30 November, 2016

Spring's End

A couple of weeks ago, we went to this place pictured above. My brother was working away for a couple of weeks, and we met him and a couple of friends there. It was nice to sit around and talk about lessons from the Bible, and have lunch – quiche, stir fried vegies from the garden, and the best salad I’ve had in months. Then we went for a walk to the waterfall; to a viewing platform, to the bottom of the waterfall, and then my siblings and I went off-track to get to the top of the waterfall. It was sunny and bright, but still cool. It amazes me the views hidden away at the end of back roads. Somehow the fact that we had to bump over a track made for vehicles more rugged than ours made the view even more spectacular. 

It’s ironic typing ‘spring’s end’ as a title, because it feels like spring has barely begun. We’ve had a few warm days, but nothing suggesting that tomorrow is the first day of summer. This year, spring ending means the beginning of a new season of activity for me.

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be en route to the other side of the country to join in with a group of young people for five weeks of canvassing – sharing Christian books door-to-door. It’s a new beginning because I’ve never been away from home for that long, I’ve never canvassed for that long, I’ve never been to the other side of the country. It’s overwhelming to think about, but I’m excited. I’m looking forward to being part of a team of young people passionate about sharing the hope and peace and joy and love of Jesus. I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in mind for me on this trip.

So, all this to say: I won’t be appearing around here until January sometime. Hopefully I’ll be able to reply to any comments, but I can’t promise. I’ll miss you guys a lot – miss reading your blogs, being blessed by your comments, and interacting in this wonderful community. But I’ll be back, and in the meantime, I hope you all have an excellent break, and enjoy your summer, or winter, wherever you live. :) Thank you so much for giving me something to miss; I’ll be thinking of you all. 

This spring's end, I think it comes back to this quote my Grandma gave me to remember for my trip. It says, Dear God, please help me to remember that nothing will happen today that You and I cannot handle together. Keep that in mind, friends – He has all power, and with Him you can conquer anything.

Jessica xxx

22 November, 2016

Nothing to Lose - Thoughts on Bravery

At the beginning of the year, I decided I wanted to live by the word ‘brave’ for 2016. I wanted to overcome fear, and meet life’s opportunities head on; opportunities to learn and grow, to explore and have fun, but mostly to share Christ and be a witness.

I printed out inspirational quotes as reminders, such as “I don’t want to be part of something that can be explained by my own power and ability. I want to be part of something that can only be explained by the power of God.” David Platt and “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire,” and “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a ride!’” Hunter S. Thompson. I bought a journal full of motivational quotes and prompts called Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You. I wanted to live without boundaries, push that comfort zone into non-existence, and go for it. Be brave and live.

I started off enthusiastically. I lived with the word ‘brave’ in my mind, shoved fear back, and widened my witnessing comfort zone. But, I did it. It was in my own determination. And that fizzled out with time. I’ve lived the second half of the year remembering my one-word-motto as some distant desire I once had. I’ve retreated, and where earlier I was talking to strangers about God, now I don’t want to answer the phone. What happened to brave?

Near the beginning of the year, I read through the book of Acts, and the disciples were a huge inspiration for me. They seemed to have no end of bravery, boldness, and courage. It says “and daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Acts 5:42. They faced trials, opposition, threats of punishment and death, and yet they kept going with zeal. My favourite description of their work is in Acts 17, where the rulers of the city they were in accused them of turning the world upside down. They were brave. But what was it particularly that gave them courage and made them unstoppable in the face of fear? 

I had that question back in February, and without looking for it, I’ve just noticed an answer. (That has to be God. :) I recently read The Robe by Lloyd Douglas, and began listening to David Platt’s Threads series (thanks to this conversation!), and suddenly Jesus’ time here on earth acquired an impacting depth.

His sinless life gives us the assurance we can have victory over sin, relying on the same source of strength as He did. His death paid the penalty for our sins meaning we can be forgiven, and stand before God in Christ’s strength and righteousness. But here’s the exciting part: what does Jesus’ resurrection give us?

Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” 2 Timothy 1:10 says He abolished death.*

Jesus resurrection is tangible proof of the infinite power of God. He conquered death, the greatest thing the devil had to hurl at Him. His resurrection proves that He is Lord: all-powerful, undeniably conqueror, and absolutely victorious.

The disciples ran for their lives when Jesus was arrested. Simon Peter said he never knew Jesus. They were ashamed, afraid, weak. But after Christ came back from the dead, and they saw Him and believed, they turned into the passionate, unstoppable army we see in Acts. Because, they realised that Jesus’ overcoming death meant they had nothing to lose, nothing to be afraid of. Nothing was more powerful than fear and death, and Jesus had conquered that completely. Working for Him, they could be bold, brave, daring, outspoken, because they knew Jesus had the power to keep them where He had placed them.

As a character in The Robe explains about the disciples’ work and why it was difficult to eradicate them: “It is a strange movement, sir. It has only one weapon; its belief that there is no death. Cornelius Capito is not equipped to crush something that refuses to die when it is killed.” 

And Jesus still has all power today. Death hasn’t made any advances on Him in the last couple of thousand years. We have exactly the same assurance the disciple of the New Testament had. We can be bold and brave for Christ, because He is conqueror and we have absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

It feels like I’ve come a full circle. I began by trying to be brave myself. I realised it takes a lot of effort, and almost forgot about my resolution in the mid-and-later-year busyness. Now God has brought to my attention that true bravery is found in faith in Him, resting in the knowledge that He has conquered my greatest fears, and in Him I have nothing to lose.

“There’s more than one kind of courage, my child… and the most potent of all is the reckless bravery of people who have nothing to lose.” The Robe, page 405

*That’s only two of the verses I found in my study of this. If you want more references, contact me and I’ll be happy to pass them on. :)


What are your thoughts on bravery? Why do you think the disciples were so bold and courageous? 
What have you been thinking/studying/pondering recently?

09 November, 2016

On Vulnerability

It started with a statement from my music teacher. We were sitting at her piano, in the throes of exam preparation, discussing a couple of pieces which required deeper expression and interpretation than I had been playing with. My teacher told me she knew I had the place to draw from because I always pick the most soulful of pieces. Her solution answered so many questions I didn’t even know I had. She said, “You’re shy.”

Looking back, I can see it cropping up often. I had the feelings, the desires, even intentions, but I was too shy to let it out. In order to give music the depth it required, or share my deepest feelings and express my desires as in the other situations, I had to open up. I had to be vulnerable.

I don’t like that word. It makes me think of some poor animal, a fawn perhaps, exposed and powerless before an enemy. It seems synonymous with weakness, helplessness. That’s not something I want to be. 

But since that conversation with my teacher, I’ve realised art and creativity require vulnerability.

If I wrote a song, my story would come through lyrics; my soul would be in the melody.

If I wrote a book, my heart would be in the pages, my ambitions in every character.

If I painted a picture, my concepts would be on the canvass.

If I designed a garment, my tastes and preferences would be reflected. 

If I cooked a meal, my style of food, and my mood of the day, would be conveyed.

All creativity requires vulnerability. It’s taking something hidden inside us, and giving it a medium to come out. Suddenly, we’re exposed. 

Even creativity in the simplest of ways: every time you put on an outfit, pick a new item of clothing, do your hair, you’re being vulnerable. Your style and taste is in front of everyone, open for their evaluation.

Vulnerability brings us together too. By being open before God and open before others, we can encourage, inspire, influence, and prompt change. It draws us together, forms bonds. It takes us from being introspective and self-centred to realising we’re closer to each other than we thought, and having opportunity to change lives.

This is the tiniest example, but in my post Springs in the Wilderness, I began by stating I had been spiritually dry. For me, that was being vulnerable. I didn’t want to tell everyone my relationship with God isn’t where it should be. I didn’t need everyone to know I have doubts. I didn’t need to give people an opportunity to judge me as a hypocrite. But as a result, others opened up and shared their own struggles, and we were able to encourage each other. We were brought closer together, and though I may never meet those girls, we have helped each other trust God’s promises. How amazing is that?!

I was thinking about why Psalms is one of most read books in the Bible. Is it because there’s a prayer for every situation? Is it because the poetic beauty captures our attention? That must be part of it, but I think the real reason is that Psalms is one of the most vulnerable books in the Bible. David opens every part of his heart in the psalms, and expresses His desire for God, his rage against his enemies, his doubts, his fears, his hopes, his failings. When we read it, we relate. The exposure brings us closer. It impacts our lives. We feel David’s pain, experience his victory, and draw closer to his God.

God Himself is vulnerable. He exposes His character for everyone to see; opens Himself up for our ridicule and misunderstanding; and reveals Himself through creation, His word, and personal experience. I think He’s the definition of true vulnerability.

But something stands in the way of being vulnerable: fear. It’s scary revealing parts of ourselves, and opening up to others' judgements.  It’s safer wearing masks, staying behind bounds, being someone else, hidden, buried, trapped. People’s comments hurt less; people’s criticisms aren’t so personal. No one can intentionally hurt my feelings if they don’t know what they are. But fear is a trap.  It’s a barrier that closes around us, and stops us from being who we were created to be. God says “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18). He wants us to be secure in His love, and live unashamed, unbound; free. 

I’m not suggesting a life of total exposure where everyone knows everything, or sharing emotions to manipulate others. I’m not saying this world needs more bed-head selfies and breakfast photos. It needs more heart, more soul. It needs more art. It needs more honesty, more genuineness, more humility. It needs vulnerability. 

Our heart is a muscle. It hurts to open it up, stretch it. It’s not always going to be comfortable being vulnerable. But a heart emptied equals a heart filled. If it can bring a little hope to humanity, bring people together, let someone realise they’re not alone, draw us closer to God’s ideal, I think it’s worth the risk. God’s opinion is more important than what others think. Being who God made me to be is more important than being who others want me to be. Being uncomfortable for the cause of God is more important than living life protected in a hard case. It goes against everything in me, but by His grace, I want to be vulnerable.

P.s This blog is where I share most openly. Admittedly, it isn’t much, but you guys have seen more of my heart and soul than I reveal to a lot of people, and I want to say a huge thank-you for making this a safe and supportive place.


Is there something you have been ruminating on recently? What are your thoughts on vulnerability? And how do you think we can use vulnerability to bless and encourage others? I'm eager to hear!

31 October, 2016

31 Hugs - Conclusion

We’ve come to the end of October, and that means the end of the 31 Hugs challenge! (Or does it?)

I was overwhelmed at the response to the challenge. I was nervous about posting that initial post, because what if no one joins? But you all surprised me in the very best way, and it was encouraging to see your enthusiasm. It also kept me going, because I felt accountable.

To be honest, 31 Hugs Challenge was a challenge for me. October has been the busiest month of the whole year. I wanted to put a lot of time and effort into my hugs, but in the end I decided something small was better than nothing. Because I was busy and stressed at times, I also didn’t feel like giving. That sounds terrible, but it’s true. I didn’t feel like putting time into someone else. I think this challenge helped me notice that tendency, and purpose not to let myself get busy and stressed at the expense of others. I missed a couple of days along the way, and now, only a few hours until the new month, I’ve given a total of twenty-eight hugs. 

So no, I didn’t give 31 hugs. But this brings me to something else. On the 31 Hugs Ideas post, Hosanna Emily commented and said she wanted giving hugs to be a way of life for her – not just something she did for a month and then forgot about. I thought that was beautiful, and I hope this challenge has helped us all think of more ways we can be a blessing to others, and turned 'hug-giving' from a challenge to a habit. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we gave thirty-one or more hugs every month, because that’s who we are?

Overall, this challenge was a blessing and good experience for me. I also felt like I received a lot of hugs this month (mostly from people who didn’t even know about the challenge), and it was amazing to feel the love and care I was trying to give. And again, I’m thrilled and blessed and encouraged that many of you joined! I like to think of the compound effect we’ve had as we’ve been a blessing to others too. 

But there’s one hug I still want to give. :) And that’s to you guys, of course! Every single one of you bless and encourage and inspire me so much. I can’t say thank you enough. You’re amazing, and you’d better believe it. I have evidence too. :) So here: five reasons why you’re* amazing.

1. You’re like no one else. A unique individual, gifted with different things to the person next to you. This world needs you! No one can replace you, or do/say/write/sing you things you’re called to do.

2. God says so. And then He backed His words up with action, by giving up everything, everything, for you. He values you infinitely.

3. You are capable. God can use you to do so much. Every word and deed of yours has a power, an effect. You can change lives; you can change the world. With Him everything is possible.

4. God uses and works through you. I’m sure He does on many other levels, but I know for sure He works through you, because just by reading these words, He’s using you to be a blessing to me.

5. You overwhelm me with support and encouragement and give me so much. I’m in awe, honestly. Every comment sends me into a cloud of What?! Wow! That’s so sweet. People are so nice. I can’t believe it. Praise God! And basically, I’m high for the rest of the day, and any other time I stop to think about you guys. I also pray for you all too, and if I could, I’d give you a hug right now.

*I actually mean you, the person reading these words. I have a habit of discrediting words like these, and believing they’re about someone else, so I want to make sure you realise it’s YOU I’m talking about here. Even if it’s your first time visiting, or you’ve never commented or followed, you're still amazing, okay?

So please, give yourself a hug on behalf of me, and don’t ever ever forget that you’re loved, valued, treasured.


How has your October been? Did you receive a blessing from the 31 Hugs Challenge? In what ways could it have been better? How did people respond to your hugs? I’m super eager to hear about it! :)

P.s Happy November!

22 October, 2016

Springs in the Wilderness

I’ve been feeling spiritually dry. God has become a little crowded with all the commitments and activities in my life. I was lamenting this fact in my diary yesterday morning, when I opened my Bible to Isaiah 41. I’ve read that chapter before, and even highlighted a section, so I thought I knew what it was talking about. But then I came to this:

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in the high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together: that they may see, and know and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it. Isaiah 41:17-20

I felt like God was talking directly to me. Those words poor and needy are actually defined as ‘depressed in mind or circumstances’ and ‘a sense of want especially in feeling.’ That’s me. I’m overwhelmed with everything going on, but wanting more, wanting to get closer to God again, and be renewed with enthusiasm for Him and His work.

And what is God’s promise to us poor and needy, depressed and wanting, lacking, overwhelmed, tired? I, the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in the bare places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. It’s a huge comfort to know even when we’re dry and feel far away from God, He still hears us, and never forsakes us. But, He offers so much more here. He will cause rivers in our bare places, fountains right in the middle of our valleys. Our wilderness He’ll turn into a pool, and our dry areas into springs. 

The next couple of verses were really powerful as well. He not only waters our wastelands, He then plants them. And, He doesn’t just plant easy-to-grow shrubs. He promises the cedar tree, olive tree, myrtle tree, fir tree, the box tree; trees that last generations. The only response the people in Isaiah 41 can come up with is that it had to be God.

So I want to encourage you, just as this encouraged me: there is hope, massive amounts of hope. Seek God; He’s there, He hears, and He will turn your valleys and lows, bare and dry places, into rivers, fountains, and springs. He will turn your wilderness into a most powerful testament to His creative power. He’ll plant the once dry corners of your soul, and you’ll only be able to say, it must have been God.


Have you had an experience of God causing your deserts to flow again? What promises have you been holding onto lately? Where have you been reading in the Bible?

07 October, 2016


You know those times you suddenly notice everything God’s been up to? I was doing a few things on the internet this afternoon, when I realized God has totally been working in my life, reminding me that He’s there and He cares. And I hadn’t stopped to notice.  

 - A couple of weeks ago, my family and I went to a Lifeline Book Fair. I had wanted to go to one of Lifeline’s book fairs for ages. I lined this one up, and I was really looking forward to it. A couple of days before the fair I took a peak into my bank account to see how much I could afford to spend. Because of some fees for my diploma, the sad truth was: I had twenty-five dollars to spend. Twenty-five dollars! I knew the books were second-hand, but I didn’t know how cheap they were going to be, and $25 doesn’t go very far. So I started praying. There was a textbook I had to buy, and it cost over one hundred dollars. I’d heard that there were textbooks at the fair, so I was praying that the book I needed would be there for a reduced price, which would then greatly increase my budget. 

When we got to the fair, I went straight to the Psychology and Counselling section. The textbook wasn’t there. As I started browsing the other sections, I realised my money wasn’t going to go very far. The books were cheap, but there’s only five fives in twenty-five, you know. (In case you haven’t heard of my book-acquiring habits before, I go for quantity as well as quality and affordability.) I let my pile stack up anyway, and planned to have a hard ‘going through’ to narrow it down before making the purchase. When I had almost finished browsing the sections that interested me, a lady started speaking over the loudspeaker. “In fifteen minutes, the bag sale will start.” My brother and I looked at each other: What on earth is a bag sale? She went on to explain that the bag sale meant you could get everything you could fit into a normal sized shopping bag for twenty dollars. Wow! I’m not skilled at bargaining, but I was pretty sure I could fit quite a few books into one bag.

In the end, I got seventeen books for twenty dollars. Some might call it a coincidence, but I believe God answered my prayers. He cares enough about a girl’s enjoyment of books and limited budget, and chose to bless me with a reminder of His care. I mean, isn’t that amazing?! I even had five dollars to spare! :D

- Some of you might have seen my review of The True Vine on goodreads. It’s an amazing book, and was a real blessing to me. I was thinking about it as I wrote that review, and suddenly another God-incidence became apparent. That book had been sitting on our shelf for almost two years. It was given to us, and normally I would’ve checked it out immediately. But instead, I randomly picked it up a couple of weeks ago. I can’t even remember what prompted me to pick it up - I was in the middle of reading other things. But I started reading The True Vine, and I was blown away. It was exactly what I needed to read, and I think God knew that all along. Thanks God for reminding me yet again that you care about every little detail of my life. (Also, in case I haven’t implied this enough, The True Vine is an excellent book, and I recommend you read it. :)

- Over a year ago I described how God provided me with some shoes I needed (like brand new perfect, for op shop price) before I’d even had a chance to ask. Guess what? He did it again! Today I was in town, and seeing as I was alone, I decided to go to an op shop (you know, it’s never safe to leave me alone). As I looked at the shoe section – which I have never bought anything from before, by the way – a lady volunteering at the op shop came and put a couple of new pairs of shoes on the rack. One pair looked like what I had passively been wanting, and feeling I needed. Basically, I saw them and they looked nice, and quality, and brand new. I checked them and they were my size. I put them on and they fit (a rare thing for shoes to do on my feet). They were six dollars! So God did it again – catered for my desires on my budget. He’s incredible. 


I’m sure there are many other blessings He’s been giving and I’ve been missing. But these just dawned on me, and I had to shout it out: God is good! But, I want to hear your stories too. :) How has God been blessing you? Have you experienced times or situations when it just had to be Him orchestrating things? 

And how are you going with the 31 hugs challenge so far?

30 September, 2016

31 Hugs - Ideas

(I’ll admit that title does sound a bit strange – are there thirty-one different ways to hug?! If you’re not sure what I’m on about, read the introductory post here. :)

Firstly, a big thank-you to all who joined the challenge! It’s exciting to think of all the lives that will be touched as we each share some hugs. It’s also not too late to be a part of it! If you feel thirty-one hugs are not manageable, why not set yourself a smaller goal? 

Anyway, here are some ideas which I hope will help and inspire you as you share appreciation this October. 

Hug Suggestions
Remember, a hug is a way to show appreciation, thankfulness, or support, so the options for conveying that message are endless:

Words – a few words of appreciation in person, a simple thank-you or I’m thinking of/praying for you, an email, a letter, a card, a text message, or a phone call.

Actions – a literal hug, some extra time with the other person (catching up, playing a game, shopping, working on a project, etc.), surprise housework or some other task, a gift.

Hug Recipient Ideas
Is there anyone who couldn’t benefit from an act of appreciation?!

Family – parents, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

Associates – friends, workmates, people at church or other groups, teachers, bosses/supervisors, mentors, or anyone we spend time with.

People we admire – authors, musicians, artists, bloggers, athletes – anyone.

Strangers – shop assistants, cashiers, nuisance callers, people on the bus/train/street, or contacts through Postcrossing

Challenge Tips and Suggestions
Write a list of people you want to give a hug to, or hug ideas you want to do, so you can think ahead, plan, and avoid getting to the end of the day and wondering who to give a hug to.

Be genuine – say what you mean, and mean what you say. Do what you mean, and mean what you do. Make each hug personal and tailored to the individual, rather than the copy + paste style – they’ll appreciate it when they realise the effort is especially for them. 

Be specific – for example, instead of just telling someone you appreciate them, tell them why you appreciate them. Is it because they’re thoughtful and encouraging, happy and smiling, or their skills inspire you, or they encourage you in your spiritual walk? (Bonnie recently wrote a post that has more suggestions on how to give compliments here.)  

Get outside your comfort zone – we’ve all got those things we’ve comfortable doing, and maybe it’s easy for you to appreciate your friends or family. But I think comfort zones were made to be challenged, so take the opportunity to stretch yourself. Maybe you’ve never told someone how much you appreciate them before, or how much they mean to you. Maybe you find it easier not to talk on the phone (and I’m talking to myself here!). Maybe you’d rather not join your siblings on their adventures, or visit your relative in a nursing home, or do the ironing. But this challenge isn’t about us – it’s about others. So I want to encourage to not let your comfort zone hold you back from showing appreciation or support for someone else.

Do it from your heart – this is related to being genuine, but it will show whether you’re doing something out of obligation, or because you mean it. Don’t worry if you can’t craft a perfect gift or thank-you message. If you’re doing/saying/writing from the heart it will mean so much anyway. As Hannah said, “When you put your heart into something, it comes to life.” (Her whole post on that topic is very good, by the way.)

Be realistic – this isn’t about wearing yourself out, and becoming exhausted because of the extra ‘tasks’ on your to-do list. Keep it simple; only do what you can manage. Don’t feel pressured to write a five hundred word email, or buy a gift, or take a day off to give to a friend. If you need to take a break from the challenge, do. If you’re running out of people to give a hug, repeat – your mum won’t mind an extra hug. Challenges are about finding a balance between pushing yourself, and yet setting achievable goals. 

Be creative – this post is only ideas. Brainstorm your own list of people to share hugs with, ways to show support and appreciation, etc. The options are limitless – find a Bible verse relevant to their situation, write a poem, give them some cake (or whatever their favourite food is). Get them a plant, make their bed, or say thank-you. Tell them their hair looks nice, tell them they inspire you, and tell them God used them to bless you. 

I hope that was remotely helpful (and not too repetitive), and I hope you all have a fabulous October, and are blessed by giving 31 hugs. Thanks again for your support in this challenge already – each of your comments was like a hug. :) And I’m eager for you to add your thoughts! What are your tips for monthly challenges? Do you have suggestions for hug recipients? What are some of your hug ideas?