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

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