my favorite posts

Below is a list of my favorite blog posts from this year. Many of them brought tears to my eyes and encouraged me to press on when I was struggling. But all 10 of them are inspirational and the writing that I love to read. Enjoy.

1. Refusing the gift of the desert road by Jon Acuff

Favorite line: “What if the desert road is a gift?”

2. A Spider In My Pants by Perry Noble

Favorite line: “As our view of Him INCREASES then our fear of man will DECREASE.”

3. Good from awful by Kate Wallace

Favorite line: “God can use whoever/whatever to accomplish His will.”

4. Dream Small bye Kyle

Favorite line: “I’m beginning to understand that life is not meant to be lived boisterously. It’s meant to be lived by doing that one thing you were put on Earth to do, and to do it well.”

5. The soft X by Jon Acuff (seriously, I love this guy)

Favorite line: “But please, I am not done. I have barely started to reveal your life to you. I am the God who satisfies your desires with good things. That is me! And when it comes to your hopes and your fears and your dreams, I know, my son, I know.”

6. Where Forgiveness Starts by Steven Furtick

Favorite line: “The person that’s really being hurt by you withholding your forgiveness isn’t the offender. It’s you.”

The ladies in my family got together for one last estrogen-fest before the wedding. ..


hate mail

I am about to share the best advice I’ve ever received.

It’s not complex.

In fact, it’s really quite simple.

But it’s profound.

Are you ready for it?

“Do things for people…expecting nothing in return.” 

It was my very first time to co-lead a week long summer camp for 200+ junior high students. I was fresh in youth ministry, but I was zealous. For weeks I labored planning games, activities, bus lists, room lists, PowerPoint presentations – you name it. And the week was nothing short of miraculous. Students committed their lives to Christ, new friendships were formed, and well – no one died. Altogether, a great success.

A week later I was in the church office picking up the mail.

And that’s when I read it-

My first “hate mail” from a parent. We ran out of pizza the first night of camp and her 6th grade son went hungry. He didn’t tell anyone. And she was not happy. He would never be returning to the youth group.

Another letter brought complaints about the sunburn her child came home with because his counselor forgot to apply sunscreen to him at regular intervals. How could we let this happen? They would be leaving the church.

Scratching my head, I turned the envelopes over to make sure they had been sent to the correct church.

“Surely we didn’t both just get back from the same camp?” 

“Do they have any idea how much time I put into preparation for camp?”

“Do they know how much sleep I forfeited taking care of their children last week?”

“I do so much for these students and the parents don’t even notice.”

I remember I used to do youth ministry (and life) with this mindset. Give and you will receive. Love and you’re sure to be loved back. But, that’s not reality is it? Reality doesn’t coddle you that way.

Growing up as a pastor’s daughter, one of the hardest things is watching people leave the church your dad pastors and go to a new one. Why? Because it feels like you’re being replaced. Because so may times it was your family who stood by their side in the hospital waiting room while praying for a miracle. It was your mom who walked with that woman through her divorce. Because it was Dad who prayed with their dying grandfather. Try as you may, it’s just hard not to take it personal.

I used to think that loving a person with a pure heart meant that he or she “owed” me something. But that’s not how Jesus loved.

For three and a half years, Jesus hung out with Judas ALL THE WHILE knowing Judas would betray and turn Him over to the authorities. Jesus washed Peter’s dirty feet (something only a slave would do) knowing that Peter would later pretend like he never even knew Jesus. That’s real.true.love. Love which doesn’t think of itself. And that’s freeing.

To love while expecting nothing in return doesn’t mean you will avoid being hurt. Your husband might still be untrue to you. You best friend might still vanish without a word. You might be lied to or replaced. But the difference is, you won’t be bitter. Because you didn’t love to be loved in return; you didn’t give to receive.

You loved because Jesus told you to. And you loved the way He loved. There’s no shame in that.

“He didn’t come so that others could serve him. He came to serve and give his life…” Mark 10:45

lily faith

Saturday, Jeff did a photo shoot with Miss Lily Faith – high heels and all!

She did a fantastic job. We learned that she prefers dancing to Rihanna and Beyonce over the Disney channel Jeff had set up for her on Pandora.

The balloons were a big hit.

She especially enjoyed pressing the button which makes the lights flash.

But most entertaining was listening to a 2-year old scream with delight in describing her upcoming trip to Disney land. (“Mickey Castle!!”)

Some of my personal favs…

www.jeffmullikin.com 

When I look at Jeff’s photos, I am so happy God made our world in colors. I wish I could’ve watched him paint the sky blue and “bedazzle” it with stars at night. Pretty cool. 

the countdown

“You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears.”

CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

Yesterday afternoon, I read this book at the pool, and was reminded yet again, how much I love CS Lewis’ writing. This particular book is his journal after losing the love of his life to cancer. It’s so raw and real. 

I love the honesty of this quote. In the depths of sadness and hurt it’s impossible to see. It’s impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel, things coming together for good, or the blessing in disguise. 

Because all of the truth and logic and encouragement is blinded by tears and deceptive, controlling feelings.  

However, if I can promise anything over time (hate that word), the tears dry and you may find out, like I did, that the blessing may have been standing right before you the entire time. 

*********************************************************************

As the numbers on the countdown get smaller and smaller, I have become consumed by last minute wedding plans. So here’s a sneak peek…

The venue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the bling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the digs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(sorry, no pics of my dress!)

the sweets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I’m getting really, really excited!)

Jen

twenty-six reasons

In honor of the 26th birthday of the man I love, I give you the “26 reasons” why I love him.

26. Because he drives slower than my grandpa.  Despite my constant complaining…it’s really kinda cute.

25.  Because there truly is no sexier man drenched in sweat while clad in a flat-billed hat, cleats, and a mouthful of sunflower seeds. Though it’s always an automatic out, he consistently hits home runs in our Sunday night co-ed league. And there I sit, pretending not to be the swooning girl that I really am.

24. Because in those co-ed games, no matter how many times I drop the ball when he throws it to me, he always blames it on his throw.

23. Because he possess the most beautiful, pearly white, day-changing smile.

22. Because I have never, EVER opened my car door.

21. Because he too appreciates Diet Coke.

20. Because my man is fiercely loyal. Case in point: no matter how royally bad the Royals suck, they will remain his favorite team.

19. Because I trust him.

18. Because I go weak in the knees every time he tells me I’m beautiful.

17. Because he let me choose what color to paint his our walls. And, he didn’t bat an eye when I chose lime green.

16. Because of the countless awkward conversations he endured at church when we started dating. Especially the, “if you hurt our Jenilee, I’ll kill you,” one from a lady half his size.

15. Because he hates roller coasters.

14. Because we pray together…a lot. And I love listening to him pray; there’s so much sincerity in his voice.

13. Because when we pray together we always hold hands.

12. Because we have uniquely experienced not one, but TWO first kisses.

11. Because the one time I tried to push him away he showed up on my doorstep 10 minutes later.

10. Because he has bewitched every female in my family.  Lily asks for him now. Kasey sits next to him instead of me at dinner, and has already asked to spend the night at his house. Mom finally found someone patient enough to teach her all the ways of technology. Audrey asked him for cooking lessons. And for every step of her first five kilometer race he ran right next to my sister encouraging her along.

9. Because he took my broken heart and with expert care and attention, stitched it back together again.

8. Did I mention he is SO handsome?!

7. Because he drove through multiple states in hurricane weather to see me for a few hours in college.

6. Because he was the one who inspired me to purchase an iPhone…and my life will never be the same.

5. Because he can actually get my dad to talk about things other than church.

4. Because he’s never too busy to have lunch with me.

3. Because he’s all “tatted-up” but he’s still a softie to me

2. Because he is so talented behind a camera and I believe in all that he has already and will continue to accomplish. Because he always is the first to read what I write and he believes in me. 

1. Because he is all mine. And…I’m his. 

my sword

“So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials.  And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and his angels.

Ephesians 6:10-12

I attempted to clean out my car this morning, (scary) and I found something I will probably treasure forever. They may look like water-stained, aged, dirty bent-up note cards to you; but when I look at them I see something almost magical.

I see a double-edged sword. As the cover is slowly inched off, the radiance becomes unbearable and I find myself squinting and turning away in the gleam. Etched with perfect handwriting in the precious silver are words of power; words that can slam the very doors of hell. The sword is short, used not for haphazard swings, but for intense, one-on-one, personal combat. Though it can be hidden away in the thick folds of my clothes, its strength is not diminished by its small proportions.

Its blade is deathly sharp and accurate. Running a finger across it produces a thin fresh, wet line of red. With one quick, lightning-like flash, it can divide soul from spirit; joints from marrow. It is my only offensive weapon, and it is powerful.

On those beat-up cards, are words from Scripture. Words that became a lifeline. Words that gave me hope and strength. Words that pushed me forward. Words that lifted the burden. Words that I continuously preached to myself. Words that eased the pain. On the front I penned the verse – on the back what it meant to me. And in the midst of despair and fear, for a year, pulling them from my purse or the center console in my car, this is how I used my sword:

 Psalm 143:5 “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” God created the world, parted the red sea, provided manna, shut lions’ mouths, turned rivers into blood and conquered death. If He did all this, He can get me through this time. He can heal me. He can restore and multiply what I’ve lost.

Psalm 126:5 “Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.” A prayer for absolute restoration in my life. God can turn my tears to shouts of joy.

Psalm 139:16 “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” My situation doesn’t come as a shock or as a surprise to God. He knew these days and this pain was coming. He saw it long ago. He is in control even now. He sees my future.

Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” One day memories from this time won’t be accompanied by such gut-wrenching pain. The Lord will cause the wounds to scab over and heal. He is the greatest doctor and has the ability to fix me.  

Psalm 32:7 “You are a hiding place for me, you preserve me in trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.”  God is somewhere to escape to in the heat of suffering. I can find rest in Him. He will get me through this misery. There will be a time of deliverance.

Psalm 31:7 “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul.” God sees my broken heart. God knows my sufferings and my feelings. If no one else sees or understands, He does.  

Psalm 125:2 “As mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forevermore.” God is surrounding me. He is protecting me in the midst of this raging storm. He won’t leave me. To get to me, Satan will have to pass through Him. 

Psalm 138:8 “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” Even after all this, my life is not over. With or without ___, God has a purpose for me, and I will fulfill it. 

A year later – God has answered all of my prayers. There was never any reason to doubt Him.

Have you sharpened your sword lately?