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.

 

 

 

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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!”

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

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.

Video

Any and All of Our Afflictions Are Meaningful

I’ve got a 15 minute break and what better way to spend it than to share some encouragement with anyone who reads my blog :). I felt a little defeated earlier this week and a friend of mine shared this song by Shane and Shane with me. The lyrics are really amazing and speak truth; not to mention they’ve coupled the song with a great excerpt from a John Piper message. He hits the nail on the head when he says that our afflictions are not only light in weight in comparison to what Christ suffered for the glory of the Lord and in light of eternity, but our afflictions are meaningful in the Lord’s eyes. I was blown away when he put into perspective that the Lord cares about any and all of our afflictions for the purposes of growing us in Him; Piper says “…all of it is totally meaningful. …every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that. I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness – it wasn’t meaningless. It’s doing something…”

Just listen and watch. It took me less than 15 minutes to share this with you and it will take you less than that to listen. It’s a necessary reminder that I need to preach to myself every single day.

Parking Spot Pursual

There is something amazing and beautiful about someone knowing you so well that the the mere hint of them thinking a thought toward you makes your heart skip a beat. That moment when you get a glimpse of them planning a surprise for you or you start to get a sense of something happening just because they wanted to express how much you mean to them – that moment when your heart smiles. When someone knows you so well that they spoil you in ways that would be considered insignificant to others. This is the kind of relational knowledge that we all desire to have with others because we all desire to be known and to be thought of in an endearing way at one point or another.

All of that to say, I absolutely love how the Lord pursues me. His pursuit of my heart is revealed in the simplest of things. He pursues me in ways that are seemingly meaningless to others, but He knows how to get this woman’s attention. He knows me so well and He knows just how to communicate that He sees me, that He loves me and that He has my life in His hands.

I mean who doesn’t love when they recognize that someone has been eye searching a room for them? Everyone loves to be seen, to be known, to be pursued for a closer relationship and to be acknowledged as special in ways that only you and that other person would be able to share and truly appreciate. Being pursued in this way by a friend, by a romantic interest and even by a family member, is a thing to be cherished and is often taken for granted.

I take the Lord’s pursuit of my heart for granted all too often.

Thankfully He knows exactly How to communicate with me and how to get my attention – all just to say “I love you and you are Mine.” The best part is that He can make even a parking spot a metaphorical glance across that room or a whispered “just because I love you and thought of you” gift left at your front door.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I appreciate practical gifts and gestures, I mean they are my favorite. So when the Lord frequently provides a close parking spot for me when I come home late, well I just can’t help but grin from ear-to-ear and say “thank you, Lord.” Yes, it’s just a parking spot and it is kind of a ridiculous thing to write a blog post about. But it’s not just a parking spot to me and God and I like it that way.

It’s His love note to me on those nights when I come home after a long day and need to be reminded that the small blessings in life can sometimes have the biggest impact on our large anxieties. It’s His “you did it” hug on days when it was a great day and I feel like so much was accomplished. And it’s His “hey I am thinking of you, let’s hangout soon” text when I’ve been busy and haven’t looked in His direction long enough to respond to His expressions of love toward me. It’s even His necessary rebuke in moments when I’m complaining to Him about circumstances of the day or in this life; He will just say “hey, you have much to be thankful for and here’s a small reminder to get you to ponder all of the times I’ve communicated my love, my thoughts and my plans for you throughout this day alone – not to mention this week, this month, this year and throughout your life in general. I love you and I won’t leave you wondering if that’s true.”

Maybe for you it isn’t a parking spot or a common need being met, but it’s something. I would encourage you to pinpoint what gets your attention. Begin asking the Lord to help you see how He is pursuing you every single day. He is faithful and will always pursue His children.

“For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.” – Psalm 33:4

Humbling Realizations & an Unusual Song Lyric

Some days, some weeks, some months, and really some years are unbelievably challenging. Just because there is something to look forward to doesn’t mean working through the here and now won’t be stretching – and at times seemingly agonizing and impossible. I’ll just come out and say it: I’ve had a rough week, but it doesn’t end in defeat and I am so thankful for that.

There have been challenges I’ve encountered since last Wednesday that I face regularly, yet somehow I am still “shocked” when they come up. You’d think us creatures of habit (humans) would at least take note of the repetitive challenges and obstacles that we face in this life, but this past week I chose naivety.

Yes, that’s correct. I said I chose it. I’m not proud of it, but praise the Lord He is forgiving and doesn’t waste anything. But instead, the Lord uses the details of our daily lives to reveal our hearts to us (and often others in our lives).

When it comes down to it my pride took a major fall this week (and really, it needed to happen). I definitely wish it would have happened in a different way because I was somewhat mortified and humiliated in many ways. But I realized that humiliation is connected to humility for a reason. This tough week has reminded me that my reaction to humiliation regarding my revealed heart before others and before the Lord is key to rebuilding.

Rebuilding strained relationships. Rebuilding my own perception of the Lord. Rebuilding motivation. Rebuilding my mind’s army against the enemy and my sinful heart.

I had an unlikely moment of reflection while listening to a Norma Jean song. If you’ve heard of this band you’re probably thinking how odd it seems that I listen to this band. I could explain how I don’t look like the typical fan of hardcore Christian music or I could share what I learned. I’ll leave my music preferences for another blog post :).

So, there I was listening to “Wrongdoers” by Norma Jean and this lyric completely took me by surprise because it was exactly what the Lord knew I needed to hear in my sinful sulking that day:

“We make love to the same mistakes and never get tired.”

WOW. Let the truth of the lyric resonate with your soul. It’s bold and it’s graphic, but it’s so true and if you’re an honest person and a believer – well you’ve experienced this very thing.

The lyrics before this line paint such an accurate picture of the moments we choose to worship ourselves and to worship our “go-to” mistakes and sinful behaviors:

“This is just a tragedy. Just another tragedy.
Feel the grave slide across my throat.
I’ll live, or die and then forget the trip, forget the war, forget the struggle.

Failure on repeat.
Drive for miles just to turn around and play it back again.
Failure on repeat.
We came for the killing. Hopeless yes we know but we don’t mind.

Blood to the bridle. Flood of red as far as we can see.
Careful not to cut yourself.
Unhand the knife drawer and please replace the moon with the sun.

I know it’s hell to hope the feeling of knowing destruction isn’t forever, take it or leave it.”

I know this to be true, but I often don’t live in this truth moment-by-moment:

I AM NOT PERFECT!

There’s a revelation, right?  Not really because I’m still going through this beautiful thing called “progressive sanctification.” So with that I’ll leave you with a few of the verses the Lord used to comfort me as He humbled me through holding up a mirror to my heart.  He brought me back to a common passage that will always provide necessary comfort and/or encouragement; whether it’s a great week or a stretching week.

Enjoy these verses from Proverbs 3:

vs. 7-8 “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

vs 11-12 “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

vs 13-14 – “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.”

vs 21-23 – “My son, do not lose sight of these—keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble.”