What keeps me going

Recently, I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me with concern. I get questions similar to “How’s it going, are you ready to be a single parent?” and “How’s the pregnancy going? How are you feeling?” I’d be lying if I told you I’m ready and feeling great! But my determination to get to those places is what keeps me going.

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I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to the fact that there are days and nights where I just feel like crying. Growing up, I always imagined having a baby differently. I imagined being married to my soulmate, and having someone there who was just as invested in the baby as he was in me. Someone who would help me prepare our home for baby, including the nursery and baby-proofing everywhere else. Instead, I’m relying heavily on my dad and myself to get everything ready. And the nursery isn’t ready yet but I’ve come to the decision to wait until after the baby shower to put everything together.

But I have put my effort and time into going through everything and getting rid of anything I no longer have a need for. I’ve already donated two carloads full of stuff and thrown out several loads of things. The feeling of a clean and organized home keeps me going. I’m determined to have a place where my daughter feels safe and cared for. And I’m throwing out all the demons holding me back in life.

Not just physical cleaning, but also mental cleaning has been occurring. A previous version of myself would be hung up on my past, which would mean I wasn’t moving forward. If you’re not moving at all, you’re moving backwards. Instead, I’ve been practicing and focusing on the future and what God has planned for me. I take life one day at a time, and focus on trusting Him every step of the way. Even if I fall and start to believe the lies that flood in, I take a deep breath and meditate to find my way back to peace.

I’m determined to climb this mountain and make it to this peak. But even when I do, I know there will be more peaks to conquer. Even if I have to go through more valleys, I am determined to keep moving forward. No matter what it takes. The feeling of strength and peace is what keeps me going. Knowing that I can conquer mountains gives me the push I need every day to keep moving.

What keeps you going?

Princess warriors

Last Friday was an amazing night! It was Sheer One Night event at Free Church. Over a hundred women gathered to mingle, eat, and grow together. Pastor Urshanna was needed elsewhere, so Pastor Katrina spoke in her place. And she brought down the house!

Katrina opened the night with this visual from Ephesians 3:1-8: Paul became a servant of the gospel by the gift of God’s grace given to him through the working of his power. Although Paul was less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given to him: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ. What does this mean? Even the least of us, even the worst of the worst, are given God’s grace when we follow Him.

Comfort

When you need comfort, Jesus wraps His arms around you. Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Correction

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) If you’re not disciplined then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. (Hebrews 12:8)

Compass

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. (Psalm 32:8)

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We stay connected to the bride…

  • On Sunday Mornings: Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16)
  • In small groups: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • Through serving: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13)

We discover Jesus as our constant savior

We need rescue from…

Others

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:16-19) We are princesses of God but we are not damsels in distress!

 

 

Ourselves

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:18-19

We have a great capacity for mistakes.

Some additional passages that are great to read:

Philippians 4:8
1 Peter 3:3-4
Proverbs 31:25-26
Psalm 100:5

Marvelous Halloween Weekend

Halloween at church

yTBhfbDThis past Sunday was a blast! Captain America, Black Widow, Antman, and Dr. Strange all made an appearance at my church (Free Church)! And almost every kid was dressed up either as their favorite superhero or their favorite character. Historically, church and holidays like Halloween have been kept separated. Many traditional churches don’t even acknowledge Halloween, or they say it’s evil and try to encourage their members to not participate in the holiday.

While I grew up attending very traditional Catholic churches and schools, my parents always let me dress up as who (or what) I wanted to be (other than when I was a toddler and they dressed me as a strawberry). I actually trick or treated through high school, well beyond the normal age limit for trick or treating. But I never saw the holiday as an evil tradition. If anything, it was one of my favorite days of the year since I got to dress up as someone else and I got to collect candy.

I think it’s cool and important to recognize and celebrate Halloween inside and out of church. One way to think about it, we are celebrating the eve of All Saints Day, which is a day to recognize the saints.

Marvelous Superheroes

marvelous halloween

Not only does Free Church recognize Halloween, it also celebrates it by bringing in the good guys and gals. The Avengers are some of the best superheroes out there! They make great role-models as they fight crime and protect the good guys. Children and adults alike can look up to these superheroes, very similar in many ways to looking up to Jesus and His teachings. I see the similarities between Jesus and superheroes and can honestly say that I admire and look up to both. This is one reason why I love to dress up as a superhero.

Another reason is that feeling when a kid recognizes the superhero you are and wants to be just like you. I love seeing people smile and feel safe around me (or Black Widow). In general, I love to dress up though as any character that I can pull off. (I.E. Wonder Woman or Han Solo)

Who’s your favorite superhero? Do you like to dress up? Who are you being for Halloween?

See more pictures from this event HERE

Have a happy, safe and ghoulish Halloween!

What faith means to me

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Some common questions I get from friends, family, and acquaintances:

  • Why are you not more angry over what happened to you?
  • How is it that you’re happy despite everything you’ve been through?
  • How is it you continue to believe in God even after He took away everything you wanted?
  • How do you find your strength and courage?

I’m here to tell you that this journey I’ve been on, the one I call faith, has not been the easiest one. It has had it’s ups and downs, and I fully expect it to for the rest of my life. A quick look at my history within the Christian realm:

I was raised Catholic. For three elementary school years, I attended two different Catholic schools. The three years were miserable, with the third taking the cake. My mom listened and showed me grace by placing me in the local public school starting in 4th grade. But no fear as I continued CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) through middle school. Basically, continuing education for Catholics. After I graduated high school and went away to college, I decided to officially stop pretending to be Catholic and leave religion for the old ladies with rosaries.

During my first semester in college, I dated a guy who wanted me to “know Jesus” so I dumped him. #byefelicia. By the second semester, I was lost, alone, and sad. Someone invited me to a bible study, and I went mostly to just make friends. Through the small group, I started making some amazing friends. And I discovered Campus Crusade for Christ. While I was a part of the small group, I didn’t really get into Cru until my sophomore year. Through this small group and the amazing things I did with Cru, I accepted Jesus as my savior and chose to have a relationship with Him. The rest is history. But like I said, it hasn’t been an easy journey. At times, I’ve fallen away from my faith, but I’ve always had my belief in God to fall back on. A crutch, if you will. Even when I disobey, I still feel His love.

But I never needed it as much as I’ve needed it over the past two years. Through the death of a parent, a divorce, a life-changing move and now marathon training, I’ve never felt closer to God. And that’s where I am now.

This past week, we celebrated our 5th birthday at my church (Free Church) and this amazing pastor Brett Jones visited us and had an amazing message. And it’s too good to keep inside. So this is my version of it. Welcome to my mind. Make yourself comfortable, today we go deep.

(Genesis 22:1-14)

It’s important for us to know that not every test comes from Satan. The life of a Christian should be expanded and grown upon. For example, one way to know if someone is ready to be passed from one grade to the next is to test them. God doesn’t test you to break you. He tests you to prove you. The difference between temptation and test: Satan tempts you. God tests you. One is to destroy you, the other is to promote you.

A sure way to wreck your life is to think you can take everybody with you. God calls you for your assignment and you alone must go. Some people need to stay with the donkey (Genesis 22:5). Don’t try to take them where they don’t have grace to go. Abraham knew that something was going to happen on that mountain that the young men he was with couldn’t handle. There are some places that only you and your sacrifice can go.

Most of the time there isn’t a crowd when God proves himself to you. God will allow you to prove yourself and He will rewrite the story after your proving ground. If you’ll give God your stuff, He’ll give you His stuff. This story in the Bible introduces one of the greatest themes of the Bible: substitution. Abraham and Isaac met God on a hill outside of Jerusalem. Abraham saw a lamb (substitution), Jesus was the lamb.

Jesus was crucified on the same hill where God tested Abraham, just thousands of years apart. As Abraham climbed that hill, his thoughts centered around the death of his only son. As God climbed that hill, his thoughts centered around how amazing Abraham was and his amazing will to pass the test He was placing on him. His faith led him to where God wanted him. God tied up a lamb to replace Isaac as the sacrifice. And Abraham had no idea this all was in store for him, he just took a step in faith.

Are you living in faith or fear? Do you check everything before taking every step? Do you over-analyze everything going on? God sees the whole picture. He is the author of our story, and He has the ability to rewrite it. Even if you feel like you’re destined to live without God, anything is possible. Even if you feel too evil, or too far from Jesus, He still loves and chooses you. If you’re interested in learning more about what I believe in, reach out to me. This is just a tiny snippet of my story, and my story is still being written.

Lots of love,

Jen

Happy birthday, Mom

Today’s my mom’s birthday. Her birthday is exactly three weeks after mine, and we would always celebrate the time in-between by hanging out and shopping the summer sales. Historically, this time was always a time of happiness and joy. We made a great team and partnership: mother and daughter, best friends. The past two birthdays have been hurdles for me. While I still enjoy my birthday and appreciate all the well wishes and joy surrounding it, it’s this time after my birthday leading up to my mom’s birthday that just seems empty now.

While going through the holidays without her is hard, I find her birthday the hardest. I just keep thinking how she was robbed of her life at way too young of an age. Also, a part of me is sad to think she didn’t have a chance to meet her future potential grandchildren in person (looking at you, bro).

On top of everything else, in the past I have felt the transition from July to August to be emotionally draining. I’m actually feeling the strongest I’ve ever felt in my entire life, emotionally and physically. My faith is stable, my mental thoughts are steady. My legs carry me through, helping me achieve my goals during this marathon training season of my life. In addition to running, I’m also working out in other various ways in order to grow my strength throughout my body. I have other fitness-related goals that I’m achieving and surpassing as I continue to push myself further.

Overall, I’m in a good place, but I still fear this time of year. Maybe because my mom isn’t hear to listen to me vent. Or maybe because I try so hard to be independent when God created us to be interdependent. I struggle letting go of the control I think I have on things. I have trouble asking others for help. Feeling vulnerable. I’ve learned to lean on God during the best of times and worst of times. Now I need to learn to lean on others. Humans aren’t perfect, we all have our own issues and struggles. But without each other, we aren’t going to make it very far.

I already know I can’t do everything alone. I have an amazing support group in my family and friends. I also have a great therapist. The cherry on top is that I’ve joined the welcoming community at Free Church that I’ve fallen in love with.  And I started giving back by serving on the host team.

Just because you don’t have a microphone doesn’t mean you don’t have a ministry. Follow me on this journey that I call life. And know that while I’ll always miss my mom, I know she is proud of me and this manifestation of goodness and love in my life.

This is 31

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Last year I did an entire This is Thirty series where I looked back at my past and took you through the process of my life pre-marriage and eventually to where I was, or where I thought I was. Looking back over the past year has me seeing double. It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come, and I’m only getting started.

It feels like where I was at 30 is a completely different world and different life than where I am now. The crazy part is I thought I was in control of my life and thought I was mature. Thought my mom passing away and my dad starting a new family helped me grow, but little did I know I had no control and my marriage was already falling apart.

Today, as a single and independent woman, I am no longer in that fake-happy world I was stuck in. I’ve grown up and out of the “American dream” and I’ve found my own dreams. I not only was thoughtful, but also methodological in my choices and actions over the past 9 months. Moving to Oak Park wasn’t the easiest choice, but it was a no-brainer for me for several reasons. Reasons relating to my job, my friends, my sense of community, my safety, and my lifestyle. Above all, though, I feel like God called me here. And I listened.

In the middle of the storm of my previous life, I grew quiet and listened to God. He told me several things that still ring true today. He told me “He’s just a person” “I have someone better for you” and “I have something better for you.” I believe that something better was and is Oak Park, Free Church, and the community I’ve found here. I’ve moved on from the person who tried to control me, and find it surprising when people ask me about that old, long ago time and place.

I’m still growing and I’m still maturing. There won’t be a time where I will say I’m mature and I’ve grown, because there is always room to grow more. I learned that even when you think you’re in control, you never really are. And I’m learning to let go of that need to control and to let God. So far, he’s steered me into this new, wonderful life that I would’ve never imagined on my own. And I’m savoring every moment.

Party in the Park

This past weekend my church threw an amazing party in the park. This is an annual summer party they throw that just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. It was great to be a part of this event and to be able to hang out with my church community outside of church.

To give you some perspective, Free Church was started in 2012. In five years, it has grown from only a few to about 300 churchgoers. There were well over 100 people at this party yesterday. The growth is amazing to see, and we got our very own building this year (the Hemingway Museum). 🙂

I’ve only been going to Free Church since November of 2016, but I feel myself growing as well. While it’s great to see more and more people at church, it’s even better to feel my faith growing as I learn and dig deeper into this community I call home. I feel safe and cared for in my church community. And I feel strong. There’s about 46 of us training for the Chicago Marathon this year. We’re all running it for Team World Vision which brings clean water to those who need it the most in Africa.

This week is week 6 of training and I already feel myself changing. This past Saturday was the second time I ran with my church group, and it was amazing. We ran 10 miles and we crushed it! Not only do I notice my chub decreasing, I also feel my legs getting stronger. But beyond that, I feel healthier all around. Not just physically, but also mentally. My mind feels more clear and focused. I feel like I can achieve my goals that I have for myself.

If you have the means, please consider helping me bring clean water to the women and children in Africa. This small act will allow them time to do other things, like go to school and study. Thank you!

https://www.teamworldvision.org/participant/jenb

Community = love

I’ve been in Oak Park for just about 3 months now and I can’t even begin to describe how much I love it here. I came for the church that I fell in love with (Free Church) and I’ve discovered so much more in Oak Park inside and outside of church. The community in Oak Park is amazing and has made me feel like I’m exactly where I belong.

There are many fun and free events in and around Oak Park. Every Thursday is Thursday Night Out where families go to listen to music and enjoy local food and drink. They close down about two blocks of Marion street and set up tables and chairs. It runs from 5pm to 9pm every Thursday night and has caused me to start taking rest days on Thursdays (but wait, no gainz!).

 

Also, about once a month, there’s a movie in the park. This past week was Star Wars: Rogue One which I went and saw a portion of with my friend Nathen Mixon. That was an enjoyable evening at Scoville Park. 🙂

In addition to these staples, there are also many other summer festivals happening over the next few months in Oak Park. So far, I have yet to be disappointed in anything happening in my town. Some notable upcoming events are listed below:

July 9 Church party in the Park (Free Church) (Lindbergh Park: link coming soon)

July 20 Field of Dreams movie in the park

August 19 Microbrew review

There are also free concerts. Looks like I have a busy summer ahead of me. I’m blossoming in Oak Park. What types of events does your town offer? Have you been to Oak Park and any of these awesome community events before?