joplin

I spent Thursday in Joplin, Missouri with a group from Journey Church International. We were there to help with relief efforts – using chainsaws to cut through debris, passing out water and hot food and praying with survivors who were sorting through the wreckage of their homes and possessions. I have literally never seen anything like it. An entire part of the city was just missing – everything leveled. The pictures do not do the massive amount of damage justice, but here’s a look:



For miles and miles, all you could see was debris. Paved driveways led up to a pile of mangled metal and wood where a house once stood.


Entire neighborhoods were just…gone.

The tornado uprooted trees and left them smashed on top of houses and cars.

The wind ripped away walls and peeled back linolium from kitchen and bathroom floors.

We saw cars thrown into houses,

and flipped over.

The “x” meant that the house had been searched for survivors.

Skylar, a five-year old I met who hid in the basement with her mom. This is all that is left of her house. Her mom cried as we prayed with her, just completely overwhelmed emotionally.


The tornado passed straight through the middle of Joplin, taking huge stores with it.



Those in orange are volunteers for Samaritans Purse.  They are some of the first responders anytime a diasaster strikes. They help victims clean up, pray with them, and present them with a Bible. I love this ministry! These volunteers are “normal” people with normal jobs, who pause their lives in a time of need to let victims know they are loved!


The whole experience was so surreal. Experiencing this kind of devastation just puts life into perspective.


Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.Matthew 6:19-20 

on the other side

“But He NEEDED to go through Samaria.”

Jesus was tired. He had been walking for days, the miles showing in his worn-down sandals and dirty, blistered feet. He slowly sat down next to Jacob’s well. I imagine the sweat trickling down his forehead as he wiped his brow, let out a sigh, and took off one shoe and then the other. Yes, he was fully God, but he was fully man, and after two days of walking, he was beat.

It was the noon – the middle of the day, when the blazing middle eastern sun rode high in the sky. Contrasted against the rays approached a Samaritan woman, balancing her water jar against her hip. While most of the town’s women came to the well before sunrise or after sunset to avoid the heat, she came now. She wanted to avoid the judging glares and hushed whispers from the others. She was no saint. She had already made her way through five different husbands, and was now living with another man. To say she was the town’s skank was no lie.

With a hum on her lips, and her dark locks falling in her face, she busied herself filling the jar. Jesus looked up at her, and calmly spoke.

“Give me a drink.”

The Samaritan woman stopped in her tracks. Her jaw dropped open. In her shock, she spilled some water. Jesus was clearly a Jewish man. And yet he spoke to her, a Samaritan woman! The Jews despised the Samaritans. It was more than a fun-loving high school rivalry. The Jews viewed the Samaritan as half-breeds. They weren’t pure Jews. Years earlier, a group of Jews had intermarried with pagans and produced childrens who were not fully Jews – the Samaritans.

A righteous Jew would not speak to a Samaritan, much less stay at their houses or eat with their utensils. In fact, traveling from Galilee to Judea (as Jesus was doing), a righteous Jew would go out of his way – we’re talking miles out of his way to avoid Samaria all together.

Yet, with one spoken sentence, Jesus smashes through every stereotype and judgment. He cares for this woman. He knows; knows how lost she is; how many regrets she has. He knows that she comes to this well every day, alone. He knows she is the town outcast. He has seen her every tear. He loves her and He wants to offer her…more.

“Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

With one conversation Jesus changes the woman’s life. Yes, he deals with her sin, but he offers her a greater life – an offer she can’t turn down. Now a new person, she rushes off, forgetting her water jar in the dust. Hours earlier, she kept to herself, but now she runs through town yelling, “Come and see!”

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.”

What is your Samaria? It’s the place that everyone else would avoid, and if truth be told, you would avoid it at all costs too?

For me, Samaria was this entire year of my life. It was an emotional breakdown in the Applebee’s parking lot; my black tank top and jeans hanging off of me from so much weight loss. I cried as I realized that the wedding vows spoken to me by a man I trusted had been broken. Samaria was packing away over 4 years of memories like packing away photo albums in cardboard boxes. Samaria was a self-built house of humiliation. Samaria was realizing I could not afford my home by myself – constant, never ending financial stress. Samaria was finding a job outside of ministry – to heal and take care of my financial obligations. Samaria was trusting God when I couldn’t see past two feet in front of me.

I’m so glad God doesn’t warn us before tragedy hits. If He did, I would have said, “No way God – I’m not traveling through that.”

Jesus didn’t have to go through Samaria. He could’ve avoided it and went along with the status quo. BUT, there was a woman there waiting for him.There’s a reason – maybe many reasons why I had to go through my “Samaria”. There’s a reason why you have to go through Samaria.

Had I not gone through Samaria, I would not be the woman I am today – stronger, steadfast. Had my life not coming crashing down I would have missed God’s man for me. A man who cherishes me and helps me hold my head up. I would not know the joys of life long friendships with girls who feel more like sisters than friends.

There was someone waiting for Jesus in Samaria and there’s blessing for you there too. I read an article from Samaritan’s Purse today (read it here —> http://tinyurl.com/44qlwbk) and borrowing what one Tornado victim said after her house was blown away, but she rededicated her life to Christ, “I haven’t lost anything. I’ve gained everything.”

The story of the Samaritan woman is my favorite story in the Bible. You can read it in John 4.

5k Fun

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Last weekend, Kerrisa and I made our way to her hometown of Enterprise, Kansas. Seriously, it is the smallest town I have ever been to in my entire life. Here I had no idea that one of my best friends was from the sticks! It basically looks like this:
A whole lot of…nothin!
Saturday morning…

Me: “Kerrisa, I’m thinking we should probably eat something before the run. You know, like carbs.” 
Kerrisa: “Like DONUTS?!”
Me:”I was thinking more like toast.”

  we were on our way to the run at the glorious time of

the fact that I was even awake at this time on a weekend is straight MIRACLE people, not to mention it was

We battled the elements of boisterous wind, almost-freezing temperatures, aggressive passerby’s, and untied shoelaces in our 5k run. (Okay, the almost freezing tempertatures may have been a bit of a stretch. But it definitely was cold!) Finishing with a time of:
And you should know that it took me at least two second to hit the “stop” button. Not bad for a bunch of girls 🙂
Next up —> The “Night Flight 5k” in Lees Summit. Then we shall try our luck at the 10k and (gulp) a half marathon??? I am not a runner, but I have really enjoyed this new hobby in my life. Especially on those crazy stressful days. It’s a great way to clear the head!
Do you have any good training plans for a half marathon?
P.s. I have a new blog http://www.jenileenicole.com/ – I will switch over soon!

it is enough

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me,”My grace is sufficient for you,  for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

This past Sunday, I was able to read Paul’s blog. Okay, yes, I know that Paul lived in the first century AD and there were no such things as computers and blogs, or even iPhone’s (gasp!). But when I open up 2 Corinthians 12, I feel like I am opening up his personal old, torn up, dusty journal.

Paul struggled with something, and it was something extremely painful. He scribbles down that God gave him a “thorn in the flesh”. We have no idea what that “thorn” was because Paul keeps that detail to himself. Maybe Paul battled a physical sickness. Perhaps Paul’s wife left him after he became a Christian. But, we know that whether it was emotional or physical, it caused Paul deep pain.

And here we see Paul, on his knees, begging God to take this struggle away from him. How many times have you been there? I know I have; where God has allowed something in my life that was so painful and I pleaded with God for him to remove it. We’ve all been there.

“But he said to him.” In the Greek it literally translates as if God was saying,“Paul, this is my final word.” After three times of begging for relief from God, God simply tells Paul that enough is enough. Paul was going to have to endure through the struggle. And the crazy part is – He never gives Paul an explanation for WHY he has to struggle. Can you relate to this? Because I know I can.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have sat down with God in my mind to have the “Why” conversation. And I picture him saying various things:

“Jen, you had to go through the pain of divorce so that you would love and appreciate your future husband in a far greater way.”

“Jen, you had to endure this betrayal and divorce so you would have greater compassion for hurting people.”

“Jen, you had to go through this so we could be close.”

While all of these things are true, God didn’t ever actually tell me WHY I went through what I did. And chances are, He hasn’t told you why you lost your job; why your father died; why you miscarried your baby; why you battle depression.

BUT, while He doesn’t answer our “why” questions, He gives us something even better“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It’s simple, but it’s true. His grace is enough. His kindness and love is enough to get us through the most severe trail. If He brought you to it, He’ll bring you through it. And don’t ever forget, that God always builds an audience every time you suffer and they are watching you. Suffer well.

In case I haven’t said it on my blog before, I want to be sure to say it now… despite every single tear that was shed, the struggle I faced this past year is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I would not take it back for an onslaught of reasons. God is so, so good.

I had an incredible weekend and I am so excited for my future 🙂

This post came from Sunday’s message preached by @Jerry_Johnston

Watch it here –> www.ffc.org

happy birthday dad!

Today, I thought it would be fitting to blog about my Dad, because it’s his birthday! (Don’t ask me how old he is…) Without question, my Dad has been the greatest spiritual influence in my life. Looking back, these are some of the most profound lessons I have learned from him:

One of my earliest childhood memories (and I really remember it like yesterday) is sitting on the couch in our old house with my Dad, Danielle and Jeremy. I can still hear the dishwasher running in the background as Mom cleaned up the kitchen from dinner. Almost every night my Dad would read us the Picture Bible (we’re talking the Bible, comic book style – very cool to a 6 year old). It wasn’t years of going to church that rooted me into the Word, but those late nights falling in love with stories about giants, parting oceans, and thousands being fed with a little boy’s lunch. My dad never shoved the Bible down our throat, but it’s amazing to me that something as simple as reading the cartoon Bible to a child shaped me into the woman I am today.

In Wichita, as a 7 year-old, I finally understood what salvation was. I realized that nothing I could do would earn me salvation and eternal life with Jesus Christ. I understood that I had to accept Him as Lord and Savior to become a Christian. Guess who was there to explain to me the plan of salvation and pray with me to come to Christ? Dad.

Most of you know that I love music and singing. Every Sunday, I lead the Rock’s youth band, and I get so much enjoyment out of it. In 7th grade, I really started to sing for the first time. I remember trying out for my school’s talent show. I got cut and I was devastated and embarrassed. I never wanted to sing again, and I wanted to leave school early that day. I called my dad (from the PAYPHONE, ha!) and begged him to pick me up. He told me, “No. You’re staying at school. Hold your head high and don’t quit.” Dad probably doesn’t even remember that day, saying those words or making me stay at school, but it could possibly be the greatest lesson he has ever taught me. And he hasn’t just said those words, but he has truly walked his talk in front of me throughout all that he has been dealing with. My Dad taught me to never give up. To stick it out. It began with something as pointless as a 7th grade talent show, but I remembered this moment as I battled through this year.

In high school, before I would leave for school every morning, I would run downstairs and say bye to my Dad. And like clockwork, I would find him in his office either on his knees in prayer or with his nose in the Bible. You see, it’s sometimes the things your parents don’t say that impact you the most. Yes, I’m a pastor’s daughter. No, Dad didn’t lead daily Bible studies every morning or make us take communion before dinner or force us to play Bible Jeopardy. But I did see him grow in the Lord daily. Happy Birthday Dad!

what love really means

1 Corinthians 13:7 “…love always hopes…”
I’ve obviously been through a lot this year – more than any 25 year-old girl should have to go through, and therefore, I have every “right” to give up on love; and yet, I am still a hopeless romantic! I believe in love so much more now than I ever did before. Movies like Romeo and Juliet, The Notebook, and Serendipity – Oh gosh, like all girls, I love that stuff and eat it up!
Below is a video that I think demonstrates love more than anything I’ve seen before. To me love is so much more than a feeling, but love is a commitment – it’s about sacrifice. The video is narrated by a man named Robertson McQuilkin. Robertson was the president of Columbia International University, a well-known theologian, a speaker in high demand and an author. At the very height of his ministry, he resigned to the chagrin of many. He left to take care of his wife, Muriel, who had been battling Alzheimer’s Disease. This video is Robertson’s resignation speech and it’s touching.
I can remember the countless times my mom has played this at FFC for various marriage retreats and I literally cry everytime I watch it. I heard it again while listening to Holly Furtick’s message from the Elevation Church podcast from their service this past Sunday: 

My mom is one of my greatest role models and when I was twelve years old she challenged me to created a “Top Ten List” of the ten qualities I was looking for in my future spouse. She advised me not to settle for less. (I can’t wait to do this with my future daughter!) Well, I can tell you that after everything I’ve endured, my “Top Ten” list has changed quite a bit. With age and hardship comes maturity. But, I haven’t given up and without a doubt, my future husband posseses these ten qualities:
Okay – I’ll admit it. I cheated a bit. My list actually has fifteen things. Ha!
What’s on your Top Ten List?

mom’s day!

Proverbs 31:28 “Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her.”

I had a wonderful weekend, and since both of my siblings were gone, I got my mama all to myself for Mother’s Day! She’s an incredible, godly, fun, talented, beautiful woman and happens to be one of my best friends. I am so blessed to have the parents that I do and I don’t take that for granted.

Also, a shout out to my girl friends, Amber, Sara, Kerrisa and Megan, who are ALL mamas! (Amy, why are you always missing from the pictures?!) You guys make it look so easy! I love you!
How did you spend your mother’s day?

the hardest words to say

Matthew 6:14-15
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

This will be one of the most difficult posts I’ve ever written. Forgiveness. It goes against the very framework of who we are as human beings. It seems like a term that could never possibly be comprehended or executed. I heard once that at the root of the word in the Greek, it means to “act as though it never happened”. Why does it seem like God always sets the bar so high, that it’s completely impossible to achieve His standard?

Everytime I thought about forgiving the man that had wronged me so horribly, it was like a bitter taste in my mouth. It made me sick. How could God expect me to forgive him? Even if I decided to put on a super-spiritual mask and make some emotional decision at a church alter, I knew it wouldn’t be real. It would be just that…a quick, emotional, fickle decision. I’m not one to make a half-hearted decision. It’s just not in my DNA.

I knew what Jesus taught about forgiveness. I knew that as a Christian I was supposed to forgive. And not only to forgive, but to forgive over and over again. I mean, Jesus forgave me, and my sin killed him, right? It wasn’t just that I knew I was supposed to forgive – I wanted to forgive! But, God couldn’t POSSIBLY ask that of me. Not after everything I endured. Couldn’t He give me the one right – to just be ANGRY!? To say I literally battled and toiled over this would be the greatest understatement ever declared. It was my cross to bear.

I had not only been wronged, but I felt as though I had been wronged worse than anyone.had.ever.been.wronged.before.since.HISTORY.BEGAN. The lies. The deception. The hurt. The misery. No, God, couldn’t expect me to forgive. I was resolute.

But, the crazy part about being a Christian. I mean, not just calling yourself by that title, but being inhabited by the very presence of God…He won’t let you stay the same. He won’t let you stay in your sin. He is never content with where you’re at. He calls you to do that which you do not think is possible. He chips away at you, until you reflect the image of the Son.

I listened to a message on forgiveness by @perrynoble (New Spring church) and it challenged me so much. (Watch it here: http://www.newspring.cc/series/upgrade/ )
He said these things:

 

“Forgiveness is not an emotion. It is a choice. It is saying to yourself, “He does not owe me anything anymore.”

“Forgiven people forgive. Period.”

“We must forgive – completely and continually. It’s a battle. We wrestle with it.”

So, I took the first step and simply just started praying. When I woke up in the morning, I would look in the mirror and force the words out of my mouth:  “______ doesn’t owe me anything anymore. I release Him. God, help me to forgive him. I give you my anger.”

And then, a few days ago, I did the unthinkable. I sent a letter to that man. The man I had cried a thousand tears over. The man that I begged God to judge. The man I wanted to hurt because he hurt me. I sent him a letter telling him that I forgave him. It didn’t diminish the hurt I had endured. But, I penned the words in a spirit of forgiveness, rather than hate. I didn’t know if he would receive it. But it didn’t matter.

And something funny happened – a peace flooded my soul. “I forgive you.” Probably, the hardest words in the English language to form on the lips and articulate. It goes against everything we are. However, I know without a doubt, they are the most freeing words ever spoken. I have never felt more free.

And more shocking – I actually realized my faults. What I had done wrong. What I could have done better. And I said three more powerful words: “I am sorry.”

Wow. I feel like shouting and telling the whole world. This is what my faith about. It’s about doing things that arn’t normal. That arn’t even possible with HIS help. It took me nearly 8 months, because I’m not perfect. But, I’m able to forgive now. I’m human. I will probably still battle anger for just a bit. But forgiveness is so much more powerful than hate.

I will still hurt. I will still occassionally grieve over the pain and the loss; what should have been. But yet, isn’t that what God feels every time His eyes drop to this earth and He gazes at His precious children? We are so incredibly talented at screwing up what He meant for good. From the very beginning of the world, starting with Adam and Eve. How many times does God think back to that day and simply sigh over WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN?! Yet, even when all was lost, He still had a plan. He was anxiously awaiting the moment His Son would be sent to rescue humanity.

I’m learning so much about the heart of my Father. So much about what a failure I am and not just because I’m divorced, but because I’m a sinner. But how He still works. I serve a great, great God.

“It’s a spiritual impossibilty for a follower of Jesus to knowingly hang on to bitterness, anger and unforgivness in his or her life. Jesus will not let you be comfortable living in anger and bitterness towards another.” @perrynoble

good never rests

I was a sophomore in high school who had just turned the much anticipated age of 16, anxious to drive all over creation whenever I wasn’t in school. That morning I sluggishly walked through the hallways of Blue Valley West High School, on a somewhat normal, overcast September day. My random thoughts were interrupted by the voice of a friend telling me about an airplane flying into a building in New York. I remember first thinking that she was crazy, because she was a bit of an exaggerator. But, as I watched the coverage on TV in my next class and saw a second plane fly into another building, I knew this was no exaggeration or accident. I left school in the middle of class (something I did a little too often) so I could go home and watch TV.

The next few days were like a blur. It was so surreal. I remember the constant news coverage, “Attack on America” and niavely wondered if it was the end of the world.

It took nearly ten years, but now the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks has been brought to justice and killed. Last night, as I fell asleep, I wondered what the familes of the victims of 9/11 were feeling. Did the news open up a jar of old feelings? Did it give them a long-awaited sense of peace, justice and closure? Are they numb to the news?

CIA Director, Leon Panetta, said, “Nothing will ever compensate for the pain and suffering inflicted by this mass murderer and his henchmen. But just as evil never rests, neither does good. May the fact that Usama Bin Ladin no longer inhabits the earth be a source of comfort for the thousands of families, here in America and around the globe, who mourn the victims of Al Qaeda’s barbarity.”

But just as evil never rests, neither does good. Wow. I love that.

Romans 8:28 says,“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

My thought today is simply this – we can never screw up our lives too much for God to fix it. Why? Because God NEVER, never stops working good for us. It doesn’t matter how much of our lives have been consumed by sin. It doesn’t matter how many wrong decisions we have made. It doesn’t matter if we have been wronged by others. It does not matter how ashamed we feel. God never stops working good. He never rests. Does that strike you as such a profound thought?

Sometimes I am consumed by worry – what if I don’t put enough money into savings each month? What if I don’t get back into ministry, the passion of my heart? What if I get stuck? What if I don’t sell my house in time? Today, I realize my anxieties are nothing to God, because He hasn’t rested from rearranging the pieces of my life to work good from it.

Of course there are consequences to sin and bad decisions, but God is anxious to forgive a sincere heart. He is anxious to restore. 2 Chronicles 7:14 states, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore…”

Today, as I hear about the great victory for America, I will remember –

Good NEVER rests.