(Not) Everything Happens For A Reason

Maybe this is a rant but I get so fed up with the commonly used phrase, “everything happens for a reason.” Yes, God knows all that is going to happen and yes, He definitely uses it.  I just think that sometimes it’s said because people want to comfort those going through loss. They don’t know what to say and feel like they should say something. Anything. At times we hit panic mode and our mouths run faster than our thought process. I’ll be the first to admit my mouth and not thinking get me in plenty of trouble.

Other times it’s out of selfishness. Yep, I said it. It’s said out of wanting to bathe our selfish or stupid choices in Jesus. Christians over spiritualize so many things and I’m just tired. It’s getting harder and harder to have intentional conversations with people while holding back eye rolling when that’s said.

When we don’t get a job, sometimes it’s out of protection and sometimes we just aren’t qualified. When a relationship doesn’t pan out like we had anticipated or planned, we say it happens for a reason.  I don’t think that’s always the case because people get hurt in those situations.  Drugs, pre-marital sex, abuse, lies, and the list goes on.  What this boils down to is that not all that happens was meant to. It is definitely used to bring God glory and us joy but pawning off our selfishness in relationships and life is a cop out.

So as we seek what God has for us and has gifted us to do, let us wait in anticipation and gratitude. The time of waiting is used to prepare, refine, and restore. It doesn’t mean you are sitting still. Don’t bathe selfishness in Jesus. Too many people are wasting time using “everything happens for a reason” as an excuse. Own up to stupidity and move forward in prayer and obedience.

No Time For Shame

Heard a song yesterday on my way to Tallapoosa from Heflin (yes, those are real places) and it was perfect for that drive and for life in general.  The title is, “No Time For Shame” and that’s the declaration of it.  There’s no time to be filled with shame because we weren’t created to live that way.  We were created to bring God glory and if we are ashamed of our lives, how can we draw people in?  How could we possibly point them to Him and the grace He pours out?  That’s right, we can’t.

This weekend I was visiting some friends that live near where I’m from.  Now, by no means am I ashamed of where I’m from.  I’m glad to be where I am but I love where I’m from.  Just as someone from my old church said years back, “it’s always going to be home.”  For far too long I saw that place as a place of shame because of decisions I had made and quite honestly thought they’d define me forever.  Like the song says, “I don’t have time for shame.  I was made for more.  I just gotta believe what you’re saying about me.”  Y’all, we have pressing matters at hand.  If you’re a Christian, you are called to live life to the fullest and point others to the Creator, the only one who knows all and loves us best.  That’s is a BIG DEAL!  If we are constantly dwelling on the past or things we regret, we’re unable to truly love others with all we have and we can’t even remotely move forward in freedom.

What are you ashamed of?  If you haven’t had anyone tell you that it’s going to be alright, allow me to do the honor…it really is going to be okay.  What you’ve done or had done to you doesn’t have to define you.  You and I were made for so much more than what we all too often are willing to settle for.  It’s a daily (sometimes moment by moment) choice to believe the truth of the Bible.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  By walking in obedience, we find sincere joy and as we strive to honor God with our whole selves, I firmly believe joy is stirred up within us.  We don’t have time to live in shame because our days our numbered here.  We get to live in freedom and joy when we are in Christ.  What are you waiting for?  Let’s keep moving forward.

Father’s Day

Personally, I’ve been blessed more than I deserve to have had my father an active part of my life.  On that note, you can thank him for the warped sense of humor that some love and others might loathe.  Dad has been a wonderful example of God’s love for His children (so has mom but this piece is about fathers).  He’s shown forgiveness when it wasn’t owed, unconditional love when put to the test, and patience like you wouldn’t believe.  Granted, to this day I still thank Tammy for being born ten years before me because he’s made it clear he didn’t have the patience for my sass in his younger years.  Our family isn’t perfect but it’s one I’m forever thankful for and I know I can trust God first hand because of seeing His hand in my life but also by seeing an example of Him in my daddy.

That said, over the years I’ve seen the pain this day can bring and for those that grieve on Father’s Day or don’t feel like it can be celebrated.  I wrote on Father’s Day last year actually and while this one is similar, it’s still different.  Plus, it’s my blog and I can do what I want.  🙂  I just don’t this weekend to go by with people feeling left in the cold or forgotten.

I am so sorry for the pain that you feel.  It’s not fair and I believe it’s okay to say that.  Many things in the life aren’t fair and this is one of the ones that brings my heart so much sadness.  There are dads that leave their families in neglect or because they’re making poor choices and choose (or have) to leave due to consequences of their actions.  Then there are some who have passed away in years past, which makes it painful to feel robbed of these celebrations while the rest of the world seemingly goes on.  Others, have been hurt by their earthly fathers in any variety of ways and I am so sorry.  None of these voids can be filled on this side of eternity and while I know that’s not the cheery spin I typically try to bring to pieces, it’s the way it is.  I’ve seen and walked friends through losing fathers (& other family members) so maybe that’s why I’m so aware of it and grieved while celebrating dad and Eric

If you haven’t had a healthy (or any) relationship with your dad or if you haven’t seen him due to death, I hope you know you are loved.  I’m not trying to Jesus juke you by saying that your heavenly Father loves you and that should make it all better and take away any sadness, but I do want to remind you of that fact.  He loves you.  He chooses you.  He delights in you.  You are thought of and prayed for around and on Father’s Day.

Stirring – Shaking – Sifting.

And there we were in Haiti…It sounds like a punch line doesn’t it? When a variation of that is said by someone from our team, it’s usually followed by laughter because only God could put that team together and take us to one of the poorest communities in the world to not only love and take potential solutions but to be loved on and taught so much about sincere community and acceptance.  The title of this piece is the best way to describe my soul right now.  There’s still processing to be done and so much praying but regardless, just know that grateful is an understatement and God continues to blow my mind.

Personally, I never wanted to be a missionary but God had other plans in mind. A few years ago, He stirred something up in me that shook me to my core.  I didn’t know that the gifts God put inside of me from a young age were for the purpose of sharing His word and encouraging people around the world.  So I jumped in and decided to go for it only to be broken hearted when He had me stay in the states.  It was as if God asked me, “If you’re willing to go for me, are you willing to stay for me?”  Part of me wanted to answer with, “Well yes but…”  God doesn’t ask for our excuses.  He asks for our hearts and with our hearts comes obedience.  It was over the course of the next few years that God confirmed my current job has been the mission field in which I was to serve.  Not many people in my position would risk asking employees if they could pray with them, let alone do it.  That’s only by the grace of God that this has been remotely possible and accepted.

Many now know that I was asked to join a team of women going to Haiti about a week before the trip and things became official FOUR DAYS before the trip.  There was money to raise quickly BUT GOD had it all figured out and provided in no time.  There was work to take off from and we’re currently short staffed, BUT GOD gave my boss a peace about that and I was able to leave the office.  There were prayers to be prayed and medications to get BUT GOD poured out lavishly through His people and sent our team to serve in that beautiful community that now holds my heart.  We were able to learn about their processes and also educate them on feminine health and hygiene during their cycles.  We got to see their strengths as a community and culture and pray over their dreams and visions.  We were blessed to pray over them and their homes and learn about their hearts…and we were changed.  Doing activities with the kids, laughing uncontrollably at times, and seeing God in the midst of the sweaty days were icing on the cake.

How do I feel and what have I processed so far?  For visual effect, imagine a snow globe with lots of glitter inside just swirling around and bringing joy to all those around.  In a way, it represents stirring one’s affections for Jesus and causes all those around to move towards Him as well.  Proverbs 19:21 tells us, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  I don’t know about you but I’m so thankful for that truth!  Had I gone to Italy, I wouldn’t have been ready.  I thought I was but there was a lot God was doing…still is actually.  There are a lot of incredible opportunities and blessings that would have been missed out on.  Even ALL THE WEDDINGS I’ve lamented about were such fun and brought joy and friendships that were unexpected.

With heartbreak comes sacrifice but it’s in that sacrifice we truly see who God is and that we can trust Him in all things.  Romans 8:28 tells us that things work out for the good of those who love God.  It doesn’t say they turn out like we plan but I promise you, they ultimately glorify Him and that brings us joy.  It’s not necessarily easy or pretty but it’s worth it.  Seasons come and go and the waiting sometimes seems like it’s going to be a lifetime but I’m almost in tears from sincere excitement over all that is ahead.  Do I have any idea what God is doing?  No, but I know there’s continued refining and preparation in the soaking.  The “New Wine” He has been making is something bold, flavorful, and bubbly…duh.  I’m thankful that understanding isn’t a requirement as He makes us vessels for His word and life.  We GET to be the church.  We GET to share the goodness of the Father with the nations.  We GET to do that in our workplaces.  So let’s do it.

Community. Tribe. Circle. Church.

Whatever you call your group (or groups), imagine what your life would be like without them.  If you think you’d function just fine, it might be time to re-evaluate where you are and the people you’re doing life with.  While some people are supposed to come and go from our lives, there are some that are foundational parts with whom we go to battle for and with.  I don’t want to go through life alone because quite frankly, we weren’t created to.  No, I don’t mean in the just regards to marriage because that’s another topic for another day.  Community is a way we get to live with others and have each other’s backs as we go through each day and season. I need people who will go to battle with and for me and they need me to do the same. I tell my friends I’ll cut someone for them…and much to no one’s surprise, I mean it.

I consider myself extremely blessed to have various groups of friends that I have been able to go through the good, bad, ugly, and crazy with over the last several years.  In my opinion, they are most certainly gifts from God.  Those times consist of corporate worship within a church building or even a small group that stems from said corporate worship.  When I’m not at my church on Sundays, I miss it.  No, not the building but the people within.  Sunday morning hugs from those sweet gentlemen and women who have faithfully prayed for me and poured into my life over the years just never cease to amaze me with how precious they are.  Those don’t happen overnight.  Yes, some people are natural huggers and love people well but these relationships go both ways.  They stem from both parties taking time to love on the other and invest in checking on the other throughout the various seasons of life.  There have been times when friends had to make sure I was out of the bed and doing something because the depression fog around me was filled with lies from Satan and that was all I could hear or see.  They were carrying me to Jesus.  Then, there have been occasions when I was part of a group that reached out to encourage a friend who needed to be reminded that her value was in Christ.  Not her husband or children, even though that was where her station of life had her doing so much service and loving, but in Jesus.

On the flip side of this, there are people that will call me out when I’m not walking with God.  If they see me trying to justify sin or not seeing potentially harmful situations, they speak up because they love Jesus and me.  If you’re a Christian, you’re supposed to have accountability in your life.  Not to make you feel like less of a person but to help you get closer to Jesus.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  Y’all, we can’t just let that stuff pass.  Does that mean we are this hall monitor acting like Screech from Saved By The Bell?  No.  It means that we are loving our friends and family enough to not let them fall away from what they know to be true.  Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  This isn’t to prevent us from having fun or joy but it’s to bring us joy in the community God wants us to have.  God sent Jesus to die in our place (and rise again after 3 days – HOLLA) because He loved us too much to leave us where we were.  Who are we to not love each other like He loves us?  Let’s step up and love better, church! When we believe in people as they’re living out the calling of God in their lives, that sets a fire that ignites and carries over to others and before we know it, the joy of the Lord is bursting from our homes and into our workplaces!

If you’re a parent, don’t you love the sound of your children playing and laughter together?  Just pretend for a minute that they’re not plotting against you or a sibling and enjoying the community they’re in.  That’s a gift.  Really good bosses feel the same way when they hear hard working employees laugh together because they know they’re getting along and enjoying where they are. Are there hard spots in the road along the way? Yep, absolutely! But it’s in those spots we get to be refined in the image of Jesus. To see if He’s showing us something through truth and love or a way to clear up communication with those around us.

Communication is difficult because what we mean when we speak isn’t necessarily what people hear or understand. Ephesians 4:15 – 16 tells us, ““Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” So instead of getting offended by our brothers and sisters trying to tell us the truth in love, let’s pray about it before we snap. How we respond is on us, not them. Now, does that give people authority to speak at each other and degradingly? Nope.

This isn’t something anyone on this side of Heaven perfects but be encouraged to know as your community, church, tribe, or whatever is there to go through life WITH you. That means you GET to serve, too. The beauty of that is as we get filled, we GET to pour into the lives of others. Ask your church leaders how to get plugged in. If you don’t have one & live in Northwest Georgia Chattanooga, let me know. We’d love for you to join us at Church On The Hill in Dalton. 1035 Abutment Road, Dalton, GA 30721. Services on Sundays at 9:00 AM & 11:15 AM.


Fear. The Other Four Letter F Word.

Kid you not, months back I was having a discussion with my parents regarding struggles I have.  Food, fellas, and finances were the first three that came to mind in various ways.  I jokingly said, “Ha!  Oh the F words…”   But let’s not forget fear.  I told Bea Lyons once, “Fear is just another F word that’s not near as fun to say.”  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of allowing fear to define me.  Fear of failing at something has crippled me more than most would believe.  It’s the people pleaser part of my personality.  A lot of people think that while I say a lot of what comes to mind I don’t care what others think but that’s incorrect.  I, like most people, have cared and struggled with the opinions of others.  That shouldn’t be what directs my steps though.  Neither should fear.

Why do we allow fear to be this foul word that rules over us like a tyrant ruling his/her people as a horrible leader not allowing any joy?  Fear is crippling.  It slides in as this little voice whispering things that seem a little like truth but they’re far from it.  “You won’t ever be able to overcome this obstacle because this is just who you are.”  “You’ve gotten yourself too far into this hole to ever get out or let anyone know because they’d be appalled and ashamed.  God won’t use you due to all that you’ve continued to do or not do.”  WRONG (I really hope that you’re hearing a giant buzzer right now.  One from a game show at that.)!  Fear is a liar and we were made for more than what we all too often are willing to settle for.  Is it easy to battle?  No, but it’s worth it.  A pastor friend of mine recently said something along the lines of, “We aren’t fighting for victory because it’s already been won (PRAISE GOD).  We are fighting FROM victory.”  Think of just how freeing that is.  Freedom, now THAT is a beautiful F word.  Faith is another.  Because of God’s faithfulness through Holy Spirit, grace, goodness, pursuit, and etc…we can replace those dreadful things that have plagued our lives and vocabularies (believe me, I’m working on mine more than you know) with joy, faith, sincere rest, and the grace of God.

A life that is surrendered to God and His will is a life worth living.  It’s easy to type but it’s hard to live at times because that means being willing to walk a path we don’t pick for ourselves.  Seeing others get to live out some of the dreams we hoped for but knowing and trusting that God will align our heart to his make it worth it.  He is good and will not hurt us.  He’s the one that has the unfailing love and never ending grace we yearn for as we walk these rugged trails for the glimpses of a starry night we’ve only read about or the perfect view of peace we imagined from stories told to us as a child.

My verse for the year is Psalm 46:5, “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.”  Whew.  To be reminded that as roots are going deeper while I wait on Him is refreshing.  His preparation is part of the journey and his protection isn’t something to be feared…even though at times the wait is frustrating.

All this to say, here’s to replacing fear with faith, worry with obedience, and the lies with truth.

4 Years…

Anytime I see or say a timeframe in years I immediately think of the song, “Gold Digger” by Kanye West.  Anyone else?  It’s been a while since I’ve updated on my site due to various other writing commitments and for that, I have no excuse other than I struggle with schedule management.  If anyone knows of someone who wants to be a solid personal assistant in exchange for hugs and sequins, send them my way.

Today marks 4 years at my current employer.  I don’t put the name of them because I sometimes share hilarious quotes and stories and would never want to put anything or anyone at risk.  I’ve shared before that this job was an answer to prayer.  When I say that, I don’t want to be one of those “basic girls” that tries to bathe every hobby she has in the Holy Spirit because it’s the “southern” thing to do.  I say it because it’s true.  I had been in my last job for a little over a year and with the company for a little over 3.  It was a great job where I made some marvelous friends and learned a lot about insurance, business, people, and life in general.  After various departmental changes, many of us were quite miserable and were longing for change or a way out.  God is so good.  I had interviewed for another position within Cigna and that very day I was informed of a job opening externally and gave it a shot.  I don’t like having too many options and asked God to make it clear in the waiting.  The department I was in wouldn’t allow me to be released for another job for months and the other job was better benefits as well as a pay increase.  So I applied!

I had gone out of town with a group of girlfriends and the current job wasn’t going to allow me to be off that Monday following the weekend trip and while some encouraged me to call in sick, I just couldn’t bring myself to.  Shana, a dear friend, said to me, “Jenny Belle, God is going to bless that obedience.”  We even read in Psalm 128:1 that, “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.”  Y’all, He blessed me indeed.  That Monday I was working from home and got a call for a phone interview.  The rest is history and 4 years later I’m working at a job that I love.  Some days are challenging and frustrating but that’s life.  There was a time I tried to leave the country for missions and God shut that door.  After a few tantrums and some grieving, He showed me that this is my mission field.  If I was willing to go, was I willing to stay?  He uses us no matter where we are.  Bloom where you are planted.  Trust that He’s for you and that His plans are better.  My boss has even told me before that this is where I’m supposed to be.  Maybe I followed that with, “mind your business.”  Whatever.  She knows I love her and I’m thankful to be here.  This job really was an answer to prayer and has been so good for me on many levels.

It’s become a weekly occurrence for opportunities to arise for me to pray with employees and I love that!  My bosses are aware and know that I ask permission while giving people the option to decline the prayer.  I’ve jokingly told people that it’ll be the praying that gets me fired.  Yesterday, I met with a gentleman about retirement and often times I express to those inquiring about it that there’s a lot that goes into retiring as far as emotions go.  People get used to working for so long that they don’t know what life is like when they stop.  They’ve found so much of their worth in what they do that when it stops, they don’t know how to function and that brings on depression.  Retirement should be enjoyed!  A lot of times I am honored to pray for employees as they’re uneasy regarding the unknown.  They want to see what’s out there but they are terrified.  I get that.  Yesterday there was a gentleman in my office and we were discussing it all and I asked if I could pray for him before he left.  He got teary eyed and said he would love that and that he’s never seen anyone do that here.  I expressed that I firmly believe that’s part of why God has me working here.  As I prayed, there was laughter and also some tears but after I said, “Amen” he immediately started praying for me.  No one has done that here after a prayer.  I’ve not expected anyone to because that’s not why I do it but he blessed me more than he realizes.  I was floored and in tears by the words and am thankful for his obedience in that.

All that to say, God uses us where we are.  Where we are is a mission field whether it feels like it or not.  On the days you want to put someone’s head through a wall or just curl up and take a nap from exhaustion after questions that have been answered countless times in verbal and written form.  It’s not always easy and a lot of times I get it wrong.  Please know I don’t share any of the above to boast in my ability because I’m one flawed woman.  I share it to encourage in hopes that you know God loves you and wants to use you to love on others and encourage them.  Sometimes people need to be reminded that they matter or hugged.

Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it til I die, nothing is wasted so as you’re holding on for what’s next in life, embrace where you are and know it’s being used to refine and prepare you for what God is working on and already doing.  He’s good and we can trust Him.