30 September, 2018

Notes to Self

ft. my still-developing artistic skills

1. Let people into your process. I’ve always been reluctant to tell people my hopes and plans, because what if I don’t live up to my word? It’s scary to share and not be one hundred percent sure I can carry them out. Anyway, this week I had two specific instances where people I’d reluctantly let into the process encouraged me and helped me see the way forward just by caring and discussing it with me. It was overwhelming actually. It helped me realize how much I need others. I pride myself on being strong, on not ‘burdening’ others, but I haven’t gotten this far alone, and I’m finally realizing I won’t get the rest of the way alone either. It’s uncomfortable to open up, but whenever I do (to trusted caring people) it turns out to be what I need. 

2. Don’t give up on people. There’s this idea that if someone’s not serving us, pushing us toward our goals and dreams, we should move on. I agree that toxic relationships aren’t good and we do well to leave them behind. But I can’t agree to ridding our lives of people because they’re imperfect, because they struggle too, because they’re taking more than they’re giving in this moment. We’re called to love first, and love always. Perhaps it isn't best to be close friends with someone who is negative, or sapping our energy, but I believe love gives everyone another chance. Take time to hear the other person, and what they’re going through. Conflicts can be resolved; it’s possible to work through things and be stronger for it. Maybe these people in our lives are actually gifts to develop us in ways that couldn’t be possible otherwise. Don’t give up on people, because we need each other.

3. Take time to disconnect, sit outside, enjoy the sunshine, and get off technology. I sat in the sunshine this morning, and it was amazing to feel the warmth. Spring is coming! Every week I have to wait a couple of hours in town to pick up my sister from work. I drive to a park and read a book or write usually. I sit in the car, which is justifiable through winter. But when there’s warmth and sunshine, I still don’t want to get out of the car, because it’s my comfort zone. It takes effort for me to sit and read in front of whoever is at the park, even though I know they’re not paying attention to me. But this week, I did it, and it was wonderful: the fresh air, the friendly water birds, the creek right in front of me, and even the conversations happening around me. I decided it’s worth stretching myself for. We’re made to breathe and enjoy the journey, and, wow, it feels good. 

What have you been learning this week, my friends? How do you think we should treat those who take more than they give? Why do you think we need other people? What do you like to do to make the most of spring? I hope you're all going well, and staying strong! xx

22 September, 2018

What Does Purpose Look Like?

Last week, I shared my developing thoughts on purpose, and the excitement in knowing that God’s purpose precedes our existence. I noticed many of you seemed to relate to the last paragraph, where I addressed those who don’t know what their purpose or calling looks like yet. Maybe you have an idea, but don’t know how to put it into action. Maybe you know the direction or field you're passionate about, but can’t pinpoint what the next step is. Maybe you don’t have any idea where God could be calling you or what your life purpose might be. 
I want you to know that not knowing where you might be going in life, or what you’re called to, is nothing to be ashamed about. We are never promised to know everything about the future; we are simply guaranteed God will be there. He promises to be with us always. (Joshua 1:9)

My mum said something recently to the effect that our purpose doesn’t have to have a label, a name. Our society is obsessed with labels – whether it’s for different personalities, lifestyles, health conditions, or groups of people in general, we’ve been trained to search for a name for things, as if that proves their existence. I know I’ve applied that to the search for a specific purpose too. We want to know exactly what we’re meant to be doing, down to the last detail. It’s true some people have a specific vision for their future: a mental health professional working with struggling youth of indigenous backgrounds; a nurse working in a specific overseas mission field; an author writing inspiring true stories for Christian young people. 

Very recently, I gained a clearer vision of my purpose, but I can't see all the details. And for a long, long time, while everybody implied I ought to have my life sorted out, I had no idea. There were directions I thought God might be leading me, but nothing specific. I couldn’t name my purpose, so did it even exist? We rarely consciously ask that, but it’s the way we’ve been taught to think, and it’s wrong. Just because you or anyone looking on doesn’t know the details of your future, does not mean that it isn’t purposed. We know it is because God says so (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 1:4) and He can’t lie. That’s assurance. Your purpose absolutely exists, even if you can’t see it yet. 

And, the truth is, whether we have an idea of our specific calling or not, our day to day life will look exactly the same. If we’re living in response to the promptings of God’s spirit in our hearts, it doesn’t matter if we don’t know what’s next. Following God is letting Him lead our decisions and everyday choices, regardless of whether we know what specific direction that’s going to take. 

Maybe that’s what it means to live our purpose. The Bible talks about knowing God’s will in past tense. In a broad sense, we already know what our purpose as children of God is. We are to reflect Him, be love to those around us, share the gospel, submit to the work of His Holy Spirit in our lives, and other instructions given in the Bible. It isn’t elusive or hard to understand; God’s word outlines it all for us. This is our purpose.  

The Bible talks about different gifts and roles people have as part of the body of Christ – I’m not undermining that. It may sound like it still comes back to the question how do I know which one I’m called to? But they’re gifts of the Spirit. They’re given to us; they aren’t ours. If we’re connected to God, obeying His promptings through the Spirit, we will automatically be walking in our giftings! There’s no figuring out to be done on our behalf, we simply follow.

I’ve been reminded so many times, and I still forget: everything about the Christian life comes to a surrender of ourselves to God. That is our purpose, and as we follow, He will work out the details. 

I know it’s hard to be in a state of restlessness where the possibilities are overwhelming and the unknowns even more so. I can only offer what I said in the previous post: cling to God. The questions you have? He is the answer. The doubts you have? He is the truth. The uncertainties, fear, overwhelm, pressure, and frustration? He is always, always, going to be everything you need. Maybe not in ways we could label, but in the quiet workings of His heart with ours as we abide in Him, and it becomes His life we live. You are chosen to be a child of God, first and foremost, and there’s always a place by His side for you. That is your purpose. 

Much love,
Jessica xx

14 September, 2018

Your Purpose Precedes You

It came as I was reading The Journey of Desire; the realization that purpose was a lot more than I’d thought. I've always believed God has a purpose for each of us; a plan to give us a future and a hope, you know. But subconsciously, I'd come to imagine the scenario as more like God distributing random assorted purposes and callings as we made our entrance into the world. That we came into existence and then God gave us a purpose. I still thought it was God given, but He designed it after my faults and inadequacies and experiences became evident - almost like my purpose was based on my worthiness. If I messed up too much, my purpose might have to be modified.

But it's all so untrue. As this book pointed out, in a paragraph I can't find, the purpose precedes us. Our purpose wasn't designed for us; we were designed for it. God had this purpose, this calling, this need to be fulfilled, and He specifically hand designed us as the perfect fit for it. Every experience and struggle we've had, God turns into a part of fulfilling our purpose. The sins we struggle with help us encourage others struggling in those areas, the losses we've faced help us grieve with others, and the joys we have help us rejoice with others. Not one part of our calling is accidental, and not one part of our experience is wasted.

I was reading Psalm 139 this morning - it's a beautiful psalm. Verses 14 to 18 say:
'I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.'

Another Bible version translates verse 16 as:
'Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book all my days were recorded, even those which were purposed before they had come into being.' Our lives had a purpose before we existed.

Friends, you have been hand designed - the very workmanship of God - for a purpose only you can fulfil. You are not a mistake, and the things you have been through are not a mistake. Pursue the burden on your heart, the experience which makes you come alive, the calling you feel you have!

I was deeply encouraged to realize this more, but also convicted. I've put off following my purpose for many reasons, but often because I couldn't see how it was going to come together. I’d figured out what, and I knew why, but how was beyond my vision. Then I read Priceless again, and a fragment of one conversation stood out to me. It's when Dale is having an unofficial mentoring session with James, if you know the story:

‘Dale picked up a chipped-off fragment of the rock they were sitting on and sent it skittering down the hill. “You know what to do. You’re just struggling with the how.”

‘James stared at the stars, half-expecting the wind to blow them around the way it – the way everything – was whipping him around.

‘“You know the direction to walk in,” Dale said. “So you point your feet and start walking. The stuff in your path?” James felt him shrug. “That’s not up to you.”’ Priceless, page 228

So, I'm learning. I'm learning that walking in our purpose is a lot about faith and trust. It’s about taking the next right step, even when we don’t see the big picture, because God knows. It's already there in His plan, and He will direct us. It’s what we were created for.

I also want to encourage anyone who doesn't know what their specific purpose or calling is yet. I've been there, and it's confusing and isolating. But please know that God has a special plan for you even if you can’t see it yet. He's shaping you for your purpose. And if you aren't sure which direction to go for the next step to following your calling, press closer to God. Ultimately, our purposes are all found in Him. xx

07 September, 2018

Life Updates with Jess

Blooms courtesy of sweet neighbours and friends.

Hello beautiful people! It’s been a while again. I find it easy to make excuses for not posting, and, while I still don’t feel I have much to share, here’s what’s been happening.

- I turned twenty-one. It sounds so old; I honestly don’t feel more than seventeen. I didn’t want a party or anything fancy, but at the last minute I emailed family and friends to let them know they were welcome to come over for a meal the day after my birthday. They all came. A few people couldn’t make it, but I was so, so overwhelmed by the effort they made for me. I have such wonderful people in my life, and I just want to shout thank you! If you have people in your life who care about you, treasure them and let them know. It’s such a wonderful privilege.

 - I’m taking a social media break, namely from Instagram and Pinterest. It might not sound like much, but I’m amazed at the impact it's had. I heard that the amount of time spent on social media is directly linked to depression or anxiety, and I believe it. I feel incredible freedom not ‘having’ to check my phone or keep up with everything. I have more time. But there’s also so much more mental space. My mind is not consumed with content I’ve seen, comparisons I’m making, and a restlessness to experience more. It’s been fantastic, and I recommend it to everyone. If you do decide to have a social media fast, my tips would be: make a definite and specific commitment, and have something to replace it with – it’s in the moments of boredom or stress that it’s most tempting to reach for the phone again. 

- Because of the social media fast, I’ve been reading a lot. I read more in August than what was ‘normal’ for me to read in three months. I used to read a lot, and I’m enjoying getting back to it again. Reading voraciously does mean it’s hard to absorb and remember the books I’ve read, but a few which I really wanted to digest I went back and summarised the main thoughts of the chapters, and that helped to cement them in my mind. My sister and I are going to a second-hand bookfair this weekend, and we’re so excited about it, haha. I’ve rediscovered the magic of reading, and it’s entirely wonderful.

- As far as those life responsibilities we’re meant to pursue as grownups, I finished my counseling studies mid this year, and I still have my job delivering mail. It’s good, though it seems no matter how old I get or how organized I think my life is, I always arrive back at this place of what am I meant to be doing now? At the moment I’m looking for more work, contemplating more study, and wondering what direction to take next.

- I struggle so much with being open, but transparency is something I need to cultivate, so here: I’ve been struggling with fear and insecurity a lot recently. One of the things it’s targeting is this area of career. I have a vision: I want to totally redo my blog, and use it as my ministry to pour into people; broaden and deepen my online presence, as God leads. That’s what I believe God wants for me. But I have doubts, I have inadequacies, and I also have frustration when it comes to the technicalities of website building. I’ve been stalling on it for months, although I know it’s what I’m meant to be doing. Like I said above, I’m looking for more work and education, but it’s a half-hearted endeavour because I know it would be temporary. I don’t know if that makes sense, but if you would like to pray I find courage for this situation, I’d be so appreciative. 

- While that sounds depressing – and it is if I dwell on it too long – there are lots of little things giving me joy in life. Spring is coming, and I’m so excited for warmer weather and sunshine. Trees are starting to bud and blossom, and it’s such a hopeful time of year. We’ve had a little bit of rain, and it always makes things fresh and alive. Also, Ephesians is a wonderful book, if you’re looking for where to read next in the Bible. (Thanks to Abbiee for recommending it the other day – it’s been so good to reread!)

So, that’s a little bit of the happenings here. Let me know if you have any book recommendations or tips on having courage. And do tell me what’s been going on in your life, and how I can be praying for you! I appreciate you all. xx