Fully Alive : Part 1

A lot of people go to Africa either to find God or to serve Him. I came for neither, but I’ve ended up experiencing both.

It breaks my heart that God still speaks to me after all I’ve done. There is an ache panging my soul with the knowledge I’m forgiven. Not a bad ache, but a surprised ache that has me searching for more of this love I have yet to understand.

It started on my run. Running in the beautiful mountains of Africa is one gift I haven’t wasted or taken for granted. I run almost everyday, and it fill me with thankfulness and stems a desire to know where this creation has come from. A desire for the Creator.

Thoughts started coming to me throughout these runs. Memories that I used to pride myself in started flooding my mind now with shame. Flashbacks of days of hidden insecurities, vulnerability abused, and affection of men surfaced my mind with remorse. An identity and reputation that was once held highly was suddenly making me sick.

And though I haven’t been on the best terms with God lately, though I’ve wasted so much time in deep seeded rage and doubts that caused unbelief, I heard the quiet forgiveness go past my mind and far within my heart. “As far as the East is from the West…”


Knowledge of forgiveness has opened a door for knowledge of love.

And I’m experiencing the reality of a love I’ve never known, a love I’ve questioned and doubted. I’m finding truth, not in blind naivety and wishful hoping, but in the present realness of life.

God is making me fully alive. Not because I’ve studied my bible every morning, or because I’m traveling with encouraging Christians (in fact, I didn’t even bring my bible, and I work for  maybe Buddhists – who are, in fact, possibly the most wonderful people I’ve ever met). But God is making me fully alive I guess just because He’s choosing to do that. Because He wants to.

And I’m saying Yes. I don’t think my ‘yes’ is out of neediness and desperation, although it’s true I am needy and desperate as a human (as a woman, as one who needs forgiveness). My ‘yes’ is out of a thankfulness and love I didn’t know still existed inside. A response, really, to what I’m experiencing of God.

It’s not all good days, and it’s not all bad days. But it’s all fully alive days, fully present days that aren’t hidden behind cell phones and selfies, unnecessary busy-ness, comfort food or relationships. It’s experiencing all; the sunshine and the rain, the joy and the sadness, the fullness and the want. Fully alive.

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It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

How many times have I told myself that? How many times have I started following a great idea and plan, only to end up completely and utterly messed up, thinking, “it was not supposed to end this way!”

How many times have I started this journey with God, full of good intentions, and fallen, hard? I restart again. Okay, I can do this. I WILL be a beautiful Christian, God fearing woman. Proverbs 31 right? LOL go ahead and start laughing now. You are not reading the words of a Proverbs 31 woman.

I’ve spent a lot of time unsatisfied. Since I was a little girl I was aware of the ache in my heart, something missing. I longed for hugs to fill me. They weren’t enough.

As I’ve grown older, the hole of unsatisfaction has only grown bigger. Wider. Deeper. Longer. I’ve tried everything to fill the ache inside, but nothing has helped. Food, drugs, and sex can only keep you happy for so long.

Eventually the food leaves and the hunger returns. Eventually you have to come down from the high, and “low” is your new normal. Eventually sex ends, and the moments of pleasure are over. Was the momentary release worth it? (Let’s be honest, sometimes it is. For the moment. But the pleasure of sin is never worth disobeying God.)

Still seeking, still searching, still empty.

I’ve heard so many testimonies of people in church saying they struggled with such and such addiction BUT THEN they met God and He satisfied that place of emptiness.

I tried to make that my story too. I had some addictions. I found Jesus. I had a real moment of repentance. And after lots of rehab and therapy, I went ahead and exchanged one addiction for another.

Recently I’ve had to confront the question, “Did I fully let Jesus come into that place of hurt, shame, heartache, and pain?” Or did I simply meet Him, want Him to love me, yet refuse to fully obey, filling the place with yet another comfort of the world?

“The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless… Christ may be “received” without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is “saved”, but he is not hungry or thirsty after God. In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little.” A. W. Tozer

All this time I wanted to be satisfied and content with little. I wanted the satisfaction of God without the obedience on my part. I wanted to experience the fullness of God’s glory, without experiencing the suffering that got Him there.

Is it possible that real Christianity, real life with Christ, is really a journey of unsatisfaction? A journey of “I want MORE God. MORE OF YOU?”

Maybe we were not made to pray a prayer and be “done.”

Maybe we weren’t created to open our bibles for quiet time in the morning, and then go throughout our day the same way anyone else would. Maybe we weren’t created for a dull, meaningless, boring Christian life.

Maybe we are truly to be co-heirs with Christ like the bible says. Maybe we truly are children of God, and that adoption process isn’t only for 10 minutes of prayer each day and 2 hours on a Sunday. Maybe I really am the workmanship of God, and it is a 24/7 thing.

Does anyone else feel this?  The bible said Christ came to give us ABUNDANT life. Where are the abundantly living Christians?

Are we so stuck in the world and the busy-ness and the work that we give God a TIME in our day instead of THE ENTIRE THING?

What would life look like if we lived unsatisfied? What if we asked God for more?

I’m asking God for more. And after I ask, I’m not going to keep on with my day like nothing happened, waiting on a miracle to pop out of nowhere when I’m busy with the “other parts of my life”. I’m going to, like my pastor says, “live like God is telling the truth.” During work, during school, during meals, at the gym (like I actually go, haha). I want to live different. I want to be transformed.

What would life look like then?

It might be surprisingly satisfying to live life unsatified.

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Made for More: part 2

Knowing I was “made for more,” as God had told me, was exhilarating.  I felt powerful, excited to make changes in life, and able to be who God made me to be.

I was going to have a fantastic lifestyle change, effective immediately.  I was going to clean up the apartment, do the dishes, wash my car, put my clothes away, buy healthy food including fish and vegetables, and start an exercise regimen that alternated day by day.  And while I made these changes, I was going to cut out bad influence friends, start going to at least 3 bible studies that would help me fight my most tempting sins, and read my bible every morning (preferably at 5 am with some nice worship music in the background and probably somewhere I could watch the sunrise.  Naturally.)

But then I came home.

Back to Lynchburg life.  School. 65 hour work weeks. An apartment that doesn’t clean itself, dishes that won’t do themselves, and laundry that won’t wash itself.  A flesh that fights with itself and a mind that wars within.

Made for more?

I came home with the intention to do well.  I was on a four day happy streak!  I was healthy! God loved me, and I felt good!

I’ve been home for over a week, and so far I’ve done dishes (once) and bought apples.  I also bought a box of cookies and cookie dough too, so.

This past week of Lynchburg life, I’ve been juggling school, work, life, and hurt.  Finding out bad news and being hurt deeply by someone I love threw me for a loop.

None of the changes I expected to happen right away happened.  In some ways, life got worse.  And in my pain, I went to food to help.  I went to broken and unhealthy relationships to cope.  I picked up extra shifts to work extra hours I didn’t need or want, just to fill my already too busy schedule so that I wouldn’t be able to think.

Made for more?

We were made for more, but we don’t always act like it.

I’m learning more and more that I cannot instantly get the life I want.  My generation has taught me that instant gratification is crucial in living a happy, content life.  High speed internet. WiFi. OnDemand. Text messaging. Casual sex. Fast food. All of this feeds into the lie that we are entitled to gratification, INSTANTLY.

And though God made us for more, we get stuck in these habits, living like we were made for less.

Having a content, God-changed life is most likely not going to come instantly.  It is going to take time.  Making the choice to turn from sin is not a one-time choice. It’s daily.  Hourly even.

I thought knowing I was made for more would instantly change everything.  While it should, the reality is it is a process.

“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

We are being transformed with ever increasing glory. Some translations say from glory to glory.  The mature, godly woman I see myself as in my mind is a future Jessica.  One who has been transformed daily, thousands of glories away from where I am now.

That’s okay.  The process is okay. I’m still going one step at a time. I’ve already been transformed many, many glories from when I started.  Just because I don’t instantly have the perfect life with the perfect choices and the perfect clean apartment does not mean God isn’t working. My relationship with God is not cookie cutter perfect and doesn’t look exactly like everyone else’s.

For those who can relate to being made for more but not always acting like it.. God has still made us for more, and it’s up to us to make choices that agree with that.  But it’s okay if it’s a process. It’s okay if the perfect results don’t come instantly. One step at a time. In the midst of our culture when instant gratification is key, we need to learn to enjoy the process.  Because truly, we have been made for more.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. ” Philippians 2:12-13

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That Sandwich Doesn’t Want You

I didn’t know buying a foot long hoagie and 3 cookies from Subway could be so life altering.

You know that moment when you’re trying to stuff your face with steak and cheese while driving, but the lettuce and tomatoes are falling out at the same time as 3 cars are mad at you for going the wrong way… and it’s so hard to make that choice, do I go to grab the pieces falling out of my sandwich, or do I put the dang thing down and try to make these people happy?!

Needless to say, I dropped the sandwich so I could have both hands on the wheel, and I successfully made it back on the road without killing anyone. Already, my day was looking positive.

My main problem was that I wanted to eat the sandwich RIGHT THEN, but I wasn’t willing to lose any of my precious lettuce, tomato, steak, or cheese, which was bound to happen if I ate while driving.

Hey, why can’t I use self-control and just WAIT and eat it when I get to the parking lot?”

I tried. I tried thinking of something other than that delicious hoagie in front of me or those 3 chocolate chip cookies that would be so easy to eat in the car without losing any of the pieces.

My self-control made it to the red light. And then I dug in again. But I knew it was a little bit of “out of control, instant gratifying, why can’t you just have 5 minutes of patience” behavior, so I ended up praying while trying not to take a bite.  Mainly so I could say I managed to have a sandwich in my hands for 5 minutes, and I didn’t devour it in the first minute and thirty.

I did not expect to hear from God, or actually get an answer, but mid complain-prayer, a thought popped in my mind that I know was from God.

That sandwich doesn’t want you.

Wow. It might sound silly, but that phrase was and still is, earth altering for me. Because honestly, I loved that sandwich. I NEEDED it so desperately. I WANTED it. So desperately.

I want other things. So desperately. I satisfy my sinful nature so frequently because I WANT things that often don’t want me the same way.

The phrase hasn’t left me. I’ve been able to apply it to a lot of other areas of my life. And I’ve begun thinking, why would I waste my precious time, money, and energy on things that don’t want me, and don’t lead me any closer to the goals I ultimately want?

I didn’t eat the sandwich until I got to where I needed to go. And I ate it slowly. I saved half for dinner. Because all of the sudden, my desperate need and desire to eat that big sandwich and all those cookies disappeared when I realized they didn’t love me back.

My struggle with food has been a long one, but honestly I thought I was over it until that moment yesterday when I realized I am still struggling with some addictions. Not the same addictions I used to struggle with, but addictions none the less. Struggles with the need and desperate desire for instant gratification.

I didn’t go to the bar to dance last night. Not because I don’t want to have fun. But because those things don’t own me anymore. In the moment of hearing the words, “they don’t want you,” I realized something. I DON’T WANT THEM SO DESPERATELY EITHER.

And here’s the thing that has me so crazy and excited and feeling like, “Wow, my life is gonna change.”

I am wanted. Desperately. Loved. Completely. By a God who gave his own LIFE for mine.

I want you. I love you. I want you.

So why don’t I start desperately craving and following after the One who DOES want me?

1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” …He WANTS us. As His own children. He loves us. More than food could love, more than a night at the bar could love, more than anything I can think of. None of that stuff loves me. My Father in heaven does though.

Ephesians 2:4-5, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

If I fail men, if I fail people on earth, if I sin against man, I am easily thrown away and replaced. There will always be someone out there who looks better, is more fun, is quieter, does things nicer, or more independently, or in every and any way better than you.

But Paul wrote that God, in his GREAT LOVE FOR US, in His MERCY, still wanted me. Still wanted to make me ALIVE WITH CHRIST, even when I was in the midst of my sin.

It truly is the GRACE of God that I have been saved. This one fact, this TRUTH that I am WANTED, LOVED, has already shifted my mindset. I am amazed.

I encourage anyone reading this to take this Truth for themselves. You are wanted. The (sandwich, attention, drugs, alcohol, porn, brownies, pride) doesn’t want you.  Those things don’t love you back.  Go towards the One who Does, the One who wants you and loves you most.  We’re on this journey together.

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rainbow blogI just read something on facebook that said, “God takes the storms in life and turns them into rainbows when we believe”.

I don’t “like” that. Yeah, it sounds good. All you have to do is believe! Then rainbows come from your storms! …wouldn’t that be nice.

But where in the bible does it say God takes our storms and turns them into rainbows when we believe? Sometimes that happens. But not all the time.

I know the bible says in the world we will have trouble (and to take heart, for He has overcome)… but I didn’t see anything after saying, ‘the trouble will all go away if you just believe. And it won’t just go away, it will be a beautiful multicolored fix to your current situation!’ We’re talking about Jesus here, not LSD. 

What I’ve found though, is that after the words about trouble, the bible says BUT TAKE HEART. Be courageous. It’s okay. He has overcome.

Let me say that again. It does not say the trouble will go away when you just believe. It says TAKE HEART in the midst of your trouble. Be courageous WHILE you have troubles. It’s okay to have problems in life, troubles that come. They might not go away when you ‘just believe,’ but through believing you can take heart while you have the struggles, knowing He has overcome. You can trust and hope in Jesus Christ and the fact that since He overcame the grave, we can have eternal life in heaven.

Troubles will still be here on earth though. For all of our days on earth, there will be trouble. So don’t go telling people to simply believe in Jesus and everything will get better. Don’t tell people that God will turn their storm into a rainbow.

Because sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes, even when you believe fully in Jesus, when you’ve surrendered all, sometimes bad things still happen. Sometimes the storm is still there, with no rainbow in sight. God didn’t promise rainbows. (NOTE: Yes he gave a rainbow to Noah with a promise, but that’s different than what we’re talking about here.  And I doubt anyone reading this spent that long building an ark that big and was at sea for the same amount of time as Noah.  So it’s not about that.  The rainbow came with a promise, the rainbow wasn’t the promise..)But He did promise He’d be there before, during, and after the storm for us. He promised never to leave or forsake us.

I spent a lot of time trying to find my rainbow. Trying to surrender more, love more, worship more, pray more, do everything more in order to make a way for God to give me a rainbow.

My storms got bigger, louder, and darker.

When we tell people that God will turn the storms to rainbows if they just believe, we are leading people astray. Because when the storms rage, if the rainbows don’t come, we have set these people up for defeat. We have set them up to believe there must be an inconsistency in Christ because He has not given them a rainbow when they’ve believed as hard as they can.

In my own life, I ultimately believed: God must not be good, God must not care about me, God must not hear me, and God must not love me… I am worthless and unwanted because no matter how much I do for God, my storms don’t pass.

I think we need to go things in a different way. Stop idolizing what God can do for us, and start worshipping Him simply for who He is.

I don’t have it figured out yet. So I don’t even honestly know. But in my searching, I’ve realized there are a lot of lies Christians believe about God. A lot of nice Christian sayings in our minds that aren’t biblical. And sooner or later, the easy or the hard way, we find out. We find out that God doesn’t always turn our storms into rainbows when we believe. Sometimes He lets the storm rage on. Maybe to teach us, maybe to strengthen us, I don’t know why, but I know it happens. And when it happens, we need to be prepared, not disappointed. We need to be trusting, not hurt and angry that God didn’t do something HE NEVER SAID HE WOULD DO.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

He said in Him we can have peace, and gave us a command to take heart. He didn’t promise rainbows. The option to take heart, or be courageous, is on us. It’s our choice to do that. Don’t keep waiting for rainbows. Take heart now, for the trouble might be there, but He has overcome.  And you know what?  We are so used to being angry and mad at troubles.  Troubles are okay.  It’s okay to struggle.  Even life or death.  It’s actually okay.  If I’ve learned anything in these 21 years, it’s that it’s okay if you’re uncomfortable for a while.  It’s okay to have troubles and struggles.  Be uncomfortable, it’s okay if life isn’t perfect.  It really is okay.

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Prone To Wander

I’ve turned over a new leaf. I guess it’s that time of year. Leaves falling, seasons changing, (weather being incredibly bipolar-yup, looks like I’m one with the season!)…

I came to Liberty intending to change. I wanted change, I needed change. This isn’t a ‘Liberty changed my life’ kind of post. It wasn’t the school that caused this. It’s the pull on my heart that has been tugging since before I came to Liberty for college; the same pull that prompted me to come here in the first place.

I wish I could sing “I have decided, to follow Jesus.. no turning back, no turning back…” and smile and dance and be happy for ever after.

But I am so hesitant to do that.
For fear of being a hypocrite.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.. Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above…” would be a much more accurate tune to sing.

Because I have decided to follow Jesus and not turn back many times. But I’ve turned back. I’ve glimpsed, I’ve slowly faded, I’ve deliberately walked the road I said I never would again. I’ve purposefully said no to God after promising yes for the rest of my days. I’ve recognized the “Judas” in me and didn’t care. All under the umbrella of “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.”

I might fall again.

All I can do is ask God to take and seal it, preserve what is left, heal the broken parts, and help me to continue to rely on Him to make me new.

I’ve seen verses lately.. “be still and know that I am God” “You only need to be still, the Lord will fight for you.”

That’s very nice. And I’m sure it’s applicable. For those good, patient, trial enduring Christians who can simply be still and know that God is, and that’s enough.

I’ve found in this time, right now, I am needing to be a little more active than that. I’m not necessarily trained in the “good, patient, trial enduring Christian” lifestyle. I’ve experienced trials, yes. But I would not use the words “good”, “patient”, or “enduring” to describe myself during those times.

    I can’t simply be still, because that is when my mind is the loudest.

And it’s generally not loud in Truth.

I have been free for about 4 years now from the struggles that enslaved and took over my mind and body. But I still don’t have to ability to “simply be still” and not have those demons whispering the old lies into my head. Because I spent so many years, days, hours, minutes, seconds obsessing and thinking about those addictions, it is difficult to ‘un remember’ those things.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.

Sin makes me obsessed. So now that I’m giving my heart to God again, I have to admit, my obsession is not Him. And that’s my problem. When I’m being still, I’m thinking of the pain, the hurt, the sin, the shame, and the desire for more of that. It sickens me. I’m saying “Im sorry Lord, please forgive me,” and in the very same thought process I’m thinking “if only once more…”

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.

So I can’t be still. I’m being loud. I’m shouting thanks to God for things I don’t ‘feel’ very thankful for. I’m yelling Truths just because I need to drown out the sound of my sinful mind beckoning me to turn back. No turning back? Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.

I’m not perfect. I’m not even doing this completely right. But I’m alive. I’m making it, I’m going one step at a time. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love… here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.

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