Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lessons from Year 32

I kid you not. I have five saved blog drafts that I've started and not finished in the last week. I get distracted like that. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. What is it about December that is so distracting? Um...Maybe all the twinkly lights and holiday hoopla. Oy. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about Christmas. PRAISE GOD that He sent Jesus! That miracle blows me away! I'm just not all that in favor of the commercialized overkill of "the holidays." Gag me. What is Christmas about if not Christ? Duh. But let's just forget Him and make it a PC happy-happy-ho-ho-ho day that means nothing other than too many presents and cookies.

I'm on a soapbox. It's like the world doesn't even attach the two anymore. Christmas is one thing. Holidays are another. A small minority celebrates Christmas, but EVERYONE can celebrate a holiday, right? What?? What's the point, then? And who gave the world the right to abandon the meaning of the day so that everyone could celebrate it? By all means, everyone SHOULD celebrate it, but it can't exist without Christ, and that's okay! It shouldn't!

Good grief. Linus, get up here and tell us what Christmas is all about again. I don't think anyone heard you the first kabillion times.

Well, folks, on another note, it's my last night as a 32-year-old. Woot woot! Let's hear it for another year! I'd pretty much like to say that this one was one of the most eventful I've ever had. I got engaged, left a job I'd been at for 10 years, spent a month in treatment for an eating disorder, planned a wedding, moved to Kansas and got hitched to the most amazing man on the face of the planet! :) I'm tired. haha! No, really.

I think I could write a book about packing all of the major life changes into one year and outlining the effects. The only thing I didn't do was have a kid. That would have made things reeeeeeeally interesting.

But here's what I learned. Today, I'm sitting here at the same computer I was last year as the same woman. Sure I've changed. I'm stronger in many ways, weaker in others. Wiser, yet more foolish. But you know what? I'm still Jill. I'm the same creation that was formed by God in my Momsy's womb 33 years ago. I still have the same gifts and personality. I still love the Lord and am, at the end of the day, still a sin-stained woman in need of His grace. And the best thing is that, just like He always has and always will, He's still giving it to me.

I loved a quote I heard from Joyce Meyer the other day. She was talking about how we often don't feel like we deserve God's love, mercy, grace and salvation, and she piped off: "Of course you don't. That's what makes it so great!" Ain't that the truth! Every day I wake up intending to live a perfect, holy life, and pretty much before an hour passes I'm already way past that. But every day, God provides the forgiveness and redemption I need. He's amazing like that.

As much as I have and haven't changed in the last year, it's comforting to me to know that God isn't changing, nor will He. That was one of the most valuable things I learned this year. When everything else turns upside down, God remains the same. As it says in Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

So, as I turn another year older, I'm just going to let it come and go, enjoy the day with my hubby and friends, and know that at the end of the day I'm still the same beautiful daughter of the King that I was when I was born.

Love you all!
- Jill

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wake up, women!

It makes me mad when I see girls heading down the same path that I have chosen for so many years regarding food and body weight. In fact, it makes me want to scream. Young, beautiful, intelligent, godly women who are being lured into the same trap of the enemy that I've been battling for decades. It's not fair!! It makes me so mad! I just want to grab them by the shoulders and say, "Wake up!! It's not too late for you! Turn around and face Jesus right now!! Choose Him and His freedom before you get sucked into this deadly trap!"

Oh, how I long to beat up on the enemy, too. How he could tell some of these girls who are just so gorgeous inside and out that they are worthless or that they have to maintain a certain appearance in order to be valuable. What a lying, deceiving, evil creature he is, and I wish there was some way for me to write in neon colors in the sky that everything he's saying isn't true.

Girls, did you know that getting fat isn't the end of the world? It's true! Life really will go on if you gain a few pounds. Seriously! You will still be loved and accepted by those in your closest circles and you will still be able to wake up in the presence of God each morning! It seriously isn't that big of a deal! Of course I'm not saying you should be unhealthy, but your body weight can not and will not affect your identity in Christ. God made you as a brilliant daughter of the King, and it DOES NOT MATTER what the scale says.

This whole trap is just that: a trap. It's a deadly device of Satan that is so effectively being used to lull women of God into a deep sleep. We believe his lines and wind up bowing down to merciless idols of performance, exercise, food and weight, forsaking the life that Christ has for us.

Oh, women. How much more there is. . . Don't you see it? Don't you want it? You CAN have it! But the choice has to be yours. You have to be the one to tell the enemy that you won't believe him anymore. No one will do that for you. God will speak His truth to you through His Word and His Spirit, but you have to heed it. If you do, you will experience life to the full. If you don't, you will experience a stale existence of control, fear and misery.

Wake up!! Wake up!! Wake up!! Don't let him have you! Let Jesus have you! He's the one who is actually FOR you! He loves you, and He won't hurt you! Just trust Him. I know it's hard, but take a step of faith and give His way a try. For your own good! For your own future! For the life you want and were created to live!

Women with eating disorders and exercise addictions, I'm speaking directly to you. It's not real!! It's all a lie designed to destroy you. Wake up and face Jesus before it's too late. You still have time. You're not too far gone. But refuse to take one more step down the path of the one who is trying to KILL you. Turn around and RUN to the arms of the One who is trying to FREE you. Live for Him! Let Him live in you! CHOOSE LIFE! You're so worth it! :)

And let me tell you. . . If this has ANYTHING to do with men, the man of God who is designed for you will not care how much you eat or how far you run. He will care how much you love and how close you are to Christ.

Listen, it's okay to be healthy, but we all know there's a huge difference between being healthy and being trapped. You know it if it's you. And the choice to remain in the chains is yours. Christ has unlocked the key to the chains. It's your choice whether or not you will lay them down or keep holding onto them like a slave.

I pray you embrace your freedom today. Lay your chains down. Stop believing the LIES and believe the truth of God's Word that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and so dearly loved. Follow Him and walk away.

- Jill

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

All Hitched Up!

I'm sitting here after closing a long blog post I'd almost finished yesterday. I was blogging about how amazing marriage is and how fantastic my Mighty Man is and how he's (to pull from a movie line) "everything I never knew I always wanted" when I got a call from him.

MM: "Hey, babe. How's it going?"

Me: "Good! How are you?"

"Oh, not too bad. I wanted to just give you a quick call before my phone died. It's almost out of battery."

"Oh, cool. So, are you all set for tonight?"

"Yeah. You're still coming, aren't you?"

"Of course! I'll be there with bells and whistles and cookies!"

"Well, how far away are you?"


"Uh, from what?"

"Well, have you left yet?"

"No, it's doesn't start until 7:00 right?"

"No, babe. It starts at 6:00."

(I look at the clock, which reads 5:46 p.m.)

"WHAT?? No!! I haven't even showered yet!"

haha! Oh, man. Isn't that ironic? I was blogging about how amazing he is and how he has to put up with so much crap from me and how patient and understanding he is and how I'm trying to learn how to die to myself and live with someone else's interests in mind when I go and do this. I felt SO bad. I felt like I was letting down the man who had rescued me in so many ways over the past two weeks, and I just hated that feeling.

So, I stopped where I was in the blog, ran upstairs, threw on some deodorant, grabbed my monster cookies and headed out the door. About halfway out of the driveway I remembered that the school where MM teaches doesn't allow women to wear pants. Stop the car. Run back in. Put on a skirt. Speed into town.

I called my Momsy on the way in and almost cried. MM has been such an amazing blessing to me and I hate not being perfect for him. Events are a big deal for him in terms of showing love, and I hate it when I mess that up. Especially when he's the one in charge of the class and they're having a party that needs good cookies. :)

Momsy was encouraging and wise, though. This is just life. Things like this happen. It was an honest mistake and it was bound to happen at times. She said to just hug MM, tell him I was sorry and that I loved him and that he would forgive me.

You know what? She was right. MM was just glad to see me when I came in and joined the party, and we all wound up having a good time anyway. Plus, I was only 20 minutes late when I thought I would be at least 30. :) Yay! :) But it was a great time, and I got to meet all the wonderful people in MM's class "The Year" at Kansas City College and Bible School. :) There are some awesome men and women of God in that class, and I could tell that the Lord was really working and moving in their lives and encouraging them to seek Him and understand Him more. That was awesome, and it really inspired me.

It's been a long time since I actually took on a spiritual challenge and chose to seek the Lord by growing in wisdom. There have been so many major life events taking place that I had been doing everything I could just to stay sane and put one foot in front of the other. Wedding, moving, honeymoon, work, and oh yeah, eating disorder treatment. It was all just a bit overwhelming. And I'm just grateful that the Lord carried me through what was an incredibly challenging summer.

Now, however, I feel like there's a new season. God is calling me to renew my focus on Him in an academic way and to pursue Him intellectually again. This summer was very relational in my spiritual growth, and I learned so much about intimacy with Jesus. Now I want to KNOW Him more. I want to know more about Him and about what I'm called to do next now that I've come through so many changes. Lord, what is it that You would have me do?

I don't believe that it's any coincidence that I found out yesterday that my main source of freelance income would no longer be available. There's no such thing as coincidence anyway, so I know this is a matter of God's timing. It's a totally and completely fresh new season. I'm a Mrs. I've moved locations. I've taken on the responsibility of caring for a home and a husband. And I've got a fresh slate regarding work. Honestly, I would normally be freaking out about money, but I'm just kind of excited today because I feel God's hand and His renewal. I feel ready for something new. I feel capable for the first time in a long time. There's a new strength inside me that I'm enjoying, and I'm curious to see how God will use it. Provided I'm willing to accept the challenge and embrace it. Lord, give me courage to follow You.

Today is a new day. Life is a new life. This morning I got to get up, go for a run, make pancakes for my hubby and send him off to work after some great quality time together. Good cup of coffee, great sermon podcast from Pastor Joel (don't care what you think about him), and some time alone on the pavement just listening to Jesus. It's a brand new world. And I think I'm ready for it. Please pray for me as I head out to discover what the Lord has in store.

Okay, regarding marriage, the wedding and the honeymoon--it ROCKED!! :) :) The wedding day was an absolute dream! And I don't care what anyone says, I loved it and was able to savor each moment. I remember the details of the day and couldn't have asked for a better experience from start to finish. I remember my Momsy and sister helping me into the wedding dress. I remember how beautiful my bridesmaids looked. I remember standing with my PPB before walking into the sanctuary and seeing my nephew begrudgingly agree to carry the ring pillow down the aisle. (That was the CUTEST thing. haha! This little 2-year-old threw his fist down and stomped his feet: "I don't wanna! -pause- -sigh- Oh, all RIGHT!) PPB and I laughed so hard! :)

I remember PPB stepping on my dress as he was giving me away and my not being able to move forward to join MM. :) I remember the music, the message, the rings, the prayer, the smiles, the hugs. I remember the cold of the day and my nose turning red during pictures afterward. I remember dancing with my MM. I remember two-stepping with my PPB in a total dream come true. I remember my sister being beside me (and helping me in the potty--haha!). I remember dancing with the Commander in Chief and watching him dance with his bride to "Moonlight Serenade." I remember my cute nieces in their matching dresses and how much fun little LJ had making noise with her boots. I remember crying so hard when my Momsy gave me the locket containing my late father's picture in it and wishing that he'd been there to see me on that day. I remember my wedding coordinator (the QUEEN of burlap and lace) walking me through every moment and not letting me pass out. :) I also remember standing with my bridesmaid EE just before walking in and really thinking I WOULD pass out. :) I remember MM's gaze as I walked down the aisle. I remember hearing the world's most amazing guitar player pick out "Over the Rainbow" and "How Great Thou Art." I remember wishing to heaven that my final Goddess was with us that night as we danced. I remember my very pregnant friend and former co-worker smiling and winking at me as I passed her on the way up the aisle knowing how many conversations we'd had about heartache and boys before I met MM. I remember thinking I had the greatest family (old and new) in the world. I remember the drive home to KC with my new husband and us struggling to stay awake on the dark interstate. I remember walking into our house to a broken furnace and thanking God that I'd married a man who knew HVAC. :) I remember huddling with him over a vent that evening in order to get warm while the house warmed up. And I remember facing my biggest fear of sleeping in the same room with someone and waking up before I even knew my head had hit the pillow. :)

I remember it all. :) Thank God. :)

To those of you who are wondering, marriage has been amazing. I was always kind of a loner and enjoyed being by myself, but I've found that MM is different. I want to be around him. I miss him when he's not here. I love evenings when we get to sit together and watch Andy Griffith to unwind. I love handling conflict with him and learning how to give and take (that's going to be a lifelong lesson). I loved spending eight days with him in paradise without cell phones or distractions and getting to spend long days talking, playing and learning about each other. I love his humor, his strength, his integrity, his heart, his wisdom, his leadership, his guidance, his brilliant mind. I love him! And I thank God that I'm now Mrs. MM. :) I am happier now than I have been in--maybe forever. I know it won't be easy, but I'm confident that it will only get better with time. And on our 50th wedding anniversary we will have another party like this one to celebrate all the years of the Lord's faithfulness and love. (Though, I'm thinking not as elaborate...Weddings are crazy stressful. haha!)

Because I'm a typical bride, I'm a little slow on the thank-you cards. I want to find a way to make them unique and personal (and cheap), so I need to do a little creative work. But please know that MM and I thank everyone who attended or sent gifts. We are so grateful to be surrounded by such love and friendship, and we will get the formal thanks to you soon. In the meantime, please know that we are and were blessed by your generosity, and more than that, your support and love.

So, now that we're all hitched up, we're working on real life. And so far, it's amazing. :) And with the fresh new start, I don't think it could be more clearly God's timing. Please pray for us as we get started. Please pray for me as I seek the Lord and ask for His favor regarding work. And pray that both MM and I could focus on Jesus and truly love and serve Him as we love and serve each other.

Love and hugs to you all! :)
- Jilly (get it?) :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The First Relationship

So, okay. . . We're 1.5 weeks away from the wedding, and I have GOT to tell you that this project has been one of the most educational of my life. haha! :) It's taught me about relationships, about time-management, about finances, about people, about the Mighty Man (who just gets mightier every day), about myself and, most importantly, about the Lord.

I'd like to be all cute and funny and witty in this post, but the truth is that I'm just going to straight-up confess. I did it. I was one of those brides who got so caught up in life, work, wedding and fiance that I abandoned my relationship with Jesus, relegating it to static prayers and feeble attempts at quiet times. I wasn't consciously putting Him on the backburner, I just let the enemy distract me with other things and keep me running in circles while Jesus stood by waiting and watching. Of course He was involved, but I wasn't engaging with Him.

Finally, the other night at The United (which, if you're in the KC area on the last Sunday of any month, PLEASE come join--it's the most unreal worship experience), the Lord gently took my face in His hands and  pointed my eyes to Him. That's the best way I can describe it. I literally felt like He was kneeling there with me looking me in the eyes and reminding me that He was my first love.

Women, I don't know if you can relate to this or not, but I'm pretty sure you can. Okay...I'm TOTALLY sure you can. When you're in a relationship, you can get so caught up in making it work that you forget to make the FIRST relationship work. I totally was that girl. In getting prepared to marry the MM, I started focusing on how to make our relationship better and how to be who he needed me to be instead of focusing first on the Lord. My eyes should have been on Him and working on THAT relationship and becoming who HE wanted me to be. My relationship with the MM would naturally flow out of that. But I was getting it backwards.

You know what's funny is that it totally played itself out that way, too. The MM and I had some very interesting arguments over the course of that time, and some of them included some very interesting timing. Try arguing over text message when one of you is in a movie theater. Or, how about this? Try discussing anything relational during worship before the sermon. Doesn't work very well when one of you has to preach. Oh, Lord, have mercy. (Thankfully, He did.)

The Lord has been so good to me. He's been so patient. Yes, I've suffered the consequences of not focusing on Him (e.g. STRESS!!!!!!!), but I'm so thankful that He never leaves us. Man, we totally don't deserve His love and mercy and patience, especially when we just basically check out from Him for a while, but He's so merciful that He always lets us return to Him and enjoy His love and forgiveness.

Today, my encouragement to you is to remember that HE is your FIRST relationship. There is no relationship on earth that is more important than the eternal relationship you have with Jesus. Treat it that way. Spend time with Him. Be honest with Him. Talk to Him with transparency and let Him in. If you do that, the rest of the relationships in your life will only improve as you let His Spirit guide your interactions.

Okay, this bride-to-be has a ton to do, so I'm gonna scoot. :) Next time you hear from me, I'll probably be a Mrs.!! :) :) Can I get a Woot Woot??:)

Have a great day! :)
- Jill

Monday, August 20, 2012

Making Choices...A Novel Concept

Before I even begin, I have to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my Mighty Man!!! :) :) MM, I am so proud of you. So blessed by you. So honored to be your fiance. I always prayed for a man who would be brave enough to fight for me, and the Lord answered in the most clear and perfect way. You are my knight in shining armor, and I pray I can be the princess you deserve who rescues you right back. :) Love you!!

Okay...Gushy stuff aside. :)

It's been more than a month since I posted. Good grief! The time is flying! So many good things are taking place right now, but it feels like a I'm caught in a tornado screaming for my Auntie Em right now. :) But I think that's how life goes when you've got a reeeeeeally amazing life transition approaching. :)

Sooooo...We're getting married in less that seven weeks!!! Holy cow!! :) SO exciting! And this weekend I get to move into the place we'll be renting and start setting up shop before the Mighty Man joins me in October. I had my first bridal shower this weekend (THANK YOU to my amazing sister and friends for the most wonderful day!!), and we got the invitations and envelopes. Now...If I could only get a few minutes to address them. haha! :) Don't think you aren't invited if you don't get them until September 1. :) I'm breaking protocol on the 6-week rule, but only by a few days. It's just life.

Okay, so on top of all the wedding amazingness, I'm trying to pack up my apartment, which is taking a while. I spent time packing up the bookshelf yesterday and had forgotten just how complex of a task it is to pack books. It's like packing a jigsaw puzzle! You have to have the right sizes fit in the right spaces in order to maximize the box, which can't be too big, otherwise you won't be able to lift it. haha! It's a challenge! But it's fun. I rediscovered some of the books I'd stashed away that had meant a lot to me in the past. (Anyone remember my 6-month adventure of first dates back in 2006-ish? Yeah. TOTALLY found that book. haha!) But the books took a looooooooong time to pack. So, I'm having fun, but I'm like, "Okay...And I have how long until I move?"

Then, there's been work. I'm SOOOOOOOOOO excited!! I've picked up several more projects from the place I write blogs for, and it's been fantastic to spend my days researching different businesses and writing for their blogs. I couldn't think of a more fun job if I tried! And I've turned into a virtual encyclopedia. I even got to help my parents salvage their home foundation by sharing with them the need to put soaker hoses around the house perimeter to keep that part of the soil moist. haha! Again, huge blessing.

Of course, then you have the wedding planning itself. Like the invitations. YES!!! Praise God!!! I've always wanted wedding invitations and thought for years what mine would look like. Now they're in, and I'm so excited. They're GORGEOUS thanks to AMac and her amazing design. I can't wait to send them out! :) And the shot list for the photographers that I'm supposed to turn in. I get to look around online for wedding photos that I like so that they can see what kind of poses I want. And the playlist. I get to figure out what music we want at the reception. And the hotel rooms. And the tuxes. And the wedding ring for my MM. :) :) So much fun!!!

So little time!!! Hahahaha!

I've hit that point in life when there is physically not enough time to get everything done. And it's the first time I'm mature enough to call a spade a spade. To this point, I've always thought I could handle everything and do everything. I'd just kill myself trying to get everything done, not having any fun in the process and miss doing anything to completion. But I'm realizing now that maybe there's a better way. Maybe I have a choice. Maybe I can choose what gets done and what gets either delegated or delayed. :) Maybe I can ask for help. :)

Odd concept.

But at age 32, I'm finally realizing that I can choose. For so long, my life has dictated me. I've just kind of followed whatever was happening and not really chosen what was best. But a passage in Deuteronomy really caught my attention the other day. My Might Man shared this with me at a particularly difficult moment. It says: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live..." (Deut. 30:19).

God gives us minds. He gives us the power to choose. Life doesn't dictate us. We choose our actions. We choose to follow His leading, trusting that He has a good plan for us. We don't have to be dragged around by circumstances or busyness, which I'm convinced is a ploy of the enemy. He's trying to steal my joy out of EVERYTHING lately simply by telling me that I don't have time and that nothing will ever get done. But that's not true. And I can tell him it's not true. My God has everything under control (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28), and He has given me everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). I don't have to believe the lie that I have to stress out and foresake the joy of the good things around me. I can CHOOSE to have joy in the midst of chaos, realizing that God has a plan and that the enemy can't touch it. If I simply follow in God's ways, He'll take care of everything and give me favor where I need it. I just need to choose to follow Him and prioritize according to what He's set before me.

It's actually a good lesson in choosing what is important. I get to determine priorities now instead of prioritizing EVERYTHING. Now I can choose what matters most and focus on that instead of trying to put out every 5-alarm fire in life. Nope. I only have so much energy and time, and I need to let go of the rest. And I thnk that's key to finding God's joy--choosing His path and trusting Him to take care of the rest. :)

So, now if you find yourself dancing to the same song over and over at our wedding reception, you'll know why. haha! At least I'll try to pick a good one.:) Just kidding. God will make time for that...Later.

Love you all! :)
- Jill

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Season of Change

Since I last posted, there have been a few new developments in my life. I now love saurkraut, which I always thought smelled too gross to even taste but actually tastes amazing on rye with turkey, mustard and a little corned beef. And I also absolutely LOVE One Direction. haha! That song "Beautiful" or whatever it's called is the new constant play on my iPod. And, I'm happy to admit that I enjoy Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Carly Rae Jepsen and pretty much any of the five songs they play over and over on pop radio stations. :)

Other discoveries and developments? Turns out that Extra's Apple Pie and Mint Chocolate Chip gums are pretty much the standard for gum perfection now, along with light blue Stride. :) And even black decaffeinated coffee gets the job done when there's no alternative. :) Toaster Strudels and Pop Tarts won't actually kill you (even if it may seem like it at the time), and the inventor of mac and cheese was really hitting the mark. While I retain the right to use whole wheat pasta and fat free sour cream with my cheese, I am delighted to have made the connection here. And, last but not least, I've discovered that running is actually fun! It's just like anything else you love; you learn to really appreciate it when it's taken away from you for a time. I'm so thankful that my old friend is back, and I pray that we can find balance, peace and joy on the road.

The most important discovery I learned over the past month, however, was that life is full of change. (This might seem a little elementary to the rest of you, but I'm just now figuring this out.) There are times when things that are out of your control just rock your world, and you just have to find your way through it because there's no other choice.

That's where I've been: to the land of no comfort zone. To the land of everything being taken away and turned upside down. To the point at which I was literally on my knees realizing that I had nothing but Jesus. Everything that was comforting to me was gone. Absolutely every single tangible person and thing that had brought me solace was removed. Praise God.

I've been having trouble looking back on the experience as positive because of the amount of anxiety that it produced, but now removed from it I can see it as a huge gift. Only here could I ever have learned that our Father is truly all we need.

When people say that, it's not that they're saying we don't need money or food or water or shelter--duh. I'm finding that they're talking about emotions and mentality. We all have certain things that bring us comfort. Things like people, hobbies, foods, substances of all kinds, habits, places, etc. While these aren't bad things (blessings if held properly and aren't illegal), they can certainly keep us from seeing Christ clearly in His role as the first love of our lives--the only One who can satisfy us at the deepest and most intimate level.

Think about your greatest source of comfort. Is it a person? Is it sleep? Is it a substance? Is it a hobby? Is it your job? What if it was taken away? That can be an anxiety-producing thought. Now imagine ALL of your comforts being taken away. No loved ones. No home environment. No favorite foods. No familiar habits or pastimes. Imagine that all you have is a room with walls, food, water and a few strangers around you. Okay, even take the other people away. What do you do? How do you react?

No, this wasn't the severity of my situation. I'm just painting a worst-case scenario so that we all can realize the point. When Christ is all you have, you learn that Christ is all you need.

He's not an object that can be removed from our lives. He's not a cigarette that will be burned away. He's not a piece of pie that will eventually end or a piece of gum that will lose its flavor. He's not a good night's sleep that eventually brings an alarm. He's not even a human relationship that will eventually end either death or a breakup. He's eternal. He's forever. He's the beginning and the end. And the best part is that He loves us so much that He died for us and offers us an intimate relationship unlike anything we will ever experience here on earth. Not with people or things. He alone is constant.

Last night I read Hebrews 13. I know I've read verse 8 at least a thousand times, but last night I really understood it: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

Life is full of change. People come and go, and things are given and taken away. If we are holding onto these things so tightly that we can't see our eternal Lord, we will be crushed when they are removed. Thankfully for me, while I was devastated for a time, I was quickly rescued by God and His truth--that He would never leave me (also in Hebrews 13).

I have no idea where you're at or what you're clinging to for comfort, but I want to encourage you with this: Enjoy your comforts, but make sure you are enjoying them as temporary gifts from the Giver. Don't find your everything in anything that can and will be taken away by life and time. People and things were never meant to bring us constant peace--that can only be found in God alone.

If you have been clinging to anything above Him, I totally challenge you to reprioritize so that when it's time to let go of it, you will be able to do so with a peaceful heart. Or, you can just be hard-headed like me and let it happen before you're ready. :) Either way, do know that the Lord will be there, waiting to show you His faithfullness, peace and love. And that will never change.

Hugs to you all! :)
- Jill

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Rescue Mission

For those of you who are keeping track, I did actually write down a few of my mental blogs this week.

Thursday: "This morning's coffee tastes remarkably like Honey Nut Cheerios. I honestly can't think of anything better."

Friday: "I have a love/hate relationship with freshness seals, especially on peanut butter jars. While they protect my precious peanut butter from the germs and the outside world, they also prevent me from getting to it when I want it. I actually have to fight past the safety measures in order to get my goods."

Saturday: "Did Mayberry ever really exist? Like, did that lifestyle ever really take place, or was it just an idea that was captured on TV to make us long for it?"

Sunday: "Hollywood strikes again. They just don't get it. And we wonder why gender confusion is such a problem."

This final one I will explain.

So, I've been very vocal about how it's okay for women to want to be rescued. We were designed by God to feel that way! Not to say that we aren't strong, but we are strong in far different ways than men. And we are not created to battle in the same ways they are.

This week, I saw a preview for the upcoming movie Snow White and the Seven Huntsman. Everything in me wanted to scream. "SNOW WHITE??? You're messing with Snow White??? You've gone too far, Hollywood."

This is Snow White we're talking about! The high-pitched, sweet-as-sugar young woman who is the fairest of them all. The one who loves and cares for the ones who provide for her. The one who gets to be rescued by the prince on the white horse. (Who, by the way, needs to do that in order to fulfill his calling as a man.) Snow White!!

Now Hollywood has turned her into an action figure. This is insane. They already did it with Cinderella with "Ever After." And you can't find a new Disney movie that doesn't involve a woman saving a man's life through force if you tried for hours. There's even a new one coming out this summer that has a girl with a bow and arrow on all the movie posters getting ready to save the world.

Fine. Whatev. You'll excuse me, however, if I choose not to stand in line for a ticket.

It makes me a little sad. Obviously the women of Hollywood don't know and can't embrace the dream of being rescued. And the men are so lost as to how to do it that they've given over the role to us. It's heartbreaking.

For a long time I fought to be this woman. This kind of strong, physically capable, tough-as-nails woman who could rescue herself and keep up with any man. If you've paid attention to my blog, you've read posts about that. It's not that I wanted to be a man. NO way! But I was trying to take on their level of strength and capability when I had no idea that it wasn't my calling. It led me into such a desperate situation that my world truly crumbled around me.

Thank God. You know why? Because now I get to be TRULY rescued the way a woman was designed to be.

The Lord longs to rescue His daughters. He knows their needs and created them to need protection and security. Ultimately He wants to provide this, but He will, many times, use other people to do it.

This week, I was rescued. Truthfully, I've been being rescued ever since I first met my Mighty Man.

Since we've been together, MM and I have been through our share of issues, and each one has taught us a new and wonderul lesson. We've learned to see and experience Christ in deeper ways and have learned that it's so important to remain connected to Him in order to have a healthy relationship. But this week it went to a whole new level.

I won't give you details. They're not for the internet world to know. But what I will tell you is that our relationship was challenged. I myself was put in a compromising position (to say the least). And our entire upcoming marriage was put on the line. It was the most painful, difficult series of days that we've experienced so far.

Praise God. Because this finally put me face to face with the reality of my desperate need for being rescued. And it showed me the kind of man I get to trust for the rest of my life. The Mighty Man stepped up without hesitation. I've seen glimpses of this in him before, but this was like going from triple A to the Majors. And my man hit a grand slam in his first at bat.

As I faced the reality of my own brokenness and inability in certain areas, MM took over. He stood up and fought for his princess and did what needed to be done. ANYTHING that needed to be done. He refused to sit by and watch me be hurt, confused and scared. He rescued me. And he continues his fight today.

Ladies, if you don't know what this is like, I pray that God will bless you with the experience. He created men to fight for us in ways that we can't and shouldn't fight for ourselves. Whether Hollywood tells you that or not, it's the truth. And when it happens, it not only makes you love these men more and more, but also helps you draw so much nearer to Christ as you witness what He provides in your time of need.

I've been and am being rescued by two Mighty Men: my Father and my MM himself. And I know that they're working together. And if there's anything I can say to you today, it's that it's okay to be rescued, ladies. And men, you don't have to be scared to lead the charge. God has given you everything you need to be victorious in this quest, and He will help you to rescue the girl. You don't have to do it alone. None of us do. He's always with us and will never leave.

Love and hugs to you all!
- Jill

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mental Blogging

One of the funny things about being a writer is that I think in writing language. I'll see or experience something and immediately I'll start a train of thought begins as if I'm writing the opening line of a blog or article. Sometimes, if the thought is really profound, I might even start a book going in my head. :)

Take the other day for example. I ran out of paper towels, and I immediately started a blog in my head that began with, "I'm constantly amazed whenever I run out of paper towels. Every time I replace a roll, I subconsciously expect that the new roll will last forever and that I've seen the last of the empty cardboard..." Then, throughout the day, I added onto this little blurb in my head as related events came up. Later, I kept going with, "...It's the same with toilet paper, hand soap dispensers and laundry. They just feel like they should be one-and-done chores, yet they pop up every few days like annoying weeds that will never stop invading a flower bed."

Isn't that funny? I've heard that people do that with Facebook posts, too. They'll constantly think in terms of status updates. But I've often wondered what I should do with this. Should I keep a notebook handy and record all of the random sentences that my brain authors in a day? That would be an interesting experiment. Ha! Might be kind of scary, too. :)

Depending on the situation, some of these opening lines are serious, but they all have one thing in common: They all are written (or thought) with the goal of capturing the attention of a make-believe audience. With each one, I'm thinking up sentences that would ultimately engage a reader and spark their interest to keep reading. In fact, I bet if there was a market for a book of openening lines I could write a bestseller. But because I'm usually not around a notepad or computer, most of these thoughts come and go without landing. Even now I'm trying to think of more examples but I'm drawing a blank, which is disappointing because if I could just get them out into the world, I would love to know if anyone else thinks the same way. Like with the paper towel thing. Does anyone else ever think that? Is anyone else ever literally surprised when the roll of paper towels doesn't last forever?

Oh! Okay, here's another one. So, the other day I was putting a spoonful of peanut butter in my mouth when I started a mind blog: "There are only two condiments in this world that make any dish better: peanut butter and cream cheese. You can add them to both savory and sweet dishes, and they will make it taste a hundred times better." Does anyone think that? Not that it's a life-changing question, but I'd be interested to hear someone else's thoughts on peanut butter. :)

And, today, as I opened my door to head out for a run, I paused to pick up the newspaper. As I tossed it inside, my mind began to write. "Every Sunday morning feels a little like Christmas. I come down the stairs to find the most perfectly wrapped gift waiting on my doorstep begging me to open it and discover the prize inside."

I've always known I was a writer. Words are my joy, and I live to craft, develop, design and play with them. I especially love finding new ways to say old things, and I get seriously hacked when words are misused, mistreated or, worse yet, disrespected--something that has basically become a national pastime. And it absolutely kills me that it's become acceptable to use this kind of improper, substandard language.

One of the things I've learned through the past few months of freelancing is that people just don't care as much about quality anymore. Through my work writing content for an online marketing company, I've spent a lot of time reading business websites and doing research, and, man, people will just put anything out there in order to fill up space quickly. If you want to find quality writing, you have to deliberately go to a writing-based source like a national magazine or newspaper, otherwise you'll just start swimming through a pool of overused phrases, stale cliches and filler text. It's sad.

I think all of this is boiling down to two points for me:
1. That I want to start writing down my mind blogs to see if any of them turn into material of substance.
2. That this whole thing is reminding me of excellence. The world may not value quality over quantity anymore, but the good thing is that this makes the quality goods stand out. And that's what I'm hoping will happen for me as I continue to pursue writing and editing--that the quality of my work will be what sets me apart and generates business. Because at the end of the day (mentally noted that I used a cliche), excellence is a great way to bring glory to Christ, which is what I believe is the purpose of life in general, be that through work or whatever we do.

While I was at FCA, one of the most popular verses that we would quote was Colossians 3:23-24: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." It makes me think about my Mighty Man who, even though he's been super busy, poured his soul into crafting a soul-stirring sermon for this morning instead of recycling something he's done before. I think about my future brother-in-law who pours his heart into leading worship at our church every Sunday because God has gifted him to sing and play. (Side note: Way to go to both King AND Queen Biz today for rocking it out!) And I think of my mom's cleaning lady who actively looks for projects to complete around the house even if they aren't part of her official list of chores. I'm inspired by people who do what they do with excellence instead of cutting corners. It makes me want to do the same.

Today, as I share my quirky writer's mind with you all, I hope that the Lord stirs something in you about what you do and how you use your gifts and passions to reveal Him. Consider how you use your skills and whether or not you are really putting them to use with quality. If so, how does that reveal Christ to the world around you? And, if you, like me, experience personal shock when you pull the last paper towel from the roll, would you let me know? Just curious...

Have a wonderful week, everyone! :)
- Jill

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Solid Dose of Reality

My poor fiance. . . I have really been a challenge for the last week. He really is a trooper, and I just need to say thanks to him right now for being such a great encourager to me tonight. Love you, Mighty Man! :)

So, a couple of months ago, I made the big decision to leave my full-time job and start doing independent editing and writing work. It was a step that both me and the MM believe was the right one according to the Lord's leading, and I still feel that confirmation today. While I miss my FCA family, I know this is where I'm supposed to be.

However, as with all major changes in life, I've stumbled across a new crop of challenges as a result. There have been a few obvious ones such as where my little independent self will get her next paycheck, but there also have been a few issues that I didn't expect. One major one? The blow I would get to my pride.

When I launched out into this world of independent editing and writing, I was all fired up to do what I felt I was created to do: edit the work of others, making it clear and sharp, while also writing my own projects on the side. Easy enough, right? Of course! There was plenty of market for it, and I had tons of experience! Who wouldn't want me to write for them or edit their materials?

Now, before you think I'm absolutely desperate, I will say that the Lord has so graciously provided some contract writing projects that I'm enjoying. Through a few connections, I've been able to stay busy by writing web content and helping small business owners get great text for their online projects. I really love serving them in that way, and it's been a blast.

However, when it has come to the area of editing and writing major projects like books--which is really what I eventually want to do--I've hit a few speed bumps. I sent out resumes and emails to some of the publishers that I was connected to through FCA thinking that my credentials would get me in the door, only to be informed that no one needs editors right now. Not even experts like THE Jill Ewert.

Seriously. That's how I felt! Until this week, I totally thought I was serious business! I didn't realize it, but I totally found myself thinking, "Come on! I was the magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes! I interviewed Tony Dungy, Albert Pujols and Drew Brees for crying out loud. Doesn't anybody know this about me? I'm legit!"

Oh, sister. Take a good look in the mirror and get real.

Honestly, it was almost more humbling to realize my depth of pride than to be rejected by the publishers. I couldn't believe how highly I thought of myself and how much gratification I had gotten from my career. Now I'm realizing that just like everything else it can all change in a day. And that I'm just human.

So, over the past few days and hours, I've learned a little something. While it's good to recognize your own gifts and skills and work to maximize them, it's important to know that they don't define you. God gives you worth and value based on the fact that you are His child. Period. The gifts He gives you are to be used to bring Him glory, not to bring you false identity. If we lose perspective on that, we'll wind up depressed and discouraged when these gifts are challenged by life circumstances. And, trust me, they will be.

I think God does that on purpose so that we won't get too big for our britches and, instead, will keep Him in mind as the Giver of these gifts. It's not that He wants to level us, but that He wants to protect us from false self-sufficiency. When we start worshipping our gifts and talents (and really ourselves), we forget that we need Him at all. Then, when life throws us one of its inevitable curveballs, we get crushed emotionally and mentally by the loss of our security and identity.

The truth and reality is that God is IT. He's the only thing that doesn't change, won't let us down and remains totally and completely constant. Our jobs won't last forever. Our health will come and go. Our relationships will hit highs and lows. But God and His love will remain the same no matter what. And never are we more able to see this than when our false sources of identity are challenged. Thank God.

Today, as I snack on my humble pie, I'm trying to focus on the positives of this whole thing. Thank God that He showed me my false identity and my pride. Otherwise, I would have continued to believe the lie that my gifts and career somehow gave me value. I'm sure I'll still struggle with it as seasons change, but at least for now I'm aware of His truth and love in a greater way. Thanks, Lord.

Have a great week, y'all! :)
- Jill

Monday, April 23, 2012

Daniel Faith

I really just had to laugh this morning when I read the Scripture assigned to the devotion I was reading. It pretty much addressed my current situation in such a vivid way that I really could only laugh. Oh, Father. You know. . . :)

So, there have been a TON of changes in my life lately including the change of a job and, of course, the pending marriage. Add to that the fact that we're looking for a new place to live, and I'm pretty much on a totally different path than I was even at the start of the year.

I'll be completely honest. It's been HARD to trust God through this. Not with the marriage. I'm sure I'm with the Mighty Man of my dreams. Not with the living situation. Duh. I'm sure I'm supposed to share a roof with my hubby. Not with the job situation. I'm sure I followed the Lord's guiding. But the trust has come in provision more than anything. Now that I'm an independent writer and editor, I no longer have a steady paycheck. It's a little bit different than what I've been used to in the past.

Okay, a lot different.

Okay, drastically different.

Okay, like, it's killin' me.

Not that I'm starving to death. Not that I don't have work. Praise God! He's blessed me with plenty to keep me busy. But the absence of a steady paycheck and benefits has really rocked my boat, and I've found it to be the latest hot-button stressor in my life. (There's always something the enemy uses, and this one is it for me right now.)

We had a great meeting at church last night, and the topic came up about how easy it is for our mood to be based on our bottom line. Whether or not we have money determines our level of peace and joy. Oh, man. Talk about convicting. While that's entirely human, it is just that: entirely human.

Jesus told us over and over to seek Him and He would provide. The Word CLEARLY states that God is faithful and will meet all of our needs. So, why is it so difficult for me to trust that He will cover me in this area? I'm seeking Him. I'm doing the work He brings. I'm seeking out more. I believe I'm doing His will. What more do I need to do? Learn to trust in the process. I think that's the key.

This is why I laughed when I read the passage from the devo today. Check out Daniel 6:1-10:

Darius decided to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, stationed throughout the realm, 2 and over them three administrators, including Daniel. These satraps would be accountable to them so that the king would not be defrauded. 3 Daniel distinguished himself above the administrators and satraps because he had an extraordinary spirit, so the king planned to set him over the whole realm. 4 The administrators and satraps, therefore, kept trying to find a charge against Daniel regarding the kingdom. But they could find no charge or corruption, for he was trustworthy, and no negligence or corruption was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We will never find any charge against this Daniel unless we find something against him concerning the law of his God.”

6 So the administrators and satraps went together to the king and said to him, “May King Darius live forever. 7 All the administrators of the kingdom, the prefects, satraps, advisers, and governors have agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an edict that for 30 days, anyone who petitions any god or man except you, the king, will be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Therefore, Your Majesty, establish the edict and sign the document so that, as a law of the Medes and Persians, it is irrevocable and cannot be changed.” 9 So King Darius signed the document.

10 When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went into his house. The windows in its upper room opened toward Jerusalem, and three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Verse 10 was what got me. When Daniel learned this tragic news, he did JUST what he had done before. He went and prayed and THANKED God. What an awesome response!! :) You know, when we get challenging news, how often do we turn IMMEDIATELY to God and pray? Better yet, how often do we include thanks? Even better yet, how often do we do so in front of a window in the face of our enemies so that they can CLEARLY see that we aren't afraid of them and that we trust God and will seek Him no matter what?

I just laughed. Daniel wasn't shaken at all. He went straight to an open window and prayed and thanked God.

Today, I want Daniel's faith. Well, I want Jill's faith, but with extra strength from the Lord. I want to trust Him completely--to find His peace and joy regardless knowing that HE IS FAITHFUL.

If you're like me today, would you join me in praying and trusting and praising? Let's actually trust God. Let's actually really accept His peace and believe His Word when it says that He'll supply all of our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. A friend told me last week that there are more than 8,000 promises in the Bible. With a faithful and honest God, we can trust them all.

Love you all!
- Jill

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rescue Me

It sounds kind of cliche, but I'm on a path of self-discovery. Long story, and one that really doesn't need to be posted on the internet. (Wait for the best-seller. haha! JK.) But it's one that has been 32 years in the making.

I've posted about it before, but it's something that keeps unfolding in my life: how much I abandoned my true self in order to become someone I thought others expected and wanted me to be. The fact that who I was created to be wasn't good enough and that something else was better.

After 32 years, hours of therapy (haha! totally serious), scads of books, and a LOT of prayer, I'm finally starting to embrace Jill as she is.

In part of this journey, I'm learning that it's possible to be a strong woman without abandoning womanhood altogether. Ladies, I don't know if you've ever read the book "Captivating" by John and Stasi Eldredge, but in this book they say that one of the common desires among all women is the longing to be rescued. Amen!!

As little girls, we dream about being one of those movie princesses or damsels who is fought for and saved by a brave, gritty, manly warrior. Okay, the princes weren't all that gritty, but the heroes I loved really were. I had a particular eye for Robin Hood. Now there was a warrior! Not only did he love robbing the rich to save the poor, he also loved Maid Marian and scaled walls, shot flaming arrows, and faced death for her. My heart awakened in new ways when the Kevin Costner version of the movie came out. I will never forget how I felt when Marian tearfully embraces him, crying, "You came for me!" And he responds, "I would die for you." OH MY! From that day on, I wanted a man who would fight for and die for me.

Today, I don't think women realize that these desires are okay. At least I didn't. Part of what I've wrestled with is trying to be both a woman and a man--to be strong, powerful and fierce in order to keep up with the men today. To follow the trend of gender equality. To make a name for all women out there by rising to the top. To show everyone that we're just the same as men and that we don't need to be rescued.

But we do! Oh, so desperately. I don't know a woman alive who doesn't need to be rescued. Really. You can argue with me, but I'll stand by what I believe. I'm convinced that it's part of how God made us.

But here's the thing. I also realize that not all women are going to be "rescued" by a man here on earth. There are plenty of women who will be single all their lives. That's more than okay! The rescue doesn't have to happen at the hands of a Robin Hood. (Or, in my case, of a Mighty Man--Love you!) It first happens at the hands of God--the One who creates this desire in us so that we will come to Him first.

Do you realize that Jesus already fought for and died for you? I know this post is speaking more to the heart of women today, but it's what's on my mind. Ladies, you HAVE a Prince. His name is Jesus. He fought for you. He went to a cross for you. He healed women just like you. He forgave them. He rescued sinful women from being stoned. He LOVES you. He did die for you! And He's also coming back for you.

GOOD HEAVENS! Even just writing this makes me want to cry. My Lord, my Jesus, my Prince is fighting for me and rescuing me. Hallelujah! And I don't have to ignore the fact that I want Him to. I was created to want that! I don't have to pretend anymore. I am a woman who needs to be rescued. Thankfully, I have a Lord who has. And is. And always will.

Ladies, it's okay if you want to be rescued. We were designed to be! You don't have to be a man. You don't have to be so strong that you bear the weight of the fight on your own. You don't have to ignore the desires of your heart--that tender side is okay! Let Jesus fight for and rescue you. I'll say it again: He loves you so much that He died for you. Let Him be your knight in shining armor! Or, in my case, the best gritty Robin Hood ever. :)

Men, sorry this was all about the ladies, but hopefully it will help you understand us a little more. Someday I'll write another blog on how Jesus wants to strengthen you guys and equip you and actually use you as part of the rescuing process for us women. But later. :)

Before I go, however, I want to honor my Mighty Man, who truly rescues me daily. God is using you, my love, to help me understand Jesus' love for me more and more. I'm so humbled and grateful to be your princess. :) Praising Him for you this morning. :) Thank you for being His warrior. :)

Love and hugs to you all!
- Jill

Monday, February 20, 2012

The REAL Highest and Greatest End

I don't know what it is about dried flowers, but I can't make myself get rid of them. haha! :) Ever since the Mighty Man and I got engaged, I have been dreading the moment when I would have to dispose of my beautiful roses. So, I just decided that I'm not gonna. I cleaned out the vase, placed half of the dried petals in an old jar and then kept seven of the dried roses/stems and put them in a smaller bottle along with the baby's breath sprigs. It looks awesome! :) Thanks for the lovely flowers, Mighty Man. You are my knight in shining armor, and you rescue me daily. :)

Cool news this week! The picked me up as a stringer to cover Christianity in the Kansas City area! Yay!! I'm enjoying writing so far, and it's been an awesome outlet for me to cover topics outside of my comfort zone (i.e. sports). Though, if you check out my site, you'll see that two of my three articles deal with sports. haha! But it's just to get me started. I fully want to talk about so many other things going on in the area and what God is doing here. It's going to be great!

The first article, if you haven't read it already, was about the Mighty Man's church youth outreach. It is an AMAZING ministry, and one that shouldn't happen outside of the power of God. Seriously. They don't have much money, yet they are able to reach about 200 inner-city youth every Wednesday evening by running buses all over KCK and bringing kids in to a local community center to hear God's truth. It's awesome! I'm so thankful for the pastors and volunteers.

I've been communicating a lot about our church lately, so I'm hoping you're not tired of hearing about it. But I guess that's part of what God is doing in my heart lately. He's inspiring me through what He's doing in this teeny tiny little church at 4473 Adams. And it's making me realize how lopsided my view of impact has been for so many years.

I've worked in a global ministry for almost 10 years, and I think on some level, I've adopted the mindset that the only way to make a difference is to "go big or go home," but that's so not true. God has a purpose for FCA on a global scale, but it doesn't in any way lessen the power of what He's doing in small churches like Rosedale. The impact on those kids on Wednesday nights is every bit as meaningful as the impact of a colossal sports ministry that has to operate on the big scale. It's just a different situation. Not greater, not lesser. It's just different.

It's kind of changing my heart, too. I've always thought that I had to be part of something global and work toward the highest and greatest possible end. But what if the highest and greatest possible end looks small by the world's standards? What if the highest and greatest possible end is a one-on-one relationship with a girl at Rosedale who needs a hug? What if the highest and greatest possible end is putting $5 in the pouch at church as it passes by, even if it's not in my "big" weekly tithe? What if the highest and greatest possible end is being led around a crowded gym floor at a community center by a tiny 5-year-old girl who just wants to play for a while? I'm getting it now. The highest and greatest possible end can't be measured by human standards. It must be measured by God's.

So, today I'm celebrating the work of God at every level. Yes, my "work" at a worldwide ministry is awesome, but so is the new adventure at Rosedale Church, which is most certainly making a big difference in the community. Praise God for whatever He's doing wherever He's doing it. In His eyes, it's all Kingdom-sized. :)

Love you all!
- Jill

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Always a Writer

I must blog. I am sitting here on a Sunday evening doing Sunday evening things, and, in an effort to familiarize myself with pop culture, I turned on the Grammy Awards for background noise.


Is it just me?

No slight against Chris Brown here. The man is wildly talented! He can dance like few people on the planet. I bet the Lord smiles on him when he pop and locks (is that still a relevant term?) on beat. But I wonder if He isn't a little brokenhearted watching him prostitute his talents for the affection of the world. Sorry if that's a little rough, but it's kind of how I feel.

A former roommate of mine used to refer to Michael Jackson as one of the greatest intended worship leaders of all time. Interesting philosophy, isn't it? Unbelievable gifts given to those who would so tragically fail to realize that they'd been blessed in order to use those gifts for His glory.

This is a tough concept because it could easily be taken as if everyone should be in vocational ministry. SO not true. The point is simply that it's a capital miss if people don't recognize their talents as opportunities to both bless and be blessed.

Obviously no one knows a person's salvation, so I'm not going to point out anyone in an example to the contrary and single out a Christian in a "secular" industry--especially in pop culture. You hear things, but only God knows the heart. Even now I feel a little judgmental calling out Chris Brown and Michael Jackson. Who knows what their hearts beat when it comes to Christ? I can't know that.

Anyway...So, the Grammys. Interesting show. I wonder what Dave Grohl really means when he screams "I never wanna die!" into his microphone. I wonder what's going on in his heart? In his soul? I wonder if he's satisfied with life. I wonder if he knows that the Lord created his very fingers, which so fantastically slam the strings of his blue guitar. (FYI: I don't follow the music scene much, so if Grohl has publically stated anything about faith, I obviously won't know about it. If I seem naive, it's because I am! haha! This is one reason I'm "studying" the Grammys.)

Do I have a point? Yes.

Back to my opening line. I have to blog.

I'm getting ready to go through a variety of major life transitions, and I'm having to filter through what about me stays the same and what changes. What passes with the seasons, and what is locked in? One thing: my relationship with Christ. Steadfast. He will NEVER leave my heart. I am sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1, somewhere).

But what else? What about me will be there for the long-haul?

One thing is writing. I've realized that by now. No matter where I go, what I do, what roles I play, I fully believe that God has placed this gift/talent/passion in my life and that it will last as long as I have a functioning brain. And I hope it does! I LOVE it!

When something happens to me--good, bad, big, small, funny, sad, whatever--the first thing I want to do is write about it. It's how I express myself. It's how I process information. It's how I communicate best with others. It's one of the main ways I pray. The written word comes so much more naturally to me than the spoken or even the thought. Don't know why. It just does.

The older I get, the more I learn about how much of a blessing this is. The more I understand it, the more I can use it for good. Yes, I can use it to grow spiritually. Yes, I can use it to help others see Jesus more clearly (at least I hope so!!). Yes, I can use it to encourage others. And that's what I want to do! I believe it's one of the reasons I was created! And you know what? I believe that nothing can steal that from me because I believe it's God-protected. Whether I'm in my little one-bedroom apartment, the future home of me and the Mighty Man--whether I'm in my office at FCA or behind the counter of a coffee shop--whether I'm rich or poor--I will always be a writer. Well, let me rephrase, because I hate it when people label themselves as anything other than a child of God. I will always be a daughter of the Most High God who loves to express things with written words.

So, what's your thing? Maybe it's more than one thing. What are the things that God has given you that will be with you forever? Whatever that is, how are you stewarding that gift? Do you know that you were given that ability/passion as a way of drawing closer to Jesus by using it? Are you aware that you can use that gift in some way to bless others and draw them closer to Christ as well? Man, I hope so. There's nothing like using those gifts knowing that the Holy Spirit is in it with you.

Well, friends! If you're watching the Grammys, maybe you can explain to me why the aforementioned Dave Grohl has something pink and strappy around his wrist. haha! OH! The Beach Boys are back!!!!!! Okay, I gotta go. This WILL be worth watching. I hope. :)

Go forth and use your gifts for good!! BIG hugs, all!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mrs. Mighty Man

We're ENGAGED!!! :) :) :)

Hi, everyone! It's official! If you haven't heard the news or read it on Facebook, the Mighty Man asked me to marry him last Friday. :) And I said yes, of course. How any girl could turn down the proposal of such a wonderful, godly man is beyond me. But I'm praising God that this one chose me. :) Thank you, Mighty Man, for picking me to be your princess. :) I'm thankful beyond measure.

It's so funny. I have been telling folks that I can see why the wedding industry is so lucrative. There are SO many material things to get lost in! Good grief! The day after the engagement, I went to the bookstore just to find an inexpensive wedding planner/notebook/checklist, and there were so many to choose from! And for every topic! "Getting married in less than four months? We have you covered!" "Wedding on a budget? Get this planner!" (Which is weird, because that was one of the most expensive.) "Destination wedding? Pick me!" And, of course, each one says the same thing, just with different-colored paper. haha! Oh, well. That's half the fun of being a bride, I guess.

But with all the chaos, I quickly realized that it's going to take a major effort to remain focused on Christ as the point of this wedding. At the end of the day, the Mighty Man and I want this to be a way of bringing praise to Jesus. Our marriage is His design and His purpose, so we want that to be the focus. But wow. Invitations, flowers, colors, dresses...those can all get more attention than they deserve. And easily.

That's one reason why I'm so thankful for the MM. He's so laid back! I don't know how he does it. haha! Nothing phases him. And I so need that. I'm pretty high-strung most of the time and like to have an agenda and to-do list for all occasions. He is so good at helping me see the bigger picture of God's hand at work and His timing. MM has the gift of being the best tranquilizer. They should really bottle him and sell him. :) He'd put Xanax out of business! :)

There's really no spiritual lesson for the day other than my prayer request. And, I guess, a reminder to all of us not to let second-place things take first. It might be a wedding, a job, a sport, a vacation, a ministry even--whatever it is, don't let it rule your life. That's God's role and no one else's. Lay down whatever you're fixated on and allow Him to be the Lord over it. Search the Bible for passages that help you remember this, too. There are tons of them! In fact, I'll leave you with one:

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

Hugs to you all! :) Have a great day!
- Jill (The Future Mrs. Mighty Man)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hot tea, John Schneider, and Jesus.

I think my new love language might be hot tea. haha! :) I have such an affection for coffee (affection? addiction?), but lately I've been craving tea. It comes in so many wonderful flavors! Peppermint, Wild Sweet Orange, Cinnamon Spice, Vanilla Roobios, Chai, Earl Grey, Sleepytime (um, yes please)--you name it! If there's an appealing flavor, I'm sure there's a tea to go with it. Plus, its health benefits are through the roof. Why do I always forget how much I love this stuff? haha!

Yesterday, I took a spontaneous vacation day and had a chance to screen a movie that had been sent to FCA for review. Um, wow. I bawled like a little girl. (Or like a perfectly normal grown woman with emotions.) It was called "October Baby," and it's coming out March 23.

I won't give it all away, but it's about a girl who is the survivor of a failed abortion. You follow her journey as she discovers who she is, both literally and spiritually. It's fantastic! But the best part is the relationship between her and her adoptive dad, played by John Schneider. (My sister will just DIE! We're both fans from way back, but she's, like, a megafan. With good reason, of course, as he IS a rock star.)

Man, this dad LOVES his daughter. He's not her biological father, but it's obvious that that makes zero difference to him. That is clearly shown through the pain he experiences as he walks (or tries to) with his daughter through the identity crisis.

Sometimes I can't imagine being a parent who has to watch a child suffer while there's nothing they can do about it. That has to be one of the most heartbreaking experiences in life. And, obviously, every parent has to go through it at some point. You want so badly just to fix your child's problem, but you can't, and it tears you up inside. This person whom you love more than anything in the world is struggling, and there's not a thing you can do to save him or her. How gut-wrenching must that be?

Sure, you could lock them in a closet in your house and try to protect them, but what good would that do? How would that help them? You can talk until you're blue in the face, but they just don't get it. Or, what if it's medical? What if there's cancer? Your hands are completely tied, and the only thing you can do is pray. Wow. I can't imagine.

Kind of reminds me of God as our Father. He gives us choices, and has to watch as we deal with them. He could lock us away and protect us from everything, but He knows that wouldn't help us. We'd never get stronger. We'd never need faith. We'd never know we needed Him. We'd never develop a relationship with Him at all. So, He lets us choose for ourselves, always offering the wise way, but never demanding that we take it. And always there to pick us up when we stumble and redirect us back to His path.

Wow. What a God. Every time I stop to think about who He really is, I feel like I get a little punch in the stomach. It's because I know that I don't have a constant proper perspective of Him. I don't realize who He is and His unbelievable love for me--what He does for me constantly, daily, hourly, by the second. His grace is constantly being poured out on me. His peace is always available. His joy; His very presence. And yet, I forget. I minimize Him. I humanize Him. I ignore Him.

Oh, Father.

The part that really gets me is how willing He is to take me back. The story of the Prodigal Son has always been a favorite of mine, as I feel like a prodigal very often. I go off with my riches and play in the mud pits, ashamed of what I've done and scared to go back. But when I do, He runs to meet me with open arms and throws a party.

Now, let me ask you this: Why would you NOT want this kind of relationship? Why would you NOT want this kind of unconditional love from the God of the entire universe? That's maybe the most baffling thing of all.

Through His Son, Jesus Christ, we are offered forgiveness for EVERYTHING. Every mud puddle we've ever trampled through. Every pig sty we've ever wallowed in. Every sin, every stain. Jesus Christ gave His life so that we could be forgiven and restored completely. And even more, that we could LIVE--both here on earth and forever with Him. That we could have an abundant, full life here and go on to live in relationship with Him when we transition to heaven.

Man...If you don't know Jesus, you have GOT to. He is the everything you've ever wanted. He's the everything you've ever needed. He's the everything! You've got to get Him. You've got to allow Him to get you! You've got to. How can you possibly live without Him? All your pain, all your sin, all your trouble--you can take it to Him!! And He will love you, care for you, forgive you, carry you. Just invite Him in! He stands at the door of your heart and knocks. Please, let Him in. It's not just about "fire insurance" and avoiding hell. It's about living in peace and joy here on earth! Let Him be the Father you've always wanted. He LOVES you!

With that being said, I'm out.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Closing Tebow Thoughts

I wonder if this isn't a sign of maturity. Last week the Mighty Man and I went on a date before he left town for a week. It was to Jiffy Lube for mutual oil changes. hahaha! :) You might be over 30 when... :) I don't mind. I think it was awesome! Totally responsible. :) We're growing up. :) Define irony, though. Right after the oil change, I got home and checked my mail only to find a coupon for $15 off at Jiffy Lube waiting in my mailbox. (*sigh*) Oh, well. :) Maybe that's encouragement to get it done more regularly.

Since my last post, there has been so much going on! I had a ton of feedback from my post on Tim Tebow, which was awesome. Some folks agreed; some didn't. And that was awesome! Certainly the whole point of this was to talk about it and to seek/find the Lord.

I really loved watching the Tebow Mania play out. It raised so many questions and forced Christians to evaluate their personal level of public witness. What they believed about it and what they were comfortable sharing and why. What kind of public witness we all are called to. It was highly entertaining to watch some of the Facebook discussions every time Tim would make a new statement (or score another crazy-awesome touchdown).

Personally, I thought it was completely awesome. His heart was so sincere in his desire to honor and love the Lord and to share the name of Jesus. I fully believe that all Tim wanted to do was to let others know that they had a Savior available to them. That he wasn't operating in his own strength, but in the strength of the Lord. Who on earth would fight that?

My opinion? Any naysaying was based in selfishness. People made it about themselves and what they were comfortable with rather than allowing a child of God to express himself in the way in which he wanted. It reminded me of Scripture saying that the would would hate Christians because of Christ. I believe that's what happened with Tim. And what was truly sad was that most of the hating came from the Body of Christ. AHH! Why on earth was that?

Here was someone who had the guts to take a HUGE stand for Christ, and all some folks wanted to do was to tear him down. Why? Why on earth would you want to stop someone from bringing glory to the Lord? Tim wasn't saying anything that was out of line with Scripture. "I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me the ability..." There's NOTHING wrong with that. He never said God had caused him to win; he just said that God had given him the abilities that he used on the field. I'm sure if someone had asked him, he would have said that God gave Tom Brady the same ability to beat them last Saturday night.

What is wrong with that? To me, nothing. I loved every minute of it. I, honestly, WISHED that I had half the courage of Tim Tebow to just speak the name of Jesus and not care what kind of fiery darts came at me as a result. Isn't that right in line with Paul's prayer in Ephesians 6:19-21:

"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

Why were we so busy tearing down this courageous heart instead of praying that he be courageous enough to keep standing for Christ? That just makes me angry.

Aren't we one Body of believers? Shouldn't we be empowering each other to be who God has called us to be at the moment? I believe Tim's role from the Lord was to proclaim the Lord's name while he was on a big stage. And I believe we should have been praying for him the whole time and then just focusing on doing our part: being ready to answer the questions of faith that came up as a result.

Friends, let's stop trying to control each other and let God take care of the actions of others. It's not our responsibility to manage those in the spotlight. Rather, let's focus our own hearts on the Lord and on seeking Him in our own lives. Let's pray for the Body of Christ and focus on what God has called us to do--not on what He's called others to do.

I'm excited and encouraged! I can't wait to see what the Lord continues to do in the world of sports. This season, it was headlined by Tebow Mania. Who knows what next season will bring? Or what the Super Bowl will bring yet this year? Either way, I know that He's at work in all things, whether we can see it in the life of the main players or not.

Praise God for His love and mercy to us all! :)

Love you guys!
- Jill

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Passion, Purpose and Spilled Milk

Funny story. So, last night, I was getting ready for bed and getting ready to pour myself a glass of milk like I always do. Well, I have a habit of always shaking the carton before I pour it. Don’t know why. Just habit. So, I go to shake it not realizing that I’d already taken the lid off. Haha! Yep! Milk flew everywhere, just like a scene from out of a sitcom. I busted a gut. It was hilarious! The miser in me, though, was angry that we’d wasted, like, $.50, though. Haha! :) But, truly, there is NO use crying over spilled milk.

I’ve been having a BLAST this week. The kind folks at my book publishers gave me my first freelance editing project, and I’m just living it up! I’m so thankful for this opportunity for two reasons. One: Because I’m getting to read a very cool book that is challenging me spiritually and
bringing me closer to Christ. Two: Because I am learning more about my talents and how much they bring me joy and glory to God.

This weekend, the KC Star ran a section for those who were trying to start fresh this year and discover their passions. They said that one clear way to find your area of passion is to list out the things you do that make you lose track of time. I thought about that for a while, and because I’m
such a clock-watcher, I couldn’t think of many. But when I sat down to edit this project, I quickly found out that editing is one of my things! I absolutely love being able to take someone’s thoughts and make them clear and concise in written word. It’s so much fun! And I know it’s such a gift from God. And the best part is that it DOES bring Him glory! Because I can take the
talents He’s given me and put them to work for His Kingdom by helping Christians communicate lessons and truth to others, I am privileged to help advance His Kingdom here on earth. HALLELUJAH!! :)

I want to be careful here and make sure that I don’t communicate that you have to work in quote-unquote ministry in order to glorify God. Totally not true. My Mighty Man’s dad is gifted with numbers, and he’s able to bring glory to God by accounting. My Momsy is able to bring glory to
God through her attention to detail in a clerical role in which she gets to use another gift for His Kingdom: her people skills. (She’s such a prayer warrior and sweetheart to those around her—and that’s a talent/gift!) But what I’m saying is that when you strike that chord of combining what you are good at with what you love, you really hit a God-given sweet spot. And I believe that He’s created us all to discover that. It pleases Him when we are filled with joy by serving Him. Scripture tells us that we were created to enjoy our work, and I fully believe that we can when we are operating in His strength and gifts.

Okay, second note: This doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong spot if you hate your job. That’s between you and God. It could be a relational issue, a time-management issue, or a variety of other things. But that’s between you and God whether or not you are in a position of maximizing your gifts and talents. What I can encourage you to do is to pray about it and seek out the areas of passion that He has instilled in you. He gave you gifts for areason and wants to use them to bless you, others and the world around you. To make a difference in the lives of others by showing His truth and love and character—one aspect of which will be His joy, which you will display as you work.

So, off I go to edit some more. Good thing is that it’s also magazine copy deadline week, so I’m getting double-duty of editing for the next few days, both at work and at home. Yee haw!!! (Mighty Man, I miss the heck out of you, though! My computer is no match for the joy you bring me. Guess I have a little lesson to learn in time-management as I discover these passions, too.) :)

Here’s to praying we all can find our passions in life and live them out in the full, abundant life that Christ promised in John 10:10.

Love and hugs!
- Jill