I finished a journal today

This morning for the first time in my life, I wrote on the last page of a journal. I’ve got half a shelfs worth of incomplete journals. But this one stuck. It began with the small group I started in March and contains some excruciatingly painful months of my life. There will be more painful journals like this one but there will be infinitely more blessings in my life. In this season, God has constantly whispered some undeniable truths to me – even some painful truths. But all of it, the good and the bad, are what’s best for me. He holds me in his palm and has never never a single moment to stop loving me. 
The very same truths are banners over your life as well. I’ve learned that I’m not the only one going through a time of struggle and pain, I’d be naive to think differently. But I’ve been amazed at how some of those around me feel dry, forgotten or even forsaken by God. But it was in my most bitter moments that God made himself the most real. It was the times that I deserved the least amount of grace that he absolutely drowned me in it. 

He is good. He doesn’t change. He never has and he never will. That means the same God who sacrificed himself, suffered and died the most horrific death – still love you the same way he loved Barabus who went free. That’s powerful.
 
{a little truth nugget from this journal}
You are loved. You are so worthy. Believe no different.

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Being a not-so-successful twenty-something

Recently I’ve been seeing more and more beautifully written articles telling those of us twenty-something year olds who feel totally lost in life that’s it’s totally normal to feel totally lost.

For someone like me, no amount of words will help me feel better about where I am in life right now. I am an overachiever, driven by success and accomplishment. I have always taken pride in what leadership positions I can hold and accomplishing near impossible tasks at a younger age than expected. I’m learning that it’s time to swallow my pride and admit I wasn’t doing as well as I’d hoped I would be by the age 23.

If so many people my age go through this crisis, this quarter-life misunderstanding or lack of knowing where to go with our lives, then how is it that we’ve got ourselves so convinced we must go it alone?

We are in a time where we are more connected than ever before, and facing a serious dilemma of feeling we are completely alone in our struggles.

What I don’t understand is what about when you know exactly what you want to do with your life but have absolutely no idea how to get there? And I don’t mean that I want to be sitting on a comfortable 401K with a hunk on my arm and an escalade in the garage. I mean that I have a specific task to which I have been set and I have no idea how to accomplish it.

I constantly tell those around me to take one step each day, even if it’s a baby step, toward their goals. But the truth is that I have no idea how to even begin that journey for myself. I began this blog in hopes that it would lead to me speaking and writing on a broader scale but I’m over a year in and I feel no closer than when this blog was just a simple idea.

I keep thinking progress will come when I can finally quit struggling with my own self-image, when I can look in the mirror and stop beating myself up about acne, glasses and cellulite. I think I’m coming to the understanding that I’m never going to see myself perfectly through Jesus’ eyes, I’m always going to struggle and I think that if I ever do stop struggling then I will quickly lose touch with why I’m doing this in the first place. Obviously I should be striving toward loving myself and knowing that I deserve the best love from others but if I forget what it feels like to misunderstand your own worth – then I will lose the passion I have to sit here and tell you why I’m fighting for you.

So what do you do when you’ve got vision but lack direction? Passion but lack the tools you need? The only answer I’ve got for you is take a leap of faith. For me, I don’t know what that means yet. Maybe my leap of faith was to move away from my comfort zone and have faith God is going to meet me in this place. Maybe I need to just start asking church leaders if I could speak in their churches. I don’t know – but I hope that you do. I hope that this post will give the courage you needed to take one small step toward achieving your heart’s greatest desires. Because even if it feels like no one else has your back – I will. And even if it feels like you’re up against the Jordan River, God has not forgotten his promises and he will meet you in that place. Just take a step.

 

-j

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Gandhi 8×10 Quote

When your feelings toward God are apathetic, at best

The idea that we can be called to accomplish something with our lives for the purpose of the kingdom is an absolute privilege. But waiting to accomplish or even begin that task is an incredibly daunting and frustrating realization. For several years now I’ve known that I am called to teach women who they are, why Jesus died for them and how the gospel directly relates to their journey of canceling out the medias ideals and seeing themselves as unique and beautiful creations. How is it that a calling like that, something so vital in this time, could be held back or slowed down by God?

Life hasn’t been easy as of late, if you follow this blog or have had any kind of deep conversation with me in the last year then you know. It’s to the point that I’m sick of writing about it. I’m sick of struggling. I want to be able to write about successes and life changes. This struggle has led to a complete apathy when it comes to my relationship with God.

In fact, I barely even want to seek him out. When is enough struggling going to be enough? When will ends meet? When will I find a stable job in my field? And for crying out loud, when will I be able to really make a difference with this vision cast over my life? I ask God these questions constantly, in a backhanded, passive-aggressive prayer.

But I know the answer. It’s when I get my own relationship with him in line, when I trust in him more than I trust in my own ability to move forward with my plans to accomplish what he ordained. It will happen when I stop trying to take control of every aspect of my life and have some damn faith. I’m just in a place so lacking of emotion that I’m not even motivated to fix this crumbling relationship. It’s so easy for me to project this put together leader that others see in me, when in reality I barely even call out to God. And it’s because I’m angry. I’m angry that so many others are doing so well, I’m angry that it constantly feels as though every other person my age is in the first trimester of their second pregnancy and I’m the four eyed, dateless brace face. I’m angry that everything comfortable was forcefully ripped from me just before my college graduation and the last six months have been a daily struggle of self-evaluation and second guessing myself and my talents.

I have been apathetic toward God for some time and ultimately I need to have an all out brawl out with him. But until I’m ready for that, I’ll remain in this place.

And that’s the truth about the situation. We will remain the same – bitter, angry, apathetic – toward God in hardships until we allow ourselves the bravery to be honest and ask him why he’s allowing so many things to go wrong in our lives. I think we’re often taught to be joyful in our prayers, to be grateful and benevolent. Which is very true. However, there are times in our lives that call for anger, for screaming, for crying to God – begging him for answers and for the wisdom to pull ourselves out of the shadows of self pity.

-j

p.s. I’d love to know if you’re facing this same time of apathy as well. It always helps to get out of a dark time when you have others who understand your struggle.

All the victims I couldn’t rescue

Tonight as I got in the shower to cool off and get ready for my comfy bed (currently a mattress on the floor, moving blows), I realized how quickly June 1st is approaching.

It’s been 3 years.

Worth More Blog | All the victims I couldn't rescue
3 years since the morning I frantically packed my gigantic suitcase – the worst kind of luggage for a 2 month mission – and headed to the airport. 3 years since the day I met my best friend in the Atlanta airport as we waited to be picked up for training camp. 3 years since we were bussed to the middle of nowhere for 4 days just to head back to that airport and begin our 3 day journey to Phuket, Thailand. 3 years since I began the summer that would open my eyes to the darkest evils that one human can bring on another.

It’s been easy to forget sometimes. It’s far more simple to just go about my own problem-enriched life and not think about all the women and children we left behind in that place. But sometimes, on nights like tonight, all that fear, anger and absolute devastation comes flooding back. The faces of the Russian girls locked in glass boxes, dancing with empty eyes and broke dreams suspended above the bars hit me the way you would feel a subway train slam into your body. The beauty of Gee, the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on, she comes racing to my thoughts. And then I remember with so much anguish, the nights I spent looking for her after she had moved bars. Every night I would try to sift through the more than 1500 women working to hopefully catch a glimpse of her smile. There are so many comforts I would gladly give up just to have one more opportunity to convince her to leave this lifestyle.

I think of the magician who claimed that his magic was the stuff of dark spirits and how I would beg God to make his tricks fail. Or when I was first told that American Military men were the most violent and brutal to the prostitutes they came to purchase.

Worth More Blog | All the victims I couldn't rescue

Some photos borrowed from the darling Shelby Nelson, congratulations on your beautiful wedding and new marriage.

My life has been forever changed by the work we did on that island. But there was one agonizing truth I had to come to terms with as we prepared to leave. I couldn’t save them all. That truth turned to deep bitterness as we returned to Atlanta and heard the stories all the other teams had experienced around the world that summer. I filled with anger toward God as I listened to miracles of rain in times of drought and healing among the crippled. 

My team sat silent. We hadn’t experienced one woman walk away from the very real chains of sex trafficking. Not one lady boy had come to know the truth about their identity. Not one child was rescued during our time.

And for a long time, I was angry at the lack of physical evidence that our trip had been a success. Perhaps I still am.

“I couldn’t save them all.” It turned out that I wasn’t this super human, Jesus preaching, slave deliverer that I had created in my day dreams in the time leading up to the trip. I struggled through language barriers and often was at a loss when trying to understand Thai culture.

But there is a saving grace. There is something that worked throughout the entire summer. Something that remains there still. And it’s prayer.

It’s funny – the entire time I’ve been writing this post, I thought this was heading in a different direction. But the truth is that the summer of 2012 I discovered my gift of prayer. And to be candid, that’s the last time I feel that I used it to its full capacity.

Worth More Blog | All the victims I couldn't rescue

It’s easy for me to remember all the things that went wrong that summer, all the victims that I couldn’t bring back with me. What’s harder to recall are all the nights I spent in an empty room screaming to God to free them. The words I spoke over the red light district or the prayers I constantly spoke over my team members for direction and protection.

Alone, I will never be enough to end social injustice. The most intangible weapon I have is without a doubt the most powerful one. Maybe that’s a lesson 3 years in the making.

So don’t let any of your enemies allow you to think that you can’t accomplish what you set out to achieve. That’s a thought so often said but rarely understood. I want to see the end of human greed, social injustice, unnecessary victimization, but I have to constantly remind myself that I only have this passion because of the one who created me to be this way. The very same one who gave me the gift and the power of prayer.

Worth More Blog | All the victims I couldn't rescue

For you, Thailand.

-j

Coffeehouse Frustrations

It always seems when I go into a public place for a change of scenery to get some work done I hear the worst of conversations, read the most upsetting articles or just witness the utter downfall of humanity.

**Let me preface this by saying that a quiet coffee shop is not the place to have a conversation about your sexual escapades. So to each his own, but when the conversation is loud enough for me to hear over my music – I feel that I am able to peacefully make a written protest in the form of this blog post.**

As I heard two guys discussing birth-control (or the lack of it), the girls they’d had sex with and hitting the bong too hard, my heart couldn’t take the reality that I am ever entrenched in a sex saturated world. And sh*t got real when the conversation turned to “living like a king in Thailand.”

I’m currently in what feels like an early-adulthood crisis, I’m moving home, searching for a job and trying to find one that fulfills at least one of my many passions. But what I most desire to do is create beauty, teach women and write. I don’t want to just save women from men like the ones bragging close to me. I want to teach those men to think of women as more than objects of pleasure and objectification. However, there’s not an exact way to get paid for doing that.

So how do you change society, survive financially and pay off your student loan debt? If I’ve been called to do this, if I cry almost anytime I expose myself to the depths of pop culture, why is it so difficult to at least get a following – or hell, get a pay check?

I’ve come to the recent revelation that everything, all injustice, can be boiled down to one thought – we are not created equal. Sin entered man because we wanted to be like God, to be above. Slavery, prostitution, economic classes all exist because one man thinks he has the right to be over another. How have we gotten so far from the knowledge that we were beautifully created in the likeness of our Creator. We were created to be like the Creator. Unlike ALL the rest of creation, he created us to be like him. I believe that it is once we obtain and understand that knowledge – we’ll see less of these coffeehouse talks about this semester’s one-night-stand count.

signing off,

j

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in his likeness

It’s been a tough couple of weeks. One thing I’ve learned recently is that I was created a certain way for a reason. But what about those days when your gifts or passions seem to hurt more than they help you?

I can’t be alone in those days. When you feel like others misunderstand you or misinterpret your intentions? Sometimes it’s hard to love the way Jesus loves – that’s why he’s the example and we’re the replica.

What an insane thought. That we were created in God’s image. That we are his replica. There are obvious differences between the original and the creation. And ultimately man fell, and fell in a way that sometimes can make us unrecognizable from the image in which we were created. So God sent us Jesus, to get that reflection that we are to become back on track. And each day should hold a desire and attempt to become that clear reflection of a perfect God.

I say that so that on those days that we question our calling or gifts, we can remind ourselves that we were created in His perfect likeness and that he makes no mistakes. So next time, you’re like me and have those days – remind yourself that God is incapable of mistakes. And he made you.

-j

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learning from failure.

So here’s the thing – if you were following Minor Prophets March then you know it only lasted for a week – not a month. It turns out that Mack and I had no idea how time consuming a project like that would be or how much planning must go into it beforehand.

So instead of admit that and formally quitting the project, I chose to hide from my own blog for an entire month before gaining the courage to finally write this post. For the past month I’ve struggled with telling myself that the project was not an utter failure, simply a learning experience. But repeating things to ourselves doesn’t mean that the words soak in.

Here’s what I’ve learned about failure through this enlightening time.

1. It’s ok to mess up. I put so much pressure on myself to make Minor Prophets March a huge success and gave up after 5 days. The minor prophets are a hard group of people to understand, and I’m no theologian. But that lesson can be translated into so many other life events. We’ve got to get a point where we cut ourselves some slack and understand that it’s ok to fail. It’s just not ok to not learn from it.

2. No one really cares. That’s not to say that I don’t have followers of this blog, I know that I do and I truly appreciate you guys. But I also had to learn that you aren’t coming at me with pitch forks right now for just being human. We are our own worst critics, therefore the only one who really cares the most about not finishing the project is me. Everyone else has shown me infinite amounts of grace and for that I am eternally thankful.

3. It will get better. I have put so much pressure on myself to be perfect through this blog, to get to a place where I write everyday, to a place where I have sponsorships and thousands of readers. The reality is that God is proud of me no matter how many people are reading and if there’s only one person who does, then I hope it makes a difference for that one.

So I hope that my honesty in this life lesson can translate into some of our own experiences and that through this post you learn that it’s ok to not be perfect. That’s a tough lesson for me to grasp and I don’t doubt that I’m not alone. God has funny little ways of teaching us the most profound lessons.

Much love,

j

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Joel

Mack killin’ it as usual.

I know I’m behind on Hosea, I will post the video with the remainder of the study soon.

Stay awesome,

j

Minor Prophets March | Hosea 8&9

Wet hair and early morning! I hope you guys enjoy. I can already tell that I feel more comfortable in front of the camera. This may actually get easier.

Hosea 8&9

 

Stay awesome,

j

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Minor Prophets March | Hosea 4-7

Hello! Today I have decided to write instead of record. The change in weather has my sinuses screwed up and I had my brace tightened yesterday so I am talking as little as I can today.

Let’s dive right in.

Reading Hosea 4-7

I don’t think it is by chance that in the middle of Hosea trying to lead his wife out of a life of whoredom, God keeps speaking to him about the sin of man. Chapter 4 is entirely spent illustrating the sins of God’s people. He begins to compare the people of Israel to those who live in whoredom. And we can begin to see the parallel between what God is going to do for his children and what he has commanded of Hosea.

In this section of the book I noticed how many times Ephraim is mentioned so I did a little research. Ephraim was known as the largest tribe of Israel and often the nation of Israel as a whole was referred to as Ephraim. God personifies the nation by describing Ephraim as a man stricken by sin. God is so sickened by his people’s life of adultery, drunkenness and prostitution that he gives promise several times to destroy the entire nation. In his anger, God is begging for his children to repent to no avail.

I think that we are in a similar situation right now, the only true difference is that we have the honor of living under the law of grace. What a comfort to know that we don’t have to worry about the wrath of God coming against us like he is warning he people in Hosea. Because he is just and his anger has been given the forever answer of the perfect sacrifice.

Happy to be under grace,

j

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