have fallen into the trap of living according to our desires and convenience because we see Gods commands as burdensome and too hard?

How many of us hinder ourselves from truly knowing God because we surrender to the desire to BE God, instead of surrendering to our calling to KNOW God and trust He will reveal to us the knowledge we seek when we are READY to receive it?

God already loves us with arms wide open, receive it!

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:8

God is our freedom from deception, lies, and condemnation!

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.   -2 Corinthians 3:17

So we come to the change of direction in Paul’s journey and beliefs when God met with him on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:3-6) I believe that we all have the potential to have a powerful encounter with God that will shed some light on our life. Whether it is as dramatic as Paul’s encounter, who knows. But any encounter with God can be just as powerful as we open ourselves to receive. When God got a hold of Paul’s attention, Paul saw the light and from that moment was humbled to let God lead him.

I believe that the blindness he was given after that encounter symbolizes his beliefs and lifestyle up till that moment. Because he was blinded(figuratively) from truth, God may have chosen to blind(literally) him so that Paul would rest his trust in God’s guidance to the truth and to be given the ability to see God rather than distracted by the world. From that moment, Paul lived a life of passion and zeal for spreading the truth and correcting his way to Gods way. Paul is one of the few I truly learn from and respect for his choice to have joy amidst struggle and pain. His choice to be faithful in trials and his choice to love when persecuted.

Paul’s story is proof that someone that deserved death and condemnation was instead given forgiveness and life. Paul is an example that God can and wants to use us all no matter what our past or present shows.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. – Romans 8:1-2

Paul walked out God’s commands not as a burden but as a joy of being chosen and given new life in Christ. God doesn’t want us to follow His ways out of duty but out of love and adoration.

My hope is that you see God as a God of love who just wants to give you life and freedom! I pray you surrender daily to know God personally and trust Him always even when life doesn’t make sense.

Let the scales fall from your eyes and lift your eyes upward and allow the light to envelope your entire being. I do not promise an easy road but I do promise an exciting one! Nothing is worse than walking this life alone and defeated. We may hate challenges and the unexpected but imagine how boring of a life we would live if we knew exactly, down to each second, what to expect daily! Let God give you knew meaning to life and the capability to defeat not be defeated. Amen?

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life. -Deuteronomy 30:19 

In love,

Jessica

Know Your Boundaries

This is to the young girls, boys, women and men out there.

For those who don’t know my story thus far, I will give a quick summary so you can get to know me and the things I have faced and chosen in life.

In my 7th grade year, I met a boy. The perfect, most cutest boy ever in my eyes. The instant I met him, I was head over heels “in love”! Others ladies will relate that we fall in love pretty easy, especially when young. I new that this boy would be my husband one day. By the grace of God, he is now my husband and all mine after much struggle, heartache, and tears. Our dating life throughout high school was extremely unhealthy and a long story so we will just say that we dated on and off till about 11th grade. We began being sexually active at the age of 15 and I got pregnant at the age of 16. To say the least, that did not go over to well with the folks because I was raised in a Godly home and was taught right. We got married a month after our Cameron was born and have been on the fast track (as we like to call it) since then. We are now very happily married for 3 years, on fire for God, go to an amazing church called Church of the Highlands, have 2 boys and one on the way. We are in the process of buying our first house and my husband TJ is very successful at Verizon Wireless. All of this at the ages of 20 and 21. We are where we are because of God’s grace, forgiveness, and love. Our life would be drastically different without God and us being exposed to some different information early in our marriage.

Lately, the temptations that come our way when single or dating have really been laid on my heart. I have been asked a few times recently what my feelings and thoughts were during those times when I was making those decisions that I knew were wrong but ignored. I have asked myself the same question, wondering why I fell into those traps the enemy sets for us when single or dating. The simplest way to answer the question of “Why?’ is that I thought I was in love, I exposed myself to other sources outside of Gods Word, I was far from God, and I let my emotions take over rather than letting God take over. I have thought at times how different my life would be had I done things God’s way rather than Jessica’s way. I don’t by any means regret having my kids because children are a blessing, I only regret the decisions made that brought them into this world. I was always that little girl growing up that at first said I never wanted to leave home, then dreamed of leaving and having a family but always said I would save myself for marriage and I didn’t understand why people would have sex before marriage.

I know now that the temptations of this world are very strong and if we don’t have something stronger keeping us on the straight and narrow path, we will stray from what we know is right and find anything we can to justify it. A lot of people ask me if I chose to have sex because it assured me that he would stay with me or really loved me and I don’t remember ever thinking that. I can only say that I was far from truth and any truth I heard, I would try to ignore because I felt is was too late to turn back. They were all lies. It is never too late to turn back to God and change how you live.

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14

I am not going to say it will be easy because changing course is never easy or effortless but with God it is possible. I know many will say that I can talk about this now because I am married and don’t face that temptation anymore. Believe me when I say that I may not face that temptation but many others are thrown at me now because premarital sex isn’t something the enemy can come at me with. I tell you single guys and gals my story no matter if you are 12 or 100, giving in isn’t worth it. Our pastor is doing a series on Relationships right now and one of the biggest points that has been on my mind is that if God isn’t #1 in our life and we don’t look to Him to fulfill our needs and wants first, then the temptations out there become that much stronger because we are looking for love in the wrong places. Hollywood has painted these pictures in our mind of what love, romance, and relationships look like and those pictures just aren’t realistic. Movies show that sleeping around is just fun and cool. Our society has excepted this lie and because we watch these movies it is destroying what God intended relationships to look and feel like. This is why girls are getting pregnant younger and younger, divorce rates are through the roof, and many other things that are beginning to be excepted and condoned in our culture that is destroying the wonder that is love!

I want all of single, dating, engaged, and even married to look to God first to be filled and satisfied with true love and devotion, let God be first in your life, and let Him show you what love, romance, and happiness can really be like. One thing Pastor Chris said today is that it isn’t fair to put your total happiness is the hands of another human when that was intended for God to fill and for your significant other to just feed what God has already stirred up. I promise you, there is no better feeling than God being your true love.

I can not possibly stress enough that EVERY decision you make affects everything and everyone! It affects you emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually but it also affects others in those areas as well. Whether you see it or not, others are watching you and you can be the light that shows them God’s way or the enemies way. Because of our decisions, we affected our families, our friends, acquaintances, and our children. When our children grow up, I so wish that I could tell them that Mommy and Daddy did things the way God desires and be the light they will be looking for in such a dark and conflicting world. So instead I praise God that I can tell them that what the enemy intended to destroy us, God turned around for good by bringing us back to truth so we could give them the best life and example by understanding what they will face and show them they are stronger than the enemies lies and can rise above whatever comes their way through the strength of God.

People who know us look at our life and think we have such a great life considering our age and situation. When I look at our life, I know and remember all the things we have had to overcome and change to get to where we are and don’t think much about it because I see everything, whereas others just see the outside stuff like our house, cars, success, etc. I know without a shadow of a doubt that it is all God. I want others to look at us and see a family that exemplifies Jesus in every way. I want people to know our true story. We aren’t where we are because we were dealt a lucky hand or things just happened to work out for us. We got here by a ton of hard work, struggle, difficulty, consistency, love, support, some victories but mainly by God’s grace and blessing.

I am not ashamed of where we are, but when some people hear I am about to have 3 kids, married, and only 20, some of the expressions are like the air just got knocked out of them and I am sure they have many thoughts about it. This was not the life I pictured for myself growing up at age 20. This was the life I dreamed to have by the time I was in my early thirties, but my decisions brought me here ahead of schedule and that’s okay because God has taught me a lot and I know he intends to use my experiences to encourage others that God’s way is best, even if we don’t see it in those moments.

To you ladies out there, all I can say is to not let your emotions get the best of you. Keep God first and be patient to see who He brings into your life to be your other half.  Don’t let the enemy whisper those lies in your ear, keep your mind free from the media out there that tells you what love should look like and look to God for the original portrait. Look at yourself and understand that you are special, unique, beautiful, and worth waiting for till you look your husband in the eye and say “I do”. If you have already messed up, then decide today to make God your true love, find a verse or verses to speak over yourself every day reassuring you that you are an overcomer and the old you is in the past and you are starting fresh with a new canvas giving God the paint brush.  Purity is the most special thing we possess and the greatest gift in our power to give to the one we devote the rest of our life to. Guard it like you guard your life. You will set yourself apart to know what man is worth your time by how he respects that gift. The ones who don’t, let them go.

To you men, I know that God has given you a different mindset. You don’t operate off emotions but things you see. I encourage you to keep God number one and to let Him be the one who fills you till he brings that special woman created for you into your life. The enemy knows your weaknesses best and will be like a roaring lion waiting to pounce on the opportunity to use your desires to lead you to fall. Respect yourself enough to limit your open opportunities to fall and keep accountability with someone you can be totally open and honest to keep you pure and safe from those moments. Understand that us women aren’t wired the same and we do truly run on emotions and how people make us feel. Show us love and respect, kindness, and devotion, dedication and honesty.  When dating, look at that woman in the way that she will be someones wife one day, whether yours or some other man. Think about who you would want to marry and how great it would feel to know that you are the one and only and respect her enough that whoever she marries, she will be able to tell him he is her one and only.

The reason I entitled this “Know Your Boundaries” is because it is crucial to know and respect your weaknesses and strengths. We have been given a sense called conviction when we begin to get near a bad situation or decision, some ignore it and some recognize it and back away because they respect the consequences that come with it. What my mom tells me is to “play that tape all the way through.” Look down the road and look at worse case and best case scenarios and of course always keep what God’s word says in front of you.

So play your tapes out! Know the right choice is always best! Know your boundaries and keep them. Honor yourself, God and others. Let God be the painter and you be the canvas. The end result is always more beautiful!

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. – Psalm 18:30 

The Wonder of Pregnancy

It has been quite awhile since I have written….the reason…

PREGNANCY!

Now women will understand what that means and men will think, “What is the big deal about that?? So you carry a baby for nine months??”

These last 4 months have been the most painful, sick, miserable months I can remember! And the most lazy…

I know some of you may think pregnancy is the most magical, fun, wonderful thing…I am not one who would agree. I know, I know…how terrible am I to think that with such a blessing growing inside. I am one of those women who love babies and the joy they bring but if I could have them and skip pregnancy…MY HAND WOULD BE THE FIRST RAISED! Some may be reading this, whether currently pregnant or have been pregnant in the past, thinking amen!!

If you would have asked me after my first child….pregnancy was the best!! I never had any heartburn, cramps, sickness, swelling, being uncomfortable, and who knows what else. Besides my big belly (which wasn’t even that big), I didn’t feel pregnant. It was great!

But with each pregnancy after, it has gotten worse and worse!

During those months of misery, as I am sure anyone can relate to when feeling sick due to pregnancy or not, you feel as though it will never end and you can’t remember what it felt like to be healthy or when was the last time you felt good. That’s what is scary…sometimes I would be dreaming about being healthy again and think to myself, “Will I ever feel good again and if so will I even recognize what that feeling is?”

So goofy! Totally thinking without logic and reason…but when your body is undergoing that kind of change, logic and reason are out the window most of the time.

And you have to love those times when others try to encourage you through it and sometimes you just want to scream and yell because we think that there is no one else out there who could possibly understand but yet the encouraging words still feel nice even when you feel like its a bunch of bologna.

Because I am currently pregnant and facing the challenges and blessings with it, I feel I have permission to talk about this, and to hopefully help fellow pregnant Mommies to know, you are not alone, it WILL pass, the baby inside is a blessing and isn’t intentionally squeezing your bladder like a toy (I mean imagine living in a bubble for 9 months, they have to find something to entertain them right?). When people try to love on you and make you feel better, let them! Especially your husband because he is TOTALLY at a loss to what you are going through and probably living on the edge hoping he doesn’t say or do something wrong and get his head bit off. And let’s face it, men need love which is what we can give, and no matter how much we want to hit them for doing this to us(because in our heads, it’s totally their fault), love on them instead. 🙂

For TJ, he did most of the housework and childcare for our other 2 children when he wasn’t at work because I couldn’t stand up and be active for more than a couple minutes at a time. My house has never been dirtier!! That probably scared TJ most because I abandoned all my beliefs for order and cleanliness that I drilled in his head for the past 3 years. I am also believing and trusting that he won’t have arthritis in his hands for the countless massages he gave and continues to give to keep me comfortable when I wasn’t.

Our men don’t like seeing us in pain and they want to be there in anyway they can, to love on us and be apart of the experience, let them! It will make it more enjoyable and bearable for everyone and make sure to be thankful when they do something for you!

Now to the men, as a woman, I know our role is to bring the babies into the world and yours is to bring the money in so we can bring the babies. Let me say ya’ll do a great job fulfilling your roles! Women know ya’ll will never know what pregnancy is like, so when we try to explain what we are feeling, I have 3 tasks for you: Listen, Act like you Understand, and Find out what your wife loves most and try to meet that desire as often as you can and she enjoys it. Your wife will be stronger with the support! All women want is that although you will never understand us, you TRY!

For those who REALLY want to try and understand partly what we go through, you can try an idea of mine. 😉 Get a decent sized watermelon, cut it in half, tape it to your body, and then try to sleep in the positions you love most, care for kids, try to hold them, try to get up from the couch, and just ask your wife what else. After doing that for a few days, try to imagine nine months and how great it feels when you remove the watermelon.

That would brighten our faces and give us some good laughs to see you attempt this task either way! HAHA

Women of the world, you are fulfilling the task God gave you to continue populating the Earth, each with special gifts to change lives for His kingdom and fulfilling our joy to be mothers. Motherhood is the closest thing God gave us to show His true, unconditional love for all of His children no matter what they do. That is truly a great gift to understand in a small way how God feels about us.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God–you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration–what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.  Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. -Psalm 139:13

God created you in this way and is doing the same with every little one you bring into this world with a specific purpose. God chose you to be a mother and to give birth to a child he will use to fulfill something great as He did with Mary. If nothing else, focus on that in those times of pain or frustration.

Staying empowered together,

Jessica

Lost or Found?

At some point, we all go through stages of being lost.

Whether it’s being lost because the GPS has no idea what it’s talking about…

Being lost in the woods and can’t seem to find any familiar land markings..

Being lost in our relationships and can’t figure people out and which way is right anymore..

Being lost emotionally and just can’t control our feelings, outbursts, or emotions..

Being lost physically and just can’t figure out what works to get our body where we desire health-wise or weight-wise…

Maybe its spiritually and we are completely lost on where we are with God, maybe never even came to the place where we truly know God or have just lost site of Him…

Maybe we are lost in life itself and became Southbound when we need to go North and we have no idea how to turn around..

Good News: You are not alone! We have all been lost in all of those at some point in our lives or maybe all at the same time and everything is so foggy, we are just stuck and afraid to take a step in any direction in fear that a cliff is right there. Don’t feel separated from everyone as though no one could possibly help. Don’t remain in that uncertainty. I am going to go back to my younger years when I would watch The Land Before Time movies (the fact that I still watch them with my boys makes no difference). If you have ever seen them then you may know what I am referring to. In the 4th one, The Journey Through the Mists, Little Foot goes to the Valley of Mists to find a certain flower to save Grandpa who has become sick. The journey is very dangerous and not suitable for children on there own. His friends of course want to go with him so they embark on this journey together. At one point, the mist is so thick that if you get separated from each other, you may remain lost forever. Sarah, one of the friends(the stubborn one btw), gets separated and they can hear her but can’t see her till the mist lifts a little and see that she is on a rock in the middle of a fast-flowing river. (How she got there, who knows. But sometimes looking at it, we ask ourselves, “How did I get so far?”)While they try to get to her, she is scared and unsure what will happen. She doesn’t have anywhere to go and the water is rushing all around and everything seems hopeless. When all seemed lost and hopeless, she felt alone and afraid, her friends were working the whole time to rescue her, to reach out and give her a hand. (To know what happens next, watch the movie, I don’t have time to write it all down, SORRY!)

My point of all this is that…you may have felt lost at some point and have a testimony of people that helped you find your way or maybe God was the one who provided the dry ground to walk on to freedom and clarity. Maybe you are feeling lost right now at this moment and have no clue what step to take first and which direction is the right one because the mist is so thick. My goal is drill it so hard in your mind that you are not alone..even if you feel you have no one here on earth to rescue you, you have a Father, a Friend, a Rescuer in Heaven above waiting for you to take His hand. I can guarantee you that if you bring God into it, He will bring you out. I can also guarantee that you have people all around working hard to get to you and rescue you. Maybe the mist has blinded your vision of help but people are out there trying whether in prayers, in thoughts, in tears, or in actions. It is happening all around! Open yourself to it and don’t let pride stand in the way.

I am going to have a moment of complete honesty because I believe in speaking the truth even when it hurts. If you feel you don’t need help because you can do it on your own, let me ask you this, who is responsible for you being lost?

If you answered anyone but yourself, take it back and face the truth that you are responsible. Yes, others may have played a part of influence or temptation to lead you where you are but we are always in control of who we follow.

I have been lost in all the above…I have been reluctant to help and thought I knew what I was doing and could handle it. I couldn’t…and you are no different. God put us here with the ability to rely on something greater. Not to walk this life alone but to walk it with Him and with others. I still hate asking for help for fear it will make me appear weak, but asking for help is a humble decision and only makes you stronger because in the moment you say “HELP!”, you overcome the flesh to walk alone and APPEAR strong and instead…you actually become strong! What is that verse…Pride always comes before the fall….

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.   – Proverbs 16:18

Don’t test this one out and just take God’s word for it. It will save you so much time.

The Found part you have to discover on your own. I can tell you though that once truly found..you will know and will never go back to Lost because you now know both places and can see clearly that being found may be harder and less traveled but always worth it. When found, God will be more real, your emotions will feel more in control and balance, you health will be stronger because you found the light(just as plants need sunlight, we need the same warmth), the GPS will be more bearable because when technology fails, friends will be there to direct us, we will have more relationships and healthy ones, being lost in the woods will be an exciting journey admiring God’s creation and enjoying the peace and quiet because we know that we have to find a road eventually. The road of life…well…it never gets easier but gets much more exciting and fun and you will never be more excited to keep heading as far North as you can. 😉 It becomes about others, laughter, joy, peace, and most importantly God!

If you are lost…call out! Someone will answer. Most importantly…TRUST!

If you have been lost and are already found…enjoy it, take it in, never fall to the thought you can do it alone. Most importantly…HELP OTHERS BE FOUND! Sounds exciting right? I thought you might think so too.

I love you!

Found in Christ,

Jessica

Can We Compartmentalize?

As you may know by now from past blogs, my husband and I attend Church of the Highlands here in Birmingham, Alabama. We feel extremely blessed to be under such great leadership and learning so much more in just the past few months than we have in all of our lives. I decided a few weeks ago to go back and watch all the sermons they have available from the past and work my way forward. It has been great for me to have the daily dose of truth from God. As I have learned over the past few years, adults learn and absorb better in small doses over time. I am currently watching the series Pastor Chris did in 2005 titled Highlands Apprentice. I just finished watching Part 2- The Titanic Mistake. I always encourage when I reference or write about something that I learned from someone else to research it, watch it, or whatever when possible. So I highly encourage you click on the link and watch this sermon for yourself. I write what touched me personally and only hope to pass the message along.

What Pastor Chris was mainly hitting on was living a life of integrity, what that means for a christian, and how to live it out. First you must know the definition of integrity.

Integrity- quality or state of being complete or undivided. 

What spoke to me most was when he used the Titanic as an example of what can happen when we lack integrity. He said that when building the Titanic, they used a new idea that if they compartmentalized sections of the ship to where if they hit an iceberg, they could close that section off and keep the ship from sinking. As we know from research, history, but mostly the movie. HA! Yes, that is the main reason I know about Titanic. Obviously, the ship lies at the bottom of the Atlantic so the plan didn’t turn out as they hoped and over 1,000 lives were lost.

His point was that in our lives, we try to compartmentalize certain aspects of our lives and expect it not to affect any of the others. This is an extremely false belief. Using integrity means being the same everywhere we go. Our morals, beliefs, actions, and words to be the same at work, home, church, watching sports, and the list can go on. We have to remain true to our beliefs at all times to be a light and example to those around.

The Lord detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless. – Proverbs 11:20

Three areas integrity matters:

1) Integrity matters to God

2) Integrity matters to others

3) Integrity matters to you

Integrity is making right decisions even when it is the hardest and maybe even when no one else around you is . It has been proven that you will live longer, be healthier, and have less stress when you make right choices. The biggest misguided belief and sometimes the most aggravating is when people think they can make their own decisions and live their life how they wish and it not affect anyone else because it’s their life. The truth is, every decision we make whether good or bad effects those closest to us first but even affects those whom we don’t know. For example, politicians, church leaders, government, managers, CEO’s, and so on affect our lives correct? Some people would say that it makes sense for them to have integrity because everyone knows them , they make the big decisions that affects everybody in the country or whatever. Each of our decisions matter just as much. As a parent,it affects our kids. As a manager, it affects those you lead. As a daughter or son, it affects your parents. As a sister or brother, it affects your siblings. It affects the decisions, mindset, and beliefs of those that surround you.

Some think we can compartmentalize different areas such as finances, relationships, faith, and fitness. We can not separate these. Think of it like you are an artist getting ready to paint a picture and you are putting the different color paints on your palette(yes I had to look this word up). In any great painting, the artist uses his brush to create a masterpiece of colors running together just right to make the image he/she desired. In your life, you are the painting and the colors are the areas I named above. Everything affects the others that creates the life(masterpiece or disaster) you created by the choices you make. In other words, if your finances are in a mess, your relationships, faith and fitness will struggle.

An evil life is a hard life. – Chris Hodges

Mark Twain said, ” The benefit of a person with integrity is that they don’t have to have a long memory.” The Bible says in Proverbs 10:9, “The man of integrity walks securely but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”

One great thing about Pastor Chris is that he doesn’t just teach about what we need to do to be happier, but also how to apply it to have success and backs everything by the word. So here is his three How’s to live a life of integrity.

1) Always speak truth- your mouth shows what is in your heart. Proverbs 4:24

2) Always Stand for what is right- your actions- match your lifestyle with your beliefs

3) Always Stay Clean- accountability- Philippians 2:15

As with any principle or truth we should live by to be happier and more fulfilled, we can’t just read about it or listen to it, we have to live it out every day. Many say I have tried to do good and make better decisions but I just haven’t had any success in it. “Why isn’t it working for me?”

Here is the best part and the greatest news…it is through the power of God inside of you that gives you the ability to live these truths out. Never forget that you are not perfect nor does God expect you to be…He just wants you to believe in Him and His strength to help you through and it will be easier to make the right choices even when the wrong one seems easier at the time. The verse Pastor Chris gave to close it out is found in 2 Peter and the answer of how to overcome.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3 

My hope is that each of you will live with integrity, you won’t compartmentalize, and you will make choices that benefit you as well as those around you for the good according to what God’s word says. In order for us to make a difference, we must first be different.

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 2 Corinthians 6:3

I love you all and hope your integrity will be greater than those of this world.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10

With love, Jessica

Three Men, One Visitor, And A Fire

Hi there,

Today was the conclusion of the reCreate Women’s Conference at Church of the Highlands and it was beyond a fabulous time! It was a fun, inviting, loving, creative, inspiring, empowering atmosphere with Gods presence so strong. The music, the women, the speakers were right on with their words. Always awesome when you feel like every word was meant for just you.

During one worship time we were singing a song and one of the lines was talking about the fire that sometimes surrounds us when facing struggles. The picture and story that God brought to me was the story of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego in Daniel chapter 3. If you are unfamiliar with the story, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to a statue that king Nebuchadnezzar decreed everyone must bow before and were thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment.

A lot of what was talked about at the conference was about purpose, struggles on the way to fulfilling that purpose and the strength needed to get there. I have realized that God speaks to me a lot through music and so when we were singing this song, God showed me that a lot of us face struggles and feel like we are entrapped by this raging fire all around and there is no opening to escape.

In this story in the bible, after the 3 men were thrown into the furnace, someone pointed out that they saw 4 men walking around inside unharmed. You have to imagine that this furnace was so hot the guards who threw them in there died because of the heat radiating off of it. When the king called them out and they had not been harmed, singed, or even smelled of smoke, because the power of God was in the midst protecting them from the fire that surrounded them that was meant to destroy but He used to show His glory to those faithful, the Kings eyes were opened and He declared their God was indeed all powerful.

So sometimes we will be surrounded by a raging fire, feeling the heat and pressure and will begin to feel pain unless we turn our eyes to the All Powerful God and put our trust in Him that He is more powerful than the fires all around and rely on His strength alone.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

The fires may seem like they are tearing us down, but they are actually put before us to strengthen us and increase our capacity to handle tough times and also to see is we will trust God and His strength through it or our own. I say this with true love to you and to myself….if we try to endure the fires and escape them on our own abilities, we will most certainly fail. We were not created to pass through this world alone, but to walk side by side with our Father and His unconditional love and direction.

For me, when facing those fires I am just ready to move past it and just try to jump through it. I am becoming more patient on the Lord and not trying to rush His plan before I am ready to receive it but the temptation is still there to complain and ask why He hasn’t given me freedom from it yet. One profound statement that was said today was, ” God answers our prayers, it may not be when and how we want but he does answer them and who are we to tell God what the answer should be?” Amen right? We can’t possible begin to fathom the entirety of God’s plan in our little minds and why do we get so consumed with wanting to when we haven’t developed the capacity to have that knowledge? I feel strongly that our societies mindset today is that I want it now and I want it whether I deserve it or have earned it.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of that furnace because their eyes and trust remained in the giver of freedom and their faithfulness was rewarded. We are required to only have the faith the size of a mustard seed and we will be given the ability to move mountains. The power of God is right before us, in the reach of our grasp, but what must come first is belief. To take a step of faith into the unknown and out of our comfort zones is not easy but when you step out relying on God to bring you into new things, it is always the most exciting journey. What we need to always remember…God is always in the midst of our struggles, He has never left you nor will ever forsake you, He has not forgotten you or what you are facing.

Sometimes I have heard myself asking God to just move me past this struggle and for it to be gone and so something I took from this conference was that we never arrive to our destination until we see Jesus on the day of His return. Until that point, we are nomads moving from tent to tent as Holly Wagner put it so perfectly last night. All throughout our lives, we are being shaped and molded to upgrade to bigger tents, but before we can move to the next tent we must first learn and accomplish everything with the tent God has put us in at this very moment before he can give us the promotion. Why? Because in order to survive the journey to the next tent, we have to enlarge ourselves in strength, courage, endurance, belief, and love.

I hope that you will read the story of these 3 men and be able to experience and grasp the true power of Almighty God and to not stop there but continue on with the many other stories like Moses, Joseph, Paul, Daniel, etc. I pray that this is just the beginning of your journey to the bigger tents as you rely completely on God and enlarge your capacity for more to reach new heights. Always remember God is always there in the midst of the fires and the struggles we do and will face and protecting you, empowering you to make it out safely and stronger to overcome the ones to come. The struggles never end, but the intensity of them lessens when we depend on a higher power. I could share so much more…I pray that this will speak and encourage those facing a struggle or struggles at this very moment to keep pressing in and TO NOT GIVE UP! I know some seem bigger than others and we can all say.. “well you just can’t possibly understand what I am facing.” Truth is, every person thinks there struggle is the biggest one because we are all in different places…but I can guarantee you that someone does understand and God wants to use you to speak into their life to help them make it through because you made it. So press in, stand up, keep fighting! I love you all dearly! Be empowered through Jesus Christ every day and experience His presence.

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:7-9

With Love

Jessica

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:13-14