My Little Bit of Faith & This Mountain Piece of Chocolate Cake

My Little Bit of Faith & This Mountain Piece of Chocolate Cake

It all started with a piece of chocolate cake.

Example of one of our meals out together. I believe this is braised lamb shank.

I have this lovely, wonderful friend. We’ll call her Darla. She and I meet pretty much every week for a meal. And because I’m pretty much always living on the edge financially, she graciously pays for our weekly meals together. We revisit the topic occasionally because I fear I am taking advantage of her generosity. The conversation ends with Darla lovingly reassuring me our friendship means more to her than the price of the weekly meal.

So, this past June we were at that quaint little restaurant in the South Valley, Copper Canyon Cafe. Just saying the name is fun. I saw this amazing picture of a slice of chocolate cake in the menu, and, well, it was that time in the month where this girl can especially crave chocolatey goodness.

Me – Salad

I asked Darla if she minded if I got the chocolate cake. And what I meant when I asked if she minded, was did she mind me adding the somewhat extravagant cost of dessert in a restaurant. Her reply was that chocolate cake was only empty calories. I was taken back. Darla has not really ever been judgey with me on my diet or weight. A couple times she’s made a healthful comment, but nothing as straight forward as the “chocolate cake is only empty calories” comment. I was honestly offended. And ordered the cake. (Which sadly didn’t live up to the decadence the picture promised.)

The following week I made some “jokes” (passive-aggressive comments) about her claiming chocolate cake was merely empty calories. Darla is gentle and gracious and more on the serious side, and she didn’t quite seem to know what to make of my “jokes.” She responded that she was just wanting to be my accountability partner as she’s heard me talk about my desire to eat healthier and lose weight.

She was right. Now I was the one taken back. I had talked to her often about my plan to start changing my diet and get more aggressive on exercise. But I had planned that to occur after I moved into a less expensive apartment that I thought would allow me greater financial freedom to purchase more healthful foods like fruits, vegetables, etc. The move had not worked out, so, I wasn’t saving money. So, I wasn’t really accountable for that plan anymore, was I?

Also Me – Two Cupcakes. Really there was a third not pictured.

As I pondered these questions, I felt the Lord bring a rather graphic illustration to mind. In an earlier stage of life, I had fallen in love with a cocaine addict, and after watching him in his addiction for six months – and realizing I probably wouldn’t die with that first line of powder…. I joined him in that addiction.

One of many different varieties of Mexican pizza’s that I usually make for my dinner. This one has avocado and Polska Kielbasa and cheese….and ranch dressing. Do you begin to see the problem?

And me joining him in his addiction actually came out of me hearing him speak of wanting to quit the drug. Of course there’s a bit more to that story, but the thing I learned in our years together was that occasionally he talked of wanting to quit the drug. What I came to realize was he never actually meant to quit. Just occasionally his conscience tugged on him, so he talked about quitting the drug till his guilt passed I suppose.

And I felt the Lord say to me, that what I did in talking about cleaning up my diet and getting more proactive on an exercise regime, was just the same thing as my ex did when he talked about quitting coke. My ex never really meant it, he never actually meant to go through with getting clean. And the Holy Spirit completely called me out that all I was doing with my talk of cleaning up my diet and increasing exercise was only a weak-hearted attempt at exorcising my guilt.

I lashed back at the Lord – That’s so harsh! How can you compare my diet and exercise to his cocaine addiction?!

Jenne August 2018. Not the best picture, but not the worst either.

But, haven’t I said for a year that I know food is my final major addiction? (Okay, I can’t talk about the Netflix thing quite yet.) I’ve known for a year, well, really two, that food is the last big hide out for addictive behavior in my life. Okay, yes, it is also coupled with Netflix, but, well, right now the Netflix is not such an issue that I need to proactively work on. Mostly it’s something for me to joke about.

Look, here’s the good news and if you don’t know me or my story, perhaps a bit scary news. I’m clean from cocaine for ten years. I’m clean from abusing prescription medications for eight years. I’m clean from cigarettes for four years. And there’s actually more than that – seven years this fall since the last time I checked myself into the psychiatric ward because I was having yet another melt down that left me incapable of dealing with my life.

I’ve come a long way. I’ve accomplished a lot. I no longer fantasize about killing myself. Seriously, that’s such a big improvement for me. I’m working a regular full time job and I’m not even allowing myself to go for FMLA right now, because honestly, I don’t trust myself to not take advantage of the ability to call off more. What I’m trying to say there is I’m doing better on attendance, because I do have various health and mood struggles.

And here it gets back to the real. I do struggle with mood. I do struggle with health. And because of those very struggles, I feel that I more than most NEED to eat clean, need to move and exercise and strengthen my body.

Getting healthy steamed chicken from the crock pot. Yum.

And I don’t necessarily want to do this. I mean, you know how it is, at moments and points, I WANT to….but I really love to sleep, and honestly, I don’t know that I ever get so much sleep that I WANT to get up. Okay, again, the point being, it’s always going to be a level of sacrifice for me to choose to get up 30-45 minutes earlier to intentionally exercise.

Also yum. Oh gosh, it seems so wrong how much I love these little vending machine cupcakes.

Then, on the food side. Well, every screaming, childish tendency in my flesh comes full-bore on when I begin to consistently work on what I put in my mouth. So, I think I should write about it. Writing is part of my healthy coping. It’s part of who I am and what I absolutely know God has called me to do.

So, I’m going to write about the different fits and the “logic” of illogical rationales I battle through on making these healthful changes.

Me seven years in between. I am down almost 40 pounds between these pictures.

I think I should tell you about it. Because I figure there’s others out there like me. Or like me in part. Maybe you can get inspired because you aren’t as messed up as I am. Maybe you can look at me and say, goodness gracious, no, I never struggled with such miserable, down and out addictions as you girl! And then you can say, well, gosh, if that girl could go after it, I certainly can!

Getting Healthier Goal – Saute LESS. STEAM More.

Or maybe you are more like me, and you think, goodness, how could I ever tackle that giant? Or any of your giants. They can seem so big. The things that stop us. The things that hold us back. The giants we’d really just prefer to never acknowledge, and stay with our heads tucked neatly in the sands of denial.

It’s sorta funny, in a not ha ha way, but all these other addictions I had, nobody knew unless I told them really, and mainly I didn’t tell. Nobody knew I dreamed up elaborate suicide fantasies. And really even with the coke and the prescription medication abuse, not even my doctors or friends really knew. Well, with the prescription meds, I just wouldn’t let myself know it was a problem for so long. Even when I gave all my meds to my dad to dose me, because finally the smallest part of me could finally acknowledge I didn’t trust myself not to change the dosing, even then I still didn’t REALLY believe I had a problem with prescription drugs, not like other people had problems with them.

Here’s one pic of my stove after a meal prep session. Praise God for the progress I’ve made in cooking! I used to eat out more than 90% of my meals and just highly processed food at home.

So, all these addictions that in many ways were hidden and I’ve faced down….but the weight has never been a secret. But there’s so much tied up in that. And that’s some of what I want to write about and explore. How my value is not based on my weight or shape. How I have to keep saying to myself, I am beautiful NOW and not WHEN I lose more weight or get toned. That the interior of my soul and the price God paid for it is what makes me valuable and beautiful.

But weight and shape aren’t the primary reasons for me to take on this journey. It’s simply the next step of Jen’s Jesus Journey, the next piece in my recovery walk, the next place for me to rise up.

But, that’s really quite enough for this blog, eh? Stay tuned happy readers for more details and insights and hopefully some giggles and some hope for all of us. 🙂

 

Darkness & Light by Jenne Brown  ©

Darkness & Light by Jenne Brown ©

In hours between dusk and dawn

When minds are weary and drawn,

When souls are meant for sleeping

Crackling light comes streaking.

Illuminating dreams with eerie shadows,

Pounding sounds of battle’s bellow.

 

Too soon a banshee shrieking

Bursts upon my slumber, seeking

Entrance into my unfocused state,

As impoverished senses strive awake

To find a storm of darkness and light

Brewed this hot, humid summer night.

 

Alone my house stands in the dark countryside

Without city noise, without city lights.

Sheltered from eyes by a curve in the road

With trees to hide my abode.

Windows of covering bereft

This play of lightening I must now accept.

 

Water and wind toss the sturdy trees,

Beat a flurry upon frantic leaves.

The maple strikes against the glass –

Let me in, Let me in, it gasps.

I see the apple trees shaken,

Slender branches slapping without breaking.

 

I sit ‘neath the window, sill clutched ‘tween my fingers.

I could go, but choose to linger.

Peering past my window ledge,

Down to the meadow on horizon’s edge.

In the allotment of my gaze,

I observe the storm’s forays.

 

Rain hurls itself to the ground,

Wave upon wave wears it down.

A thousand warriors upon each front,

A thousand lines earth must confront.

Power erupts from forces fighting high,

In heaven’s realm, hidden from eye.

 

Explosions that crash and break and dive,

Screaming through a paralyzed sky.

I am blinded by light

Flashing as it ignites.

Creeping into corners where darkness is kept,

Awakening chambers where night has slept.

 

Niceties of the day all stripped away,

The normalcy of light left me naught but night.

Naught but flickers and glimmers upon my vision,

Naught but deafening din without remission.

Against the torrent, reason seeks a voice,

To rise above the roaring noise.

 

It must sometime end –

The strength of the wind

 Will sweep this storm from my door,

And reach to farther, further shores.

And yes, at last, the storm does blow

Not out, but farther down the road.

 

And the wind reduces to a breeze.

The only rain, pitter-patter drops from leaves.

Light flickers in the distance far away,

As thunder rolls like echoes of another day.

But the storm gives one final cry

Before it lies down to die.

 

Crack, the air screeches as it’s ripped apart.

And slipping senses come to with a start

Eyes seek to know what they are seeing.

As ears hear thunder that pulls and tumbles,

Crashing oceans of racket and rumble.

Before this last stand, this barrage upon the night,

 

This cry that seemingly rips

Right through my soul

And the whole of all that exists,

Simply whimpers and simpers and fades into the mist.

And just as suddenly – terror and fear can no longer be found,

Though moments past my breath was bound.

 

We all shall know our own storms,

When doubt crowds and confidence is torn;

When life seems too large,

And trust too hard.

When the destroyer strives

To ravage the calm in our lives.

 

The enemy’s attacks can appear relentless,

With displays that consume our senses.

For the deceiver hides behind pernicious lies,

Spewed to discourage and entice compromise.

Yet we must not justify reasons to concede,

Despite blows that strike so deep.

 

In ferocity life may roar and rock and roll,

But refuse its entrance into the sanctuary of our soul.

Confront our fears face to face,

Undo the bindings which would encase.

I will not bow in deference to the terrors of the night,

Regardless their gaudy display of fraudulent might.

 

Determine to tenaciously contend,

Jesus paid the price that we might win.

So, we find God’s promises assured

When we choose to believe, choose to endure.

And a growing confidence is gained

As God is proved in the triumph attained.

 

Through chaos and calamity we cease not to believe.

God’s truth more real than what mere senses perceive.

So, we deny disaster,

Push past fear that would master,

Defy the deceiver to boldly claim

The victory bestowed us through Christ Jesus’ name.

 

Though life’s storms can still stir shivers of fright,

Now, I perceive a greater depth and beauty to persist in delight.

Where once all I found was terror, now I find a thrill,

For God leads me and His presence is with me still.

And times I could flee, I choose to stay, longing to see,

Something greater that lies beyond comfort and quiet skies.

 

Jenne Brown

My Best Friend

My Best Friend

When no one saw the tears I cried,

God’s hand wiped the tears dry.

 

When no arms reached out to hold,

God’s arms were tight to enfold.

 

When loyal friends could not be hailed,

God’s promise to remain never failed.

 

God’s shoulders have felt my tears,

And God’s ears have known my fears.

 

More than any friend loyal and true,

More than any friend I ever knew,

 

More than any love who captured eye and ear,

God’s arms have held me tenderly near.

 

With countless friends I have been blessed,

But of them all, God is the best!

A Life of Victory & Suffering

A Life of Victory & Suffering

I grew up hearing a lot of biblical teachings about an abundant life filled with power. I appreciate this teaching, however, verses about persecution, tribulation, trials and especially suffering were glossed over, and never much addressed. I always believed God wanted the believer victorious. Wonderful verses like Romans 8:37 assured me I was more than a conqueror!

Romans 8:37 NKJV

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

It’s beautiful. It’s true. But I now realize I lived most of my life with this verse out of context.

What are the all things that we more than conqueror over? Well, let’s back up a couple verses.

Romans 8:35 Amplified Version

Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword?

The verses do not say that we won’t have suffering. The verses do not say we won’t have affliction or tribulation. These verses don’t say we will avoid facing calamity or distress or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword. It says even in those things we are conquerors through Him who loved us.

In the difficulty we can prevail over the difficulty not by not experiencing the trouble, but through the power of Christ we are able to not succumb to the hard thing we are going through. Having Christ doesn’t exempt us from experiencing the hardships of life. Quite the contrary, we are promised to have trouble and difficulty because of our love for Christ!

Does life ever feel this way for you?

Barne’s commentary says of verse 35, “As all these things happened to them in consequence of their professed attachment to Christ, it might be supposed that they would tend to alienate their minds from him. But the apostle was assured that they had not this power, but that their love  to the Saviour was so strong as to overcome all, and to bind them unalterably to his cause in the midst of the deepest trials.  The fact is, that the more painful the trials to which they are exposed on his account, the more strong and unwavering is their love to him, and their confidence in his ability to save.”

The word “in” isn’t some special Greek word that means something other than IN the suffering, IN the affliction, IN the tribulation, IN the calamity, IN the distress, IN the persecution, IN the hunger, IN the destitution, IN the peril, IN facing the sword.

I make such a big deal of this because I was taught that as a Christian I had authority over difficulty, that my authority and my believing should actually keep me from experiencing trouble – notice the emphasis on my authority, my believing – that was also part of the understanding I was given – I was responsible to claim my authority, I was responsible to believe appropriately. I believe part of that is accurate, but the authority I am able to exercise comes out of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. And while I am responsible to feed my mind good thoughts and to diligently and intentionally work on casting down erroneous thoughts, I am so imperfect, so frail, so inadequate as a human being to have the ability to accomplish much in “my” believing. I have found that I need to rest in the surpassing power of Christ Jesus. It is in my very weakness that the strength of Christ is made perfect!! So, I had this perception that any and all trouble I faced was from the adversary, the devil, and I simply had to claim my “rightful authority in Christ Jesus,” and the trouble would have to flee.

That’s such a lovely thought. I wish that were the truth. Ha! But the truth is that we don’t get to send trouble away with the whisk of a hand and a commanding rebuke in the name of Jesus Christ! The truth is that it is the grace and power of Christ that allows us to endure trials and to remain joyous even in hurt and distress because we know the difficulty we are enduring will not last forever, and we are fully persuaded that God WILL work good out of the tribulation and trial! I believe it means that the calamity and the distress doesn’t have mastery over us, but we arise over the things that should conquer us, not because we are so marvelous, but because Christ is!

Hebrews 12:1 talks about how we set aside the sin “which doth so easily beset us.” And later in the same chapter it talks about how God trains and disciplines the children he loves. I believe God will use the difficult circumstances of life as an opportunity to teach and train us. God doesn’t tempt us, but I don’t think he necessarily always wants to remove every difficult circumstance we encounter.

James 1:13 CEB

No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone.

Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them.

Once those cravings conceive, they give birth to sin; and sin grows up it gives birth to death.

Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sister.

Every good gift, every perfect gift comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all.

I think there are times God wants us to take authority in situations and say, Not today, Satan! But there is so much scripture about how we will have difficulty, but we look to Christ to overcome it. I think that is a process, to count it all joy, to say God you are good when we are going through different types of turmoil. I absolutely don’t believe most Christians start off counting it all joy. I think it is an intentional, ongoing pursuit while we are in relationship with the Lord to discover how to count it all joy. At this stage of my walk, I don’t think that “counting it all joy” means that I find the painful moments joyful, but rather that I can find joy in the process because I expect God to turn it to good whether in this life or the next.

The realization I have had and that I’ve heard many experienced Christians share is that sometimes God removes the trial, and other times he gives us the strength to get through the trial. Life isn’t one victory after the other, a string of endless triumph with no trouble or defeat or difficulty in understanding occurring. There is learning and time in between things. God will absolutely at times invoke miraculous solutions to our situations, but there is also a lot of life that is about the processes that God has set up. A lot of life is faithfully obeying and enduring and doing right. Like a faithful diet of healthful food and movement provides balance to our weight and our ability to move without pain, so I believe a lot of the Christian walk is about the day in and day out faithfulness to do what is right and righteous in our behavior and attitudes.

I now also believe that there are experiences that God actually brings us to that he wants us in to learn important things. The truth is it’s immature and arrogant to think that we always know best what should happen in our lives.

James 4:13-16 CEB

v13. Pay attention, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such-and-such a town. We will stay there a year, buying and selling, and making a profit.” v14. You don’t really know about tomorrow. “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for only a short while before it vanishes. V15. Here’s what you ought to say: “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” v16.  But now you boast and brag, and all such boasting is evil.

I used to snort in derision of Christians who said, if the Lord wills it. Now, I can see that I was filled with pride and haughtiness. One day I want to write a blog about some of the crazy prayers I prayed, chief among my seemingly crazy prayers was the repeated and passionate prayer for God to take me low. I prayed it because I was deeply aware of the ego and conceit that exalted itself against God and against those who truly spoke for God. I had been delivered from a spirit of pride, but still felt conceit and haughtiness that swelled up often and inappropriately within me. I was boastful and a braggart and those attitudes were indeed evil and I am grateful to have come so far in my journey to be delivered from much of that pretension.

I think there are times in life when God will remove our power to handle things, or bring us to things so big so as to demonstrate our powerlessness to handle it without God’s sustaining power.

I have known many Christians who have refused to learn these lessons, who declare it is not so, that God is not so, and I sincerely question if they have genuinely allowed themselves to be humbled under the mighty hand of God. Personally, God has brought me to seasons where he has said to me that he wanted me to be utterly dependent upon him. Honestly, these were very, very hard seasons for me, because when God sustained me, it was obviously of God’s power and not my own and that was very crushing to my human pride. Which I know is a good thing in the long run, but in the crushing period, it is crushing and painful!

But as I wrote above, I also implored God to bring me low. I know that not everyone seeks that, and I know now had I understood the cost involved, I would not have necessarily prayed those prayers! But, I also don’t believe that I yet know fully all that I gained and learned in that season.

I once heard a pastor say God will either do something through you or for you and most of the time the majority of the effort and work is figuring out which way God wants to work in the situation – for you or through you. So, in the seasons where God works through us, it can look, I think, pretty spectacular! In the seasons where he works for us, um, it’s still spectacular, but, well, I don’t know, as I think about it, all of it has felt rather painful! Like when I walked out of my apartment, it WAS incredible to see the Father lead me into a situation I could not at all have put together, not in my power or in my strength! Yet, trusting him to follow through on that, had a lot of pain. There was also an incredible glory to me and to some who saw it, though many around me still doubted and didn’t believe God actually PLANNED that, but rather thought I fell into the situation.

I remember a conversation with another pastor where he honestly shared how sometimes Jesus showed him how to do something, and then the man would promptly forget that it was the Lord who revealed the insight and the understanding on how to do that thing, and the man would begin to think, in a bit of pride, that he had discovered that understanding. I really appreciate that he shared that with me, because I catch myself in this same type of thinking all the time, thinking I am somehow strong or wise or powerful in an area that the Lord has taught me and led me and helped me and I, quick as can be, have forgotten the goodness he shared with me did not originate FROM me!

I am currently in a period of life where it seems God is repeatedly reminding me of my complete powerlessness without him. Perhaps it is a continuation of the learning to be utterly dependent upon him. Maybe it is a continuing answer to my prayer to be made low. Perhaps he is simply continuing to deepen the understanding as he likes to do. I have had a break from the intensity and deep painfulness of this lesson, but still, I am not yet rejoicing for the return of these challenges where the Lord lets me experience such necessary dependency. I know that ultimately it is a kindness of God to let us see that, but right now, I’m still rigid with indignity.

I like to think this is true.

I think about Joseph who had a mighty calling on his life but he went into slavery and then prison – as a sex offender no less! Yes, he was wrongfully accused, and yet, you never see him say a word in his defense, you never even see anything that indicates he complained or whined or groaned. I don’t know that he didn’t, but there is no record of it. Honestly, I really appreciate the abundant records of Job and David pouring out their complaint to the Lord, because I am somebody who feels – well I FEEL – EVERYTHING!!! So, I am just about always pouring out my complaint and frustration  – as well as my thanks and my gratitude and my praise to the Lord.

But Joseph, Joseph didn’t stand up, snap his fingers, and say, “Not today, Satan!”

Personally, I lean toward thinking God showed Joseph not to say a word. I don’t know how much God revealed to Joseph in the process of things, I don’t know if Joseph got that this was part of his training for reigning. I don’t know. By the time he faces his brothers years later, he has not a single word of reproach for them, but rather weeps to be reunited. He says, you meant it for evil, but God worked it for good. I don’t know how early on Joseph got the message that God was working all these ill deeds toward his benefit, but any season of doubt or questioning, is not recorded for us.

So, there was this season that Joseph had to go through, and I do fully believe he did have to go through that. It wasn’t sinfulness that brought Joseph to those places. Yes, he was youthful and required maturing and developing and gosh, I certainly would never select those circumstances to be trained in – slavery and prison. But Joseph continued to serve God in all those terrible difficult circumstances. He didn’t say, “Oh no, you don’t devil! You back on down and get on out!” No, that was not the word of the Lord for Joseph. Or David. Or Job. Or Jesus.

 

Sometimes God does sprinkle his glory glitter on your life and changes everything in an instant.

There are lots of records of folks who didn’t just whisk away the problem with their Godly authority. There are lots and lots of records of people going through the difficulty clinging to God in trust and hope. Sometimes, yes, God does move into our circumstances and brilliantly and beautifully alters all the ugliness into beauty in an instant, and I have experienced that, and that is a God-specialty that he loves to do! But it doesn’t mean we get to never deal with trouble or challenge. Honestly, it is in the trial that I have truly, truly discovered so much about the beauty and firmness of the nature of God. I really sorta hate to write that, because I am right now in the middle of difficulty and trouble, and I don’t like it! I don’t! Right now it just hurts! Right now I’m in the place where mostly I feel mad that this is happening and I haven’t yet discovered anything beautiful or lovely here in this place. But I know that is coming. I do. I know it. I know it. I know it. I know it.

I know it because I have experienced the faithful delivering hand of God time and time again the last many years. I have leaned into Jesus so hard, and clung to him and wept into his side, and howled inside the tower of refuge that is my God as the Holy Spirit has wrapped himself around me. However, the comforter doesn’t erase the pain, doesn’t dismiss the difficulty, but it allows me to no longer be swallowed up in it as I once was. The hardship and the difficulty of life used to overwhelm me, used to have the mastery of me.

And I tell you, I do still fall, all the time. I am still so weak so much of the time. Sometimes I think, how can I write a blog, like I have some sort of understanding or like I have life figured out. Sometimes I think, how can I share my story when I’m still so fragile and broken? But no longer does my weakness defeat me, no longer do I fall so as to not rise again. Now, I stumble and I fall and I trip and I weep, oh Lord, do I weep, I am certain I have cried rivers of tears, Olympic size pools of tears. I think God, how can you not be tired of collecting my tears? I am so tired of crying them! But, still I reach up for my Daddy God, I cling onto my Lord Jesus and I demand of the Holy Spirit his promise of comfort. I seek it. I howl for it, I cry for it. I demand it. I am the widow who howls for justice. I beat upon the door demanding answers. And sometimes, yes, it seems as if all my prayers come up against the tower wall of God to come sliding back down without answer. Sometimes it feels very much like I am not being heard. Sometimes I just cannot make sense of the circumstances. And maybe I need to learn more to sit quietly before the Lord. I do eventually quiet down some, get resigned to moving on and beginning to make sense and find peace in the tribulation.

The answer often doesn’t come immediately, but I am assured it WILL come eventually. The comfort doesn’t swallow up all the pain in five minutes, but it allows me to breath and to get up and keep going, where I used to be shut down. It’s not a perfect life yet, but I have a perfect Lord and a promise that he will finish the good work he has begun in me.

Even in writing, which I do most of all because I am so deeply convicted that it is what God wants me to do – I know first and foremost it’s for me and my healing, and my hope is that he will use that to help others along the way, but when it comes to me writing, when I sought insight from God several years ago, I heard the Lord clearly indicate to me that there would be pain and difficulty even in the thing I feel he is calling me to do in writing. And as I write so many of these blogs in weeping and in tears and many times in late hours or difficult days, I remember what he spoke to my heart and hope that it will not necessarily always be so.

My first Thanksgiving in Albuquerque I met a lovely family and I expect sometime to share a blog about that. At the end of the evening as I was bidding farewell to the patriarch of the family, he said to me that life is filled with struggle and triumph. Struggle and triumph. “Some struggles,” he said, “last longer than others. But there is always triumph.” The experience with his large family had been overwhelming for me in its goodness, and I wanted so much to believe him, but was also overcome by the immensity of good, and a cynical thought began to rise up in me to think, he probably has hidden sin, I began to seek a crack in the facade. I did this because I was challenged, not by a perfect family without the very struggle the great-grandfather was speaking of, but by a good and large family. As though he sensed my internal turning, he turned and seemed to pin me with his gaze, looking me straight in the eye, he asked me intently, “You do believe that don’t you, Jenne?” I released the fear and the cynicism and gave into the goodness of the moment, responding firmly, “Yes, I do.”

Struggle and triumph. Not mutually exclusive. But often hand in hand.  A life of victory AND suffering. A life of power AND weakness. A life of abundance and want. This life doesn’t hold all the fullness, we do get lots of tastes of glory, I fully believe, but we continue to experience a life-long dependence on the faithful, good nature of our Father God.

 

Psalm 23 & Lotsa Lotsa Thoughts

Psalm 23 & Lotsa Lotsa Thoughts

In December of 2014 my friend Joy connected me to a woman who was skilled in helping people know what God wanted them to focus on for their current stage of life.  The telephone conversation between the gal and myself reminded me of two fire hydrants let loose. We gushed all over each other with a zillion thoughts about our journey with the Lord, but at the end of the conversation she said she felt I should publish a book in the coming year. I felt like what she was saying was true and decided I would publish some of my poetry in a book in the coming year.

2015 had a lot in store for me. In May I moved across the country from Ohio to my new home in Albuquerque, New Mexico and began attending a new church, new job, new friends, new everything, new, new, new. My roommate graciously provided me a desk, chair and borrowed computer to help me work on my writing ventures. Through the fall I worked with another friend to edit poems and began working on putting together an e-book for publication.

In the end, I was publishing my little e-book through Amazon Kindle into the wee hours of the morning of the fourth of January 2016. I was literally falling down crying because I felt so challenged to put myself out there. I prayed through the tears and the trouble of not knowing what in the world I was doing with no one to ask for help or guidance to endeavor to do the thing I felt the Lord wanted me to do, to publish this little book.

The morning that my little e-book published on Amazon for a whopping $2.99 my bank account over-drafted from hidden charges on the car rental I had over the Christmas holiday visiting family in Ohio.  I was thankful it didn’t overdraft til I got home, so that I was able to pay for this and that on the trip and til I was home. However, there seemed a terrible irony that I couldn’t even purchase my own book that was only a few dollars.

The morning that it published, before I saw my bank account, I felt the Lord lead me to Psalm 23 in my Common English Bible. I had never been drawn to the 23rd Psalm. My familiarity with the 23rd Psalm seemed to be in WWI or WWII movies where some group of soldiers was walking into certain death and somebody in their group would begin to mournfully recite the 23rd Psalm. However, God wanted to redeem that Psalm for me and it’s what he brought me to that cold January morning.

Psalm 23 CEB

(1) The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing.

(2) He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters;

(3) He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name.

(4) Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me. Your rod and your staff – they protect me.

(5) You set a table for me right in front of my enemies. You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spills over!

(6) Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the Lord’s house as long as I live.

Beautiful cloud formations in Albuquerque.

God loves to speak into our circumstances with an “instead” word. Before I saw my bank account several hundred dollars in the hole he spoke to me that I lack nothing. I come back to this promise all the time. I lack nothing. That’s the truth. The true truth is I lack nothing in God. It doesn’t mean that I don’t face times without this or that. Yet, even when I am without, I don’t lack. The next several weeks I had every need met even though I had no money. I had food to eat, a way to work and back every day and night. And the craziest thing I remember about that time is that as I was closing in on getting my paycheck, I wanted to give God not 10%, but 20%. I needed to get a supplement at the store and I had some bills to pay, and I remember demanding that God make a way for me to be able to afford to give 20% even when it left me without money for much anything. I’m honestly

Intentionally celebrating BEFORE the victory.

not sure if it barely gave me grocery money and I mean like $20 maybe.

I’ll be honest, I’m impressed by that girl! I look back at her and the chutzpah to demand to give so sacrificially when I was earning so little money and pretty much the whole check was going to cover the deficit of my overdrawn checking account. God must have been doing crazy things inside of me for me to insist that he make a way for me to give even more to him. I know it was me that made the demand, but I think the desire had to start from God himself. How he works in us to desire things we should desire is certainly beyond my full comprehension!

Certificate of registration for my book.

I had a temporary work assignment that month reorganizing a file room in a credit union. It was a very physical job of moving physical files that involved leaning, bending, stretching and constant motion. I was super sore the first few days from the exertion and using so many different muscles I wasn’t used to. But that day I was quoting the second verse, “He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters.” Here I was twisting, bending, lifting and saying, “He lets me rest in grassy meadows” as I considered the restful nature of this physical job that kept me mainly in solitude from people allowing me to work diligently, yet with mental freedom to consider and ponder. So for me, it was a mentally restful assignment.

Such a pretty shot of the foliage outside my apartment.

I ponder the depth of the meaning of lacking nothing. I feel the culture in America today is such a society of abundance that personally I continue to resist a spirit of entitlement, a sense that I should have access to whatever I want, whenever I want it. So many of the struggles in American culture today come out of the very excess we have. There are hoarders and overweight, under-exercised people – these are issues I have struggled with personally and still have to daily come against. The last few years of living so lean financially, where I have literally prayed for shampoo and rent and various needs on a regular basis, where more often than not, I have not known how my need would be supplied, other than to know that God is faithful and he does and will supply.

Earlier in my life I suffered from great physical and emotional need. I have been healed and delivered from so much that I struggle to express all that Jesus Christ has set me free from. In other blogs I reference some of my physical healing although I’ve not yet written much about that. There are still different health issues that I continue to face and seek deliverance from. Christianity is such a unique balance of recognizing the reality of our circumstances, yet declaring a different reality than what we see and what we feel and expecting the Lord to deliver on His promise.

Recovered treasure on a difficult day.

Looking back, I do feel there were times I was trying to declare the word and have faith, but now I look back and feel there were times I was trying to have believing but I wasn’t. There were times I said I gave forgiveness, but I didn’t. I was doing the best I understood at the time, but now I can see what I was actually doing was stuffing my emotions and minimizing the trouble I was facing. I don’t think from the outside the difference is clear – reading what I’m saying in this blog about having no lack when I didn’t have certain things – somebody could read that and say, you’re in denial and minimizing right there!

May 2016 Selfie

One of the Christian speakers I listen to encourages folks to make a list of all the things they struggle with, the areas they feel deficient in and write it out on a piece of paper. Then on another piece of paper, write an opposite list, or down the left side of a piece of paper write the negative list and then write across from that the opposite list. Then he says – burn the first list. You don’t need a reminder of that list. You know what’s on that list. You’ve been plagued by that list. Make a declaration and a prayer of the right side of the list, the second piece of paper and live in that. It doesn’t mean the left side of the list disappeared, but what we focus on we become, what we declare will become our eventual reality if not immediately.

Romans 4:17 ESV – As it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations” – in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Our God is a God who calls into existence the things that do not exist – how powerful and beautiful is that? He literally spoke the universe into order in Genesis 1.

July 2016 Selfie

Proverbs 4:20-21 NLT -(20) My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen Carefully to my words.  (21) Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (18) So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Another July 2016 Selfie – I had little work that month and time on my hands.

I have heard one translation of Hebrews 11:1 that refers to faith as the title deed to things not yet seen.

There have been a lot of experiences the last few years that have challenged me to enjoy, to appreciate, to understand the purpose for the pain of not being able to do or buy or access things I wanted or items that seemed to be legitimate “needs.”But I have also learned so many incredible, valuable lessons the last few years about how much I thought I needed, that I can get by just fine without and how to lean on God and look to the Lord and lean in to hear the leading of the Holy Spirit on what things I REALLY DO need to get at the store when I don’t have enough to cover the list I brought. And I’ve done it so much now the last few years that I have built such a TRUST in the voice of the Lord, that I am much more confident on what is just my emotions waffling and wavering and what IS the Lord. And now I know that I can come back and say, Wait, that really feels like you telling me to get this thing that doesn’t at all feel like a need. Can you help me understand, can you tell me why? Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t, but he impresses the sensation enough on me that I feel secure in getting the item. And sometimes, I have simply said on certain decisions, Okay Lord, I don’t want to do this, and I don’t know if this is actually you urging me, but I ask that you take note that the reason I am doing this is because if it is you speaking, I don’t want to miss your guidance, so please honor my heart to be obedient in this moment and matter.

One of my first meals in the new apartment.

I’ve been taught that in times of difficulty the Holy Spirit comforts us. I realize now that doesn’t mean that the pain disappears. It doesn’t mean everything is instantaneously okay and immediately enjoyable. But more and more, I do see the work of the Comforter in my life. I am realizing how much of a confidence and trust I HAVE developed the last several years in big, faith-filled moves like walking out of my apartment not knowing where I’d sleep, to daily living matters of knowing the Lord will help me in my grocery shopping and cooking to make a way and make a success out of what I have. I still think God stretches my stuff. And I pray for him to do that – but sometimes I stop and think, gosh, that thing or this product sure has lasted a long time!   The truth is that this deepening intimacy with the Lord has sorta crept in little by little so that I didn’t realize how much it’s become part of who I am.

Starting at the end of 2011 and especially in 2014 I had explosive, dynamic, life-altering interactions with God where I saw visions and heard Jesus telling me jokes and the Holy Spirit giving me instructions about things I couldn’t have known otherwise. After a ministry session of deliverance and healing the Prophet spoke a simple-seeming phrase that had deep meaning for me and resurrected the memory of a powerful God-encounter that I’d completely buried and forgotten from three decades before.

In the culminating session of an 8-week class on the prophetic, in our final “practice” time with each other I listened as the fellow student I was partnered with, a woman I’d never before spoken to, essentially verbalized an ongoing conversation/argument I had been having with the Lord. She spoke my part and she spoke God’s response to my concerns and agitation. It’s the strangest thing to sit and listen to someone you’ve never met reveal a very intimate dialogue you’ve been having with the Lord, and she did it with such tenderness, such gentleness, especially as she spoke God’s response to my fears and concerns.

After years of considering myself a Christian where I had little to no experience of encountering God, in a short span of years, I had shocking, surprising and incredible encounters with God. And yet, I can say that it has been in the difficulty and situations honestly of suffering over the last few years where I’ve come to TRULY KNOW and TRUST the voice of the Lord SO DEEPLY in so many matters to allow greater confidence of his leading and his guidance. There are so many places now that I stop and seek his voice and have confidence in the answer and the instruction.

Psalm 23:3b

He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name.

God will guide us in the paths that are proper for us. I saw a quote a few years ago about how we don’t know what someone else’s journey is about, and that has helped me immensely when I feel the pull to compare myself whether negatively or pridefully to somebody else’s journey. Whether I’m tempted to think I’m doing better than someone else, or I’m tempted to think I’m doing worse than someone else, I draw my heart back to the proper path the Lord has me on and remember that he is the one I am ultimately accountable to.