Monday, October 24, 2011

Lessons from the Valley

Hello dear friends,

If we were to sit down across from one another and I was to ask you how you are doing, what would you say? Would you give me the common Sunday-morning-church-act-like-you-got-it-all-together answer of "I'm fine" or "I'm good"? What if I leaned in, looked you square in the eye and said, "Now tell me how you are really doing." Maybe things in your life truly are great right now, and you are on top of the mountain enjoying God's blessings in your life. If that is the case, I celebrate with you! But - I know there are those of you who would say that things really aren't so fine right now. Maybe you have found yourself smack dab in the middle of a valley. I have heard this far too often from some precious brothers and sisters in Christ lately, and God impressed upon my heart that it was time to share with you some things that He has been teaching me, a fellow sojourner presently traveling through the valley myself.

Let me preface this by saying that I definitely did not start out in the valley believing all of these things. I have had my share of questions and doubts just like many of you. I have had moments when I wondered if God had forgotten about me. There have been many times I felt like throwing in the towel and giving up because it was just too hard. However, in the midst of all the confusion, unknowns and uncertainties, God has been using this season to teach me. He has been opening my eyes to see the real beauty that lies in the valley.

You may be wondering how in the world you could ever see your valley as beautiful. I am not saying that the circumstance that placed you in the valley is beautiful. Let's face it - life can be downright hard and unfair sometimes. The only view you may see in front of you right now might seem dark, scary, long and lonely. However, God promises to bring good out of every single thing that happens in your life (Rom. 8:28). He alone can take the barren, dusty groud you tread upon and turn it into something beautiful, lush and green.

God also promises that you will never have to walk alone. Psalm 23:4a (NLT) states, "Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me." Even when you can't feel God's presence, He is there. He hasn't abandoned you, precious one. In fact, these are the times that He draws us in close - near to His heart.

Another beautiful thing that God can do during this season is to speak to you in ways you have never heard Him before. I personally have never been so sensitive to the voice of God as I have been while in the valley. It is here that I have learned how to listen to the voice of my sweet Savior. Ezekiel 3:22 (NLT) says, "Then the LORD took hold of me and said, 'Get up and go out into the valley, and I will speak to you there.'" If God has led you to this place, dear one, He has something He wants to say to you - something He wants to teach you. He is speaking - Listen to Him!

That next verse in Ezekiel goes on to say, "So I got up and went, and there I saw the glory of the LORD...". God's intention for leading you through a valley is ALWAYS for the purpose of His glory. There is something so glorious He wants to do in all of this! This is an opportunity for Him to show you and those around you what He is capable of.

A common fact about the valley is that this is where the fruit grows. Another purpose for God leading you through the valley is to produce fruit in your life. It is to your Father's glory that your life bears much fruit (John 15:8). To experience this growth, however, you HAVE to stay connected to Jesus. In John 15:5 (MSG), Jesus said, "I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with Me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing."

Yes, precious child of God - a harvest will come if you stay connected to the One who breathes life into your very soul. Psalm 126:5-6 (NIV) says, "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." The Message says that they "will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing!" God promises to exchange our tears for laughter! Each one of your tears is a seed that God can produce a crop from. The more tears you have had to endure, the more seeds that can be sown. The more seeds that are sown, the larger the harvest is going to be. Before you know it, that barren ground isn't going to be so barren anymore. Eventually you will begin to see the results of what God wanted to bring about in your life in this season. In fact, you might turn around to find that your valley has produced a crop that looks a little something like this one found in a valley in Israel:
That's right! A harvest is coming my brothers and sisters! God is who He says He is! He always keeps His promises! If you feel like quitting - don't! Allow God to lead you while He tightly holds onto your hand.  For at the proper time, you're gonna reap a harvest if you do not give up! (Gal. 6:9)

Love in Christ,


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Lesson from a Dolphin

Hey Friends!

I just realized it's been 2 whole months since I wrote on here last! A lot has happened since I started my new job (Praise the Lord!), and my life has been crazy busy lately. I have witnessed God do some pretty incredible things in the past few weeks and months. As I sit here, I am in complete awe of the fact that God would even want to work in and through me like He has. I think I am a living example of the fact that God really can use ANYBODY! I am so grateful for His love, mercy and grace!

As a matter of fact, God taught me a pretty awesome lesson this weekend, and I thought it might encourage some of you reading as well:

Saturday morning, I woke up early to head to the gym for my morning workout. However as I was driving, I decided to skip the gym and head straight to my most favorite "Jesus spot" in Vinoy Park. I parked my car and slowly strolled along on the seawall, breathing in the fresh morning air and gazing at the beauty all around me. All of a sudden, my peaceful walk was interrupted by a loud sound that startled me so much I almost lost my balance. I looked down below me and to my great surprise, there was a dolphin that had come out of nowhere just to jump up out of the water right below where I was standing. He continued to swim on down the edge of the seawall, so I began to follow him. He was moving pretty fast, so I was having to hustle to keep up with him.

As I was in the process of chasing my dolphin, all of a sudden I heard what I thought was the Lord say, "Sit down". This was of course not an audible voice, but I heard it pretty strongly in my Spirit. At first, I questioned whether it really was the Lord I was hearing and I took another couple of steps. I then heard Him say again, "Sit down", and I knew that it was the Lord speaking. I found myself saying, "But Lord, I am trying to catch up with my dolphin! He's getting away!" Then He said to me again, "Jenifer, sit down". I wasn't ready to sit down! What I really wanted to do was follow that dolphin! - But I decided to obey what God was asking me to do, as peculiar as I thought it may be. I sat right down on that seawall with my legs dangling over the waters of Tampa Bay just like I had so many times before while meeting with my Jesus. I sat and watched as the dolphin disappeared into the distance.

As I sat there with the Lord, He began to show me that just like that dolphin, there were things in my life that I was still chasing after instead of being still and waiting on Him. I opened up my hands and with palms up, I stuck out my arms and told God He could take it all - even if He had to take every single dream and all that was important to me in order to fulfill His purpose in my life. It was not an easy thing to do. It was painful to think of having to relinquish control of what I valued the most. However, I have come to know my Heavenly Daddy's heart. I know that He doesn't ask me to give Him everything so that He can just take them away. Everything He does in my life is for my good and for His glory. He always does the most loving thing - whether that means allowing some dreams to be shattered so He can give me better dreams or to just hold off on some dreams until He is ready to give them back to me.

After about 40 incredibly blessed minutes there with the Lord, I got back up on my feet and was about to turn around to head back to my car. Right as I was beginning to turn around, out of the middle of nowhere - what just so happened to jump right up out of the water at my feet? Yep! You guessed it! There was my dolphin! I didn't even see him coming! I was so ecstatic that I'm sure I caused a scene to the nearby joggers as I jumped up and down and squealed with excitement!

God is so incredibly amazing! As soon as I was obedient in being still before Him and allowed Him to teach me the lesson He wanted me to learn, He brought that dolphin right back to me! What dream or longing does the dolphin represent in your life? Could it be a relationship you are longing for? Is it a job or promotion at work? Or maybe it is a dream for a loved one - maybe a child who is not walking with the Lord? What is it that you are chasing after? Maybe God just wants you to "Sit down", be still and wait on Him while He works in your heart and the hearts of your loved ones. He wants to bring those dreams right to you in His time. He loves you, and He is truly working ALL THINGS together for your good!

Lamentations 3:25 (NKJV)
"The Lord is good to those who wait for Him."

I pray that each one of you who reads this blog will experience the goodness and the faithfulness of God that comes when we are willing to be still and wait on Him.

Love always in Christ,


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A New Chapter...

Hey Everyone!

(If you are just logging onto my blog and you have not previously read the two posts below, I would recommend reading them first so you'll be up to speed on this update)...

I just have to say thank you all so very much for all of your prayers and the sweet messages of encouragement that many of you have sent me. I have saved every one of them in a special folder that I can go back and look at over and over again whenever I am having a rough day. They are precious reminders of how much my Heavenly Daddy loves me. I love how He loves on us through others!

Most of you will know that I have been looking for a job/income for quite some time now. For months, I have had many doors abruptly shut that just didn't make sense. I was left so confused and had moments where I questioned God's will for my life. I was trusting Him the best I could, but there was still some doubt looming in the back of my mind.

However, God was doing something very special within me while I was waiting. He was answering other desperate prayers that I had cried out to Him flat on my face more times than I can recount. What God wanted to do in my life needed a lot of concentrated time with Him as He poured out His love and His Word into my heart. He brought me to the point that I realized He was more than enough. It took Him allowing almost everything I had any security in to be stripped away, but what He gave me in exchange was worth so much more. He gave me the gift of Himself. This I have come to realize is the ultimate, most loving thing God could ever do for me.

Within a week after I finally just threw up my hands knowing that there was nothing more I could do, I received an unexpected message from a guy who used to play in a worship band with me, but who I had not seen in months. He asked what I was doing for work these days because he just so happened to possibly have a position opening up with his software hosting company.

I scheduled an interview with him and was offered the position of Executive Assistant on the spot! The company is Christian-owned and works with many missions organizations and churches. The guys I work with are all Christians and it was so refreshing to go into work on my first day and sit down with them to pray before we started our staff meeting. What is huge about this job is that I have been given the flexiblity to be able to leave when I am involved in other ministry commitments, which means I can continue to walk through the doors that God is opening for me to serve in ministry.

And if all that is not enough - our office is right by the water, so I can sit outside by the bay and gaze at God's beauty while eating my lunch everyday! Does God SO know me, or what?! I already have picked out my favorite shade tree to sit under where God and I are going to be having some special times together!

God kept His Word in promising to provide! Tears well up in my eyes as I type this because God proved Himself faithful and trustworthy yet again, even though I doubted Him so many times. He didn't do this for me because I had an extroardinary amount of faith. He did it simply out of His unfailing and perfect love for this flawed and imperfect girl. I can look back now and see how He has been working and realize He has been loving on me all along, even when I didn't recognize it.

I believe there is someone out there who needs to hear this story. I literally searched for jobs for months with no responses. I finally had to just give up, knowing that even if the worst thing happened that my Jesus would be right by my side through it all. Maybe you've been there. Maybe you're there right now. Maybe you've reached a dead end and don't know what to do. God sometimes allows us to get to that point so that we realize that He really is enough.

We can't always understand why God doesn't respond the way we want Him to sometimes. However, we can trust that He knows exactly what He is doing. In this very moment, He IS working everything out for your good. In time you will be able to look back and see how He was working behind the scenes the whole time. Don't give up, brothers and sisters - keep trusting Him - and He WILL reveal Himself to you!

"I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord."

Psalm 40:1-3



Friday, March 04, 2011

What I Desire Most

Hey sweet friends!

I hope you all are enjoying this day that the Lord has made!'s an update...I had a two-day interview this week for an Administrative Assistant position. The owner of the company told me he would not hire me for that particular job because I was over qualified. However, he offered me another position with the company that would have made me a VERY wealthy woman and would have given me all kinds of success and notoriety by the world's standards. How could I resist such an offer? To say that money has been tight would be the biggest understatement of my year. This would give me long-term financial stability in a very financially unstable world. I was blown away at first, thinking that maybe this was an answer to prayer. The thought of not having to worry about money anymore was most definitely appealing! I asked him to give me a little more time to pray about it before accepting the offer.

Those two days I was in complete turmoil. I did not want to turn down the opportunity if this truly was God's will for me, but I surely did not want it if it wasn't His will. I tossed and turned all night begging God to give me an answer. There was a part of me that felt like I needed to take the job simply because it was the financially "responsible" thing to do. However, I began realizing all of the things that I was going to have to give up in order to do this job. Every single area of my life would have become consumed by the responsibilities required. I would no longer be able to make any ministry and singing commitments, I would never see my friends and family, and more than anything I know my relationship with the Lord would have suffered. This company would have completely owned every part of my life.

I asked God to show me what to do, and He did. I knew that there might be people who would think I was crazy and irresponsible for not accepting the offer, but I knew that God did not want me to take that job. He gave me such a peace I can't explain, and I knew that I just needed to trust Him to lead me and provide for me.

After making my decision yesterday afternoon, I woke up this morning wondering what in the world I was to do now? I went out to one of my favorite "Jesus & Jen" spots at Vinoy Park and sat on the seawall with my legs dangling over the water. I remembered all of the special times I had with the Lord there over the years and all the salty tears I had cried out to Him that had landed in that salty water of the bay. God reminded me of how He has always been faithful and has heard every one of my cries. There I was again, pouring my heart out to Him asking Him for help. I just needed that reassurance that He was there, and that He did have something very special planned for my life.

The wind was blowing rather strong and causing big waves to crash against the seawall spraying me with water, but I didn't care. I was there to meet with my Heavenly Daddy and I wasn't leaving until He reassured me of His presence. Suddenly, a pelican flew within feet of me with his wings spread out allowing the wind to just carry him there stationary for a long time. It was so cool that I clasped my hands together and squealed telling God how awesome His creation was.

Then, just as the pelican flew away, my eye caught something come up out of the water at a distance. I soon realized that it was a dolphin, and then quickly saw that there was a whole group of dolphins and they were making a beeline directly towards where I was sitting. It was like God said, "You think the pelican is cool, baby girl? Just watch this!" The dolphins started jumping and playing in the water right close to where I was sitting. They could have made their way to any part of that long seawall, but they came right to me!

God just continues to blow me away with His love! I don't understand everything He is doing, but I do know that He is right here with me and He's not letting go. I may have many dreams and desires, but I have come to realize that more than anything I want JESUS! He is my dream! He is my desire!!!

I want to leave you all with a quote from "Shattered Dreams" by Larry Crabb...

"What He [God] is doing while we suffer is leading us into the depths of our being, into the center of our soul where we feel our strongest passions. It's there that we discover our desire for God. We begin to feel a desire to know Him that not only survives all our pain, but actually thrives in it until that desire becomes more intense than our desire for all the good things we still want. Through the pain of shattered lower dreams, we wake up to the realization that we want an encounter with God more than we want the blessings of life. And that begins a revolution in our lives."

Seek God first my friends, for He is the very One that your heart longs for even if you don't realize it. That's the way God made us. He is the only One who can fill you. Only He can give you love that completely satisfies. Anything else we follow after to quench our unsatiable thirst will eventually leave us dried up. Allow Jesus Christ to pour His living water into your heart and experience true satisfaction and wholeness in Him!

Love you my brothers and sisters!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Will Never Leave You

Happy New Year Everyone!

I recently posted a prayer request on my Facebook page asking everyone to pray specifically about a real estate deal I had in the works that would pay off all my debt and give me a little bit of money to walk away with. Like many of you, times are tough and I really was hoping this would be something that God would work out to relieve some of my financial pressure. So many of you responded with encouragement and promises to pray for me. Several of you followed up by texting me or asking me in person about it. It means the world to me that there are precious people who care about me enough to go before the throne of God on my behalf. Thinking about it at this moment brings tears to my eyes as I type. I cannot thank you all enough for your prayers and encouragement.

Last week, as I had just picked up a book called "Believing God" by Beth Moore, which is all about faith and believing what God says, and began to read it, I turned to a passage in Joshua that she made reference to in the first chapter. As I was turning to the passage, I glanced up at my laptop that was sitting directly in front of me with my email opened so that I wouldn't miss any important messages. There it was. The message that I was hoping was going to bring me some good news was just the opposite. I found that another offer was accepted and I had lost the deal. I was devastated. I really had thought this was going to be what God was going to use to provide. I was discouraged and became very afraid about the uncertainty of my future.

At that moment, I looked down at my Bible where I had turned to the passage spoken of in my book, and another portion of scripture that I had highlighted in the past stared right back at me. "I will never leave you nor forsake you...Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:5b & 9) God knew the exact moment I was going to receive that discouraging news, and He was so faithful to be ready to comfort me with His gentle words. He reminded me that no matter what happens or where I am that He will be with me. He is here to stay and will stick it out with me for the long haul, no matter what I may face.

God didn't stop at reassuring me that He was with me. After I sat and relished in the words He had whispered so sweetly into my soul with tears streaming down my face, I reached for my scripture spiral. I carry a note card spiral everywhere I go with me these days with scriptures that are most meaningful to me during this season of my life. When I had set the spiral down beside me as I was reading, it was closed. However, as I went to pick it up I noticed it had opened. The verse it happened to open up to was Psalm 132:15 which simply states, "I will bless her with abundant provisions." I just about fell off the bed I was sitting on when I read this! God was promising me that He was not only going to provide, but that He would ABUNDANTLY provide! God sure is amazing, isn't He?

I suddenly realized that it didn't matter that the deal didn't go through because God was going to take care of me in a bigger way. I have heard Beth Moore often say that when God says "No" it's for His greater "Yes!". Another woman in my life who has become very dear to me said, "Jenifer, if the deal would have gone through, it would have been by your efforts, not God's. God wants to do something that only He can do." (my paraphrase)

It was interesting to me that God chose to tell me that He was with me before He told me He was going to abundantly provide for my needs. He reminded me of Who He was before He told me what He would do. God is much more concerned about me knowing the Provider before I experience His provision. I can say from experience that I would trade everything I possess just to know my Provider more. His compassion and love are like no other.

I may not know when or how God is going to provide, but this I know...My God will NEVER leave me or forsake me, and He is going to be glued to my side through it all!

May you experience God's presence in a fresh new way today as well knowing that He is ALWAYS with you dear one!

Love you all,