ANXIETY

Did you know that a lot of what we think is fear, is actually ANXIETY? While both of these emotions trigger the same “fight or flight” response, they aren’t the same. Fear is the result of a threat or impending danger. Anxiety is the result of a perceived threat or danger. Make sense?

If you think about it, how many times are you actually experiencing fear in any given day? There are so many articles on this, and I don’t claim to be a psychologist or know much about the human brain. All I know is that what I’ve been defining as fear for so long is actually something very different.

Paul writes about fear in 2 Timothy 1:7 when he says —

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

I think that maybe what he means by “a spirit of fear” might just be anxiety.

In my own definition, I think a better way to describe anxiety might be to call it “false fear.”

A lot of the anxiety we experience is born out of the stories we tell ourselves. It’s believing the things that we make up in our imaginations are factual.

I’ve been thinking a lot on the subject of imagination recently. I grew up in a very small town as a young child, so having an avid imagination kept me busy day to day. In elementary school, my imagination even led me to develop some pretty creative plots that helped me to fall in love with writing at a very young age. Now, as an adult, I can see this biting me in the butt at times. What used to be valuable and praised in childhood, has now become something that can sometimes cause my anxiety to escalate. The things I imagine can become so real in my mind, that I begin to believe that they are truly accurate. This is the definition anxiety!

We can’t let our imaginations run wild and then just sit in our anxiety and false fears. We have to attack them head on, and the only way to do that is to remind ourselves of what the true story is. And, Truth is…

We aren’t the sum of the stories we tell ourselves. We are who God says we are.

Our God is not the author of anxiety. He offers us power. He gives us the ability to love others as well as ourselves. He fills our minds with creativity and imagination, and helps us to discern it well. We need to stop paying attention to the stories that we tell ourselves, and instead, start focusing on the one that God is writing!

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SINGLENESS

At Life.Church we have a core value that states, “We give up the things we love for the things we love even more.” At different points in my journey with Christ, this statement has meant different things to me. Recently though, I’ve begun to see how this simple sentence has truly defined my journey with singleness.

You see, I never drafted a future for myself where I would be single in my thirties. I’m not sure many people dream up these sort of plans for their own lives. But over the years, God has used various circumstances to shift my focus off of my own desires and turned it onto His instead. The things we love are the things that we pursue, and so since I loved the idea of being married, I consistently pursued relationships, none of which ended up being the best for me.

So, here I am, single at 32, and perfectly fine. I relentlessly pursued this dream for years, but finally came to a point where all striving ceased. To be completely honest, I’ve become very much at peace with singleness as my story!

So how in the world did I get here?

I had to learn to think like Jesus.

1 Peter 4:1-2 (MSG) says,

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

Finding joy and contentment in every circumstance comes through this very mindset — thinking like Jesus. The ability to do this is such a blessing and gift from God! It involves shifting the way we view our current season or circumstance when things don’t go the way we’ve planned. It is only in these seasons that He can train us how to surrender. It’s only in these circumstances when He can teach us true obedience.

A relationship with Jesus isn’t about life going the way we plan for it to — it’s not about always getting the things we hope and pray for. No, it’s about falling in love with the heart of Jesus because of who He is. It’s about our lives becoming an extension of His. It’s only when we’ve begun to truly embrace God’s deep and reckless love for us, that we can begin to move forward with tunnel vision towards His purposes and plans. It’s only here that we’ll begin a wholehearted pursuit of the things He wants for us — nothing more, nothing less.

So when God whispers to our hearts that He has chosen us to be single for such a time as this, we can’t take it all for granted. We have to begin to lean into what He has for us, and to let Him teach us how to be obedient in all things, even singleness.

always. {a poem}

as i walk with Jesus,
as i do the work
he has set before me,
he walks with me
showing me
how to do it.
i watch him shower me
with grace;
i look on as his favor
covers my life.
from that very first day
i met him,
he has called me
sanctified,
set apart.
his grace
grants me approval
he not only walks
beside me,
but he stands
proud of me.
he is excited,
cheering me on.
it has been a while
since i’ve felt proud;
since i’ve cheered myself on..
but God is asking me
to join him
in the parade,
to watch him
do it,
and follow in
his footsteps.
his grace is not
fake.
his favor is not
earned.

his favor is not earned.

he cheers me on
because
he loves me.
in fact,
he has
always
been cheering.
his favor has
always
been on my life,
his grace
always
reaching out to me.
it has been
my choice
to walk in grace..
to walk
with him and
learn
from him.
our teacher is here for us,
it is
our choice
to be a
good student.

the river. {a poem}

there is a river that flows
along the paths
in the neighborhood where i grew up.
there were no maps,
no guides to tell me where to go,
so i wandered,
lost,
yet comfortable
exploring.
trees of many colors
lined the paths;
under my feet
the leaves crunched
as i searched for the perfect stepping stones
that would allow me to cross over
the river.
every day
i would discover,
in awe of the newness
i experienced there.
one day
a tiny snake
warming in the sun,
another day
bare feet
standing in the center
of the flowing stream.
it never stopped moving,
always on it’s way to somewhere,
a final destination —
my heart.
day after day
the river fulfills it’s purpose.
will it ever run dry?
not as long as there are clouds in the sky
or dew on the grass
as the sun rises;
not as long as human hearts are beating
or angel voices sing overhead.
the sound of the water
flowing over the rocks —
it never ceases.
it’s the sound of
pursuit,
the sound of a God
who sees a sun bathing snake,
& chooses to love me,
too.
it’s the sound of relentless grace,
a love that is ever flowing
yet never running
out.

PEACE

It seems to be a recurring theme that pops up in my life these days. It’s the word God continually whispers to my heart.

Pursue peace; create it if you need to.

So, I’ve truly been craving it. I desire peace of mind, financial peace, peace in relationships. But what exactly is it? What does all of this mean?

Here are just a few definitions I found:

  1. a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations
  2. cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension
  3. freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.
  4. a state of tranquillity or serenity
  5. a state or condition conducive to, proceeding from, or characterized by tranquillity
  6. silence; stillness

Harmony. Freedom. Tranquility. Stillness. YES ON ALL FRONTS, PLEASE.

But this isn’t even the beginning; these definitions merely scratch the surface! In fact, Philippians 4:7 says that peace is indescribable —

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus.

Peace is something that we will actually never be able to define. It is beyond anything that our finite brains can comprehend. But God still gives us a glimpse into knowing two things about peace that we can be sure of: that it comes from God alone & that it serves as a shield.

  1. Peace comes from God.

I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I don’t experience peace because I am trying to make sense of it myself. I’m trying to find a step-by-step self-help guide to steer me towards it. But if peace comes from God, doesn’t that mean I need to seek Him in order to find it?

If God is the Author, than my focus must shift off of the search for peace, & instead, onto the Peace-giver Himself.

2. Peace shields our hearts & our minds.

There are a lot of distractions, annoyances, & anxieties that my mind & my heart are susceptible to every day. Someone says something that triggers a certain response, an upcoming decision has me frozen in fear, the list goes on. We all have particular blindspots where we are the most vulnerable. But that’s where peace comes in — somehow it serves as the very protection that our hearts & minds need from the many distractions around us. Peace is more than a state of being, it is the most necessary piece of our armor. It is one of the most important devices that we can use for defense against the enemy.

Like a police officer never leaves home without his bullet-proof vest, so we should never leave the presence of God without diving deep enough to experience a fresh dose of His peace.

I want this mysterious peace that I cannot wrap my mind around. I want this peace that shields even the darkest parts of my personality. I want this peace that covers me & protects me from the enemy’s schemes. I don’t want just a day of serenity or a few hours of silence. No, I want peace, true peace — the kind that comes only from the Peace-giver.

I guess when God whispers to my heart, “Pursue peace; create it if you need to,” He’s basically saying “Pursue ME, Jillian. Create a space RIGHT NOW to seek my face. I’m always right here waiting.”

So today I will.

REDEMPTION

The past seven years or so have been some hard ones. I’ve made some decisions that changed the course of my life significantly, and not always for the better. Hard things happen — that’s just life. But I can absolutely look back and see that even through all of the pain and heartache in my past, God was ever-present. He has been very very close in every time of need. He’s never left or forsaken me.

Redemption is real, and I’ve experienced it over and over again.

When I moved to Oklahoma last September, I was coming out of all of these years of hard things. Call them mistakes, immaturity, lack of self awareness, or whatever you want to, but regardless of what happened, I was absolutely broken. It was like I had been crushed over and over again. There was still so much brokenness in my heart that needed to be healed. I was desperate to just be obedient to God fully, and prayed that I wouldn’t make another wrong decision again.

So I made the move across the country, obeying completely with no hesitations. I put down my own dreams and desires, and instead, clung to Him. And here I am, watching the words of 1 Peter 5:10 come to life:

The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.

Life is not easy, and I still make mistakes every day. There are still pieces that God is putting back together. But through it all, Grace has been so evident and crystal clear. The blessings in this season are far too innumerable to count.

I’ve watched as God has restored my life. I’m established and respected by an amazing team of people who want to see me grow and develop as a leader and pastor. I’m being strengthened every day by the Holy Spirit, doing new things that I’ve never done before. I feel extremely supported by an incredible group of new friends and family here in Oklahoma.

I used to only be able to see the pain and injustice in my life. It was hard for me to look past the surface and see God working. Sometimes I still read verses like this one and ask a million “what if” questions. But now, no matter what my initial responses to Scripture are, I’ve learned to push through these questions and simply sit in His Presence a little longer; to let His Words push past my fears and penetrate my heart.

We cannot be obedient if we are asking the “what if” questions.

Force your mind to simply trust. Take that tiny step forward. Watch God work. Then, repeat.

TRUST

CONFESSION: I sometimes believe the worst in myself.

Call it a curse of the Enneagram 6, call it lies from the enemy, call it insecurity; none of that matters. The fact is, my negative self-talk is RAMPANT, & my friends, it has GOT TO GO.

STRAIGHT REALITY: If I am not trusting in myself, then I am not trusting the very important & distinct qualities & gifts that God has given me.

But I guess the root issue is my lack of trust in God.

If I can’t trust myself, it’s because I don’t trust Him. I am not trusting that He is working, even when I don’t see it (which is most of the time).

I’m starting to believe that, like love, trust is also an action. People think it’s a feeling — they choose to trust others when they feel trusted in return. They believe that trust is earned — that it fluctuates.

But I believe that trust is given. It is a gift that none of us deserve. You can’t earn trust, because that means that it can be taken away just as quickly. Like love, trust is something that you choose to offer, even if you know that pain could lie on the other side. People will always hurt us, some way or another.

If we chose to trust only the trustworthy, we would never trust anyone!

Sometimes all I see in life are my own flaws, and so I fixate on them. I begin to trust that there will always be something that isn’t up to par, that there will always be something to fix, or to grow in. But it’s in obsessing over my weaknesses that I forget to just be PRESENT — in the moment, in the conversation, in time spent with God, in relationships, in everything!

We have to realize that the way we perceive our circumstances, & even our own personality, isn’t actually reality. And while, as followers of Christ, we are always striving to become more like Jesus,

we have to remember the reality is that our God is the only One who sees us as we truly are!

The only way to do this is to pay attention to what we are paying attention to. Instead of paying attention to our perceived imperfections & shadows, we must shift our focus onto the Lord instead. This is where trust truly comes into play.

Isaiah 26:3 says:

You will keep the mind that is dependent on you
In perfect peace,
For it is trusting in you.

Dependence on God. Peace. A trusting heart. It all goes hand in hand. It’s almost as if He’s saying, “If you want a peaceful mind, you have to trust me. Just keep your focus on who I am. I have never let you down, & I won’t start now.” 

I like to rearrange Scripture to create a Truth statement that I can speak over my body each day. This is the one I will be uttering today:

I know I will be okay because my God is always walking with me. I will experience peace in this moment, because I am choosing to trust Him.