My Only Constant // Jocelyn

Boxes everywhere. The house is disheveled. Packing for what seems like forever, and yet it seems like there’s always more. More transitions. More change. New things are coming fast and right now there’s a number of uncertainties.

For the most part, I’d say I’m someone who enjoys change. There are always hard changes that come up, yes, but for the most part I’m someone who gets excited about the future before being fearful about it. I love upcoming opportunities for adventure. (Sometimes to a fault because then it causes me to be bored with the present, but I digress. That’s not the point here.)

I’m officially done with a full year of campus ministry in a new state with a new staff team, and I’ve had the time of my life. (cue Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes)

Now it’s summer (“summer”.. “summer”.. #HSM2shoutout) and with that comes a bunch of travel. #NomadLife. I’ll be road-tripping from Virginia to Pennsylvania, up to New Hampshire for six weeks, back to PA for a week or so, fly out to Colorado for a week, then back to PA & road-trip back down to Virginia.

One of the uncertainties of life is that I currently don’t know where I’ll be living once I get back from all the crazy travel. So.. that’s a thing. Also, what’s in store for this summer? How is God going to use the Summer Mission I’ll be staffing in NH? Which students will I get to pour into? What will they be like? What will my routine look like while I’m traveling all over God’s green earth? Did I forget anything when I packed all of my other belongings away?

With all of this in mind, something I’m thankful for amidst of all the change is God’s constancy. I’ve been working my way through Jen Wilkin’s None Like Him, which is saturated with great truth from Scripture about 10 attributes of God – attributes that are only true of Him.

In the chapter on God’s immutability, Jen talks about how we can’t truthfully use words like “always” or “never” to describe ourselves or other people. That hit me harrrrd, especially being someone who finds it difficult to be consistent or disciplined in what seem to be the simplest of things.

“When we apply the terms always or never to other people, we speak an untruth. Human beings don’t always or never anything. We just aren’t that consistent. We frequently, we fairly regularly, we often or habitually, but we do not always or never. As finite and mutable creatures, we cannot lay claim to these terms, either as pejoratives or as praise. They can only truly be spoken of God.”

Like I said, this really hit home and made me have those thoughts of “oh man, that’s true. I’m not consistent. I can’t be perfectly disciplined like I’d like to be.” That could be kind of a downer. But at the same time it freed me up to shift my glance off of myself and onto a God who is perfectly consistent.

I can use “always” and “never” when it comes to God.

He always comes through, even if the timing is different than what I’d like.
He never loses His faithfulness. He never changes. He’s always the same.
He always delivers. Always restores. Never stops pursuing the broken.
His character is consistent. Always reliable.

How refreshing is that? To know that in whatever stage of my life, whatever circumstance, I can say that God is loving, faithful, steadfast, etc., and those statements will always be true.

Jen also quotes Psalm 18:31 in this chapter:
“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?”

This reference made me think of the song “Rest in You” from All Sons and Daughters’ Poets & Saints album (highly recommend). The song begins with lyrics derived from this verse. ( take a listen here & meditate on its truth! )

The bridge of the song repeats the line “You cannot change, yet you change everything.” This line plays over and over in my earbuds as I think about God’s immutability and my heart reflects, “this is so true.” God does not change, yet He has changed my whole life. My whole identity. My whole eternity.

The next verse in Psalm 18 says, “…the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.” (it goes on from there – read it for yourself! pray through it. journal through it.)

I can not only trust in the consistency of God in the middle of my ever-changing life & daily circumstances, I can also trust that the change that He’s made (and continues to make) in my life is certain, and my position in Him is secure and protected.

I’ll leave you with this last thought from Jen:

“Because He does not change, we can rely on the unchanging truth of Scripture. What He pronounces as sin will always be sin. What He pronounces as good will always be good. All that He has promised to do must come to pass. The Gospel itself is bound up in the idea of God’s immutability. We fervently need God to stay the same – our great hope of salvation lies in His remaining exactly as who He says He is, doing exactly what He says He will do. As long as His infinite sameness endures, He will not change His mind about setting His love on us. We can not commit a future sin that will change His verdict, because His verdict was passed with every sin past, present, and future fixed in view. Whom God pronounces righteous will always be righteous. Nothing we could do can remove from us the seal of His promised redemption. Nothing can separate us from the unfailing, unchanging love of this great God, the Rock of our salvation upon which the house of our faith is built.”

Are you experiencing some sort of big, or even small, transition? Rest in these truths. Rest in Him.

That Time I l Left Social Media for a Week // Jocelyn

How would I do this practically? What started out as an idea to dedicate specific hours during certain days of the week as my time to disconnect pretty quickly turned into a desire to take this seriously. One week. Cold turkey. So that’s what I did. Last Tuesday evening, I officially signed out of all accounts and completely went off the radar.

A week later, I won’t say I now have the absolute greatest pieces of wisdom and advice on this. A week really is not as long as we may think/feel like it is {seriously guys, anyone can do this!} But I did learn a handful of things.

My initial thoughts? Right as I first signed out of everything, I would say I felt a bit more.. free? I found myself thinking “wow, I don’t even have to check anything right now!” while simultaneously telling myself, “you never had to in the first place, ya dummy.”

Throughout the rest of the week, I will say I had to deal with some slight FOMO, especially when others would say “did you see what so-and-so poste-” and then quickly realize, “ohhh right, you’re not on social media right now..” #awk. So it was a bit odd to want to have intentional conversations with others, but yet not be able to participate if it was related to something happening online.

I love the creative aspect of social media, but time away from it forced me into finding other creative outlets – and moments for that were actually provided! I got to read, write, paint, and even transform my & my roomie’s faces into 70-year-old versions of ourselves for Halloween.

I also realized that I had to learn to deal with silence. {It isn’t really something I prefer. I’m the person in the car who asks if we can turn the radio on/up because it’s just a bit too quiet.} Instead of coming home for lunch or in the evening and watching a couple youtube videos (or 10), I sat in silence and read a book. And guess what? It wasn’t that bad.

That brings me to another big thing. I read. A lot. At times I couldn’t help but think “hm, so this is what people had to do for entertainment back in the day…” (And all of the non-millennials let out a unified groan.) But for real though, I do genuinely enjoy reading, but it was insightful to realize just how much I would reflexively go to tap on an app without a second thought, and have to consciously choose to read instead.

Sometimes it’s good to be left alone with our own thoughts. Maybe we use social media to avoid that. Maybe that “maybe” is more of a definite. We seem to have to be entertained and stimulated in some form at all times. I’ve realized that sometimes I just don’t feel like putting the mental or emotional energy into diving into my own brain. Admittedly, social media enters the picture as an easy way out of that.

 
“Unfortunately, the outbreak of technology and social media has not simplified life, but rather complicated it to the point of fatigue. It is becoming harder and harder to remain focused on any level of cognitive thinking for longer than a few minutes … In this culture we are finding it harder and harder to spend any appreciable time meditating on who God is or developing a greater depth of understanding and appreciation of God.”

– Glenn Jago, Deeply Rooted Magazine

Being away from social media allowed me to be more introspective, way more introspective than I would have been had I spent time watching videos and double-tapping instas.

It also coincidentally seemed like every book/magazine I dove into had something to say specifically related to this fasting experience, as if the Lord used these wise, Jesus-loving authors to help me evaluate my life during this week-long dare that I challenged myself to. What a gift.

So have I concluded that social media is this evil thing that is stealing my time? Of course not. Social media isn’t evil. I wouldn’t even say it’s bad. It’s a great tool for staying connected and expressing creativity, and it can be used for fantastic things! But is it the bestway to spend my time? Ehhhh, no, not always. Another great magazine I found myself drowned in talked about the difference between good and better things:

 

“Did you know there are good things, and then there are better things? I didn’t always know this. I knew there were good things, and there were bad things. I knew that there were things that the Bible called sinful. And to spend my time gossiping or being lazy or something like that is not only a waste of time but displeasing to the Lord. We all know this. But then there are things that are just good. They are not sinful or even questionable. Often times, the good things are necessary and important, and they’re things like having a clean house, doing the laundry, tackling home improvement projects, being in a book club, or even taking a break and watching TV. There is nothing condemnable about them, but there is nothing eternalabout them either. The things that are eternal are the things that are best. And there are three categories for things that will last for the rest of time: God, God’s Word, and the souls of people.”

– Abbie Schaller, Tapestry Magazine

My life has been given to me to utilize it in (hopefully) the best way. With social media, how much of me is being utilized? My thumbs, for sure. So that’s covered. But what about the rest? Technology savvy or not, anyone can post an instagram or send a snap or post a status. What about the specific ways that God has gifted me? The things that make me distinct from everyone else. How are those things being used and cultivated?

I don’t find my worth in social media & instagram likes. But is it an addiction for me? I’m not sure, because I think if that were the case, this fast would have been a whole lot harder than it was, and it turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. But I do turn to it anytime I have a moment to waste, or even when I don’t. Is it a type of drug for me?

In her book Present Over Perfect – yes, the fourth piece of writing I’ve drowned myself in this week – Shauna Niequist says, “You can make a drug – a way to anesthetize yourself – out of anything: working out, binge-watching TV, working, having sex, shopping, volunteering, cleaning, dieting. Any of those things can keep you from feeling pain for a while – that’s what drugs do. And, used like a drug, over time, shopping or TV or work or whatever will make you less and less able to connect to the things that matter, like your own heart and the people you love. That’s another thing drugs do: they isolate you.”

Maybe social media isn’t even a problem for you. Or maybe you would say it’s a problem and you couldn’t fathom signing out of your accounts for a single day. Whatever it is, what is your good but temporary thing? How are you spending time? Even free time?

If you find yourself being similar to me in this area, or you want to do this for yourself just to see what would come from it, I encourage and even challenge you to do it! Maybe it’s just for a day, maybe for a week, or maybe you want to get real crazy and go off the radar for a month. Come up with a time frame, and just commit to it.

If it helps, bring others around you in this! Maybe a friend or two can do the same thing. Even if they don’t, though, I’d encourage telling a few close friends what you’ve decided – and giving them permission to call you out if you don’t stay committed!

Again, social media isn’t sinful. I’m still a huge fan! And you’ll still see me on just about every platform. But my perspective is different. Sometimes you have to step back from the good-but-temporary for an amount of time to allow yourself to see where your perspective should be. Other times it does mean stepping back altogether. It’s a case-by-case thing, and taking at least a little time to step back can allow you to discern where you’re at.

Since I’d love to keep this perspective fresh in my mind as much as possible, there are a few practical things I have implemented since my week-long fast. Feel free to ask about them!

If you’re thinking through something like this for yourself, let this last quote encourage you, and perhaps even help you decide:

“The perishable, temporary, good things will burn away. All those dishes I cleaned? Burned. All those hours I watched Downton Abbey? Gone. All the time I spent cultivating the perfect yard, the perfect house, the perfect body? Yep, burned and gone forever. BUT all those small moments spent on eternal things? Rewarded. Those moments I spent worshipping God with my mouth, with my prayers, and with my work? Rewarded. The hours spent reading Scripture and in Bible study with other women? Praise. The chapters from the Jesus Story Book Bible I read and reread and read again to my boys at bedtime? Glory. The times I stopped to snuggle or cherish or meet a need for my boys? Rewarded. The risks taken to broach spiritual topics with my neighbors? Rewarded.”

– Abbie Schaller, Tapestry Magazine

I would personally love to hear about anything you’d like to challenge yourself to do, and what came from it if you decide to do so!

Praise God for moments of silence, for moments of reflection, and His ability to refresh or completely change our perspectives when we make ourselves susceptible. More reasons to sing His grace.

Soul Rest//Steph

Some days I feel like I’m playing a game of “Are you smarter than a 2 year old?” And the 2 year old is winning.

After a long week battling it out over nap time I find myself tired, pregnant, emotional, and feeling a bit drained. Life doesn’t stop because my son isn’t napping. Let me back up and say when you are a mom, and you often work from home, and you need to nap yourself because your body is tired from growing another human… nap time is PRECIOUS. It’s everything. You hold on for dear life. So when my toddler climbed out of his crib for the first time the other day I thought to myself, “Oh no! Game changer. This is bad!” We were both so tired and we both shed lots of tears that day (and most days this week). I just lost control of 1:30-4:30 pm. In the big picture, it’s just nap time. But today? Today it doesn’t feel that way.
It’s 3:49 AM as I type this because I cannot sleep. I had this stressful dream that I was trying to keep a bat in the basement but it had other plans. The bat wanted to fly around catching creatures and I was determined to keep it contained downstairs. I woke up realizing Benaiah is the bat and he just does not want to stay in his crib. He wants to color and watch Daniel Tiger and organize his blocks. The connection in my dream was pretty obvious when I shut the basement door and the bat suddenly yelled, “I wanna snuggle mama!” Which is what Benaiah does when I try to put him down for a nap. He’s pretty smart for a 2 year old.. which is a big reason why I’m losing this game of “Are you smarter than a 2 year old?”
So I was trying to fall back asleep. Anxious. Irritated to lose even more sleep while he was peacefully lying in his crib storing up energy for our battle later this afternoon. And then Jesus.
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Jesus reminds me I don’t have to do it alone. When I’m drained he’s not surprised or disappointed that I can’t. He invites me to sit closer, He draws me closer. He says You can’t do it alone but you don’t have to. He offers me strength and rest.
At that point I started thinking about rice chex (I am pregnant after all). So when I can’t sleep I eventually get hungry and crave rice chex. I check my email over a bowl of cereal… Day 6 of 40 days of prayer and fasting for Cru staff (confession: I’m not fasting). I have a verse from Cru delivered to my inbox. I’ve read it 100 times before but tonight is different.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in hear
t, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
My heart races.
Rest for your souls.
Rest for my soul.
 
And the tears fall. Jesus knows that’s what I need and He allowed it to reach my inbox at just the right time. It’s not just that my body is tired. My soul needs rest and the Bible tells us exactly where to get it. Jesus is the answer. He understands. He offers. He waits. He loves. He invites.
 
We can’t pour into others without resting in Jesus first. You might not be wrestling a toddler (yet) but you probably have a different “bat” in your life. Is there an area where you feel like you can’t keep up? You’re striving. You’re tired. You’re over it. You can’t win this battle on your own. Rest in Jesus. Tell Him. Tell Him when you doubt He’s even real and you’re not sure He still sees you. Tell Him what’s going on and ask for rest for your soul. It will come.
Because you are fully seen and you are fully loved.