TALES, TRIALS, TESTIMONIES AND MORE FROM THIS GLORIOUS LIFE THAT GOD IS UNFOLDING IN AND THRU ME!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Little Catch Up...

  So I haven't written in a while... like 3 months a while...and honestly, it's been for no other reason than I haven't been able to put my thoughts together in my own head let alone try to share them with other people without feeling completely crazy (and believe me... putting it down "on paper" like this would definitely make me feel crazy considering it's more permanent than say, just talking to someone, and I have felt pretty crazy in attempting to do that).  I would love to say that I have a better handle on things now.  In fact, looking back to the beginning of this year I truly thought by now it would all be worked out... but it's not and I don't.  However I miss writing.. I miss the outlet of sharing my thoughts...so I'm gonna try and put it out there once again.
  Back in November of last year I got sick and in the midst of getting treated for a not so fun case of diarrhea (TMI I know), I found out I had a tumor.  When I came home from the missions field in December I got checked out again by an American doctor (with fancier American equipment) and she confirmed that yes in fact I did have a tumor and then she gave me all these scary statistics and sent me off to a specialist.  The specialist sent me for more test and then came up with a treatment plan that involved shots, hormone replacements and eventually a major surgery.  Two weeks ago I finally got my 22cm (the size of a fetus that's 5 months) removed.  CRAZY!
  I honestly can't tell you much about the surgery, I really don't remember that much from my stay in the hospital... other than what I've been told after the fact and that I had a blood transfusion... and I won't get my pathology report for a few more days (although no news is apparently good news so the fact that they didn't contact me immediately after surgery tells me that any chance of cancer has been cancelled out..hurray!).  But I can say that recovery has certainly be interesting.
  I don't think I ever realized just how much energy it takes to do pretty much anything.  My first week of recovery, going to the bathroom or even just walking from the kitchen to the adjacent room would tire me out for the day.  Thankfully I had a laparoscopic procedure so my incisions aren't so bad (although there are 2 more than usual for this kind of surgery) but man my body has been quite bruised up and I've really had to learn I cannot push myself beyond just simple things (at least for the moment).
  I've also learned some life lessons through this recovery process as well.  Like for one, what a real friend is like.  Before surgery, I didn't tell a lot of people about it.  I didn't want it to be made into a thing and I didn't want to get pity looks (plus the placement of my tumor is a little personal).  Once surgery happened and I realized I might need more help than I thought, I started reaching back out to those people who did know about it.  What touched me the most though, was when those people just did things for me without asking.... actually it's more than that, it's not what they "did" but how they just when made time for me...how they were just "there".
  In the past, when my friends have been sick or going through things, I've fallen victim to the need to "do" for them.  Obviously I care about them and thus I wanted to do something to show it.  Now I realize that my "doing" was really more for me than for them.  From my experience of the past few weeks I can honestly say ( at least for myself) what people want in their time of need is your PRESENCE more than your PRESENTS... I've always heard that... now I get it.
  So to all those people in the past who I've gone and "done" for, never asking what you really wanted and just assuming my "doing" was good enough because it made me feel better... I apologize.  And to all those people who took the time over the past few weeks to come and "be" with me, I thank you!  I know it's not easy to sit with someone when you don't have the answers or you don't know what to say and you can't just fix things....but honestly, I didn't/don't need you to fix anything.... just standing (or in my case sitting) thru this recovery with me... just "being" there physically and checking in and making me feel like I matter... it's means the world to me!  So thank you and I hope I will be just as good of a friend to you in the future.
  What I've also learned... although this is more of a continuation lesson (something I've been learning for  a while now)... is that I need to learn to just accept people for who they are and not who I wish they would be.  We are all human, we are all just trying our best.  Sometimes our best doesn't add up to what someone else wants from us, but that doesn't mean we aren't trying to love and be there.  In the past few months and especially the past few weeks I've had to start accepting that people's "best" is "good enough" (something that's hard for me to accept considering I constantly beat myself up for not doing or being "good enough").  I can say that trying to accept this has made life a little more enjoyable...or it's at least set me up for less heartache.  It's also made me evaluate what I can and can't handle and thus what I can draw closer to and what I need to pull away from.
  I definitely have a lot more to learn on this topic...on many topics in fact.  I have so much more growing up to do than I can even begin to explain.  However, for the first time in a long time I feel okay to admit that because I know I am working on it.  It may not be pretty at the moment but it will get better (it's kinds like cleaning your room... things always get messier before they get better).  I feel like I am getting back on track though...at least having surgery behind me sure makes me feel like it.  So stay tuned to see where things go from here...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What You Can Learn in a Week...

  Last week, was such a mumble jumbled, upside down, inside out kind of week.  And I guess for that reason without even realizing it, I ended up experimenting (in a way) in how I operate or do things in this thing we call life.  Whether out of desire or need (or maybe a combination of both), I tried new things (or old things in new ways), I stepped through fears and I discovered once again that my relationships with God and people are constantly evolving.
  For instance, I've been reading a book on boundaries and this week I actually put into practice something I learned in reading it... that is the art of saying "No".  I've never been good at saying "No", whether out of fear of disappointing people and being rejected or fear that I'll lose the sense of value to someone or something.  Yet I realized this week, even when people don't respond well to your boundaries... even when they fight back and kick and scream cause you're not being the doormat they expect you to be.... you still get to keep your value and their disappointment/rejection isn't forever.
  Then I had a few doctors appointments where I heard all sorts of statistics associated with big scary words that made my head spin and I felt the weight of a burden too heavy for me to bare alone crushing down on me, and I did something I have programed myself not to do....that is to reach out for help.  What I learned is that while not everyone is capable of caring my burdens with me, some people are.  I expected, based on my own experiences of the past year, that my friends would tell me to get over it, that I am on my own because they have their own lives to deal with and I'm freaking out over nothing.  Instead I found a listening ear that was unphased by my middle of the night call where I was crying and venting all my fears.  In fact instead of giving me all those nice sounding but completely unhelpful placated responses we all tend to give in situations like this,  I received a listening ear that cried with me and let the suckiness of it all seep into us both while carrying me to Jesus on her knees. 
  I also took the advice of someone who told me not to rip up my whole puzzle just because I couldn't make one piece fit where and how I wanted it to, which finally caused me to take my fingers out of my own ears long enough to hear God whisper in the wind "I am here".  In fact there is a portion of Psalm 139 where David ponders "Where can I go from your spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?" and I was reminded that what was true for him is true for me, whether I go up to the heavens or find myself in the depths, God is there.  I may want things neat and orderly, but God can handle my mess.  I may want all the answers and have to know why things are the way they are, but God is okay with my questions.  I may feel like I am lost at sea with no land in sight, but God is the wave of the ocean holding my head above the water.  I can rest in that.
  So, while last week wasn't an easy week... while it left me drop kicked and screaming... it also taught me some knew things and gave me new experiences and I guess that's a pretty good way to finish up one year and start another.  At least that's how I feel for today.
 

Friday, January 1, 2016

When Life Puts You in Time Out...

  Happy New year everyone!  Remember when you were little and you thought that by 2016 we would all be floating around in space cars like the Jetsons?  No?  Oh, well, maybe that was just me then.  Anyway, as I wrote yesterday, heading into 2016 I feel different than I have in the past.  Instead of creating goals and trying to figure out how I want the next year to go, I kind of feel like I have no idea about anything.  In some ways that's absolutely terrifying.... but in other ways, like I realized late last night (after quite a bit of wine, so maybe I should take this all with a grain of salt), maybe it should also be exciting.  Truth is, I don' know what this year holds or how it will all turn out.  I don't know what to look forward to or what to plan or not plan for, but one thing seems pretty certain and that is that this will most likely be a year of self-discovery.  It has to be.... (you can't get any lower than "I don't know" can you?!?!)
  I don't think that I've really spent all that much time investing in myself these past few years.  Actually, I don't think I've really put too much focus on myself at all since the year I lost 130lbs!  Before this new year started thought (so like, over the past several weeks and months), it's seemed like life keeps throwing me into the corner and putting me in time out.  It's like it's telling me, slow down, take a minute, think about what's going on.  Personally I have a hard time stopping to smell the roses.  I like to plow through life, going from one task to another, feeling like I am doing something but not really taking the time to really enjoy what I am doing.  Maybe life's trying to do me a favor.  Maybe what feels like I forced punishment is really a loving parents telling me I need to rest.  Maybe all of this will be for the best.  I guess we shall see....if anything, it will be interesting.  So here we go...Day 1 (Feel free K-Love or Fish listeners to start singing "It's day one of the rest of my life" by Matthew West here as we fade out!)
 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Not your Typical NYE post....

  I haven't written in a while.  Not because I haven't thought about it or haven't wanted to.  I just haven't been able to find the words...or to put them down on paper (or in a blog).  There's a lot that has happened, a lot that's going on, a lot that I am trying to work through.  And I guess in a way I'm now on a new journey....a journey of self discovery, a journey of deepening faith, a journey of realizing what's the point in all of this.  I don't know what's going to happen from here on out.  I don't know how pretty or messy things will get.  But this is life and, I guess that's how it goes.

 
Today is New Year's eve and usually about this time of the year I am coming up with goals and ideas for how I want the next year to go.  In some ways I feel like I kind of did that this year back in September.  I was in a place where I needed something to look forward to, something to carry me on, and so I started thinking about the future...coming back to the states, what I wanted to do, how it would all flow together.  My plan was pretty good...at least I thought so.  Of course, nothing has turned out as I expected and things pretty much began unraveling before I even got on a plane to come back, so here I am...December 31st, 2015.... on the brink of a new year....with no idea about what to do, how to do it, or what's going to happen.
 
It's hard to be excited about a new year at the moment.  Usually when you think new year, you think fresh start and new beginnings.  That just doesn't seem to be the case for me this time around.  Instead of a clean slate, I feel like I am heading into a new year with all this baggage and issues from the previous year that have to get worked through.  I look at my calendar and I already see at least the first three months of the new year being consumed by a problem that came to light for me almost two months ago.  I hate that I can't just forget about it, and push it all aside, that it's not possible to just pretend like it doesn't matter and has no effect on life.  It does and I can't.
 
Then there are things I need to figure out.... insurance, a job, school, etc. and the emotions that come not only with being back in the states, but also trying to process my past two years in Ecuador. I feel so overwhelmed...on top of the overwhelmedness I felt before moving home.  Everyone here is so excited to see me and have me home and that's so nice, but for me it's not the easiest place to be.  All I can say is, while I don't know what to expect in the new year (at least not completely), I guess I just need to hope things get better than how they start.
 
So....Happy New Year Ya'll.
Be safe tonight!
 
Jess 
 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Telephone Poles and Toothpicks...

  Last night I made the conscious decision not to blog.  In part I was exhausted from my day of travel and ministry, and partly I just felt like it wasn’t worth it to just put out a blog, to put out a blog.  Plus I kind of felt the freedom to just let it go for one day because of the blog post “Failing” by Micha Murray that I read a few days ago…so there’s that too.
  Anyway, something I have been noticing about myself lately is that I tend to be annoyed and frustrated with other people, and just get fixated on what I perceive they have done “wrong” instead of actually taking the time to look into my own heart and discover why this bothers me so much and what I can do to change my reaction.
  This morning I spent quite a bit of time journaling about it… about why I am like this and what’s really going on in my heart… and I realized that the reason why I fixate on other people’s “issues” is because it’s so much easier then looking at my own!
  The Bible talks about trying to take the speck out of other people’s eyes while we have planks in our own.  In my mind, I always picture myself trying to get a toothpick out of my friend’s eyes while I have a telephone pole protruding out of mine.  What always ends up happening in this mental picture of mine, is that I end up hurting the other person and myself…. Which is pretty much what happens in real life.
  So that begs the question… how do we get the telephone pole out?  And is it even possible to do so? And if by chance I am even capable of doing so, does that mean that I should then even go back and try and pick at that toothpick in my friends eye?
  Honestly, I don’t know that it’s possible, this side of heaven.  As much as I believe that we are new creations when we come to Christ and thus we have a new nature, in my day to day life I struggle to constantly live out of that “newness”.  In fact most times I struggle to believe that it’s possible for anyone (outside of Jesus) to live a sinless life.
  Maybe that makes me a bad Christian.  Maybe that shows the cracks in my own spiritual armor or at least my understanding of God and my relationship with him.  But… it’s also true, and maybe the best way to begin working that pole out is just to be honest…. To admit the truth and to be real.
  I also think that pulling a telephone pole out of your eye, or even having it removed “gently” by a surgeon, is going to cause some pain, it's also going to take some time to recover and it will even bring about some changes in lifestyle.  None of that is easy….it takes a conscious decision or decisions, it takes being willing to change, it even takes the ability to sit with the pain (at least for a bit).
  But I also think, like with any type of surgery a person would have, it’s necessary…and it’s worth it…. at least in this moment is sure seems like it would be.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On Being Open and Vulnerable...

  Do you know what's really hard for me?  Opening up.... like really opening up.... like telling you things that are going on inside my head or my heart that I know might make you uncomfortable or that you might not agree with or that will make you look at me in a different light.  It's not like I am a completely closed off person.  I have friends, I get along with people.  I know how to share enough of myself to make it possible for me to have relationships.  What I am talking about here are the more deeper parts of myself, maybe the more real-er (yes I know that's not a word!) parts of myself.  That's what is hard for me to share.
  Lately I've tried to become more open in putting myself out there....whether on here or with strangers and sometimes with friends.  Yet what I am finding is that a lot of the reasons why I hold back in sharing are actually valid.  The fears I have about people's response and what comes next in many ways have come true and I can't help but wonder is it my fault... is this is a self fulfilling prophesy.
  The more I try to open up, the more I feel like the world is putting its big giant hand over my mouth and telling me to "shut up" and "sit down".  It makes me want to stop, to turn back, to close up and not really let myself be fully available to the world around me.  I can live that way... it is possible... I've done it for most of my life.  But, shouldn't the other way be possible to. I mean shouldn't we be able to live open and real with each other, and experience all of life, because we are giving all of ourselves to life?
  I don't know, maybe I am being to idealistic.  Maybe I am fantasizing the whole thing...considering the truth is, to experience all of life you have to experience both the good and the bad, and as a human I only want the good.  And maybe it's just a "Me" thing, as so many other people in the world don't have a problem putting their selves out there no matter what. 
  In my mind I wonder if this is how God created me or is this just how the world is because of sin?  And as I Christian sometimes I feel conflicted because I know my identity is in Christ and in nothing else on this earth, yet I clearly allow the things of this world to matter (I mean even the very fact that I feel the need to include something about faith in this post for no other reason than it's what people expect, proves that).
  I don't know.  Maybe really what it comes down to is that it doesn't matter how the world responds to us, but rather how we respond to the world.  Maybe it doesn't matter if people tell us to shut up because if we know what we are meant to say, we will say it anyway.  Maybe I just need to learn to plug my nose and close my eyes and jump into the deep end, to hell with the consequences (if only that was actually my personality).
  I'll figure it out....eventually.  In the mean time I am going to keep trying....to keep trying to open up a little more and a little more...and to not allow people and things to get to me so easily.  If everyone else has the right to be real and say their say, well then maybe so shouldn't I....although, I definitely don't feel the need to be as forceful about it as some, so I'm going to take my time.  Hopefully I don't regret this....
 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mysteriously Out of my Comfort Zone...

  I think over the past two years I have become more accustomed to stepping out of my comfort zone, then I ever had been before moving here to the missions field. I know it sounds funny for someone who literally jumped out of a plane to say I don't like to do crazy things, but it's truth! In fact I don't even like to do many normal things....they cause me more anxiety than I care to admit. But, like I said , these past two years have been full of moments where I have had to do things that I was not comfortable with (not bad things, just stretching things). And I guess the truth is that what it really comes down to is choosing what "voice" I am going to listen to.
  This past weekend I did something that was about as far out of my comfort zone as moving to ecuador was. It might not seem like much if I told you what it was but let's just say it's something I have been presented with the option of  doing before and completely turned it down cause I just wasn't ready to go there.  I was too scared in the past and the "voice" that told me I it wouldn't be worth it, and would only cause more problems than good, has always won out before.
  I am honestly am not sure how I over came that "voice" now.  I am not even sure that I am "ready" to "go there" now, but I am also not sure that I will ever be ready and... well... I'm not getting any younger. I guess it pretty much came down to if the fear of things staying the same was greater than the risk... and  in the moment it was, so I jumped in feet first and tried not to let my feelings talk me into turning around.
  I wish I could say doing so has not only been easy but also rewarding. So far neither has been true, but I am banking on the fact that in the end I will be singing a different tune. We shall see. I wish that I could tell you more, but not yet....hopefully someday. Until then, please be praying for me and trusting with me that God will and is directing this whole process. Thanks! Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2015

In Sickness and In Health....

  So my friend was here last week and while she was here she was feeling pretty sick.  As much as I hate to admit it, I think I might have picked up a bit of her cold, as all day yesterday my throat was pretty scratchy and now today I've had a headache and not the happiest stomach for most of the afternoon.  I have seriously considered going to bed soon, but I am pretty sure that if I did I wouldn't make it through the whole night.
  I hate not feeling great (I am definitely not sick...just feeling off)....not that anyone really likes it... but I can be such a baby about it.  My friend traveled here and then worked for a few days even though she was feeling so much more crappier than me and here I am claiming I need to go to bed.  I am such a baby.
  The truth of the matter is I don't get sick very often and because of that, I think it's possible I never learned how to deal with being sick.  During my 12 years of schooling I was only sick 3 times...But I mean sick... and it lasted weeks!  And I worked over 5 years at a book store and only called out sick (because I was actually sick) 1 time!  Yet since moving here to Ecuador, I have gotten quite a few colds and 24-48 hour bugs.... not a whole lot, but more than I had in all the time before I moved here.  I think the germs may be different here.
  The thing is, that when I am sick, I want everyone to know.  I'm not super annoying about it... like I don't get whinny or have the poor me, I need attention attitude (at least I don't think I do), but I want people to know what's going on so that I kind of have an excuse if I need to go to bed early or I don't go do some activity. 
  What's weird though is that I am not like that in all the other parts of my life.  Obviously I share parts of myself with people.  I will tell you my opinions are if you ask and sometimes even when you don't.  I will tell you all about the good things that have happened in my day or even the embarrassing stories.  I will share about what God is teaching me or about how He is using me.  But if I am struggling, if there's something hard I am dealing with, if my "soul" is "sick" in any way.... I'm most likely not going to say anything. 
   I think we all have  things that we don't talk about though, and we all have our reasons for not doing so.  But isn't it funny that in our world it's so much easier to complain about being sick than to admit a struggle.  It's such a stigma, even though that's slightly starting to change, to say any of "those" things.  While people don't mind if you tell them you have the flu, it sure makes people feel uncomfortable if you say your dealing with such-in-such.  How do we change that?  How do we make it less uncomfortable?  Is that even possible?  Those are my thoughts for today....
 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Today I Remember...

  Last month I had a chance to Skype into a service at my home church and listen to the testimonies of the team that had come down to work with my team and I here in Ecuador during the summer.  It was so good for me to sit there and listen to them share what the trip was like and how God worked in and through them while they were here.  I needed that.
  During that service, I also had an opportunity to share.  In all honesty, I really didn't want to. I had hoped that the team would fill up all the time and I wouldn't have to say anything.  However, the night before the service, it had become quite obvious that I would have to say something and I felt like God placed something on my heart to share, so when the time came, I stepped up to the plate and did it.
  Six weeks (or something like that) later, I have come to believe that God had me share what I did on that Sunday not just to encourage/challenge others, but also so that it would be something that would stick with me and I could preach it back to myself when I needed to hear it.
  Today I went for a forever long walk.  I needed to get out of the house, enjoy some fresh air and get the endorphin rush.  As I was walking... and walking...I thought a lot about what I shared that day.  Mostly I quoted back to myself the verse, "The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed" (Deut 31:8).
  While this has been a year where I've been confronted again and again with the reality that God is always there for me... that He loves me unconditionally and that He will NEVER leave or forsake me...sometimes I still forget or struggle to believe it.
  God has never once given me a reason to doubt Him.  He has never not been there to catch me when I fall.  Even in the moments where I don't understand why He responded the way He did, He has still always responded.  He is faithful and strong and completely capable to handling my very best and my very worst.
  I can put up walls for the world and show them only the sides of me that are acceptable.  But I need to be real with God...I need to come clean about my messiness and meet him in the depths that I like to pretend don't exist for me.  And then, even when I push Him away or ignore Him... I need to remember that He's always there, waiting for me to come back, with arms outstretched.
   He's there like that for all of us....sometimes we just need to be reminded.  Today I remember...
 
 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Honesty and Blogging and Growing and Learning...

  This blogging thing is hard ya'll.  On the one hand, it gives me the space to open up and share a bit of myself with the world, which in a way brings healing and is very cathartic for me.  But on the other hand it can sometimes feel like I am in a cage; a dancing monkey trying to please the crowd.  I'm not saying that I write for attention (although maybe I do, because who writes a blog and hopes that nobody reads it), but I definitely struggle to walk the line between wanting to be true to myself and honestly share what's really going on with me, and not wanting to share too much because I know that people are actually reading this now and many of those people I see in my every day life (which is pretty uncomfortable and yet also really awesome at the same time... if that makes sense)!
 To be honest, there was a time when I blogged and nobody knew about it.  Because of that I could write anything and say anything because nobody knew I was sharing it.  In a way that was nice, but it was also kind of silly.  In fact I probably should have just had a journal that I left out on the table at my house for anyone to read, considering more people probably would have felt the desire to read that than were reading my blog.  But I made the choice to write  online... and I continue to do so because  I want people to connect with me and to be able to connect with people.  I want to know that I am not alone in the world and I long for the chance for someone else to read what I've written and see that they aren't alone either.  And the thing is, for that to  happen you need to be real....and sometimes being real on here ends up making life a little uncomfortable.
 In my real life, in my day to day comings and goings, I don't share the things I write on here with pretty much anybody I come in contact with.  It's not that I can't.....it's just that it's awkward and uncomfortable and...well... ain't nobody got time for that!   I think as we all grow up, we also all grow accustomed to believing that people don't really want to hear the nitty gritty, deeper stuff of our lives. It's kind of like when someone asks "how are you?" and you can tell right off if they really want to know or if they are just being polite.  Most people are just being polite.
  I also think the fact that I am a Christian and my faith plays a huge part in what I do and how I live, is in part why I find honestly blogging to be so hard sometimes.  Being a Christian automatically places certain standards on you.  People have an idea in their heads of what being a "Christian" is and they can't help but place expectations on your because of it (whether or not they themselves are a Christian!).  Then, I went a head and added an extra bulls eye to my back by choosing to follow a call to the missions field these two years, so there's a whole nother level to people's expectations of me (at least it feels like it).  And in a way, that makes me very cautious about being vulnerable and open. 
  But when it comes to this whole #Write31Days challenge though, for how hard it's been at times, it has also taught me a lot about myself and ways I still need/want to grow.  It's taught me to look more closely at myself and how I am feeling...not just glance over my feelings and then lock them away.  It's also made me ask some tough questions of my faith and my relationship with God...good questions, the kind of questions that make what I believe not just a statement but a reality.  And so, for has much as some days I "publish" a blog and think, "crap, why did I share that"...there's also a part of me that is excited to see where I go from here and to keep continuing on the journey of blogging honestly.  I am determined to see where this road takes me, what God teaches me through it, who I come because of it.  So that's what I am going to do....even when these 31 days come to and end...and I hope you'll continue on this journey with me.  May we grow together.