Tuesday, August 26, 2014

dancing lemons.

When I was a little girl, 7 I think, I saw a commercial about lemons. I think it may have actually been trying to sell me some kind of lemon-lime soda or maybe a particular grocery store, but regardless, it sold me lemons. The commercial was a kaleidoscope of bright fresh lemons dancing around the screen with the perfectly summery shades of flamingo pink and lime green in there too. Every so often there would be a spritz of sparkly lemon-juice that would happen exactly to the rhythm of the island music in the background and I remember it made me really thirsty. After I saw it for the first time I rushed to the living room to declare some really good news, “Mom! Lemons are my favorite fruit!” My mom is so cute and I remember her laughing and sweetly attempting to tell me that she didn’t actually think lemons were my favorite. In fact she made what I thought to be preposterous claims about the fruit, she told me that they were sour and that they made me cringe. She even said I had tried them before and really not liked them. But after seeing that commercial I knew she must be crazy because there was no way I would cringe at the sparkling refreshing taste of a dancing lemon. I mean come on. So I guess I wouldn’t let down because my mama decided that the best way to show me would be to let me take a bite of a lemon myself. She had tried to protect me from the experience but I insisted that I wanted it. Mom found me a lemon from the fridge and let me dig in. I didn’t dig for long... in fact I don’t think I dug past the first lick... immediately my face folded up, nose squished, my tongue was trying to escape the sour trauma I had forced her into, my eyes jammed tightly shut, and I squeaked out something like,  “I was wrong mom... I think strawberries are my favorite.” 

26 year old Jessica is really not so different from 7 year old Jessica. 

You know the plastic frames around license plates that give you a glimpse into the life of the driver? Sometime they just say the name of the dealership where the car was purchased. Other times they tell you where the driver graduated from. Sometimes they are covered in rhinestones and tell you that the driver was probably Prom Queen or a cheerleader or dancer, or maybe wished she was those things but instead just settled for the sparkly frame. Anyway, I don’t get too enamored by the rhinestones or the dealership ones, but those alumni ones sure dance around my mind like the lemons did. I see them and think things like, “Wow what an incredible feeling it must have been to go to that school, or graduate from that university. They must have an incredible life. She must feel so satisfied.” 

Today I pulled up to Trader Joe’s at the same time as a UCLA grad who was clearly a few years older than me. I felt awkwardly compelled to linger near her and interview her about her life. What job did she get? Did she get married? How much money does she make? Does it feel good? Is her husband handsome? Is he affectionate? Is she a stay-at-home-mom or a doctor? Is she happy? Thankfully I kept my stalker questions to myself but I still wondered... and envied a little bit. Not because I want to go to UCLA, I’d actually prefer Pepperdine or Azusa since we are on the topic, but because there’s a part of me that thinks if I just had that degree then maybe I’d feel better sometimes. I have more times than I’d like to admit where I look back and think about what would have happened if I had chosen university over missions. Who would I have married then? Where would I live? What would we do? 

It makes me sad to acknowledge that truth because I live such a wonderful life with an undoubtedly dreamy husband, but I’d be lying to deny it. I know I’m not the only one who feels it. 

It may not be about education or a different spouse, but we all have “lemons”. Things we crave and think we love and things we claim to need in order to fulfill us. Things we think would refresh us but will ultimately make us cringe. Things that our heavenly Father, and probably our sweet Moms too, would gently remind us we don’t actually need right now or aren’t actually missing out on. Things like a degree, better career, smaller pant-size, different relationship status, new baby, new ring, new home or new car, these things can become a kaleidoscope of temptation offering up refreshment that they likely won’t bring. End even if acquiring these things could ultimately enhance our lives, the heartache of envying people who already have them, is far more agonizing than my 7-year-old lemon encounter. 

I have friends who long to have babies or be engaged so this particular time of year makes it extra painful to be on Facebook when every other post on our feed is a newborn or new ring. One friend longs to be thin and is inwardly tormented by the idea that life would be better if her pant size was smaller. Another friend, a beautiful and successful working professional with a body that girls envy and an adorable home, spends most of her day wrestling with her desire to be married and having babies already. Married friends long to travel, missionary friends long for a place to call “home”, friends from home long to make more money and nail down their dream job... its an ongoing list of people and their “lemons”.

I don’t know what lemons are dancing around your brain today but I just wanted you to know that you probably aren’t missing much. You have done a great job getting yourself to this point in your life, and even if it looks vastly different than you expected, I pray that you will take your eyes off the ‘lemons’ you wish you had, and focus on the gifts right in front of you. What blessings are staring you in the face? What did you work hard to achieve, but have since forgotten about because of your zeal to move forward to the bigger and better? Who is in your life who could use your presence, your words, your listening ears? 
We all have so much to be thankful for.

You are a treasure and your life is abounding with blessings. They may be harder to find in this season of your life, but I promise they are there. As you practice gratitude for what you already have, you will discover new strength to pursue the things you really want. I’m learning that even if we do decide we actually want something, like an education or a smaller pant size, we will have a far more wonderful journey pursuing it if we are operating from a place of contentment rather than a place of greed or envy. 

Don’t let those dancing lemons fool you.  
That’s all.

"Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." (Phil. 4:11-13) 

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This week I am thankful for last week's Montana memories with my sweet nieces. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

3 things.

1. My birthday is Tuesday, August 5th! Mmmmm I just love birthdays. 
This photo is from Pinterest and its dreamy so I'm posting it because I think my birthday will be dreamy too.

2. My sister gets married to a Canadian this Saturday and my husband is officiating the wedding! Family is already arriving from out of state and out of country & I'm delighted to help host the week's festivities.

3. I just booked my ticket to New York City to help lead another Fashion Week outreach! Feeling nervous... as per usual... but also expectant because Jesus always always ALWAYS comes through in crazy ways during these outreaches. Like the time this happened with Betsey Johnson...

PS. Since people are being wonderful & asking about how they can support this outreach- here are 3 ways you can be a part of it! 
1) Pray for me & the rest of the team as we will be spending the week of September 4th-11th sharing the love of God with Fashion & Entertainment Professionals in various ways. If you would like to join the crew who receives daily updates with specific prayer requests please let me know and we will make that happen!
2) Contribute financially to the cost of the outreach! As an unsalaried missionary I continue to be deeply grateful for all of you who generously give financially to fund the work we do. This outreach will cost me about $800 in total. My flight was just over $500 and the rest of the money will go towards my food, housing, and on-ground transportation. In order to give financially please click here: Support Jess Hover (then click on "Donate to a staff member" link.)
3) Come with us! Truly! If you are interested in partnering alongside Models For Christ and sharing the gospel at NYFW please email NYC@modelsforChrist.com for and request a volunteer's application.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

a little vloggy. speak life not death.

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Camp. A blog post from Spain.

(This post was written sometime in early July.)

Estter is the director of the camp we are leading here in Barcelona right now. She is a beautifully passionate 28 year old with plugs in her earlobes, a couple dread locks with beads under her perfectly wild curls, and a tattoo on her wrist of the world-map. She is the kind of girl that you would expect to see sitting in a park somewhere with a bunch of hippies playing djembe drums or dancing around on the beach with her layers of colorfully thrifted clothes bouncing around as she moves.
But instead she spends her days here with us at this camp for Spanish youth. I snapped this photo during one of our morning staff meetings. She thinks it makes her look serious.
I think it makes her look awesome.


I cried the morning the camp started. I didn't want to work the camp. Not even a little.
Shaun had been telling me for months that it would be good for us to serve this ministry and I believed him, because he is usually right about these things, but I still cried. I tearfully told him I was angry that we were doing this. I was not angry enough to quit, just angry enough to cry and need a hug and some hearty encouragement.

If God sees everything we are doing here on earth, and if we really are getting treasures in Heaven for all of the ways we please His heart, I expect that Shaun will get at least double the treasures I get. Because he is the one who puts up with my not-so-put-together-behind-the-scenes self... which could also be called my should-be-on-a-reality-show-nutso-crazy-I'm-embarassed-for-her self.

So Shaun hugged me. He reminded me of all the times I have been surprised by how incredibly things like this have turned out before. Like the time we agreed to lead a group of formerly drug addicted young people (like 2 months fresh from hardcore drugs) on an evanglistic outreach in southern California where everyday they were expected to hit the streets and tell people about Jesus and I literally bawled to Shaun before it started because I felt so out of my element. I did it anyway and it ended up being the best ever. I still tell stories from that trip because of all of the crazy and incredible things that happened.
Like the time a guy got healed in the street when two of ours friends prayed for him. It happened right after the guy had been cussing at our friends for talking about Jesus & instead of retreating our friends said, "Fine let us pray for your injured arm (the guy had his arm in a make-shift sling) and you'll see that our God can heal you. The guy agreed, but scoffed arrogantly during the prayer. After the prayer, I kid you not, the guy was healed! He started full on tripping out, moving his arm around and exclaiming things like "What the F*%^!? Jesus Christ just healed me!!"
I was completely blown away too. But my exclamations were less colorful.

Anyway. Needless to say, Shaun is usually right about things. Especially when it comes to trusting Jesus. He was right this time too. I could write an entire post about Shaun being right, and I probably should, just to honor him for all of the times I have doubted him.

But that's not this post.

This post is a reminder that God can handle our emotions. I'm learning that. In those excruciating times when I desperately want to trust Him, and I want to love people well, and I want to be brave, but inwardly I actually I feel like quitting everything and being a stay at home mom without any kids... God can handle it. He is patient to hear my cries, comfort my aching heart, remind me of His faithfulness, and then give me the strength I need to obey Him. What a relief.

The camp has been a gift. Straight from the Hands of Heaven. I am having fun, learning a lot, and watching lives get changed. My emotions are back in check too. Instead of feeling like Britney Spears when she shaved her head, things have gotten more Mother Theresa-ish... still requiring more of me than normal, but I'm smiling more than normal too.

All that to say friends, just trust God. Definitely cry when you need to, and hug a nearby loved one too, but ultimately just keep trusting Him. Even when He calls you to do things that are hard and scary.
He will be faithful. Beyond what you could ask for or imagine.
I promise.

Also Estter could be anywhere else in the world right now. But she is here. Giving her time to a bunch of teenagers who hardly know her and couldn't care less about what she gave up to spend her summer with them. I admire her for her sacrifice. I also admire her radical love for Jesus. It's evident in the way she loves all of us.
I want to be like Estter. & I just thought you guys should know.

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Ps. I hope I didn't offend you by comparing myself to Mother Theresa. I am not really on her level yet and I'm aware. I also hope I didn't offend Britney Spears by bringing up the head-shaving incident. There's no shame girlfriend. I have had plenty of moments I'd rather ignore too.
Sorry yours got blasted all over international news.