It’s Never Too Late to Start Over

Wow. It has been almost three and a half years since my last blog post.

All I can say is: life happens.

As I’ve reflected and processed 2018 so far (there are still ten days left!), I’ve been itching to post a blog about it. I’ve sat at this computer screen multiple times over the last couple of months and wasn’t quite sure how to start writing about the last year.

A few things I knew every other time I came to write this post:

  • I wanted to share, but still needed time to process with the Lord.
  • I needed to share, but didn’t have the clarity to do so yet.
  • My story isn’t my own; so I knew eventually I would share.

So here I am. Finally feeling ready to put into words some thoughts and feelings about 2018 – a year that the Lord has used to break me in the most necessary and amazing ways. I am grateful to say that I may have been (and somewhat still am) broken, BUT I am NOT DEFEATED. Praise God for that, and so many other things – as you’ll see along the way.

One theme from this year: vulnerability through sharing. This hasn’t been sharing by way of story telling or openness in words alone, but in the actual sharing of my struggles with others. This year I was forced to embrace a deeper level of vulnerability in allowing others to share in my burdens and brokenness with me and to support me when I couldn’t function. Yes, it’s true, there were days that I could not function.

God used others to support me emotionally, financially, spiritually, and even physically.

I already knew I was surrounded by some amazing friends and family, but this year has placed a spotlight on the TRIBE of prayer warriors I have around me. If you don’t have a tribe of people praying for you, crying with you, laughing with and at you  – I hope you experience this one day. It’s amazing. Having people speak LIFE over me this year has been one of the things that has kept me sane, kept me positive and kept me from believing the lies of feeling despaired.

Listen, I’ve cried more this year than I think I have the last 3 years before it – let’s be honest, probably the last 5 years before it. I wouldn’t characterize myself as a crier by any means. I mostly cry when I’m angry. But the Lord has changed that for me this year and I’m actually ok with it. Because, it’s in the tears where the Lord has met me most often and spoken to me about who He is and how much He loves me. He’s softened me in ways I once equated as weakness for myself.

Even though I could only see blurs before me while I cried my eyes out – His gentle voice was loud and clear as He kept saying:

  • He understands me, even when I often feel misunderstood.
  • He loves me, even when I feel like I couldn’t possibly be loved for who I am.
  • He has my best interest in mind, even when I doubt things will be better soon.
  • He alone knows what He’s doing and the story He is writing and He’s never late.
  • He sees me, He knows me and He loves me still.

This year, God has stripped me of so many things. He’s unraveled my misconceptions, my false securities, my unrealistic expectations and some toxic things that I had allowed to take root in my life. Even though I’ve been in the thick of it while it’s happened, at times it has felt like I’ve been on the outside watching it all crumble.

BUT GOD – another theme for this year. But, I’ve seen God do mighty things and I’ve felt Him near through it all.

This is the part where I’m going to share some specifics of things I’ve experienced this year. I’m being as open as I can be, in hopes that someone reads this and is encouraged to press on and lean into the Lord during their own battle for the mind.

At the start of the year, I felt the Lord say it was time to move out on my own. I’ve had roommates since I was in college, so this was a big leap for me – but it was time and I was looking forward to it.  God provided a super cute house, a raise to cover the extra costs in rent and a lot of provisions for me to move into the place within 3 weeks of finding it. It seemed too good to be true, or at least too easy. It wasn’t easy at all.

Long story short, I couldn’t ever find someone to sublet my old room, so I ended up paying rent at two places in DC for six months. It was financially TIGHT.

I was confused about why the Lord led me to make the move, only to have me pay a lot more than I had budgeted when I figured out if I could afford to move out on my own in the first place. I didn’t get it. I thought I had misunderstood His prompting to move – I doubted the confirmations He had given me when I moved.

My battle with anxiety hit an all time high during the Spring. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus. I didn’t feel like myself at all. I felt emotionally unstable. I couldn’t sit still, but I couldn’t move too much either. I felt like I was in this alternate reality at times. I overreacted to things mentally and that over reaction manifested it’s self physically. I actually was so overcome by fear during a week in April that thought I was having a heart attack – twice in the same week. I was home alone – because I now live alone – and all I could think was what if something happened to me? I called 911 and had an ambulance come to my house twice in three days. I spent a night in the ER. I was spiraling and struggling to keep my thoughts in check and captive in Christ. Lies from the enemy were swirling around me.

BUT God showed up. He continued to speak the words “DO NOT FEAR” over me.

Specifically, He stretched my money (which is really His money anyway). He provided money through others who listened to His prompting to bless me – I didn’t even have to humble myself and ask. He extravagantly lavished me with love and support and I survived that six months – and was still able to treat myself to a few luxuries like decaf coffee and cookie cutters. [More on those two things later, because those are new additions to my life since the last time I posted a blog.]

At the end of June I felt a sigh of relief.

Once I had paid my final rent payment at my old house I felt like things would be on the upswing finaicially and with anxiety. By then, the medications I started taking in April were nearing the end of the 2 month prescription and I truly felt significant relief from the manifestations of anxiety. I felt more like myself again. I knew I didn’t need the meds anymore and was gratefult that they helped reset me in a way – it felt like a fresh start in that area.

And then in early July, I got laid off.

I was let go from a company that I had been at for almost 9.5 years – almost a decade of my professional life! Let’s be honest, not just my professional life, but my personal life too. Some of my dearest friendships, experiences and memories were attached to my job.

I was stunned. Though I had been unhappy at my job for sometime, I had resolved to make it work and continue to be loyal, to learn and grow through the challenges of being unhappy. But I thought I had job security – which is a false sense of security. I’m sure I was in shock for at least 3 days after I got the phone call.

BUT GOD gently reminded me that He had told me to find a new job at least a year before that and I wasn’t treating that as an urgent call, more like a suggestion. He also reminded me that, though I had many years of great experiences at that company, it was time for us to part ways and He made it happen. He also sweetly spoke to me about the freedom He was providing through the pain of severing my attachment to my career and what had become a source of extreme stress for me. He burdened me to finish well and equipped me emotionally to do that to the best of my ability. I wish I could say it wasn’t difficult, awkward and heart breaking to navigate – but it was and I still have days where I have to bring my thoughts captive in Christ about the whole situation.

I took some much-needed time off for the end of July and a portion of August. It was such a SWEET time. I felt so free and so alive. I felt a renewed sense of discovering who I could be and what would come in the next stage of my life and my career. I used frequent flier miles to visit friends in other states and just took time to breathe, not allowing myself to be consumed with what was next for my job.

I wouldn’t take back those travels or experiences at all.

Five months later, though, and I’m still unemployed. I’ve been seriously looking for a job since August and I must admit it’s been really discouraging. I’ve battled lies that creep in and say I’m not experienced enough for the jobs I’m pursing or that I don’t offer much value. I’ve battled with feeling that I must be ill-equipped at this resume stuff because no one is reaching out to me when I apply. I’ve wondered if I don’t interview well or what is wrong with me that I’m not making an impression on paper or over the phone.

BUT GOD continues to speak life over me through others and He says this each time: DO NOT BE DISMAYED OR DISCOURAGED. Trust that your heavenly Father has got you and is working all things together for your good and His glory. He has the right position for you – and He is preparing you for that time. I can’t begin to tell you how many times He has spoken this message over me through others and in prayer. He’s spoken it through Uber drivers, people conducting phone interviews, strangers, new friends, old friends and family. I believe it’s true and I know He’s cared enough to lead others to repetitively speak it over me – because I am a sheep whose mind goes astray and I need to hear it over and over and over again to rest in it. 

In August, I met someone. Honestly, it felt like horrible timing for both of us, but I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to get to know him. He was (is) special.

Why was he so special?

Have you ever met someone who just feels like home? Had that moment where you think – wait, what? Is this my person?! Who you feel an instant connection with on such a deep level that you almost want to convince yourself you’re making it up – that the connection isn’t as intense as you’re making it out to be? Have you ever gotten to know someone and thought “now that I know you, how could I not have you in my life?”

Yeah, that’s how I felt (and in keeping with the vulnerability in sharing, that’s how I still feel) about this guy.

But the timing thing came back up and shook things up.

We aren’t together and it broke my heart. Of course, my “miss independent” side has thought it was silly that I was so emotionally impacted by everything – I still battle those thoughts. I’ve sifted through so many feelings about it that I’m exhausted.

BUT, God is teaching me so much through a relationship that barely got off the ground – it has significantly impacted me for the better. He’s uprooting things in me that I didn’t realize were expectations I had for a relationship – unrealistic expectations I might add. He’s calling me to prayer for others in a mighty way. While He’s at work, He’s gently reminded me of the sweetness it is to be created with the ability to feel so deeply and to experience emotions like this in relationship with someone. He’s teaching me how to communicate better – oh my gosh the lessons on communication! He’s calling me to trust Him, to wait on Him and to sit with Him through it – not to run from the emotions.

I have no idea what’s in store for that portion of this season in life. I know what my hopes are, but I also know that God’s plans are better than mine – even when it comes to a significant other.

On top of all of that, I had to make a big decision about my living situation. At 33 years old, I didn’t imagine I’d be saying what I’m about to say. But it’s happening and with the strength of Christ  I’m at peace about it and embracing the love and support of others as I navigate this decision.

I’m going to be “homeless” at the end of January. I say that in quotations because, PRAISE GOD I’m actually not going to be homeless on the street.

I have AMAZING people in my life; those who have offered to take me into their homes – rent free – until I find a job and can get my own place again. HOW is it that God has seen fit to bless me with such kind and generous people?! He is good.

So I am starting over – in a way. I’m selling most of my belongings or putting the rest in storage. I’m moving out at the end of my lease because it’s the wisest next step financially and because God is prompting me to accept the help and support others have offered me in their spare rooms and in welcoming me into their homes.

Is it humbling? ABSOLUTELY. Is it humiliating? NOT AT ALL. I’m still hustling to find a new job and God’s got me. I’m actually excited about what this might mean for my ability to connect with the friends and family I’ll be staying with for the next couple of months.

If you’ve made it this far – I’m honored. I’m proud of you and I feel like you must have read something that either encouraged you, piqued your interest or you just love a good story of challenges. I’ve tried to be open about this year because it is NEVER too late to start over and that’s what I see God setting me up to do in so many areas of my life.

He’s doing it through the pain of loss, the confusion of why things happen when they do and how they do, and through the weight of fears surrounding it all.

I pray that you find strength in Him to be open and honest about what He’s doing in your life. May the end of 2018 actually be a sweet closing of one door and an ushering in of a hopeful beginning to 2019 for you and for me.

 

Jesus is Lord of “What Might Have Been”

I heard this phrase in a sermon last week; “Jesus is Lord of what might have been.”

It couldn’t be a more timely season in my life to hear this statement and to sit in the truth of the many passages that support this claim. I know that Jesus is Lord over all of the “what ifs,” “could of’s,” would ofs,” “should ofs” and “not nows” in my life, but there are times when my sight of this reality is blurry and my practical theology isn’t matching up with my systematic theology. At times, I see in myself a tendency to forget about the comfort, strength, motivation and relief that comes from knowing that Jesus is King over all and that the Lord will glorify Himself no matter what – – even when the “what might have beens” of my life are circling around in my thoughts.

When I was reminded of it this past weekend, I was comforted and relieved.

Gratitude-Changes-Everything-Free-Printable-Gray-GoldI can’t begin to count how many “what might have been” thoughts have crossed my mind in the course of the last four months, let alone this past year. But what I can do is share with you what I’ve realized about my “what might have been” pondering. The Lord reminded me of Proverbs 13:12, which says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” What a difficult realization to confront: my wonderings about what could have been are all too often connected to “deferred hopes” and reveal that my heart is sick and tired and wants things my way.

When I really considered the desires and petitioned prayers I had labeled as “what might have beens” over the last several months, I saw a theme. Although the theme of my thought patterns haven’t been completely lost in an abyss of “woe is me,” because certain things ended up in the “what might have been” pile; I haven’t truly  been resting in the truth that Jesus is Lord of whatever might have been in my life. 

This week I took a serious look at the thoughts that were going through my mind.

I’ve wondered about what might have been in regards to my dreams for helping plant a new church in DC. I’ve wondered about what might have been in some of my friendships that have seen easier seasons. I’ve wondered what might have come from newly discovered connections and sparks with people that seem to have fizzled out. I’ve wondered about what could have developed from a short-lived, whirlwind experience of chemistry and unexpected interactions with a guy who actually got my attention. I’ve thought about what might have been in areas of my career that I haven’t yet had the chance to explore. Let’s be honest, I’ve wondered what might have been had I been as strict as I could be on my nutritional goals.

I could go on, but you know what? I don’t need to because I think you get my point. Amazing epiphanies can happen when one actually pays attention to the topics of their thoughts, their words and the frequency of those two things.

Who seriously wants to live in the negative, Debbie downer zone of “what might have been” rains of thought? I definitely DON’T!

I want to view the desires I had for past situations in my life for what they are: under Jesus’ power and Lordship. I want to fight my natural tendency to analyze everything and choose to wonder about “what might have been” had the Lord not saved me from a life I would have chosen for myself – – but only briefly because wow that’s a dark whole! I want to wonder what might have been had He not been the Shepherd that He is, what might have been had He not called me His child or had He not provided a way for me to be reconciled to Him in Christ?

I want to wonder about the “what might have beens” of my life in this way so that I am encouraged and motivated to walk in a manner worthy of His calling (Eph. 4:1). It’s freeing to know that by the power of the Holy Spirit I can truly identify the ways in my life that the Lord has been making the desires of my heart in tune with His will, but not allowing the “what might have been” hopes of my heart and it’s limited scope of what I need! From this perspective, my hopes and desires will come true and the Lord will show Himself to be that tree of life described in Proverbs 13:12.

I’m grateful that the Jesus is Lord over everything single “what might have been” in my life and I am grateful He knows better than I do about what hopes, dreams and desires of my heart should inevitably fall under that category. He knows what’s best for me and calls me to trust Him in that.

Everything else pales in comparison.

 

 

 

Processing the Last Year in Light of Psalms 23 & 24

A few weeks ago I heard a sermon on Psalms 23 and 24 and I can’t stop thinking about the implications of these two passages. Don’t you just love when that happens?

I’ve been planning to post a blog about Psalm 23 in particular, and when I went to write it I realized it was almost July 14th, so I decided to wait and combine my posts. Some of you may not realize the significance of this date, but exactly a year ago today three friends and I set out on our cross country adventure from SoCal to DC. I won’t go into the details of that trip here or about why I uprooted my life to move back across the country (after moving from Boston to SoCal six years earlier), but you can read about it in this post where I announce my big move news. And for fun, you can read about how I was feeling three weeks before the move and one week before the move.

But, back to the blog at hand :); we all know I ramble.

change-quotesAs I thought about the truths in Psalms 23 & 24 and realized it’s been a year since I left California, the two thoughts collided; the aftermath of which was beautifully enlightening and deeply comforting.

Psalm 23 describes the Lord as a Shepherd. This psalm is often a passage that’s read at funerals or used for comfort in troubling times, but my recent studies have reminded me of the rich truths and encouragement it offers for all seasons of life. As one of His sheep, the Lord leads me, never leaves me, always knows what I need and in what season I need it.

Psalm 24 declares the Lord as the King of Glory. Not only is He near to His children, but He is King over all and will be glorified no matter what. He is all powerful, mighty in battle, all knowing, and He is the one who established the earth and all of its inhabitants. Nothing in my life is out of His control and He is the author of my salvation.

When I think about the last year of my life, I am immensely comforted by these two Psalms. When I think about the events and realities of the last four months I find great hope and rest in these two passages. Not only have I experienced all four seasons that DC has to offer in the last year, but I’ve walked through several seasons of my life and relationship with the Lord in the last year.

I’m grateful to be on the other side of this past year, reflecting on all that’s happened and all I have learned.  

This last year has been full of amazing and heart breaking experiences, challenging, eye-opening and inspiring circumstances, uncertainties, confirmations and HOPE.

It’s been a year consisting of more changes and transitions than I could have ever anticipated or expected. It’s been a year full of developments that have challenged my trust in the Lord, my perspective of friendship, my ideals and desires to one day have a significant other, my thoughts on celebrating and suffering well with others and so many more of my ideals.

It’s been a year that has revealed my expectations for church life (both preferential and biblical), my desires toward ministry, toward service and how the Lord would use me within the body and His kingdom. It’s been a year that has stretched my comfort zones in more ways than I could explain here and a year that has solidified desires I have toward my career and personal life a like.

It’s been a year that has resulted in new and changed relationships from near and far. I’ve seen friendships grow in spite of distance and friendships strengthen regardless of proximity or circumstance. This past year has been one that’s resulted in glimpses of “what could have been” and “never would be,” to lessons in “what may still be,” “what is worth the wait,” “what’s worth the sacrifice and heartache,” and “what doesn’t really matter in the end.”

This has been my reality since last July.

But as I ponder the last twelve months, I find myself being most thankful for the fact that it’s also been a year that has expanded my understanding of the Lord and His word, my worth in Him, my purpose in Him and my desires to trust Him through every season still.

Psalm 23 reminds me that the Lord has my best interest in mind. He makes me rest when I need it, He leads me through dark seasons of life when I can’t see, He sits me by still waters when I am in need of refreshment, and He comforts me with His rod and staff by preventing me from making unwise decisions or drawing me back to the fold when I’ve wandered too far.  He’s been faithful this past year and all the years of my life, and will continue to be!

Psalm 24 reminds me that my God is in control and no matter what happens He is still the King and will be glorified. No “unexpected” changes in my life are outside of His power or knowledge and all things will work together for His glory and my good. He will win the battle, He has made a way in Christ and I am blessed in Him because I belong to Him.

In light of everything I can wholeheartedly say that it’s been a wonderful year; through the tears, the fears, the smiles and the laughs I can say “thank you, Lord!”

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: “The Mingling of Souls” by Matt Chandler

1411631126_1-128If you know me, you know I love to read.

I had a particularly consuming “reading fever” when I was in college and right after – I couldn’t get enough of reading books about theology, counseling, self-confrontation and marriage. I still love to read about these topics and recently I finished a book about relationships by Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor at The Village Church in Texas.

MinglingofSoulsI read The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption in two days and couldn’t put it down. I found it to be an encouraging, challenging and refreshing approach to the relationship we observe in the Biblical account of the Song of Solomon. Not only does Chandler take us through a study of this book of the Bible, but he touches on some common and serious misconceptions about relationships – especially in our  modern culture.

One of the many reasons that I love reading about marriage (I know, I’m not married) is because it is such a beautiful and complex metaphor that the Lord uses in the Scriptures to help us better understand the nature of the Trinity. In the Bible, we often see the church described as the Bride of Christ. The Scriptures point believers (single and married alike!) to Christ by placing a “human” perspective on the Lord’s love toward us and how our relationship with Him should look – by using relationships that we can relate to and perspectives we can understand.

Specifically God uses the relationship between a husband and a wife to draw a parallel between the sacrificial actions and loving character of Christ toward His bride. Husbands are called to treat their wives as Christ treats his beloved bride, the church. Wives are also called to trust and submit to their husbands as Christians are called to submit to Christ’s gracious, sacrificial and loving leadership (Eph. 5).

I like how Matt explains the importance of a gospel-centered marriage and the safety a couple can experience in the Lord together when he says

“We can come just as we are to Jesus Christ; he does not love some future version of us, but he loves the real us, the wounded us, the messy us, the broken us. And what we learn in the Song of Songs is that a marriage shaped according to this gospel grace, forged over years of hard-earned trust and forgiveness, can be an unsafe place for sin but a very safe place for sinners.”

Side not, this was from the Introduction of the book – good stuff, right?!

The book hits on topics like attraction, dating, courting, engagement, weddings, becoming one, intimacy, pursuing the soul of your spouse and sticking around through even the most difficult of times – emotionally, spiritually and physically. It’s a good read and one I’ll be recommending to friends of all stages in life.

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite quotes and hope you’re inspired to order a copy and read it for yourself:

In relation to considering the character of someone you’d like to date, Matt says:

“In times of intimacy, in times of stress, in times of struggle, there’s no putting makeup on a terrible personality. There’s no cosmetic surgery for poverty of character.”

“Let reputation be one of the green or red lights that leads you toward or away from a person you are considering dating.”

When talking about courtship and a relationship entering a more serious stage, he says:

“Isn’t it a deeply satisfying and steadying thing when someone gets a glimpse of our ‘crazy’ and basically says, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’?”

When discussing how he conducts wedding ceremonies, Matt said:

“What I’m trying to do at a wedding ceremony is highlight the reality grounding the reality. If we don’t make the spiritual reality the main point, we’re actually going to miss the point.”

“If the gospel of Jesus Christ is not at the center of a wedding ceremony, it is likely not going to be at the center of the marriage. This would be a grave mistake, however, as marriage itself is designed to be a great reflector of that gospel.”

Finally, Matt touches on intimacy, and not just the physical aspect of it, but in light of the gospel:

“It is important to admit, believers in Jesus, that Christians are not more moral than anyone else. The essence of the gospel and what we celebrate is not that ‘we can’ but that Christ did.”

“Sex is good, but it’s not built for eternity. It won’t be around forever. Neither will marriage, for that matter. No, marriage and sex are good, but Jesus is better. He is better than everything in life. He is better than life itself. He is life.”

Choosing to Trust the Lord in the Midst of Changes

Well, here I am again. I know it’s been a while; in typical Jenn fashion, I’ve been a busy bee and a little unsure what to post about first. But, I finally got the motivation bug this evening and I just had to share about the goodness of the Lord during times of unexpected change in life lately.

You see, I did not anticipate some of the changes that have occurred in this season of life and I may have been a bit shocked by some of them, BUT in the midst of it all the Lord remains constant and has continuously reminded me of several things that have been carrying me through this season.

Some of those reminders include:

  • His will is always most important.
  • His ways are not my ways. His methods are not my methods.
  • This earth is not my home.
  • He knows all, and thus much more than I do about anything and everything.
  • He will lead me in the path of righteousness and it may not look like I think it should or expect it to look.
  • He has made promises to His children and He is faithful to fulfill those promises – even when my human perspective is discouraged by how things look to be adding up.
  • He is my only constant and will never change.
  • He is simultaneously working in the lives of others. Sometimes His guidance for myself and them will seem contradictory and at times His plan for changes in our lives will seem to collide – but I can’t see the whole picture and I may never need to.
  • He sees me. He knows me. He loves me. He continues to pursue me.
  • He is always intentional;  in fact He created intentionality and calls us to experience the wealth of His pursuit and provision through Christ.
  • He has a plan and will often use unlikely and undesired means to bring about His purposes – like suffering.

Even though this is a longer list, this is really just to name a few of the truths about the Lord that I’ve been attempting to rest in lately.Hebrews

To top it all off, it’s been such a sweet and timely season of studying the books of Hebrews and Acts with some friends. Studying and learning about Christ’s sacrifice and priesthood through Old Testament applications has been awesome. Being reminded that Christ was made perfect through suffering has been humbling. Seeing the many changes and experiences the early church went through in Acts has been encouraging. Walking through these changes with a solid community of believers (literally here in DC and in other states) has been an immeasurable blessing.

Sure, there are many things in my life that seem uncertain right now or that I might find myself “wishing” had turned out differently, but I can say in  the midst of it all that my God has not changed, He is worthy of my trust and will never forsake His promises of my inheritance in Him once this life fades away. In Him and by His Spirit, I can fight the many spiritual battles alongside the amazing Christ-like siblings He’s placed in my life and pray through the changes – as each comes my way.

I’ll leave you with a passage that I can’t get enough of right now, and a quote from John Piper that’s been a continuous reminder to persevere in the forward fight to choose trust in the Lord no matter what. Enjoy and be encouraged!

Paraphrase: “…exercise the organ of faith in pumping the blood of obedience.” – John Piper in a sermon about The Doctrine of Perseverance.

Hebrews 10: 19-25: “19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Expectations & the Developing Themes of 2015

Three months into 2015 and it’s going well, yet not at all as anticipated – in many ways.

As I typed “anticipated” I didn’t like that choice of wording, but it was a fitting description and so I stuck with it. The reason it wasn’t my favorite phrasing is because it implies that I had specific expectations that haven’t been met – which is not entirely true. I’ve learned, however, that sometimes the expectations I have for something or someone are often realized in the development of the outcome of specific circumstances. That is to say, when things take a turn in a certain direction I tend to realize how many expectations I had in the first place.

I’ve been learning lots of things about expectations lately, some of those insights include:

  • Realizing unmet expectations is a necessary and beneficial process, but not always the most comfortable.
  • Not having any expectations is unhealthy – in certain circumstances there should be a level of expectations and those should be discussed.
  • Discussing expectations leads to healthy and helpful communication practices.
  • Filtering expectations through the lenses of Scripture and prayer is the only way to truly realize which expectations are out of balance.
  • Moving toward the expected outcome takes work – yes lots of effort, strategic planning and intentional communication and invested support.

I’ve been thinking through this concept of a lot lately and am in the middle of a “realizing” and “refining” stage of my expectations for several areas of life right now. It’s been a process through which the Lord has humbled me, encouraged me, corrected me, grown me, loved me, instructed me and more. It has, and will continue to be, absolutely worth it.

With that, I’ll leave you with a few passages that remind me of the expectations I should have in the Lord; expectations that He would be glorified, that I will not be ashamed of Him, that He will hear my prayers and that His word is true and helps us understand all other expectations:

Philippians 1:20English Standard Version (ESV)

20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

Philippians 4:6English Standard Version (ESV)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Hebrews 4:12English Standard Version (ESV)

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

2015 Here We Go – Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!

That’s right, 2015 is here and a new year is upon us. 2014 was an awesome year, packed full of great experiences, blessings and challenges in the Lord and new beginnings in pretty much every area of my life – I really don’t think there was one area left untouched by the events of this past year :).

I actually thrive on the thrill of new beginnings in life, so the start of a new year always inspires me to think about the endless possibilities I have at my fingertips. Of course, this means that I want to do everything on my bucket list in 2015 and I’ve already been thinking about goals that I have for this next year. Obviously that won’t happen (says the realist in me), but I am hoping that 2015 is as full of “firsts” and crossing off bucket list items as 2014 was.

2015 is already a unique year in the fact that it may be the first year I haven’t pondered any “traditional” resolutions – because let’s be honest, most new year’s resolutions are broken before Spring time comes around! BUT that doesn’t mean I don’t have aspirations for this year, because I absolutely do! I’ve actually got too many to list, but here are are few of the major things I’m asking the Lord to allow me to experience in 2015 and I’m asking for your prayerful support as I pursue them upon His leading:

Volunteering in DC – I’ve been here for 5 months. Now that I’ve got a feel for my new surroundings I’m beyond excited to dive into our community. The Lord has provided an opportunity for me to volunteer with a local ministry here and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity He’s working out there. I’ve had a heart to serve in a ministry focused on helping families in crisis (specifically women) and the timing hasn’t been right in life the past few years, but the Lord has opened this door now and I say “bring on this season!” I’ve learned that when the Lord gives our hearts desires for specific ministries He will always provide opportunities for us to serve Him within those ministries – in His perfect timing.

Ministry at RCC – I love the people who are connected to our Redeemer City Church plant and I cannot wait to see what the Lord has planned for our body in 2015. We’ve been vision casting and throwing around ideas/planning what our next few months will look like and I’m privileged to be a part of it. My prayer is that the Lord would use me to minister to families and individuals within our body in a way that crosses cultural, age, and stage of life differences. My heart is to see our church continue to grow in closeness as a family and to be molded into the church the Lord is calling us to be within this city. No matter how that looks and whatever role He has for me to play, I’m on board and I will need lots of prayer for wisdom and strength through it all!

Active “aunt duty” – For the first time since I graduated high school (11 years ago!) I’m living within an hour of most of my family – namely my two nieces and new nephew! Not to mention that I’ve got another sweet little nephew who lives a few hours away, an “adopted” niece and TBT niece/nephew on the way an hour south in VA, another “adopted nephew on the way in Cali and lots of awesome kiddos at RCC to pour into and love on. Clearly I’ve got my work cut out for me in the “aunt” role area. I’d really like to invest more time and energy into these precious lives and I’m praying for wisdom about how it should look and for opportunities to go about doing that specifically with my older nieces in Baltimore and with the older kids at our church. I see a few slumber parties in my near future :).

Turning 30 years old – That’s right people, I’m getting old and what an honor it is to grow older. If you know me, you know I mean that in a positive way. I don’t ever see myself avoiding questions about my age, or dreading another birthday, because I truly believe that getting older is a blessing. But back to the turning 30 bit, I love birthdays and I really like celebrating with friends – this is kind of a special birthday too! I’ve got some goals and fun stuff that I’m working on so that I can cross them off my “30 by 30” list. Stay tuned to my blog because I’ll be posting about them as I cross them off my list.

Next level product development – I have a pretty rad job and I work with a rather talented group of people (I’m being a bit modest in my descriptions here, of course). I’m looking forward to the goals my team has for this year and being a part of breaking records as a company. I’ve also got some stuff up my sleeve regarding my own personal goals; I really want to achieve new and higher levels of experience, knowledge and value within my position, within product development and within the internet marketing industry as a whole. It’s going to take lots of dedication to learning and hard work. We shall see how it goes!

It feels great to write those out. I’m more inspired now than I was before I wrote this post!

Please be praying with me and for me; pray that the Lord would be the focus of my pursuits in this next year and that I would get to know Him more through each area. None of the above really matters if I’ve forgotten Him in it all.

I’d also LOVE to hear about any goals you have for 2015 – I’d like to pray about those too! You can email me or leave a comment.

A Year Ago: December 2013

It was almost a year ago that I revealed my big news to my family; the big news was that I would be moving back to the east coast and living within an hour from them for the first time in ten years. Obviously special news like that required a grand gesture, especially since I had been keeping it a secret from them for almost four months. I literally felt like I was going to burst at the seams if I had to wait much longer to share what the Lord had been doing in my life those past four months (and really since September 2012 – more about that journey to DC here).

As I’ve shared before, after lots of consideration and prayer (from lots of people!) God confirmed for me that I was to move to Washington, D.C. to be closer to family and to help plant Redeemer City Church. By November it was clear that I was going to go, irrespective of what that meant for my existing communities of loved ones in Cali, my job and my everyday life at that time. Once the Lord worked out the logistics and blessed me with the opportunity to keep my job all that was left was to tell my family.IMG_4949

I couldn’t just share this with them over the phone or Skype; it had to be in person. It had to be a surprise within a surprise.

My roomie asked me to share about a cherished Christmas memory for her “Spread the Christmas Joy” blog series and I picked this memory. It was an honor to guest post and to share how awesome it was to surprise my family last year. So without further ado, check out how my “Two Christmas Surprises for the Price of One” turned out.

Life Has Been Rather Busy… But I’m Back With the Longest Post Ever!

I cannot believe that it’s been almost two months since my last post!  Wow, what an uncommitted blogger I can be sometimes. I am still hoping to build up my blog and to gain more of a following; which I realize is going to take some serious dedication and effort. I’ve been trying to take pictures of recipes I’ve been trying and adventures I’ve been having so that I can post lots of fun material in the New Year – 2015 is going to be my blogging year!

But enough of the apology for not posting, I’ve got some updates for those of you wondering about what I’ve been so busy doing these last two months! In short, since my last post I’ve traveled to the other side of the country and made several visits to see my family in Maryland. I’ve also had some great explorations around DC, Georgetown and Virginia. 

At the end of October I went to California for almost two weeks. I had the privilege of visiting my friends and loved ones there, worked in the office with my SD loves and celebrated the marriage of two good friends. I was there for Halloween (I took advantage of my freshly cut bangs/hair style and dressed up like a well known cartoon character from the 90s, otherwise known as Daria). I got to visit my favorite place in SoCal: DISNEYLAND! I even got to participate in a yummy family tradition of dear friends of mine; we made homemade donuts and watched an old thriller on Halloween night. Needless to say, I spent some much needed time with my team at work and I got to spend time with so many of my good friends from the six years that I lived there and overall it was a fantastic trip. Here are some pictures from that visit:

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I got back to DC after the first week of November and had a lot to do for work, church stuff and familial commitments – I dove right back into the routine!

Our church plant has been meeting on Sunday mornings at a local Starbucks (this coffee addict likes that of course) and our core group has been meeting on Sunday nights. Our Sunday mornings have been reminiscent of my Youth Ministry days (both as a leader and as a student). It’s been such a unique and fantastic experience to return to this concept of working through our faith “like a child” with pictures and small groups and white boards. I’m excited that our Sunday mornings have actually broken the mold (for now) of what I’ve grown accustom to expect of a church gathering.

Our Sunday nights have been times of much discussion about vision and direction, as well as getting to know one another and encouraging each other in our walks. Everyone has a story and I absolutely LOVE learning about their stories in bits and pieces and even all at once over a coffee or dinner date. I continue to grow in love for this group of people and I am beyond blessed to call them my church family. At times it’s still surreal to me to think that I’m here, living in DC on mission with such an amazing group of people. The Lord truly has spoiled us with such a well-rounded  team and it’s all possible because of Him.

November was full of good times with friends. I had friends from Baltimore come down to Pentagon City for a day and I got to meet up with them for lunch at the mall there (and do a little Christmas shopping!). I also fit in several coffee dates and dinners with people from my church that I had been hoping to connect with before the holiday season.

In other November news, my roomie Mandi and I volunteered with the McLean Bible Church Turkey Outreach and owned the frozen turkey line for a good hour. Emilie and I hosted a Hunger Games movie day at our house a few weeks ago; a group of six women came over and we literally were here from lunch until 9 pm eating and talking. We watched both Hunger Games movies in preparation for the third one being released and then a group of us from our church went to see it the day it came out. It was a blast smuggling Mexican food into the theater (thanks, Derek) and getting lost in the twisted story that is the third Hunger Games movie.

November also brought the opportunity to explore Georgetown since moving to DC. I had a fabulous tour guide; my friend Melissa actually works at Georgetown University, so she knows the area really well. We went to lunch at this delicious french cafe and had delicious savory and dessert crepes. We experienced the water front of Georgetown and enjoyed a caffeinated beverage from Baked and Wired (such clever marketing!). Here are some pictures from my afternoon in G-town and from the outreach at McLean:

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November ended on the best note of course: Thanksgiving weekend!  It’s my favorite holiday for many reasons, but most importantly this year I got to spend it with my family for the first time in a while. Not only were my brother, his girlfriend and their two kids in town from WV, but my little sister and her boyfriend were in town from VA Beach and I loved seeing my older sister and her three kids. What made it more special was that all four of my mother’s children were present for this one. We had a great time and my good friend Emilie joined us for the day. I stayed with my grandma for four days, took my youngest niece out for a birthday shopping spree and dinner, and got to visit some dear friends of mine on my way back to DC. Here are some pictures to commemorate the occasion:

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Enter December  2014. I mean where did the time go?! December came so quickly and here we are eleven days into the month and it feels like the final two weeks have already been used up. I started the month off getting a Christmas tree with the roomies, starting the decorating process of our home and preparing for my trip to California for our final work week of the year. December also started with a much needed coffee date with a great friend from my church (she is a fellow two “n” Jenn) and making cake pops for my niece’s 9th birthday party.

I went back up to Baltimore for her mustache themed party and it was so much fun. I haven’t been able to make it to any of her birthday parties because I’ve always lived too far away; it was important for me to be there and to help make it a special day. I absolutely love this little lady and her siblings. My nieces and nephews are so dear to my heart! Here are some pics from the mustache shenanigans:

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This week I’ve been finalizing my prep for my work trip next week, all while working each day and decorating/baking stuff to prepare for our holiday open house and our church’s Christmas party this weekend. It’s all fun, but as you can see it’s been really busy and I am looking forward to exhaling on January 2, 2016. My trip to Cali should be a good time of productivity and connecting with loved ones and then I’ll be traveling to see family for a few days over the Christmas weekend.

Writing this post has made me stop in the business and reflect on the Lord’s many blessings and realize how I take them for granted all too often. My hope and prayer for this up coming year is that I would be more vocal about my appreciation and love for the people the Lord has allowed me to cross paths with and to walk this life with. I also pray that I would grow in gratitude toward Him for my salvation and His plan for my life and increase the times I allow myself to get lost in knowing Him and getting to know Him better.

Now that the longest post ever is finished, this blessed (and spoiled) woman is going to bed. Good night world!

A Year Ago: October 2013

It’s October 2014 and I live in Washington, D.C. I’m a part of Redeemer City Church, I work from home, and I live only about an hour from my family in Maryland and my dear friends in Virginia. I’m just a short walk and metro ride away from almost any place I’d like to visit within my new city and I’m just a road trip away from visiting my favorite US city, which is Boston.

As I sat in church this past Sunday morning I had a bit of a deja vu moment; but I hadn’t experienced sitting in that moment before, so what was I feeling was familiar? My moment came from realizing that just a year ago I lived in SoCal, went to my CA “home” church, was a part of fantastic circles of friends and connected in community with fellow sojourners in the Christian life, worked in an office (with some amazing people, I’ll add!), used my car to get anywhere I needed to go and had to drop at least $400 and lots of vacation days to fly across the country to visit with my family and friends on the east coast. Not to mention, I haven’t been able to visit Boston since the summer of 2009.

Then I realized that I have been in this moment before – hence the deja vu. It was just 6 years ago (literally it was in October of 2008) that I sat in a chair at Copperhill Community Church and reminisced about how much my life had changed from the year before that. It was such a similar moment because I had just moved across the country about 4 months before I joined Copperhill (from Boston to Santa Clarita). I had similar thoughts of where I had come from, where I was working, the groups of friends and loved ones I had left, etc.

In my second October recollection moment it hit me that within a 7 year interval I’ve done a lot; including living in 3 different major cities. As I look back I’m so blessed to see the Lord’s faithfulness and also to see just how much he spoils the desires of my heart to travel and experience new things. When I was growing up I never imagined my life taking the turns that it has and as each new year passes I pray that I keep gratitude in the forefront of my mind.

Looking back, here are a few things that were going on this time in my life last year and memories I hold dear:

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Dinner with my team at work. Doing the typical “Scorpion” glass hold. I actually told one of my good friends that I was thinking of moving to DC this same night after the dinner ended.

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Walk for Life in Santa Clarita with these ladies. That was a great day and what a great cause to support.

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My view of trees in our neighborhood. Little hints of early Fall for Cali.

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My view from the third floor office in Valencia.

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Bowling with one of my community groups in Cali. Love these women!

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Emilie and I were accidental twinsies to church one morning. This happens often and it doesnt matter what coast were living on :).

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Team “Cops and Robbers” Halloween costume. The two are my partners in crime and will always be. #GB

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My sweet friend Jenna surprised me with homemade, heart shaped pumpkin muffins one morning. She left that at my door before work after a difficult week.

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Saugus Football game with the this crazy crew. Always an eventful time with the Schafer family.