Be Still

“If you’re not drowning, then you’re swimming.”


Stretching outside of a comfort zone to learn something new is typically worth overcoming the challenges involved. Over a year ago, I started teaching myself how to swim laps and it’s something I’ve kept up with a few times a week (not in all my life did I think I would be saying that at 39+ weeks pregnant!). It’s certainly been a learning opportunity – breathing, turning, timing, sharing lanes – and hasn’t always been pretty.

The concept of learning to BE STILL has been vital in learning to swim and is the theme God has placed on my heart using swimming as a metaphor while heading into this new season of life – parenthood.

BE STILL and Swimming

If I get in the pool and have tension everywhere (anywhere really!), I am way more likely to drown! The harder I try to stay afloat, the more my body will instinctively fight. If I don’t relax my neck, it’s going to be sore for no apparent reason after my workout. BUT if I simply be still, relax, and trust the water to support me, then the going is much more enjoyable.

BE STILL for Life – 

I need reminded.


Another version reads CEASE STRIVING.

This is hard and especially difficult when everything wants our attention and our lives are constantly go-go-go! Do you allow margins / white space / quite time in your life? Are you able to be still with your Creator or are you constantly busying yourself with distractions?

The point is to be present and just know, He’s God, and He’s got it all. Even when I don’t – especially when I don’t. Ultimately, everything is under His direction.

I don’t want to miss moments that God wants me to be part of. Maybe an extreme example, but that appears to be an easy trap to fall into with a newborn and the hours to be spent awake while the rest of the world sleeps. That’s just one example, but we are constantly MAKING DECISIONS about how we actively or passively participate in life.

I don’t have to succumb to the demands of this day and age. Picking up my Bible when my phone is more tempting? That’s my choice. Better yet, leaving my phone in another room? That’s my choice. Intentionally taking a rest day to focus on what’s most important? That’s my choice. Saying “no” to others when I want to say “yes” because I know it’s in the best interest of my family? That’s my choice.

Some decisions are more difficult than others, but you are equipped to make the wise choice when God is leading. You can do hard things.

Lord, help me to use time wisely. Everything is a gift from you. Teach me to be a better steward of each relationship and moment. Teach me to be present. To be where I am. Not to be easily distracted. Give me eyes to always see You at work. Lord, that I would be teachable – Your student for life. Help me to be the helpmate, mother, daughter, sister, and friend You’ve created me to be. The life You give is Your gift to us, and the way we live is our worship offering back to You.

♥ J


And Yet, He Love Us

Not yet.

For ten years, that was God’s answer. I prayed over and over again for God to show me the man he created to be my one-day husband               . Not yet.

I prayed I would become a mother one day               . Not yet.

Doctors couldn’t explain why, but for ten years it was physically not possible for me to have children               . Not yet.

Over and over I prayed               . Not yet.

AND YET – God used this time for his glory and drew me to himself. God honored the journey of a faithful heart turned towards him during a season of what felt like endless waiting as family and friends married, began having children, and started new phases of life. Jesus and I started our relationship in a new light and he became Lord of my life.

Enter in Ben. He found me.

One of the first things I learned about him was Ben loves kids and kids love Ben. This man is designed to be a father – one day.

A heart-crushing reality turned me upside down – not being able to guarantee him children. Accepting the reality that physical constraints would likely lead to adoption myself is one thing. It’s quite another “ask” having that conversation with the one you see as your future spouse.

Ben said “Yes” to me and took a chance, not knowing what the road ahead may entail. Children aren’t promised to anyone. Right now, we are overjoyed, eagerly anticipating sharing life with our little love.

Children truly are a gift from God however God joins them to our lives. God loves us so much that he provides a way for us to be received as his very own children:

[…] having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will […]

-Ephesians 1:5

God sets us apart. He chooses us. His will is that we would be adopted as his family.

As God’s children, there’s nothing that we can do to make him love us more. And nothing we have done can make him love us less. He’s the very best Father, never tiring of pursuing us.

He loves us as we are right in this very moment.

Do you know how very deeply you are loved? Simply because of whose you are?

I would love to spend some time with you if you have any doubt.


Be a Branch

Do you have a “nothing box”?  A place your mind can go to experience peace and quiet?  I thought I needed one – until today.

You see, God made me – fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139) – and He knows I struggle to rest.  I’ve come to realize He created me with a “Mary” heart in a “Martha” body.

Mary is praised for choosing Jesus – the better recipient of her attention.  Martha was easily shaken, distracted by her circumstances and wanted to be in control.  Mary was the opposite of distracted.  She was fully captivated at the feet of her teacher, Jesus, where a disciple was meant to be.  Martha wasn’t so bad, but she is a beautiful picture of how God’s gift of free will allows us to choose if we will be completely occupied with Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42)

Jesus uses plant science to illustrate our relationship to him in John 15:1-5, so let’s start with a little botany lesson.  Picture yourself in a vineyard.  What do you see?  A vine?  Oh, there are branches attached to the vine?  Yes, and the sap in the vine is feeding the branches… and there’s fruit!  I see a gardener keeping watch of the vineyard.  He takes care of the vine and tends to the branches, removing what doesn’t produce fruit and pruning what does produce fruit.

Now picture yourself as a branch in the vineyard.  Come on, get visual!  You’re helpless!  You can’t do anything on your own.  Your life is totally dependent on the sap streaming from the vine.

My heart knows its purpose – to be the branch and bear the fruit that feeds the dying.  To share the spiritual gifts God’s given me.  To let the Holy Spirit flow through me as an extension of the Vine.  To be intentional in relationships and in use of time.  To point everything back to God for His glory.  It’s all His.

But my body fights to take on the responsibility of Jesus who is to be my confidence and provider of all.  Jesus as the Vine makes everything available that I, the branch, could possibly need to produce fruit.  Anxiety/worry/stress/insecurity?  Yeah, that’s not your load to bear.  Don’t you dare for even a moment take on the responsibility of the Vine!  He provides all.  And remember, God is the Gardener.  He has His eyes on EVERYTHING – the Vine and the branches!  As Andrew Murray puts it in The True Vine,

“What a life would come to us if we only consented to be branches!  Dear child of God, learn the lesson.  You have but one thing to do: Only be a branch — nothing more, nothing less!  Just be a branch; Christ will be the Vine that gives all.”

When I abide by keeping my eyes and heart fixed on Jesus, I am free to receive and enjoy God in me.  I can’t separate the Vine (Jesus) from the branch (me) and expect fruit without the very source of life – the Vine.  Part of Jesus’ responsibility as the Vine is to make Himself known to us… but we must wait and be reminded that this happens in His time, not ours.

We must simply accept our calling – to be branches – and expect to be fruitful.  As an extension of the Vine, the branch waits, rests, and bears fruit simply by receiving life from the Vine.

As it turns out, I don’t need a “nothing box.”  I need only abide in the branch-life.


Keep Moving Forward

Feeling stuck is not a pleasant mindset. Have you been there recently? Maybe right now? Days, weeks, months – even years – may pass draining mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional energy… and we know it’s not right. It’s not a feeling that’s welcome in our lives, this whole “I-don’t-feel-quite-like-myself-and-I-don’t-know-why.” And it comes at the expense of the people we share life with. We attempt to rationalize – my hormones are wacked, obesity is part of my genetics, my family is out of control, anxiety/depression/addiction/negative self-talk rules my life, the jobs just aren’t there, my past is full of hurt and brokenness… you name it, you blame it.

Because we don’t understand the root cause, it’s easy to blame circumstances and feel sorry for ourselves.


credit: bailey dawn

Honestly, blame and self-pity aren’t doing you any favors. You don’t have to live there. You were created on purpose, for a purpose, and it doesn’t have to include staying trapped. Getting unstuck and breaking free is possible.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD – and support others who may stumble to find their own footing.

My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.

– Forrest Gump

Recognizing the past is important. Absolutely. As training grounds for the future, we learn how to grow our faith muscles – how to rely upon God and conquer self-doubt. But to live in the past is another story… that’s not the direction life is going. We Keep Moving Forward. Like training for a race, we keep running, putting one foot in front of the other, over and over until we reach our finish line. Do you feel unfit? Not cut out for the race of life? Can you think of anyone more stuck than you?

Meet Job: Job was a man of great faith, patience, and endurance. He loved God and Job was blameless in God’s sight. His family and friends knew him as a generous and caring person. He provided well for his family as a wealthy landowner and livestock owner. This was Job’s life until one day when his love for God was gravely tested. God knew Job had chosen to love Him no matter what, and He allowed Satan to kill Job’s family, rob his land and cattle, and ruin his health – Everything Job held dear was GONE! He had every reason to feel stuck.

Job’s first response was human: he cursed the day he was born and questioned why he was alive. He questioned God, wanting to understand why such suffering came upon him. He didn’t do anything wrong. But it became clear that Job was not meant to know God’s reasons. Ultimately, Job stayed faithful to God and didn’t further question God’s motive for his suffering. God gave Job answers, although they weren’t to the questions Job was asking. The answers God provided reaffirmed Job’s faith and reliance on God. The answers were not what Job wanted; they were what he needed. They allowed him to keep moving forward.

God wanted to prove Job was not a fair-weather fan who followed God based on experiencing the sweeter side of life. God knew that Job was strong enough to go through everything Satan could unleash. By God’s strength, Job survived his circumstances. He came to understand that a person can lose all their earthly goods, but belonging to God provides everything we truly need.

Unshakable faith is built on the assurance that God’s ultimate purpose will prevail. Setbacks and sorrows strike believers and non-believers, but God expects us to use our circumstances to bear His witness to the world. Choose to see each day as an opportunity to grow your own trust muscles instead of wishing you had someone else’s.

What can we learn from Job? God is Sovereign. He is just and He is fair. Ultimately, knowing God is better than knowing answers. Humility is better than seeking revenge. Trust tastes sweeter than a hardened heart. Our God is not haphazard or uncaring, but far more complex than we can understand. Pain is not always punishment for our missteps.

Remember friends, it is in the dark that ghosts are seen. It is in the darkness of the past where we often lose sight of the hope of the future. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Let us walk with Him in the light, so that we may never have to be in darkness again (John 8:12).

Will you ask God, “Why me?” or tell Him to “Use me!”?


Sharpening One Another

I often joke that I’m a day late or a dollar short for life.  The way my mind works, learning some of life’s most important, seemingly simple lessons often takes longer and involves more challenges than I like.  Time is such a big driver for me to the point where if something comes too easily, I’m immediately cautious and skeptical.  Relationships of all kinds are another driver and constant source for developing perspective and learning grace.

To family and friends who hold me accountable, push me to grow, and challenge me to seek God’s standards, I am humbled and truly thankful.  However painful at the time, for those who pick me up when I’ve stumbled, tripped, or fallen flat on my face with a chipped tooth (worst nightmare), I don’t know where I’d be without you.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

-Proverbs 27:17

We need sharpening and accountability checks.  Relationships are hard.  Really hard.  And sometimes they have to get messy in order to be real.  They need time, sacrifice, forgiveness, and nurturing to work.


A few months ago, one pushed me into a very uncomfortable conversation.  Looking back, I realize she was my check-engine light, asking me to look at life from a big picture perspective instead of being easily distracted by details and expectations from others and myself.  She was sharpening me by challenging me to see something I hadn’t yet come to realize – I had learned to be content, to love my life, no matter the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).  I love the people I see every day, and the ones I don’t.  I love the things I get to do.  I love learning how to better encourage, be of service, soak in deep conversation, explore the outdoors, seek random adventures, and grow in relationships.

Growing in wisdom helps us position our lives so that God receives the maximum glory due His name.  “Be very careful then how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15)  Learning to put deeper meaning to everything – all of life – gives purpose to every breath, every smile, every conversation, every task.  When others see this, perhaps a soul is drawn a little closer to God Himself.

Naturally, I leave you with a challenge –

How would your relationships, finances, and work be different if you just followed God?  What if you were faithful to Him?  Would you have regrets?

29 and Surprised!

You’ve been RAOKed!

I have gone back and forth on whether or not to post about my birthday.  For my 29th birthday (the last one I plan on having #forever29), I celebrated by doing 29 Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK). The world could use an extra dose of kindness right now, and I wanted a day to intentionally celebrate unsuspecting people, so I took off work and did just that.

Serving others is part of who I am – whether it’s my day job in the service industry, praying for babies in the NICU, teaching Sunday School, baseball with Kermit, loving on my church family, or investing deeply in family and friends – I love discovering new opportunities while meeting existing commitments.  I come alive when I’m lost in the needs of others.

There is a level of demeaning risk associated with sharing some of these experiences, but it’s worth it.  Generally, people want to see goodness in the world, but unfortunately, news headlines aren’t overly optimistic.  I can’t say I would have had these ideas had someone not shared them with me, so I share knowing my heart, sincerity, and motives, in hopes that you might reach out to someone unsuspecting in your own special way.

Being Available

Sometimes the best plans are no plans, but simply showing up.  Most people know I’m a typical Type A person – simple, efficient, effective – but I work off of a game plan.  Straight out of the gate, I knew I had to be flexible. Unexpected encounters and conversations quickly humbled me and reminded me that God was in charge today.  He is God.  I am not.

Rev Up!

Having seen a midnight movie the night before with friends, I needed my energy for the day ahead!  I left cash with the barista at a local coffee shop, and asked him to use his judgement to pay for the drinks of unsuspecting patrons.  A half hour later I was sitting nearby reading, and noticed two firefighters waiting on their orders, chatting and scanning the coffee house, trying to figure out who may have purchased their caffeine.  I also left a friendly reminder before embarking on my next leg.



Thank You Letter to a Soldier

I remember doing something similar to honor our armed forces as a child in grade school, but the letter writing experience as an adult is so much different.  No longer a naive young girl, I’m much more cognizant of what’s going on globally, the dangers our troops face, and the uncertainty where families must learn to rest.  We are living in a different world.


WARM Donation

While researching places to bring donations, I learned about WARM (Westerville Area Resource Ministry).  This local organization equips participants through job counseling, food pantry, and financial resource allocation services.  The food pantry set up really intrigues me.  Instead of handing individuals a box of food, which they may or may not like, they “shop” through aisles of food with an assistant according to their preferences.  For example, choosing between black beans and green beans may seem quite simple, but it’s actually quite empowering if you think about it.

Care Kit for a Homeless Woman

A friend brought this idea to my attention.  Basically, take a purse that’s no longer used and pack it like you would a care package — hat, scarf, gloves, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, jewelry, etc. — and give it to a homeless woman.  An undercover operation performed a few years ago discovered the average income of area panhandlers is $100-$300k/annually, so the challenge was finding the right woman to receive the care kit.  I asked for recommendations all morning, and only by the grace of God did I stumble into the perfect situation.

While at WARM donating coats and food, I spoke with Laurie, a coordinator who had the perfect client in mind for the care kit!  A single mother of two young boys from Ghana, and she absolutely loves the Lord!  Hallelujah!  I enclosed a handwritten note praying the items blessed her in such a way that she felt a hint of the love God has for her.



Take one!  They’re free, and so is yours!  Attempting to inspire smiles with easy little pull tabs and positive affirmations on the back.  Everyone needs reminded sometimes, right?  I also sent a series of funny selfies to my family to make them laugh throughout the day.



1. Looking for ideas?  Make a list of what you’re most thankful for.  How can you honor them?

2. Post-Its!  This was the easiest way to rearrange, organize, identify supply needs, etc.

3. Prepare.  Since I wanted these to hit on the same day, I did some legwork up front.  Any items needing purchased or shipped in the mail were completed ahead of time so I could be more present in the day.

4. Map it.  Pinpointing my route for the day helped organize logistics for the day.

5. Mix it up!  Choose things that take varying lengths of time.  For example, because I could do a few things early (i.e. mailing items to arrive on my birthday), I could also do a few things that took a more substantial length of time on the day of (i.e. holding babies and cleaning horse stalls).

Oh yeah, this crew totally surprised me with a night of laughter, burgers, and beer.  Totally blessed by family and friends who reach out and keep growing me.  They get better and better!  The best is yet to come.


Living with the End in Mind

A few weeks ago, I helped my friend, Ashley, sell the majority of her belongings – including a hot pink, 8′ tall Christmas tree!  She is well on her way to becoming a full-time missionary in San Salvador.  Ashley’s selflessness and sold-out trust in God’s plans for her life lit a spark in my own.  After years of (unknown at the time) preparation, Ashley is jumping on a plane to begin fulfilling God’s call on her life by investing in the lives of Salvadoran youth.  Sometimes you just have to decide that there’s nothing scarier than missing the plan God has created for you.  To be real.  Be you!

How do you know who that is?  In Ecclesiastes 7:2, King Solomon teaches that it’s better to attend a funeral than a party.  Why?  Parties are great for having fun, meeting new people, and building relationships.  But if you’re searching for meaning and fulfillment in life, a funeral is the place to be.  This is where we learn how to live with the end in mind.

While paying respects, thoughts flood my mind about the life of the deceased – was it lost?  Or was it fully lived, regardless of age?  Did they love?  How did they use the gifts they were given?  Did they do what they could, with what they had, where they were?  How did their life make a difference?

Did they live with the end in mind?

Competition and comparison are two of today’s cultural traps that keep us from living with eternity in mind.  Am I smarter, richer, or thought of more highly than you?  Then there’s the other extreme – Do I serve, give, or pray more than you?  Both are dangerous.

Knowing your personal end goals is half the battle to reaching them.  I love to write – it’s how I process life! – so I absolutely love this little exercise I came across in a book (link here):20151010_192155628_iOS

Go ahead and fill it in!  Do you want to be a mentor? Do you want to help children?  Do you want to enjoy 20,000 mundane Wednesdays with your spouse?  Do you want to leave inspiration, that others might seek Jesus because of how he affected your life?  Be intentional and take action.

My goals will be tweaked as I grow, but knowing what’s important at any stage is valuable.  I’m keeping a copy in my wallet and one in my Bible to make sure my life is pointed at the things that God has placed on my heart.  I don’t always make the best decisions, and can spout out a list of things I’ll never do again, but my story is one of redemption.  There is no waste in this life if we choose to learn through it.

Ashley is a talented and entertaining writer documenting her journey here –>

Please pray:

  • That she would have no trouble emptying the Barbie Dream House of the last few items taking up residency
  • That her cultural training in Colorado equips her for a smooth transition
  • That God will continue to open the hearts and minds of each person she is blessed to share her story with
  • That her faith would be made even stronger each day, and God would receive all the glory!

Ashley covets your prayers!  If you would like to support her financially, please go to
Ashley Arend

Tale of Two Brothers

My roommate, Renee (name on point, right?! 🙂 ), has a heart of gold and cares for a pretty dynamic and uncommon duo.  Though the two have never met face-to-face, they share a very familiar relationship.

Meet Rico:

Rico is a Conure, which is a type of parrot, with green, blue, and yellow feathers and blushing red cheeks.  He likes most fruits (especially blueberries!) and will fight for almond butter if given the chance.  Socialization, attention-seeking, and flying into exhaustion are some of his favorite pass-times when he’s not hanging upside down sleeping like a bat.  Rico packs a lot of punch into his 2.4 ounce body (yes, we weighed him).

I am Rico.

Ricco4Meet Kiddo:

Kiddo is a Quarter Horse, and his stature is closer to a Thoroughbred – tall, lean, and his 1,200 pound frame has hindquarters for days.  His bronze coat blends into the fall country landscape, but you can catch red undertones when he dances in the sun.  A bright white star on his forehead makes it easy to spot him from a distance.


Kid is lame. Typically, the angles in a horse’s foot resemble those of a woman in high heels; however, Kid outwore his fancy feet after 20+ years of dancing, and his heels dropped to an extreme Case B.


People ask “why keep a horse if he can’t be ridden?”  …Well, we don’t get rid of people when they get old, right? There’s life to be lived, and wisdom to be shared!

He is living the retired life, spending days in the company of his mare friends.  He doesn’t ask for anything but patience.  Kiddo loves to share himself.

If I’m like Rico, then God is like Kiddo.

I’m the one bouncing around, impatiently yammering my requests, my needs, my desires, blah, blah, blah…

I imagine he’s thinking, yes, I see you there and I hear you, but that’s not my plan.  You’ll know, but now I need you to be patient and focus.  Focus on what you have and who you’re with, right where you are.  Slow down.  

The most gentle of creatures is majestic, powerful, and commands respect using nothing but a silent voice and still presence.  Every stride is intentional, grateful, and (for the most part) graceful.

Mark’s Life Message

Grandma says that she really wondered what we were going to do with child “like that” when she and Grandpa brought Mark home from the hospital as a baby. None of us had any idea of what was in store for our family.

Mark was here on a mission, on loan from God, seeking to share his ability – physically gifted with Down’s syndrome. He showed us all how to truly live. He always told us the truth about just what he needed or wanted which made taking care of him so much easier. He loved everybody unconditionally, all of the time – no strings attached.

Mark struggled with grace and dignity through the leg braces, the arthritis and then of all things the pancreatic cancer. All of the time, doing and giving whatever was asked and then doing so much more – reaching out to help the rest of us and lifting us up whenever we needed it. His courage, determination and optimistic spirit were incredible.

The things that brought Mark the most joy were simple and always meant to be shared – good country music, his passion for Cincinnati Reds baseball, the enjoyment of good food (even if it wasn’t always the healthiest choice) and the love of family and friends – so many more than he could ever count.

2012-12-16 15.20.36

Mark believed in doing things right and in making people happy. His gentle demeanor was a quiet reminder of how Jesus wants us to live. Mark was simply the best teacher, one of the most powerful Christian examples of loving and caring we have ever known. Our family was blessed to have him, to share him.


No, we weren’t sure what we were every going to do with “a child like that”, but Mark and God know that he was here for a reason and he was going to show us how to really, truly live. We pray that none of us ever forget . . .

Three years have passed since Mark went home , and he would have celebrated his 38th lap around the sun today. The message he lived is still as fresh as ever –

Love God. Love people. Live it without exception.



As the saying goes, “you never really leave a place or person you love, part of them you take with you, leaving part of yourself behind,” and Malawi is certainly stamped on my heart.  Exactly 4 years ago today, I was saying goodbye to Malawi – time surely has flown!

*I uploaded my journal entries / church blog posts to look back on.  Sorry if you’ve read the church blog – there’s a lot of crossover since I was pretty involved.

God placed me in positions outside of my comfort zone, that have equipped me to continue stretching:

1. Sharing my Testimony – Nervous?  Yes.  In another country… while being translated into another language… in front of a congregation… on Sunday morning?  YES BUT – the beauty of the Gospel is its simplicity.  We love to over-complicate, but its so simple!  I’m a sinner by nature in need of a Savior, and that’s my Jesus.  He will be yours also if you ask him!

2. Prayer Warrior – Hannah, a three year old girl with Typhoid, and I locked eyes when we first saw each other in the pediatric ward, and I knew we would pray together.  I prayed for Hannah, her ill brother, and their mother.  They understood me with help from a translator, but I learned prayer is a language universally understood when our hearts cry out for mercy from God.

3. Pastors’ Conference Coordinator – Yes, you can bring PowerPoint to Africa! God used my talents and gave me the responsibility of executing logistics for the day.  We didn’t have power for an hour before the conference was scheduled to begin, but God showed himself mighty and restored it just in time.  I was blessed to observe and speak with more than 82 pastors and pastors’ wives as they left the conference with a deeper desire to know God and shepherd their flock according to His Word.

4. Optician – only in Malawi!  When Jesus was here on earth, He healed immediately, often restoring sight to the blind.  Not only did He heal the blind physically, but more importantly spiritually.  Stuart, a Passion Center staff member, was at the playing fields after receiving his aviator-style glasses and said, “I cannot believe what I can see!  Look at all the beautiful land!”  What a sight to behold!  Stuart lives in one of God’s most cherished countries and could not fully appreciate His magnificent beauty.  Only God knows when He wants us to see clearly!

The beauty of a mission trip is that we are taken away from the distractions of everyday life and are able to solely focus on the Lord’s purposes.  The challenge is to keep Him in the center of a world full of distractions.  If we have Christ in our hearts, we should view life as one big mission trip!  We do not need to be overseas to share God’s love or His Word.