Monday, April 14, 2014

If I don't choose joy, Satan will choose weakness and misery for me.

One of the things Braden and I were most excited about having our own place was the opportunity to have people over, to host an event, or just to have friends come hang out. In Clemson, it was rare to be in an empty apartment. At most times of the day, someone was over or stopping by, and it was weird if you didn't have any visitors. Now that we're married, we share a little townhouse on the outskirts of Greenville. We've had visitors here and there, a few of our close friends staying the night, but nothing crazy. We've wanted to have a big get together here, but we've started this awkward trend.

Christmas time we wanted to have a White Elephant party, a time where we could see old friends and have a little house warming for our place. 4 people showed up out of the 40 invited. We justified by saying everyone was busy with Christmas parties, family, traveling. Made sense. We decided to try again and invite people over for Gravitopia (clearly the only way to celebrate turning 23) and snacks at our place for Braden's birthday in March. 3 people came to Gravitopia, 4 people came to our place out of 45+ invited. We thought third time's the charm, and wanted to celebrate our friends Chase and Annabeth with a His & Hers shower this past weekend. 2 people came in addition to Chase and AB.

So, that leaves me to wonder, what in the world is wrong with us!? I get my feelings hurt pretty easily, and I'll be honest, it doesn't feel wonderful when no one comes. But, the point of this post isn't for anyone to feel bad for little old Jess. Grace preached on a sermon that hit this one on the head for me. It was from Luke 14, the story about "a man who once gave a great banquet and invited many (v15)" but each of the guests invited gave excuses on why they could not come. As Grace explained, these were laughable excuses like "I have married a wife, and therefore cannot come (v20)." The invitor in this story was furious, so he sent his servant out to the streets and instructed him to bring in the poor, crippled, blind, and the lame.

Inviting people into your home is vulnerable. You're setting yourself up for an opportunity to feel discarded, to feel wounded, and to feel unimportant.

This story shows the severity of God. The first people invited to the banquet didn't really ever want the invitation -- they had better things to do. So what was His response? He wanted the house to be full, the master craves to invite. Those who were first invited, are no longer invited, and the house was filled with the broken. It's easy to surround yourself with people who are like you, who share the same passions and likes. But, we are called to stick with the people who are different. The Lord will reward you for reaching out, for going outside of your comfort zone.

After our third failed attempt yesterday, I needed some understanding on why this is a reoccurring theme. I'll be honest, it made me feel pretty crappy. Braden challenged me last night and asked "why" we really wanted people to come. Is it a selfish desire? Maybe it is, maybe it's something that needs to be exposed in my life. That's something I'm still working through. But nonetheless, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

Luckily, Jesus always has our back.

My devotion today was to choose joy. Simple concept, extremely hard to do daily. I get down so easily, and Satan uses that weakness to his advantage. He pursues my weakness, where Jesus pursues my strengths.

The joy of the Lord is our Strength -- Nehemiah 8:10

Satan constantly tries to steal my joy, especially through the little things that don't truly matter. But those little things are the things that wreck me. The first thing I must do is truly believe that it is God's will for me to experience continuous joy. Then, I have to decide if I want to enter into that continuous joy. It's a choice every single day when I'm choosing what to do with my time, when I'm looking at Instagram / Facebook and see the highlights of others lives, choosing what to eat, how I interact with my photography clients, my attitude towards Braden.

If I don't choose joy, Satan will choose weakness and misery for me.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Not so ideal

As all blog posts go, I'm not really sure where this one is going to end up. It's just been chiming in my mind to write about the last few weeks. They've been fun, encouraging, challenging, and full of surprises (good and bad).

So let's rewind to two weekends ago. I woke up on Wednesday morning with a really swollen ring finger. I broke this finger in 8th grade, it didn't heal correctly so it has always had a bump in it. Unfortunate finger to have crooked, am I right? Well, I haven't had a problem with it since middle school, but this particular moment it felt like I had rebroken it. I gave it a day, and decided Thursday morning (the morning I was heading to Charleston to shoot my first wedding) to head to the doctor.

X-rays showed no new breaks, no new fractures. Literally had no answers. I basically spent half the day at the doctor for the nurses to experiment different ways to get my wedding rings off, and then was told they'd need to be cut off. Needless to say, I didn't want that to happen, so I left them on in hopes that swelling didn't continue and they didn't cut circulation off.

I made the drive to Charleston with no problems. Friday morning I made sure everything was good to go with my camera equipment, and decided to use my computer for a little while to kill some time. It. didn't. work. Our one and only computer (mine died soon after we got married) suddenly stopped working the day I needed it for a wedding.

I'll remind you. This was my first wedding as lead photographer, shooting solo so I could get the swing of it. No back up computer. Panic.

Luckily, my sweet friend Paige let me borrow hers for back up for the night. Praise for Paige! Even though it was a quick fix, I still had to have a long term fix for this situation, but didn't want to even think about the $$$ that would have to be spent.

Fast forward to the end of that week. In between there were 5 regular photo sessions, an additional trip to Charleston, and a night photographing at Charleston Fashion Week for my friend Kaitlyn Machos. Exhaustion set in. But, the best kind of exhaustion.

We were heading to Georgia to celebrate our friends Ed + Caitlin's wedding. Saw so many friends we haven't seen since our wedding, so so good for my heart. Plus, I have a thing for one of the groomsmen, he happens to be my favorite person :) on the way home from the wedding that night, Braden's car started acting up out of no where. We had to pull off at a gas station to figure out what was wrong. His car spent a few days at the shop once we got home.

All of this to say, it was a super long week. One of the longest I've had in a while.

So, why bring this all up?

God was trying to reveal something to me, He was being pretty loud and clear, but I still am not really sure what He was trying to teach me. Isn't it funny how there are huge flashing signs, but still no answers?

After all of this, I'm starting to realize where my dependence lies. It is within myself, and I obviously cannot uphold all of that weight on my own. I'm trying to be a wife, a supportive friend, run a brand new business, look for a house to move within the next month, and all of the other things that come day to day. I can't do it alone. But even then, I still try to do it on my own. Want to know the result of that?

A huge face plant into reality.

Like I said, still not sure what the point in this post is about. Just working through the details, trying to understand them. It has been made clear that my dependence hasn't been on Jesus. And quite frankly, I'll never ever be able to depend on anyone else but Him, so why do I try to put dependence else where? This is a public announcement that I'm really bad at having quiet time and having daily time with the Lord. I'm hoping that this will serve as accountability, and that will become a true desire of my heart that is fulfilled daily.

Anyone else need that accountability?

And just a praise report. It turns out, we think I just had arthritis flare up in my finger. Braden's car is functioning fine. We purchased the new computer and it wasn't as painful as we thought. We are going to look at a house tonight. None of these things would have been possible to get through without dependence on Jesus. Even when I'm blind to it, He is always there and He always has a perfect plan, one that is so much better than our own.

So here's to many stumbles and falling on our face. If that's what it takes to hear God, then I'm all for it!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Long time coming

I had a hard time remembering my password for my blog. If that doesn't go to show it's been a while, then I don't know what else does. I have really missed writing. My hope is that I will find the time to still put effort into this little blog, currently most of my time goes into my photography website.

The Lord has taught me some huge lessons recently, some that I'm still wrestling through and don't fully understand yet. That's one thing I love about writing, it helps me see more clearly what I'm supposed to be hearing, what I'm supposed to be learning, and how to share it with others.

I plan to sit down tomorrow and write it all down. It's one of those things that you put off, thinking it's not that big of a deal, but it keeps chiming in your head. Ever had that happen?

Well, it's been chiming in my head all week. So it's time to shake the dust off of this little blog!

It's on tomorrow.

Then the LORD said to me, "Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. {Habakkuk 2:2}