The Chase Is On!

“Don’t let the worries of tomorrow chase you through today.
Just do what I’ve told you to do TODAY.”

Cambodia

You know those things the Lord whispers into your heart...that sink deep into your soul? Yeah, those were His words to me this morning.

Oh how my mind can run in so many different directions!
It leaps and bounds this way, then that way.
It stops for a second, as if to catch its breath…than rebounds with increased frequency.

No wonder I am so tired by the end of the day. My thoughts twirl endlessly inside my skull, bouncing and spinning and running over each other until I don’t know which way is up anymore.

Talk about a big headache.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…do not fret—it leads only to evil.” -excerpts from Psalm 37:7-8

DSC02856 - Version 2I have a love/hate relationship with being still. I yearn for it when I’m in the middle of crazy. Yet when I finally get there, I find myself wanting to find a distraction because I know I have deal with myself and come before God to apologize for not trusting him, again.

Stillness brings focus. Suddenly the stuff I’m worrying about
(aka “not trusting Jesus about”) I am more able to lay at His feet.

My brain is on overdrive and it cries for rest. It needs to peace of its Creator. We weren’t meant to deal with stress. Our bodies protest. Things like pain and sickness and exhaustion all are a result of stress.

Stress doesn’t trust the Lord. Stress strives.

The perfectionist in me comes out this time of year. I want to be intentional. I want to get the right gifts. I miss my friends because I’ve been so busy these past 6 months with travel and settling into work, and at the same time I want to spend all the time with family that I can, because in the coming years, being together will look much different.

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I’ll be honest. It’s just a very weird season.
God never stops changing us, and I love that about Him.

I think I didn’t expect this to be so hard. It’s starting to sink in, the fact that my parents are leaving.
I’ll blog more about that later, so stay tuned.

God has been whispering to my soul.

Grace. Rest. Peace.

I need to accept the fact that rest is okay. This season is okay. I need to have grace for myself, too. I’m not going to let my worries chase me. Instead, let’s chase the worries back with grace.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

As I am constantly reminded of this Christmas season, “Let it GO!”

A hornet the size of a hummingbird

Do you know what it’s like to get stung by a hornet? I sure didn’t.

I had heard it was far worse than a bee sting…but I never wanted to find out.

For 27 years I had escaped getting stung by any sort of bee, hornet or wasp. I was wary and a bit paranoid around them, and I would commonly run away if they buzzzzed near me. Now I think it’s all so silly! I think the most reasonable explanation was that I just didn’t know how much it hurt to get stung, and I didn’t really want to find out!

imag2138I was minding my own business the day it happened. We were on tour of Jordan, riding camels and trekking through the stunning, colorful, rocky and cave-filled landscape of Petra.

It was beautiful. It was HOT. I could explore that place for hours. Maybe not in the intense heat again, though. 🙂

imag2170 I was vastly enjoying this trek, even though it was so hot. We were walking down an incredible entrance that you could tell would have looked grand in its day. It was reminiscent of what I picture it may have been for Jesus as he rode the donkey into the city…and the crowds waved palm branches on every side of Him. “Hosanna!” Such a beautiful image.

imag2194This was the moment right before it happened. Look at me. So clearly happy…so blissfully unaware!

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*WACK*

One minute I was lost in thought as we made our way down the sandy pathway, the next, completely stunned and in pain, with something soft and fuzzy wedged between my sunglasses and my face.

My face jerks hard to the right and my hands frantically try to get whatever has just hit me “off of me,” whatever that means. Nothing worked, the pain began and the dive-bombing bee was still wedged against my face.

I lost all knowledge of my body movements as instinct kicked into high gear and I flung my sunglasses as fast as I could away from my face and into the powdery sand. Aaaaahhhhhh!!! (I think I screamed, or yelled. Who knows? It’s all a blur!)

Most of the people in my group were behind me, and everyone just stopped, totally confused, and stared at me.

“Guys, I think I just got stung!” I said, shakily raising my left hand to touch the side of my face.

Later on they told me it was HUGE. They could see its wings from 100 feet behind me, and unfortunately a couple of them saw it fly off after it remained in the sand, stunned, for a minute.

Man…I wanted that thing DEAD. If I could’ve, I totally would have smashed it. It just hit my FACE…it should have died! Ha!

At this point I had gathered a crowd of curious Bedouin locals, the guys who ride the donkeys and sell “air conditioned taxi rides” to and from different points along the path in Petra.

I knew I needed to sit down, so I wandered over to a bench in the shade. They all clustered around me, jabbering in Arabic, assessing the damage as the left side of my face throbbed in firey pain. I am certainly grateful for high pain tolerance!

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I was in pretty intense pain (1, I’d never been stung and 2, my face wasn’t used to being stabbed). That thing sure got me good.

A couple of the ladies on my team were quick thinkers and made some mud from water and sand to put on my face. They didn’t quite have to use spit to make mud, but I imagine it was something like what Jesus did with the blind men, mixing sand and water to make a paste and put on their eyes.

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The best part of the day was the old timer who clearly had seen a thing or two in his day. He came up to the group wearing his red checkered turban – his white facial hair highlighted the deep wrinkles in his tan, weathered face. He leans close to examine the problem. Then he squints his eyes and proceeds to tell me, “You must squeeze it, like a thing on your face!”
I am pretty sure he meant “squeeze it like a pimple!”

I laughed, and it hurt, but I couldn’t help but smile at these men who were so kindly helping me.

They didn’t have to help, you know. In Muslim culture, it’s not normal for a man to talk or touch a woman. In fact, one of the Bedouin guys put mud paste on my face, and then the old timer sat down with me to take a picture.

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They kept coming back over to check on me, to see if I was okay, the look of concern clear in their eyes. I could see the beauty of kindness in the wrinkles around their eyes as they smiled.

I hope these men saw Jesus in the way we interacted, in the way the men of my team rushed to help me, in the way they gathered around me to pray for me when we weren’t sure if I was going to be okay or not.

It definitely makes my visit to Petra so memorable that I won’t ever forget it.
I also won’t forget my wonderful teammate who sat with me and prayed over me as I cried after the adrenaline ran its course, 1) from pain and 2) from disappointment that I couldn’t climb to the top of the highest point and see the views of all of Jordan. I won’t forget the stories that were told in the days after this happened, and each time the hornet grew bigger, the tall tale was told in larger, more grandeur details. It was the size of a hummingbird! I didn’t see it, but all I can say is…so they say! 🙂

This next part really cracks me up. Logically…this is strangely abnormal. But…I was crying and I don’t cry often, I had just been stung in the face by a giant killer wasp/hornet/hummingbird thing, and that’s not a normal experience either. I wasn’t quite thinking clearly, so the next logical plan of action is to take a picture. Of my face. Haha. I actually took a picture of my face.

imag2195I naturally had to post this…I’m weird, I know.

I look really, really sad! Everytime I look at this now my internal dialogue is something like this, “Oh my goodness! Wow. Ohhh…I look so sad!” And then I laugh. Because that is seriously my reaction to everything. I laugh. No matter if it’s good or bad or funny or not ok…my reaction to it will be to laugh. So…I don’t honestly think everything is truly funny, it’s just the way I react the things.

Oh goodness. So there you have it. I don’t quite know how to end this epic-ly. I’m just very grateful I didn’t see it coming. Best to be blissfully unaware, I guess!

I can probably just say this day was such a mix of awesome and traumatizing and exhausting and memorable that I slept really well that night. I won’t tell you about the part where my face throbbed the rest of the day and night. Ok, I guess I just did.

2 weeks later and I can still feel where I was stung. It’s a bit stiff & slightly sore at times. I have no idea if that’s normal! Quite the way to get my first “bee sting,” I tell ya!

I think I’ll take a bumblebee over a hornet any day. If I act a little jumpy the next time I’m with you and a bee flies by, you’ll know why. Hopefully you won’t laugh at me too much :). Just another interesting day in the life of Jess! I can’t help but wonder what random adventure experience is next…best I don’t know, probably! 😛

More photos and details about my trip to come, I’m sure.

See ya on the next blog!

imag2117

These are Transitional Years

tran·si·tion

noun: the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.


The beginning of a yearning…
…a yearning that burns, leaps at the thought of the World Race.
Oh to be there again.

Memories of ages past. No, not ages, just years…but it feels like ages.
Ages gone; ages home.
Time flies, yet inches along.

When I returned from the World Race, I thought I’d never want to go again.

I was tired. No, exhausted. Longing for the embrace of family and all familiar things.

1077061_10151987629756747_700969046_o - Version 2
Family is beautiful, and I’m so grateful.
Memory tricks us, lures us back to comfort.

But little did I know I would jump right back home into the familiar, but soon into transition. Changes came quickly, and I was swept along in the current. A beautiful, fast-moving, white-water rapids current, splashing me rudely in the face one minute and rushing over me and calming my fears in another.

I was left with little time to process. Or maybe I am a terrible processor. It takes me forever to figure out what I learned from something. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this is normal.

I’m still processing the World Race and feel like I will continue to do so for a very long time. I think, that this is ok.

Change comes for all of us. Transition is inevitable.

>>Fast forward to a year after I returned home, and I’m longing for it all over again. The World Race.

TNZ_TTCP1100093 - Version 2DSC_0098
This must be what mothers experience after giving birth to their child…they say they will never do it again, then time forgets the pain and you remember only the joy and long for it again.

Pain is what grows us, challenges us, changes us.

P1100017 - Version 3(the day my Thai pants were eaten by termites…)

Pressure cooker, that was the World Race. We hate it and we love it.
Oh…to be that close to the Lord again. Oh to feel His presence with every breath, every step.

He is still here. Oh so close. Right here.
Just, He feels different.
Grown closer, yet feels farther.
As if that is possible.

I have thought and thought about how these past 2 years have gone since I left for the World Race.

I began a life of transition that has never stopped. Oh how my life has sped through many twists and turns since September 2012.

I should be used to transition by now, but the thing about transition is that each new one brings new challenges. You can get used to moving but constant change brings uncertainty. It requires great trust in the Lord.


 These are transitional years, but these are defining years.
I am learning who I am–who He has made me to be. This is EXCITING, AMAZING, THRILLING, TERRIFYING, WONDERFUL.

Life as I know it now, is not how I thought it would be.
This is okay.
I trust the Lord. He is faithful.
He provided an amazing job and a place to live.
He is making a way for my family.
He will lead us and guide us.
He hears the longing of my heart. He knows it better than I even do.

cropped-cropped-copy-Cambodia2.jpgAnd so I trust Him with my future and the future transitions.

All of the growth and challenge and pain, that will bring more growth and challenges and delights and failures and laughter and hugs and tears and struggles and LIFE, which causes me to go back onto my knees in prayer, giving thanks to my Father for His GOOD gifts, He has given me life and breath and these struggles are momentary.

Our lives are meant to be lived for our King.

I will keep lifting my eyes to Him. Transition means stepping closer to Him.
Focusing my eyes on the Giver of Life.

I trust in the most Trustworthy One. He is my Faithful Guide.


I see these transitions continuing, and though I know it won’t be easy, I’m not worried or afraid.
Instead I am confident in what my Savior will do, in the plans He has for my life.
Transitions require us to move, to take a step, to ACT, to obey.

Transitions move us closer to Him, because they shake us from comfort.

He didn’t say it would be easy, but He said He’d be right here with us. That’s a promise I’m holding onto.


imag2210 - Version 2

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
-Isaiah 41:10

———-

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,

    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
I was young and now I am old,

    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
    their children will be a blessing.
Turn from evil and do good;

    then you will dwell in the land forever.
For the Lord loves the just
    and will not forsake his faithful ones.
-Psalm 37:22-28

The World Race Was the Catalyst

DSC_0728 - Version 2The World Race was the catalyst.
I knew this in my heart when I left, but I didn’t know how it would change me.
I’m still figuring out all of the different ways that I’ve changed—I’m not the old me anymore…I see things differently, I see people differently, I see myself differently, I recognize the things I struggle with with heightened sensitivity that is pretty frustrating, because sometimes I wish I wasn’t so aware of my insecurities, or my fears, or didn’t wish I knew that the way I’m coping with that thing is really because I’m avoiding it or can’t quite believe it yet. I’m sure all of this is gibberish to you, but maybe, maybe it’s not. Maybe in some weird way it makes sense.

Before I went on the World Race, I knew it would change me. I knew it would be a stepping-stone for me into full-time missions. I just knew it. It was the craziest, hardest, most difficult, challenging, horrible, hilarious, incredible, spectacular, delightful, joyful, radiant, moving, frightening, eye-opening, chain-breaking, sandpaper year of my life. Well…who knows what’s ahead, but it was the most changing year of my life to date. That said, every year changes you. Some years are more drastic than others and some years fly by with light subtlety and it isn’t until years and years pass that you recognize how you changed. It’s like the craziest mix of that.

I had no idea that going on the World Race would bring me back home to Minnesota to stay for several years—how many, I have no idea. God knows. It was extremely hard to resign myself to the fact (yes, it felt like resigning at first) that I would stay. Does that sound weird to you? Probably. I totally understand. Hey Jess, you were gone for almost a whole year…it’d be nice to actually spend some time with you. (Yeah, I get it ☺.) It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited to be home. But other World Race alumni will tell you this, too…I just started to feel STUCK. I didn’t have enough money to go anywhere anymore (wouldn’t it be great if people just handed you money to travel, huh? That’s what I found myself wishing for…sad but true.), I was separated from my 55 travel companions who I had grown so close to. Continue reading →

Shedding the winter layers

At first, winter is beautiful.

The first snowflake falls, flutters, floats here and there, and you chase after it, delighted. Giggling, laughing, you play and dance as the glimmering crystals cascade to the ground, landing in your hair, glancing off of your eyelashes, sticking onto every surface and covering everything in a fresh coat of sparkling beauty.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Then comes the next snowfall, and the next, and the next, until it slowly loses its charm and buries you in pitch-white oblivion. Everything is white, gray and black. Color seems to be lost. Grumbling ensues. The bitter, biting cold sets in, and what once was beautiful is considered a curse.

The days creep slowly into months, slinking away obscurely. The word “stuck” comes to mind, and it seems this winter will last forever.

Spring always comes after winter. Always.
But without fail, it feels like it will skip right over you.
The darkest days are usually the ones that happen right before the miracle.

Spring feels like it belongs to other people and not to you. As if, somehow, you are exempt from blessing.

It feels as if you will be in this place forever. From somewhere deep in your heart, you recognize this way of thinking is a lie, but it really doesn’t matter, because no matter how hard you try, you can’t change the way you’re thinking or feeling.

I’ve been there. It’s a really difficult, lonely place. I’m still walking out of it. I’m still shedding those layers.

All of the freedom I gained on the World Race, all of the insecurities God helped me to overcome, all of the truth that embedded its way into my heart, all of the things I saw God do…those all began to fade away as the winter stayed longer and longer.

I had purpose on the Race. I learned more of who I am in Christ, my identity as His daughter and the authority I carry because of who I am in Him.

Distractions were limited – what a blessing.
I was surrounded by community 24/7.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

I came home to an amazing family, incredible group of friends, and phenomenal church. Everyone was there for me, and I was so excited to be here again.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Each one of my friends and family is such a BLESSING to me.

But I began to feel isolated.

You see, the way of life in America makes community, like the kind created on the World Race, extremely difficult to find. And I had just come from 11 months of doing life in a very intentional, life-giving, Holy Spirit led community, where Jesus was the focus and the center of everything, every day, all the time.

It’s the same here in America, or at least the desire for that is the same.

But how it actually happens is very different. A very different type of “intentional” is needed to live in community here in America. It’s extremely difficult. Everyone is spread out. Everyone has their 9am-5pm jobs, and being intentional means seeing people perhaps once a week. I was now used to intense community around me every day. So while I had an incredible community of friends here at home, I still felt isolated. My poor parents got the brunt of it, and had enough God-given grace to be there for me and push me in the ways I needed to be pushed.

I’m learning how to be intentional.
SLOWLY.
It’s still very hard.
It looks a lot different here at home than it did on the Race.

Being isolated is never okay. Isolation allows insecurities to creep back in. I became very frustrated because I had dealt with all of the same things on the Race, and yet they seemed to keep reappearing with a vengeance, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop it.

In the midst of all of the struggles, doubts and fears, I have so many dreams. Prayers I’ve prayed, to be used of God, desires to use my writing, one of the gifts He has given me, for more, for a purpose…these desires seemed to haunt my every step. I’ve waffled back and forth, and back and forth, over and over again, knocking on door after door after door. What do I do, God? What do You want me to do? These prayers I’ve cried, day after day, month after month, waiting for a concrete response.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
(This is really hard to do, by the way!)

These past 9 months since I’ve returned home have progressed so slowly, and yet have flown by in a second. I feel as if I’m awakening, but I’m definitely still a bit groggy.

For me, spring came in an instant. It came when I no longer had any idea of what I would do, and I was getting desperate. I could sense my job as a barista was coming to a close, that the Lord was moving me away from it, but I didn’t know where. I had had the most bizarre sets of interviews with potential employers, getting told time and time again that while they loved me, they weren’t going to hire me. Say what? Since when is that normal? What is going ON? It was as if the Lord was encouraging me in the very frustrating job search process, but still slamming all of the doors in my face.

The timing wasn’t right yet.
It seems this is always the way it happens.

I began to problem solve on my own, and I got way ahead of myself. I started to get anxious. My mind began to swirl with possibilities and scenarios of how things could happen. I tried to play God and I thought I had it all figured out. I had received an offer to be a squad leader for the World Race, and was seriously considering it. I knew it would challenge me and grow me in my faith and in leadership, which I really desired. And then after that, I would go on to do more traveling. But something just wasn’t right. I still felt pulled to stay, stay, stay. Big things are happening in my church and family and community back here, and I didn’t want to miss it, either. How could I desire two things at once? Nothing made sense to me.

It all comes down to this one thing. Ultimately, God knows your heart and He will show you the way, no matter how frustrated you get or how many wrong decisions you make, He’ll always make it right.

Turns out I’m supposed to stay.
The prayers I’ve prayed have just begun to be answered,
and the dreams I’ve dreamed have just begun to be fulfilled.

The job offer dropped into my lap, completely unexpected, of course.
The timing was perfect. The job is perfect. God orchestrated every detail.

And now I’m sitting in a place where winter weather is coming to a close, spring has sprung and is quickly making its way into summer (this is the way it always seems to happen, yet until it happens, it never feels like it will actually happen).

This winter season was one of a deep, DEEP work in my heart. I continue to process everything that happened on the World Race, and am now adding to it all that God did in me this winter.

It truly was a physical and spiritual winter for me and my family.
Praise God, I am beginning to shed the winter layers.
I will walk forward in confidence.
Metamorphosis.
Freedom.
Inklings of change.
Beginning anew.

I have many dreams, yes, but honestly I truly don’t know what the future holds anymore.
I suspect this is where God wants me.  

Throughout my life, I have trusted the Lord to lead me, and He has proved faithful time and time again. He has promised that He will provide ALL that I need. This I will hold onto, and I know in everything, His way and His timing will be perfect. All will be made clear.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Reader, this is for YOU, as well. Hold on. Spring is coming.
Throw off the winter layers and put on the flowing colors of spring.
Dance even when you don’t feel like it.
Change is happening.

Thank You, Jesus, for Your faithfulness.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Going Undercover

Seriously.
God is doing some intense undercover work in me right now and this requires all of the things I thought I was good at to take to the sidelines in a full out sprint and leave me standing in the middle of the football field, digging my own hole to China and feeling alone, worthless, unqualified, and like I’m never, ever, ever, EVER going to get there because I’m digging this hole alone. And of course God is there but it doesn’t help because I’m so focused on trying to get there as fast as possible that I don’t take time to stop and listen to him.

No, instead I put on my headphones and drip sweat as I strive and dig and strive and dig and then yell in ample amounts of frustration and I realize I’ve been digging for days and have only succeeded in digging myself into a hole that I now cannot get out of by myself. And the Lord looks down on me and says, “Hey. Now I have you where I want you. Now sit.”

Then He jumps down into the deep hole I’ve dug and instead of saying anything like “I told you so,” He just grins at me, plops down into the dirt beside me and chillaxes with me. No words are spoken for a while. One because I’m still cooling down and coming to terms with where I’m at, and two because I can see that things would have gone a whole lot better if I had learned to just sit with Jesus before…but I don’t know if I could have learned this lesson any other way because I’m so stubborn and I am always striving for something to get out of these times with the Lord. I have always felt that I need to have some proof that just sitting with Him is actually accomplishing something inside of me. But what if it’s not tangible yet? What if just sitting with Him, being with Him, abiding…what if that’s the greatest form of trust we can show Him, and what if that’s the most powerful way we can fight our battles?

What if that’s the (excuse my French) most kick-ass battle move we could ever learn?

It goes against everything this world teaches us.

Do
do
do.

Accomplish.
Strive.
Push.

 

[[ Argh. ]]

 

It’s so much work—WOW is it stressful and completely unnecessary.
What if we all truly trusted Jesus to provide in the way He says He’ll provide?
I mean, I’m not talking about sitting back and letting Him do all of the work.
That’s stupid.
He wants to do it with us anyway.

But it requires us to knock on the doors that are presented to us, and then let Him be the gentleman to open the right door for us and keep the doors closed that are supposed to stay shut.

But we are supposed to knock on the doors.

That requires action. Not blind action, not ignoring what God is saying. But it requires putting feet forward, one after the other even though the destination is not known, and following His leading as we move. He promises to tune our senses to Him…but we have to move first.

In this hole I’ve dug for myself…I sit. All I can see around me is dirt, red-brown soft dirt, which is probably making me very dirty, but I don’t care.

I’m sitting with Jesus.
He’s down here with me.
And we’re not talking.
Not yet.
We’re just sitting side by side and watching the clouds together.

He’s forcing me to rest and I’m not very good at it so I’m pretty easily frustrated…but He keeps making me sit back down after I stand up to scream and punch the dirt a couple times.

“Hey you, sit back down with me. Rest, little one. You’re exhausted and you don’t even realize it. Come fight the real battle with me. Just sit and trust. We’ll do the work later.”

So now I’m just learning to sit with Him, and trust Him more radically than I ever have…I’m going undercover (or at least that’s how it feels) because no one else is around and I feel alone.
Actually scratch that. [[PAUSE, REWIND]]
It’s now that Jesus whispers to me and tells me to rebuke that thought because I am NOT ALONE.
There are plenty of people around me, each in similar holes of their own making. And Jesus is sitting with each of them, too, patiently waiting for them to surrender, trust, and let Him take over.

So I thought I was digging a tunnel to China. I thought I was getting “there,” wherever “there” actually is.

Instead I ended up digging a hole I couldn’t get out of on my own.

And Jesus chose to come down into it and be with me here.

He’s pretty stupendously awesome.
I don’t understand an abundance of things yet…but I do know this is just the beginning.
My roots are getting transplanted into richer soil, His soil.
I have a lot of growing still to do.
But He promises me that I will grow.

It feels like undercover work most of the time, a tinkering around with my insides like I mentioned in my previous blog.

Jesus whispers in my ear yet again and tells me, “Take them with you. [Insert clarification: He’s talking about YOU.] Show them that I’m with them too. They don’t have to do this alone. Tell them to stop striving and sit and let me in. The act of testing prepares you, strengthens you for the future I have created for you. If you don’t rest now, you’ll wither and you won’t survive. But you MUST survive. I’ve created you for greatness and I want to do this WITH you. I want you to walk WITH Me. Choose to never leave My side, beloved. I will always be right here. You’re always good enough for Me.”


“Be still (let go, cease striving), and KNOW that I Am God!”
-Psalm 46:10

A Waiting Hope

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

-Psalm 27:14

There are certain things that settle me down. Like an oversized mug of piping-hot coffee in hand as I sink into my maroon leather couch and gaze out the window at the fluffy, lazily falling snow. Or as I allow myself a nap, cozying yet again onto my couch under a fleece blanket, nestling in-between two gigantic, soft pillows, and let my eyelids close in blissful slumber.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

 

 

 

 

 

Peace.
[a resting place]

 

 

 

 
It’s in these places, away from the busy-ness and stress of this American dream life, that I am met by my heavenly Father.

As I sit with Him, He doesn’t require me to do a thing. He loves me.
It’s here that I discover a quiet in the waiting.
A calm amidst the storm.
A joy regardless of the stress of the unknown.
A place where striving stops and a gentle assurance of purpose and a perfect plan remains.

There is a deep work happening in my heart. It’s a slow process.
A relinquishing.
Letting go.
Release.

A painful yet necessary season where the Lord is tinkering around with my thoughts, my dreams, my desires, my expectations—He’s doing so much that I can’t tell if there’s been real progress made yet, but I know He’ll accomplish the task.

There is a passage in Isaiah written as a song composed to the Lord, created as a proclamation throughout the land of Judah. It’s beautiful.

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.
So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].”
Isaiah 26:3-4 (AMP)

All of this I am mulling over, pondering, wondering about.
My heart is assessing the deep places.
Searching for the things I am still holding onto, the things I need to let go of in order to allow the Lord to move.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

My frustration with where I’m at shouldn’t doesn’t matter.

My hope comes from the Lord.
He is my Rock, my Strength, my Redeemer. He will make the path straight for me.
Not all is obvious right now and it doesn’t need to be.
There is a balance between striving way too much and waiting for just the right word from the Lord.

I am moving forward regardless, knocking on the doors and opportunities presented to me, and as I keep stepping forward, He will make my paths straight.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

That is a promise.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

-Proverbs 3:5-6

I am so tired, but God isn’t. He never grows weary. He knows exactly where I am. I am not here by accident. This season of waiting will not last forever, and in fact as I write this I realize this is absolutely necessary (thought I don’t yet know why) to walk through, so I learn what I need to learn for where He’s taking me to and what He’s calling me into.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

So then I will choose to hope when I can’t see, and trust when I don’t know the way. He will strengthen me.

“…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
-Isaiah 40:31

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Encased in an arrow-proof shell

I came across this yesterday and felt like I needed to post it — my prayer is that it encourages you and helps you to see the Lord in a different way, in a deeper, more purposeful, protective way.

This was a vision the Lord gave me during the last month of my Race in Ireland. It was honestly more like a picture in my head that wouldn’t go away — it reappeared continuously until I wrote it down. This is how the Lord speaks to me sometimes, and often I won’t even understand all of the picture I see in my head until I describe it, and He gives me the words with which to write.

I hope He speaks to you through this!

Xoxo,
Jess


I stand atop a hill overlooking fields of shimmering green and gold. I love the view. It goes on and on and brings peace to my weary soul. My feet are placed on a path that plummets into the valley…a place I know I need to go but am not sure where it leads.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

I can see for miles, but that doesn’t ease the strange feeling in my gut. I can’t go back, I can’t stay here, I must go forward. Into the unknown. Despite the beautiful view, I start to panic, and my heart begins to beat unsteadily. I feel faint. It’s only as I take my gaze off of the view and turn my eyes upwards, to each side, behind me, and beneath me, that I take a deep breath and realize Who has brought me to this place.

The Lord stands beside me, beneath me, in front of me, behind me, and above me. He encases me in an arrow-proof shell, one that cannot be pierced by any dart of the enemy — no matter how ferocious or how desperate the attempt — it cannot be penetrated.

I stand firmly on the Rock of Jesus Christ.
I am embedded.

My feet cannot falter from the path beneath them,
because Jesus Himself guides my every step and
strengthens my feet to walk the path He has created for me.

He stands in front of me and goes before me to pave the way.

He hedges me in on either side, protecting me and throwing off any attack that comes from the left or from the right.

Jesus is my rear guard, shadowing my every move and keeping me from any harm that would try to intrude or sneak up from behind.

The Lord, as my refuge, has placed me under the shadow of His Mighty Wings.

I am sheltered and perfectly surrounded by His Wings, nothing can fall on me that is not from Him and His Holy Spirit. The arrows and bombs and rocks and things of the evil one bounce off of this feathery shell, shielding me from all harm.

I am perfectly surrounded. I am perfectly safe.

He is with me. I shall not be afraid.

Though I don’t know what is to come or how the path will look a couple of miles down the road, I know that my God goes before me to pave the way and He puts the finishing touches on the road where I have walked.

If I have planted seeds with His help, He waters them, and flowers sprout up behind me.
If a babe has received love along the way,
He wraps His arms around them and carries them, as I could not.
If questions are left unanswered, He provides the answer.
If walls are not completely broken down when the time comes to leave, He continues to chisel away and break through every wall.

He sands and carves and constructs and carries on His work.
He doesn’t need me, yet He still uses me—it’s something I’ll always wonder about and marvel at.

[[ My King is glorious. ]]

He does the grunt work despite His lofty position.

He is the King of the Universe, after all, yet He stoops down from Heaven every day, every minute, every second, to choose us and allow us to do things for His Kingdom.

He becomes our Shepherd, and leads us down unknown paths, to streams of living water and fields of deep peace where love and life abound.

His ways I’ll never completely understand, but in my heart and soul I know that I’ll follow Him all my life.

Even as He leads me into the valley, the panic eases.
Peace slowly invades my soul.
With open arms, empty hands, and confident steps,
I follow Him forward, into the unknown, choosing to trust His path.

I know that deep in my heart, it is the best way.

I need to write but I don’t know how

Every day it occurs to me that “I need to write.”

And yet every day I sit down on the couch, exhausted from a long day of work, and my brain refuses to input cohesive signals into my fingers that tells them to put something magical, understandable, and brilliant into a Word document.

Seriously.

This “life after the World Race” thing has been hard to swallow.

I’ll be honest, when AIM staff told us at Searchlight that many, if not most of us would be heading into a season of the “mundane” quality…I didn’t quite believe them. You see, I wanted to be home and I was excited for the mundane. To be able to sit on my comfy couch every night and sleep in my own bed. To get to go to my church every weekend and understand everything because it’s in English!

Yet here I sit, well into 4 months of being home, and I’m done with this already.
I’m searching for more but I don’t entirely know what I’m looking for.
I have a good part-time job, but it wears me out because I work a very early morning shift.
I am currently looking for a full-time job, preferably a writing position because that’s what I went to school for and have experience doing…but nothing seems appealing and I’ve already been rejected by several places that I thought “could be it.”
I don’t say that to get you to feel bad for me. Obviously God has better, bigger plans.
But I’m yearning for something that offers more than just a 9-5 job of writing “something.”

I want tell people’s stories.
I want to get the word out about what’s going on in the world.
I want to highlight missionaries’ stories, to love and to serve and to travel and to be God’s hands and feet.
I know I am His hands and feet here, too, even in the mundane, but it is hard to express this in a way that is understandable.
To most here in America, “something more” is a luxury or not even considered.
Most people aren’t 100% happy in their jobs.
They have to work in order to survive here.
I get it. But I desperately don’t want to get stuck in a job where I’m not happy.
I can do most jobs well and be successful, yes, but my heart cries for more.

To wait on the Lord during this season looks irresponsible.
To not be actively looking for a job isn’t possible, either, because I desire to be fully independent and to be able to support myself again and get back on my feet.

I need to be able to support myself. I long to get back to the place where I can yet again be in a position of strength, where I can give to support other missionaries and organizations following Jesus’ call around the world to serve and love those in need.

Yet this is the very thing I am struggling to do. And I am struggling to keep my face above water. One day I’m fine and the next, I feel like it’s the end of the world.

This season is a very difficult one to navigate and I definitely do not have all of the answers.

On one hand, to hear the Lord say consistently, “Wait,” and “Trust Me,” and to have all of these dreams and passions that I don’t know what to do with but can’t wait to see what the Lord will do…and then on the other hand, to feel stuck in this mundane place…it is really tough.

I know I’m not really making sense. But I’m in a place where I’ve started to not care as much if I make sense or not. There are some of you who will understand me, either because you’ve been here or are in the same place, and there are some of you who will think I’m not trying hard enough or doing enough or I’m obviously failing in some form or fashion or just plain not getting it. That’s okay.

Just know that when you ask me how I’m doing and what my plans are now after the Race, that my answer isn’t an easy one and you might be left with a lot of questions rather than simple, full-of-faith, confident answers.

Back to the whole writing thing. I’ve known every day since coming home that I need to write. To get all of this out there. To speak whatever the Lord tells me. To be vulnerable and open with where I’m at. And I haven’t because I’m a blank canvas right now and writing is difficult.

I don’t know how to do the right thing anymore.
But what is the right thing?

As I navigate this season of rest, of trust, of waiting, of faith-building, of just putting one foot in front of the other every day, not knowing where God is leading me yet, will you follow me and pray for me, for wisdom, clarity, and deepened faith?

I crave your prayers. You all have been there every step of the way through this World Race journey, and I’m so grateful that you’ve tagged along even afterwards and helped me as I continue this season of processing and waiting on the Lord. I guess we all have something to learn from each other, and each of our roads hits some bumps here and there.

I’ll stop rambling now :). Just wanted to say thanks for reading!
You’re a blessing to me!

 

Growing a heart like the Grinch

All I keep thinking about is my final night with the precious kids at the home. We ate one last dinner with them, were pulled into playing a ferocious round of tickle tag, and then all of the kids lined up and serenaded us with a couple of songs, sung with such sweet harmony that it brought me to tears.

The second that their song ended, they mob-rushed us for hug after hug after hug. The air rang with “I love you” and “I’ll miss you” and “God bless you” and “Goodbye.” It was one of the most special and heart-wrenching moments I’ve experienced in my life. I was still sitting there, soaking in the moment, dealing with a wave of emotions and trying not to cry, when one girl, I’ll call her Naomi*, walking over to me and hugged me, saying, “Don’t be sad. It’s okay.” It was so incredibly sweet, and of course made me actually start crying.

Another girl, Betty*, ran over to me then and grabbed my hand, leading me to where most of the others had already been pulled to. Groups of kids were standing around lanterns, each waiting to be lit for us and let go. It was their way of saying goodbye. It was such a beautiful, incredible, bittersweet moment.

As my lantern was lit and filled up with hot air, getting ready to be released, I listened to the chorus of children laughing and calling out to each other in awe and delight as each of my teammates’ lanterns was surrendered to the sky. Then it was time for mine, and together with the children gathered around me, our hands released it and we stood together, faces gazing upward, watching as it floated gently, in an almost ethereal manner, into the dark night sky, glowing golden and flickering smaller and smaller as it strived to touch the heavens.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

This was surreal, a moment I’d always wanted to experience, and for it to happen in this way was indescribable for me.

That’s when I turned and realized it was time to go. My heart was about to be wrenched from its socket. My boys gathered around me and we took picture after picture, and with every goodbye and hug, my heart was doing something I had never felt it do before. I had to be pulled away, and I tried so hard not to cry as we left and the kids ran after us, yelling and waving until we were no longer in sight.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org From jesseischens.theworldrace.org From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

It wasn’t until later that night as my team gathered around to process the day and our last night in Thailand, as I tried to describe the moment to my teammates, that Jessica told me the picture she got from the Lord for me. She saw an image of the Grinch. We all laughed, of course, but seriously, it makes sense.

Like the Grinch, my heart is growing so many sizes in a drastically short time.

I know He has a lot of change and growth in store for me, and this is just the beginning.

Thailand, I’m in love with you, and I’ll be seeing you on the flipside. The Lord has ingrained you in my heart, and I know that regardless of where He ends up taking me, that you will always have a very big piece of my heart.

Please join me in praying for each of the precious kiddos at our ministry this month. The Lord has His hand on them in a mighty way and there is something so uniquely special about each of them. They’ve been saved from a horrible fate and I know that He has incredible plans for each of them.

Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, and your support! My World Race journey continues, and God has big things in store…He is on the move! 🙂

If you’d like to contribute to my World Race account, I’m still in need of $1,446.11 to be fully funded for the rest of this trip. Thank you so much, I love you all!

*The names of the kids have been changed to protect their identities.

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