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

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.

Thailand: Not what we expected

Our time here in Thailand has been nothing like what we expected…but it’s perfect.

First things first. We left Haiti on October 31 and caught a bus back to Santo Domingo, DR, to catch the first leg of our flight to Miami. Because of a technical issue with the plane, we were delayed a bit and ended up running through the Miami airport dragging our backpacks in our airporters in order to catch our plane to Los Angeles…and we made it by the skin of our teeth!

I was praying the whole time, knowing what awaited me in LAX: My friend Hannah :). She flew all the way from Minnesota in order to bring me puppy chow, a new water bottle, flip flops, trail mix, M&Ms, and Raisinets, not to mention a whole stack of cards from my friends and family.
Just for me!
It was so wonderful.
I had a real piece of RVC/MN/home to hug and love on for a few hours, and I can’t say thank you enough. It means so much to me!

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Thank you to Matthew & Hillary for donating your flight miles, and to every one of you who sent me a card (you know who you are) or made me puppy chow (Thanks, Rach ;-D) or trail mix (Thanks, Andy!) or just sent love and a hug with Hannah.

Anyways, needless to say, I cried when she had to catch her flight.
Part of me wanted to just come home or have her come with me.
But I know this is where the Lord has me
and I knew I needed to get on the plane to Bangkok with my team and squad.

So…after 5 days of travel…we made it to Thailand.
This month, my team is tenting in a tamarind and mango orchard.
We’ve been asked to keep our location and ministry under wraps, so I can’t give you specifics, but we’re working with children.
It is an amazing place full of so much love, joy and laughter.
The kids are precious.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

I absolutely can’t get enough of their smiles, and I’m also quickly falling in love with the staff.
Plus, our contacts are taking incredible care of us and making sure we get to experience all the wonderful things about Thailand: the food, the villages, the elephants, the night markets, the coffee. It’s fabulous.

Aside from loving on the kids every evening, our days are filled with hardcore manual labor. We’re clearing land for a new boys’ home. We’re literally working in the jungle, removing and burning the brush and chopping down trees with machetes, saws, and axes. Talk about building new muscles!

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

We’ll also be working on the new girls’ home which is already in-progress…if it’s completed by the end of the month, we might get to move them in, so pray that we’ll get that chance…it would be amazing and they are so excited!

It’s crazy to think of how the Lord has orchestrated everything. If we would have been here month 1, our hearts wouldn’t have been in the right place for physical labor…yet after getting weaned in so easily in the DR and going through intense spiritual growth and dealing with a lot of sickness in Haiti, doing manual labor is so fulfilling. We can see actual proof that we’re making headway, and while it’s hard work, it’s such a breath of fresh air.

Even after only being here 3 days so far…my heart is happy here.
I’m excited for what the Lord is going to do 🙂

I love you all so much and I thank God for you every single day!
Internet access will be fairly sparse this month, so bear with me as I try to keep you updated!

Be blessed,
Jess

 

A tempest within my soul

Whew. That’s a lofty title. But it’s one that has been a true status of my life lately.

[[ Definition: Tempest – a violent, windy storm || Synonymous with: gale/hurricane. Origin is Latin, coming from the word “tempus,” which means “time or season.” ]]

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

I’ve felt aloft, carried along on a tide that sometimes rises, then falls quickly. A storm brews, blows, and mellows…and silence ensues. And my soul cries, but I don’t know how to express it. It’s like my body doesn’t know what to do with my soul anymore.

One minute I am floating in a sea of silence, wondering why I can’t hear God anymore. Then…all of the sudden, gale force winds hit me in full-fledged abandon as I realize a serious truth: “I’m mad at God.”

My world then gets thrown into an unpredictable pattern. A yell, a fist in the air, a stomp on the ground, a groan. I feel forsaken and I don’t know why.

This realization hits me and leaves me in its wake, stunned. Where do I go from here?

How did I go from feeling God every second and being confident in His closeness, to not feeling Him anywhere, to not even trusting that I hear His voice anymore?

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without warning, all navigation signals are lost.

I look ahead but see only a mist.

Is He trying to tell me something and I’m just not getting it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A myriad of emotions flood over me, and instantly I am insanely frustrated, angry, anxious, afraid of this unknown, uncharted territory. My eyes flood with hot tears as I sit in this little wooden boat, afloat it seems on an unpredictable sea, and my heart knows not what to do, nor what voice to listen to, nor what direction in which to row.

Everything grows silent, even the tossing sea comes to a frightening slow.

Quiet ensues.

My ears ring loudly with such a loud nothing, and my heart begins to question everything it has ever learned.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where I thought I would go is not where I am.

I am not even sure anymore about my destination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did the Lord just need me to think I had a certain destination in my sights, so He could get me to move?
I cannot believe these dreams were for nothing. I KNOW they had purpose. I still believe…I’m just frustrated.

I cannot chart these waters, they are not mine to navigate.
Obviously I need to get quiet, to trust, to listen.
As a close friend said the other day, “Maybe it’s God’s way of getting me to rest.”

Part of the word tempest means, “season.”
I came out of the season of the World Race into a season of quiet and maybe, to rest.
A rest that may be needed in order to be prepared for the next season.
Does it matter that I don’t know? I always have the need to know things.
And maybe it is best not to know.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Seasons change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord, please teach me to rest. And truly to trust in You.

I don’t want to battle constantly. I do want to rest. I just really, honestly don’t know how to do it.

Please quiet the tempest within my soul, and bring me to a place of surrender and peace as I wait. Help me to hold onto your hand, to let go of the doubts and fears that weigh at me when I don’t hear you near me, and not to let go of the promises You have made. Help me to know Your truths and promises not only with my head, but with my heart, soul, and very being.  

There’s one thing I’m learning. To have grace for myself in this learning, listening, waiting period. To be real with the emotions as they come. And to get quiet, to not stop having time with the Lord simply because “I can’t hear Him right now.”

No. I hear Him. Just not as clearly as I’m used to. But this tempest is also a season. Whether I float, flounder, get tossed around…I know He won’t let me sink.

There are waves and waves and waves of GRACE.
The waves never stop coming, whether we feel worthy of them or accept them or not.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

This is also true with His love.

I guess it’s time to trust where He’s taking me.
Trust as He leads me.
No matter the tempest or strength of the storm of my soul,
He is with me and will carry me through.

[ He won’t lead me astray.
I will see the shore again.
]

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Jesus
(Matthew 11:28-30)

[ Photo credits: Pinterest ]

World Race Recap: Month 1

I’ve decided to write something every month for the next 11 to recap, process, talk about what happened a year ago this month while I was on the World Race. This might mean I blog every day for the whole month or just once. I don’t know. But here goes 🙂


The Dominican Republic.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

What can I say but I loved this month. Only, I didn’t realize it until months afterwards.

Wow.
Observation #1, I blogged 7 times in 3 weeks!
I know it was my first month and I was super excited and new to it all, and that over the months the excitement to blog waned and became harder and harder…but as I reread my blogs I realized how much I forgot that I loved being in Padre Las Casas.

One of the things we learned on the World Race is that your contact makes or breaks your month. It’s very, very true. When the people who you are with actually care about you being there and make every effort to include you and welcome you with open arms, it makes the biggest difference you can imagine.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

The people were key this month. My team and I talked about it, and we all agreed that we wish the Dominican Republic could have happened in the middle of our Race. The reason is that while we succeeded in building good relationships with the people of Padre Las Casas while we were there, it was Month 1 and we had no idea what we were doing. If we could have gone there later on during the Race, we would have been more experienced and understood the incredible blessing and benefit of building and cultivating the beautiful relationships with the people there, in even greater ways than we did during month 1.

We were getting used to functioning as a team. Figuring out who each other was. Getting to know each other, struggling to mesh our very different styles and ways of doing things. Learning to trust each other and walk in the Lord together. In that respect, the Dominican Republic was a very up-and-down month for each of us, but such a GOOD time of growth.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

We were also SO BLESSED by Mayi, our translator, who became like a 7th member of our team. It made leaving even harder, and probably made our transition into Haiti increasingly more difficult than it may have been initially, because we had to say goodbye to our new sister. Not having her with us for the next couple months was hard to get used to.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Even though we weren’t quite experienced yet with building relationships intentionally like we learned later on, we still succeeded in making what we hoped was a good impression on the kids, their parents, and our contact, Meco.
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

We taught English. We sang songs. We helped cook meals. We drank tons of intensely-sugary coffee.

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

We met Dora.
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

We got to know Javier. You can read his story on my teammate Amanda’s blog. She was able to sponsor him for a few months at Compassion until he made the decision to stop coming.
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

We got introduced to a little girl who we called “Monster,” because of her gravelly voice and boisterous personality. She was hilarious, an absolute joy, and we got such a kick out of her! 🙂

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

One of the things we LOVED to do with the kids was dance and sing “O le le.” This was a song we learned at training camp. It has absolutely NO meaning but everywhere we went, everyone loved it! My favorite part is that the made up words changed with every language we introduced it to…but the most hilarious interpretation of it was the kiddos from the DR singing “O le le tikki tonga” as “O le le CHIMICHANGA!” Yum, sounds delicious 🙂

If you have the time, take a moment to read or re-read my blogs from last September. I HAD SO MUCH FUN here. The laughter my team and Mayi shared together and with our incredible hosts was something we didn’t always have in the coming months.

It was a treasure.

The time we had, as a team, to pray and seek the Lord was precious and a necessity. We didn’t know it then but we were building a foundation that we would live off of for the next 10 months.

Here are the links to my 7 blogs from my month in the DR:

Please also check out the blog Amanda wrote about the DR. It’s beautiful and it sums up our month so perfectly. It’s so fun to go back and read my blogs and teammates’ blogs from our Month 1.

What a crazy year we had ahead of us, and what a gift to be able to begin it in a place like Padre Las Casas, Dominican Republic. The people were the hugest blessings to us. I will never forget their sweet faces, they are imprinted on my heart forever!

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Take a peek at the video below for some highlights of our month 1! 🙂

Oh, the ups and downs!

I haven’t known what to say for a while.

I even stopped journaling, because I don’t know what to write in it anymore.

Do I write about the struggles, about the ups and downs?

The frustrations that are inside of me but that I can’t put words to?

Do I write about the beautiful joy that soars within my soul to be at home again with friends and family and my church…and to know that the Lord has been leading so many of those closest to me into the same things I have learned throughout my 11 months on the World Race?

Do I write about how well I’m doing here? About how I’m not having huge breakdowns in WalMart or Target, or how I hopped into my car for the first time a few weeks ago and began driving again like “no big deal?”

Do I write about the battle within my soul to know what to do?

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

About how it has been so hard to accept that I’ve truly heard the Lord say, “Wait.”

Do I write about my struggle to trust and to continue to move forward in the waiting and know even when the doubts come that He is God and He has my best in store and that He will do it?

Whatever it is?

The beauty in the waiting is the moment when I sit at my kitchen table, with my steaming mug of coffee in hand as I stare at the green grass of our backyard through our sliding glass doors, and I whisper, “Hi, Jesus.” And He whispers back, “Hi, Beloved.”
Because that’s His name for me.
Even in the storm, even when I’m mad at Him, even when I’m so frustrated and He is gently, sometimes sternly reminding me that He is LORD and He’s got me in His hands…even then, He calls me Beloved.

Sometimes it’s darling, or He calls me by name, but most days He loves to say, “Beloved.”
He calls me to sit with Him. Just sit.
That’s been the theme lately, and that too, has been a struggle.
Because in this waiting period I feel like I should be resting, or somehow becoming more rejuvenated and renewed. Like I should be getting something out of this so others won’t question me as much or look at me with squinty, cynical eyes and say, “Hmmmm…” when I tell them He’s told me to wait.

I have realized though, that in the waiting I can still move forward. That it’s not going to hurt the long run goals, or God’s overall plan for my life if I get a part time job at my favorite local coffee shop to help me pay my bills. It’s not going to hurt if I join the prayer teams at my church or if I begin to say yes to more things here at home.

The big stuff, He’s going to reveal in His perfect timing. It’s a surprise, and I should be excited. I guess I’m one of those girls that hates surprises, yet secretly loves them. If I knew what will happen already, I suppose I would get all anxious and stressed and wonder how it could ever happen, or how I could ever do it. So it’s not for me to know now.

Right now is the time to put a little structure and activity into my life.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
(I feel like this most of the time From jesseischens.theworldrace.org)

Future and current Racers, you’ll hit this point too. The Race is an incredible journey and you grow like crazy. But it is also incredibly unstructured for most of the time. Coming home, you’ll realize you’re all over the place because you’ve been told for 11 months what to do, you haven’t had many choices, and now that you’re on your home turf, there are way too many options.

Don’t be afraid to choose something. The Lord will make it clear which way is the right way, but sometimes, like I’m learning, you’re going to have to “just start moving” in order to find out what direction He’s taking you.

I guess it’s like this: the Lord is steering the bus…you just have to press the gas pedal. And no worries, God’s got that cool second brake pedal, too, so if you get going to fast, He’ll make sure you stop.

As Dory from Finding Nemo always says, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

Or as the Bible says in Isaiah 40: 28-31 From jesseischens.theworldrace.org:

“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but 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.”

That’s the truth I’m holding onto.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

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