Monday, January 27, 2014

Pretty Philosophie.

Hi friends!

I just wanted to share a blog with you that I was invited to guest post on back in December. The blog belongs to my good friend Karisse and her younger sister Kristel. Karisse was my (favorite) staff member at Youth With a Mission, Los Angeles when I first came out here in 2007. She is a passionate woman who finds beauty and LOTS of fun in pretty much everything.  She is fiercely compassionate which has led her to places like Thailand, Egypt and eastern Europe to provide aid for people suffering from injustice. Even through losing her mother far too early and having battled cancer multiple times, Karisse has maintained a contagious attitude of hope. She shares my appreciation for Disney movies and girly things, and has been used by God in powerful ways to help me start Beauty Arise.

This woman is worth knowing and I'm honored to have been featured on her blog.

Thanks for checking it out!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

thoughts on "Trusting God".

"I'm just trusting God."

I say that a lot. My friends do too.

In talking about finances, new relationships, our crazy schedules, our splintered friendships, the grumpy guy we work with, the huge dream we are pursuing, the college we hope our kid gets into, the sports team we hope we make, the job we hate, the sickness that won't seem to leave, the extra weight we can't seem to lose.....

How's it going with all of that?
Oh... we're just trusting God.

But what do we mean? We mean that we are trusting God with the outcome. Like we trust that He will work it out. We trust that it will all be okay. We trust that the money will come, or the new relationship will be awesome, or that we won't crumble under the weight of our chaotic schedules. We mean that we trust our splintered friendships will get resolved, or that our bad friends will just get cut out of our lives, along with the dude we work with, we trust that our dreams will come true and that our kid is going to make right choices and that the coach will be blown away by our skills. We trust that the cough will dissolve and so will the extra weight we gained. We just trust that God is somehow going to work everything out for our good.

I like that. I hope its true.

But I've been noticing something lately. I notice it in me. I notice it in you.

I notice that we are quick to declare that we trust God with the outcome of our situation, but we are slow to actually trust Him with the process.

What do I mean? Well, I mean that God has taught us a lot of things about life, and love, and money and relationships, and though He does promise that all things will work together for the good of those who love Him, He promises that alongside teaching us to obey Him. Trusting Him with our process means learning how He has designed for things to be done, and obeying His ways rather than conjuring up our own.

Imagine if we "trusted" our fitness trainers the way we trust God. Our fitness trainers assure us that we will get bangin bodies and toned physiques if we eat according to their recommended meal plans, and exercise as they direct us to each day. They guarantee we will be fit if we just adhere to the things they tell us to do.

Makes sense.

Now imagine if we "trusted" them. We declare to everyone that we are following their guidance. We post photos quoting our trainer's advice, and regularly talk about how excited we are to finally achieve the bodies we have been dreaming of.

But then we eat whatever we want and don't do a single exercise that our trainer has told us to do.

How crazy would that be?

It wouldn't be long before people called us out on our absurdity and challenged us to either follow the fitness trainer's lead, or stop pretending that somehow we are "trusting" our trainer... when its clear we aren't doing anything that we have been advised.

We would be fools to think we could get the body our trainer is promising us when we our process looks nothing like the one the trainer gave us to begin with.

But somehow we miss that principle with God. He promises abundant blessings on His children, but He also gives us life directions in order to attain these promises. In reading the Bible lately I am realizing that its not hard to see some of the things God calls us to do, and the things He has instructed us to avoid, in order to walk into His promises. In a lot of ways its quite simple.

But we throw away His process, and build our lives in accordance to Cosmo magazine, looking to people like the Kardashians for advice on major life issues, and then we wonder "why God keeps holding out on us".

Its funny how we can genuinely act surprised when the promises of God go unfulfilled in our lives... It would be like blaming our trainer for our own lack of discipline and obedience.

I'm learning that if I want to trust God with the outcome, I need to trust Him with the process too. I need to look to Him to show me how to handle my marriage, how to deal with finances, how to treat people I work with, how to view my body... and how to manage anything else I might need Him to come through on.

That's all. Just some thoughts for my Sunday afternoon.
&& Here are a handful of photos from the last two weeks. Nothing too special but Shaunny is in Chile now so these photos are extra nice for me to look at.
I miss that guy.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The unseen.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

My theme for this year is "Unseen". 
Last year it was "Brave". 

I like the idea of having a theme for the year. I think of it as vision from God that helps me to know how to focus my attention. Like an anchor that keeps the "Jessica-ship" steady when the wind and waves of life try to get me off course. I need it. Because the Jessica-ship is prone to floating away. 
Darn Jessica-ship.

Anyway, I feel like the theme is "Unseen." 
What does that mean? 
Well, it actually means a lot of things for my life but for the sake of time I'm going to spread them out over a small series of posts rather than writing a novel. 
It's easier for me to type. And easier for you to read. So its a win-win all around. 

I'll start with the most obvious meaning of this theme, the most clear piece of understanding that I have right now about "fixing my gaze on things unseen". 


I'll repeat it. (Just in case you struggle to read hashtags.) 

Our world is ALL about image. 

We live in a time that glorifies image. From Hollywood movie stars, to insta-famous bloggers- we are fixated by people who live picture-perfect lives, and we do everything we can to create our own magazine-worthy world.

Some of us dream of being Victoria's Secret models, others just do whatever it takes to score a #dreambody that can be plastered all over social media. Whether we aim to be the cool edgy wife, or the young adorable pinterest mom, or the fashionable socialite... we live in a world that puts pressure on our ability to make our lives appear awesome.

We don't even necessarily need to BE awesome. We just need to LOOK awesome. 

And don't get me wrong. I am grateful to live in this time in history. I feel outrageously blessed that I can be living in LA and at the same time know what my favorite friends in Switzerland are doing on any given day. The technology available to us right now is mind-blowing. 

But there's always a down-side. 
And I don't know about your down-side, but mine is definitely that I am tempted to focus on the image I present of myself, rather than actually focusing on the parts of me that really matter. It's one thing to post a photo of Shaun and I cuddling up like we adore each other. But its another thing to choose to adore him when no one is looking. When I am tired and grumpy and he is asking more than my selfish little self wants to give... will I adore him then?

Or with my body. I could try to be skinny. I could skip meals and exercise too much to ensure that I like the size of my thighs in a Facebook photo. Eventually I'll be sick, and tired, and grouchy... but who cares right? If other people envy my shape then I've reached the Hollywood standard of success, haven't I? Maybe. But Hollywood doesn't set my standard. Because I'm focusing on the unseen. Image is secondary to the my heart. So I throw away that garbage mentality and focus on true health. Health is unseen. Things like eating well, drinking water, getting balanced exercise, resting regularly, and even having the occasional dessert, are all good for the soul. When my desire for health outweighs my desire to appear thin, I have my priorities straight. 

I'm like a tree. My image is the fruit I produce. The unseen are my roots. So I could paint my dead fruit to make it appear real and delicious. Or I could pay attention to my roots so that I can't help but grow something sweet and yummy. Like a pomegranate. I love those.

Anyway, this year is all about the roots. Focusing on the roots requires discipline. Often. Everyday. Sometimes more than that. It requires overcoming my own laziness. 

It takes asking the right questions. Will I fix my eyes on the image I want to project of myself? Or will I choose to invest my attention on the places of my life that aren't visible to everyone else? Will I choose to be a person with integrity? Will I choose honesty? Will I choose to love and serve, even when no one says thank you? Will I choose to be kind, even when someone is being a honker and I would rather punch them in their big dumb face? Will I extend patience? Will I follow through? Will I apologize first? Will I have times alone with God, getting into scripture and discovering more of who He is? Will I pray? Will I lead when needed? Will I stop gossiping and be a friend that a friend can trust? 

Recently a woman I admire posted the following sentence. It spoke straight to my heart:

 "Focus not on being known, 
but focus instead on being worth knowing." 

That is the gist of what I am getting at. Focusing on the unseen means that I pay less attention to my profile picture and more attention to my character. Because like the scripture says, "What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

a little prayer for help, because I can't do it without His grace...
Help me to honor you in 2014. Help my friends to do it too. Help us to care more about Your opinion of us than the opinions of those around us. Thank you for being a God that looks at the heart. Your Word even says it, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the inward heart." I pray that our hearts would delight you. Please Father, would you give us the grace and strength needed to please you, both in our thoughts and in our actions. May my instagram feed and the choices I make when no one else is looking glorify You.  Help me with my attitude, and my integrity. I don't want to be obsessed with me, I want to be satisfied by you. Thank you for helping me and my friends to grow more in our love for you.
Help us to trust you. We love you.
In Your name, Amen. 

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

who told you that?

This morning I decided to start a Bible reading plan. The whole Bible in 6 months. I've never read the entire Bible, and 6 months is a lofty goal, but I downloaded the Bible app by "YouVersion" and it seems to think I can do it. I have high hopes.

As predicted, my reading plan started in Genesis. The beginning of time. So I spent a good half-hour hanging out with Adam and Eve and sipping on an Americano with a bit of milk and one pump of Flan (?? the new flavor at Starbucks??).

Something stood out that benefited me a lot. Naturally I thought I would share it with you, in hopes it would also benefit you.

The story I'll refer to is from Genesis chapter 3 and for the sake of time I'll just give you my take on the situation, but please read it yourself when you get a chance. It's a good one.

So you may remember the story... Adam and Eve give in to the temptation of the enemy and do the only thing the Lord has instructed them not to do, then their whole world changes and they end up hiding from God.

The backstory is that these two had an awesome relationship with each other, and an incredible relationship with God. It says that God walked in the garden with them. It also says that Adam and Eve were naked and were unashamed. So cool.

Well fast-forward now to chapter 3 when they blow it and end up hiding from God. God calls for them and Adam says, "I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked." v10

Then God says, "Who told you that you were naked?'

That's the line that got me.

Who told you that?

Because here's the thing.... they were always naked. It wasn't new for them to be naked in the presence of God. The only new thing was that the voice of the enemy had convinced them that their nakedness was something to be ashamed of, and so they hid.

Made me think of my own life. How many times have I believed the enemy's voice on a situation, when God was actually saying something totally different?

I'll use something light and silly to communicate my point...
I have a nose... its a nice nose but its not petite like the girls in the magazines... don't get me wrong, its not a honker either, but still.... not long ago I looked at my nose and made a decision that because it wasn't like the noses that I saw on the faces of models around me.... its must be bad.... something to be ashamed of. But I realized this morning that my nose has not changed... yes it looks different than some of these other noses I have been envying... but that was never meant to bring me down.... my God looks at my nose with adoration... that nose is the nose of my grandmother... and maybe my great-great-great-great Grandpa had this same nose.... and even if Vogue doesn't want to feature my nostrils in one of their next ads, that doesn't need to bring about insecurity in me. So I asked myself "Jess, Who told you that your nose was the wrong shape?" and my answer was that my culture's definition of beauty had spoken it over me. So then I have to wonder why I would rather trust my culture with its definitions that are constantly changing, rather than trusting my God who is unchanging.

He made this nose, He loves this nose, and I can enjoy my nose because of it. All I have to do is reject the other voice and believe what I know God has spoken. What a relief.

So now lets take this idea to a deeper, bigger, and more intimate place, if that's alright with you.

"Who told you that?" is what God asked Adam and Eve in the garden that day, and I believe it is the same question Heaven is asking us now. All of us are believing things about our lives, circumstances, relationships, jobs, bodies, personalities, families, futures and everything else that relates to who we are as people. These beliefs are either rooted in lies from the same enemy we see in Genesis who was out to destroy Adam and Eve, or they are life-giving truths that have their source in God Himself.

So friends please ask with me...

Who told you that?

Who told you that this situation is beyond fixing?
Who told you that you are failing?
Who told you that you are an idiot for choosing this man who ended up treating you so terribly?
Who told you that its only going to get worse from here?
Who told you it is ALWAYS going to be like this?
Who told you that you can't accomplish this dream?
Who told you that you can't get the degree?
Who told you that you are too fat?
Who told you that you are a bad friend?
Who told you that you aren't as successful as the others?
Who told you that you are never going to get pregnant?
Who told you that she is making more of a mark on this world than you are?
Who told you that a new car, or a new house, or a new job would be the answer to your happiness?
Who told you that you are failing as a mother?
Who told you that you would never get married?
Who told you that you married the wrong person?
Who told you that you are insignificant, unimportant, unwanted, and a burden to others?

Only the God who created you, knows you inside and out, loves you like crazy, and has a unique and wonderful story for your life, has the authority to tell you how it REALLY is. Only He has clear perspective about your situation. Even if outwardly things look grim, only God has the inside scoop on what is actually going down in the unseen places, and He promises in Romans chapter 8 that He is working ALL things out for your good. Even if it all looks like a complete disaster, we will still look to God, because only He can come in and say,

"Yes little one, you're right it IS a complete disaster today, but don't lose hope, this is the perfect opportunity for Me to come in and glorify Myself in how I pick up all the shattered pieces and write a glorious ending for your story that is BETTER than you could ever ask for or imagine, because I love you. "

All that to say... I have a cute nose.
So do you.
I have a great God. So do you.
There is hope for my life. And yours.
No matter how broken they are.
So let's trust in His voice.

I'm enjoying the California sun while reminiscing about our days in the Michigan snow.
Here are some sweet photos from a walk with Shaun that I loved!
Shaun is my favorite. And snow. And pink. So you can imagine how happy this walk made me feel. 
I just remembered these were taken on Christmas too!
No wonder they give me butterflies.
((Christmas is my favorite too.))

Thursday, January 9, 2014

dear 2014

Dear 2014,

I'm so glad you are here. I haven't blogged yet since you arrived, but don't be alarmed, it's not because you are not giving me anything to talk about... it's just that I have been trying to unplug a bit and focus on other things. 

But I'm back. And I am excited to tell my friends about you. 

Let's make most of the next 356 days okay. I'm not saying we won't face challenges... I'm anticipating it, but I've given you to God and I'm trusting Him to carry me.... even on the days I would rather sleep through. 

Sometimes I might have moments where I wish you were 1998, or 2005... but just give me a few minutes... it's not you, its me... I'll get through... and soon enough I'll remember again how precious you are and how hopeful my future is. 

2014 YOU ARE A GIFT and I fully intend to be grateful for you for the entirety of our story together. 
You are important. There will never be another one of you. So I am excited to see what will unfold as I soak up everything you have for me and the ones I love. 

Here are a handful of my desires that I'd like to see us do together...
- encourage LOTS of hearts 
- share the love of Heaven boldly with people in need... especially with people that I might normally feel insecure around... like at Fashion Week in NYC next month
- start Beauty Arise in Barcelona
- decorate the room we are living in at the church in LA ((its been over a year that we have lived there & I see great potential for that little space))
- see MFC LA flourish as I lead with confidence & grace from God
- improve my Spanish
- improve my cooking skills ((one thing you will learn about me is I am a WAY better eater than a cooker)) 
- improve my blogging abilities... for the sake of my sweet friends who hang out here every so often
- get better at managing my finances
-enjoy being me... and not spend time wishing i was someone else
- and mostly i want to "fix my eyes on the unseen", but don't worry I'll explain more about that later

2014, I am excited to cherish you and treat you like the most important year of my life. 
Just like I tried to do with your older sister... 2013. 

So in the words of good old Taylor Swift...
It's enchanting to meet you. 

I leave you with a jumble of photos from the time when I played in the snow 
with Dani and Shaun & they took some pretty pictures!
Happy 2014!!