unstuck

I went back and forth on whether or not to write this post today. But, I feel I have learned so much recently and I am hoping these truths speak to you as well.

I have been a member at Grace Fellowship since I was in 6th grade (so let me do the math)…. that’s 18 plus years.  I love this church. This is where my children go to school. This is where my husband works. This is where many of my dear friends are. This is where my family is. I love serving here. I love worshipping here. I love learning here. It’s my community.

Our church has gone through some major transitions the past couple years. One major one is the search for a new senior pastor. (Our previous pastor felt a calling to pursue church planting full time with The Timothy Initiative).

This morning we found out that the man we thought was supposed to be our next pastor is feeling led in a different direction now. It was discouraging to hear that at first. Our entire body was pumped that we were going to have that role filled and now it seems we are back at square one.

Immediately I started to fear how everyone was going to react. I thought of our elders and leaders who have been trying to keep the church running these past years and how discouraged they must feel. I started to worry that many attenders were going to leave our church and go somewhere else. I even wondered if some people were going to give up on church in general.

I actually got so upset about it, I find myself in tears. And while I am so happy that the pastor did what he felt he needed to do (we would never want someone here that doesn’t feel called to be here), it still was sad for some reason.

I think it’s because I felt like we were just stuck.

Then.. God laid something on my heart… a verse I had read earlier this week (it’s funny how He does that).

It was from Hebrews 10:24-25

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” 

I thought about our church and it’s current situation. While we still need to praying fervently for our Senior Pastor role to be filled with the right man, we don’t have sit still. We don’t have to be stagnant. We don’t need to be just “waiting” to do what God has called his body of believers to do.

A church is not built on a pastor or a man (and thank God, because we as humans are flawed).  A church is a community of people who want to grow, fellowship, worship, and serve our Heavenly Father. It’s God’s church.

I have talked with some people recently who have decided to withdraw from “organized religion” or perhaps they find themselves going to several churches simultaneously, 0r they still attend our church (but they just come to service and leave). In doing so, they’ve adopted a “just Jesus and me” approach to the church. But that’s not Biblical. (And disclaimer, this is not a slam to anyone who has decided to change churches at some point in their life. I think there are times when that is needed, so please don’t misunderstand)

I am not really talking about “where” you go… I am talking about us needing to be consistently fellowshipping with a local body of believers. Getting to know others and allowing them to truly know you back. Create vulnerability and accountability. Confessing to one another. Really learning to love and serve each other. That’s how we make the greatest impact on each other and on the world!

God designed us to live that way, so just like that verse said lets continue to meet, encourage, and build each other up.

Maybe God is also using this time to lead some of us to step up. If you see there is a need for a ministry, step up and lead it! God gives us all different gifts. Maybe He is calling you to use yours now.

My hubby and I started a small group for young families a couple years back. We aren’t the most qualified.. and we definitely haven’t done a perfect job by any means… but we felt there was need for it. I am so glad we took that step of faith, because those relationships are some of the most precious ones we have in our lives.

God is in control and has a plan, no doubt. And one of my favorite verses in 2 Corinthians rings true during this time…

2 Corinthians 4:17

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”

Praying that this time will produce a huge growth for our church and also for each of us personally.

I know I have already learned so much through this experience.

fast

Life’s being moving fast lately.

I haven’t had a chance to spend much time on here lately… But there has been so much going on I want to share!

I have a couple posts in the work…

– texting and driving = no bueno (yes, we got hit last week… car accidents stink)

– kitchen and bathroom remodel (we had a leak in the wall… eek, so had to renovate… haha)

– adoption in haiti (an update on our desires and the process)

– backyard garden update

so stay tuned…

A couple pics for fun…

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privilege and poverty

I have been reading the study called “Interrupted” by Jen Hatmaker. It’s totally rocking my world. (Thanks to my sis-in-law for sharing it with me)

In the book, she gives many statistics about the oppressed, impoverished, and those who can’t help themselves.

I feel like I can’t stop thinking about the stats… So I thought I would share some of them with you as well.

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Of the six billion people on planet Earth, about 1.2 billion live on 23 cents a day. 

Half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day

The wealthiest 1 billion people average $70 a day (where does that place us? In the upper, upper category). In fact, if you make $35,000 annually, you are in the top 4%. $55,000? You are the top 1%.

Someone dies of hunger ever 16 seconds.

Twenty-two million people died of PREVENTABLE diseases last year. Half of them children.

Twenty-seven million children and adults are trapped in slavery (sex slaves, labor slaves, child soldiers, child slaves). In fact there are more slaves now than ever before.

More than 143 million children in the world have been abandoned or orphaned. That’s equivalent to more than half of the US population.

In the last hour….

    More than 1600 children were forced on to the streets.

    At least 115 children have become prostitutes

    More than 66 children younger than 15 were infected with HIV. 

Roughly one billion people in the world do not have sustainable housing. 100 million… they are entirely homeless.

While forty percent of the world lacks basic water sanitation (which leads to death, sickness) Americans… we spend more than $16 billion dollars on bottled water a year.

We spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half the world spends on their entire goods.

Four out of five children work everyday worldwide instead of going to school; four out of five Americans graduate high school.

Eight percent of the rest of the world owns a car, one third of American families own three cars.

Close to 40 million people die every year from starvation, disease, malnutrition… while 65 percent of adults and 15 percent of children in the US are overweight or obese.

The USA makes up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we use 25 percent of the world’s oil. 

 

Mind blowing right? Convicting? Yes.

Now, I am not just saying these things to make us all feel guilty and depressed. I am sharing them because many of these stats I didn’t know! I wish I did. I wish I cared to know them more.

Just the past few weeks I have been praying that God would fill my inbox with newly engaged couples looking for a wedding photographer. And, that isn’t a bad thing to desire. But.. why did I feel worried or stressed about getting new business? Because I wanted to make a little extra this year to put away for a new car… and pay off our homes… and make sure we can retire comfortably… etc, etc. Those things aren’t bad. (and I am not saying that being a good steward of your finances and saving to provide for your family’s future is wrong). But, how often am I concerned about having enough? How often do I find myself buying in to a prosperity gospel and telling myself that God wants to bless us… and blessing us means having nice things right?

You know what I think God wants.

I think He wants… wait, I think He EXPECTS those of us (whom He has blessed beyond belief no doubt) to start doing something about the needs in rest of the world.

I am a Christian.

And I guess saying that here in the US can mean so many different things. Heck, when I googled it, it said that 70% of Americans identify themselves as being Christians.

I wonder how that appears to the rest of the world. We say we are Christ-followers (what the word Christian means) yet, we live in excess while everyone else cries out for intervention.

Did you know that there are more than 2,000 Bible verses that involve poverty, physical oppression and justice, and the retribution  of resources?

I think God cares big time about this…. just look at these few that I copied down…

Deuteronomy 10:18

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

Deuteronomy 15:11

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

Proverbs 31:8-9

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy

Isaiah 1:17

Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

I want to follow Christ in this way. I want to be burdened about the things God cares about.

It’s one thing to say you are a Christian… but what if Christians actually started to live out our faith? If we really, really believed what we say we do… our lives should look different (me included).

Ghandi was quoted once saying, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

I am not trying to stand on a pedestal here and call Christians hypocrites. I am talking to myself here too!

Too many times I have heard statistics, even witnessed plenty of poverty stricken areas with my own eyes, I get all fired up and then nothing happens.

And I am not knocking Americans, I promise. There are many people in our country who give so generously… and not just money… their love, time.. even dedicate their lives! I am just realizing that we (me included) have no idea or concept of our own prosperity. Nor do we really see what is happening around the globe. Our view is pretty limited.

So now that we are getting an idea, what do we do with it?

Do we believe that God wants us to care about these things? Do we believe that God wants us to do something about the orphan? The widow next door? What about the homeless man on the corner? What about the social injustices in our country and world?

I think He does.

It’s completely overwhelming and you may be tempted to think.. “What can I really do? I am just one person.” I think that all the time. But, whether we realize it or not… God will use us in bigger ways than we can imagine. I know He will. I have seen it in my own life.

I am going to start praying… and I hope you will join me.. about what it is God is laying on my heart. I can’t fight all the problems in the world, but He certainly can. And I am ready to help in whatever way He has for me.

Thanks for letting me vent… and as usual, ramble.

I can’t wait to finish this book over the next few weeks.

I would love to hear your thoughts too… please comment below!

 

 

 

2015. yowsa.

New Year 2015 formed from sparking digits over black background

I was joking with some friends yesterday… that yes, we made it folks!

2015, the year to which Marty McFly travels into the future. But, no flying cars or dehydrated pizza here.. haha.

Still, isn’t it crazy we are already in 2015? I feel like it really has been hitting me that I am getting old. A mom, three kids, a business for 8 years.. yikes!

Life has flown by. And while I have been incredible blessed to do and experience so much in these 30 years… this new year holiday has given me an urgency to strive to be more proactive, productive, and intentional about my time.

2014 was a crazy, amazing year. Luke and I were talking a little about it yesterday…

We started off the year with my little sister getting hitched and my little brother having his first child. So fun to see my Lawler family grow! Luke and I were able to travel overseas to Costa Rica, Haiti (a couple times), and Mexico. I was spoiled rotten for my birthday this summer by my husband. I unfortunately caught a virus called Chikungunya this summer as well… which was a struggle for months, but praise Jesus that’s over! In July we rented a lake house for 3 weeks as a family. It was an amazing time. While we were there this summer, we went and viewed a property. We fell in love.. and by God’s grace it ended up being something that fit our savings and budget. Craziness. So in September, we bought our first lake home. Which we lovingly call, The Schartner Lake Shack. I am going to post about some of the things we have been working on at the lake soon. So stay tuned for that. This place has been incredible for our family. Having a get away and a place to just be together is amazing. In November we were officially asked if we would like to adopt our foster son that we had with us for over a year and a half. We, of course, said yes! And he was officially adopted in December. And then just last week… we were able to refinance our home and officially close on that. With the new rate we received, we were able to shave ten years off our mortgage. Incredible! I also finished my business year strongly as well… and God has used my business to teach me so much about Him and how He provides just when we need it.

In the midst of so many blessings… there were still times that were hard. Luke and I are still learning how to love each other better and to grow in this thing called marriage. Believe me, I have not perfected being a wife.  And, I am also still learning and growing as a mom (Parenting can be so hard sometimes, holla if ya hear me moms). I lost some dear friends this year that went home to be with Jesus. Luke also lost his dear grandmother. We had moments where we really had to just look up and trust. I think those moments have grown our faith and in the end I am thankful for them.

2015… who knows what you have in store.

I do know.. that He knows the plans He has for us… and His plans promise a future and a hope (Jer 29:11). So I am ready for whatever it may bring!

 

 

“leaf” a note of thanks

So, I had my family sit down and do a dorky little project Saturday.

Our lives have been so busy lately (which is another topic in itself) and it was a time when we would actually be able to sit around the table and spend a moment together.

The girls and I traced and cut out leaves (with the stencil below)… then we all took turns and wrote down things we are thankful for. I know it’s a cliche thing to do this time of year, but I don’t care. It is still good for all of us to sit and think about the countless ways God has blessed us and continues to do so.

I know it was good for me.

I feel like I have been battling once again the same insecurities, the same struggles, the same demons. And it’s discouraging at times. But, when you sit back and think on what the Lord has done in your life… you can’t possible feel discouraged or depressed. You get pumped up! You wanna sing at the top of your lungs praises to His name… because He is so good.

Even the times when things have been hard.. you can look back and see how God has used it for good.

Anyways, I just wanted to encourage you to take a minute and try this with your family.

As you can see below.. it certainly isn’t the most creative or coolest “pinterest inspired” design… but that’s ok. It’s the point of doing it and reading them each day again and again that has been so great!

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And here’s the stencil we used.. feel free to just take it and use it too!

leaves

 

why there’s a big place in my heart for haiti

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Get ready to meet some incredible people that I have the privilege of being friends with.

I was able to introduce them to my my sister and her hubby Derrick  back in June (you can see some images of our trip to Haiti in this post). While they were there they put together this amazing video explaining more about Wholehearted Orphanage and what it is they do.

Please take a minute and watch this. These people are so precious to me! They have inspired my husband and I in so many ways to live our lives differently.

I am working on getting a dinner here in South Florida together for anyone who may be interested in learning more about these incredible children and this orphanage. You may be able to help in so many ways! Believe me! There’s something that everyone can do. So stay tuned for the details on that.. and if you would like to sign up to receive the info once I have it.. please send me an email at capturedjen@gmail.com or leave a comment here on the post!

 

Wholehearted Orphanage from Wholehearted Orphanage on Vimeo.

when life is crazy

Life.. it’s always an adventure that’s for sure.

Today started with a frustrating morning. My dog ran away. My foster son has screamed so many times I think I am going deaf (which may be the silver lining haha). I went to Target just to return something and pick up a few other things quickly… but didn’t notice that my foster son had emptied different contents of my wallet while we were shopping. That was fun to go back and find all of cards and important items sprinkled through the aisles (NOT).  Then, I got in my car and my key broke in the ignition. Maybe I should just laugh now?

I was tired. Irritated. Wrestling some major lies. Feeling like I can’t keep up and fail in all aspects of life.

Being a mom, wife, business owner, friend, etc. It’s a lot to manage. Anyone else feel this way at times?

I don’t like it – being annoyed by my kids, irritated, out of balance. So I was tempted to just go home and cry.

Well Praise God that He is good. I also had Bible study this morning. And decided for some strange reason that I should still attend.

And today’s topic we discussed was perfect.

We were learning to stay strong when things seem to be out of balance. To have realistic expectations for yourself and others.

So in an effort to give myself a bit of an attitude adjustment, I’ve been reflecting on what is important.

I need to be honest with myself. I am not going to be in perfect balance…. most of the time.. or ever. Especially in this stage of my life.  I have three little children. Sanity is not always an option.. haha. But, I can look at my life each day and keep focused on what’s important.

I can accept that if I don’t get to everything on my to do list.. it doesn’t mean I have failed or I am a bad wife, mom, friend, etc.

I do what I feel God has called me to do. I follow Jesus. I love my husband. I love and teach my children. I do my best to show Christ’s love to those around me. I fill my life with those things. It doesn’t mean it will always be easy or peaceful. But.. it does mean that I have purpose and meaning. And I can find no greater joy than that!

One of my friends reminded me today of how life is short. It truly is. And when I think back on mine so far and all of the things I have been given.. how can I deny how blessed I am? Even on days like today.. my life is so very blessed.

Thanks for letting me share what I am learning. 🙂

 

 

happy 9 years to my love

Today marks 9 years since me and my hubby said I do!

What an adventure it has been. I can’t wait to see what else God has in store!

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imperfection

imperfection

So this week I had someone confess to me that when they first met me, they were intimidated. They didn’t want to talk to me because they felt like I was “too perfect.”

Slam the breaks. What?!?

If you think I am perfect, you must not really know what’s going on inside all this. I don’t have it all together. Who does?

In all honesty, I’ve cried more times over the past year than I’d like to admit. There are moments where I feel so overwhelmed that I’m convinced I’m failing as a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a business owner and certainly as a friend.

I have lost my cool on my kids. I have most definitely lost my cool on my husband. I have had pity parties. I have been selfish. I have complained. Gosh, the list could go on…

Even this week… I have been battling the Lord when it comes to control over things in my life. Whether I want to admit it or not, I do stress over my foster son’s situation and case. I do feel completely overwhelmed with my business right now  (the pressure to increase my workload to pay the bills). And, don’t get me started on my marriage… I keep trying to “fix my husband” (when I really need to work on fixing myself first).

NEWS FLASH JENNY….

You DONT have all of the answers. You DONT have control. You CANT change someone else.

Want to know why? Because I am IMPERFECT. I am flawed. I will MESS UP (and I do all the time).

But, PRAISE THE LORD.. this is where grace comes in. This is where I can hit my knees and thank God that HE completes me. He takes my imperfections and all the nasty sides of Jenny… wipes the slate clean.

So tonight, I am being honest with you. I struggle too, all of the time!

I don’t ever want you to be scared to be real with me.

There is no such thing as perfect when it comes to moms, wives, or human beings in general. So, first stop believing that lie. Two, be willing to show your imperfections.

Because our imperfections point to the fact that we NEED HIM!

I remember when I was in middle school I did a report on John Newton.

He was a former slave ship captain and eventually the author of the song, Amazing Grace.

In the last years of  his life, he told a friend this…

“I am not what I ought to be! How imperfect and deficient I am! I am not what I wish to be, although I try to fight that which is evil and cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be, but soon I shall be gone from life in this world and truly be that which I was created to be.

Though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor yet what I hope to be, I can truly say I am not what I once was: a slave to sin. I can heartily join with family of God and acknowledge that by the grace of God I am what I am!”

I always loved that.

We are imperfect and we never will be perfect until our time here is done and we can join our Heavenly Father. But, while we are here… we can acknowledge that we aren’t what we once were. We know the truth now and we can be made better and changed within through our relationship with God. Even if we take a step backwards here and there… His grace comes in and sets us back on track.

 

inspired

Losing a loved one to death is a painful experience, no doubt about it.

My dear friend Becky went home to her Heavenly Father last Thursday while giving birth to her second daughter.

I remember hearing the news that night and almost couldn’t even believe it was real. What a tragedy! She was leaving behind her love of her life, the sweetest little 3 year old, and now this precious newborn baby.

I am not going to lie, I struggled with many “whys?” in my head. I mean, it didn’t and doesn’t make sense.. at least to us.

But, the course of this week brought so many things that have changed my outlook on her death… and has inspired me to live my own life differently.

As friends and family began to mourn the loss of sweet Becky, so many stories were told about her. Details of her life that many didn’t know. She was such a giving, kind-hearted person… but one of those awesome people that gave and gave without a spotlight. She did it because she truly loved people and loved God.

She was currently in school studying Theology… and everything she was learning for her degree was firing up her soul. So many stories of how great of a faith this woman had! And how she wanted to share those truths about God with others.

She was as incredible mom. As I played for a little with her three year old this week one on one, I could see the evidence of that. Her daughter is amazing.

She was a loving wife. I know she loved her husband big time, I mean you could tell by the way she looked at him. But, after hearing so many stories this week, I am so inspired by her example as a Godly wife.

The list could on really about my friend. But probably the biggest thing that has impacted me this week, was hearing of the way she prepared for this. She had some complications in her pregnancy, but no one expected this outcome. Becky was prepared for it. She had written journals to her girls, letters to her family, made memory books, and most importantly had prepared her own heart.

She told her husband as they walked in the hospital that day, she was at peace. She was ok with whatever might happen.

That’s what got me.

If she could accept and trust in God, that He had a great purpose for this (which I believe He does), then I can too. I don’t have to know all of the answers why. I don’t have to try and rationalize why. I just have to trust.. just like Becky did.

And it’s not going to be easy, its not going to happen overnight. But there is a promise of peace, just like Becky had.

I love this quote from Louie Giglio…

“Jesus told us, in John 16:33, that we are all going to come to the place where life hurts most. Pain. Tragedy. Sorrow. And when someone we love is hurting, Christianity cannot always be reduced to a simple answer. You can’t put everything on a bumper-sticker. Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we have all the answers and always know what to say. But Jesus, in that same verse, promised us He would never leave us. God will be faithful. True. And, ultimately, He promises joy. Peace. Hope, when life hurts most.”

Even this week I read the story of Lazarus in John 11. Jesus understood the pain of losing someone close to His heart, he lost a dear friend. Jesus was deeply moved and wept. This story, however, doesn’t end in tears. Jesus knew He possessed the power needed to raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25).

Last night at Becky’s service, her brother shared from her little Bible that she kept in her wallet. It actually had post it’s for several verses and notes written out from Becky. He shared, through her notes, that Jesus overcame death for us. He took that price for us! We just have to believe He is who said He is. We have to believe this is real stuff.

And for me, it comforting to know that death is not the end for those who believe.

Those who know Jesus as Savior will have eternal life (John 10:28).

God has prepared a new home for us where there will be no more death, tears or pain (Revelation 21:1-4).

And that is where Becky is today. Save a place for me ok my friend?

Thank you to my friend for inspiring me to live my life to the fullest. For showing me that I need to be focusing my time on things that matter. Thank you for encouraging me to truly love others… even without anyone noticing. Thank you for showing me what a Godly wife and mom looks like. And the biggest thank you, for giving us truth… even after you have left this world… the things you wanted to share in your little Bible, the key to true living, was shared last night.  You will be missed my sweet friend!

For those of you that loved Becky too, I leave with you this verse. It’s actually the exact verse/version she had copied down and displayed at home.

“I am leaving you with a gift, peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is not like the peace the world gives, so do not be troubled or afraid.”  – John 14:27

If you want to know about the peace that Becky was talking about and the one that she possessed, please ask anytime. I would love to share with you.

becky089