Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I am the Moon - He is my Light

One of the reasons I love living in Florida is that I am just about 7 minutes away from the beach.  I am a romantic and love having my "Jesus and Jen" dates out by the water.  His creation always draws me so close to Him in a way that I just can't explain.  One night this past summer, I went out to one of my special places by the water where I meet with Him often and watched as He painted yet another beautiful sunset on the tapestry of a deep blue sky while multiple shades of pink and orange danced on the clouds.  It absolutely took my breath away! 

This particular night as I sat still in awe of the moving artistry all around me, my heart was mixed with emotions.  Part of my heart was filled with wonder as I gazed upon God's beauty, and the other part of my heart was extremely heavy.  I remember not being able to say much at all to the Lord except telling Him that even though I didn't understand my situation that I was going to trust Him.  As I sat there breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sound of waves crashing against the rocks, I watched until the sun finally disappeared beneath the horizon.  I took comfort in knowing that God was still God even in the midst of my mess and that He still had a plan for my life.

After awhile, it started getting dark and suddenly I noticed a bright light was shining on me from behind like someone had just turned a spotlight on me.  I turned around not knowing where the light was coming from and was taken back by it's source.  What had happened was that the clouds had parted and revealed one of the most brilliant, brightest full moons I have ever seen!  As I sat there mesmerized at the sight I was beholding I was reminded that the light I was seeing was not from the moon at all.  The moon is really nothing more than a big dark round rock in the sky with craters all over it.  In itself, it is actually kind of boring and ugly.  What gave the moon it's light was the sun - the very same sun that I had watched paint colors throughout the sky just about an hour or so before.  The sun made something that would otherwise be useless become a beautiful beacon of light shining brightly for all to see.

As tears started streaming down my cheeks, I told God that I wanted Him to make me like that moon. I knew that I was useless without Him and that I couldn't produce any light on my own.  I told Him what a mess I was, but that if He was willing I would give Him my ugly mess so that He could shine His light upon me and turn my life into something beautiful.  I so wanted to be someone He could use to boldly show off His glory for all to see just like that moon that night.

When I got home, I immediately grabbed my Bible and opened up to the next chapter in Isaiah, as I was reading through this particular book at the time.  I knew it was no coincidence when the very first words I read were, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and His glory appears over you." (Isaiah 60:1-2)

I love how the Amplified version states this passage: "Arise [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you--rise to a new life]!  Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and dense darkness [all] peoples, but the Lord shall arise upon you, and His glory shall be seen on you."

Wow!  I just love how God speaks straight to our circumstances from His Word!  We do live in a dark world, and it just seems to be getting darker with time.  However, God has called each of His children to ARISE and to allow His beautiful light to shine brightly from each of us into this darkened world.  People need to see that there is hope - they need to see that there is something more than what they are chasing after - they need JESUS!  The thing is that none of us can be a light on our own - we are only going to shine as bright as we allow ourselves to get close to our Heavenly Father.  The closer we get to Him, the brighter we will shine.  It doesn't matter how ugly your situation may be or what kind of mess you find yourself in - as you draw nearer and nearer to your Heavenly Father, His light will shine brighter and brighter in your life.

Well - that's not the end of my story.  You see, our enemy - the prince of darkness - does not want us shining the light of Christ.  He loves the dark and will do everything he can to dim any light that may begin to shine from your life.  He wants nothing more than to convince you that God could never use you.  If he can get you to believe this lie, then he can keep you in the dark and keep you from having any impact in this world for Christ.

He tried to use this lie on me and was successful for awhile.  He tried to convince me that God could never use someone like me and that I would never be like that moon.  My life was just too messy.  I had blown it way too many times.  There were significant people in my life who had given up on me, why wouldn't God give up on me too?  The enemy tormented me with these thoughts until I finally decided I was going to believe what God said about me instead of what the enemy was telling me.

Within a week of making this decision to believe God over how I felt, a sweet woman walked up to me at church and handed me a CD.  (Keep in mind that I had only met her once before and had never shared my moon story with her).  She proceeded to tell me that there was a song on that CD that made her think of me and she wanted to share it with me thinking that maybe it would be a good song for me to sing.

After church, I hopped in my car anxious to hear the song.  I had never heard this song by Sara Groves before and I sat there and sobbed as these words came through my speakers:

"And I am the moon with no light of my own
Still You have made me to shine
And as I glow in this cold dark night
I know I can't be a light unless I turn my face to You.
Shine on me with Your light
Without You I'm a cold dark stone
Shine on me I have no light of my own
You are the sun, You are the sun, You are the sun
And I am the moon"

May each time you look up in the sky and see a bright full moon that it will remind you to draw nearer and nearer to God so that He can shine brighter and brighter through your life!

Love you all,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Shopping Trip to Remember

Ok, so I recently shared on my Facebook of a shopping trip to Old Navy in which I bought $430 worth of clothes and netted $9 in profit. Many have asked how I did this, so I thought I would share some of my shopping secrets with you...

Honestly, although I do profess do be a bargain shopper - I have never been able to pull something like this off to this extreme before (especially with clothes). So - if you're looking for instructions on how you can go out tomorrow and do the same thing, I'm afraid you might not like my answer. However, maybe you can take some of my tips and it will help you save some money on your quest for a great deal!

It all started with Groupon. They emailed me a special promotion for $10 towards a Groupon. Around the same time, I found there was a $20 Old Navy Groupon for only $10. I used my $10 credit towards that Groupon and got it for free. Groupon also has a referral program which allows you to refer friends and earn $10 credit for each person who creates an account and buys. I ended up with $60 in Old Navy Groupons to spend.

I waited to use these until there were some good sales going on in the store so that I could get more for my money. However, I never expected the deal to be as good as it was. Sunday afternoon, my sister texted me and told me that Old Navy was having a big sale and all of their clearance was marked down an additional 50% . On top of that, for every $20 you spent, they gave you $10 Old Navy bucks to come back and use.

I headed straight to Old Navy the moment I got her text in hopes that I would find me some good stuff. And find me some good stuff I DID! You know how it is with clearance - it can be very hit or miss. Most of the time, for me at least, it's a miss. You are usually left with the clothes that no one else wants to buy, or when you find something cute it's not in your size. Well - not this time! I felt like a kid in a candy store as I pulled item after item off the rack to try on. Most of the items were $5 or less! I'm sure it was a funny sight for the rest of the shoppers to see as I attempted to haul half the store in my arms to the dressing room to try on.

(Now I have to stop here and say that I know there are much bigger needs out there in the world, and I do not at all want to minimize those things with a silly little post about such a minor need in my life. However, I believe that God not only cares about the big stuff in our lives, but also the little stuff. Honestly, other than a small amount at Christmas that was paid with another Groupon - I have not really been clothes shopping in well over a year. I cannot even recall when the last time was. This girl that years ago once frequented the mall so much that the workers in my favorite stores knew me by name has learned how to live with less).

The thing is that I was really coming to the point that I needed a few items, like some jeans. I only have one pair that fit me right now and I wear that same pair ALL of the time - I can't believe I just admitted that - ha! Anyways, as I began to try on my ridiculously ginormous pile of clothes, I began to hang the items up in 3 categories: "HAVE TO BUY", "WANT TO BUY" and "MAYBE". After I had finally tried on my last item, which seemed like hours later, I got out my phone and started adding up the prices of my found treasures, so I could figure out what I could keep and what I would have to part with. Keep in mind that I only had $60 in Groupons to spend, so I was trying to keep the total right around there.

I started with the "HAVE TO BUY" group, thinking for sure I would rack up my $60 there. I literally had tears in my eyes when the total only came out to around $27.   Every single one of those items were things that I really needed (like 2 pairs of jeans) and prayed that God would help me to find.  I was then able to add all of the "WANT TO BUY" items as well!!!   I stopped and thanked the Lord right there and jumped up and down in the dressing room as giddy as a 5-year-old little girl who had just been given a pony! Seriously - I wonder what the sweet young Old Navy employees were thinking as they saw my feet below the door as I did my happy dance. I am laughing out loud right now just thinking about it.

When it was all said and done, with my Groupons, sale prices, an extra discount for a hole I found in one of the tops, and a sweet cashier who allowed me to combine my Groupons with the store promo of Old Navy bucks (they normally don't allow this), I paid $21 and got back $30 in Old Navy bucks for a net of $9!!!  PRAISE THE LORD!!!

I know without a doubt that God orchestrated all of this in order to provide for me in a very practical way. He truly does care about our EVERY need no matter how big or small. This doesn't mean He is going to give us everything we want. He knows what is best for us and what we truly need. The truth is that in the big scheme of things, I didn't REALLY need new clothes - but just like a loving earthly father takes great delight in giving gifts to his children, our Heavenly Father loves to do the same for us. He chooses many different ways to do this, as each of us are special and unique, but I think His heart bursts with joy every time He gets to shower us with undeserved blessings like this. I honestly think He was in that dressing room jumping up and down with me! ;0)

Okay - so there you have it. One very long post with a very long explanation - if you are still reading this at this point, I applaud you. I will be back with some posts that have a little more depth to them soon. :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy New Year...(a tad late)

Hello my dear brothers and sisters!
I don't know if I am too late in saying this, but "Happy New Year to you all!" I said this to someone the other day and they actually rebuked me and told me that was old news. Well - old news or not, I do hope that 2012 is off to a good start for you!
I know I have not been faithful at keeping this blog updated, and so one of my New Year's resolutions is to be better at that. God is teaching me so many things along this journey, but I don't write about it often because of fear to what people might think. I do not claim to be a gifted writer by any means, and I have no idea how many people actually read this blog. However, the Lord has convicted me that I cannot just keep what He is teaching me to myself. When God produces fruit in your life, it is not just for you to eat but also for others. Therefore, as God continues to produce fruit in my life as I seek Him, I will pass the plate around gladly in hopes that you will find something nourishing to your soul as well.
That being said, I am SO very excited about all that God has in store for this year. I love fresh starts - being able to just wipe the slate clean, learn from the past and set my sights on what lies ahead. It was so refreshing to start out this new year with a blank calendar, not knowing what would fill each of the 366 days this year (leap year). Not knowing can be scary and thrilling at the same time! As I spent time praying over my 2012 calendar this year asking God to bless in very specific ways - there was one thing above all else that I wanted. I asked Jesus to fill every single minute of every single day with more of Himself! No matter what lies ahead, I want to experience more of Him! And that my friends, is my prayer for you too! May this be a year that you experience your Heavenly Father more than you ever have before!
"The LORD says, "Forget what happened before, and do not think about the past. Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don't you see it? I will make a road in the desert and rivers in the dry land." Isaiah 43:18-19
May 2012 bring You glory, LORD!!!