Friday, August 30, 2013

update: Hi friends I'm alive!

Hi there my lovely blog friends! How are the each of you doing? I am so sorry I have seriously been slacking lately in my blog posts, life around here has continued to become surprisingly busy. I sent my big brother off to Spain yesterday to teach English there for the next 9 months. It was sad to see him go, but I am so excited for the plans God has for his future there. I am also hoping that my family and I will be able to visit him during his time there. 

Here are some fun pictures to update you on my life lately. These pictures are from my instagram account, click HERE to follow me on instagram! holler :)
 Above: dropping my brother off at the airport before he left for spain! 
Below: my new pink converse sneakers that I'm in love with obviously! I like pink...what? Since when? ;)

Today I spent some quiet time with the Lord that was really amazing. I felt the Lord gently nudging my heart and preparing me for whatever my future holds. I am nervous about starting graduate school and becoming a teacher, but also very excited at the same time. It has helped me an incredible amount by reminding myself that I can always lean on God and give all my fears and worries up to Him as I enter a new phase in life. 

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you."
1 Peter 5:7

I wish giving all my worries and cares to God was a piece of cake, but the truth is that a lot of the time its just plain hard. I want to hold onto whatever is bothering me, and I want to find an answer for my fears on my own. As time goes on and my fears gradually begin to consume me more and more, I sense God calling me back to Him and reminding me that I was never supposed to hold onto any of my fears in the first place. 

I have began praying that the Lord would equip me with the proper mindset that I need to have going in to graduate school. It's very hard for me to to give up all my fears and worries that I REALLY want to hold onto in the midst of my schoolwork and my other working habits. I decided that this year, I don't want this to happen. I don't want to live my life in a way that God never intended for me to, surrounded by fear and worry. I'm tired of living my life that way, and my life is always so much more peaceful when I give up every single little fear up my father who knows me best.

I don't even know how I am go to give up every single fear to God, but I know that if I have the God of the universe behind my plans and dreams, the I can certainly expect wonderful things ahead for my future. Yes, this will likely be a season of pruning for me, as God continues to build and stretch my faith and teach me more about who He really is. I know that it is my responsibility as God's child to pray often about whatever is on my heart, and also seek His wisdom above everything else. It makes me nervous just thinking about the kinds of new experiences that are just around the corner for me, but with God as my anchor, I know that I can be prepared no matter what is ahead for me. 

So dad, lets do this. I trust that you want me to surrender every ounce of my fears into your hands. I'm tired of living my life burdened by what is making me fearful of tomorrow. Please Jesus, help me surrender any type of fear to you in my walk with you and begin to make this a habit in my walk with you. Help me to let go of whatever is holding me down.  Please properly eqiup me with whatever mindset or attitude I will need going into graduate school. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

When God changed my heart

Hey blog friends! How have you all been? I'm sorry I have been M.I.A. around here, I have just been taking some time to clear my thoughts and really listen to what the Lord is speaking to me through my life right now. I am so thankful because the Lord has truly changed my heart completely from the beginning of summer until now. So much has changed, and there is no better feeling in the world than falling in love with Jesus more and more every day. 

So uhhhh..what to talk about? As I sit here and pray for the Lord to give me wisdom and instruction, my mind is drawing a blank. I feel like I have so much to be thankful for with what the Lord is doing in my life, and I just want to praise Him all the time. It's a great feeling.

God revealed to me at the beginning of this summer that fear is something I struggle with a lot. My biggest fear is rejection, and this is because of some things that have happened with my old friends of the past. Along with rejection, my other big fears are simply for things to go wrong in my life. I either fear the worst of the worst happening, or I fear that just bad things will happen in my life in general. Whenever I think this way, my mind is in shambles, and suddenly God feels very distant. 

Although I have improved so much in this area of my walk with God since the beginning of the summer, I still struggle with it. It is getting better, but I am still weak. This summer has been such a humbling experience as I am reminded that the Lord truly holds every ounce of my strength. Without Him, I would lose every battle. Without Him, I wouldn't have any motivation left to keep going. 

Along with this situation being very humbling, I wont lie, it has been quite frustrating as well. Some days I just wish I was more far ahead in my transformation process. It is during these hard times that I hear the Lord speak gently into my heart: "Not yet Jessica, but soon. Trust me." God encourages my heart so much by helping me to recognize how far I have come. I realized today how uncomfortable I instantly become whenever my mind begins to shift into fearful thinking. At the beginning of the summer, I was so used to thinking that way that I didn't even realize there was anything wrong with my thinking pattern. However today, things are very different. In just 2 short months, the Lord has restored my mind and given me the strength to resist any thoughts that are not of Him. 

I think its easy for the each of us to focus more on how far we have left to go, instead of focusing on how far we have come in our walks with God. At least thats how it goes for me anyway. I should be praising God constantly for all that He's done in my life at this point, but instead I find it easier sometimes to complain and wish that He were working things out differently. How in my right mind could I look back on this past summer and NOT be full of praise through acknowledging the drastic changes the Lord has done with my heart?

 It's amazing that God loves the each of us enough to care about working on the little things within our lives. We don't have to be lying in a hospital bed in order for God to pay any attention to us. A lot of the time our biggest need for God simply comes from the lingering pain within our hearts. If God sees some kind of wall built up in my heart that is prohibiting me from experiencing His true character, He will do whatever necessary to break down that wall so I can know His love for me in full measure. I feel so loved knowing that God loved me enough to spend this entire summer working simply on my heart.  Thank you Jesus, I love you Lord.

"The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7

In what ways has the Lord worked on your guys hearts this summer? Is it easy for you to fall into a routine of complaining to God instead of praising Him? In what ways do you think you can make an effort to start praising God more? 

Love always, Jess

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

anything but that God

Have you ever felt God calling you to do something where your like: "no no no no no NO I do NOT want to do that God! I will seriously do ANYTHING but that God." This could be something big or small, & regardless you just know deep down He wants you to do it. Thats how I have felt these past few days. Its nothing super big, but it still makes me incredibly nervous and uncomfortable by just the thought of doing it. Ugh. God would do this. Ha, I sound like a whiney child. Well I am God's child,  and I'm clearly freaking out about something that He wants me to do. 

& Guess what? It would be easy to run away. To keep moving on with my future and only focus on the "hope and the future God has for me," (Jer. 29:11). Although that verse may be totally true, the truth is that by running away from my fears, I'm actually hurting myself even more. God knows me better than I know myself, and He knows that by doing what He has called me to do that I will be set free from whatever is holding me captive. He knows that by doing this, I will receive great and immeasurable joy from doing so. But still, that doesn't take the fear out of the equation. It's still there, and it will remain up until the deed is done. One of my favorite Christian authors said it best:

"Courage is not the abscence of fear, it is action in the prescence of fear."
-Joyce Meyer 

So my lovely friends, what ridiculous-makes-your-legs-shake-at-the-thought-type-of-thing has God called you to do today? Let's be brave together and face our fears confidently! God is calling us to do these scary things because He sees the joy thats waiting for us right around the corner. 

Love always, Jess 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The #2 problem with Christianity

"Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life."
Psalm 139:24

This is a very special verse to me because a lot of the time I will quietly pray it to myself as a way to find out if there is anything that I may be putting in between my relationship with the Lord.  It helps me keep my relationship with God on track, by reminding myself that its completely okay to be honest with God and allow for Him to show me the areas of my walk with Him where I'm slipping up. This is something that I have to do often, because God's the teacher and I'm the student. I'm learning something new from Him everyday.

Last night, I found myself praying this prayer to God once again. It's not that I felt distance from God or anything, instead I simply felt nothing. God's presence was there with me, but the passion I have always typically felt in my relationship with Him was not. The second I tasted God's goodness, I knew I wanted more of it every day for the rest of my life. Now that I have become familiar with God's "taste," its very easy for me to recognize when it is gone or dying down.

God quietly responded to my prayer by letting me know that actually this time I hadn't replaced Him with anything. Instead, I had run away from one of the problems in my life, which had prohibited me from receiving His grace in full measure. I saw a set of risky and unfavorable circumstances in front of me that God was calling me to tackle head on, and I became scared. Instead of responding obediently to what God had called me to do, I ran in the opposite direction. 

"Jessica, how can you ever expect to really know me if you run away from the things I have called you to do, no matter how impossible they may seem?"

I then thought back to all of the times where God has been faithful in my walk with Him, even when I doubted Him a million times. I told the Lord that I was sorry, and asked Him to forgive me for running away from what He had called me to do. The truth is that it was easy to run away. It was easy for me to take the "safe and comfortable route" away from the problem placed in front of me. As I look back on my walk with Jesus though, I am reminded that the majority of the time He has placed me in uncomfortable situations.  I am able to see how much I was able to grow through these experiences, as I relied on His strength more than ever to get me through.

The truth is, if we want God to become something more to us than just a guy we visit on Sundays, then we must accept that the majority of the time He will place us in uncomfortable situations. God will become a lot more real to us in our lives if we make that first step in choosing courage over fear. Although He doesn't promise to take away circumstances in our lives that we may not be in favor of, He does promise that He is with us continuously, & God wants us to trust and believe that that promise from Him is enough. 

Has God called you to do something recently that your afraid of? Are you running away from an area of your life that God wants you to stand firm in? I know I have doubted God and ran away from Him plenty of times, but when I finally decided to pull through and trust Him even in the tough times, I was truly able to experience His love for me. 

Love always, Jess 

Monday, August 19, 2013

DIY Inspiration board

Hey there friends!
Today I am so excited to share my DIY Inspiration board that I made the other day! I absolutely love it and it was the perfect addition to the boring blank wall in front of my desk in my bedroom. I was inspired by to make this board via pinterest, and I am slowly becoming more obsessed with it day by day. I love everything chevron, in case you didn't know...

Heres what you need:
Cork tiles- mine are from Michael's, $5 for a pack of 4. (They're floor tiles, you can choose to buy the thick kind or the thin kind, either are fine!)
Masking tape (about $3.50 at Michaels)
White paint (65 cents a tube at Michael's! I used 2 of them for this project.)
3M command picture hanging strips
A paintbrush
A ruler & a pencil

Step 1: I used a ruler to measure the same distance from each side to form my chevron pattern. It ended up being a lot easier than I thought it would be. I also used the ruler to make straight pencil marks for the lines of my chevron pattern.

Step 2: Use your ruler to measure the length of each different line for your chevron pattern. It took me about an hour and a half to complete the whole thing. It was worth taking the time to make sure the lines were matching up on each side and that they also weren't crooked or uneven. 

Step 3: Arrange your tiles in the correct pattern you want them to be to make sure the stripes line up almost perfectly. With a pattern as simple as this, you can do the diamond, diagonal stripes, or chevron. I chose chevron only because I'm slightly obsessed. 

Step 4: Paint the remaining cork with the white paint. Make sure to do about 2 layers of the white paint. Let the paint dry completely, and then pull off all of the tape. (I love how straight the lines come out at this point! I was oooohing and ahhhhing!)

Step 5: Stick 3M Command picture strips together, they make it for simply for you to do. I cut each of my strips in half so I could put one on each cork board. 


What do you guys think? Have you guys done any fun crafts this summer? I'd love to hear about the fun things that the each of you have made! I don't know about you, but I sure have had a heck of a lot of fun this summer trying out different pretty crafts via Pinterest! Love that website...its addicting!

Love always, Jess

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wildcard Wednesday: I'm a Co-Host!

 Welcome to Wildcard Wednesday!


The name of the game is #wildcard 
Stakes: A special PRIZE will be up for grabs the last week of each month
 Your link ups each week are your entries
Example: If you link up your blog, bloglovin and twitter you will have 3 entries each week
Disclaimer: You MUST be following your hosts in order to win

Winner of the June #wildcard {Won A $20 Giftcard of Choice}:


Rules of the Game: 
1. Follow all your hosts

Simply Clarke: Blog / Bloglovin / Twitter
Mal Smiles: Blog / Bloglovin / Twitter
All That Glitters: Blog / Bloglovin / Twitter

and co-hosts

Life WIth Amberly and Joe: Blog / Bloglovin / Twitter
Forever Convinced: Blog / Bloglovin / Twitter
Thirty. Seven. Four: Blog / Bloglovin / Twitter

2. Grab our button for your post so that others can join in the fun
3. Link up using your Blog URL, Bloglovin' URL & Twitter
4. Visit at least 3 other blogs

5.  TWEET about Wildcard Wednesday using #wildcard 

Now make some new friends :) 

Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest

When God seems far away

After spending the weekend with my family, I realized something felt different inside of me. There was some kind of barrier between my relationship with God that was blocking the intimate connection with Him that I was so used to feeling. Where was He? I didn't know what to do with myself, so I began to habitually read through some of my daily devotions in hopes that the Lord's presence would once again feel near. 

     You see, this situation is something that I have experienced many times before, yet I somehow still find myself oblivious of how I arrive to this point every time I get here. After sitting down for awhile and trying to figure out why I felt so weird about my relationship with God, I realized that I had said and done some things this weekend around my family that I needed to ask God forgiveness for. I had selfishly gossiped about people of my past, and today. I had turned my face from the Lord ever so quickly, by choosing insecurity instead of glorifying Him in all that I do. It had happened quicker than a blink of the eye. There my sin was once again, sprawled out for me to see. My selfishness, my ugliness, the side of me that Jesus died for me on the cross for. The person that I used to be.

I hate seeing and experiencing the "old Jessica", but the truth of the matter is that although I am a new creation in Christ, there is still a deadly disease lurking inside of me that will never go away. Yep, its with me for life, along with the rest of you as well.  This disease whirling around inside of me is typically referred to by the name of sin, or in other words everything that is not of God. Let me give you some examples: fighting, hatred, cussing, lustful thoughts/actions, get the point. As much as I hate re-living the old me, thankfully I have a savior who chooses to throw it all away, every single day of my life. The guilt I had felt for my actions is suddenly gone, and I no longer have to carry any shame. All I simply had to do is ask for God to forgive me for messing up, and He puts the matter behind me.

The closer I get to Jesus, the more I want nothing to do with sin. Most importantly though, the closer I get to Jesus, the more aware I become of my own sin. I have realized that a relationship with Jesus means that we must make forgiveness from Him in our lives a daily habit. Even when we feel like we had some sort of "right" to act the way that we did, God's word and his conviction in our own lives has the upper hand, and we when He calls us to forgive, we must do it. It's that tugging, gnawing feeling on your heart, and you know when its there. Please don't ignore it like I did for so many years, I wasted so much precious time. I believe that God puts that heavy-weight feeling in your heart to bring your attention back to Him and to draw you toward repentance. He's not doing it because He's mad at you, He's doing it because He loves you, and because He is acting how a typical father acts who loves his own child that he has to discipline. 

At the end of the day, I may seem like I have it all together, but the truth is, I really don't. I'm just a normal girl, living in this fallen world that desperately needs Jesus.  I'm a sinner who is unworthy of anything that I receive from God,  yet God still loves me unconditionally and tells me that I have amazing value in Him. I love how God uses simple, ordinary people like you and me, to show how powerful He is through our many weaknesses.  

"Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful."
1 Corinthians 1:27

How do the each of you make it a habit to acknowledge your own sin? Do you guys struggle with recognizing it right away as I typically do? I'd love to hear what you all have to say on this topic! Lots of love to the all of you my friends! :)

Love always, Jess

Monday, August 12, 2013

Guest post: My new friend Nina!

Hello friends! In the midst of my "blogger burnout," my new blog friend Nina from The Grand Adventure of Me  was sweet enough to email me and let me know that she'd be happy to write a guest post for me at this time. Nina has a beautiful heart for human trafficking with women. She recently just came home from the Dominican Republic, and today she's going to share more about this trip with the each of you. Thanks again Nina, I'm so happy that we crossed paths! :) Love, Jess

Meet Nina...

Hey! I’m Nina and I blog over at The Grand Adventures of Me about my life as a 20 year old college student. My 20's have started out quite chaotically, and my most recent adventure was to the Dominican Republic. When I'm not blogging, I'm eating Mexican food, reading books, craving cupcakes, and drinking frappuccinos. 

On June 19 (which is my birthday, in case anyone wants to send me Starbucks gift cards next year – mark your calendars) I received an email telling me that I had been accepted to do an internship in the Dominican Republic with a safe house for women coming off the streets. The only problem: I was leaving in 12 days. I had 12 days to raise $1600! I put out my metaphorical fleece and left the rest up to God. He totally pulled through. 10 days before I flew out for a month-long slumber party with 7 incredible women, I received more money than I needed, without asking a single person for a dime . How great is our God?!

My passion for anti-human trafficking was sparked by a tiny flame when I was 15. I was at church camp and my heart just broke when I saw a beautiful young lady stand up and say that she was raped, but that she was purified through Christ. From then on, I knew it was God’s desire for me to work battered and abused women. Somewhere along the line, I heard about sex trafficking and I knew I wanted to help fight against this monstrosity that people are just now becoming aware of. I don’t think I can change the world, but I know that I can hug people, and I so desperately want to hug each and every one of these women, boys, and girls, and tell them that they are beautiful, they are loved, and they are special. I want each and every victim of sex trafficking to know that he/she is loved – not because of how they can service others, but because they are loved first by Someone who is the ultimate lover because He loves our souls.

So God blessed me with an opportunity this summer to spend a month working alongside women who are being rehabilitated in God’s Word, through discipleship, and making jewelry. I got to hug and love on these women and hear their testimonies. However, I was really frustrated with the language barrier. Despite my four years of intense Spanish (I hardly put forth any effort in these classes,) I was not fluent. I knew enough to get around and have shallow conversations, but I wanted to speak with girls on deeper levels, and get to know their souls. But God said that He wasn’t ready for me to do that, yet. (And it’s probably a good thing.) Because I was unable to form relationships based on words, I had to form relationships based on actions. I got to laugh with these women, dance with these women, hug them, and pray for them. It was in this time that I really began to understand that Christianity is not just for Americans, or English speaking people. These women sang their hearts out to God in their own language, and it was a tremendous blessing to be able to worship alongside these women. Our God is multicultural, and multilingual. I just think that is so cool.

In the Dominican Republic, I discovered something. The Lily House (the name of the organization) director said that she wanted to write a book one day about how we all are prostitutes. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we all are! You and I may not sell our bodies to other men for money, but how often do we "sell our souls" to the things of this world? I am no different than the women on the streets. I sell myself to things that are not of Christ to get my fix, just like these women sell themselves to other men to get their next fix - whether it be drugs, alcohol, or even meals to feed their family. We are all daughters of Christ, but only a few of us know that. And that is why I want to dedicate my life to a ministry of anti-human trafficking. Oftentimes we snub our noses because we don't understand the situation. I don't want to be a woman who snubs her nose at someone because her circumstance is different than my own. I want to get to know her, and tell her that she, too, is a daughter of Christ, and He is beckoning her with open arms. I want to make women feel beautiful because of who they are, not what they do. 

I wish that we could all just sit down with iced lattes and cupcakes and talk about this, because I feel there is no way to convey how much I love what God has called me to do, and how passionate I am about this field of ministry just over a blog post. The most exciting part about it all: I have to completely wait on God in every area. He puts me in so many waiting rooms, and while I absolutely hate waiting, I am learning to develop a deep trust in God that I never thought I would have. My testimony in a sentence would be this - "prayer seriously works, and God always pulls through."

Friday, August 9, 2013

The #1 problem with Christianity

"But Lord...I'm so upset with this whole thing! What do I do to release this pain?"
Start writing. Now. Tell them how I was misrepresented.

    That conversation with God happened about two nights ago, around two in the morning. Frustrated, angry, sad, confused, I was blowing up. Then God told me to start writing, so I did. I hope you care enough to read along. If not, thats okay too.

 Growing up, I was raised in a different kind of church. Every Sunday I would enter the building and go to Sunday school and sing along with my friends and family. Along with my own family, other people we knew very well went to this church as well. One day, my dad decided that he wanted to start go to a Church closer in town. So we did.

     I think it was no longer than 6 months after we stopped going to our old church that I pretty much stopped hearing from the everyone who we were close with that went to our old church. Close relationships with these people transformed into an occasional "merry Christmas!" or a "happy birthday!" It was at this point I began to believe the lie in my head about God even more clearly that I would never be good enough for Him. I felt that my performance would never be acceptable to a God who was concerned about my church attendance or my status as baptized or non-baptized.

Instead of showing us love, grace, and support when we really needed it the most, my family and I were shown rejection. Perhaps they believed by pushing us away, they were doing God a favor for not going to "their church" anymore. It seemed to me that they were wrapped up in the idea of God being some kind of scorekeeper. A God who keeps tabs on anyone who slips up by not maintaining a perfect score with their church attendance record. 

In this day and age, its the church itself that is idolized, instead of Jesus. It's all about going to church every sunday and having that perfect answer ready in response to every question given to us in Sunday school. We seem like we have Jesus down to the core, by dressing pretty on church for Sunday and then doing whatever we want any other day of the week. Are we blind? How can we sit there and convince ourselves that this is it, that Jesus died on the cross so we would... go to church? Have we not understood that Jesus Himself wanted nothing to do with religion and wanted everything to do with a relationship with Him?

 We say we love God, but when God calls us to forgive someone, we run away. We put aside our brokenness and choose to carry shame instead of bringing ourselves the cross to experience God's love and forgiveness. Instead of loving God as we claim we do, we really demonstrate that the only thing we love and worship is religion itself. We claim we know God, yet it's impossible for us to show grace, forgiveness, and compassion to others.  We began to pull out bits and pieces of the Bible for us to follow with our own lives, and forget the point of following the entire book.

Jesus says I love you the way that you are now already, religion says I will love you more if you do this or that.  Jesus says show grace and love to everyone, religion says love and forgive only those who you want to love and forgive. Jesus says we'll experience His love for us more by reading his love story for us in the Bible, religion says God will love us only if we read the Bible period. 

What happens when we replace religion with Jesus? We get a whole lot of...nothing.

Click HERE to like Forever Convinced on Facebook and click HERE to follow Jess on Instagram!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

VLOG! How God has changed me this summer

Hey friends! Today's vlog I'm sharing with you guys how mind-blowingly fast God has changed my heart this summer and taught me many wonderful things! I narrowed it down to three specific things to share with you all that the Lord has taught me. I think it's important to be vulnerable and also for me to share my past with the each of you wonderful friends. God has redeemed me from so much, and it would be a shame to keep any part of my journey with Him a secret. I hope you enjoy it and let me know what you think! 

ps- thank you ALL for your wonderful comments on my post a couple days ago about my blogger burnout. I loved reading each one of them, and I felt so loved and encouraged by the each of you! **Some lovely guest poster's are coming your way soon on on the lookout!**

Sorry this one is a little bit long, I didn't realize I was up to 10 minutes by the time I was finished! I tried to make it as un-boring as possible for you all :)  I laughed out loud as I heard that freakishly loud truck in the background in the middle of the video.

PS- Click HERE to like Forever Convinced on Facebook and click HERE to follow Jess on Instagram!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Blogger burn out: HELP!

Hello blog friends! How are you all doing?

Today I couldn't help but be completely honest with you guys and just say I am feeling totally wiped out with the whole blogging thing lately.

I don't know whats with me. I just feel like I don't know where to go with my blog from here, and that my blog isn't growing as rapidly as I want it to.

I know part of the problem is my stubbornness in desiring for things to happen as quick as I want them to. I have to keep reminding myself that at the end of the day I'm not the one who's in control of how quickly I make progress in my life, God is. Have you ever felt this way about your blog? How were you able to motivate or re-ignite the inspiration in you to keep moving forward with your blog?

I hate it when God puts me in a position to wait. Okay just kidding God ALWAYS has me in a position to wait for Him on something, but lately I am feeling more than ever major impatience in waiting on God's timing with moving forward with my blog. God keeps telling me to be patient and that good things are RIGHT around the corner, but I'm just having a very hard time waiting on Him to bring me to that point.

...or maybe this is just me feeling confused as over, and finding myself in a completely lost place with this blog. I remember when I first started blogging: I had a list of goals, directions, and ideas to get things going. Now as time has went on and I have continued to work on my blog since that point, I find myself in a place of having no clue what to do from here.

I find myself becoming frustrated, overwhelmed, and annoyed every time I begin writing a post for my blog.  What happened to the peace of heart and excitement I used to have about my blog?! Ugh. My mind is drawing a HUGE blank on what to write about. I feel that my blog is stuck in a rut, along with my own head!

I'm also nervous about graduate school, and making time for this blog. I pray that the Lord will make that possible, but seeing how busy my friends have been in the past who went through my graduate program, I'm worried how things are going to go. I would never want to let this blog go. (wheres the tissue box?!)

I love my blog! and most importantly, I love all of you! My mind is in a weird funk, and its going in a million different directions. I just wish God would give me some kind of direction with where to go from here. Instead of wishing, I think thats my cue to start praying about it.

What did you do in the past when you became burned out with blogging? I'd love to hear your guys suggestions on this topic! I know all of you reading this will have plenty of wisdom and encouragement to share with me, so please help a sista out! I would be so very grateful! :)

I love you all!

Love always, Jess

PS- Click HERE to like Forever Convinced on Facebook and click HERE to follow Jess on Instagram!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

when I never believed I'd be "good enough" for God

I don't know about you, but back in the day before I knew Jesus, the Bible seemed like a whole 'lot of nothing to me. As I sat in Sunday school and flipped through the dust filled pages of my own Bible, I realized that I did not feel any type of real life connection to the "ancient" book that was sitting in front of me. I felt like I would never be "holy enough" for God, so what was the point of flipping through this massive book that God Himself had apparently written 2,000 years ago anyway?

You see, the message that was preached to me all throughout my childhood about God was all about working for God's love and favor. According to how the old Jessica used to think about God, I needed get baptized ASAP in order to make myself a better Christian, and I also needed to make sure that I attended church every Sunday for the rest of my life, no excuses, or else God would be mad at me forever. God to me just seemed like an angry man up there in the clouds ordering around those He felt to be "worthy enough" of receiving His love for them.

This was it? I told myself. This was Christianity? No wonder this religion has so many phonies anyway, I thought to myself. God just seemed so distant, and as much as I wanted to know and understand Him more, I didn't know how.  How could I ever match up too all of these perfect Christians around me? That would never happen. I never felt that I would be good enough for God. I figured to myself that instead of trying to become a better Christian,  I would strive to build my social status and make new friends. I knew that I received a lot of happiness from making new friends in my life, and I knew that I absolutely loved people. God however, and that whole "Christianity" thing, was just not working out for me.

Although there was nothing wrong for me to have a goal of making new friends in my life, God wasn't at the heart and center of it all, making me doomed for failure. As time went on and I eventually was hurt by some of my friends of the past, I began to become so wounded and helpless, and I wondered if there was anyone out there who could heal my heart. This is about when God established His presence in my life so evidently that I was able to finally understand that Christianity in-fact is not a religion. Christianity is not a bunch of rules based on doing things to get better for God. Christianity is all about a relationship with Jesus, and approaching His throne of grace boldly and confidently.

Does this mean we can receive a "hall pass" for every sin in our life and do whatever we want? absolutely not, and I'd say if you are even considering that question, then you really don't love or know Jesus at all. Not to sound harsh or anything, but thats the truth. When you really come to know and love Jesus, you really love Him, and the last thing you want to do is sin against Him intentionally. That's how real and relational God is- it hurts His heart too when we cheat against Him. He becomes your father. The one that you look up to the most. The one who is always there to catch you when you stumble or make a mistake.

So my friends, tired of going to church every Sunday, calling yourself a Christian, and still feeling empty on the inside regardless? It's time to get real with God. It's time to stop doing life your way, and start letting God take over. It's time to see God for who He really is, and start treating Him like the God of the universe as He truly is. After all, how are you ever going to really know God without responding to Him in this way? The Bible says we must come to God like little children (Matthew 18:3). This means, no matter how old you are, or what type of crisis you are in, you must depend on your heavenly father for each and every circumstance...just as a little child does with his father. 

Love always, Jess

PS- Click HERE to like Forever Convinced on Facebook and click HERE to follow Jess on Instagram!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

S'mores Bars!!! (Easiest thing ever and SO GOOD!)

Hello friends! Today I am sharing my delicious s'mores bars that I made. These things are literally to die for, and simple as ever to make. I made them for my young life summer group the other day and everybody was raving about them. I'm hooked, and I will probably make them about 5 million more times in my life span. Before I begin though, I'd like to let you all know that one of my best friends Julia has officially started blogging over at Living Through His Lens! Julia was one of the first people who led me to Jesus. She is the girl I talk about in my testimony HERE, who was sitting next to me in a coffee shop when God spoke to me in my heart for the first time ever. Julia has a beautiful heart, and her relationship with the Lord is real, personal, and beyond encouraging. I really suggest you follow along her blogging adventures, if you don't you will be missing out, I can guarantee you that!

Now, onto the s'mores bars....

Step 1: Place Honey Graham Crackers evenly into a baking dish. 

Step 2: Take out packaged cookie dough and spread out evenly onto the graham crackers (I used a rolling pin on a cutting board to make the dough as flat as possible before putting it onto the graham crackers and spreading it out more evenly on there)

Step 3: Place milk chocolate pieces all over the cookie dough. 

Oh. My. Yum.

Step 4: Begin to spread out mini marshmallows over the ENTIRE dish (this photo only shows before I completely surfaced the entire dish with marshmallows)

Step 5: Bake in the oven for 350 degrees for about 20-35 minutes until marshmallows are this pretty golden brown color, as pictured below.

Step 6: Take a bite, and forget why you ever favored any ever dessert over this. ever.

Love always,

PS- Click HERE to like Forever Convinced on Facebook and click HERE to follow Jess on Instagram!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Somethin' New: Vulnerability is the key to JOY

Holly, me, and Kristin at the Gloriana concert over the weekend! So much fun! this picture was taken on my IPhone through Instagram, click HERE to follow me on Instagram!

photo below was taken on my 60D, when I went through a beautiful evening stroll through my neighborhood!

Hey friends! Today marks my FINAL post for the summer of something new blog challenge. For those of you don't know what this challenge is, it was set up by my wonderful blog friend Annaliese at Southern Belle in Training, and for this challenge Annaliese, ElleJenna,  MichaelaGina and I have been sharing with you guys something new we have done this summer for the past 6 weeks!

Can I first just say WOW? Wow as in how fast time flies and also as in how miraculously amazing God is. I love how he works in every single detail of our lives. He sees our every need, and calls us to pray specifically for that need that we have so He can be our provider. He does this so He alone can get the glory from us that he so graciously deserves.

"The Lord said to Gideon, "You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength."
Judges 7:2-3

Today I thought about sharing with you guys my delicious s'mores cookie bars that I made earlier this week for the summer of something new challenge, but I decided instead to end my final post of this challenge talking about Jesus. After all, it has been His hand so strongly and evidently at work in my heart this summer, so who else would I want to give the final applause to?! (But don't worry, the s'mores bars are coming soon up on here soon, YUMMY!)

This summer God has challenged me beyond belief in making myself vulnerable with the community around me. God has so graciously and patiently explained to me the importance of not only being intentional with building new friendships with other Christians, but also with being intentional in surrounding myself with a community of Christians who love and support me. I have been blessed enough this summer to make new friends in my community of Young Life, who lead me closer to the Lord and encourage me in my relationship with Him every day.

It has been both a blessing and a challenge to develop these new friendships. God has been patient enough with my stubbornness in this area of my life to show me that it takes work, and it is not going to be something that happens with the snap of my fingers. It is certainly so worth all of the effort though, because I don't know what I would do without my Christian friends in my life and also without the community around me. I think this is something that is pretty much necessary for any Christian, don't you think?! We all need encouragement to seek Jesus and live closer to Him!

"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing."
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (One of my favorite verses!!)

So today my friend, don't doubt any new Christian friendships that the Lord has called you to pursue. Be patient, pray about them a TON, and trust that God OBVIOUSLY wants you to surround yourself with many other Christians and also a strong supportive community! He of course knows not only how important this is to have in our lives but also how much of a blessing it is as well. Don't give up, because I know how frustrating it can be as you continue to work hard to pursue these new friendships. You may doubt yourself in the process (I know I have already done that a ton and learned that it is a waste of time and also a thief of my joy!). God is the opposite of doubt,  He is our confidence!

I love you guys!
Love always, Jess