How to Create Vision for Your Year

Happy New Year!! Oh my gosh can you believe it's already here?  2017 was filled with so much more adventure and growth then I could have ever imagined! But it was also full of struggle and realizing that I might not have everything all together as I would like to think. (Anyone else?) But that's the beauty of life- it's not supposed to be a lazy river you passively float by on one of those donut shaped inner-tubes, but it's supposed to be a grand
 

Happy New Year!! Oh my gosh can you believe it's already here? 

2017 was filled with so much more adventure and growth then I could have ever imagined! But it was also full of struggle and realizing that I might not have everything all together as I would like to think. (Anyone else?) But that's the beauty of life- it's not supposed to be a lazy river you passively float by on one of those donut shaped inner-tubes, but it's supposed to be a grand adventure, pushing down the rapids and wondering what's around the river bend. 

So instead of just making a list of goals that I may or may not accomplish this year, I want to do something more, something that I can get excited about, something that will get me out of bed in the morning (especially the really cold ones) and motivate me to press further. I want to cast vision into my year, and not just goals. Because goals are great, but they don't have the power to propel you forward like vision does. Vision will move mountains, it will keep going when nothing else will and it will stir your heart up when you feel like you have no more strength left to give to your goals. 

Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.
— Habakkuk 2:2

There is power in writing your vision down and keeping it before your eyes everyday. Some call it imagination, some call it meditation, but either way, we all are focusing our minds on something throughout our days, whether good or bad. So instead of meditating on our fears, struggles or how far away we are from our goals, spend time meditating on your vision. Don't look at how far you have to go or how much you've already messed up. Remember life is a journey and it all starts, and continues forward, with a single step. 

What is it that you want to accomplish this year? Maybe you want to start a business or go to the next level in your career. Or maybe you want to lose some weight or totally rock that vaca bikini. Or maybe you want to overcome a fear or insecurity that lingers around your heart. Whatever it is, you won't get there without taking that first step. God may not be showing you the whole picture (which I admit is something I tend to want or even think I need in order to move forward) but He is always faithful to show us the next step, and then the next, and then the next.

When you are seeking to walk in God's ways, you can trust that He is guiding you. You may not understand why He is leading you in a certain direction, but I can guarantee He has GOOD plans for you (Jer. 29:11). So don't be overwhelmed or concerned about your future. Take it one step at a time. Ask the Lord where He is leading you today and go forward without fear. You'll be amazed at the story that begins to unfold.

The very steps we take come from God; otherwise how would we know where we’re going?
— Proverbs 20:24

Because you were created to make a splash in this world and that means it's okay to not get everything perfect. Life is a journey, which means we will do a lot of growing and learning along the way. The story of your life is one you write everyday, so why not make it an epic tale where a hero and a princess battle life's struggles with all of the courage, strength and heart that their Heavenly Father gives them. 

The hero of your story has already done the rescuing but that doesn't mean you are off the hook. He came so that we might have life and life eternal (John 10:10). Don't waste the precious gift of an open book when there's so much in store for your future. Get His vision for you in your heart and let it be your life force as you move forward into the rest of this year. Live 2018 with so much passion and purpose that others will just know "There's something up with that girl..." So don't just make goals, create vision and watch as the pages unfold. 

Write well,
Jess

How to Bring God Into Your New Year Planning

When I was younger, I used to love making plans. Okay let's be honest, I was pretty obsessed with it. I mean, it was scary. I used to make a trail leading from my bed of all the things I would need to do to get ready for school. First came my outfit for the day. Then I would take a step and there were my shoes, then my hair brush, a little of this a little of that and BOOM... I was in my bathroom ready to finish getting ready for the day. This is seriously SO embarrassing to write! 
 

When I was younger, I used to love making plans. Okay let's be honest, I was pretty obsessed with it. I mean, it was scary. I used to make a trail leading from my bed of all the things I would need to do to get ready for school. First came my outfit for the day. Then I would take a step and there were my shoes, then my hair brush, a little of this a little of that and BOOM... I was in my bathroom ready to finish getting ready for the day. This is seriously SO embarrassing to write! Well, I don't do that now (Thank the Lord!), but lists are still one of my favorite things in the world. Sometimes, I'll even add really lame things to my list like "make coffee" or "fold laundry" just so I can have more things to check off my list! There's something about checking off tasks that just feels so good.

"I did that. I finished that. I accomplished this." It almost becomes like a drug or a high and at some point, I need my next fix. Then on the other hand, if I don't do a good job at checking off my list, I get discouraged and I tend to not want to do anything else. After all, I've already failed so much, what's the point? I'll just start again tomorrow. It's a back and forth, emotional rollercoaster of major productivity and absolute laziness. 

And now it’s the New Year, when resolutions and goals go on overdrive as we map out the people we want to be by the end of next year. Have you ever felt overwhelmed by it all? Have you ever finished writing out your list for the New Year only to realize you have more expectations than you feel you’ll actually be able to handle? It’s exciting at first, but then it becomes more of a burden as each box goes unchecked longer and longer, reminding us of how we’re not measuring up.

God’s word promises us a better way to live. He doesn’t expect us to handle everything in this life on our own, and that includes growing up and becoming more of the people we were born to be. That is why he sent us his word, to be a guide for our hearts, a lamp for our feet and a reminder that we are never alone.

And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
— Isaiah 58:11 AMP

We have a promise that God will guide us. But too often we’re afraid that we’ll miss where he’s leading us. We don’t have to be afraid that we’ll miss God. He is not only willing, but has given us his word to be a light to our feet and a lamp to our path… We may only see the very next step but once we take it, the next one comes into the light. He is always faithful and knows the road ahead.

He is our steadfastness, our hope and our promise of safety. But how can we be sure we’re following after him as we map out our plans for the year? Well, I’m glad you asked :) Here are 3 ways we can follow after his wisdom for our lives in 2018.

In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, and He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].
— Proverbs 3:6 AMP

First, we must acknowledge and recognize him. How much time do you actually spend recognizing God in your life? I know I struggle with this one so much sometimes. I’ll get my morning bible time in and then go about my life as if he was just one of those check marks on a list of “things I need to get done today.” I hardly recognize him in my life, in every area of my life, and then I wonder why I don’t know what he wants me to do. Life is full of obstacles that seem to block our way. But when we acknowledge his finished work in our lives and recognize his love for us, in the midst of our circumstances, we will literally see those obstacles removed from our path. He makes our way straight and smooth.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.
— Psalm 37:4 AMP

Next, when we delight ourselves in the Lord, the bible says he will give us the desires and petitions of our hearts. Does this mean that God’s holding out on us? So, only if I give him the attention he needs then he’ll give me what I want? NO!!! Far from it. Our God has such a big heart for his people and he wants to see you walk into your dreams more than you do!

But in this life we have two choices: life or death. We can choose what we will set our hearts on and the enemy wants to get your focus off of God and his goodness and onto your current situation and what you don’t have right now. That’s why praise is so powerful- it completely destroys the works of the enemy and aligns our hearts with the will of our Father, which is to give us the desires of our hearts.

Don’t think that God is holding out on you. He is your biggest fan. Who do you think put those dreams in that heart of yours, anyway? As you lay out what you want to accomplish this year, make some room to simply acknowledge what God has already done for you and who he is in your life right now. Set a timer on your phone if you have to and just spend a few minutes thanking him. You’ll be amazed at how contagious it is! And you will literally begin to put power to your plans and attract the desires of your heart into your life.

Whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus [and in dependence on Him], giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
— Colossians 3:17 AMP

Now this last one can be a little more tricky, at least for me :) I’m the first one to write down some goals and think about where I want to be. But walking those out day after day, and putting my trust in God to bring them about, isn’t always my natural tendency. I tend to lean more in the direction of what I can do and accomplish rather than what He is able to do through me.

Yes, we do have a part to play. If you write down a bunch of goals this year and then do absolutely nothing to work towards them, then nothing will be accomplished. But, if we get in the habit of trying to achieve everything in our own strength, then we will fall short of the plans He has for us, which are always so much greater than what we plan for ourselves.

I was told growing up that if I could see myself accomplishing all of my dreams on my own, then I wasn’t dreaming big enough. God wants to do exceedingly and abundantly above all we can ask, think or imagine! Can you believe that? More than you can even think up in your mind. In everything that we do, in every goal we set out to achieve, and in every check box we cross off, let’s remember to invite God into the day and ask for his help, guidance and direction in our lives.

He has so much for you in this new year! If the enemy can just keep you distracted with duties, demands, or just how much you can do yourself, then he can keep you numb to God’s leading. But we don’t have to be afraid of missing out! We have his word, a light to our feet and a lamp to our path. So if we ever feel we’ve drifted a bit, we can just look up and keep going. He is always good and always faithful and always wanting to take you to the next level. Let’s make this new year the year we fully trusted God and let him direct our steps. Bring his power to your plans and watch them transform into a life well lived. 

Write these chapters well, 
Jess

The Key to Your Purpose in Life

We all want to know our purpose: to know that reason we were created and put on this earth. We want to know how we contribute to this world and how we were specifically designed to further God's Kingdom. I've spent so much time thinking, praying and trying to figure out what is that sole purpose I was created for. After all, if God would just give me a heads up, I could get straight to work and not waste any of his precious time, right? 

After graduating high school in Georgia, I thought I would move out to Colorado for bible college and immediately learn what my purpose is and get started right away. I quickly realized that's not how life works. 

Rather than showing me the finished product of what he wants to do in my life, God began taking me through seasons of life where he developed certain skills in my giftings, traits in my character, and fruits of the spirit that had been lying dormant for far too long. 

God knew that in order for me to be able to fulfill my purpose on this earth, I was going to need to be strong in his word, mature in Christ, comfortable in my skills, and solid in my character. 

If God were to show us the whole picture of our lives at this point, we would either shrivel up in fear, terrified of our own futures, or we would get into the flesh, trying to make it all happen on our own. This life we live is a faith walk. Faith is believing even when you can't physically see it in the natural. After all, that's how we started this Christian life isn't it - completely putting our faith in God and not us? This wasn't meant just for conversion, but for every step of our lives after. 

So how do we find our purpose in life? Are we supposed to just wander around aimlessly until we happen to stumble upon it? 

The widow in 2 Kings was in a crisis. Her husband had died and the collectors were going to come take her son to be a slave in order to pay off her husband's debts. She goes to Elisha for help and this is his response: 

What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have [of value] in the house?” She said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a [small] jar of [olive] oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow containers from all your neighbors, empty containers—and not just a few. Then you shall go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour out [the oil you have] into all these containers, and you shall set aside each one when it is full.
— 2 Kings 4:2-4 AMP

Elisha pointed this woman to what she already had -  what was in her hand at the time. God has used this story so many times to continually point me in the right direction. Whenever I'm not sure what he wants me to do or what I'm supposed to do, he reminds me, "What's in your hand? What have I already given you? Do that." 

The key to your purpose lies in the opportunities God's given to you now. 

What is it that's in your hand? Perhaps it's school or your current job. Perhaps it's a blog or small business idea. Whatever it is, pour yourself into that and watch what God can make of it. 

But what if your job isn't what you want to do in life? It doesn't matter! Like I said before, God is taking you through seasons of maturity where certain character traits and trust in him must be built in order for you to be able to fulfill your calling on this earth. 

Whoever is faithful in the little (what's in your hand now) will be faithful with much (your purpose) but whoever is dishonest in little is also dishonest in much. (Luke 16:10) Steward what you have now as a gift from God so that you will mature into the calling that is destined for you. 

So she left him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they were bringing her the containers as she poured [the oil]. When the containers were all full, she said to her son, “Bring me another container.” And he said to her, “There is not a one left.” Then the oil stopped [multiplying]. Then she came and told the man of God. He said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.
— 2 Kings 4:5-7 AMP

The widow went and acted on what Elisha told her, having faith in God to provide what wasn't there in the natural. The oil she poured out multiplied until there were no more jars left. What jars has God given to you? He wants you to use them so that he can multiply the oil (or the blessings, provisions, vision) in your life. Find out what's in your hand and then go do it. Grow your roots deep into him so that when the time of bearing fruit comes, you'll be able to handle it all. 

xxo, 
Jess

Twenty-Five and the Quarter Life Crisis

Twenty-five... 

I have been alive for literally a quarter of a century! It just sounds so much more surreal when you put it that way, doesn't it? I don't know about you, but I still don't feel old enough to be an adult. And yet, life can sometimes feel like one big deadline that I'm always striving to accomplish. In the midst of all the craziness in day to day agendas, it's easy to get lost in what I have yet to accomplish and how much more of me it will take to get there. Sometimes, life feels like a treadmill that gets faster without your consent, almost like you're treading water, just trying to keep your head above the waves. 

Goals get dimmer, vision gets filtered through duties and obligations, but in the midst of the chaos we rarely realize what's happening. It's when we begin to let ourselves dream of what we truly want that we realize life is about more than just achieving the next deadline. Rather it's a continuous journey, stretching and molding us into the magnificent creatures we were designed to be. 

"Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim." -Tyler Knott Gregson

With every passing year, the capacity for our lives doesn't diminish, but expands. As we grow older, we are able to reach new heights, depths, and understandings that we never were able to grasp before. True, it can often feel like, "God has given me too much to handle... again!" But this is just what the enemy wants you to think. You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it, not because of your strength, but because of the strength of the one who lies within you. He is the one who carefully and strategically placed those dreams, desires and drives in your heart, creating a sort of a holy dissatisfaction with anything less. These dreams were not meant to wear you out, drag you down and cause you to feel like you don't have what it takes. But rather, they were meant to drive you to someone much bigger than you, who is able to accomplish much greater things in your life. 

In the years ahead, I want to view my days not as simply a means to an end, but a journey to lean in to, to learn from and to enjoy. I dare you to not meditate on what lies behind but rather on what lies ahead, squinting into the brightness of your future with a peaceful assurance that you will greet it with a smile.

Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honor of being called by God in Christ. –Philippians 3:12-14 (PHILLIPS)

 

Live From Love

As we move on from the well-known “month of love” and onto the rest of the year, we should remember that love wasn’t ever meant to be celebrated just one month or one day.  When we know how much our God truly loves us, we can live from a position of being loved, allowing this love to pour out from us onto those in our lives. It’s a love that fills us until we overflow into those around us. We were never meant to go out and find love, look to people to love us, accept us, and tell us we are good enough. Rather, we were always meant to return to our Maker’s lap again and again while he reassures us how precious we really are to him. Someone who knows that, I mean really knows it, doesn’t need anything from others. They can simply give. 

God- you’re my God! I can’t get enough of you!
I’ve worked up such a hunger and thirst for God,
traveling across dry and weary deserts.

So here I am in the place of worship,
eyes open, drinking in your strength and glory.
In your generous love I am really living at last!
My lips brim praises like fountains.
I bless you every time I take a breath;
My arms wave like banners of praise to you.

I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy: I smack my lips.
It’s time to shout praises!
If I’m sleepless at midnight, I spend the hours in grateful reflection.
Because you’ve always stood up for me,
I’m free to run and play.
I hold on to you for dear life,
and you hold me steady as a post.
— Psalm 63:1-8 The Message

Now that sounds like someone who was pretty full of God, but David didn't just praise him while he was king. If you notice at the beginning of this Psalm, it says A David Psalm, When He Was out in the Judean Wilderness. He was in the wilderness running for his life and he still filled himself with God. I believe this is one of the reasons he was so influential as King. God could trust him to love his people well because he was so full of God's love for him. 

Now, not all of us will be in charge of a nation, but we all have people that God has strategically placed in our life for us to love through him. Most of us want God to give us more influence and status among people, but we miss the very ones he's already given to us. When we're faithful in the little, we will be made faithful over much (Luke 16:10) and God isn't going to give you more of his children if your abusing and misusing the ones in your life now. He is a loving father and we are made in his likeness. 

Moving forward into the rest of this year, let's keep this concept of "love" on the forefront of our minds. Only when we sit at our Master's feet will we be filled with the very love this world so desperately needs. An empty vessel cannot fill anyone and we daily need to get refilled so we have something to give to people, without needing them to fill us in return. Only then can God truly use us to bring His fullness into the people around us.