Let It.

“My mom won’t let me.”

How many times did we say those words as near-sighted teenagers? Whether it was a curfew extension, getting a new pair of shoes, or taking a weekend trip with friends. Back in the days of living-with-our-parents, everything looked different. For most of us, boundaries were established, allowance was set, and curfew was virtually immovable. Almost every decision, be it going to lunch after church or spending the night at a friend’s house, was under the scrutiny of our parent’s judgment.

And we hated it.

I can well remember whining time and again, usually in a huff, to my best friend. “UGH. I want to, but my mom won’t let me… She doesn’t even have a good reason! I know; she’s the worst.” (Oh, to be young and disrespectful.)

I even heard these words in college: “I would love to go on an international mission trip, but my dad would never let me.” And even though college students are more than capable of making their own decisions, this still held weight, and dads not letting meant some students didn’t go.


 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James 1:2-4


This familiar passage has recently wrecked me. It’s that little word I noticed for possibly the first time, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. It’s an imperative that carries authority and responsibility, and I’ve read right past it for the last ten years.

James was the book I thought I knew. The one I had under control. The one from which I had probably already learned everything I was going to learn.

Until last week.

I barely made it through the first three verses when the word LET jumped off the page…

Because the command to let implies that you could also not let.

You could go through trials, your faith could be tested, you could even choose joy along the way – but you could still not let steadfastness have its full effect in you.

I knew that joy was mine for the taking. I knew I could choose to celebrate hard times and grow from them. And I knew I could resist, I could grow in bitterness, and I could fight my way through every tough experience.

But I always thought that the perseverance, the steadfastness, the patience would happen either way. Whether I chose bitterness or joy, perseverance would be developed, and it would make me “perfect and complete.” Whether I celebrated or wept my way through the valleys, I would come out on the other side “lacking in nothing.”

But this idea of letting is changing my perspective entirely.

A parent exercises the letting because they have authority to make decisions for their children, but more so because they have the responsibility. My fourteen-year-old self would have had a sleepover every night, I never would have studied, and I would have played games and giggled with my friends for hours upon hours. My parents knew they needed to exercise the authority to not let me, and they had a responsibility to make the hard decisions that I wasn’t mature enough to make.

But the stakes are higher now.

It’s not just your weekend plans; it’s your sanctification. It’s being formed into the likeness of our King. It’s being better tomorrow than we were today. It’s choosing the hard path, because we know “easy” isn’t going to make us any more like Jesus. You certainly have the authority to not let steadfastness have its full effect. You have the authority to fight change, avoid growth, and barely survive the trials that you can’t avoid.

But on the flip side, and with ever-increasing significance, you have the responsibility to let it.

I woke up this morning not wanting to choose joy and not wanting to let steadfastness have any effect, let alone a full one. I wanted to sit on my couch and binge watch The Office. I wanted to turn off my phone, lock my door, and eat every last drop of the Blue Bell Rocky Road ice cream sitting in my freezer.

But even in the midst of hard weeks and harder days, we can choose growth. Won’t you? Won’t you take a deep breath, step back, and reevaluate your entire perspective of joy, suffering, and these little, inescapable “trials”?

Will you decide to decide that steadfastness is worth it? Will you choose joy and growth? Maybe it’s a decision you’ll have to make every single morning for a season.

For me, it’s a decision I have to make every single hour most days…

And even through the tears of trials and the struggle to find joy in them, I want to know when I’m in the thick of it that this testing is making me steadfast – immovable – and that I’m choosing to let that steadfastness make me whole. I’m choosing to let it, even when it hurts. I’m choosing to fight through “the testing of my faith” valiantly, acknowledging that I have the authority to grow and the responsibility to let it.

Destination: Brazil.

We wandered the dusty streets of the market, weaving in and out of booths separated by cloth. Kiosks, tables, and men on the street each committed to selling their goods to the visitors. Our team of over fifty American teenagers must have been impossible to miss, but if there were disapproving glares from the natives, I was oblivious.

My pesos were burning a hole in my pocket & I had just discovered the wondrous concept of haggling. I could dispute the price of an item? I could offer to pay what I thought it was worth & walk away if you don’t lower the price enough? It became my favorite game & I won the prize of souvenirs for the ones I love back home.


In the summer of 2007, Jesus absolutely & utterly wrecked my heart for any semblance of the ordinary life I thought I might live. In the midst of feeling an urge to commit my life to full-time vocational ministry, yet having no idea what that would look like, I left North America for the first time. As I wandered the streets of Santo Domingo, meeting children, blowing bubbles, dancing, and laying the first stretches of a concrete sidewalk this community had ever seen, something in me changed. I knew in those moments that a life in suburbia would simply never do it for me.

It would never be enough.

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In the seven years since my maiden voyage into missions, the Lord has graciously allowed me to travel to six different countries on six incredibly different trips. Learning a new culture, interacting with new people, worshipping with the beautiful souls that Yahweh has sprinkled across the globe is undoubtedly my favorite thing. Learning to articulate the promise of hope through Jesus Christ is a challenging & exciting task for me, and I am endlessly grateful for the grace He has shown to enable me to communicate His heart, despite my shortcomings.

Though a marriage & family is among my hopes & dreams, the season of singleness in my life has opened opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have! One of my favorite of those opportunities has been working at WinShape Camps in Rome, Georgia. Last summer I had the privilege of serving as the Worship Speaker for one of their girl’s camps. This gave me the wonderful responsibility of speaking every morning to nearly 100 elementary school girls. It was an absolute dream come true & I loved teaching God’s word to those darling little junior campers!

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In addition to the summer camps that WinShape has in the states, the foundation also fosters a community of believers in Brasilia, Brasil. Each year, teams of camp staff travel to Brasilia to continue the ministry established years ago. By providing equipment & resources, the Christian community in Brasilia is enabled to expand their reach within the community. I have been invited to join one of the two spring teams & I am absolutely THRILLED.

As I am currently living and working with a youth ministry organization in Dallas, I see the Lord’s sweet hand in providing an opportunity for me to serve Him overseas. I am desperately committed to seeing young women walk in the freedom that Jesus has won for us on the cross, and my heart is forever torn between serving the women in my native country and the women in the countries that have won my heart.

I am grateful & humbled by another opportunity to go, and asking for your support to send me. I wish it didn’t seem cliché and insincere to say that I desperately desire your prayer above all else.

Your commitment to carry me through this journey by asking the Spirit to infiltrate my team & the community we will serve is my greatest need.

I know that Jesus has called me, and I know that Jesus will provide! Please hear my heart in this request – I need your prayer!! As with all things in life, it also takes finances to go. The WinShape Foundation makes it incredibly realistic for their staffers to partner on these trips! I will need to raise roughly $800 to join my fellow camp staffers on this journey. I’m excited to see how Jesus will provide as I work & raise support. If you are interested in partnering with me financially, you can do so here: Destination: Brazil.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or thoughts!! It would be my deepest delight to share more!

on earth as it is in Heaven,

Jenn

Tiny Matters.


“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on.” – Apostle Paul, Letter to Philippi

“If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” – Apostle Paul, Letter to Rome


Tiny, tiny, tiny. How quick I am to make vast that which is meant to be tiny. How prone I am to be so set on what is yet to come that I fail to develop that which is. How easy it is to remember, remember, remember what was, or fantasize over what will be.

I forget that pressing on means pressing in.

Pressing in to the crazy, risky desire to relentlessly surrender all that you are for all that He is. Right now. Today. In every moment with every breath.

It’s to believe that who He is inside of you is more than you could ever be alone. It’s to acknowledge the anointing of His Spirit on your beautiful life and then to expect that to mightily impact all that happens within you.

The promise spoken by the Spirit through Paul is paramount, profound, and beyond nature. That is, that our mortal bodies will receive life forever through the Spirit that dwells within us. What was was once subject to death shall now eternally exist.

But how quick we are to limit the power within! Keeping the Spirit cooped up in our hearts like a dormant disease. Liable to return, but only if stirred.

And heaven knows you aren’t dreaming big enough to stir the power that conquered the grave.

You could dwell in what lies behind. You could make your home in yesterday and never be evicted. You could repaint the walls and change the carpet. Fix it up real nice with photos of what was neatly nailed on every wall. Spend your life thinking of all you used to do, all you used to be. You could, you could, you could.

Or you could move into what lies ahead. You could spend all of your todays waiting for tomorrow, pushing away your current to-do list and dwelling instead inside the wonder of what will someday be. But you’ll have to take down your bird feeder, because in the midst of your waiting, you’ll forget to fill it up. And your welcome mat cannot stay, because your mind will never be present enough to receive the guests that pass your home slowly, hoping for an invitation inside. You could, you could, you could.

You could live in tiny matters.

But must you? Must you forget that yesterdays are lovely to visit, but never fit to live in? Must you forget that dreaming & hoping & wishing are beautiful practices, but meaningless when disconnected from this very moment?

As you develop the confidence to let go, may it breed it the desire to dig deep. To know that what you’ve been given for this day is holy. It’s timely. It’s for you right now. It’s enough.

Do you need someone to tell you?

You are brave. You are capable of fighting anything that comes your way. You’re going to be victorious, Beloved. You aren’t fighting alone. So rally up your troops and commit to fight together. Find your home team, your 2am-phone-call team, and get a game plan.

Promise to never obsess over tiny matters.

Promise to dig deep. Promise to fight, fight, fight for Truth when the army of lies comes to ransack your liberated heart. Promise to ask hard questions, and pray bold prayers, and eat an entire gallon of moose track ice cream on days when you waved your white flag long before lunch. Memorize that game plan and wake up every morning determined to see the Son shine. Resolve to reflect it like a full moon over the Atlantic and then get to it.

You were made for this – To press on. To look up. To be the indwelling of the Spirit of Yahweh God. Don’t let it be wasted in tiny matters.

Chasing the Light.

2:06 am.

The lights were out and I was finally curled up tight under seven layers of blankets, and I was still a little cold. The winter moonlight shone through my window, just bright enough to remind me how small I am, but not too bright to keep me up. Just before I turned on my lullaby playlist to woo me into dreamland, I started coughing uncontrollably. Unexpected & unrelenting, I needed a reprieve. Although going downstairs meant braving the cold wood floors on my finally warm toes, it also meant the refreshment of water, so I sucked it up and crawled out of bed.

I subconsciously reached my hand toward my lamp to help me see, but paused just before and decided against it. I was already accustom to the darkness of my room and knew the light would hurt my eyes. I took teeny tiny baby steps and felt around with my hands to make it to the door and down the stairs. There’s a nightlight in the hallway (I guess for reasons like this? Mom thinks of everything.), and I was grateful for it as I embarked on my late night quest around the corner, down the stairs, through the dining room, and into the kitchen.

I was grateful for the just-enough-not-to-stumble light, and even more grateful for the way it refused to offend my quite-comfortable-with-the-darkness eyes. Almost as if it knew I couldn’t bear any more wattage than it was weakly providing.


As I lived it late that night, I remembered my soul sister Emily sharing a similar lesson. She told me that when she turned the light off at the door to her bedroom, she would wait a moment before climbing the ladder to the loft that held her bed. She would wait, she said, “until my eyes adjusted to the darkness.”

We marveled at the reality of our hearts and our longing to do just enough that we have a little light to see, but not enough to eradicate the darkness.

I think it’s the purity of child’s heart that encourages their fear of darkness. Little ones are terrified of what could be lurking in the unknown… in the closet, under the bed, in the hallway behind the door.

But as we grow, we see this sensitivity as a weakness and we try to acclimate to the darkness as quickly as we can. We consider it an inward victory to face darkness with unwavering confidence. No need for nightlights or Daddy’s to assure us our room is monster-free. We’re more than comfortable to be immersed in what we once found repulsive.

Like Emily climbing up the loft, we become quicker and quicker at finding our way, until without realizing it, we’re avoiding the light altogether.

But if I’m honest,

I think I’m afraid of the light.

With the lights on you can see the unpacked boxes I gave up on and shoved in the corner, the pile of clothes unfolded at the end of my unmade bed, and every pair of shoes I’ve worn in the last week, strewn carelessly across the room. You can see what I should have cleaned weeks ago, and you can see it well.

I’m afraid of what will be exposed when the light comes on. The discipline that you should find in my life but won’t. The selfish thoughts and mean-spirited comments. The impatience in tense situations and the desire to promote myself instead of Christ. And worse of all, the fear that always seems to outweigh my faith.

And for that, I like the darkness. I fight to keep my mess hidden well enough that only I can see it.

But the problem with hiding your mess is that you hide everything else too. You hide the goodness, and the joy, and the whimsy. You hide the paintings on the wall and the pictures on the nightstand. You hide the pretty quilt you searched seven stores to find and the happy yellow you chose to paint your room. You hide the glory of a brave heart, braver still for knowing it’s not invincible.

I’m learning to be brave.

& learning to chase the light.