A Saturday Story- Jena, W&M

Intimacy with Abba
My eyes burst open at the sound and as they adjusted to the darkness, I glanced at my phone–it was 3:30am. Only one thought raced through my hyper-alert mind, “Your adventure awaits.” Before my eyes closed that very same day, I was in a new bed with a new family in a new city in a new country. Antigua, Guatemala—my new home for the 15 weeks which followed. Fifteen weeks that radically transformed me. I never would have learned as much as I did about who God is, who I am, or how the world is if I hadn’t studied abroad in Guatemala.
If you had asked me to pray to God using an intimate name like “Dad”, “Daddy”, or “Abba” I maybe would have done so but I would have felt like a hypocrite, I would have felt awkward and uncomfortable. I knew I desired to go deeper, to be closer, to draw nearer to God but didn’t exactly know how to. For the three months that I was in Guatemala I only had ONE believer with me—my roommate and best friend on the program, Katie Floyd. I only encountered two other believers in the 4 months that I was in Central America. One was Katie’s Spanish teacher and the other was the fuel tank trucker, Hugo, who drove me to the airport in Belize. Being ripped from community and from a family of believers back in the States knocked the breath out of me and I fell flat on my face. It took me a few weeks to understand how great of a blessing being devoid of Christian community was.
Before coming to Guatemala I knew God great in group settings. I could pray and really connect and feel His presence when I was with other believers whether in church, worshipping together, praying with someone else, or in Cru. I quickly realized that when it came to talking to God on a personal, individual level alone in my room I was incredibly uncomfortable and rarely prayed on my own. Yet while in Guatemala, I had no accountability for my actions. Katie didn’t consistently ask me if I had been reading my Bible, if I had been praying, or what I was learning from God.
And for the first time in my life, I understood something. We all know that relationships take work, but for some reason I never thought that my relationship with my Father needed any work. (Something wasn’t quite lining up, huh?) I needed discipline and I knew that the relationship that Christ died for was worth the effort. It was worth the time it took to read my Bible before breakfast every day at 6:30am and before I went to bed. It was worth the effort it took to pray in the midst of a day of severe doubt. I knew that intimacy was something I was missing and something I hadn’t realized I needed because I had been wrongfully using community as a replacement for intimacy with Abba. I was so uncomfortable with being intimate with my Father because I felt that if I admitted to Him some things (that he alreadyknew, of course) that I would be viewed lesser, I was ashamed. That if, somehow, I didn’t admit them to Him then I didn’t have to deal with them—that it was okay to just leave them sitting on the highest shelf of my mind, covered in piles of dust. I learned that shame is one of the Enemy’s best tactics from keeping us believers from walking in our full potential—realizing that we are genuinely free through Christ.  
For three months in Guatemala and then an additional three weeks in Belize, I really only had Jesus pouring into me. Katie was able to offer some guidance and we talked a few things out but God was really working on some things with Katie that I was able to talk through with her. We hear all the time that Jesus is all you need and it’s honestly so true. He was the ONLY thing that refueled, revived, and renewed me when I was encompassed in darkness—and Guatemala is shrouded in a veil of ancient lies that have permeated the vast expanses of culture. He poured into me through the pages of my Bible and through intimate times of prayer and worship. He is my Comforter, Best Friend, Teacher, Lover, and Father. I could write pages and pages on what my Dad has taught me the past four months and I am so grateful for His kindness and patience throughout my many ups and downs.
 I could talk about being painfully humbled or about the day where I doubted the literal existence of God. I could tell you how He built me up daily or how I endured my first real, pungent taste of persecution. I can declare to you now who Christ says I am and how I no longer want to plan my life away or schedule away all of my time but I’ll leave you with this…The most vital lesson to my faith walk and my life as a believer has been cultivating intimacy with my Father. And by no means am I close to where I would like to be, which of course is as close to the Father as possible. But that’s what is so great about our God—He’s all about the process because the process is where we draw near to Him and He draws near to us. The beauty of learning more about our God is that the more we know, the more we want to continue knowing about him. The magnificence of this is that there is alwaysmore to know, closer to be, and deeper insights into the God who never ends.
Here is one verse I love which encourages intimacy:
 “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” –Matthew 6:6 ESV
Take time and get to know your Dad in the raw and the real, just the two of you.

–Jena

You are not alone. {Maggie}

You are not alone.

This concept is what has been running around in my heart the past few weeks. I’ve heard this one song over and over on the radio called “Never Once”. It has definitely been reminding me of God’s constant presence in my life. Through every long and lonely day, He is always there, and He. Desires. You. Two verses from the song…
“Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
    You are faithful, God, You are faithful”
Love it. God is faithful, and He will never leave us to fend for ourselves. Summertime is always weird for me. The environment I have comfortably adjusted to for the past 9 months is dramatically changed within just a few days. The people I’m usually surrounded by have gone home for summer to work or travel, classes have stopped, and I’m not near any of the community I’m used to having. Each summer after college I’ve had to make that transition, and this summer it’s hit me even harder that I yearn for other people’s company and thrive when I am surrounded by people who love me. Some of you might be feeling the same loneliness while you are home. Being an amniovert (both introvert and extrovert, it’s a new concept…) There will be times when I feel like I am going to go crazy because of how alone I feel, yet feeling exhausted when I would find a big group to  hang out with. Know that you aren’t ever actually alone, Jesus is with you, and wants  you to spend time with Him! He is jealous for you. He loves you and LOVES when you give Him your time.

While raising support this summer, I’ve noticed I have more time on my hands now that all my students (you guys!) have gone home. For the first week of the summer I followed my roommate around and begged her to let me help with anything that had to do with being around people. I was a volunteer for most senior week events, and loved it. But I also realized that I actually needed time alone to rejuvenate with Jesus, and just be quiet. I’m bad at that whole being still and listening thing. I’m all about go, go, go what can I do next? When is the next thing happening? Who wants to hang out with me? Other more negative questions run through my head when I am alone such as: Why hasn’t someone asked me to hang out? Do I actually have any friends? Am I not good enough to hang out with that one group? These are LIES. Satan will pick and prod at every insecurity you have and use it against you to speak lies to your heart that you aren’t good enough, wanted or loved by others. Run to Jesus when this happens. Do things that bring you joy!

A few weeks ago, I literally wrote out a list of activities that bring joy and life to my soul, then I proceeded to do some of them!  I was amazed at the end of the day that even though I was by myself the whole time, I had such a great day. God has given you passions and desires for a reason. It is a way to connect with Him! I love thinking of simple pleasures that make me smile too. Like Brooke wrote about a few weeks ago…you have to fight for joy. It’s not just something that comes to you. The next time you feel sad because you are home alone on a Friday night…like me the other day woops…I challenge you to do something that gives you joy and life. For me it was playing guitar and being outside.  You don’t have to sit and wallow- dance!  Dance for Jesus, play volleyball for Jesus, paint, run, sing, laugh for Him! Joy comes from the Lord.
“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.”
– Psalm 27:5-7 (NIV).

“Never Once”- Matt Redman

For your Friday (Meg)

Here are a few things I’ve stumbled upon on the Internet this week. Why not share some of the goodness that’s out there? So much of it is junk, but SO much of it is treasure. Take time to peruse these, or maybe others you love, and fill your mind with Goodness and Truth and Grace and all the things that are just so beautiful about this life we live as daughters of the King. Soak in some of these, and may your Friday be filled with a little bit of love, a good bit of joy, and a whole lot of Jesus.


This song on repeat {{Rend Collective, Finally Free}}:


This daily Bible study and general concept {{If:Equip and Jennie Allen}}:


This blog post {{Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky}}:


This art print {{Ashlee Proffitt}}:


This recipe, or any of hers listed {{Averie Cooks}}:


This book – which completely changed my perspective on what it means to be adopted as God’s child, and I still vividly remember his illustrations! – {{Russell Moore, Adopted for Life}}


This prayer:

Rest. Soak up. Enjoy your weekend.