Jessica Lynn

listening for that still small voice


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Life is good

Change is hard.  Holding onto and letting go of the past.  Looking forward to and wanting to run away from the future. And typically missing the present. Today is a good day, a really really good day. The sun is shinning, the warmth on my skin, I forget how alive the sun makes me feel. I feel like a kid again wanting to barrel roll down hills, chase the squaking ducks, and investigate where those buzzing bugs are coming from.  Instead I sit in the grass and smile as an adult should.

I think of how life could have been, how life could be and almost miss over today. I’m Alive!  Im alive in my spirit, in my being, and I want to do back flips at the joy in my life. And I’m sad as I want to share it with others. I long for relations with others where we know everything about each other, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve made memories. And I think of all my friends and the short moments we have together now. The excitement of seeing faces after so long, the busyiness of catching up, and it’s just not long enough. But isn’t that how life goes – it’s school and work, groceries and errands, projects and to do lists, it’s never ending.

Today I’m taking a pause.    Breathe in…  Breathe out…

Why is it so contrary to my nature to sit still, to be quiet, and fully be in the moment?

Oooohmmm…  No, yoga or centering myself doesn’t work.  I’m always in a thousand places in my mind. Either ticking off what I’ve done or counting what’s yet to be done.

As I watch moms playing with their kiddos at the park, I think about being a stay at home mom and all the freedom. But I don’t really know a single stay at home mom that looks or acts like they’ve found that zen like inner peace.  And I realize it’s probably this way for just about everyone.

So rather than spend the afternoon kicking myself and pointing out faults, I’m going to focus on the sun, the warmth, and the cool breeze. I am well. I am doing well. And perhaps this is my bit of peace today. The birds seem content to sing and play, why not me?  The fish in the pond didn’t seem to get the memo today to worry, so why should I?  And the bugaboos don’t feel the need to be anything but what they are, so why shouldn’t I?

Yes today is a good day and why over think it anymore than that.


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Life, Hope, and Restoration

There’s nothing quite like lacing up my running shoes with my four legged buddy – who is whining uncontrollably in a frenzy, literally shaking he’s so ecstatic, and jumping in anticipation – to get my heart pumping. I’m hooked on everything there is about the sport. The feeling of the pavement under my feet, the excitement of a new pair of brightly colored running shoes, experiencing mini-nature breaks in the middle of the day, and most recently the addition of winter gear. As a general rule, shorter days, plunging temps, and the absence of leaves are all clear indicators that winter is on the way and my shoes are hung up for the season. But there’s something different going on this year… Instead I’ve found myself investing in extra long johns, gloves with Iphone fingertips, and a full face mask. I signed up for a 10K trail run on Thanksgiving day, knowing full well there could be snow. And the real kicker was purchasing hex-head screws for the soles of my shoes to keep me in action on icy days.

Despite all this new found insanity, there are still days I just don’t wanna go. I grump around the house as I find all my layers, telling myself… I can just run 2 miles today… I can even walk if I want… I don’t want to go but I gotta do it for Gus… Persuasion, compromise, guilt – hey it gets me out the door. And then 3 miles later, I’ve accomplished more in a bad day then I used to dream was possible on a good day.

Today was one of those days, 33F degrees out with 24 miles per hour wind, making it feel more around 16F. Did I mention, 24 mph wind? Slightly de-motivating. As I headed onto the path north of town, the trees and corn field provided a much needed reprieve from the gusting gales around me. I mean I’m talking practically typhoon conditions out there. But despite the much needed amnesty, I found myself getting sucked into the dreariness of browns, leafless trees, and lifeless corn stalks, not yet plowed over. My mind wandered to a friend going through hard times. Though a few years removed from my tribulations, I still struggle with what if’s, rehearse what I could have said, should have said, and even get my blood boiling from arguments that go on in my head alone. I recollect how we could have been celebrating 8 years last week and reminisce of the tormented prayers begging that their child not be born in November. Somehow at the time, I desperately needed for my son and his half-sister to not share the same birth month. The shreds we hold onto to maintain sanity need not make sense.

I found myself contemplating what advise to share with my friend. She had expressed hurt and feelings of weakness. My natural inclination is to be positive, uplifting, and to look for the silver lining. I struggle with my strong belief in preserving the marriage and exhausting all options, twice if needed – with offering support and counsel to someone who’s walking in my former shoes. It feels a bit hypocritical, a little bi-polar, as I’m equipped with resources and experiences to keep hope alive and/or how to pick up the pieces from the aftermath of complete destruction.

In the midst of these thoughts, something red caught my eye.  Not one but two bright radiant red cardinals were sitting in a tree nearby.  I was so shocked I stopped in my tracks, paused my apps, and stealthily attempted to take the best picture I could capture.  Everything in that moment stood still.  I remember thinking, in the middle of all the brown, dying, lifelessness there is still vivid bold life.  Almost in defiance shouting out, “Though the world is preparing to slumber and hybernate, I AM ALIVE!!!”

Immediately I thought of my friend, how I wished she was there to witness this with me.  I continued on my run thinking of how my pastor had mentioned red cardinals being a sign and resolved to google it back at work.  As I circled back I expectantly watched each tree for another glimpse.  The verse Jeremiah 29:11 came to mind as I rounded the corner to see not two but now four red cardinals in the tree.  As I listened to the lyrics of “Come Back to Life” by Kerrie Roberts.  How fitting for the self talks I’ve been having about letting go of the past.

Later I would learn red cardinals are traditionally symbolic of life, hope, and restoration.  They remind us that though circumstances might look bleak, dark, and despairing, there is always “hope.”  Another site said a cardinal is telling you that you can handle it, and to believe in yourself.  Stand up, lift your head high, and take pride in yourself.

I believe God chose that moment to remind me to be alive, to be proud of myself, and to see things he is starting in my life.  A breath of fresh air when I was wallowing.  I also believe God means the same for my friend as she’s seeking strength and reassurance.  He has us in His hands.  For my dear friend, hold onto hope and know that you are not alone.  You are strong and beautifully made by the ultimate creator.  He knows you by name and every strand on your head.  If He will feed the birds, how much more will he care and provide for you.  Hold your head up high my friend – You are loved

Dear Heavenly Father,  

I am overwhelmed by you.  All that you’ve done – loving, forgiving, mercy.  Thank you for reminding me I’m coming back to life, grace is stronger and will cover my scars and pain.  Thank you for making things new and never stopping your work in me.

Amen


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Second Chances

It’s been 4 months since my last post.  I started this blog in April in response to a still small voice telling me to write.  My goal was to post once a week and I told myself it didn’t matter how many people I reached, if I could reach just one that would be enough.  But it’s funny how quickly those majestically humble thoughts turned into linking up to social media, obsessively watching stats, and the excitement of which posts were being read and by how many.  I was writing about what I felt led to write, sharing small insights into my thought life, but the focus quickly shifted from uplifting and moving people’s souls to measuring self worth.

How often does self and personal focus (me, me, me) come in the way of great plans for the future.  Whether it be self doubt, personal gratification, self defeating, or personal glory we tear ourselves down or build self proclaimed sky scrappers.  Well… maybe that’s just me.  The queen of swinging pendulums.  My need to move forward in life has me jumping from one extreme to the next at times.  When something stops working, hop to a new strategy.  Eventually something is bound to work, I seem to reason.  Or could that be a reoccurring theme playing in the background again, (“again,” I say, as if it ever stops) the one where I’m in control.

The voice I hear when my focus is shifted upwards simply says to write.  Nothing about a blog taking off, nothing about books, nothing about reaching millions, fame, traveling the world, speaking at conferences.  And yet my heart’s desires have me leaping and bounding into the unknown future and staking claim to what’s not mine to know.  Just write, nothing more, nothing less.  A simple instruction to follow.  Not to lead, not to plan, not to orchestrate.  How many times do I ask my 4 yr old to do just that – don’t ask, don’t tell me, it’s not your agenda first, just do what I ask and trust me.

Thankfully our God is a God of second chances.  He knows us and still loves us.  He knows all of our shortcomings and uses them to His glory.  So here’s to second chances, letting go of pride, control, and fear and embracing the unknown – leaning into trust, believing, and obedience.  It’s time again to be quiet, reflective, and listen for that still small voice.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for second chances.  Thank you for speaking so loudly at times that I can’t not pay attention and quietly at times which forces me to sloooow down.  Lord I know you have plans for me and that’s all I need to know today.  Please help me to stay focused on you and on the present time, for tomorrow is another day away. 

Amen


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Please Fix Me

Today I’m reminded of the need to be fixed.  Our greatest hinderance is pride and shame.  We either hide or foolishly believe we’re in control.  I suffer from both, with my greatest struggle being pride and control.

Maze

I started this blog with the intent of writing once a week.  This would be an opportunity to get real, listen for God’s still small voice, and dust off the cobwebs on the ol’ paper and pen or keyboard and screen.  I told myself if I just reached one person, correction if I allowed God to use me to reach even one person that would be worth it.  Pride wrapped up in a ministry bow.  But then I quickly got caught up in the blog, Facebook, and Twitter stats and likes.  I don’t even understand how Twitter works and yet it impacts my thoughts on my posts.

Did you also catch that I was going to “allow” God to use me and my words.  As if God needs my permission?  And who am I to put myself higher than God.  Allow, she says… (shaking my head).

Well as if pride isn’t enough, control fights for that coveted first place title as well.  Why is it that when ‘I want’ something, I pull away and revert to doing things my way?  I know I fail miserably that way, God’s way and timing is infinitely better than mine, and I’ve experienced first hand so many miracles and God’s intervention in the last few years.  Yet I choose to wonder aimlessly in the desert when the promised land is waiting.  I’m crying and complaining when God has always faithfully provided, above and beyond for my needs.

What are my wants you wonder?  I want to buy a house, to pay off debt, to sink roots in, and start that next phase of my life.  Nothing too crazy here, except that I wanted it like yesterday, or last month, or the month before that.  But the door doesn’t seem to be opening yet.  I have my plans, I’ve done all the numbers, just give me the green light and I’m off like a speeding bullet.  And yet… the traffic light… seems   to    be     stuck…  on yellow??  It’s not that I’m not moving, but it’s some kind of holding pattern, nonetheless.

So I wonder, am I on the right path, are my goals not aligned, or perhaps He has bigger fish to fry right now.  The old lie, “he doesn’t have time for me right now” or “I’m not important enough” creep in, along with all the other doubts that multiply like bunnies.  So I expertly equip myself with the armor of “I can do it myself,” and the helmet of my agendas and timelines, and the shield of pulling away.  And the wheels spin and spin and spin.  Thus the cycle of my life.  I give it away and take it back.

God chooses to show me barely enough light to see 1 step in front of me.  While this is wise and forces me to lean on Him for guidance, it also drives me nuts.  So I flip on pride and control and mega blast soo much stadium light that I can’t determine which of the zillions of illuminated paths are for me.  So I maturely – just take off.  And much like a maze, hit walls and go in circles.  The kicker is, the enemy knows me just about as well as God.  (1 Peter 5:8)  And he isn’t speaking to me in a still small voice, it’s loud and clear and what I want to hear.  He’s like a lion prowling, looking to make a stronghold and then kill, steal, and destroy.  He knows my level of patience is next to none when it comes to entering (what I perceive to be) the next phase of my life.

There will always be something out of reach.  But what am I missing today – by setting my gaze so far out, into the unknown.  I’m creating a vision and a future beyond the steps I can see.  Constantly setting myself up for possible disappointment.  What if I put even half that effort into knowing my God better, so I could more readily distinguish His voice?  What plans does He have for me, right here and right now that I’m missing out on?  How many hours do I spend on electronics researching, when my son is sitting right next to me, growing before my very eyes?  If I want life to slow down, it needs to start with me, in this phase – not tomorrow or in the next phase.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please fix me.  Help me to pour my efforts into today and stop focusing on the unknown.  I know you are with me, here, in this moment, and that needs to be sufficient.  Thank you for delighting in me and never giving up on me.

Amen

 

Isaiah 40:31

Psalm 27:14

Galatians 6:9

Proverbs 3:5-6


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My Story in 100 words or less…

Yesterday a challenge was given, tell your story in 100 words or less.  Challenge taken.

My story – the longer than 100 words version:

I’ve had things taken because I didn’t know to guard them better, because we live in a broken world, and some I just gave away too freely.  I learned young to stuff my feelings and told myself, all too many times, “I don’t care.”  With walls up and people at arms length, I could protect myself.  If you don’t feel, then there’s no pain.  But you also miss out on the happiness that can make your heart burst, in a good way, too.

I didn’t know how a loving God could allow such things.  How could he love me and stand by doing nothing?  If God didn’t care enough then, …then it was up to me to protect me, to control my life and those around me.

My one regret in life, is that I didn’t reach out earlier.  That I didn’t turn to God or ask for help years ago.  My life has been a series of bad choices and mistakes.  Even when things were bad, I was afraid if I turned to God.  I’d have to drop my life as I knew it and become a bible thumper.  Insert “God” every few words when talking, turn from all my heathen ways, and embrace Christian Perfection.  But that’s a lie too many of us listen too.  God meets us right where we are, in all our mess, and embraces us with only a love that God can provide.

One day I stepped into a Celebrate Recovery.  My world had turned upside down once again, but this time I needed help, something had to change, and I finally admitted that I couldn’t do this alone anymore.  I felt I was a failure but wasn’t ready for the people I knew, to know it.  I knew these people would pray for me and maybe they had a better connection with God, maybe they knew how to do it better, and maybe if a storm of prayers hit God’s gates then He’d listen.

God used those people, who are now dear friends, to slowly melt my heart, take down the walls, and to find trust again.  If I could trust strangers, maybe I could trust God.  If I could trust God, then maybe I could trust friends and family and loved ones.  I remember going to church one day and being so overwhelmed with happiness and joy that tears flooded down my face like a dam spilling over.  My heart hurt it was so…  It’s hard to explain the joy that overcame me.  The thesaurus suggests: ecstatically exuberant, vivacious, zestful, elated, effervescent, exulting.  I left thinking, I don’t ever want to go back to the way I was.  I don’t ever want to stop feeling again.

My story in 100 words or less:

“Once I was Lost.  Now I am Found.  God Loves Me.  I’m Not who I was.  My Heart Overflows with Joy now.”

If you’re struggling today, know that He delights in us, the good and the bad.  Cry out for help and God will meet you right where you are.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

Oh, how you love us.  Help us today and this week to see your love for us.  Help us to know that we are worthy.

Amen

 

2 Corinthians 5:17  When anyone is in Christ, it is a whole new world.  The old things are gone; suddenly, everything is new!

Jeremiah 29:11  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Romans 8:31  What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?

 


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Zeal for Life

Meet Gus

Meet Gus

Merriam-Webster defines Zeal as a strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes someone very eager or determined to do something.  Meet my dog Gus.  He is the epitome of zeal, zest, zealous.  He loves life, loves wet slobbery kisses and knowing that I’m not a fan of doggie affection will wait till I’m in a position where I can’t easily move to streak by planting a drive-by-kiss on my face before darting off just as fast.  And quick he is.  There’s nothing that can bring more delight to this tiny trouper than going running.

This past weekend I was flying solo.  My little guy Austin, was at his grandparents for the weekend.  This rare and much appreciated break was met with my own excitement.  And what was I looking forward to the most?  The ability to go running at the lake.  Call me crazy but when I have free time, my first thought is when and where am I going to fit in a run or biking.  I wasn’t always this way, but since discovering the love of running ‘outside’ a year ago, it really is a passion.  I love the sensation of the sun on my face, the strength of my feet and legs coming into contact with the ground, music playing in my ears, and taking in the nature all around me.  And Gus, well he takes this positive vibe to the next level, times ten, on steroids.

With determination, we set forth to not just run/walk 2-3 miles but to conquer the entire lake, 6 miles.  No need to rush back to work and cram this magical time into a lunch hour, no need to schedule around when I needed to pick up Austin, I had the whole day at my leisure.  Never mind that I haven’t been exercising all winter.  Let’s kick this Spring/Summer weather off with a bang!

At 30 lbs Gus is amazingly strong.  He was pulling and tugging for me to run faster, so much so that he was literally choking himself, unpleasant sounds emerging, making quite the spectacle of himself.  And yet if dogs can smile, he was brimming from ear to ear.  In my mind I was a bit annoyed.  I knew we had 6 miles to go which was double what I would normally set out for,  we needed to pace ourselves.  I found myself wondering, what do people around me think, why can’t he run like a normal dog?  And then it occurred to me… Gus doesn’t care… He is running with pure delight.  He wasn’t holding back to keep a reserve for the last half.  He was completely and enthusiastically embracing the run, reeling in the treat to be at the lake.  Gus’s zeal was so overwhelming he would press on, cutting off his airways to embrace life.  He wasn’t worrying about the future, setting aside reserves for later he was as fully in the present moment as one could be.

Watching the deer grazing in the calm shadows of the trees, the ducks gliding across the lake, and the birds and insects flying about, I was reminded of Matthew 6:26-28. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.”  My path as I’d been running was laced with purple and yellow wild flowers.  If God is willing to take the time to clothe the fields with flowers, how much more does he care about you and me?

What a humbling moment to be reminded by the ultimate supreme being to stop worrying about what others think, to stop trying to control my future, and to delight in the present.  Be here, now, in today.  Yes, there is value in having reserves for the long haul, but I felt God saying, “I’ve got this.  Let go and embrace life like Gus is.  Unabandoned and zealously.”  How often are we searching and pursuing our dreams and our desires but we hold back?  Just enough that we’re not fully trusting.  How often do we take for granted that God is the great masterful artist that painted every last detail in the grandeur nature scenes around us, down to the tiny purple wild flowers?  With his attention to all things great and small, would he really forget to complete his work in us, those he has made in his own image?

What is causing you to hold back reserves?  Are you running after life with Zeal?

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for delighting in us, in life, and being zealous about leading us along your path.  Help us to trust in you for all things, just as the birds of the air.  Thank you for gentle reminders, for your grace and your mercy.

Amen  


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The Secrets of Listening

I hear the birds chirping and singing their melodies.  There’s the sound of a skateboard scraping against the concrete as it rolls by, followed by youthful laughter and shouting.  Car horns honk lightly signally they are coming through and the hum of a weed wacker fires up.  Yes, the long awaited Spring is here.

With the hustle and bustle of life, Spring fits right in.  The new breath of life rushes in as windows are flung open and screen doors slam shut.  Children MUST play at the park, it’s really a matter of life or death.  And I feel invigorated to clean, declutter, start yard work, anything to soak up the sun and feel the warmth on my skin.

What I don’t feel is the desire to sit still.  The desire to listen for a still small voice.  In 1 King 19:11-12, Elijah witnesses mountains tore apart by a great and powerful wind and an earthquake and fire.  And this is where I’d like the story to end in my life.  Loud and thunderous, earth shattering and blazingly bright.  I’d like to hear God speak to me in terms I can’t deny, there’s no room for doubting, and all up in my face.  Bam!

But the story continues, And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  With all His might and glory, God chooses to whisper.  What is that all about?  Doesn’t he know how much more effective he could be?  Or is that in and of itself the irony?  Pretty sure He knows why a whisper works.  He is God after all.

A gentle whisper.  One can not hear a gentle whisper when talking.  How could we focus on a whisper with all of our thoughts madly dashing around in our heads.  And when we’re demanding, being selfish, complaining – we can’t possibly be listening.  Mouths shut, ears open.

God know us intimately, he desires a relationship with us and to do so requires talking AND listening.  We must shift our focus and be intentional to hear a whisper.   We must pay attention mind, body, and soul.  This is God’s desire.  For us to tune out the world, turn our eyes to heaven, and be intentional about our relationship with God.

We can hear the hustle and bustle, the chaos of life.  Can we also learn to hear a whisper?

Dear Heavenly Father,

If we’re honest, we want to hear from You… but in our way.  We want to grow closer to You… but on our schedules.  Soften our hearts to desire what You desire.  Help us to long for Your will and Your plans in our lives.  Create a burning desire in us to find quiet time and to be intentional about listening for Your whispers.

Amen