Finding Balance in the Holiday Hustle

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The Holiday Hustle is real! 

As the temperature drops and my to do list grows longer, it’s super easy to get overwhelmed by the business of the season. I mean let’s be real, as soon as that sun goes down my mind shuts off for the day. Anyone else?

And this is all rather inconvenient since my 8-5 duties are done and my wifey duties are still on. Dinner doesn’t cook itself! 

But seriously, in the midst of the hustle and duties and demands, it’s easy to put God in a box. You know, one of those check boxes we make of things to do… If we're not careful, we can box up our relationship with the Almighty God into a teeny tiny box labeled "quiet time." Is it really ever quiet, though? I mean if my life doesn't distract me from reading my bible, my quadrillion thoughts will! Why exactly do we think that time with God needs to be spent in absolute silence? Could it be that a religious mentality has snuck into our perception on how spiritual you must look while spending time with God? 

But that is exactly why the stress and worry seem so overwhelming. We’ve put the Prince of Peace in one of our boxes, instead of inviting him into EVERY box! He wants your mess, He wants your frustrations, and He definitely wants your lists. When we start categorizing our lives while keeping God in only one, then we are literally pushing out the only answer we have to living in all of those categories with peace and joy. 

This season is hectic, I know. I mean, just this week Jeff and I haven't stopped going at all. I haven't even cooked dinner once! Which is huge for me... I honestly don't know how we're getting it all done. It's only through Christ. And in the mornings, when we're driving to work, sleepy-eyed with our coffee in hand, gazing up at Pikes Peak Mountain as we pray over our day, we are literally placing our time in His hands. And you can do that, too. He wants you to do that. He cares and He wants to be invited into your life. Every part of it... even the messy parts :) 

Because God loves diving into our mess, but he doesn't ever keep us there.

He is the master planner, protector, designer of destiny and cleaner-upper of our hearts. And there's good news! The bible gives us a very clear plan to walking in peace no matter what your life looks like right now. 

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
— Isaiah 26:3

Life may be happening, the mall may be crowded, traffic may be ultra terrible and the weather might be abnormally cold, but when we choose to keep our minds focused on Christ - on His goodness, His kindness, His grace and ultimately the gift of His life for ours - then we can actually walk in perfect peace regardless of what’s going on around us.

And what a beautiful time of year to start!

Now is the perfect season to start reflecting on what Christ has done. Don't let this season pass you by without standing in awe of it's true meaning, beauty, power and glory. The miracle that happened in a manger over 2,000 years ago is the reason for our faith, the basis of our lives and the hope we have for our future. It's the story of how a loving God gave everything of Himself to His children that He loved so dearly. It's the redemptive plan in action. It's the beginning of the rest of our lives! 

I want to remember the reason for this season and I hope you will to. We can have peace, joy and love even while the rest of the world is frantic. After all, that's what this world needs to see. They need to experience the peace in you, which will point back to the Prince of Peace that came for them too. 

So let’s write out our lists and check them twice. Then let’s open up our hands and lift our lists up to the One who holds all our time, energy and wisdom. 

Happy hustling!

 
 

Have We Taken Grace for Granted?- Lessons from the High Place

His gaze was fixed on the golden idols piled across his table. There had to have been close to twenty! As he bowed, he knelt down and stretched out across the floor, as low as he could possibly go, getting up to do it again and again. He was chanting under his breath prayers to a god he had never met. It was devoted, it was long, it was heartbreaking.  While our treck up the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal was an amazing adventure full of so many glorious moments, taking in the wonder of some of
 

His gaze was fixed on the golden idols piled across his table. There had to have been close to twenty! As he bowed, he knelt down and stretched out across the floor, as low as he could possibly go, getting up to do it again and again. He was chanting under his breath prayers to a god he had never met. It was devoted, it was long, it was heartbreaking. 

While our treck up the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal was an amazing adventure full of so many glorious moments, taking in the wonder of some of God's biggest creations, it was also very eye opening to see how the gospel really hasn't made it around the world yet. Not even close. These people up here in the mountains were some of the most generous, kind and hospitable people I had ever met in my life. This very man who was now giving his daily prayers, had invited us into his guesthouse because he wanted the honor of serving us breakfast on our last day, but spent half the morning lighting incense, spinning his prayer wheel and offering up a devotion to a dead end god with no ears to hear his cry, no eyes to look into his, no words to offer comfort or wisdom and no heart to feel for his. 

But this wasn't just in the mountains. 

In Kathmandu, one thing I noticed (for it was impossible to miss) was all of the temples at every corner and the constant burning of incense. Most of the people living in Nepal were either Hindu or Buddhist and they would go around giving their prayers and doing their rituals to a bunch of gods made of stone. These people were so devoted, so disciplined and it broke my heart to see their devotion being sacrificed to something so worthless. The praise and devotion that was meant for God, the enemy has perverted to piles of rubble. 

I was mad and wanted to cry at the same time. These false gods could do nothing for them. Whenever disaster struck, they believed it was because they were being punished and prayed even harder. They didn't have a relationship; they were bound to the whims of an ancient teaching that is keeping them captive. 

If anything, it made me so incredibly thankful for what we have in Christ. The gift that our God has given to us is so great that it's sometimes easy to take advantage of it. Our God is close, He is good, He is just, He is forgiving, He is overflowing with kindness, He is our Father, He is love. We have so much to be thankful for. 

And our God isn't just there for us when we need him now. But he WAS there for us 2000 years ago when he came down as a man to set us all free. Our God doesn't just bring good things into our life, but he GAVE us life, and life eternal. We were lost, unable to save ourselves, to offer anything back to him. But because he is so good and so loving, he decided that all of the pain and struggle and humiliation was worth it if he got the chance to spend eternity with you. He is personnel because he made each and every person on purpose and for a purpose. 

We forget that so much of the world has yet to hear about our God, especially in the 10/40 Window- which stretches across north Africa and most of Asia. There are entire people groups, with their own language and customs, that don't have a single Christian represented among them. And the bible makes it clear that every race, language and people will be represented around the throne of grace. 

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
— Revelation 7:9-10

There are still so many people to be reached in this world with the love and grace of God. Instead of looking to Jesus coming back so eagerly, we should be embracing the relationship we have with him now. For it is through having a vibrant, living relationship with our God that this lost and hurting world will begin to know him too. 

After our trip, I found myself starting to feel bad for how little I've appreciated, acknowledged or even been thankful for my faith in God. I want to be known as the girl who is crazy about her Maker, who walks on holy ground and lives a life that inspires hope in others. We were created to be those women. It's who we are! 

Let God know how much you love and admire him. There are so many people out there in the world that are lost and bound to a system that bleeds them out rather than fills them with life eternal. Take advantage of the open relationship that so many people are without. Lean into his love and let him fill you with all joy and peace that passes all understanding. We don't worship a pile of stone but a King that is above all other gods. 

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; Let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
— Psalms 95:2-3

Let him write these chapters of your life and I promise you, he will take you places you never dreamed you could go and teach you things that will forever change you. The treck awaits those who are willing to be led by him. 

xxo,
Jess

To the Girl Who Feels She's Let God Down- or Failed Too Much

Overcoming Shame + Guilt // Christian Advice for Women // Letting God Down
 

"Ouch!" I coughed as brown dust covered my eyes and the inside of my throat, making it's way into my lungs with each gasp for air after hitting the ground hard. At least I had a robe on. Things could always be worse, I guess. 

I knew I should never have trusted him. He told me his wife was out of town and I believed him... Until she came busting in through the door with her religous army behind her. 

"That's her!" she yelled, pointing at me with daggers in her eyes. "That's that tramp whose been whoring herself all over town. Get her out of here. I want her out of my sight!" 

Clearly she wasn't out of town. Did he know that? Surely he wouldn't have lied to me- especially knowing the consequences for me. I looked over at him in desperation only to be met with a blank face that refused to look my way. Had he been lying to me this whole time? Was he lying when he said he loved me? When he said his wife was cruel and left him for someone else? Was everything we had just been a means to some twisted end? 

Ugh! I felt so stupid! I felt so used! How could I not have seen it.. He didn't love me. He probably never did. And now here I was being dragged out like an animal and no one even gave him a second glance. I was so embarrassed, so ashamed! That is, until fear took a hold of me as I realized I was being dragged to my death. 

I begged and pleaded my case to a bunch of disinterested old men until I ran out of excuses. Was I guilty? Did I deserve to die? I knew what I did was wrong, but did no one care about my broken heart at all? 

Before I knew it, I was in the dirt, contemplating if this was the last thing I would ever see. I heard them arguing and fussing. I started to beg God to kill me now before the stones started to fly my way, but wait, what was that? It was a voice... Definitely a man's voice but it was more kind and calm then any man I had ever heard. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! 

"Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." 

What was he saying! Surely they would stone him next. And why were they asking his opinion anyways? Whoever he was, he bent down and started writing in the dirt. I tried to make it out. Sarah... Rebecca... Tamar... Margret... what the heck was going on? What did this mean? 

All of a sudden one of the really old and grouchy ones left. Just dropped his death stone and walked away. But not before I saw a little glimmer of shame in his eyes. A feeling I've worn for a long time. I'd recognize it anywhere. Then another left. Then another. What did these magic names mean?!!! 

I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to do. By this point a crowd had gathered and I was one of the main attractions. But who was this other guy? 

I glanced at the crowd and locked eyes with a little girl, holding her doll close to her heart as if to protect it from the dangers at hand. What had I become? How did I go from an innocent girl that was protected and loved to a convicted whore lying in the dirt like some freak show? I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, I wanted to run away... But before I could, that voice started speaking to me.. to ME! 

He said, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 

I looked up at the face of my mysterious savior and with a shakey voice I answered back, "No one, Lord." Was this... no... it couldn't be.. but what if... 

He replied, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." 

All of a sudden my heart began to swell up, the brokenness didn't seem to matter anymore and I picked myself up to look into his face. And what a beautiful face it was. But it was more than that. It was as if he was seeing the real me. Not the wounded, dirty and forgotten woman standing in front of him, but that little girl who so desperately wanted to be loved, to be delighted in and cared for. It was as if he was taking pride in me, like a painter takes pride in his masterpiece. Did he know me? Had we met? All I knew was I deeply wanted to be known by him, and somehow it seemed like I already was. He was more real to me then any man had ever seemed. 

Sensing that my show was over, I wiped some dirt off of my forehead and turned to go home. People started talking again but there was only one voice that I heard. 

He said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life." 

I glanced over my shoulder to see his gaze looking my way. I smiled and kept walking, taking what he said as an invitation that there was more to come for me. He was certainly not an ordinary man. 

-Personal adaption of John 8:1-11


We're almost all too familiar with the story of the woman caught in adultery, but I think sometimes we tend to de-humanize her, taking her out of her humanity, shame and drama and putting her up on our Sunday school shelf as a "lesson well learned." We forget that this was a real woman, with real problems and real failures, who was redeemed by a very real God with real love and real mercy. In a way, her story is our story- one of brokenness and guilt. And the same Savior who lifted her out of her condemnation, is the same as the One who is trying to pick you up, dust you off and say, "Neither do I condemn you." 

But wait! There's more... 

One of the most beautiful things about Jesus is that He doesn't just leave us in our brokenness. He just loves us too much! He not only extends to us the love and mercy that we don't deserve, but he instills in us the power to "go and sin no more." 

In Hebrews it tells us just where this "power" comes from: 

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power...
— Hebrews 1:3

Did you catch that? The entire universe is held together by the "word of his power." His power is completely wrapped up in His word. That means, if He were to ever break His word, the universe would cave in on itself and we would just cease to exist. Thank you Jesus that He is faithful! So if Jesus tells you that you can "go and sin no more," the power for you to carry that out lies within those very words He has spoken to you. 

When Jesus says "do not fear," He has given you the power to not fear in those words. When He says "love your enemies," His power resides within you to overcome even the greatest of offenses. When He says "you are a new creation in Christ," you can trust that in His word lies the power to transform even the most broken of hearts. That's why it's only the truth that we know that set's us free. We must allow His words to wash over our hearts, instilling into our souls the overcoming power that this world can't offer to us. Only then will we be able to move forward without a chip on our shoulder, free to inspire others to live a life beyond their limitations. 

We don't know what happened to this woman after her encounter with Jesus. Maybe she started a family, maybe she helped other women who were struggling, maybe she she became an evangelist who would not stop talking about the mysterious savior who picked her up out of her brokenness. Scripture doesn't tell us her fate after that day, but one thing we can be certain of, Jesus instilled in her the power to live her life above the trap of sin through the very words he spoke in kindness and deep affection. 

But what we have is even better! After their encounter, Jesus left. Today, Jesus said he will never leave us nor forsake us. He is with us at all times through His Spirit living on the inside of us. We have total and complete access to our Savior who is there to mend every broken piece that hurts. But He doesn't just want to heal the brokenness, He wants to set you free to be a light to others. 

Search out the scriptures and find the words and promises He has spoken to you. Look for them as buried treasure and ponder them in your heart. Then you will release the power you need to overcome every attack of the enemy. Your Savior is near. He cares. He's always been there. 

Write these chapters well, 
Jess


Want to learn more about how you were created to be brave?

Check out the Becoming Brave Online Bible Study and learn to awaken the unique ways you were designed to bring courage to this world. 

If You Feel Like You Weren't Meant to Be Brave

 
I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been born in God’s thought and then made by God is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.
— C.S. Lewis

We all want to be brave- to live a life so big and courageous that it inspires others to live beyond themselves for something greater. I can't tell you how many "Brave" themed Conferences I've attended, 5, 10, 15 Step Guides I've worked through, and books I've read cover to cover just trying to grasp a piece of the Brave pie for myself. But I usually finish feeling more frustrated, depressed and, well, exhausted than before. Am I the only one? I mean these women in the bible were CRAZY BRAVE! I don't know about you, but some of these chicks used to really intimidate me; women like ESTHER- storming the king's palace to save her nation, RUTH- leaving everything she knew behind her, MARY- giving birth to the Savior of the world, and let's please not forget JAEL (I mean did she have to kill that man with a tent peg?) They all did incredible things for the Kingdom of God but what we fail to realize is that we were created the same way.

We want so badly to be brave and to live a courageous life but we don't know how to get there. After all, the way this world paints a picture of bravery sets the bar so high that we know we'll never achieve anything quite like that. But what if the definition was different than what we thought? What if bravery wasn't something to be grasped, but realized? 

This world will try to tell you what being brave looks like, which usually leads us to frustration and exhaustion, never able to reach that goal that we so desperately want. But the truth is, you are God's courageous and brave daughter who the enemy is trying very hard to keep in the dark. The enemy doesn't want you struttin' your stuff around in confidence and courage! He wants you stumbling around, trying to find your way and forever striving for something you already have. Those things you struggle with? Those are NOT who you are. Your insecurity- that's NOT who you are. Your fear- that's NOT who you are. Your sin that you can't seem to break- that's NOT who you are.


When we begin to see ourselves not as victims trying to grasp victory, but rather as God's Royal daughters who have been equipped for every good work, then we won't own our struggles but will find the strength that lies within to live out the brave and courageous destinies that were ours alone to fulfill. 


You don't attack something you aren't threatened by, and the enemy of our souls would love nothing more than to convince you that there really isn't anything special about you, certainly not anything powerful or brave. But... when you do look inside to see all of the glorious greatness that resides within you, you will begin to walk in a bravery and courage that this world has yet to see.

Basically my entire life I've struggled with feelings of fear and insecurity. A part of me thought that once I got married and said "I do," then poof.. all of my insecurity would disappear into the great abyss of true love. Well, that didn't really happen.. at all. In fact it got worse! You see when you face your fears, you become fearless. So the enemy doesn't want you to face those emotions, he wants you to suppress them, attach yourself to them, and ultimately, find your identity in them. And that's exactly what I did. It's extremely hard to gain freedom from something when you see it as your identity. After all, you can't exactly break free from yourself now can you? 

But everything changed for me when I had a mini breakdown moment on a drive home passing by Garden of the God's park in Colorado Springs (I know, I'm blessed!) I was frustrated because I felt like I was doing so good with this whole insecurity thing and then WHAM! I would get insecure about something small and all those old emotions would rush back and I felt like all my progress was for nothing. Was this it? I mean was this the life that I'm supposed to look forward to? I couldn't understand why things weren't changing. But then God spoke this to me: 

"You are not an insecure little girl who is just trying to act brave, but rather you are my brave and courageous daughter who the enemy is trying to trick into acting insecure." 

Amazing. In that moment, I completely understood what He meant. This whole time I hadn't been viewing my actions as mistakes, I was viewing myself as a mistake. My insecurity became my identity, which in turn made any kind of forward progress impossible. 

It was as if I was standing at the bottom of this hill looking up. At the top of the hill was everything God had promised me, who He created me to be and the destiny I was supposed to fulfill. Then I would spend all of my time trying to climb up this hill trying to get to what God said about me, while life was throwing sucker punches and dirt balls my way, trying to knock me down and get me off course. But this was so very wrong. 

Instead, God was beginning to show me that I was already at the top of that hill with Him, looking down on life and all of it's murky circumstances. I was already brave, courageous, humble, patient, kind, driven, full of destiny, etc.. This was who I am. I could stand at the top of that hill and defend what was mine rather than striving for it. And those life punches? Well with one kick of my heal they would tumble down to the bottom of that hill where they belonged. This was what my Father was showing me, and I believe that He's wanting to show it to you too. 


You are not an insecure woman who is just trying to act brave, but rather you are a BRAVE and COURAGEOUS daughter of God who the enemy is trying to trick into ACTING insecure.


When you realize all of the power that resides on the inside of you, you will begin to see your challenges and struggles in a new way - not as a victim who is just trying to grasp victory.. maybe.. someday.. in the future. But, you will see yourself as His Royal Daughter, Poised for Purpose, Fashioned for Splendor, and Designed for Destiny. 

Together, let's write these chapters of our stories with bravery, 
Jess


Want to learn more about how you were created to be brave?

Check out the Becoming Brave Online Bible Study and learn to awaken the unique ways you were designed to bring courage to this world. 

Our First Dance

Today marks our One Year Anniversary and in honor of that, we wanted to share our First Dance Video with you. :)  We thought a lot about what we wanted to do for our first dance. Would we go the funny route and choreograph moves to sexy back or would we go the slow, romantic sway back and forth through a five minute song route. Oh the choices...  I honestly didn't worry about it too much. But when we heard the song "You and Me" by Lifehouse, we both instantly knew that this was the song for our
It’s you and me and all of the people... and I don’t know why, but I can’t take my eyes off of you.
— Lifehouse, You and Me

Videography by JDJ Creations

Today marks our One Year Anniversary and in honor of that, we wanted to share our First Dance Video with you. :) 

We thought a lot about what we wanted to do for our first dance. Would we go the funny route and choreograph moves to sexy back or would we go the slow, romantic sway back and forth through a five minute song route. Oh the choices... 

I honestly didn't worry about it too much. But when we heard the song "You and Me" by Lifehouse, we both instantly knew that this was the song for our first dance as husband and wife. It was such a perfect blend of Jeff's music and my music and everything about it felt right and felt, well.. us. 

We spent a couple of hours one night pushing aside the coffee table and dancing under the light of our projector as we came up with the moves that would be sweet and romantic but also rated G for, you know, all of the family watching quite closely. We practiced it probably 20 times the day before our rehearsal dinner and then left it all out on the dance floor that day. 

It honestly went perfect, although I'm not sure why everyone was standing up haha. I think I stepped on Jeff's feet a couple of times near the beginning and I give him one of those "you just missed a step" looks about half way through. 

I hope this inspires you, encourages you, makes you reminisce on your own First Dance moments or gives you some ideas for your future First Dance. 

Dance your heart out, 
Jess 

P.S. What was your First Dance song? Or what what would you like it to be? Let me know in the comments below! 


CHECK OUT OUR OTHER VIDEOS!

 
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HIS PROPOSAL

The best stories are the ones you didn't know you were writing. You get so caught up in living in them that one day you look back and say, "That was well written."

OUR WEDDING

A perfect fall wedding nestled in the mountains of Estes Park, Colorado surrounded by golden leaves, friends and family, and true love hanging in the air.