Live Differently & Date Differently

I grew up hearing a lot about the modern day concept of courtship. 

It was refashioned to be a safer alternative to dating. In courtship there were/are rules placed around couples to protect purity, unwise emotional entanglement, & to keep from broken hearts. 

You're most likely not from circles who mainly practiced the concept of modern-day courtship, but maybe you've heard of it & you're wondering what it's all about because that words sounds pretty ancient & old-fashioned & just plain weird. 

Maybe you've been in the dating realm for awhile & its led to a lot of pain & heartbreak & you do desire a better way of doing things and the idea of courtship sounds pretty good right about now. Rules & regulations sound like a mighty fine idea to your wounded heart. 

Maybe you're a little younger & you're eager to start dating and the whole concept of having a boyfriend or girlfriend sounds pretty awesome.

Maybe you are from those circles that practiced courtship & you've found yourself throwing "the baby out with the bath water" because courtship was held up to such a standard that it was a real disappointment when all the rules didn't keep you from heartbreak. 

Because its true; rules & formulas do not take away the risk that is involved in relationships, whether you call it dating or not.

As with many things, people tend to swing from one extreme to the other when they've seen the bad in something. They create safeguards to keep themselves and others from further hurt or mistakes. And those things can be great unless its built only on rules & only on safeguards that do not factor in a mutual desire from two people to practice godly relationships & honor of one another.

Many of our parents swung to the extreme which became hyper-courtship. 

Now our generation, my generation, is swinging to the opposite extreme & going back to serial dating & trying the opposite sex on like a pair of new jeans, often exchanging them for a new, better looking fit in the next week or month or year. 

I've had to learn from my own past relationships that formulas & rules do not have guarantees. They do not keep you pure. They do not keep you from getting your heart broken. They do not take the place of two people desiring in their hearts to seek living out a God-honoring relationship. 

In order to have a godly relationship you must have two godly people in that relationship. 

Those two people must desire purity. Those two people must desire accountability. Those two people must desire counsel. Those two people must desire boundaries. Those two people will only build their relationship on Christ if their individual lives are built on Christ. 

I have heard of many couples who practiced every courtship rule to a T & still ended up with broken & unhealthy marriages. 

I have seen the same happen in dating.

Rules & formulas do not equal a godly relationship & future marriage. 

My heart is especially tender towards those guys & gals who have made mistakes in past or current relationships & desire to see the gospel once again shine through for them in the area of relationships. I hope that this article gives you courage to stop right where you are & ask yourself hard questions & dare to live differently & as a result, date differently.

Relationships & dating can be one of the trickiest things for us as singles to figure out & its the area I feel holds the most temptation, disappointment, and frustration. But its also one of the areas that we can discover so much beauty, sanctification, redemption, provision, & learn to lean into Christ & His wisdom & trust Him more than we ever have.

I want to highlight five different areas that we need to be most vigilant in & we need to pray most about in relationships & will drastically change the way you practice those relationships. Keep in mind that vigilance in these areas is the result of two people that are putting Christ first & putting flesh to death. They are not "rules" with step-by-step how-to's, they are biblical inspired principles & things to seek the Lord in & accept biblical counsel in. 

Whether or not you call it courtship or dating doesn't matter. I prefer to call it neither. Rather I refer to it as pursuing a godly, Christ-centered, relationship. 

It is time to throw off the stigma of titles for different types of relationships. 

It's time to stop believing that rules & formulas (or the lake thereof) will prove to create godly & world-changing relationships & marriages for Christ.

Read the rest of my post Live Differently & Date Differently by visiting the Pillars of Grace blog here!

What We Feel About the Turpin Family

There are lots of heinous crimes committed around the world every day. Some we hear about, some we don't. But the crimes that surfaced recently that happened inside of the Turpin family in Texas & California are crimes that hit us a little deeper because of the thirteen children that they involved.

If you don't know about the Turpin family you can read a lot of details of the case on the internet, but I'll summarize them quickly for you.

Louise & David Turpin had 13 children ages 2 to 29. They projected the image of a normal family on social media & a mostly normal family to their immediate family. They took family trips to Disney Land that included each of their children, celebrated birthdays, & the parents even renewed their wedding vows several times.

But behind the walls of their home, David & Louise committed terrible & unbelievable atrocities against their thirteen children.

These children were chained & shackled to their beds, beaten, choked, starved, & kept as captives inside of their small home. 

I've been following the case closely as more details have surfaced & each time I am more & more heartbroken for what these children endured. 

I was sharing more details with my Mom the other day and I voiced the thoughts that were going through my head. "You wonder why God allows such things & why those children underwent what they did."

Even as Christians we have unanswered questions as we see the results of a depraved world around us. 

During the initial arraignment the District Attorney named the reason for such behavior by David & Louise as the "depravity of man," not because of their "religion" or the fact that they claimed to homeschool, both reasons that some may be tempted to blame. And he was absolutely right.

The world probably feels a lot of hate towards these parents. When you begin to read about the kind of crimes they committed against their own children you can't help but begin to feel that way. They deserve to be hated, right? They deserved to be condemned in our hearts, right?

But how do we as Christians, even while feeling anger, disgust & deep sadness (& rightly so), take these things & learn something about sin while also learning how to see people like David & Louise? How do we not follow the rest of the world by justifying hate & condemnation in our hearts? 

Things like this help us realize what sin does when people give themselves over to its utter depravity. In Romans 1 God talks about giving some people over to committing lude and perverted acts among each other. Of course, we don't know the extent of what kind of acts these were, but the book of Romans gives us a good picture of the fact that there are some people He no longer restrains & the destruction of sin. 

David & Louise Turpin grew up in the Pentecostal faith when they were first married but some years later they began experimenting with different religions & beliefs, including witchcraft. We can imagine the kind of evil that this deepened even more within these two people. 

Realizing how depraved we are without Christ is a good reminder. No, most people don't do the kinds of horrible things that Louise & David did, but, when you live a life without Christ there is nothing that we are not capable of. This is a reminder that all of us are in deep need of the gospel. 

You and I sometimes can't even imagine allowing David & Louise Turpin into our prayers. We can't imagine praying for their salvation. 

But the verses in the Bible that address salvation do not have any stipulations about the kinds of people God does or doesn't save. 

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance; Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
— 1 Timothy 1:15

Paul was speaking in that verse above & he considered himself the chief of sinners. If you know anything about Paul you know that before he was saved, he persocuted the Christians that were rising up in the first century. He later became one of the most instrumental apostles that God used to lead many people to salvation.

Oftentimes God brings people to Him who have previously lived terrible lives of the grossest sin we can imagine. Oftentimes those people are some of His greatest tools.

We cannot limit what God may choose to do in someone's life even with a history marked with gross sin. We cannot limit Him & create our own stipulations for salvation. 

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
— Luke 23:39-43

This verse tells the story of the man who hung next to Jesus during His crucifixion who had lived a life of sin. This man had never done one good thing to deserve salvation, but at the end of his life this man had faith. Mercy, grace, forgiveness, & salvation were immediately extended to him from Jesus Himself & this man was promised a place in heaven upon his death. This is the essence of the gospel at work.

We must believe that the same grace & mercy extended to us is the same grace & mercy that God might choose to extend to people like David & Louise & like He extended to the thief on the cross, like He did for Paul, & like He's done for you and me.

Christianity doesn't follow the rest of the world in hate or hopelessness. Christianity champions the truth of a God who can change the hearts of the worst sinners, including people like David & Louise Turpin. 

As we read the unfolding details of the twenty-nine year old secret of David & Louise Turpin, let's not allow the atrocity of what they did cause us to harden our hearts in hate like the rest of the world may. Though its hard to imagine God turning the hearts of David & Louise (& He may choose not to) let's challenge ourselves to allow this situation to grow our faith, strengthen our prayers, & believe in the power of the gospel. 

Its important that as Christians we think about how we feel & process things like this & to fill our hearts with truth to combat the doubts & questions that will naturally arise. We cannot allow ourselves to be disinterested in events & heartbreaking stories that cause the rest of the world to wrestle with questions that for them, have no answers.

Stories like this tell the truths about God, sin, & the power of the gospel. They have the ability to grow us in grace, faith, compassion, & a heart of prayer if we allow them to. 

~ Jenn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Should Approach Social Media Soberly

Social media was one of the key factors that caused division in my past relationship. 

A desire to be seen and known by me was replaced by a greater desire to be seen & known by others, by strangers, by "followers." 
Cultivating emotional intimacy in our relationship was replaced with cultivating popularity to the unknown faces of a thousand user names.

Until that time I had no idea of the destructiveness that social media could bring.

Social media is described in this article by Tony Reinke as a "drug we prescribe and consume in order to regulate our emotional life." 

I immediately had to ask the question, "Do I prescribe this drug to myself? Am I under its power to become addicted to being "known" and seen and affirmed?" 

I've been up and down in the social media world.

I've gone months without it, I've deleted it, I've practiced discipline with how much I was using it, & I've also been addicted to it. I've experienced destructiveness at the hands of it & I've also allowed its drug-like power into my own life. 

"The allure of social media is the desire to be seen, omnisciently seen, if not always affirmed, at least always put in view of others." (Tony Reinke)

If the power of social media is such, and as followers of Christ, does that mean we should approach the use of social media gingerly, carefully, cautiously, & sober-mindedly? Does it mean we are better off using it sparingly & purposefully?

As Christians we know that to seek our fulfillment by anything besides Christ is not only wrong, but it cannot deliver what we seek.

The longer I use social media & the more I see its effects on myself & others, the more I believe that we should be wary of it & consider it like a type of drug to be handled carefully & with caution. 

I believe that it can be used for great good but more often than not it becomes a vice & an addiction to secure the things only truly had through a closeness with our Savior.

"We live in perpetual fear of suddenly being seized and called to task by the infinite and would rather socialize or go to the movies until we are finally carried to our grave." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Is social media, or rather our growing use of it, really so serious that it effects the way we will live our lives all the way to our grave? Does it really lull us to sleep, distracting us and pacifying us with its subtle drug-like addiction?

I believe so.

Even the secular world recognizes the destruction it weilds in their lives & the lives around them. They recognize the growing rise in disconnection, dissatisfaction, depression, & comparison.

The use of social media to replace the need for Christ is nothing new. We've always struggled with it, warred against it (or not). But social media is the kind of thing that is not being recognized for its power to replace, satisfy, & fulfill the same way we are tempted to use anything else.  

We are not only losing true connection with people around us but we are finding it a easier to lose connection with the Creator of that need for connection built within us only meant to be truly & ultimately satisfied in Him.   

The use of social media should be approached carefully & soberly. It shouldn't be seen as harmless. The wrong use of social media has the power to numb us, isolate us, destroy relationships, & become the thing we elevate above Christ. 

Social media effects our present & our future. It effects our usefulness for the Kingdom. It effects the intimacy we are or are not building with Christ. It effects our relationships, either for bad or good. 

If social media has the power to destroy, we should soberly consider if its destroying us.

- Jenn

 

What I Learned From Wonder Woman

I finally got around to watching Wonder Woman. 

I'm really glad I watched it in the privacy of my home because I cried so. much. If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it here, but let me tell ya, I cried. 

But I also learned some really good lessons that I didn't think I would learn from a DC Comics story. And maybe I'm crazy and nobody else picked up from the movie what I'm about to share, but I think it might be inspiring.

Disclaimer: I don't endorse all parts of this movie. There were a couple parts, mostly dialogue, that I thought were definitely not necessary. 

BUT I wanna talk about this movie & what it brought to mind & why it was inspiring. 

There's an island full of Amazonian women all skilled in fighting in warfare. All strong, all capable, & ready for the fight they may encounter. They train for an attack that may or may not happen, but still they train hard & become strong. 

This picture made me realize that the outward war, the fictional war, these fictional women were training for in the story was a really good picture of the kind of women that I believe God would have us be in this world. 

Strong in Jesus, training to fight a very real war that we face every day (Ephesians 6:12), strong in spirit & mind, willing to fight for those lesser & in need, practicing honor in every area of our lives.

I do mourn the modern day woman. I mourn what I am guilty of as well. I mourn how much of a sinful culture we have allowed to creep into our lives & the spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-20) that has grown rusty and useless because it sits in the corner of our lives and we never put it on or engage in real warfare.

I believe both men & women alike, deep down, desire to be warriors & soldiers fighting for what they really believe in. I think that's why there's countless stories & now movies that portray honorable warriors & fighters. And I believe that's why we look up to those examples & there's a craving deep down inside to be that &, well, kick some butt.

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I believe us as Christian men & women don't have to go looking for battle & we don't have to don real armor because there's a war all around us & there's a spiritual armor ready & waiting for us to put on. 

There's a part near the end of the movie where Diana, Wonder Woman, listens to Aries (the god of war) speak about how she should really stop fighting against him and give up on mankind. You can see Diana linger for just a second on the thought that maybe Aries is right & maybe she should give up & fight with Aries, the evil god she's fought against her whole life. 

This hesitation of Diana's reminds me of when we are tempted to stop engaging in the warfare that God has set us in the midst of. It reminds me of when we begin to blur the lines & lay down our weapons & take off our armor. 

What does that look like in modern day culture?

It looks like the quiet compromise of joining a culture in their media; becoming numb to what flies in the face of all that we stand for as Christians. Homosexuality, promiscuity (sexual freedom), godlessness, etc. 

It looks like using our lives for our own betterment, gain, name, popularity, & profit (John 3:30) & maybe just wielding some "God talk" to season some parts of our lives.

It looks like nursing secret sins in the background where no person can see them.

It looks like holding grudges & holding onto un-forgiveness & bitterness.

It looks like backing away from opportunities to serve & do what we as Christians have all been called to do: love Jesus, love people, & make disciples.

It looks like passivity.

I have done all of these things.

Diana's mother, the queen of the Amazonians, bids Diana goodbye as she goes to fight in the modern day war against the Germans. Diana cannot stand to stay & do nothing when there is a war going on that is killing millions of people. She believes that she has been created to fight for mankind so she decides to leave in secret because her mother would rather have her stay & stay safe, I presume.

After learning from her mother that if she leaves to fight she cannot come back to the Amazonian island Diana says, Who would I be if I stayed?

She chooses to leave & fight even at great cost. She will never see her mother or her people again but still she goes because she knows that if she stayed she would not be fulfilling her purpose. A piece of her would not be the same if she chose the easy route & did not put to use what she had been training all of her life for.

I know what that feels like, choosing the easy & safe route because I'm scared, because it challenges every bit of my desire to stay comfortable & safe. And a part of you isn't the same. A part of you will always feel regret over an opportunity that you missed out on. A part of you knows that you have betrayed your real calling in that moment. A part of you knows you were created to fight.

What if, like the example of these Amazonian women in a fictional story, we trained & fought hard & spent our lives not only readying for war, but really engaging in it? What if we gave up our passivity & chose to be outspoken & different from the world? 

There's a reason we're inspired by heroism & warriors. We were created for it. We were hardwired to fight a war to end all wars.

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I want to challenge you, all of us, men & women alike, to listen to the deep down desire to be a warrior. To realize that we can be fighters because there's a very real battle to fight. 

Let's lay down our passivity & start training & fighting & doing what we were created to do.

Go watch Wonder Woman & see if you're not inspired. 

- jenn

 

 

 

Recognizing An Abusive Relationship

I sat around a table of ten young women, all beautiful, all with beautiful personalities, all with unique gifts & talents, all lovers of Jesus, all single. 

It was the most refreshed & encouraged I've been in a long time in regards to the topic of singleness, and I think I can speak for Hannah, too.

Even on the drive home there was a stark difference from the drive on my way to the church where the Hard Love series is being held. I drove home excited, encouraged, refreshed, and not feeling as alone in this season as we so often do. 

I dated out of hopelessness for a very long time.

I had never heard of this term before last night until the speaker, Rebekah, introduced it. She talked about five major symptoms of dating out of hopelessness and I found myself resounding with every point, but one in particular really stood out to me. 

I'm not sure if the speaker meant to refer to abuse, but she touched on the fact that dating out of hopelessness causes us not to leave when we should. We are not able to pick up our "bags" & say enough is enough & I'm done.

This point is important because as we've seen lately in this #metoo trend, abuse, emotional & physical, hides in the shadows & goes unnoticed & unrecognized even by the people who are in the abusive relationships.

Singleness can be really hard. It can be really lonely. And it can cause us to lower the standard, settle, & be involved in relationships we shouldn't be, if we aren't careful. 

It causes us to stay in relationships, accept things, we never thought we would. And it can also go a lot deeper, become a lot darker, than the missing checkmarks on our "list" of non-negotiables.

Abuse doesn't have to be physical. Abuse can be the slow wearing away of who you are by another person. Degradation, anger, silence, control, manipulation.

The two lies that I have believed about myself and the two lies that have caused me to stay in emotionally abusive situations are these:

- The problems that arise in relationships & the emotional abuse that follows is my fault. 
And because it's my fault they have every right to treat me that way. I've gotta get it together.

I know without a doubt some of you have either made these same excuses in the past or are currently making them now. I know, its uncomfortable to face the fact that you might be in an abusive relationship, but please, keep reading if any part of you desires freedom.

Let's be clear: every relationship has its ups and downs & every person you will ever be with has their weaknesses, but I think you know exactly what I mean when it becomes mistreatment & abuse. You always know deep down when the treatment you're receiving isn't right.

The kind of mistreatment and abuse that causes you to make excuses like: 

I'll stay because I don't believe there's anyone better or I deserve anything better. 
What he says about me is probably true & I need to work on those things. 
I'm scared to leave because it's going to hurt. 

I'm in this relationship too deep. 
He has issues that
stem from past relationships or childhood hurt & I've gotta be the one to stick around & love him like Jesus. 
I can't give up because things will get better & it'll be this beautiful redemption love story.
He says he's a Christian.

He's my best friend.
I don't want to be alone. 
He says he's sorry.
I don't want to be single.

I know because I've made every single one of these excuses. I've stayed for far too long, undergone emotional abuse, sought to change the essence of who I was to receive approval & acceptance, and began to forget the worth that God has assigned to me. 

Rebekah said something very interesting:

"You will feel empowered after you have made the decision to walk away. It is not a decision that you will necessarily feel empowered to do before you do it."

That's right; there's no excuses for staying. There's no waiting till things get better. If I was face-to-face with you, I would tell you exactly what I'm going to tell you now: walk away.

When Rebekah said that, it reminded me of how I felt when I knew that I needed to walk away from my abusive relationship. I knew, lying on that cold floor, breath coming in short gasps, that I had to make the hard decision, but the best decision. And Rebekah is right; I didn't feel empowered or free before I made that decision, and I didn't even feel empowered right after. It took me awhile to see how very free I really was. 

And you may wonder: how in the heck did I follow through with what I knew was best & turn it into actually making that decision to walk away? How did I pick myself up off the floor, literally, and see past the pain to do what was right?

I cried out to Jesus in those painful moments, hours, & days. He was there so vividly & He brought back to mind the promises that I had always known & enabled my hurting heart to actually believe them. The promise that Jesus is enough. The truth that His plans for me were, are, good & that He desired something so much better for me even if I couldn't see it then. The truth that I have value even though I have flaws. The truth that my heart is priceless. The truth that my body, my emotions, me as a whole, were brought with a price. 

I discovered God's Fatherhood, His faithfulness, in a more real way than I ever had in my entire life & now looking back, I still don't feel empowered. I just stand in awe of God's power & redemption. The power that He wielded through me to walk away.

And He can do that for you, too.

This post is to shake you, us, from our stupor. Its to name the why behind our propensity to unhealthy and abusive relationships. It's to say girls, you are worth more & what Jesus says about you is true & you can walk away. It's to say yes you might be lonely for a little while, and it might hurt like heck, but Jesus is enough. 

The biggest lesson I have learned through the mistakes I made in relationships is just that; Jesus is enough. It sounds cliche but its really really true. It's the only thing that enabled me to end bad relationships when I was literally on my hands & knees before Jesus making what felt like the hardest decision I'd ever had to make. It was the truth that healed my aching heart & answered all of my questions afterwards in the long nights and days. It's the only thing that enables me to believe, really believe, that even if I never get married & know earthly love, Jesus is enough & He is good. 

I reject the belief that you have to do and be in order for you to be in a good relationship & to say I do to a good & Jesus loving man. What I mean by that is I reject the belief that you have to perform, change, or hide to have the relationship that God desires for us to have if its His will for us to marry.

Gosh, yes, there are things we need to grow in, areas we need to mature in, sinful behaviors we need to nip in the bud with Jesus' gracious help, BUT the answer to all of that is to love Jesus most with our time, our talents, our hearts & our souls. When you do that, you walk through what's called sanctification (being made holy) & you change & you grow & mature in all the best and necessary ways. The ways that Jesus wants you to. 

But there is never any reason or excuse for mistreatment & abuse. 

Run from and say no to any relationship or marriage that isn't a reflection of the selfless, kind, pursuing, & gentle love of our Savior shown to us. 

You are God's workmanship, creation, purposed to reflect him. You are known, loved, valued. You are enough, you are whole, single or not. Your heart is precious & held by a perfect Father.

Girls, wherever you're at now, in an abusive relationship or not, cling to these truths. If you seek to see yourself the way God does, it will be easier to see what He desires for you in a relationship and marriage. It will be much easier to turn & walk the other direction when there are signs of abuse & in turn, walk away even when you're in deep. 

I promise, Jesus is enough. 

- Jenn 

If You Grieve Over #MeToo, You Should Grieve This Too

Everybody's talking about Harvey Weinstein and as a result #metoo has come about; a hashtag that people are using on social media to join others who have become open about their sexual abuse, harassment, and assault. 

While there has, and always will be, instances of abuse, I believe there are tangible factors in this culture that have a lot to do with the rise in that abuse in the recent years. Factors that we often ignore because they're so normalized not just in the secular culture, but sadly so in a large amount of the Christian culture. 

Last year I did a study on pornography; it's effects, causes, and the fact that it's so accessible & addicting. It has even infiltrated the church and the expectation that Christian men & women will have struggled with it, or currently do, is very realistic. 

I grew up unaware of just how rampant pornography was until I couldn't be unaware any longer. It became a conversation between me and my parents, me and my friends, and even one of the first questions I asked any guy whom I was getting to know for a potential relationship. 

I believe that God in His sovereignty placed me in situations where someone's struggle with porn directly effected my own life & I saw the firsthand results of it. I became determined to speak out against it & encourage others to be aware of the destruction that pornography causes. Pornography is far from harmless.

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I'm sure many of you know why I began this post talking about the #metoo trend that has begun & now I'm talking about pornography. It's because they're directly correlated. But the problem is, not many want to recognize it or just plain and simple, don't realize it.

Several weeks ago the pastor at my church spoke out boldly & passionately against the atrocities, the sin, going on in our culture. One of those things was pornography and its blatant exploitation of women & even children. Its time that all of us take on the same boldness, disgust, & zero toleration of a sin so often coddled because of its accessibility. We have taken on an attitude of complacency. Its time that we take on the same hate of sin that God has & not be afraid to speak openly & boldly about the practices that are becoming more and more acceptable.

I do not speak out of ignorance, naivety,  or a false sense of pride. I speak out against it because I have seen firsthand the destruction that it wields in its users & the ones that the users use. I speak out because I do believe that we do have control over our actions. I speak out because God's Word is so black-and-white about what we do with anything that causes us to sin (Matthew 5:29). He doesn't tell us to coddle it, make excuses for it, or slowly wean ourselves off it it, He says for us to get rid of it.

The abuse that you so hate starts with you. It starts with us. It starts with hating sin & not taking our cues from a culture that is drowning in a moral decline with its now legalization of abortion & same-sex marriage and yes, normalization of abuse. Let's not hate the sin in one quarter (abuse) but turn around and nurse our secret sin in another quarter. 

Lets higher the standard in ourselves, in our brothers & sisters, in our (future) sons & daughters, & in our (future) husbands & wives. 

By the power, the healing, the hope, & the redemption of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is more than possible. 

- jenn

Grace For the Girl Who Wants Marriage Too Much

I've been on both sides of the spectrum. 

I wanted marriage too much. 

By too much, I mean that I made it an idol.

 I was the girl that believed all of her hopes, dreams, & longings would be met in the lifelong covenant of marriage. 

I've also been the other girl who turned up her nose at that "poor desperate" girl who seemingly had no other purpose or goal but to get married.  

During each of those instances, those major struggle seasons, there was something else vying to be god of my heart.

I know how it is to swing from one extreme to the other. To put down your friends or acquaintances because you think you've got it all together & to also be on the receiving end of that same judgement.

We want to exude independence. busyness. success. 

But in reality, 

all of our hearts are idol factories & prone to make Jesus second to something else.

The idols just come in different shapes & sizes & categories. 

And before we ever put down those who desire marriage for the wrong reasons, 

let's look at our own lives. 

Just because goals, priorities, pursuits, the things we spend time on over Jesus or before Jesus, are not marriage, does that make them any less an idol?

If our lives, at any time, single or married, are any less than the sold out pursuit of Christ, than we're worshiping something else besides Christ, marriage or not.

We're still looking to that thing, that pursuit, that accomplishment, to be our identity outside of Christ. 

Our lives may look busy & independent & confident but that doesn't mean they're busy with the right things, are dependent on Christ alone, or confident because of Jesus. 

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(Note: I want to make it clear that by writing this I am not saying that marriage is a wrong thing to desire. Marriage is a wonderful thing as pointed out in much of Scripture. I am saying that desiring anything more than God, even a good thing, has crossed into idolatry & that's the big difference between desiring & worshiping). 

My friends (you know who are you are, ladies) have been extremely gracious & patient & wonderful as they've often been on the receiving end of my trials & error in figuring out God's heart on purpose and pursuit. 

I've put them on the receiving end of my harsh critique & likewise been on the receiving end of it from others.

I write this in the process of God molding my heart, softening it, & helping me see my own idol prone heart. 

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love;...

This hymn has long been one of my favorites & those lyrics my humble admission again and again. 

We're all prone to wander. All prone to leave our gracious Savior and replace it with numerous other loves.

So, lets all give grace & all make sure our pursuit is Jesus. Our confidence is Jesus. Our joy is Jesus. Our identity is Jesus. 

- jenn

 

©, 2017 Jennifer Langley

 

 

 

When You're Tired of Social Media.

There's so much darkness on the social media platform. There's straight up temptation, but there's just as much the subtlety of comparison and discontentment that grows in our hearts. There tends to be a lot more negativity than encouragement. Discouragement than hope. A lot more godlessness on display than there is Jesus. 

It's for this reason that I've been on a break from it the past several weeks. I think it's necessary to refocus when we find the noise of this world is crowding Jesus out. To take time just to listen to the most important Voice and make sure our priorities are right. To make sure that our identity isn't being found in our following.

And though all of that is true, there's a flip side. A lot of people write off social media completely (which might be necessary for them, depending on their situation) but what if we saw it as not as much about what we were getting from it but about what we can give?

"We have an incredible opportunity
to take what can be used for evil and
use it to point back to Jesus."

More than ever now, I think our voices are important. We have an incredible opportunity to take what can be used for evil and use it to point back to Jesus. To tell the story God is writing for you, the good and the hard, the big moments and the ordinary, is for others to see your testimony unfolding. It's to be a corner of refreshment, encouragement, and light.

And in order to be that encouragement, that light, we can't be afraid to rejoice openly in the blessings. Oftentimes I only share my story in increments, vaguely, and only in the hard. Why? Because it takes more faith for me to rejoice in the blessings than it does when I can't see them. 

I used social media last year to share a particularly difficult time in my life. I was vulnerable, open, and transparent. But then, out of the ashes came beauty, and I hid it away. I stopped sharing the story that God has been writing because not to share makes me feel like I'm protecting it. I'm afraid to hope, to dream, to believe the good God is doing, let alone to share it so that others can see the glory of God and His faithfulness.

". . . my story, your story, has the power
to be a light pointing back to Jesus in a
someone's life who may desperately
need hope. "

For me these past six months have been ones of great change, of great good, of new direction, and knowing Jesus better because of it. And when I think of sharing it, there's a freedom, a joy, hope, in the tender steps forward in faith to share my story, one picture and sentence at a time. In knowing that every detail, including all the joy and beauty, is written by a marvelous and sovereign God. In knowing that my story, your story, is a testimony to a watching world. In knowing that my story, your story, has the power to be a light pointing back to Jesus in someone's life who may desperately need hope. 


 

So here, I bow, to lift You high
Jesus, be glorified
In all things, for all my life
I am Yours, forever Yours 
God here, and now, be lifted high
Right here, and now, be glorified
God of heaven and earth
God who brought me back to life
I am Yours, forever Yours

 

- jennifer

identity.

How you see yourself and by who and what you estimate your value, changes everything. It changes your relationships, it decides your joy, your peace, your confidence. It decides by what standard of beauty you're going to listen to and what you're going to pursue to get it. It determines if you will stand or fall when you face the hard times.

Let me give you a little background. 

Confidence, security, is # 1 on my struggle/weakness list. I have never been good at sports, excessively smart, had that "I don't care" attitude that some people can pull off. I've been in foolish relationships that destroyed my self esteem even further and made me truly believe that my performance, achievements, and outward appearance was what gained and kept love and decided my worth. As a result, I was always looking for that one thing or that one person that would make me feel like a success, beautiful, worth something, worth loving. 

Maybe this is you. too? 

The coolest thing is that God speaks to this in His Word and He shakes up our natural understanding that comes from the world and turns it upside down. He points at you and I and says He wants to use us, not the got-it-all-together person you and I often wish we were. 

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

The world, our experiences, teach us that we are supposed to be able to boast in ourselves to be worth something. Our success, our careers, our relationship status, our skills, our personality, our popularity. Guaranteed, as you're reading through that list, I named the thing or things that you're striving for to give you security and worth. Just take a second to think about what this is for you. If you're like me, it's a burden and it's shaky and unreliable.

When I first became a Christian, where I had built my identity was one of the first "heart surgeries" God did in me. It was uncomfortable, but so so good because for the first time I felt like I could rest. 

I could rest because I learned this:

There is a perfect love, God's love, that loves without change. It doesn't demand perfection in and of ourselves as the standard by which we gain it. There is a love that is steady and sees us at our very worst but still picks us up, rescues us, and uses us. There is a grace that is given in the midst of our mess. There is a mercy that doesn't give us what we deserve. There is One who sees your beauty not in the outward but the beauty in the new heart that's been given you. 
That is a beauty we cannot work for. That is a love that is not lost. That is a standard the world can never touch. That perfection doesn't change even in our mistakes. 

This is a truth we have to keep learning over and over again. I forget it and I go right back to dwelling on insecurity and just basically, being dumb and forgetting who Jesus is. But when I do remember, He shakes my world up once again in the most wonderful way and there is a freedom we can only experience when our gaze is focused on Him, not on the shaking elements of this world that will always let us down.

So, ask yourself where your identity lies and if you're willing to strive to make Jesus that identity, your life will change. 

- jennifer

 

it doesn't always feel beautiful.

I don't always see the beauty in the messiness.

I present to others the person I believe others want to see. The got-it-all-together, always confident, say-the-right-thing, always-wear-a-smile, accomplished, busy, popular, always in a good mood, type of woman. The perfect woman.   I say and do what that perfect woman I have created in my head would say and do. I hide the baggage, the mess, the hurts, the very things that God has used in huge ways to shape me. The very things I get on here and talk to you about. Sometimes those same things I see beauty in one day become very ugly the next day. 

Baggage makes trust hard and insecurity easy and that can feel really ugly. That can make me feel really vulnerable, undesirable, un-eqipped, and ashamed. It comes down to basically this: I have taken my eyes off of Christ and the gospel. I lose sight of the fact that God uses regrets, uses mistakes, uses sin to magnify Himself. He uses our very real weakness to magnify His very strong strength. That even though we often wish we could take back whatever it is we have done to get us here, God has us here, whatever that "here" may be for you, for a purpose.

When we turn our eyes on ourselves or others for answers, we're losing sight of Jesus and we will find no satisfying answer. We won't find any comfort or healing. We won't see purpose. We won't see good. We won't see beauty.  We will only see the person that we wish we could be.

Because yes, it hurts, it's hard, but it's being used. It's being used by our Father to shape us and mold us to the person He has called us to be and in that, there is much beauty. Beauty we don't want to hide. 
As we look at the gospel, you and I grow even more confident that our struggles are for a purpose and there is the beauty of the gospel in our messes. Instead of cowering in shame, wishing it to be hidden, we realize that it's meant to drive us to the cross, to Christ. 

You and I have made mistakes, often big ones, but God doesn't make mistakes. He allows sin, hard to understand as it is, for bigger and better purposes than we can imagine.

So, let's learn to walk forward in faith, knowing that we are exactly the people God has made us to be, struggles and all. When we use our struggles, our baggage, our pasts, to boast of the gospel, there is much beauty in that.

- jennifer