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You Think Too Small

I’ve honestly lost count of the number of times that God has told me that I think too small.

I’d love to tell you that every time He said that it grew my faith and inspired me to speak some words that would amaze all around…

“Show me how to think bigger!”  “Teach me to see like You, to think like You!”  “I want all You have for me!  Bring it on!”  “I’m ready to cliff dive, Jesssuuuuuus!  Let’s dooo it!”

But I’m honest.

So a handful of times the above have happened (except the cliff diving….heights and jumping from said heights are not my jam).  Sometimes I feel brave and let words like that escape my mouth.

But usually it was more along the lines of  “You made me this way, and I like small.”  “Let’s just go with my plan this time, Abba.  We’ll try your way next time.”  “Uh…have you met me?”  “Jesus, let’s just stay here all cuddly.  You’re my guy.  All I need.  Can I just stay right here with YOUUUUU, FOREVERRRRRRR?”

There are times when I’ve rolled my eyes in response to the “too small” comment.

Other times I’ll remind Him of His Word, “Um…point of order God…doesn’t Zechariah 4:10 say “not to despise small beginnings.”

“What is the context, Jillian?”

FYI…the context God showed me is that in verse 6 the Lord told Zerubbabel that it wasn’t by force nor by strength, but by Holy Spirit that Zerubbabel would accomplish what the Lord declared he would do.  So when you get to verse 10…which actually says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (NLT)

Essentially this is God’s way of saying, “Hey Jill. I’ve sent Holy Spirit ahead of you to prepare the way.  I’m even more excited about this project than you!  So what are you waiting on?  Let’s get project started!!”

God loves it when I quote scripture to Him.  It gives Him the opportunity to reveal things to me that blow my mind wide open, and pop my little eyes so wide that I resemble a cartoon character.  Makes His day.

There are also the times that I put my hand up before He has a chance to say anything, and say “Yes, I know.  I think too small.”  Surrender fast.  Like ripping the band-aid off.

Rarer of my responses, is the Jill’s got her sassy pants on, and she’s ready to go toe to toe.  Then I’ll talk a big game about my screenwriting Oscars (That’s Oscars, plural.  And I have a speech if you want to hear it.)  People binge watching television series that came from my own imagination.  Funny shows that both inspire and move people.  My own photo studio.  Multiple galleries with my work.  Shelves of books with my name on the spine (Me and Jesus are productive partners, you know.)  A stack of tear-stained letters from people I’ve never met telling me the words Jesus and I wrote helped them heal, grow, and step out into their own wild unknown.  Book awards.  Dreamy husband who sings to me.  Stacks of money that I get to give away, funding other people’s dreams and visions from God.  A passport so full of stamps they had to give me more pages.

When I pull this kind of Jill-ness, I can see Him smiling at me.  The you’re so cute smile you give a small toddler when they think they have mastered the universe by putting on their own clothes. Their clothes that don’t match.

Then…

just as I’m about to finish…

I feel it….

rising up in the core of my inner most being…

Ephesians 3:20

Here’s the TPT: “Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for His miraculous power constantly energizes you.”

Why am I sharing this?  Well, because it’s true, first and foremost.

But also because I do think too small.  I find myself looking for scraps and thinking I can make this work.  And there are seasons in our lives when all we have are scraps and we do need to just be grateful for the scraps.  I’ve had those seasons.  I’ve lost a house to foreclosure.  I’ve had cars repossessed.  Been under employed and unemployed for far too long.  Had 2 operations in one calendar year.  I lost 3 of the most important people in my life in 5 months, and too many other family members within that same year.  I’ve been betrayed.  I’ve been gutted by loss, and swam in self-pity.  I had a string of sprains and a broken foot.  Then the same week I FINALLY got off crutches, I fell off a ladder in front of 100+ coworkers, including a 2-Star General thank you very much, and cracked my wrist.  Not every day is gonna be a bowl full of cherries, kids.  It’s life.

The difference between believers and everyone else is that we’ve got Jesus.  We’re not in it alone.  We have hope.

Don’t think a pruning season is the end of your growth.  Don’t think a season of loss is now your new permanent life.  God is a great, big, mah-vel-ous God!  And the Dude is straight up funny.  He is joy personified.

For those who don’t believe me, who say show me in the Word…read Psalm 16:11 NKJV “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

You can also reference Nehemiah 8:10 NLT “And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!

And we can add to that Proverbs 17:22 TPT, “A joyful, cheerful heart brings healing to both body and soul. But the one whose heart is crushed struggles with sickness and depression.

God is all about the joy.

He does mourn with us.  He is close to the brokenhearted, and does rescue those whose spirits are broken.  He does heal the brokenhearted and bind their wounds, so that they can move forward.  And embrace life again!  Not just life though..Abundant life!

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”  John 10:10 AMP

Lest you think I’ve begun to rabbit trail, Why am I sharing this?  1.  Because it’s true.  2.  Because I do think too small.  3.  Ah…yeah, no judging.  You do too!

We need to be reminded, you and I, that God is the Great Creator.  His imagination is endless.  His love unending.  He always wants to spend time with us.  He’s never too busy.  And in His generosity, the more time you spend with Him, the more revelation He shares you.  He never runs out of anything.  Ever.  He’s the God who multiplies.

But here’s the part where the rubber meets the road…Are you willing to trust Him?  Do you believe that He is? AND that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him?  Do you believe He is pumped to partner with YOU in YOUR dream?

Do I believe that He enjoys partnering with me from the first line of random, through the not so awesome editing phase, all the way to the published book?  Yes I do.  But I haven’t always.

I’ve quit and told Him I was done, more than once.  I have given the Christian auto responses more often than not, when people asked me questions I didn’t want to answer, or I couldn’t answer because I hadn’t the foggiest idea what I was doing!  But in my own private time, I wrestled and fought to understand.  I’ve cried.  I’ve told God off.  I’ve lamented in the way of Jeremiah and David.  And you know what, I came out on the other side, knowing more about myself and about the God I serve.  I love Him in a way I never could before.  So that’s how I know He’s hilarious.  And sometimes infuriating.  But always in it with me.

Point to ponder while you wander….I ain’t the sweet, pliable, easy type kid, who just says, “Yes, Lord.”  I’m the one with the hard head, that goes around the mountain more than once.  I’m the one whose mouth just gets her into trouble repeatedly.  I’m the one who thinks too small.

And yet, He enjoys my company.  He appreciates when I tell Him first, before anyone else.  He sees me.  He knows me.  And He loves me.

And that is why He continually tells me I think too small.

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Deep Thought Thursday…Dreaming Someone Else’s Dream

I remember my first introduction to Jane Austen. It was 1996. I was 21, and studying abroad in Derbyshire. The guy I was dating took me to see Emma. The Gweneth Paltrow/Jeremy Northam version, obviously. Jeremy Northam’s Mr. Knightly. Sigh. I loved him instantly. He was my favorite Austen man until I encountered Rupert Penry-Jones’s Captain Wentworth. But I digress….

That same semester my friends and I went to see Pride and Prejudice (in a play form). Who is this Jane Austen? I must check her out.

I remember hearing about Jane Austen’s life for the first time. Realizing she died young. No spouse. No kids. I thought to myself, how sad. This amazing woman left behind no descendants to carry on her legacy. To someone who is passionate about family tree research I was devastated on her behalf.

And honestly she lived the fate I feared.

I wanted to be an Austen heroine…like Anne Eliot who lands her soul mate Captain Wentworth. All the Austen heroines win the man of their particular dreams. The one that uniquely fits them.

With that perspective, I could never understand why Jane chose to be a spinster. To devote herself to writing and to being Cassandra’s (her sister) companion after her fiancée dies. She could have been married and still been a writer.

What I didn’t understand was that, she couldn’t have been the writer she became, had she chosen to keep her engagement. Not in the 1700’s.

When I read her books and watched the movies, I saw all the heroines finding the dream man, so they could get married and have children. How sad that she didn’t get that happily ever after she gave to her heroines. I know I’m repeating myself here, but I was really upset about it.

Growing up, all the women who influenced my life had between 2 and 12 children. My mom. My grandmothers. My aunts. Great aunts. Great Grandmothers. They were mothers first. Everything else in their lives came 2nd and beyond. So my dream as far back as I can remember was to be a wife & mother. I went to college planning on that life. I graduated from college planning that life. I waited for that life. For that dream to come true.

What I realized is that I wasn’t really upset about Jane’s life, she made her choices. What I was really afraid of was not having kids myself.

I turned 28. 32. 37. Then 42. At 42, the rubber hit the road, and I began to grieve. I began to grieve the death of the dream of having children. I grieved it like it truly died. I ugly cried. For months. I never told anyone or talked about it. But I felt it, I assure you. I battled the depression that accompanied this grief for months and months.

At this same time, God asked a friend of mine to pray for me. After a while, God invited her to approach me about it. She asked me how I was doing with the no kids thing. I sobbed again. She continued to pray. I am so grateful for my friends who cover me in prayer, they are gifts.

A few weeks before I turned 43, I had a stunning revelation…I never got what I didn’t want.

What?

The truth is that I wanted children because I was raised in an environment where kids are loved and valued. So I love and value the kids in my life. You only have to know me about 15 minutes before you start hearing about my favorite people in the world, my nieces, nephews, and lil cousins. They are my people.

But I never actually wanted to have kids. I was stunned. I just grieved a dream to the point of depression…for a dream that wasn’t even my own? Really?

How does that happen? How do we acquire dreams that are actually someone else’s? Or someone else’s dream for us?

It happens with kids and sports or ivy league schools, parents living vicariously through their kids. Thinking they’re giving their kids what they never had, but maybe not asking if this is what the kid wants.

No one pushed this dream on me. My mom’s always believed I could be or do anything I wanted. She’s never put her will on me. Not ever.

This was on me.

I didn’t want to ask myself what I really wanted, because I was afraid. Afraid to know what the answer was…afraid to fail, afraid to succeed…because people would expect things of me. Afraid of leading, because what if no one followed.

So in truth, my not being married young, or having kiddos, was the protection of God. Because He knows me. Because He designed me.

Lord, you know everything there is to know about me. You perceive every movement of my heart and soul, and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind. You are so intimately aware of me, Lord. You read my heart like an open book and you know all the words I’m about to speak before I even start a sentence! You know every step I will take before my journey even begins. You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me. This is just too wonderful, deep, and incomprehensible! Your understanding of me brings me wonder and strength.” Psalm 139:1-6 TPT

God knows me better than I know me. Never have I ever been so grateful for ths fact.

I am designed for partnership with Jesus. I am designed for a partnership with a spouse. I am not designed to be a mother in the traditional sense.

My jaw dropped at this revelation. I processed this revelation for weeks and weeks. How is it possible that I don’t want kids?

Who doesn’t want kids? Isn’t that selfish? Abnormal?

How does a person leave a legacy without having kids?

Who will remember me when I’m gone if my family tree ends with me?

Then God showed me something that left me speechless for quite some time…You’re not designed to be an Austen heroine, you’re designed to be a Jane Austen.

Wait, what?

No, I’m not declaring myself to be the new Jane Austen. I’m Jill not Jane.

But God used her life to show me there’s more than one way to have an impact on generations.

Jane was a brilliant author. She wrote stories that are still impacting generations. Maybe it was intentional on her part or maybe it is just how things worked out, but she stands forever as an example that being a wife and a mother is not the only way a woman can have purpose. In her time a woman had two options, marriage or poverty accompanied by shame. Women deserve the right to choose God’s best for them. She used her God given intelligence, wit, and humor to craft incredible stories. That was Jane’s purpose. It wasn’t motherhood.

Then it clicked! I finally got it.

A legacy of words…

That is my actual dream.

That is my actual heart.

That is the legacy I want!

I want to craft stories that people still want to read or watch in 200 years. I want to leave words that inspire. Words that give hope and encourage. Words that reveal the love of the Father, and the greatness of Jesus. Words that remind people that being human is the best there is in all of creation. We were created in God’s image! Nothing else in all of creation was given that honor. I could go on here, but that is not the point of today’s post.

The point is that like Jane, I am a story teller. I can’t help it. It is who I am. I am a scribe. A writer. A lover of words. My purpose is to create stories. I’m still trying to process all of this because I still am stunned by this revelation.

Stunned. But free. For the first time, really free.

I’m not quite sure what to do with all this as I’m still processing…but be assured that writing is my priority. My goal is to write something every day. Blog. Short story. Work on a chapter of one of my longer stories. Send encouraging texts.

We were all created with eternity in mind, and we all have a purpose. One isn’t better or worse. One isn’t greater or lesser. All the body of Christ is important and absolutely necessary. Embrace who God made you to be, and how you are wired. The world needs you to be your authentic self, not a copy of someone else.

I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination, flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of his calling —that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that he finds in us, his holy ones! – Ephesians 1:18 TPT

Point to ponder while you wander…

Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.” Ephesians 3:20 TPT

P.S. To all the parents out there…You have a tough job and I commend you for your consistency. I respect you for loving, disciplining, and raising those little humans day in and day out. It’s not easy. But they are worth it. You are a hero. Hang in there!!

Deep Thought Thursday: The Next Generation

I’ve been thinking about the generations behind me lately. A lot actually. And whether or not I am doing my part in teaching them and guiding them. We all have a part to play in the lives of those around us.

Today I was thinking about the generation of Israelites leaving Egypt. About how many amazing miracles this generation experienced leaving Egypt. And yet they grumbled and complained and failed to believe God. 

Hebrews 11:6 tells us to please God you must do 2 things: Believe God Exists and Believe that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

This generation believed in God, but they didnt believe God. My theory is because they had never actually believed they were free. They still had a slave mentality. 

Meaning they never dealt with the trauma and issues that resulted from being slaves, therefore, didn’t have the capacity to believe. In other words, they had broken places and wounds that they didn’t bring to God. Joshua and Caleb were the only two that could see from God’s perspective, despite having been enslaved. So healing and true freedom were available to all, but only two received it. 

As a result of not dealing with their issues the entire generation, save Josh and Caleb, died with unfulfilled lives.

Heartbreaking. 

The next generation were either small children in Egypt or were born in the desert. They believed in God and believed God (the majority at least) and were able to take possession of the Promised Land.

But this generation also failed.  

They did not properly teach their children the ways of the Lord. And as the years passed, and additional generations were born, they wrote off what they did hear as “old stories.” They didn’t know that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. They didn’t understand their covenant rights and responsibilities.

That generation didn’t live according to the guidelines God gave them that would make them stand out and be successful over the people around them. Instead they wanted to be like the people around them. This desire got them into trouble. See the book of Judges to see the cycle repeating itself.

All of this because a generation failed to teach their children and their children’s children that God is the Great I Am and He will do what He said He would do.

I have realized that I am guilty of the same things as both generations.  I know God is good. I’ve seen it and experienced it first hand! And yet, I too struggle to believe in the goodness of God. 

It is a battle every day for me to keep believing and walking towards what God has for me. It was easier for me to believe my future would be great when I was younger…since there was sooo much future ahead of me. 

But at 42, the enemy keeps whispering in my ear that I missed my chances. That I am too old now. Saying, “who are you to believe such audacious beliefs about my own future. You aren’t any different from the rest of the ordinary people. A cog in the machine.” 

I know those are lies. But on the harder days they seem easier to believe then to agree with this: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, ” Ephesians 3:20 NIV

But I cannot give up. If I give up that teaches those behind me to give up and stop trusting God. So even when for myself I don’t want to keep fighting and moving forward, I do it for the kids in my life. 

I am not a parent. But I am an Aunt. I am a big sister. I am a spiritual mother. And in that vein, I will not quit. I know God is faithful. I know God is good. So I will continue even when the enemy’s lies seem more believable than God’s promises.

The promises God has given me are very close to my heart, very personal. So I tend not to talk about my relationship with the Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit internal because it’s not a light and breezy conversation for me. It’s real. And it’s deep. And that makes it difficult to bring up when you’re playing mini golf or grabbing lunch.

I want to see the people in my life to start where I end and go further than me. To believe even bigger for themselves. Partnering with Jesus on things even bigger than my audacious imagination can conceive. 

But I feel like I am failing the next generation by not teaching them about Jesus and telling them about what God had done. I love these kids more than my own life, but when it comes to really telling them what matters, I stumble and falter. 

I don’t know how to teach them. I don’t know how to explain all that I know about the goodness of God or the incredible miracles He’s done in my life. 

BUT!

But I am a writer. So I write here on this blog. I sent texts of encouragement. And I do my best to live according to Kingdom Principles. I do this not out of guilt or fear but because I owe Jesus my life. And so I will share real stuff here.

At 17, I threw away my virtue and what I knew to be true because I wanted so much to be loved and have a partner for life. It took me several years of counseling with ministers and spending much time in the Presence of God so He could heal the damage I did to myself.  That’s not easy to bring up in random conversation is it?
It isn’t easy to tell people that it took Jesus years to get me to understand that if I didn’t forgive myself, He couldn’t heal me. Forgiving myself for being self-destructive was easier than forgiving myself for hurting other people.

Guilt, like fear is a bully! Guilt is an eater of your soul. If not dealt with it will eventually devour your soul and begin chowing down on your body.

Guilt often leads to self-hatred. And self-hatred, my friends, leads you to believing that God’s promises aren’t for you. To believing that you don’t deserve anything good. It causes you to settle. And if not dealt with can eventually cause auto-immune diseases.

The disease my self-hatred caused was ulcerative colitis. Auto-immune diseases according to the doctors tend to run in families but otherwise do not have a cause.

Sorry Doc! But they do have a cause! And it’s not stress. It is Guilt. Unforgiveness. Bitterness. Self-hatred. You want to read about this from an actual doctor, check out Be in Health.

Auto-immune is your body attacking itself. Ulcerative colitis is painful. I was on IV nutrition. I had 2 surgeries, 20+ days in the hospital, and eventually my colon removed.

But what happened while I was going through the painful hell of UC, was that I sat still. I was in the hospital by myself, quiet. And Jesus used this time to reach out to me again. He didn’t make me ill, but He used me being ill to reach out to me.

He had never stopped pursuing me or loving me despite me flipping Him off in college and telling Him I didn’t need or want His bullshit rules. Yes…I literally flipped Him off. 

I’m telling you people the love of God is a mysterious and powerful force to love me and pursue me through rebellion and into a hospital bed.

I went to church for the first time in years during this time, and a part of myself woke up during worship. I missed worship and church. 

When I came back to God, I expected punishment and wrath for disobedience. 

But that’s not how God’s love works. 

This is how God’s love works; “So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.” 1 John 4:17-19 NLT

What I received was forgiveness, like the prodigal son. The Father was overjoyed to see me. And as I sought Him, He made it clear to me that performance and stellar behavior is not what pleased Him (see Hebrews 11:6). Seeing me get free of self-hatred and self-destructive habits. He wanted to heal me. 

When I was praying, desperate for an answer, He spoke to me audibly. God, Himself, spoke to me.

Now I know that we can all hear the voice of the Shepherd. He speaks through the Word and through angels and etc.

But for me right then…God loved me enough to speak to me directly and answer my prayer audibly during worship. It changed everything for me.

I started taking classes about healing. Then I went to counseling. I was so desperate and hungry for change and healing that I was in the church every single time the doors were open. Worship services. Sermons. Classes. Intercessory prayer. Group counseling. Counseling. I did this for about five years.

Today I am a very different person. I still am working on things with Jesus. But from a place of wholeness not brokenness. 

But how do I take all that I’ve learned and experienced and boil it down to bite sized child appropriate pieces to share with my kiddos? This I don’t know. Maybe that is why the 2nd generation failed in teaching their kids, they didn’t know how.

I continually pray and ask God to help me plant seeds. And to send people who know Him into their lives. And I seek to live a life that inspires them to seek God and to really live! Because teaching the next generation about who God is and who they are in God prepares them to change this world for the better. And is so vital. And we all have a part to play.

Where are you in the journey to the promised land? Are you the 1st generation? The one who needs healing? 

Receive God’s love. Receive God’s healing. You cannot give what you do not have. You cannot help your kids or anyone else if you don’t first take care of you!

Are you the 2nd Generation? Are you struggling like me to to teach the next generation? 

Ask God to show you how to reach tjem each kiddo is unique. God made them. He knows them even better than we do. Then pray for them. Declare God’s promises and blessings over them. Live your life as an example. Plant seeds. Water seeds. Listen to them and watch for opportunities to teach Kingdom Principles and share God’s love. 

Point to ponder while you wander…”After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.” 1 Corinthians 3:5-8