If the Lord wills…

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I’ve been doing a bible study on James to dive in on what it means to be a wise woman of God. Recently, a specific chapter spoke to me because it definitely called me out on something I have been neglecting to do.

I’ll start off by saying that I’m a planner. Always have been, and I’m assuming always will be. I’m a detail oriented person and like to plan things out way ahead of time: my life, projects, trips…you name it! As the matter of fact, my full-time job at the advertising agency I work at brings this trait to full advantage.

As the digital media coordinator, I manage all of our digital projects from the creation process to delivery. This means that every piece of creative is tasked out by me and is delivered to me by deadlines that I set. Not only is my work-life filled with tasks and deadlines, but so is my personal life! My husband, Tanner, is the complete opposite of my micro-managing qualities; which is perhaps why he can frustrate me to the core. (Love him to death though). It’s true that opposites attract.

The bible says it’s good to work hard.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” – Colossians 3:23-24

But all of my hard work and productivity comes with ME in mind. My life. My time. My money. In the midst of all of this life planning, it’s all about what I want, what I have earned…rather than constantly recognizing that nothing I have is my own.

I want a house like this, I want a job like this, I want a lifestyle like this…you name it! I’ve wanted it all! (Yes, I know I can be a bit high maintenance. Okay… a lot. 😉 )

With breaking into this adult world, where wealth and social status becomes more prominent than it was when I was in college, it’s easy to get myself caught up in desiring things of the world:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” – Matthew 6:24

I will say that not once in my plans do I consistently think: “if the Lord wills.” Yes, that comes up in conversation occasionally, like getting a certain job “if God willing;” but it never crosses my daily plans or comes to mind when I think of the goals I have for myself.

I’ll admit, I’m the kind of girl that gets mad when I don’t get what I want. Because more often than not, I get what I want because I work hard for it. If I want something to happen, I’ll work hard to make it happen.

As Christians, we all say, “I know what I want is not always what God wants, and my plans are not always His plans.” But seriously…that’s easier said than done!

God, what do you mean I can’t get what I want? I worked hard for it! I deserve it!

Well, the truth is I don’t deserve anything. I don’t deserve the small apartment I’m living in, the scraped up car I’m driving, or my out of date iPhone…because I more blessed than 90% of the world. Yet I’m constantly making plans to make my life better. I make a blueprint of plans for my life and convince myself that my goals are what’s best.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’  As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” – James 4:13-17

It’s time for me to put God’s will back in my plans. To let go of my selfish ambitions, the instinctive planner in me, and let God carve my path. It’s time for me to make all of my plans revolve around the Lord’s will rather than my own will. Because I know for a fact that His will and His plans are better than mine will ever be, and I just have to trust Him.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21

My Testimony: Jenabeth Morgan

 

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Instagram: @jenabethmorgan

 

“Religion says: God will love us if we change. The gospel says: God’s love changes us.”

I believe a testimony is a very personal thing, and people can be as vulnerable as they want to when it comes to sharing it. Given the fact that this is the world wide web, there are some details I’ll leave out for the sake of how personal it is, but if you ever want to meet in person or ask me about my experience growing in the Lord, please message me!

My testimony is not a dramatic one that calls for an epic story of doing horrible, unspeakable things and then finding Jesus. But regardless of what my story is, it’s still important to share it. Regardless of how you came to know Jesus, epic story or not, we were all standing on the same cliff between heaven and hell. It’s important to share how the Lord has shaped my life and is continuing to shape it. I am on mission wherever I am…not just on a mission trip.

With that being said, I grew up in Olton, Texas. It’s a small town with a lot of heart, and I don’t regret growing up there…but like many small towns, it is filled with cliques, gossip, and hypocrites. I’m not saying this to demean Olton, it really is a solid community with amazing people, but in a world full of sinners you have to recognize that no town is perfect.

I can tell you I grew up in church, but I don’t think I necessarily grew up in Christ. Going to church was more of an obligation than a desire. In a town like Olton, it was definitely noticed if you were involved in church or not and generally frowned upon if you weren’t.

Ever since I learned who Jesus was when I was little, I knew He was there. There was never a “whaza” moment of when Jesus entered into my life—he had always been a part of my life. Whether I recognized Him there daily is a different story.

I felt like I had “accepted Jesus into my heart” at an early age, but I didn’t “make it official” until I was at an all girls church camp around eleven years old or so. I didn’t get baptized until I was twelve because I was embarrassed that I was older than my other friends who had already been baptized at seven or eight.

Baptism didn’t transform or change me. I lived my life knowing I should never cuss or treat people badly because I was a Christian, but prayer was never a big part of my life nor was reading scripture. Jesus was only thought about on Sunday. If anyone asked, I claimed to be a Christian. But looking back now, I was not pursuing Jesus. I was just going through the motions and living a very legalistic lifestyle. A lifestyle of do’s and don’ts for reasons that I didn’t understand. A life when Jesus never really crossed my mind.

My hometown church is a good church filled with sweet people, but I just felt like I didn’t have a strong community there. It was mainly due to my peers. I constantly felt judged and left out. I felt like everyone was friends with each other, and I was just the girl that showed up. No one bothered to pursue me. No one bothered to reach out to me. It was because if this lack of community that I eventually stopped going to church and youth altogether.

At school, I was close friends with people that avoided talking about spirituality. None of them went to my church, and some didn’t go to church at all. I didn’t hang out with the friends that went to my church at school. I was not in their friend circle. But after awhile I noticed that these Godly, perfect students at church were not who they were in school. They were hypocrites that did exactly the opposite of Christianity. (Of course, I can’t say that I wasn’t a hypocrite either). I came to the conclusion that there was no such thing as a true, solid Christian that could be my age. I was convinced the last people that truly loved Jesus were the ones in my grandparent’s generation.

I do want to point out that I still thankful for the “outside of church” friends that I had because I know that being a Christian does not mean to only surround yourself with other Christians. It’s important to pursue people beyond your Christian bubble. I just I didn’t have any Christian friends that heavily invested in me spiritually, prayed for me, and held me accountable at the time.

Throughout junior high and high school my biggest struggle was dealing with being left out and not fitting in. You’re probably thinking, “Wow, how cliche. Sounds like a Disney channel original movie.” Well yes, being left out is a struggle for anybody at any age, but it’s especially hard when you’re a teenager trying to discover who you are. I tried to convince myself I would be popular if I were ___. I was never truly proud of who I was. I always felt like I was lacking in something someone else had.

 

Here were my reasonings:

I was terrible at sports in a town where sports define you.

I was a half white, half Asian chick in a school filled predominately with Hispanic and white students.

My dad didn’t make enough money for me to be friends with the “rich” kids and too much money to be friends with the “poor” kids.

I was too skinny.

I wasn’t pretty like the other girls.

 

To top it off for amusement, I wore glasses and braces at the same time; and in high school, I wore a back brace because of my scoliosis! (Har, har, har)

I remember sobbing in the garage when I got home from school, and looking out the window at school wishing I could get out of “prison.”

Since my flaws were all I could focus on, I decided to find my identity in academics and in music. My identity was not found in Christ. It was found in the things I accomplished. This allowed for my struggle with pride to start emerging.

This kind of mindset went on all the way until I left for college. When you grow up in a small-town, you can’t really change your reputation. Everyone knows your past. When I finally left to go to Texas Tech (a university I was at first reluctant about because of how close to Olton it was), I was determined to make a new identity for myself: to be super popular.

Well, that turned out to be another life lesson.

While at Tech, I decided I didn’t want to be one of those kids that left home for college and never went to church. So I decided to go to First Baptist Lubbock. Not for the sake of growing in the Lord, but for my pride reasons. I went alone that first Sunday, but over time I started to make friends—real Christian friends. A group of girls invited me to have lunch with them…no one had ever done that to me before. After getting to know people in the church and seeing how much they genuinely cared about me, I came to the realization that not all Christian people my age were hypocrites. That there really are Godly men and women my age that love Jesus.

Getting involved in the college ministry at First Baptist Lubbock is what really kicked off my spiritual journey to new heights. I made friends with people in my life group, I got involved in Sigma Phi Lambda (a national Christian sorority), I went on mission trips, I attended bible studies and I sought discipleship. Being surrounded by amazing Christians both young and old, having people pursue me and pour into me, and absorbing spiritual wisdom led to a spike in my spiritual walk. I had never had so much spiritual growth in my life.

It was finally instilled in me that Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus, and not just about following the do’s and don’ts. I finally realized that you are transformed as a Christian to where you don’t want to do sinful things. Not because you can’t, but because you don’t desire to. My heart began to desire God more than the world. I finally realized what being a Christian truly meant. What pursuing Jesus truly meant.

Over the course of this spiritual growth, I’ve had the opportunity to lead college students and youth, and it’s crazy to see how my previous life struggles helped me connect to these students in a way that I never expected. It’s funny how God will have you go through something that you don’t understand at the time, and to see it used as a way to further His kingdom.

So here I am, a girl trying to adult in this post-college life. A girl still struggling with insecurity, jealousy, anxiousness, and pride. But I’m a lot better than I used to be, and I’m growing every day.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” – Proverbs 3:5-6

Life as a Youth Leader

This semester marked my second year as a youth leader for First Baptist Church of Lubbock having started in September of 2012. I am the youth leader for the 8th grade girls Synergy group for FBC. I met with them every Sunday night from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m for six weeks this semester. I taught them a bible study, helped serve food and played games with the youth kids. I plan to continue this each semester until I graduate from college. I have been with my girls since their 7th grade year, and now they are 8th graders! I plan to continue moving up with them in the years to come. Although I am primarily the female youth leader, I also interact and engage with the 8th grade boys as well. I enjoy having the opportunity to interact with the kids and getting to know them on a personal level. It is a rewarding experience that has become very dear to my heart. 

My first picture with the girls!

My first picture with my girls at the Gilmore house, Sept. 2012.

I have learned the value of patience and reaching out to others through being a youth leader. There are some youth kids that are not as confident and tend to be more on the quiet side. I have made it my goal to let these kids know that they do not have to be ashamed of who they are because they are valuable. God made them in His image and nothing can take that away. Through this experience I have learned that being a leader is more than taking action, but also listening. My 8th grade girls have taught me more than I ever expected to learn. I admire their strength, their maturity, their love for others and their passion for Christ. Some have been bullied in school, some have don’t have father figures in their life, and some struggle with their self-image every day. I have been shocked to learn of a lot of things they have to go through in this new generation of teenage years, but I am so proud of them for being able to overcome the pressure of society.

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The girls and boys of the 7th grade at Disciple Now, Feb. 2013.

I have learned a lot about myself too. It makes me happy to share my knowledge with them, and I also love hearing their own wisdom at such young ages. I have come to realize that being a good leader is leading by example. A lot of times in my life, I have seen people that teach one thing but never live it out. It’s as if they don’t take their own advice. It is my goal to be a good role model for these girls. Sure, it’s a lot of pressure, but having this role holds me accountable for my actions. Everyone is human and is going to make mistakes, and I know that I am far from perfect. I am going to fail them, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have to try. I want them to look up to me just like I have looked up to strong, Christian women in my own life. I have learned to take responsibility for my actions and to live what I teach. I want to have a beautiful journey with Christ even if I stumble along the way, and I want them to know that they can have a beautiful journey too.

The most rewarding thing about being a youth leader is seeing my girls’ faces and knowing that they are genuinely happy to see me. Each one of them has their own story, their own past and their own future. I admire them as much as I hope they admire me. I look up to them despite our age differences, because we are all sisters in Christ and we learn from each other. One of the best feelings is getting a hug from one of my girls and having her embrace me in her arms. I can feel the love pouring out of her heart and it seeps into mine.

Disciple Now

The girls and I at the Vivian home for Disciple Now, Feb. 2013.

This opportunity has benefited me in so many ways, and it is an opportunity that has allowed me to build close relationships on a personal level. I don’t do this out of obligation, but I do this out of passion. Teaching my girls a bible study and playing games with them makes me happy. Whether I’m singing with them, watching a movie with them, or taking them to the corn maize, I love every minute. Yes, it can be tiring and a sacrifice of my time, but this sacrifice is well worth it. This leadership role has prepared me for future leadership roles not only in the career field, but also on personal levels. Being a youth leader for First Baptist Church of Lubbock has been an amazing and rewarding experience, and I have loved growing with my girls in Christ.

The start of 8th grade year.

I gained a partner in youth leading with my dear friend, Kaylyn Vargas. They’re 8th graders now! Here we are with the girls at the Clifton house Oct. 2013.

“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for other believers in your speech, behavior, love, faithfulness, and purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12